40+ Pickleball Etiquette Tips Before, During, and After a Match

Est. Reading: 10 minutes

Generally speaking, pickleball is a very friendly sport and players are not too harsh. Despite being a competition, the sport is also about socializing and interacting with others on the court. While there are no specific written rules about sportsmanship, practicing them is very important.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner, here are some tips on pickleball etiquette for before, during, and after a match it might help to familiarize yourself with.

Before the Match

  • Know the rules. Unless it’s a practice game with a friend, make sure you understand at least the basic rules of pickleball. Otherwise, you might be annoying your opponent. Being ignorant to the rules can also lead to disputes once the game starts. After all, you probably also expect your opponent to know them too, right?
  • Know the pickleball terms and their definitions. Like other sports, pickleball uses terms and other slang to call the playing techniques and equipment. These pickleball terms are nearly as important as the rules, so you should gloss over them before playing.
  • Bring your own pickleball ball. Whether it is a tournament or an ordinary friendly game, don't forget to bring your own ball. Although other players have their own ball, don’t wait for them to offer theirs. After all, offering yours is a sign of courtesy. Who knows? You might also win a friend after the game.
  • Fall in line. If you want to play in a public pickleball court, expect to see other players waiting for their chance to play. Their paddles are stacked in the paddle holder to know which pair will be playing next. Fall in line by placing your paddle in the last, and wait patiently for your turn. Patience is a virtue, as they say.
  • Be ready to play. While waiting for your turn to play, prepare everything you need. In doing so, you are instantly ready once you’re next. Also, avoid going somewhere else if you think your turn is near. This practice doesn’t only save your time but others' as well. Remember, your time is as important as others.
  • Label your paddle. Unless you’re using a customized paddle, labeling your paddle is a good practice, especially if you will play in a public pickleball court. If you don't want to label it with your full name, put your initials instead. Markings don't only prove paddle ownership, they also prevent disputes if a player has the same paddle.
  • Introduce yourself nicely. Always introduce yourself politely, especially if you will play with a total stranger. Slowly walk towards the net and initiate a handshake or a slight paddle tap. Remember, first impressions last. And who knows? Your opponent might be your friend someday.
  • Invite other players to join. If you’re a group in a public pickleball court and have an odd number of players, invite other players to join. You don’t have to ask about their skill level. What’s important is the joy of being complete by adding a new member. Pickleball is about connecting people with something in common.
  • Agree to a rotation play. Since you expect several players to visit a public court, you and your friends will come early so you can play first, right? But what about those who arrived late? This is when agreeing on a rotation play can help. Remember, you don’t own the place, and giving chances to others is a very kind act.
  • Welcome new players. If you’re already a pro or have been playing pickleball for quite some time, beginners might feel awkward approaching you. Wouldn’t it be nice if you will be the one to go near them? If they smile or wave at you, return it and welcome them to the sport. Beginners are also your fans, for all you know.
  • Play against weaker players. Pickleball is a sport for everyone, including those with physical disabilities. So if you meet them in a public court, invite them to play with you. However, don’t take advantage of their limitations or take pity on them. Instead, let them enjoy the game. It will also make you feel good, I promise.
  • Play against stronger players. If you’re the weaker one, don’t hesitate to play with a more experienced player even if you think you will not win. Don’t feel insulted or shy if they invite you. Instead, be proud if you had a chance to play with them. Who knows? You might also learn some playing strategies from them.

During the Match

  • Announce the score correctly and loudly. According to the Serving Rules, the server should call the score before serving. In doing so, make sure you’re calling the correct score. Also, call it loud enough so all the players (and referee) can hear you. Any player is allowed to ask about the correct score. If you have to ask, do it politely.
  • Wait for everyone to be ready. According to Section 4.C of the Serving Rules, players can show “not yet ready” signs before the score is called. Make sure you know these signs and check if all players are ready before making the serve. Wait patiently and let the referee make the call if a player causes a delay.
  • Call “Ball on Court.” If multiple matches are played on the same pickleball court simultaneously, stray balls are unavoidable. If your ball lands on the other court, inform the players by calling “ball on court.” This simple act of kindness can also avoid accidents. If a stray ball lands on your court, stop to pick it up and do the same.
  • Don’t switch the ball with yours. Whether a stray ball lands on your court or when a rally stops, never replace the pickleball ball with yours. Yes, it can be tempting if that ball is new and yours is old. However, this is not only a sign of being unprofessional. It could also lead to trouble since most players know their balls.
  • Don’t cross the court. Avoid crossing over the pickleball court to chase a lost ball. Doing so can annoy your opponent and spectators and also shows disrespect for the game. It’s also dangerous since you can hurt yourself or your opponent. Instead of chasing the ball, simply let it drop so your opponent can return it.
  • Be a team player. When playing in doubles, don’t steal your partner’s chance to return the ball if it’s on him. If the ball is coming fast between you and your partner, say “mine” or “yours”, depending on who you think has a better position. Good communication does not only avoid confusion, it also helps in winning the game.
  • Don’t show off.  If you play better than your opponent or partner, it will show during the match. Although this can make you feel good, you don’t have to show off. Instead, play fair and do your best. Otherwise, people will remember you for your rudeness, not your talent. You don’t want that, do you?
  • Compliment your opponent. It's normal to feel bad every time your opponent scores a point. But instead of feeling sorry for yourself, why not compliment your opponent? I know this is not an easy thing to do. It will make you feel better, trust me. Showing sportsmanship can also help you focus and improve your game.
  • Apologize for your faults. We all make mistakes. But aside from learning from them, saying "sorry" is best way to show humility. If your serve lands on the kitchen or hits the net and lands on your side, it’s a fault on your part. If you cannot apologize verbally, simply wave your paddle. It means that you are acknowledging your error.
  • Throw the ball nicely. Sometimes, the ball gets caught in the net by accident. If you are near the net and the ball should go to your opponent, pick it up and throw it to them nicely. This gesture may be simple, but it could avoid delaying the game. Your opponent will also be glad because you save their effort in going near the net.
  • Apologize for being lucky. The let serve rule was officially removed in 2021. So, if your serve accidentally hits the net and the ball lands on your opponent’s service court, you will score a point. Since this scenario rarely happens, you can call yourself lucky. Therefore, it won’t hurt you if you apologize to your opponent.
  • Say “Thank you.” Showing gratitude even for simple things is another good trait. If the crowd applauded you for a great shot or someone informed you about a stray ball, learn to say “Thank you” with a smile. These two words may sound simple but enough to define your character, and people will not forget that.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt to your opponent. If there’s no referee and you’re not sure if the ball is out, call it “in.” This is another difficult thing to do, especially when your opponent is ahead of the game. Also, your opponent might not do it for you but do it just the same. Read our Pickleball Line Call Rules.
  • Don’t make line calls when the ball has not landed yet. This action is considered bad etiquette, whether the ball is “in” or “out”, . Therefore, you must wait for the ball to land before making a line call. 
  • Be honest. While this is a general life rule, you might get tempted to lie if you’re on the losing side. For instance, you’re sure that the ball is “in” (or “out”), and it will be an advantage for your opponent, call it out correctly. You may have heard this a million times, but to remind you again - “Honesty is the best policy.”
  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If your opponent keeps on committing faults, don’t give him tips on how to play better unless they ask you. Although your purpose is to help them, it could be the other way around for them. Some players may find it offensive or feel pressured. So, better keep your mouth shut unless you’re their coach.
  • Help your opponent if in pain. Pickleball may not be as fast-paced as the other paddle sports. However, some players may get hurt or encounter muscle pain and fall. If you see these signs from your opponent, stop immediately and rush to help. Helping someone in pain is ordinary in every sport, so this is just a friendly reminder.
  • Avoid hitting someone. Pickleball can be intense, and players do everything to win the game. But sometimes, the ball goes where it should not be, and chasing it could hurt someone in the crowd. Similarly, hitting the ball too hard in the kitchen can injure your opponent. If you think this is cool, you’re absolutely wrong.
  • Play under control.  Your emotions can get high during a tough match. Self-control is quite hard but you should do it. If you commit an error, don’t hit your paddle into the ground or throw the ball aggressively elsewhere. If you scored a point, don’t insult your opponent. These acts aren’t only bad, they can also lead to a technical warning.

After the Match

  • Avoid over-the-top celebrations. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating a win, especially if you really deserve it. But while your heart is pounding with joy, your opponent feels the exact opposite. You can jump and do a chest bump with your partner. But then, excessive celebration is like insulting your opponent.
  • Accept the defeat wholeheartedly. We’ve seen some violent reactions from losing players or teams. In some cases, spectators of the losing team throw empty bottles and other things towards the court. As players, we should be role models and accept defeat with dignity. After all, pickleball is a game of friendship.
  • Thank everybody. Win or lose, meet your opponent at the net and offer a handshake or a paddle tap. Thank him for playing with you. If he loses the match, be sensitive with your words. Also, thank the crowd, even those who were not your fans. Do the same, even if you lose. Show them that you’re a good sport. 

Pickleball Etiquette for Spectators

  • Respect the National Anthem. This is common in all sports events before the games start. But sad to say, some spectators don’t practice it. So, once you hear it, stand up straight, place your hand on your heart, and sing. If you’re wearing a cap, remove it. If you’re in a foreign country, know and follow their culture.
  • Respect others’ space. If the venue is full, avoid waving your hand or hat or raising your drink. If you’re holding a banner, make sure it does not cover the people behind you. More importantly, avoid walking or standing up suddenly during a key play. Doing so is not only being rude; it also invites trouble, and you don’t like it.
  • Don’t catch a ball in play if it’s near the line. If you are near the baseline and the ball is coming fast towards you, don’t catch it. Instead, let it bounce so the referee can decide clearly whether the ball is “in” or “out.” On the other hand, you can catch a ball that is out of bounce to avoid someone getting hit. 
  • Don’t participate in line calls. According to Section 6.C.4 of the 2024 USA Pickleball Rulebook, “Spectators should not be consulted on any line call.” In other words, spectators have no authority to participate in line calls. In fact, only the referee can decide for the game. So, keep quiet even if the others are not.
  • Don’t trash talk. Trash-talking a player, a coach, a referee, or other spectators is not only a bad attitude, but could also lead you to eviction from the venue. So, if the game is very intense, don’t let your emotions get in the way. While it would be hard to control yourself, try to stay calm even if you think there’s an unfair call.
  • Applaud your team’s opponent. It's a heartbreak to see your team’s opponent scoring a point. Still, applauding the achievement is a sign of humility. Similarly, avoid clapping or give praise when your team’s opponent commits a fault. It’s an insult to them and can also demoralize the player.
  • Respect the referee’s decision. Whatever the call is, always respect the referee’s decision. If you think the referee made the wrong decision or did not see the fault, let it be. Let the coach and players appeal. After all, the referee is also allowed to consult with the players when it comes to line calling. 
  • Observe the venue rules. Sports venues have their own rules, and some may be different from the others. So, before going to the venue, make sure you know its rules. More importantly, you should follow them religiously. As a courtesy, don’t leave empty cans or bottles under your seat, and find the nearest garbage bin.

Final Thoughts

Pickleball is a very competitive sport, and players play to win. Spectators are expected to support their favorite team, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But again, pickleball is a sport, not a war. After reading the lists above, you’ll realize that it all boils down to the Golden Rule - "Do to others as you would want done to you." In short, if you’re expecting courtesy from others, start with yourself. 

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