Pickleball is only a game. Drop in and Open Play are “Social Play” so keep in mind that you are only playing a game!
Arrive in time to help set up the nets. When you are the last players on the court, take down the net.
Begin each game by acknowledging the other players, introducing yourself if you don’t know them or personally recognizing them if you do.
During Open Play (mixed skill-levels), players play with all skill levels without complaints. Good sportsmanship is the rule. If you are a significantly stronger player, if you have limited time available to you, and if there is an “advanced court” option, go wait there for a stronger game. Regardless, can the whining.
If you are playing against a team where there is a significantly stronger player, play against the stronger player. You will forget about who wins a given game tomorrow, but if you play against the stronger player you may learn something.
If you are the strongest player of the four, either:
play to each of the opponents in a way they can handle the shot and learn from the play. Sometimes you can even ask people what they are working on (e.g. drop shots, lobs, returning balls hit to their backhands, whatever) and if they tell you, hit the ball to them so they can work on those shots; or
work on a shot that has been causing you difficulty; what a great time to practice the third shot drop!
Call the score out loudly and wait until everyone is ready before serving.
NEVER smash a ball that is returned too high by the weaker player in social play; make a challenging return for the stronger opponent or give the weaker player another shot to try to get it down lower.
Don’t hit the ball hard at weaker player – they will not appreciate it nor respect you for it. Smashers and bangers seldom succeed at the 3.5 level so learn to play the game properly early on.
At the end of each game, tap the bottom of your paddles and find something positive to say to the other team at the net. “Nice game” isn’t always appropriate if in spite of your efforts at sportsmanship you have won 11-0. But “you made some great shots!”, or “much closer than the score”, or “Wow, we were lucky today!” would be just fine. At least, “Thanks for playing with us!” is nice. NEVER leave a game without acknowledging the other team.
If the ball is out, and it’s on your side, call it out loudly and raise your arm to indicate it is out. If it’s close, give the benefit to your opponent. Put your arm down with palm flat or finger extended to show it is in. This is hard to do when the game is close but do it anyway. If you are unsure, it is IN! If your opponent does not do it, suck it up and do the right thing when it’s your turn!!!
If you step into the kitchen on a volley, or if your partner does, call it on yourself. Be very cautious about calling kitchen or serving faults on others – you should be watching the ball and not your opponent’s feet.
Never ask for, or accept, line calls from spectators.
If spectators continuously comment on the play itself, politely ask them to keep their comments to the spectators.
NEVER yell at, swear at, or say a hostile or sarcastic word to your partner or your opponent in anger.
Since we are playing a social game, please apologize if you break wind, belch loudly or swear (even when it is directed at yourself).
Trash-talking, which is teasing your opponents in a fun and lighthearted way, is part of pickleball. But be careful – don’t trash-talk someone who is sensitive, who you don’t know, who is a weaker player or can’t for any reason trash-talk back. Don’t trash-talk someone’s physical or mental limitations, use racial or other politically incorrect statements. Just be careful.
ALWAYS compliment people on outstanding “hero” shots or on a really great point during the game.
Play a strong game against better players but work on stuff you need practice on with the weaker players. Tell your partner “I’m working on (say) deep backhand returns today” and they know that will mean that you’re not trying to put every shot away. Saying this beforehand gives you a chance to gauge what your partner wants out of the game.
Do not take advantage of a person’s physical limitations during social play. If someone cannot go back for a lob, why lob over their head? Use the chance to learn something by hitting shots to their strength and trying to make good shots out of their returns.
Don’t give lessons on the court (unless they were agreed to by all beforehand). Unless it is a teaching session, any observations should be one or two liners in order not to detract from the play (e.g. remember to hit the return of serve deep enough that you can get to the NVZ line before the opponents hit the ball).
At the end of a game, if you believe another player would benefit from an observation about their play, DON’T OFFER IT. Who made YOU court-captain today? Most people don’t want observations about their play and will not take it well. Even if they ask, be very cautious. Give no more than ONE piece of advice at a time. Let them work on that. Then, some other day, go on to the next thing.