Although pickleball players are some of the nicest people I have met, it never hurts to review some rules of engagement for the good of the order. In case you were wondering:
• Do not forget to introduce yourself before every match or to shake hands at the conclusion.
• Do not forget to call the score out loudly before you serve; otherwise, you forfeit your serve. And don’t get the score wrong, and if you do, certainly not always in your favor.
• Do not criticize your partner. This one really makes no sense. All you do is to make them more nervous. You and your partner are a team, a right arm and a left arm. Now, what would you think if you saw some player on the pickleball court and their right arm was fighting with their left arm. Silly, right?
• Do not make bad line calls. The ball is in or it’s out. There are no gray areas. The rule of thumb: If you or your partner do not clearly see it out, it’s in! No discussion.
• In recreational play, do not continue to lob someone having troubles responding to your lobs, or hit volleys or overheads at a player you clearly outclass. It is a different story in a practice situation or competition, because that permanently-hindered player needs to learn how to work around their handicap.
• Do not take even one more step when you hear the word “Ball!” on the pickleball courts. And be sure to yell, “Ball!” at the top of your lungs when you mis-hit one onto the neighboring court. And when you throw or roll the ball to the proper court, do it properly and not like you are auditioning for a zombie role in “The Walking Dead.”
• Do not lambast yourself when you miss a point. As Hollywood would say, “Forget about it.” Afterwards, you might want to reflect on your errors, but during the match, there is nothing you can do about opportunity lost other than better prepare yourself for the next point.
• Do not catch the ball with your hand or paddle anywhere on the court, even when you might be 15 feet outside the court. The ball must be given the opportunity to prove it will be out, regardless of how obvious it is. At net returning serve, do not catch the ball because you think it is going to be out. Get out of the way. It isn’t out until proven out, and it isn’t proven out until it hits the surface.
• Do not linger on a court before or after you play. Others want to play now!
• Do not wander across the back of the adjacent courts. After and before, to and from, it is common courtesy to remain off the other courts.
• Do not move any other paddle in a paddle line or erase a name in a sign-up box. Call out anyone abusing this, and tell them the Baron made you do it.
• Do not exclude players below your level. I try to play with novices at least a third of my games to help and encourage players newer to the game. Someone put up with me when I was learning, and the least I can do is repay the favor.
• Do not complain about better players excluding you. They need some games among each other to improve as well. Remember — there is nothing stopping you from finding an old tennis court to practice your serve or a wall to practice your dink.
When I was in the military in the panhandle of Texas, there was a dislike of soldiers in the town where I was temporarily stationed. I went to a tennis club where I was given the cold shoulder. Every weekend, I started to play challenge matches, starting with the last-ranked kid on their ladder. Once I worked my way through all names and beat everyone at the club, I called out the professional and beat him, which turned out to be the beginning of a long friendship.
• Do not make excuses. As Rhett Butler said in “Gone with the Wind,” “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a pickle.”
• Do not use crude language. Robert E Lee said to a group of his officers who were using crude language in the adjoining room, “Gentlemen, please.” The scolded officers went on to explain there were no ladies present, and Lee said, “Correct, but there is at least one gentleman present.”
But do laugh and enjoy yourself.
Update: The clinic in Ocean City, Md., was a great success, and I personally want to thank those instructors who helped: Bob O’Malley, Frank Creamer and Neil Gottesman from the Ocean Pines Pickleball Club, the famous Rick Bell, and Bob Gaudreau, Dom Travaglini and Mike Smith from the Ocean View Crew.
After they recovered from three strenuous hours, I suspect those 40 participants thought they won the Gold Pickle Award. Actually, six were awarded gold medals for their work ethic and positive attitude as they went through the five discipline stations.
Note: I now link readers to all my prior pickleball stories in Coastal Point with links on my website at pickleballcoast.com.