If you’ve ever watched any form of professional sports you’ll know that “good sportsmanship” can quickly fly out the window.
Just watch a tennis player argue with the umpire, a soccer player dive, or the regular ice hockey fights!
But pickleball is a game that most of us play for fun. It’s a chance to meet new people, stay active, and enjoy scoring points.
When you’re having a good time on the court, the last thing you want is to come across a player who treats every bad call like it’s the end of the world.
Pickleball etiquette is primarily focused on respecting the players and ensuring everybody is enjoying themselves.
Not only will this create a better atmosphere, but it will also ensure people want to play against your team! And you might even improve your own pickleball skills.
Is Pickleball Etiquette Important?
Pickleball etiquette is important, but the guidelines we’ve listed below aren’t exactly strict rules.
Instead, they’re intended to ensure that everybody is having a good time and that the game is played fairly. For most people, pickleball is a social support, and these etiquette rules help to keep it that way.
However, your local court is likely to have some etiquette rules of its own.
These might dictate how long you can spend on the court, what to do when balls start traveling, and how to behave as a spectator. Make sure to follow these rules closely, so you don’t get kicked out of the court!
10 Pickleball Etiquette Rules
1. Always Bring Your Own Balls
When you go to play a game of pickleball, don’t just keep your fingers crossed that the other teams will all have their own balls.
Bring at least one ball with you! That way, when you find a team to play with, you’ll never have to waste time sourcing a ball from somewhere.
It helps to have a couple of balls to hand, to keep the flow of the game smooth. When a ball rolls (safely) off the court, you can use another ball, and play without disruption.
2. Introduce Yourself To New Players
There’s an important social aspect to pickleball, but you lose that if you view every team as the “opponent”.
It’s considered good etiquette to introduce yourself to new players before the match with a handshake.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ignore players you already know. You might not need to introduce yourself, but it’s considered good manners to at least say hello.
3. Play With A Range Of Skill Levels
It’s hard to improve your game if you’re always playing against someone at the same skill level.
So, beginner and intermediate players should seek out those with a better game, for help upping their own technique.
And when you do improve, return the favor — play with teams and individuals who need some help.
4. But Don’t Overstay Your Welcome
If you’re a weaker player (or team) playing against someone stronger, limit your time together to one or two games.
You’ll still get the benefit of playing against someone strong, but you won’t dominate their time on the court.
5. Call The Score Before Serving
During the excitement of the game, it can be easy to lose track of what everyone is doing. For that reason, it’s important to call the score before every serve.
During a doubles game, call out your score, the opposing team’s score, and then your server number. For a singles game, you only need to call out your score, followed by the opposing player’s score.
When you’re calling the score, make sure to do so loud enough that everyone on the court can hear.
6. Wait Until Everyone Is Ready
Waiting to serve moves beyond good etiquette and into actual rules. In a game of tournament pickleball, you can’t serve until the official has called the score.
Once the official has given you the go-ahead, you can serve no matter what the opponent is doing.
In recreational play, things are different. If your opponent isn’t ready to receive the serve for any reason, then hang back until everyone is happy.
It might lose you an easy point now, but you’ll be grateful in the future when someone pays you the same kindness.
7. If You Made A Foul, Call The Foul
This is a tough rule to follow, but it will make you a better sportsman and a better player. If you or your team makes an error, then you need to call it out.
When you spot your teammate stepping into the kitchen during a volley, call it out. If you step into the kitchen on a volley, call it out. If you make a serving fault, call it out.
But if you think you see the other team making a fault that isn’t called, use your discretion.
There might be an occasional game where your good behavior comes up against an unscrupulous team, but for the most part, it’s better to lead by example.
8. Call An Out, But Give Benefit Of The Doubt
If the ball goes out on your side of the court, then you need to call it. The courts are big and it can be difficult to spot where the ball landed from the other side.
Similarly, the other team should call it when your ball goes out!
If it’s close, or you and your partner have a disagreement about the ball being in or out, the ruling goes in favor of the other team.
Again, this can be hard to swallow when the scores are close, but it really is the correct way to play.
9. Play To Improve, Not Just To Win
If you’re a competitive person, then playing to win might seem like the obvious strategy, all the time. But consider this — the more you play to improve, the better you’ll be at winning.
Playing to improve means you don’t just aim your shots at the weaker player in the team, in the hope of scoring easy points. Bring in the stronger player and challenge them.
Targeting a weaker player can not only cause your game to stagnate but it can also stop other players from wanting to have a game with you.
If you are the weaker player, you should also be playing to improve. Don’t limit your shots to the weaker player on the other team, but engage the stronger player with skills of your own.
It’s also good to spend some games practicing your less competitive shots. However, when you’re playing this way, tell your partner beforehand.
10. Paddle Tap At The End Of The Game
Whether you’ve won or lost, always end the game by coming up to the net, and tapping paddles.
Recognize moments of impressive play when they occur, and congratulate the opposing team on a good game.
This is not the time to be offering coaching advice — unless the other team asks for it! No one appreciates unsolicited advice on their serve after a loss, so keep your thoughts to yourself.
Good pickleball etiquette isn’t hard to follow. The rules are mostly focused on respecting your fellow players, paying attention to the court, and ensuring everyone has a good time.
What’s most important is remembering that no matter how important a point can feel, pickleball is just a game!