5 Things to do with Every Pickleball Partner

Get in the habit of being a class act on the pickleball court...

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Get in the Habit of Being a Class Act on the Pickleball Court

We're not responsible for others, but we can set standards for our behavior.

1. Cooperate with Each Other & Play as a Team

Unless you're playing singles, you'll be winning or losing as a team.

From the sidelines, we see many partners argue about whose ball it is. It seems that unless you have a lot of experience playing with each other competitively as partners, it's best not to fret about who actually goes for or gets one of many middle balls.

Good, bad or indifferent, there ARE different philosophies in regards to whose ball it is as well as court coverage and positioning. And, you might not have the luxury of time to get on the same page during recreational games. So, it might be okay if, periodically, one of you poaches a high floater or one of you steps in to get a dink the other may not be able to easily get.

During this particular 15-20 minute period of time, it's probably in your best interest to cooperate as a team.

2. Communicate Early and Often

Depending on your pickleball experience, skill level, strengths, tendencies and/or weaknesses/perceived weaknesses, you may wish to have a quick chat before you hear or say 0-0-2...

For instance, if you're left-handed, you might want to mention that. Or, if you're still working on developing your backhand, you could ask your partner to take balls to the right of the center line when you're covering the even side. (Or, maybe you want to get all deep backhand balls near the center line so you can practice developing your backhand.) Or maybe it's an especially sunny or windy day and you want to pre-determine how lob retrievals will be handled.

Recently, as an example, a partner asked me to take deep balls which were travelling towards them to their backhand as their backhand wasn't as strong. This is not something I normally do as it could prevent me from covering the left sideline and most people that I play with would be annoyed if not offended for questioning their backhand... It threw me off a bit as it simply isn't a regular practice for me, and my opponents would make us pay for being out of position... But, it opened up communication with this new partner and that was great.

When we proactively communicate with each other, we have an opportunity to learn how to work with versus against each other. Some partners cover better for others when one gets pulled off the court. Some players have no idea how to retrieve a lob. A player may or may not have experience in doing a half or full stack. We won't know if we don't ask...

All you have to do is say, "Before we begin, what should I know about your game?" And, be prepared to say, "I am comfortable/not comfortable with (blank)." Or, "Today, just so you know, I'm working on (blank)."

3. Be Respectful

Every time we get on the court, we need to remember the following:

  • Players attempt to play to the best of their ability (no one tries to make an unforced error like popping up the ball).

  • Players have different motivations and values when it comes to pickleball (as is their right). And, they might have set a specific pickleball intention just for today.

  • Every pickleball player, including pros, makes unforced errors despite trying not to do so.

  • Players have different perspectives and may see different opportunities at any given moment. (What they perceive during the split second decision-making process may be different than what others might perceive.)

  • Each player may be aware of their own strengths, weaknesses, abilities, recent injuries, etc., and will proceed accordingly.

Unsolicited Advice in Pickleball Infographic by The Pickleball Broadcast

Unsolicited Advice in Pickleball Infographic by The Pickleball Broadcast

4. Participate During Every Point

Sometimes players feel open play rotations are less than ideal, for whatever reason. Every time you decide to play a game during drop-in play, please fully participate during every point -- even when opponents are targeting your partner or your partner keeps popping up balls. The other three people on the court deserve your focus.

You can intentionally practice some shots or plays. You can start calling for more balls. You can even start poaching when there are opportunities. But don't waste everyone's time by standing there and giving up. It doesn't make your partner who is trying their best look bad; it makes you look bad.

And, if you're not getting balls in recreational play, you can pleasantly bring this up to the opposing team's attention. Just say, "Hey, maybe it's my imagination... It seems that my partner's getting most of the balls. Since we're not in a tournament, I'd like to be equally involved in the game, too." Give the benefit of the doubt to your opponents and communicate in a friendly way. They may not realize they've fallen into the tournament practice of targeting one player on the court.

5. Show Appreciation and Sportsmanship

We can always find something positive to say.

However, maybe you just got pickled and it doesn't feel genuine to say the standard, "good game" at the end. Fortunately, there are multiple ways we can acknowledge our pickleball partner during games as well as our opponents after the game/match has finished.

Here are a few ideas:

  • You played really well (as a team, as my partner, etc.)

  • Really good (communication, court positioning, movement, hustle, etc.)

  • Your (shot selection, understanding of the game, soft game, hard game, serving, returning, etc.) seems to be improving

  • Love your (energy, effort, commitment, etc.)

  • I notice a difference in (forehands, backhands, placement, pace, resets, etc.)

  • Thanks for (playing, playing one more game when you were ready to leave, playing with us, etc.)

  • Next time... (with a smile)

We love to hear players acknowledging those who supported them along their journey versus hearing about the players who tried to inadvertently or deliberately derail them...

In summary, these five pickleball practices will be noticed and appreciated by your partners, your local pickleball community as well as competitors at pickleball tournaments.