Musings, thoughts and rants on the game of pickleball…
Ratings:pickleball = handicap:golf
While I appreciate the need for ratings in organizing tournaments and some meet-ups, I don’t take them as seriously as many recreational players do. In the course of one game, I can swing from play consistent for a 2.5 player to play suitable for a 4.0 player. I rate my game as “consistently inconsistent.”When I played pick-up basketball, I and other players did not have a court rating.
Huge fan of Ebony J. She won the singles competition at the recent Runnemede tournament that included men. Ebony has the potential and skills to be a pickleball player at a very high level. She’s just in high school and already is quite the athlete in track and basketball. She has incredible court coverage and a booming serve. A very pleasant and mature young woman too…
Maybe it’s the pickleball company I keep but I have only seen maybe five players use the drop serve since it was approved for play. I also understand that it has been rarely used by advanced or professional players in tournaments. The drop serve can be an effective remedy if one has the serving “yips” as it mirrors the groundstroke motion. I’m not sure its effectiveness as an offensive weapon and that may be the reason we don’t see it used in tournaments by players currently.
To get a fast start, practice your serves before you play! In most pickleball games, I see that players warm up by practicing their dinks or ground strokes but rarely their serves. Games then start out with service faults committed by players who did not calibrate their serves due to wind or lack of practice.
There are no shortages of choices for pickleball paddles. There are 964 approved pickleball paddles on the USA Pickleball website; 42 new paddle models have been introduced since the start of 2021. I think if we took a survey of pickleball players, many have two or more paddles. The paddle market is growing, paddle costs are rising and more companies are producing them. As an aside, I am very happy with my Rogue 2 paddle from Players Pickleball that I have used for over a year.
The addition of new pickleball courts (River Road, Brush Hollow etc.) in South Jersey will relieve overcrowding and help service the demand for venues to play. That is a very good thing. On the other side, it may fragment what used to be a pickleball community that congregated en masse at Lions Den, Gloucester Township and Marlton Field House a few years ago.
Ben Johns is easily the best men’s pickleball player today. At last week’s U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, he won the Men’s Pro Singles, Men’s Pro Doubles (with Colin Johns) and Mixed Doubles Pro (with Simone Jardin). I saw the streamed Pro Singles championship where he played Tyson McGuffin. McGuffin played out of his mind the first game of the best of three and won. However Johns recovered and took the last two games and the championship. However Johns is not pickleball’s GOAT (greatest of all time) just like George Mikan wasn’t the GOAT in the early days of the NBA. It’s way too early in the sport for that designation, but Johns does close out matches like Michael Jordan closed out basketball games.
Being an “older player,” it’s hard to identify with 23 year old Ben Johns. I do enjoy watching Scott Moore who won the Men’s Senior Pro Doubles with Rick Witsken and the Mixed Senior Pro Doubles with Eva Welsher at the U.S.Open Pickleball Championships. Moore is 57 and his instructional videos on YouTube are excellent. Moore was also involved in a singles match against Simone Jardin that mimicked the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match many decades ago. You can see a video of the match here. The result may surprise you!
Below is a guidance list from the USA Pickleball Rule Book for common scenarios that happen in many recreational pickleball games:
1. Make prompt calls to stop play on balls that roll onto to your court to eliminate the ‘two chance option’. For example, a player cannot claim a hinder from a ball rolling on the court after they hit a ball ‘out’; they gave up their ability to call the hinder by choosing instead to hit the ball.
2. Call the entire score before the ball is served.
3. Signal “not ready” prior to the start of the score being called. One of the following signals must be used to indicate “not ready”: 1) raising the paddle above the head, 2) raising the non-paddle hand above the head, 3) completely turning their back to the net.
4. Except the serve, any ball in play that lands in the court or touches any court line is in.
5. The opponent gets the benefit of the doubt on line calls made. Any ball that cannot be called “out” will be considered “in.” A player cannot claim a replay because the ball was not seen or there is uncertainty.
6. A player/team may ask the opponent’s opinion to make the line call on the player’s end of the court. If requested and the opponent makes a clear “in” or “out” call, it must be accepted. If the opponents cannot make a clear “in” or “out” call, then the ball is ruled as being “in” on the receiving team. The moment the receiving player/team asks for the opponent’s opinion, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call for that rally.
7. All “out” calls must be made “promptly”; otherwise, the ball is presumed to still be in play. “Promptly” is defined as calling “out” prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before the ball becomes dead.
8. While the ball is in the air, if a player yells “out,” “no,” “bounce it,” or any other words to communicate to their partner that the ball may be out, it shall be considered player communication only and not considered a line call.
I find myself awestruck not so much by the skills of advanced Pickleball players I see but by the progress of beginners and novices. Once such player is Celeste Kleaver who started out under the tutelage of Cookie Sey at Browning Road and who now performs as a competitive intermediate level player. When she started to play at Browning Road, she possessed the motivation and enthusiasm to get better. She was always asking how she could do things better. My concern was her footwork, balance and positioning. However partnered with her in a recent game, I saw Celeste digging out shots aimed at her feet and returning sharply angled shots at her opponents for winners. She does all this with a smile on her face and with a joy for the game that I could only envy.