Pickleball Etiquette
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Pickleball Etiquette — Unwritten Rules (until now) for the Pickleball Newbie… and for some Experienced Players too!!!

If you’re a pickleball newbie, you can download the USAPA & IFP Official Tournament Rulebook to find the “official” rules about how to play the game of pickleball. Etiquette “rules,” on the other hand, are generally unwritten – yet equally as important.

Top 10 Pickleball Etiquette Rules

Here are my top 10 etiquette rules for pickleball – rules that you won’t find in any official pickleball tournament handbook or rulebook:

  1. When somebody inadvertently hits a ball onto your court from an adjacent court, retrieve it and toss them that same ball that they hit onto your court. Don’t switch balls. I repeat, don’t switch balls. 😉
  2. When retrieving a ball from an adjacent court, make eye contact with someone from that court and then directly toss or hit them the ball. Don’t just hit the ball back into their court without looking. That’s very annoying!
  3. Don’t play keep away from the best player on the other team during rec play just so you can win – they want to play too!
  4. Don’t cross the court behind a match until play has stopped. It’s not only rude, but it can be very dangerous as well.
  5. Don’t chest-bump or be excessive in the celebration when your opponent makes an error. If, on the other hand, you or your partner made a great play… 🙂  Same goes for the “spectators.” Please don’t clap or cheer when the opposing player misses an easy shot.
  6. If you are obviously the weakest player on the court, thank the other players for playing with you after the game. However, don’t take advantage of their graciousness by staying on the court for an indefinite period of time. More than a game or two will undoubtedly wear out your welcome.
  7. If you are asked to play with a group that is obviously of a lower skill level than you, graciously accept and play a game or two with them. They will likely appreciate your graciousness and understand that you want to get back to similarly-skilled players after the game.
  8. If you are obviously the strongest person in your foursome, tone down the competitiveness and hit your opponent’s balls that they can return. Work on a new skill – perhaps it’s a great time for work on that third shot drop shot.
  9. If you and your partner can’t determine if the ball was in or out – or if you disagree with your partner on a line call – the benefit of the doubt goes to your opponent. Wait! That’s actually an “official” rule!
  10. In rec play, don’t exploit someone’s physical limitations just so you can “win.” Not cool!

Pickleball Etiquette
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I would love to hear from you in the comments below. What are some other etiquette considerations you may encounter during rec play?

For more rules clarification be sure to check out our pickleball rules page.

See you on the courts!

>>READ NEXT: The Pickleball “Excuse-Maker” – Make Sure You’re Not that Pickler!<<

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Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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123 Comments

  1. In couples play one of the husbands is constantly hogging the ball the entire time. He steps in front of his wife in her side of the court and tries to get every ball. Aside from being horribly rude, is there any rule about this?

  2. I’ve been told that I breech etiquette when I send the ball to the server by rolling the ball under the net toward the server, or where the server is headed-after all why is there a ball-size gap under the net? II find that to be the most efficient method. I was told to hit it to the server so they don’t have to bend down. Help!
    (This guy fusses several times a play period, perhaps breaking etiquette rules himself???)

  3. A huge etiquette issue for me is someone standing around beside the net, out of position, while waiting for the ball to be retrieved. Please, get positioned for the next play. Otherwise three people are having to wait for you to get into position for every play. It’s rude and it gets old fast. Think ahead. Get into position. It keeps the game moving.

    1. Karen, I agree…. my constant frustration. Server should go to where they are serving from and hold up their hand. The three other players will get the ball and toss it to them.

  4. Has anyone else had players leave in the middle of a game to go play with an ‘ advanced ‘ group of players? I’m always stunned and at a loss for words when this happens.

  5. Hi On a very windy day I was playing recreational and losing. When my opponents reached a score of 6-1 I requested to switch sides. They refused. Please comment

      1. Whenever there are windy conditions, we invariably switch sides when the score reaches 6; makes it fairer for all. But then again, we are playing for the enjoyment and not to win every point there is going.

  6. When a ball is hit or rolls over several courts away, I find it rude when people unnecessarily yell “ball” at the top of their lungs disturbing other games going on around them that aren’t affected by the stray ball. I’ve been distracted many times by someone yelling “ball” when I’m in the middle of a point, and the ball is in a distant court. The park where I play has 12 courts in a relatively small area. Sometimes these stray balls aren’t on a court affecting anyone’s play. The court that lost the ball just wants someone to retrieve it for them because they’re too lazy to walk or run to get it. I can understand if there’s a safety concern with a ball on another court, but players should be respectful of other active games around them and do their best not to disturb play when retrieving their stray balls.

    And kicking the ball to someone on another court drives me crazy, as others have mentioned. So disrespectful!

  7. I am still a newbie at Pickleball and I am guessing the people that have been playing awhile take charge of who plays on what court?? But I do not need to be pointed at and yell across courts that I need to go to the court that was 2 down because “losers” play with other “losers” from another court. Come on now. No person is a loser. We may have lost our match, but have some courtesy and respect on how you address others. Again, to all people that have lost a match, you are not a loser, you just didn’t win that match. This just happened today. Be kind to one another!

    1. I always make the point that keeping score is just a method of knowing when the game is finished. At the end there are winners and not-winners but absolutely NO LOSERS.

  8. I can no longer play with my family because of #3.

    Its a real shame, because we used to have a lot of fun playing together. I’m thinking of buying them a cardboard cut out of me so we can all ‘play’ as a family again. I just havent figured out how to get it to return serves….

  9. What is the etiquette about spectators entering the court during play? I believe spectators should stay outside the court until it has been vacated by the players, but want to know how others feel about this.

  10. Our group is struggling with an issue. If a ball is hit to the opponents side, and as the opponent runs for it, and hits it, their partner yelled out… is this a dead ball? Or is it live because the opponent hit it? Our opponents argued that they should get the point as the ball would have been out had they let it go, and the partner called it out before it was hit. We felt it became a live ball as soon as it was hit.

    1. Hi Karen, If the ball did not bounce on your opponent’s side, then the ball is still live (and the yelling “out” would simply be considered “player communication.”) If the ball bounced, however, and it was a line call, then, regardless if your opponent’s partner hit it or not, the call would be considered “out” and it becomes a dead ball at that point. Hope that helps.

    2. The ball is always LIVE until it’s physically not. Tough luck if the ball was going out and someone hit it: should have just let it go.

      So, if the ball LANDED outside the playing area and was then hit it was no longer live. Calling ‘out’ doesn’t make it so until it is actually out.

  11. To elaborate on #10, we have several players in our group whose mobility is limited by age or previous injury or both. It seems to me that lobbing a ball over their head, though effective, is both dangerous and humiliating, especially if they’re having to look into the sun to try to get to it and return a shot.
    I rather wish lobs would just go away.

  12. I struggle with #10. I’m a little younger than the players at my local rec center (I’m 47), and a lot of these older players aren’t interested in learning or crafting their game. They just want to bang the ball at me, and even get mad when I drop a shot into the NVZ because they can’t get up to get it. So they’re trying to kill me, but I’m supposed to hold back? Not trying to open Pandora’s box, but would love to hear some other points of view.

    1. That’s a tough one. If they are unwilling to come to the line, I would work really hard at pinning them deep to the baseline. That will help your game as well when you play the younger whipper-snappers! 😉

    2. Personally, if I am not enjoying playing with or against certain players then I will simply avoid playing with or against them.

  13. Could you please address the issue of players who answer their phones in the middle of the game? Rec play or otherwise.

    1. I ALWAYS turn off my phone before playing. It staggers me how discourteous some people can be. They probably have their phones on when going to the cinema too.

  14. A player likes to hold a ball whether she’s serving or not. Others find it distracting and confusing. She says she’ll stop if there’s a rule about it. Shouldn’t the only ball on the court be the ball in play?

    1. Hi Sandy, According to the Referee Handbook, the referee is to remove all balls at the start of the match. This answer comes courtesy of a very well respected certified referee. Hope that helps.

      1. With respect, the advice you were given is for officiated games only.

        2022 Rulebook Change Document
        https://usapickleball.org/docs/ifp/USA-Pickleball-Rules-Change-Document.pdf

        10. Rule 7.N:
        New Rule: In non-officiated matches, players may carry additional pickleball(s) as long as the ball(s) are carried in a way that the ball(s) are not visible to their opponent during play. If an additional ball that a player was carrying falls on the playing surface during play, a fault shall be declared.

    2. This is perfectly legal for rec play. The appropriate rule and its link follow:

      2022 Rulebook Change Document
      https://usapickleball.org/docs/ifp/USA-Pickleball-Rules-Change-Document.pdf

      10. Rule 7.N:
      New Rule: In non-officiated matches, players may carry additional pickleball(s) as long as the ball(s) are carried in a way that the ball(s) are not visible to their opponent during play. If an additional ball that a player was carrying falls on the playing surface during play, a fault shall be declared.

  15. The biggest rule … follow the rules of the home court.

    Stop imposing your rules if you are new on the home court. (There May be a reason, you have not seen yet that they don’t use your rule … like more older players have more safety rules or more advanced players might play more aggressive to ready themselves for tournaments. Poaching, ernies, around the post, tagging and lobbing are skills that need to be practiced at the 4.0+ levels… players shouldn’t have to hold back to play with you. It’s a competitive game.

    1. One of the gym venues I use has a ‘local rule’ whereby if a ball in play hits a piece of equipment hanging from the roof, in this case a raised basketball net, the point is played over. Normally, according to the official rules, that point is lost by whomever hit the ball.

  16. In every sport I’ve played until now, there is such a thing as code of conduct. Not always posted in writing, but it’s there.

    My background is Tennis, Badminton and Table Tennis. That being the case I can tell you that I’ve never seen such gross lack of the basic proprieties as I see in Pickleball. Even some of the higher level players are clueless about certain etiquette and discipline.

    I realize however, the reasons for it. I can literally offer a free class to address these. That’s how bad it is. At the least, it would help to put more of the vast majority on the same page.

    Having said that, I do however realize the reasons for the lack of awareness. The vast majority of those taking up Pickleball now, have either not even watched similar sports and never participated in any.

    The list is too long but I can mention a few:

    • Make eye contact when saying the score or passing a ball or even saying hello or sorry, or thank you.
    • Go back to where you ought to be at the baseline or elsewhere after a point, if the opponent is trying to pass you the ball. It simply saves time.
    • Say the score correctly w all three numbers as you’re facing the net, and before serving. Pleeeease!
    • Pay attention to the score and repeat it to yourself. So many times there seems to be confusion even after the score has been loudly and clearly been stated. Never have I seen this much inattention and pure lack of harmony, in order for the game to continue seamlessly. Shame!
    1. I so feel your pain. I believe it’s called distracted playing, when 3 out of 4 players are clueless about the score. Many people I play with are so unfocused, and it negatively impacts their play…and the game for everyone involved.

      The Ram Dass book, “Be here Now” should be required reading.

      At times, I seem to be the only one remembering the score and occasionally I kid my friends that I get invited because of my scorekeeping abilities

    2. Totally agree as a tennis player whose courts were converted to accommodate pickle ball. There is no etiquette amongst this group! Don’t hold the court for your friends to show up if there are people waiting and ready to the (public) court! Don’t stay for over 45 minutes if there is a line of people waiting for the court, close the gate when you enter the court (just because your balls don’t go far doesn’t mean you can just leave the gate open).

    3. Personally, I make a point of telling my partner never to say ‘sorry’; otherwise we’d spend all day saying it.

      With regard to keeping score, it is incredible how so many players can have pre-dementia (I include myself in that description). Although I do keep repeating the score to myself, any distraction and I’m lost. Amazingly it seems to affect all age groups, at least the ones with whom I have been playing. LOL

      I would also add that I wish servers would announce the score in a louder voice. Some people are so meek and mild and with other games going on around, it is sometimes impossible to hear them. Mind you, I also have hearing issues so that doesn’t help.

    4. Some indoor gyms are loud with people hitting, calling scores and celebrating Also, some people have short term memory issues. Thanks for understanding.

  17. Rules vs etiquette: As a newby, while playing a rec. game with no ref. I hit a ball down the line and saw it as out,I then call it so. My playing partner said as it was on the other side of the court I had no right to make a call and thought we should have claimed the point as we were serving. We disagreed and after the game she took it up with the local coach and rules person, he said that she was right as the rules state that you cannot call a ball on your opponents side of the court! Where does this leave the etiquette of a game.

    1. I am absolutely with you on this one, Bill. If you definitely saw the ball as “out” in rec play, you should do the right thing and let the opponent know the ball was “out.” Perhaps they didn’t get a good look at it. In tournament play, you probably wouldn’t do this. However, in tournament play your opponent could ask for your opinion as shown below:

      6.D.6. Requesting Opponents’ Help. A player may ask the opponent’s opinion if the opponent was in a better position to make a line call on the player’s side of the court. The vision of a player looking down the line is more likely to be accurate than one looking across the line. An opponent’s opinion, if requested, must be accepted.

    1. This is a pet peeve and a rule too. Complete the score before starting the service motion. And please say it so the opponents can hear it. If there is a mistake, call it out at once or directly after the rally.

  18. Maybe an odd, seldom happening but, a ball is hit onto the horizontal bar that stretches the net and goes into the opponents court and is not returned. What is the call? I remember reading in the rules that it is good, but my wife disagrees with me (how unusual).

  19. I fully agree with #5 and I would like to add; NEVER thank your opponent for making a mistake or a poor shot return. He or she did not intend to slip up. It is very rude to applaud their unintentional play.

  20. Another situation I’ve seen numerous times, is when there is a line dispute and the player who was chasing after a ball to hit it insists that their call is correct because they “were the closest”. Studies have now proven that a person chasing a ball actually makes the worst line calls. In doubles, let your more stationary partner make the call.

    Similarly, if a ball lands where it is overlapping the line, a player looking straight down at that ball cannot tell whether there is a gap between the line and where the ball contacts the floor. Their partner usually can, from across the court. My group now has a joking but serious call, “I saw a gap”, meaning the ball was out (Rule 6.C). Respect The Gap!

      1. I agree, everyone started out as a beginner and I see no reason to grovel to more experienced players. I feel it’s demeaning and disrespectful.

        1. Hi Sandy, There’s certainly something in this blog post for both beginners — as well as higher-level, experienced players. Everyone has to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and treat each other with respect.

  21. Great article and great comments. I have one additional note on Rule #1: Even if two balls look identical (and were when new), one might have been “conditioned” by more playing time. I’ve had this happen, where my foursome had to insist that we get “our” club ball back, even though the other club ball looked identical. Please don’t switch balls.

  22. When the other team makes a good play, tap [clap] your hand on your paddle to recognize and congratulate the other player.

  23. As a newbie I appreciate playing with better players so I can learn. But I do try not to monopolize their time and am grateful for the learning opportunity. Love all these pickleball information sessions. They are great! Kathy

  24. Don’t play back because you aren’t comfortable up by the kitchen line! You’ll never get comfortable if you don’t try and you will frustrate your partner who wants to play up and has no idea where you are in the back court.

  25. These rules are great and I support their use, but there also needs to be a set protocol for the warm up. In tennis there is a set agreed method (drives, then volleys, lobs and service practice), but in the short time that I have played, in pickleball it’s a quick matter of “shall we start then??!!!” It would be good to get an agreed protocol, which everybody uses.
    Alan

    1. Hi Alan, Great comment. You are correct that the warm up period is generally neglected in pickleball. I know I need the warm up time to get the rust off!!! 😉 See you on the courts.

    2. I want to have everyone comfortable with the warm up time. If you need a specific warm up practice then ask for it. I will be glad to comply and I expect others to do the same.

  26. I agree with most of your 10 rules, but… we are out there to win. Rec play is all I and my friends do. However, at The Villages, FL, we have courts scheduled for Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced. Above that is rated players who have their own groups and tournaments.
    We casual players may “switch” the ball, unless they ask for “their ball” back. We are transitioning to a new ball here. You seem a little too up tight for Rec play.

    1. Hi Dean, Ha!!! I love it. Thanks for your comment and “insight.” See you on the courts — but let’s make sure we don’t switch balls with the adjacent court when we play! 😉

  27. Thank you for sharing these unwritten rules. These should be posted wherever people play pickleball for all to read. I just love this game and I try my best to follow these all the time!

  28. As in life, unsolicited advice on the pickleball court is off-putting, no matter how well-intentioned. Unless you are playing with a newbie or are in the throws of tournament competition, resist the urge to be your partner’s coach. Most tennis players and golfers seem to know this instinctively.

    1. This is interesting. If I get unsolicited advice from my partner who is a better player, I am totally open. This happened to me last night and he apologized after he gave me advice but I was totally ok with the help, because it was good advice and a good reminder. He kept apologizing and I kept insisting I was grateful. I know there is controversy with unsolicited advice.

    2. But what if the player constantly has an illegal serve,hitting above the waist? can’t you point out that that is incorrect?

    3. Advice from the good player is always welcomed. As long as they time it right. You should never give advice that can be understood as a blame…People get defensive so easily these days. Some will not even tell you that you are standing in the way of their serve. Just relax , communicate with your partner and tell them if they can help you to play better.

  29. Hi
    Re: Hitting the ball on our court :
    In our PB Club our rule is the person serving raises their paddle and will receive the ball.
    Also nobody ever goes on a court when play is in progress ……. We yell Ball…… and the players should STOP. If the Ball is by their feet you yell Ball Ball Ball until they STOP…..

  30. Sorry, I disagree with #5. Excessive isn’t warranted, but wherever you go or play, people will cheer a winning play. It doesn’t mean disrespect for the other player! It just means you are cheering for your team or for a play well done! Same as in most sports. Why should pickleball be any different?

    1. I had a player tell me I was heckling their team when I said to my partner “Let’s go, Bill, side out”. She said that was against the rules. And we are playing rec ball, not a tournament. She said it while on the court then came up to my face afterwards to reiterate.

  31. Please add something about poaching! Too often a male player will jump in front of me to poach a ball when it is coming straight to me. Remember this player is your PARTNER and you need to trust them! Plus they want to play also! Sometimes poaching is warranted when you see your partner is not in a position to play the ball, but you shouldn’t reach in front of your partner just because you think you can get the ball! Thanks!

    1. Some people think that court is divided into my side and my balls and his side and his balls…I believe that player in better position to play better shot is one on top of the net. Poaching can be great strategy if utilized properly. You can get so many free points if your partner is aggressive. Your opponents will need to make more difficult shoots when they know that there is aggressive guy there. They will try to keep the ball away from him and at the same time they will not think about your weaknesses…On important points aggressive player should play more conservative and maybe fake poaching. It is similar on third ball that is deep in the middle…usually strong forehand should take it even ball is closer to the other player and over the middle line…

    2. Boy do I ABSOLUTELY agree!! I couldn’t help but mention this to my super athletic poaching partner..He does this with whomever he plays..this is casual, not high stakes pb..I’m okay with warranted poaching ( when I’m out of position).. He actually listened and abided by my request!

  32. If you don’t have a foursome ready to go, don’t jump on the center court claiming it for the next game while waiting for three more to sign up. Course the other two courts have baskets in the way and poorer lighting. Really frosts my a$$ when they do this. John.

      1. For indoor play we always stack paddle on a table and just the next four play. If you want to play with a certain group just wait until all four are off court and then add your stack. Works great for us. We have almost 500 members in the Quad City Pickleball Club playing in different indoor facilities. All were busy last Wednesday when the temp was -33.

  33. Adjacently, it happens from time to time.

    The ball is dead when another rolls in from an adjacent court. When this occurs at nearly the same time, and perhaps simultaneously, it’s okay to exchange balls..provided the balls are known to be identical and that players doing the retrieval make eye contact and smile with anothers’ good fortune.

  34. Clarify: when returning a ball to another court, pick up the ball and hit it back rather than kicking with your foot or scooting with your paddle.

  35. One very huge piece of etiquette that I see lacking on the courts today is when a player returns a ball to the serving team. I was taught to toss the ball to the opposing team, not this hit the ball with your paddle under the net. Why is it ok to make your opponent bend over to pick up the ball, when you can do the same. Tossing the ball to your opponent is the courteous way to play. I wish that could cut the ties at the bottom of the neck so players can not just kick the ball to the other team. Thank you,

      1. I am a good player but my hip hurts when I pick up a ball. Therefore I often hit it along the floor to save myself some extra pain. But I have become very good at aiming! I see no problem with this as long as it is hit to the player and they have no problem with picking up the ball. Thanks!

        1. What if that person also has a problem bending over to pick it up. Then it could just keep on rolling causing another safety issue. I make a point of picking it up even tho it kills my back. You can’t be sure the recipient may also have a problem.

          1. Really? I believe if kicked directly to them it’s easy enough to “catch” the rolling ball up with their paddle… and it relieves people from constantly having to bend over to pick up loose balls

    1. I agree. After the point, hit the ball to your opponent so it is easy for them to catch. I play sometimes with an 80+ player who hits great shots but he struggles to bend over and pick up the ball to serve. I try to get the ball and give it to him so he does not need to bend over.

      1. Me too. I also play with an elder person who has difficulty bending over. It’s painful for me to watch so I’ll invariably get the ball for him (but only when he’s my partner LOL).

    2. Our world and etiquette changed after February 2019 and Covid 19. It is now highly recommended to not pick up and toss the ball. Roll it directly to the server with your paddle to avoid an unnecessary touch and possibly giving a ride to the virus.

  36. Another etiquette rule:
    When you finish a game, make sure your foursome leaves and allow a waiting foursome to play.

      1. I agree but it is extremely galling when my foursome is walking off the court and the waiting players are too busy yakking to notice. Actually, ‘infuriating’ is a better word. And then they take an age to get onto the court.

  37. I agree with all but the first one if it’s Rec play and we are playing with Club balls. It’s sometimes just quicker to toss your ball to them and retrieve the ball on your court. Certainly if it’s a league or tournament then I agree. All other etiquette rules are great imho.

      1. Hi! I am confused about rule number 1. Why is it improper to throw them my ball as opposed to chasing their ball and giving it back?

      2. I agree especially if they are different brands!! That drives me crazy. You can’t start playing with a different ball in the middle of a game.

      3. At our Y we use balls they supply. The general practice is that it is okay to toss the ball you have in hand to the other group. This is changing now that we have some old and some new balls that are different. In that case we give them back their ball.

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