Chapter 6

Etiquette on the Pickleball Court

Pickleball is an easy sport to learn and play. You can learn the basics of the rules and scoring during your first game. But there’s one more thing you should aim to learn. Part of knowing how to be good at pickleball is knowing the game’s etiquette. To get you started on the expectations and unwritten rules of the game, here’s a guide to basic pickleball etiquette:
Hitting the Ball Into Someone Else’s Court

Whether you are a new player or a seasoned professional, your ball will occasionally end up in someone else’s court. Don’t stress about it; it happens to all picklers. Call out if you hit your ball into another court so the other players know your ball is coming. This notification is a bit like yelling “fore” in golf. Not only does it help avoid anyone getting hit by the ball, but it will also alert them that a loose ball on their court could present a tripping hazard during their point.

Lastly, it can help prevent confusion if two balls are suddenly flying through their court. A simple call of “Ball on the court!” can prevent someone from losing a point due to distraction from an outside ball or rolling an ankle if they step on your ball.

Balls hit onto your court are not yours; you should return them. Instead of throwing the ball back to the court from which it came, finish your rally and locate the owner. Make eye contact or speak to them, and then roll or gently toss the ball back to them. Waiting until they are prepared and expecting the ball is the polite thing to do.

Next Game

To determine who plays next, picklers have developed a creative system: the paddle holder. Place your pickleball paddles in the holder and move the “next on court” indicator to show you are in line for the next game. Adding your paddles to the holder reserves your spot for the next available court. If you need help with this, ask a regular. They can explain the system.


Pickleball is a game with a culture of inclusion. That means that on public courts, you play with whoever is there for the next round. If you are a beginner playing with a highly skilled player, explain at the start of the game that you are new. They will likely play down to your level so everyone can enjoy the game. As you progress, remember that kindness and pay it forward.

If you play with an expert who dialed down their skill level for you, thank them for being a good sport and helping you improve your game.

When in Doubt, Play it Out

Did the ball touch the line, or is it out? Was someone’s knee in the non-volley zone on that shot that didn’t bounce? Give the other side the benefit of the doubt if there’s any uncertainty. They should do the same for you. Pickleball is primarily about having a good time, not about eking out every point you can. Make your line and fault calls accordingly.

If you notice a fault, point it out calmly and politely. Your opponent may not be aware that their serve swing was above their waist or the tip of their shoe was in the Kitchen (also known as the non-volley zone) when they hit that last volley. It’s okay to call faults as you notice them but do so gently and calmly.

Trust Your Opponents’ Calls

Your opponents should apply the same benefit-of-the-doubt concept as we discussed above. If they make a call on your shot, trust them. Everyone has to make judgment calls. You may sometimes have differing views. Remember that they may not always agree with your calls, either. Just let it go, keep playing, and have fun.

Don’t argue with your opponents’ calls; they shouldn’t argue with yours, either.

Remember the Friendly Spirit of the Game

This game was created as a fun family activity, and that spirit lives on. It’s not about destroying the team on the other side of the net. It’s about having fun, connecting with people, getting some exercise, and being part of a community of picklers.

Introduce yourself at the net before a game with new opponents. Offer a fist bump, handshake, or paddle tap before the game and then again when the game ends. Thank the other players for a good match. These small gestures go a long way toward maintaining the game’s friendly spirit.

Celebrate Mindfully

If you just returned what seemed like an impossible shot or you won a long, hard-fought rally, it’s natural to celebrate. But remember that this isn’t the NFL, where signature dances and over-the-top celebrations are welcomed. Recognizing a well-executed point from yourself or your partner is fine. You are certainly allowed to be happy when you do well. Just maintain some sense of decorum and respect for your opponents, remembering that every point you win is one they lose. Don’t let your celebrations become boastful or distasteful.

The same goes for when you lose a point. It’s okay to be frustrated, but remember that this is a fun way to spend an hour or two, not a life-or-death situation. Pickleball is not the game for frustrated outbursts, profanity-laced explosions, or paddle-throwing tantrums. Trash-talking is also outside the spirit of the game and will not be well-received.

Walking Past Other Pickleball Courts

You may need to walk past another court to get to the open court where you will play. Wait until play has stopped, and they are between points. This pause ensures you aren’t distracting the other players or interfering with their games.

Label your Paddle

You’ve decided on a good beginner pickleball paddle. It’s yours now, and you want to ensure it stays that way. Pickleball paddle differences can be subtle, and a well-intentioned player might accidentally walk off with your paddle instead of theirs. An initial or special marking on the grip of your paddle is a great way to differentiate it from others in case it has any “twins” on the court that day.

These etiquette expectations can seem like a lot, but don’t let it deter you. Pickleball players are friendly and forgiving. If you run afoul of the etiquette, apologize and explain you weren’t aware, and everyone should move on as friends. If you try to be respectful and friendly, you should have no problem becoming part of the pickleball community.