Pickleball Time-Out Rules: Length and Tips When to Use Them

Est. Reading: 5 minutes

Like in every sport, pickleball players have time to take a break during the games. Otherwise, they will get too tired, and the match will not be exciting. More importantly, continuous playing can affect the health of the players. 

So, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player in pickleball, you should know the time-out rules. This guide includes the different types of time-outs and their lengths,  when you can request them, and violations. Make sure you read from start to finish.

How Long is the Standard Time-Out in Pickleball?

The entire Section 10 of the 2024 USA Pickleball Rulebook is dedicated to the pickleball time-out rules. 

Section 10.A states, “A player or team is entitled to two time-outs for 11- or 15-point games and three time-outs for a 21-point game.”  Each time-out period may last up to 1 minute (60 seconds).” Nonetheless, the game may be resumed before the one-minute time-out expires once all players are ready to continue.

Section 10.F states that the standard time out between matches is 10 minutes. The match may start early if the players are ready to play before the time expires. The standard time-out between games is 2 minutes, which will be used before the team-allotted timeouts.

According to Section 10.F.1, the standard time out between a championship match and a tie-breaker match is also 10 minutes. A tie-breaker match is set up to 15 points if the winner of the loser’s bracket wins against the winner of the winner’s bracket.

Who Can Call for a Time Out in Pickleball?

In an officiated game, players should inform the referee of the time-out. If there’s no referee, the player should inform their opponents. If a team decides to play before the requested time-out starts, that time-out is set for the upcoming game.

According to Section 10.A.4, a team will not receive a fault if it calls for a time-out before the serve despite having no more time-out left. But if a team requests a time-out after the serve, the team will commit a fault.

What if a Player Violates the Standard Time-Out Rule?

Previously, the referee will announce the score, and the 10-second rule starts. If the server does not follow and there’s no remaining time-out, the server will commit a fault.

But in 2022, Section 10.A.5 was inserted and states that the referee will announce if there are only 15 seconds left in the time-out. Once the time-out time lapses, the referee will announce “time in” and call the score once the players are ready or should be prepared to continue the play. 

If a player or team deliberately delays the game, the referee can issue a verbal or technical warning to the entire team. Repeated actions could result in a second technical warning or technical foul.

Medical Time-Out Rules

Despite pickleball being a generally safe sport, players may encounter a medical situation during a match. In case this happens, here are the medical time-out rules every player or team should follow:

  • Request a medical time-out from the referee. Note that a player is allowed for only one medical time-out per match.
  • The referee should immediately call the on-site medical personnel to assess the situation and provide the necessary first aid treatment. If no medical personnel are on the site, the referee should inform the Tournament Director (TD), who will check the injured player.
  • Once the medical personnel or Tournament Director checks the player, the referee should call for a continuous 15-minute medical time-out.
    • The remaining time will be lost if the player uses less than 15 minutes. Also, no additional medical time-out will be available to the player during the match.
    • As per the 2024 Rules and Updates, if the 15-minute medical time-out has expired, the player can use the available standard time-outs before the player must retire from the match.
    • If the player has blood on any part of the body, the bleeding should be stopped. The player should be appropriately treated before resuming the game.
    • If there is blood on the clothing or court, it should be removed and properly cleaned before the game is resumed. The time for cleanup is charged as a referee time-out.
  • Suppose the player has been proven to be deliberately calling for a medical time-out, but no valid medical condition was found. In that case, the referee shall issue a technical warning to that player. Additionally, the requested time out will be charged as a standard time out.
    • If that player has no more standard time-out left, the referee shall issue a technical foul instead. You can also read our post about Technical Fouls and Warnings.
    • That player can no longer call for a medical time-out for the rest of the match.
  • Like in a standard time-out, Section 10.A.5 applies once the match resumes.

Equipment Time-Out Rules

Pickleball players are expected to use equipment and apparel properly and maintain them in good condition. In some cases where there’s a need for adjustment, repair, or replacement, the referee may declare an equipment time-out for a reasonable time. 

Quick adjustments can also be made during the game, which includes tying shoelaces, adjusting your cap, etc. Once the match resumes, Section 10.A.5 should also be applied.

Continuous Play Time-Out

During the play, you can take a very short time-out to drink water or to wipe sweat with a towel. However, you should first inform (or signal) the referee, and the play should not be interrupted for long. 

Once the game resumes, the referee should call the score again. But again, the referee may issue a technical warning or technical foul to any player who intentionally causes a delay to the game.

Referee Time-Out Rules

Aside from the players, the pickleball referee can also call for a time-out if:

  • A player is in pain and unable to call for a medical time-out.
  • If there’s a potential medical condition, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • If there is a foreign substance or object on the pickleball court. It includes water, debris, and stray animals.
  • If the referee notices an equipment malfunction or anything that can distract or harm the players.

Note: The time spent during a referee time-out is not charged to the players.

When is the Best Time to Call for a Time-Out?

Remember, you can only have two time-outs in a match, so don’t waste them. Therefore, the best time to call for a time-out in pickleball is when you need one. But when is that aside from needing medical attention? Here are some tips:

  • To stop your opponent’s momentum. If your opponent is leading by at least 3 points, it’s best to call for a time-out. In doing so, you can also break the momentum of your opponent and the crowd. Without realizing it, the noisy fans of your opponent can also distract you. After all, this strategy is common in other sports.
  • To think of a better playing strategy. Aside from breaking the momentum, calling for a time-out also gives you time to analyze the game. A short break can be long enough to think of your next moves. When playing in doubles, it’s also time for you and your partner to exchange ideas on how to help each other.
  • To take a needed rest. Pickleball can sometimes be physically tiring. If you feel exhausted, you need a short break. Regardless of the score, you should call for a time-out if you feel like collapsing or losing your focus. Forcing yourself to play may worsen your game and affect your health.

Final Thoughts

Remember, you can only use time-outs during the current game. You can’t use unused time-outs for your next game or take them home. But then, you should use them wisely and not abuse your rights.

Violating the time-out rules not only leads to a technical warning but also to unprofessional conduct. Unknown to some pickleball players, using a time-out correctly is also part of a good winning strategy.

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