Pickleball Points

I am now a proud member of the VFW Post 7234 in Ocean View, and my membership followed receiving my first services from the Veterans Administration (VA) just this year.

I’m no spring chicken, as most would agree, so why so long?

My first introduction to the VA was when I was a young officer and ordered to report for various medical tests. Those hospitals were crowded with soldiers, my age and younger, evacuated from Vietnam with terrible injuries, lost limbs, burns and disfigurement. I subsequently found myself not wanting to ever use any VA lab facility, wheelchair, gurney or operating room, because it might delay or inconvenience just one of those more deserving young soldiers.

Eventually, my hearing, because of the time spent on the flight line, eroded to the point I was directed to the VA by my civilian doctor. I struggled a bit with my decision, but I did go and found highly skilled, very motivated, doctors and technicians.

I spent much of my career traveling the world. Yes, I have been there — well, the places they play tennis — and been there in about every season of the year. I never found another country like America, and a major reason was because of the sacrifices of those young men. I use the past tense only in hopes it was not all in vain.

I have just started visiting my VFW in Ocean View as a member, and it is a nice feeling being around those with whom I have shared similar military experiences.

Why do I tell you this in my pickleball column? I appreciate what those veterans experienced for our country, and I admire each and every one of them. And we both know it won’t be long before I have the entire VFW post playing pickleball.

Pickleballers are always involved in good deeds and causes. A good example is the annual involvement in Delaware Womenade’s Operation Safe House by retired physician Susan Rattner and other pickleballers in fundraising for victims of domestic violence in Delaware.

This year, the fundraiser will be on Sept. 20, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at my VFW Post in Ocean View. As always, there will be a silent auction, but this year it will be a virtual silent auction. I have agreed to give pickleball lessons to the highest bidders for a pickleball clinic package, and another private lesson that includes the three tips to definitely improve your pickleball, as well as a free Paddletek Tempest Wave Pro — one of the most popular pickleball paddles in the nation.

I am hoping our many friends in pickleball can help support this charitable cause. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of my well-heeled friends from the olden golden days of tennis reach out and up the bidding?

None of us should ever take for granted the laughter and enjoyment we experience in pickleball and tennis, because there are some, like those who need Operation Safe House, who can’t.

Reports continue to filter to me about many players not really understanding the basic rules of pickleball. I suppose this is understandable because of the explosive growth of the support, but it also might be result of listening to people who might only have played a short time before teaching you. I suggest you each find an accredited instructor to help jumpstart your game.

I want to review five rules this week:

• The ball cannot hit the court twice ever. After you serve, you must allow the returning ball of your opponents to hit your side of the court, which cleverly swings the advantage to the receiving team. When this game was created, tennis was dominated by the big servers, and I suspect the founders wanted to not allow that to also happen in pickleball. Otherwise, the game is played by taking the ball in the air or on one bounce.

The astute reader probably said to themselves, “But you can’t always take the ball in the air!” Correct! They are referring to the kitchen rules, which seem to confuse a great many people, and that is why I always refer to the kitchen as the no-volley zone (NVZ).

• Contrary to urban legend, you can go into the kitchen at any time you want. You can call your spouse from the kitchen. You can set up a hot plate and make pancakes in the kitchen. You can yell to every passerby from the kitchen that you are a 5.0.

What you can’t do is hit the ball in the air while in the kitchen, and this is why it is called the NVZ. And if your opponents catch you in the kitchen or NVZ, they are going to hit the ball directly at you. If it hits you or your paddle — their point. Why? Because it is the no-volley zone. And that is why instructors put so much emphasis on staying out of the kitchen.

• A newer rule — When a served ball hits the net but continues forward into the service area (formerly called a let), it must be played. No lets or do-overs allowed.

• A very old rule that frequently goes unobserved — The ball must be allowed to land outside the court before the point is concluded. If the ball just slightly touches either opponent on the way out of the court — your point. If your opponent catches the ball even though they are standing 5 feet out of the court, then it is your point. If your opponent climbs up the fence and catches a ball before it goes over the fence, then it is your point.

I once was nailed between the eyes by an overhead while I was against the fence 20 feet behind the court at Forest Hills, and it was my opponent’s point. No discussion needed.

• If you serve a ball in doubles that is obviously going to be out but it hits the opponent waiting at the net — your point. No discussion required — your point. They did not give the ball the opportunity to be out.

For more information on Operation Safe House, visit www.delewsrewomenade.com.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.