Email from Ken, April 14, 2012:
The success of pickleball activities in our area depends on people who discover the game, love the game and spread the good news about the game. There are lots of reasons to love the game. The reasons may differ from one person to another, however fun, exercise and great people are the reasons I hear most often.
We have a problem in our pickleball community that threatens to drive some people away. I don't like it and I want to talk to you about it. I get enough complaints that I feel I have to address it.
Pickleball must welcome all levels of players. Everyone started with the generous help of someone better. As you grow in the game you may forget that others are just beginning or may never be as skilled as you, for a variety of reasons. It goes without saying that it is never O.K. to criticize, belittle, yell at or be rude to anyone because of their skills on the court. There is rarely a "boss" on site so it is up to the players to monitor their own behavior. Please remember sportsmanship, courtesy and a sense of humor should always be a part of the game.
That said, we all have certain people we really enjoy playing with, generally because their skills are similar to our own. So how do we keep people happy with the rotation? Please accept that you won't always have the opportunity for a "perfect" match-up and try to make the best of every game. The burden rests on the competitive player to make the recreational player enjoy the game. Don't look as if you've been sentenced to death when you see who your partner is. Don't hang your head and sigh when your partner makes a poor shot. Don't run over your partner for a poach because you're sure you'll make a better shot. (Does the shot really matter that much?) Don't quit on your partner and just go through the motions to get it over with quickly. Your partner will not play better because he or she knows you're upset ( and they WILL know). A kind, encouraging word and even a smile will work a lot better. Many competitive players are generous with their time and seem to make every game fun.
If you're not sure about your skill level, ask me and we'll talk about it. If you're a new player you should play on the recreational courts until you understand the rules and develop your skills. We all improve by playing "up" and everyone should have those opportunities occasionally.
If you don't want to play with the next rotation group, it's fine to move back and let others pass you. Please don't be offended if someone chooses to wait for another group. This will happen more as we approach tournament time and partners want to practice together.
Follow-up Email from Ken, April 28, 2012:
I've received many responses to the email I sent out about Pickleball etiquette. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share very personal stories. I was stunned and disappointed to learn how many of you have been poorly treated by someone in our community. I hope that talking about the problem will make it clear that this should NEVER happen.
Here are a few examples of responses I received. I can't share everything because I want to protect the privacy of those of you who wrote to me.
"I experienced this situation and it has kept me from returning to the courts. There were several occasions as a beginner I was made to feel I was impeding the game, nearly got hit with the other person coming over to hit "my" ball. I became too embarrassed and finally gave up. I appreciate your candidness and I will dust off my pride and pick up my racket and give it another go."
"...every time I missed a shot my partner would actually say, Oh that's too bad, or sigh in my general direction. I was keenly aware of every mistake I made, which, of course didn't bump up my game..."
"Good advice for Pickleball players, tennis players and life in general."
"When I first started I was yelled at and criticized. I was also asked by one of my opponents, Why are you smiling? Each one of us has a story and many times we are vulnerable and need that encouraging word or smile. Be kind."
"...I have occasionally seen what you describe with new players. It's a shame that it happens and a reminder like yours is very important if we're going to continue to welcome new folks to this wonderful game."