Tennis and Pickleball Etiquette 101

October 26, 2020

In tennis and pickleball, there are official regulations that all players have to follow — and then there are the unwritten rules, which are every bit as essential for making the game more enjoyable for everyone. 

Tennis and pickleball are unique for the fact that players are typically the ones making line calls. As you can imagine, taking a referee out of the equation means that being mindful of court etiquette is exceptionally important. If you’re new to either sport, we put together an easy cheat sheet of basic courtesies to help you have fun and maintain good sportsmanship. 

When situations arise that aren’t on the list (and arise they will!), our best advice is to move forward with politeness and generous treatment of others. Even if you encounter poor etiquette, maintaining your integrity speaks volumes about who you are as a player and a person…and that’s what matters at the end of the day! 


Basic tennis & pickleball courtesies

  • Talk quietly when standing near the courts in use to allow the players to concentrate.
  • Make sure you turn your phone off before participating in a game, or at the very least, put it in silent mode. 
  • Never walk behind a court when a point is still in play. Wait until the point is over and then cross as fast as possible.
  • If people are already on your court, don’t disturb them until your time is up. Always come prepared. Bring not only balls, but towels and water to drink when it’s hot.
  • Wear non-marking shoes for tennis or pickleball. Other shoes may wear out quickly, hurt your feet or damage the court.
  • When you’re ready to play, put racket covers, ball cans, jackets, etc. out of everyone’s way.
  • To see who serves first, spin your racket or toss a coin. If you win the toss, the choice is yours. You may serve first, or you may choose to receive first or to pick which end of the court you want to start playing on. As a third choice, you may make your opponent choose first.
  • The serve is typically the last stroke to warm up — which is why it’s good form to catch the balls instead of firing returns back at them.
  • When sending balls back to a neighboring court, send over to the back of the court. Never send them back while play is in progress.
  • Offer to bring new balls or organize a system to decide who brings the balls.
  • Retrieve balls for your partner and your opponent.
  • Don’t criticize your partner; offer encouragement.
  • Call your own lines in a clear, quick and loud voice, and let your opponent hear the call. If the ball is good, say nothing and play on. 
  • Always respect the line calls of your opponent. Give them the benefit of the doubt to build trust and encourage the same behavior in return.
  • If there is a disagreement, offer a let. In other words, replay the point, even if it was a second service in tennis.
  • Be a humble winner and a graceful loser. No matter the outcome, good sportsmanship should be a priority.

Advance your game with CA

Interested in learning more about tennis or pickleball? Columbia Association (CA) offers a variety of year-round tennis and pickleball programs to suit every interest and competitive level. There are more than two dozen outdoor tennis courts, 6 outdoor pickleball courts and 10 indoor tennis courts. Learn more here.

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