Part of being an athlete is being a good sport, being respectful and courteous to your partner and opponent, and practicing good etiquette. Members are encouraged to work toward providing an environment where all players can play the game to the best of their ability and have fun while doing so. (The etiquette guidelines below are based on common etiquette language used by Canadian pickleball clubs.)
- Begin each game by acknowledging the other players, introducing yourself if you don’t know them, or re-introducing yourself if you’ve forgotten players’ names.
- Compliment players on outstanding “hero” shots or on a really great point during the game.
- Don’t offer unsolicited advice to another player during or after the game. Even if you believe they would benefit from your observations, but don’t offer it unless they ask you, or you have an established friendly relationship. Even then, be cautious and give no more than one piece of advice at a time. Let them work on that. Then, some other day, go on to the next thing.
- At the end of each game, tap the bottom of your paddles and find something positive to say to the other team at the net. “Nice game” isn’t always appropriate if in spite of your efforts at sportsmanship you have won 11-0. But “you made some great shots!”, or “much closer than the score”, or “Wow, we were lucky today!” would be just fine. At least, “Thanks for playing with us!” is nice. Never leave a game without acknowledging the other team.
- Show respect for your opponents and yourself by being a good sport after every match, whether you win or lose, whether the match was close or a blowout.
Match Play Etiquette
- If you are a much stronger player than an opponent, don’t seize the opportunity to play full throttle against that person (i.e. don’t smash the ball past them or at them as hard as you, or rack up the points by continually serving with an aggressive spin). Keep them involved in the game, and play at a level that will allow them to feel like they are participating. Remember, you were a beginner once too.
- By the same token, don’t keep all your shots away from a player who’s better than you. Hitting the ball solely to the weaker of your two opponents is a perfectly acceptable strategy in competitive play; but it should not be the practise in recreational play when everyone is supposed to be having fun. Accept the challenge and mix it up–hit the ball to both players.
- Do not take advantage of a person’s physical limitations during social play. If someone cannot go back for a lob, why lob over his or her head? Use the chance to learn something by hitting shots to their strength and trying to make good shots out of their returns.
- If you need to correct the server’s call of the score, immediately raise your hand high above your head and quickly get the attention of the other players, or correct them in a friendly manner after the conclusion of that play.
- If your pickleball bounces or rolls into another court, yell out “Ball”, wait for those players to stop play and return your ball.
- If a pickleball enters your court during a point in play, call “Ball”, stop play, return the ball to the correct court and replay the point. However, if the play was stopped just as you missed a shot, and you know the ball didn’t affect your shot at all, you should let your opponents know and award the point to them.
- Do not cross behind a court if a point is in progress or about to start on that court. Wait in a spot off one corner of the court, far enough away so that you will not be in anyone’s way. While waiting for the point to finish, keep still so as not to distract the players, and pay attention to the progress of the point. As soon as there is a halt in play, quickly proceed across the court without delay.
- If you and other players are crossing courts, try to do so as a group rather than one by one.
- If you are on a court and people are crossing behind your court, do not start play until they have crossed and are out of the way.
Line Call Courtesy
- If you hit a ball and neither of your opponents have a good view of whether the ball landed in or out, the rules state that the point goes to you. However, it is good courtesy to let your opponents know what you saw, and encourage them to give themselves the point if you clearly saw that your ball was out. Note that because the ball landed on their side of the court, your opponents are still the ones who must make the final call, even if you were the only person who saw whether the ball landed in or out.
- When making an “out” call, make it loudly, decisively, and with your outstretched non-paddle hand raised in the air. That way, your opponents can see and hear your call. Similarly, if calling a ball that landed close to a sideline in, call “good” or “in” loudly and decisively, and fully extend your arm straight downwards with your palm bent parallel to the ground. Remember–if you cannot call a ball “out” with 100% certainty, then you must give the point to your opponent.
- Don’t call a ball “out” at the precise instant that it hits the ground. Doing so implies that you had already made up your mind about the call without bothering to check whether the ball landed in or not. Wait a brief moment, then make the call.
- If a ball is heading toward someone else’s court, and you have an opportunity to intercept it, make every possible effort to do so (as long as you can do so safely). It’s good courtesy to intercept the ball in order to prevent having to halt play on the other court.
- If a ball from another court is in your vicinity, and you are not currently playing a point, retrieve the ball and return it to the other court; don’t leave it for the other court’s players to get, unless they are closer to the ball than you are.
- Follow all the safety guidelines stated earlier with regards to retrieving balls back to other players after points are ended. Never blindly smack a ball back in the general direction of where you think it should go.
- It’s good courtesy to retrieve the ball for the server between points (whether it’s your partner or your opponent) so that the server doesn’t have to expend extra energy or lose focus. For instance, if a ball is on the ground, go pick it up yourself and return it cleanly to the server, rather than forcing the server to bend down and pick it up.
- As stated earlier, always call the score prior to serving, and call the score loud enough for the opponent furthest from you to hear easily
- When calling the score while serving on match point, don’t include the words “match point”, “game serve”, or any similar comment–just call the score like any other score. This is to avoid putting undue pressure on your opponent (it’s an official rule, too).
- Make sure you use a legal serve. For a serve to be legal, all of the following must occur:
1. The serve motion of your arm must be in an upward arc.
2 . When your paddle makes contact with the ball, the ball must be below the height of your navel at that moment.
3 . When your paddle makes contact with the ball, every part of your paddle above the handle (i.e. the entire head of the paddle) must be below the height of your wrist at that moment.
4 . When your paddle makes contact with the ball, at least one foot must be on the ground, and your feet cannot be touching any part of the court outside the serving area (the serving area is behind the baseline and between the imaginary extensions of the sideline and the centre line).
- If your opponent is using an illegal serve, and you feel he or she is gaining a competitive advantage by doing so and you want to say something, discuss it privately with the person after the match rather than during the match. They may not be aware their serve is illegal, so it’s advisable to broach the topic carefully and with sensitivity.