How to Handle a Pickleball Ball Hog

When you’re trying to enjoy a fun game of pickleball, there’s nothing more frustrating than a ball hog teammate who insists on taking every shot, even ones clearly meant for you. Instead of fun rallies, points are over quickly with the ball hog going for shots they had no business going for. We’ve all been there. Personally, there have been times where I will mutter to myself the whole way home that I should have taken control of the situation. So, how can you handle this tricky on-court scenario? We have a few ideas!

Ball Hog Tip #1: Communicate First

The best approach is to start by communicating clearly. After the first couple overzealous poaches, pull your teammate aside and politely explain that you’d appreciate them leaving certain shots for you as they are on your forehand side. Set some court boundaries about who will cover which zones. Many ball hogs simply don’t realize their bad behavior. A friendly conversation may be all that’s needed.

Pickleball Ball Hog Tip #2: Get Creative

For the oblivious ball hog who doesn’t heed your requests, you may need to get a bit more creative. Some suggestions from experienced players:

  • Let them take every shot and stay out of their way. Stand back and sip your drink while they run themselves ragged.
  • Purposely return the ball to the opposite side so you have time to move over for the next shot.
  • As a last resort, firmly hold your ground on balls that are yours, potentially allowing a collision if the ball hog doesn’t back off.
Pickleball ball hog

Ball Hog Tip #3: Know When to Walk Away

If none of those tactics work and your ball hog teammate refuses to share the court, it may be time to politely decline playing with them again. Pickleball is supposed to be a social, fun experience. There’s no need to put up with selfish, unsportsmanlike conduct from ball hogs who simply don’t understand court etiquette. Find teammates who make the game enjoyable.

The pickleball ball hog problem is more common than you’d think, especially at recreational levels where not everyone understands court positioning strategy. With some patience, tact and creativity, you can hopefully defuse the situation. But don’t be afraid to walk away if the behavior persists – your pickleball satisfaction matters most.

Ball Hog Tip #4: How to Deal

To prevent being paired with a known ball hog at public courts or open play sessions, it’s best to arrive early and put your name on the request list before the hog arrives. You can also politely ask the court hosts/managers to not pair you up if a notoriously ball-hoggy player shows up. If somehow you still end up on their court, quickly find an excuse to rotate off and move to a different court.

Pickleball ball hogs

Ball Hog Tip #5: Other Aggressive Pickleball Behavior

If the ball hog is exhibiting other poor behavior beyond just poaching, such as aggressively disagreeing on scores, questioning every call, or being generally unsportsmanlike, a more stern approach is warranted. After one polite conversation attempting to get them to play fairly, any further issues should be brought up immediately and firmly to the ball hog, competition organizers, or court hosts. You may need to abandon the game entirely if the behavior continues to negatively impact everyone’s experience.

Pickleball Ball Hog Tip #6: When the Ball Hog Is a Buddy

Dealing with a ball hog friend or spouse is a trickier situation than a random pairing, since you’ll want to preserve the relationship off the court. The communication needs to be extremely delicate – bring it up away from the courts and frame it as a way for you both to improve and have more fun together. Suggest taking a lesson as a couple to learn proper court positioning. If they remain stubborn after multiple discussions, you may need to simply not play doubles pickleball together anymore.

Pickleball ball hogs can try one’s patience, but it’s important to handle the situation calmly and respectfully at first. With clear communication, creativity, and a willingness to walk away from particularly obdurate offenders, you can hopefully get back to enjoying the sociable and strategic game of pickleball as it was meant to be played. Don’t let inconsiderate ball hogs ruin your love for this fun sport. There are always other games and playing partners who will make your time on the courts more pleasurable.

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