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Addressing the Pickleball Dilemma: Strategies for Inclusive Gameplay and Low Mobility Players

In the world of pickleball, a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, there is an ongoing debate about whether it is acceptable to exploit an opponent’s low mobility during a game. This dilemma arises when players with lower mobility, whether due to age, injury, or fitness levels, find themselves at a disadvantage on the court.

In this article, we will explore different perspectives on this issue and provide insights from experienced players. The goal is to find a balance that ensures fair and enjoyable gameplay for all participants.

The Dilemma: To Exploit Or Not To Exploit?

As younger players, we often find ourselves in a tricky situation when facing opponents with limited mobility. Personally, I try to avoid exploiting their lack of speed unless they start using such tactics first. However, even when playing fairly, I sometimes receive annoyed looks from these opponents. It’s ironic because these same players had no qualms about blasting fastballs at me when I was a beginner struggling to defend myself.

This begs the question: Is it fair to take advantage of an opponent’s limited mobility, or should we prioritize maintaining a balanced and enjoyable game for everyone? It’s a tough call, but ultimately, the goal should be to have fun and ensure that everyone leaves the court feeling good about the game.

Balancing Skill And Mobility

Balancing skill and mobility in pickleball can be a challenging endeavor, but it is also where the game becomes truly interesting. One player shared their approach, stating, “I suggest using your advantage to extend the rally and keep the game competitive. Longer play means more fun and more experience for everyone.”

By placing your shots just out of reach, not too aggressively but enough to keep the game competitive, you can practice precision and shot placement without overwhelming your opponent. This approach makes the game enjoyable for everyone involved, as it keeps the match challenging yet fair, allowing both players to have a good time on the court.

Skill Level Matters

Considering the skill level of your opponent is crucial when playing pickleball. As one player noted, “If you’re much better than your opponent, repeatedly lobbing the ball to the 80-year-old with limited mobility is definitely bad sportsmanship.”

Instead, try to match your playing style to your opponent’s skill level. By focusing on placement and strategy rather than power, you can improve your own game while ensuring your opponent also has a good time.

Playing Fair In Recreational Games

Playing with older or less mobile players can be incredibly rewarding. One player mentioned, “I often play with older players because I can balance out our mobility differences and keep the game enjoyable for everyone. After all, they were the ones who taught me the game.”

This serves as a reminder that pickleball is not solely about winning; it’s about enjoying the game and the people you play with. By adapting your play to ensure everyone has a good time, you honor the spirit of the sport and the contributions of those who helped you along the way.

Challenge Them When They Ask For It

Some players prefer to be challenged regardless of their mobility issues. One enthusiastic player shared, “I’m 65, a bit overweight, and have bad knees, but I want people to play their game. Don’t go easy on me for any reason.” These players thrive on the challenge and see it as an opportunity to improve their skills and enjoy the game to the fullest.

Embracing the challenge means playing with intensity and treating every match as a chance to grow. So, when you encounter players who relish the challenge, don’t hold back—give them the game they crave.

Competitive Play Vs. Recreational Play

In competitive play, all bets are off. Every player is out to win, and exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses is part of the strategy. As one player explained, “In high-level play, it’s crucial to leverage every advantage to win. Using your strengths and exploiting your opponents’ weaknesses is a fundamental part of the game.” This mindset is essential in tournaments and competitive leagues, where the stakes are higher, and the goal is to come out on top.

However, recreational play is a different story. Here, the focus is on fun, fitness, and friendly competition. It’s about striking a balance to ensure everyone enjoys the game. While it’s still important to play your best, being overly aggressive or exploiting a weaker opponent’s mobility can detract from the enjoyment. Instead, use recreational games as an opportunity to refine your skills, try out new strategies, and enjoy the social aspect of the sport.

Tips For Playing Against Lower Mobility Opponents

To ensure a fair and enjoyable game when playing against opponents with lower mobility, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Communicate Clearly: Talk to your opponents before the game. Understand theirlimitations and preferences. This will help you tailor your gameplay accordingly.
  2. Focus on Placement: Instead of relying solely on power, work on your shot placement. By strategically placing your shots, you can challenge your opponent without overwhelming them.
  3. Extend the Rally: Aim to keep the rally going for as long as possible. This allows both players to stay engaged and enjoy the game. Avoid quick and decisive shots that end the rally too soon.
  4. Adapt to Skill Level: Adjust your playing style to match your opponent’s skill level. If they are beginners or have limited mobility, avoid using aggressive tactics that may discourage them.
  5. Embrace the Challenge: If your opponent explicitly asks for a challenging game, give it to them. Play with intensity and treat every match as an opportunity to improve your skills.


Q: Is it fair to exploit an opponent’s low mobility in pickleball?

While it is technically allowed in competitive play, it is generally frowned upon in recreational games. The focus in recreational play should be on fair and enjoyable gameplay for all participants.

Q: How can I balance skill and mobility in pickleball?

By focusing on shot placement, extending the rally, and adapting your playing style to your opponent’s skill level, you can strike a balance that keeps the game competitive and enjoyable.

Q: What should I do if my opponent asks for a challenging game despite their low mobility?

Embrace the challenge and play with intensity. Give them the game they crave, but always be respectful and considerate of their limitations.

Q: Can exploiting an opponent’s low mobility be considered bad sportsmanship?

In recreational play, exploiting an opponent’s low mobility can be seen as bad sportsmanship. It is important to prioritize fair play and the enjoyment of all players involved.

Q: How can I ensure a fair and enjoyable game when playing against opponents with lower mobility?

Communicate with your opponents, focus on shot placement, extend the rally, adapt to their skill level, and embrace the challenge if they ask for it. These strategies will help create a fair and enjoyable game for everyone.


In the world of pickleball, the dilemma of exploiting an opponent’s low mobility is a complex issue. While competitive play allows for leveraging every advantage, recreational play should prioritize fair and enjoyable gameplay.

By focusing on shot placement, extending the rally, and adapting to your opponent’s skill level, you can strike a balance that ensures everyone has a good time on the court. Remember, pickleball is not just about winning; it’s about the joy of the game and the camaraderie with fellow players.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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