If you have been playing pickleball for more than a few months, you may have decided to play with a group outside of organized play with a local club or community gym. The benefits of playing in a small group, you can play when you like and with whom you like. You can play any format you like, play with one partner over and over, and play as long as you like.
It can get complicated when you are invited to play with a group. You are flattered that someone has invited you to play. You are then chatting with other pickleball friends and do you mention that you are playing in a group? Will you hurt their feelings as they have not been invited? Will they ask to play with you? It can get awkward and if you are not the organizer, it is not appropriate to invite players unless the organizer has asked you to do so.
Many players don't talk about small group organized play with other players as it is just easier. If you are upset about the way your club or community runs pickleball, consider organizing a small pickleball group of players. Are you annoyed you have not been invited to play in a small group? Organize a group yourself. Find some players around your level or a bit better. Small group play is an amazing way to get better. You can measure your results. Keep track of scores, there are sheets available to do this.
If you do not have a portable pickleball net or pickleballs, we sell them, www.thirdshotdrop.ca. Do not criticize a group organizer unless you are willing to organize it yourself. You may not realize how much work goes into running pickleball groups.
I have run groups of 12-25 players for many years. Players will cancel or not show up at the last minute. With Covid, this became more common, and no one was upset at all. Life happens. Think about the organizer contacting the gym, paying in advance, paying for insurance, buying nets, balls etc. Then managing how many players come each session etc. The organizer gets there early to bring in equipment, turn on the lights, and be welcoming. Thank an organizer and offer to help with a net set up etc.
I recommend that your smallest group be 5 players, never less. Say you want to play from 4pm-6pm. If you only have 4 players and one is in traffic or delayed, 3 is not a game. What if one player gets injured slightly or worse. Of course you will help them, but the game may be done. What if a player neglected to tell you they need to leave early. This has happened and it is no fun. 5 players is a good number, you play 4 games and sit for one. Hydrate, check your phone, enjoy the game, your surroundings, a bathroom break, snack...
If you have 2 courts, 10 players is a good number, and for 3 courts I would not go with less than 14 players as you never know if someone needs to cancel.
Last thoughts, some players are not included in small group invitation only play for various reasons. A few examples.
1. Last Minute Canceller. This person keeps cancelling at the last minute. Once is understandable, anything can happen. More than a few times in a short period and this person has no concept of other players and their feelings and time management.
2. Poor Sport. This player is nice off the court but on the court, they are calling bad line calls, and or criticizing their partners calls, and the opposing teams calls lol. Seriously, this player will not be invited to group play. They may organize group play themselves and find that they have to continue to find new players to join them. Wonder why!
3. The Complainer. This player complains about other players, the format, the ball, pretty much anything. They may even argue with other players. An organizer dreads playing with a group that has a complainer. The organizer loves pickleball and just wants everyone to have fun.
4. Last Minute Club. This player always shows up late and has never set up a net. They don't bring balls, don't own a portable net, and never offer to pay even a few $ towards balls. When everyone else is taking down the net, they are taking off their court shoes or chatting.
Are you one of the above? Be a positive encouraging force in the game. Be known as a fun generous player and a great sport. It is the way to be, and that is what pickleball is all about. Making life long friends and having a nice time.
Bonus: When a ball rolls to you, do you just kick it or do you take a few extra seconds to pick it up with your paddle or hand and throw or hit it to the player? This is a small gesture but it is proper etiquette.
Pickleball is an amazing sport. The problem is you have to play with other people and that's when it gets complicated. When you first start playing you are bright eyed and bushy tailed. Happy to be playing with anyone. If you have not had any introductory lessons, you are most likely being told aka coached on where to stand, and other strategies.
If you are dropping in to a group where you are lucky enough not to have to pay any fee, count yourself fortunate. However, keep in mind pickleballs cost money and they break. So even though there is no fee, either chip in by bringing your own balls and sharing, or giving someone a few bucks each time you play towards the expense of the balls. You want to be known as a generous player with good pickleball etiquette.
Next, where you play- do they have permanent pickleball nets or are they set up each time your group plays? If you are new to a group, it will be noticed if you show up to play and leave afterwards, without helping set up or take down nets. These details may sound trivial, but someone took the time to get the place you are playing to set up pickleball so everyone else could enjoy playing. It just takes a few minutes when you arrive or on your way out to take the portable pickleball net down and put it in the bag.
Basic in play stuff. I don't care if you are playing at the lowest level, or in a highly competitive game, CALL THE SCORE before loudly enough before you serve please. Whispering it so your doubles partner "thinks" they heard it, is not good enough. Use your outside voice and make sure the other team hears you. Then you have up to 10 seconds before serving. This will give the team across the net the chance to correct the score, or ask about the score.
I get annoyed when someone calls the score as they are hitting the serve. There should be no rush in serving. Make sure everyone is where they need to be. Then call the score, then breathe(better serves happen when you breathe before you serve), then serve.
Take your time. Also, if you are not sure about the score, ask your partner first. Do not yell across the court asking what the score is. Ask your partner first, they are right next to you and probably know. If they don't know, then ask the opposition.
Line calls, this should always be a gentle persons sport. Line calls are frustrating some times because players do not understand the rules. I will not go into the rules as you can find them on YouTube and/or online with your local pickleball governing body.
Here is what I will say- when in doubt, do not call the oppositions ball out. If you and your partner could not see where the ball landed, then you have two options. You can assume it was in and give the point to your opposition. Or you can ask the opposition what they thought. This is the way you must handle a ball you did not see.
I never want to win a game with bad calls or cheating. It ruins the game when certain players are known for questionable calls all the time. If you are the partner of someone who does this, call them out nicely, overrule the call when warranted. Most players are honest and play with the highest of ethics.
When you are playing and your pickleball goes into another court, you must yell BALL loudly. This is not optional, someone could get seriously hurt by falling on the ball. When you call BALL, the game on the other court should stop. They will retrieve your ball and get it back to you.
Not calling BALL is annoying if you are on the court the ball rolls onto. It creates confusion in when the point you were playing should end. You then have to ask each other, did that affect you... blah blah blah. Just call BALL loudly as soon as your ball is going onto another court, and the players will stop playing. They will replay the point- simple.
Have fun on the courts! David, www.thirdshotdrop.ca
When you are first starting out as a pickleball player, you may have just used a shared paddle from your local group or club. Some new players borrow a friends, but things have changed with Covid19. Everyone should be making sure they play safe now so they can enjoy the game and limit risk.
In our area, we set up a pop up store courtside and let players try before they buy, www.thirdshotdrop.ca. If you are a club anywhere near Kingston, Ontario, you can email email@example.com to request a visit from our store to your group. If you do not live near us, then ask around your group. There may be a local player or store that comes to the courts and sets up with demo paddles like we do.
I bought my first pickleball paddle in Hilton Head Island South Carolina and while it did the job, I had no way to try it out. Eventually I decided to get into the business myself and offer up demo paddles. When buying a paddle you want to make sure the grip is comfortable. You also want a paddle that is not too heavy when you swing, and not too light. Your paddle is your most important decision when you play.
Grip or handle size. You want to find a paddle with a grip that feels good in your hand. Not too small where your fingers are bunching up. Not too large where you cannot get your whole hand around it.
A grip that is too big can fly out of your hand while you are playing. This could cause injury to you or another player. The positive of a large grip is you should experience more stability. A smaller sized grip is good for putting a little wrist into your shots, and gives you more control and spin.
The last point I will mention is about the actual grip. Some grips have little holes in them which allows your hand to breathe. Some do not have this, but offer a very comfortable padded feel. You can also change your grip whenever you like. If you are playing 2-3x a week, you may want to change out your grip every few months. You will notice the difference. You can do it yourself by going on Youtube and following an easy instructional video. If you need to buy a grip, you can usually find one at your local racquet store. If you live in our area, Kingston and surroundings, we sell grips.
For weight, a light paddle traditionally would be between 6.9 ounces to about 7.3 ounces. A lighter paddle offers you more control on your shots but obviously not as much power. A heavier paddle offers more pace on the ball when you hit it, but not as much control. Keep in mind a paddle that weighs more may result in elbow issues and bother your arm after a while, where it will feel tired.
I recommend a mid weight paddle from 7.5 ounces to maybe 8.1 ounces. I think you can also determine how heavy a paddle should be for you, by your height and weight. For example if you are a 6"4 individual weighing over 200 pounds, you will feel pretty comfortable with an 8.1-8.5 ounce paddle.
For most players I find they really like the Onix Graphite Z5 paddle. It has a medium grip and is a medium weight paddle. It has a wide body paddle face. It is USAPA approved, and comes in many colours. If you are in Canada and want to order, visit our site, and order. https://www.thirdshotdrop.ca/store/p99/z5graphitepaddlebestprice.html.
If you have a story about picking your first pickleball paddle, and want to share, let us know in the comment section. Hope you have a great day and have fun on the courts.
David Bussiere, www.thirdshotdrop.ca
Regarding balls and breakage etc. I have thought about it a lot, and talked to other manufacturers of balls for not only pickleball but other sports.
In squash, players use a ball for 1-5 games before switching out to a new one. Looks like a comparable ball to the Onix Fuse balls(most used ball in Canada), is a little cheaper.
Golf balls can last one shot lol, especially if you are playing with me. I hit it into the water or lose it in the trees. How long do you want to hold up your foursome or the one behind you searching for your ball? As well, each player hits their own balls. Pickleball is played with (4) players most of the time, and you only need one ball. So far, in my decade of playing, I have not lost a ball in the woods or in the water :-).
I googled how long a tennis ball should last: For the competitive player, a new can of tennis balls will last for one match or session of play. This is usually 2-3 hours of constant hitting. In my experience, a (3) pack lasts a lot longer than 2-3 hours.
I played 12 games over two days at the most recent Canadian Nationals in Kingston on Canada Day weekend 2019. They used the indoor Onix Fuse pickleballs. In those 12 games, one ball cracked. Our average game lasted about 20 minutes, so that’s one ball lasting for about 4 hours. I think that is acceptable.
Update July 2020: We have been playing outside when safe and following the pandemic rules. We have been playing with the Onix outdoor Fuse G2, and the DuraFAST 40 outdoor balls.
The DuraFAST are great, but they do crack quicker than the Onix Fuse G2 balls. The Fuse G2 balls definitely last longer. We do not sell Franklin balls anymore. The problem we found was while they may not crack as quickly as a DuraFAST 40 outdoor ball, they bounce lower and lower, which changes the game, not in a good way. Also, with the Franklin balls, a fair amount we received to sell were warped and or not round.
Let me know if you have any questions. David Bussiere, owner Third Shot Drop Canada. www.thirdshotdrop.ca.
David Bussiere is a player, an instructor, owner of a pickleball business, a marketing manager for one of the largest pickleball suppliers in the the world, formerly a morning radio host, a high level manager in finance, he now lives and breathes pickleball.