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Here’s How To Deal With Cheaters In Pickleball

Pickleball is a sport renowned for its fun, community spirit, and friendly competition. However, like any competitive sport, situations involving questionable integrity can arise. Here’s how you can handle those uncomfortable moments when you suspect cheating during a game.

Dealing with Rule Breakers

If you find yourself facing opponents who seem to bend the rules, here’s a step-by-step approach on how to handle the situation:

Stay Calm and Assess the Situation

It’s crucial to keep a cool head. Reacting in anger can escalate the situation and detract from your enjoyment of the game.

Communicate Clearly

If a rule is clearly violated, calmly explain the rule to your opponent. Sometimes, people genuinely don’t know they’re doing something wrong.

Seek Mediation

In league or tournament play, if the issue persists, take a timeout and consult an official or the event organizer. Let them handle the rule enforcement.

Document the Incident

If the cheating continues, having a friend or relative record the games can provide evidence needed for formal complaints.

Choose Your Battles

Some players suggest adopting a ‘fight fire with fire’ attitude if cheating persists, by being equally strict in line calls. However, escalating the conflict can reduce your enjoyment of the game, so it’s often better to choose a more diplomatic approach.

Player Experiences with Cheating

Several pickleball players have shared their experiences on handling cheating:

Frustration in League Games

One player expressed frustration with opponents making unfair calls and skipping points. Their solution was to have line judges and to walk off the court when the situation became intolerable, questioning if their reaction was an overreaction.

What we suggest: Instead of walking off the court, propose a meeting with both teams and a neutral mediator present to discuss the issues calmly. This meeting can help clarify misunderstandings and establish a mutual agreement on following the rules, creating a respectful dialogue rather than an abrupt end to the game.

Involving League Administrators

Another player suggests immediately involving league administrators when disputes arise, to minimize distraction and maintain focus on the game.

What we suggest: Rather than solely relying on league administrators to intervene, initiate a pre-game agreement on rule enforcement. Before the match begins, both teams can agree on specific guidelines for handling disputes, such as using a third-party line judge for any contested calls. This proactive measure sets clear expectations and reduces the need for mid-game interventions.

Refusing to Play

Some advise refusing to play against known cheaters in future matches as a way to avoid drama and ensure a more enjoyable playing experience.

What we suggest: Instead of refusing to play against known cheaters, offer a training session on rules and sportsmanship for all players. This can potentially reform players who previously played unfairly, rather than isolating them.

Vocal Scorekeeping

Constantly repeating the correct score during the game was another strategy used to prevent dishonest scorekeeping.

What we suggest: While constantly repeating the score is helpful, another effective method is to use a visible scoreboard that both players and spectators can see.

What If The Cheating Persists?

As a last resort, if certain players continually engage in cheating and it affects your enjoyment of the game, it may be best to avoid playing with them. This isn’t about exclusion but rather choosing to spend your recreational time in a positive environment.

The Importance of Understanding Etiquette & the Rules

Pickleball has clear rules and etiquette designed to ensure fair play. Familiarizing yourself with pickleball rules is your first defense against cheating. Knowing what’s allowed and what’s not can help you address issues confidently and objectively.

Here are some key aspects of pickleball rules and etiquette that every player should understand:

  • Service Rules: The serve must be made underhand with the paddle contact below the waist level. The serve is initiated from behind the baseline, diagonally to the opponent’s service court. Understanding the service rules helps prevent common serving disputes.
  • Non-Volley Zone: Often referred to as the ‘kitchen,’ players are not allowed to volley the ball (hit the ball in the air) while standing in the non-volley zone. This rule is pivotal to pickleball strategy and is a frequent source of violations during heated matches.
  • Line Calls: Balls must land within the court boundaries to be considered ‘in’. The etiquette is that the receiving team makes calls on their side, emphasizing honesty and integrity. If there is uncertainty about a ball being in or out, the benefit of the doubt should go to the opposing team.
  • Score Calling: The serving team must call the score in the format of serving team’s score first, receiving team’s score second, and, in doubles, which server (1 or 2) is serving. This should be done loudly and clearly before each serve to prevent score disputes.
  • Faults: Familiarize yourself with what constitutes a fault—such as hitting the ball out of bounds, not clearing the net, or stepping into the kitchen on a volley. Knowing these can help clarify many in-game disputes.
  • Resolving Disputes: If disagreements occur, the point should be replayed if both teams cannot agree on an outcome. In official settings, a referee can resolve disputes, but in casual play, it’s encouraged to maintain sportsmanship and possibly seek a neutral opinion from a spectator.
  • Behavior and Courtesy: Treat opponents and partners with respect, avoid arguments, and maintain a friendly demeanor regardless of the competition level.

To Sum It All Up

Tackling cheating in pickleball can definitely be a headache, but it’s all about keeping the game fair and fun. Most folks you’ll meet on the court are just there to have a good time and play by the rules. So, let’s not let a handful of bad experiences spoil our love for the game.

Make sure to enjoy every game, stick to the rules, and if things get a bit murky, remember why you picked up a pickleball paddle in the first place—to have fun, stay active, and enjoy some camaraderie.

By focusing on preventive measures like clear communication before the game and setting up some ground rules, we can all help keep the spirit of sportsmanship alive. So, let’s hit the court, keep things light, and play the game the way it was meant to be played!


Q. What should I do if I suspect my opponent is cheating in pickleball?

Stay calm and assess the situation. Reacting in anger can escalate the issue. Communicate clearly with your opponent and explain the rule they may be violating. If the problem persists, seek mediation from an official or event organizer.

Q. How can I prevent disputes during a pickleball game?

Pre-game agreements can be very effective. Before the match begins, both teams can agree on specific guidelines for handling disputes, such as using a third-party line judge for contested calls. This proactive measure sets clear expectations and reduces the need for mid-game interventions.

Q. Is it a good idea to refuse to play against known cheaters?

Instead of refusing to play, consider offering a training session on rules and sportsmanship for all players. This can potentially reform players who previously played unfairly, rather than isolating them.

Q. How can I ensure fair scorekeeping during a game?

Using a visible scoreboard that both players and spectators can see is an effective method. Constantly repeating the correct score during the game can also help prevent dishonest scorekeeping.

Q. What are some key rules and etiquette in pickleball that can help prevent cheating?

Familiarize yourself with the service rules, non-volley zone regulations, line calls, score calling, and faults. Understanding these rules can help you address issues confidently and objectively. Always maintain sportsmanship and treat opponents and partners with respect.

By adhering to these guidelines and promoting a spirit of fair play, you can help ensure that your pickleball games remain enjoyable and competitive for everyone involved.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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