There are so many new pickleball players in the area and across the country, I thought it might be helpful to revisit and update the very popular article I wrote several years ago.
DO NOT forget to introduce yourself before every match, and shake hands (better to tap paddles) at the conclusion. Afterwards, remember to use hand sanitizer. A COVID-19 tip is to wear one or two sweat bands and wipe your brow with them, rather than your hands.
DO NOT forget to call the score out loudly before you serve, otherwise you forfeit your serve. And don’t get the score wrong, or be one of those who always gets the score wrong in their 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.
DO NOT continue to lob someone having troubles responding to your lobs, or hit volleys or overheads at a player you clearly outclass in recreational play. 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 one more step when you hear the word “BALL” on the pickleball courts. Be sure to yell “BALL” at the top of your lungs when you mishit 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 intentionally try headshots against your opponents.
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 or chat on a court before or after you play when the courts are crowded. 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. Cross between their points, not during them.
DO NOT move any other paddle in a paddle line, erase a name in a sign-up box, or cheat the court sign-up system. 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 newer players 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. It actually helped my game quite a bit to play against all those levels.
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.”
DO NOT take yourself too seriously; no one else is.
But DO laugh, and ENJOY yourself!
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.