Pickleball Rule Changes – What the Future Might Look Like

As pickleball participation has increased, so has the conversation around potential rule changes and variations that could help pickleball continue to evolve as a sport.

While purists aim to preserve pickleball’s origins, others argue tweaks and experiments may attract new players, enhance entertainment value, and reduce controversies around gray areas in the rules. 

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Proposed pickleball rule changes range from subtle shifts like standardizing balls to fundamental changes, including rally scoring or allowing multiple hits per side.

Ultimately, there is no consensus, as ideas that exhilarate some alienate others. Yet most agree pickleball must embrace controlled innovation to sustain growth while retaining its welcoming spirit and accessibility. With an openness to fresh thinking and debate, pickleball is poised for an exciting future as visionaries and traditionalists work together to shape the sport for future generations.

Pickleball Rookie looks at some rule change suggestions and would love your input.

All Lines In: Make all court lines “in.”

Why we love it: Chaning the kitchen line to be “in” on serves rather than “out” helps simplify the game and will reduce line-call disputes. Easier to officiate. 

Why we hate it: Makes courts effectively smaller, creating less space for teamwork. In doubles, partners would have less room to cover and collaborate and crowding could increase interference.

Odds of being officially adopted: Moderate. Simplifies rules but changes gameplay.

Pickleball Rule Changes

3rd Shot Volley: Allow volleying on 3rd shot rather than requiring bounce.

Why we love it: Faster transitions to net play. Rewards skill.

Why we hate it: Further reduces the importance of service game.

Odds of being officially adopted: Low. Alters foundational mechanics of play.

Rally Scoring: Switch to rally scoring from side-out scoring.

Why we love it: Games faster paced. Continuous action.

Why we hate it: Messes with traditional game rhythm. Reduces comebacks and the mental aspect of the game.

Odds of being officially adopted: Moderate. Trend toward constant activity.

Modify NVZ: Relax or modify non-volley zone rules.

Why we love it: Enables greater variety around net. Rewards reflexes.

Why we hate it: Imbalances net play. Messes with core game dynamics.

Odds of being officially adopted: Very Low. Fundamentally changes pickleball DNA.

Pickleball Rule Changes

Standardize Balls: Create better ball standards to reduce variability; have one ball for indoor and outdoor play.

Why we love it: Levels playing field. Skill more important than gear. Saves money not having to purchase two types of pickleballs.

Why we hate it: Stifles innovation/diversity in equipment.

Odds of being officially adopted: Moderate. Logical for sport uniformity.

Two Serve Chances: Allow two serve attempts like tennis.

Why we love it: Reduces pressure on server. 

Why we hate it: Further reduces importance of service game and slows down pace.

Odds of being officially adopted: Very Low. 

Pickleball Rule Changes

Rename Sport: Change pickleball to new name.

Why we love it: Enhances marketability. Helps attract newcomers. Makes it harder for newcomers to think that pickleball sucks.

Why we hate it: Loses connection to history. Rejects tradition.

Odds of being officially adopted: Very Low. High hurdle to rename established sport.

Free Serve & Volley: Allow tennis-style serve and volley.

Why we love it: Faster-paced. Rewards aggressive net play.

Why we hate it: Further reduces the importance of service game.

Odds of being officially adopted: Very Low. Alters core gameplay mechanics.

Rubber Paddle Surfaces: Permit rubber surfaces for more spin/speed.

Why we love it: Raises skill ceiling. Allows more paddle varieties.

Why we hate it: Potentially dangerous increase in ball speed.

Odds of being officially adopted: Extremely Low. Safety concerns prohibitive.

Unique Pickleball Gameplay Variations

What if there was a rule that allowed players on each side to hit the ball more than once, almost like volleyball?

Allowing multiple hits on each side of the net per rally is an interesting idea that would change the dynamics of pickleball in some major ways:

  • It would reduce the importance of the serve and return of serve, as there would be more chances to control the ball on each side. This could create longer rallies with more back-and-forth action.
  • Volleying skills would become less vital, as players could play groundstrokes from the net area. However, strategic volleying could still be useful to finish points.
  • Defensive skills like digging out balls would become more important with the extra hits allowed.
  • Doubles teamwork could involve more complex play patterns by strategically placing the 2nd and 3rd hits.
  • Scoring and serving rules would likely need adjustments. Rally scoring would probably be necessary.
Pickleball Rule Changes

Potential downsides are that it may slow the game pace down, reduce the need for net play as much, and diminish the advantage of offensive-style players. But it could be an interesting variant format to experiment with in casual play or alternate professional events. Overall, it would transition the game further from tennis/badminton and more towards volleyball in terms of play style.

As pickleball continues its ascent, the debate around preserving tradition versus embracing evolution persists. Most can agree small tweaks may smooth rough edges, yet drastic changes risk diluting pickleball’s essence.

Controlled, collaborative experiments on alternative scoring, gear restrictions, court layouts and more should be encouraged. Pickleball still has room to blossom while honoring its roots.

No matter what happens next, we are in!

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