Pickleball Etiquette: How to have good sportsmanship when playing Pickleball

So you want to start playing Pickleball but your not quite sure what is the etiquette to play pickleball?

Pickleball is a great sport for all ages and when you’re first starting out you may ask how do I play and how do I act while playing pickleball.

The etiquette of pickleball is easy and aligns with a lot of other sports and general good sportsmanship. Remember most of us are playing this recreational as a hobby and we want to have fun.

Update January 2021: Pages and pages of new rules will become effective later in January. The following etiquette tips are an effort to incorporate the rule changes. But, keep in mind, that for social play (non-competitive) these tips are generally well accepted in the pickleball community. So, here we go…

Things to remember when you are playing Pickleball

Call out the score before you serve – Calling the score loudly and clearly gives all players the opportunity to agree with the score, make corrections, and make sure all players are ready to play.

We anticipate that newly announced rule changes will require some adjustment in terms of what you may have come to expect during the course of your playing experience.

NEVER leave a game without acknowledging the other team. Thank all players for the opportunity to play. Handle taps at the net are a standard means of acknowledging all players. In today’s COVID world, we have moved to paddle “wagging” at the net, eliminating the need for actual contact.

Do not chase the ball into another court. Chasing the ball into another court would be a safety hazard for you as well as the other players.

The best thing you can do is loudly call out “ball on the court”. Play should stop immediately. This eliminates the potential for injury to those playing on the court and the person retrieving the ball. For the players, the point can be replayed. Believe me, as a player, it’s a big groan when play is going very well and has to unexpectedly come to a halt because of a “ball on the court” call. But, everyone appreciates the safety of such a call. Enough sprains, strains and fractures happen during normal play.

Never argue about a call. If there is a dispute, replay the point. We aren’t going to live or die by the call. Line of sight, angle, visual acuity all impact the differences that 4 players see on the same play.

Wait until everyone is ready to serve the ball. It’s the courteous thing to do. In competition, you will see less of this. Why? It’s part of the winning strategy. The important thing, you are on the court to play pickleball. It is not the time to catch up on social activities and other plans.

Play with players of all skill levels – we were all beginners once and need to improve. This is so important!! New and emerging players want the opportunity to play with better players. It helps them learn. Experienced players have the opportunity to practice new skills when playing with less experienced players. Perfect time to try that new drop serve or your drop ball. And, remember, if you “pickle” your opponent, you lost your opportunity to spend more time on the court. Ask yourself, how important is it to yourself to win every game? What are the rewards of playing with players less experienced?

Never use profanity or call anyone names. Actually, there is a new rule that prohibits profanity on the court. Hmmm, must be one or two discourteous players out there. In addition, don’t kick the ball or hurl your paddle either. Really, do these things happen? Yes, indeed, but there is no excuse for any of these behaviors on the court.

Line calls are ONLY MADE by the team on the side where the ball landed. That team has the final say. However, there are many times where the players did not see the ball land but their opponents did and made the call to the benefit of the receiving team. We always thank them for these calls. The most common call involves whether the ball was in or out of bounds.

Return the ball so the other team doesn’t have to chase after it. I am always surprised by the player who carelessly tosses a ball back that is consistently haphazard. Or, the player who rolls the ball back slowly and/or off the mark. It gives the impression that they don’t really care about the other players. Or, the player who walks away from the ball and let’s someone else do the work. I suspect that at times it in unintentional, but it happens too frequently. I appreciate a courteously returned/retrieved ball and try to consistently do the same for all on the court.

Have General good sportsmanship. This is not a “win at all costs” game. It is a fun way to exercise outdoors with other like-minded persons. Make new friends. Treat each other with respect. Recognize effort and great shots. Be the kind of player that others enjoy playing with!


Nicole is a pickleball enthusiast who started playing pickleball in 2017. Always trying to improve her game, she shares helpful tips and tricks for people wanting to learn to play pickleball. Its an obsession.

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