I recently played pickleball with The Most Aggressive Lady on Earth. Every shot was a drive; a yelp; a fist pump; a scream.
Let’s call this player, Edgy.
It was clear that Edgy had quite a bit of pickleball experience. It was also clear that her enthusiasm wasn’t received with open paddles. The 20 or so people at our open play nodded, winked, laughed, and shrugged off Edgy’s antics. It was just Edgy being Edgy.
Zero pickleball etiquette.
For my first game of the night, I was paired with Edgy–and I was clueless. As a first-timer, I was unfamiliar with her ways. Once we fell behind by a couple of points, she became agitated and offered me unsolicited advice.
“You have to come up to the net faster.”
“The forehand shots are yours.”
I nodded again.
Then I heard her back by the baseline muttering something about “simple math.” She was likely alluding to the fact that the odds of winning a point fall in your favor when you play from the NVZ.
We ended up losing the game 11 – 6.
She walked away disappointed; I walked away mildly annoyed.
It’s not her fault, she doesn’t know my secret.
The simple pact that I made with myself when I started playing pickleball. I always* take the first game “off”; I treat it as a warm-up.
Since so few players take the time to stretch and acclimate properly, I have to guard my body. And I’ve learned to do this by easing into a pickleball session by starting slowly. It’s good for my muscles, good for my heart.
But I don’t announce this to my partner or opponents. I ramp up as I go.
It’s never been a problem…until Edgy.
While her attitude can be off-putting, her passion for the game is evident, and that’s a plus. Her energy on the court helps keep the game interesting and exciting.
She’s just as tough on herself when she makes mistakes or does not perform up to her standards.
But the uninvited instruction irritated me, so when it came time for us to play later in the night, I brought my ‘A’ game, defeating her soundly not once but twice.
Damn, it was satisfying.
Perhaps you are a better person than me and can tune out a loud player on the pickleball court. If not…
How to Handle Rude Behavior During Pickleball Games
1. Create a plan for addressing the yelling – It may be helpful to have a game plan going into any match involving someone who yells. For example, speak with friends or coaches before the match to establish boundaries and decide how you will handle confrontations with an overly vocal opponent. Or, if it’s your partner, set the ground rules before the game begins.
2. Take timeouts if needed – If tensions are rising between you and an opponent or partner, take a timeout before it manifests into anything significant or ugly. Sometimes, taking a simple beat or deep breath is enough to help keep your composure.
3. Use humor– During points, if there is an excessive amount of yelling, sometimes using humor can lighten the situation between players, which can lead to better sportsmanship overall with either player having an interest in maintaining a respectful match.
The absolute best thing you can do?
Don’t let the yelling impact your mood or your game. After all, part of Edgy’s strategy is to rock your boat.
One last reminder: pickleball is fun, don’t let anyone’s antics ruin your good time.
By following these tips, you can help to make pickleball more enjoyable for everyone, Edgy included. It may take some time to adjust your approach when playing with someone who is vocal on the court, but it will be well worth it in the end if it results in a more pleasant pickleball experience.
*OK, there is one time I made an exception to starting slowly. It was against a monster banger. You know the type: shows up for every game in the same aggressive fashion, even if they are playing against two 80-year-old ladies. Anyhoo, this guy came out guns blazing, and I left it all on the court. I shoved the ball down his throat until he submitted. The final score was a blowout. And it was as satisfying as a PB&J sandwich. But it did come at a price: I dumped my adrenaline early, and my play suffered the rest of the right.
When you think of aggressive pickleball, “bangers” usually come to mind. But what about players who aren’t noisy with their paddles, but loud with their mouths?