I tend to be a bit on the anal side. (No smart remarks from the peanut gallery….you know who you are!) I simply believe in building a strong foundation starting with the basics and growing from there. But most importantly, I believe common courtesy and common sense are key elements for a heathy pickleball environment.
Teaching beginners the game of pickleball starts off with the basics, such as the non-volley zone rules, two bounce rule, rules of serving, and simple court position to begin each rally. With limited courts and large numbers, we try to get them playing a game as soon as possible. Often, we neglect to teach player courtesy and other important common sense items that will keep play moving and make for an enjoyable experience for all.
Here’s a few things that all players should know, but should especially be taught to beginners on their first day.
- Announcing the score:
IMMEDIATELY before you serve the ball, announce the score TO YOUR OPPONENT. It’s not good enough to say the score so that only your partner can hear you. Frequently as beginners are learning how to keep score, I hear them posing the score as a question to their partner. If the partner agrees, they immediately serve the ball. WRONG! Once you are sure of the score, look to see your opponent is ready, announce the score to them, then serve the ball.
The sequence is:
- LOOK to see if your opponents are ready
- CALL OUT the score so your opponent can hear you
- SERVE the ball
Even with more experienced players, at the end of a heated rally I’ve heard a player call out the score even before walking back to the service court. This is purely a result of adrenaline and excitement for having won a great rally, but the score should be announced again immediately prior to serving the ball.
- Announcing the COMPLETE score:
In pickleball, the score consists of three numbers. Your team’s score – Your opponent’s score – Which server you are. (Example 5-4-2)
When you announce the score you should ALWAYS announce all three numbers. I’ve seen players call out only part of the score. For example, they might only say “5-4” without adding which server they are. First of all, it’s presumptuous to assume that everyone knows which server you are and it’s annoying to those who call the score correctly. After a long rally or a string of points, it’s easy to forget which the server was a one or a two. Hearing the entire score before each point makes it easier, and it’s the right way to play the game.
- Ball on court!
For safety reasons, ANY TIME a ball comes onto your court, you should call out “BALL!” or “PICKLE!” or whatever alert necessary to stop play IMMEDIATELY! There should be no exceptions to this. Stepping on a ball can cause serious injury, and quite frankly, *No ball is Worth the Fall. You could be in the midst of the best rally of your life, but when a ball comes onto your court, stop play immediately. You should also alert players on adjacent courts when your ball is hit into their court.
*(Sorry about the self-serving plug for a great tee or hoodie!)
- Returning a ball that rolls onto your court
My #1 pet peeve when playing indoor pickleball is when a ball is hit into another court and a player on that court just slaps it back, without looking to see where or who they are hitting it to.
When a ball comes rolling across your court you should:
- STOP PLAY IMMEDIATELY!
- Pick up the ball with your hand and look to see who wants it.
- Toss or hit the ball directly to that person.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER should you slap the ball back across the floor in the general direction it came from. Many players will have a spare ball in their pocket and therefore not need the stray ball back. When you just slap at the ball, chances are you will disrupt play on the next court, and possibly in several courts if no one is expecting it back.
For us northerners who play indoor pickleball all winter, we become accustomed to close courts with no barriers in between. For that reason, it’s important that we are considerate of the players on all courts around us. Take the time to pick up the ball and look to see if anyone needs it. If no one wants the ball back, either put it in your pocket or toss it aside.
- Setting up and taking down nets
Have you ever gotten to pickleball first, helped set up the nets, then walked back to get your paddle out of your gear bag, only to turn around and see four players starting to warm up on the court you just set up? It happens, and it’s frustrating and inconsiderate. Be respectful of those who did the work to set up the nets! Allow them the first game! Having said that, if you put up the nets before putting on your court shoes, you probably aren’t ready and shouldn’t expect to be in the first game. Get your paddle in line, and finish getting ready.
And, if it’s towards the end of the session and no one is waiting for a game, take down the net from the court you last played on!
Common sense and common courtesy will go a long way towards providing a fun atmosphere for everyone. Add those to your list of skills to practice!