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A Strategy For Too Many Players

I recently attended an indoor pickleball venue with three courts and more than 25 players. The arrangement the people in charge made was not ideal, but perhaps as perfect as real life allows.

The first twelve people to arrive played on the three available courts. As more people arrived, they put their paddles in a row on a bleacher, starting from the left.

As soon as a game ended, the two winners added their paddles to the right side of the line up, and the two losers then added their paddles. Meanwhile, the four people who had paddles farthest to the left picked up their paddles and began a game.

At that venue, I noticed that if someone wasn’t paying attention, and was one of the next four players up, a good bit of confusion ensued as people tried to identify who was missing. Meanwhile, the court was empty. I’d suggest adding a ten-second rule. If one of the four people isn’t ready, even after loudly announcing that another game is to start, move on to the fifth player in the row.

You may be wondering how to take care of friends who want to play together, or advanced players who want to play only with other advanced players. They can clump up two, three, or four paddles together, placing one on top of another. Ideally, the clump will be four people, because otherwise you can have a situation in which you have two or three advanced players, and one or two, well, not so advanced.

So, what if there is a number of paddles in the row that’s not four before the clump? There are two polite options. One is to have one or more of the people in the clump defer to someone ahead of them in the line. This defeats the purpose of the clump and is not recommended, unless the players ahead of the clump are well matched to those in the clump.

The other option is to politely wait so you can all play together, allowing those before your clump to play with players after your clump. In other words, if you have three players ahead of the clump, then the first player after your clump can join them, and the four in the clump wait until the next court is available.

I have played in this system before, and it generally works fine. To my utter shock, when I played in this system the other day, the four players who stayed in the clump consistently jumped ahead of all the one, two, or three individual players before them. When politely confronted by the people they jumped over, they narcissisticly said something like “You don’t mind, do you?” When someone objected, one of the clump players then got right in his face and loudly said, “Oh, grow up, don’t be childish!” And these were all older adults. I just wonder how people could live over 50 years on this earth, and still think that kind of behavior is OK. Hopefully, you will never run into that on your courts!

There are some other ways to relieve the strees of too many players. One is to play games to only seven points, with sudden death (meaning, you need to win by only one point, not two). This way, players don’t have to wait as long between games. Another way is to use rally scoring.

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