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Two-Failure Australian

Perhaps you’ve had days when only three players are available. Three-player pickleball is called “Australian.” If anyone knows why it’s called ‘Australian,’ please leave a comment below.

There are several variations of Australian. A common one is for the best player to remain on one side of the court, facing two opponents. The opponents must always return the ball into the half of the court in which the single player is standing. The single player can return the ball anywhere.

The single player will win more rallies because it takes some extra skill to place the ball in only half the court, and because the single player doesn’t have to move very much to cover all necessary territory.

A particularly skilled, energetic or crazy player may choose to cover the entire court.

The single player will typically get only one serve. That means that they can continue serving while winning each rally, but if a rally is lost, it goes to the opponent in the right-hand court. Just like ordinary doubles pickleball, that opponent serves until a rally is lost, then the serve goes to the other opponent. So, to partially make up for the advantage of playing only half-court, the single player gets only the one serve.

If all the players are nearly equal in skill, there might be some resentment if one always opposes the other two. That may happen even if a game is being played to 7 or 11 points before rotating so someone else is the single player.

Therefore another variation is ‘Two-Failure Australian.’ The way that works is that the single player can remain the single player only until s/he has lost two rallies. At that point, everyone rotates clockwise, so someone else gets a chance as the single player. The single player serves every rally.

Most often, score is not kept. If the players do want to keep score, just like doubles pickleball, it is a three-part score. However, the score starts with the single player’s score, then the opponent in the right court (from their perspective), and finally the opponent in the left court. So, score is kept clockwise from the server.

Another variation is even more confusing. That is a four-part score. The single player says their own score first, then the player clockwise (in the right side court), then the player in the left court, and finally ‘one’ or ‘two’ depending on whether s/he has had zero failures, or one failure so far.

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Saying Hello and Goodbye

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe enthusiastically saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” to people as they come and go from recreational pickup games can be very important.

There are pickleball players, especially among the older crew, who have very few friends. Maybe they’ve even lost a spouse. Something as simple as acknowledging them when they come to play pickleball can brighten their days.

It is also important to be careful not to look down on them if they don’t play as well as you, or if they have a personality you don’t like. For instance, there are people with regional accents that I find hard to handle. I want to think these people are stupid, or eccentric in unacceptable ways. However, I’m making an effort to let them be friends. I want them to be people I can admire. So, when I get a chance, I ask them about their families, their careers, whatever interests them. And sure enough, my opinion of them brightens.

One guy really rubbed me the wrong way. Just looking at him bothered me. Then we got to talking, and I found out he and I had been in the same business several years ago. Suddenly, he felt like a good friend.

What about unskilled players? It is so easy to look down on someone who swings and misses, or pops every ball. I believe I should still congratulate them when they make a good shot, even if it was just lucky. To see them smile with pride really makes my own day!

Avoid criticism. It can just devastate people, especially shy ones, if you tell them that their backhand is no good, or that they always serve too short, or they’ve got to quit popping the ball. Just let it be. They’ll learn eventually. It is not your job to coach them, unless they ask for it.

Finally, we need to take into account the sexual component. It is possible to acknowledge someone who starts to find you attractive. If a relationship with that person is not something you want, you do have to keep up your guard and let him or her know that you’re married, uninterested, etc, as soon as you see trouble brewing, and yet be careful not to deflate them too much. You still want them to feel accepted and happy.

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High To Low

Yet another over-simplification in pickleball is you always want to hit balls from high to low. Or, more specifically, you never want to give a ball high enough to the opposition that they can smash it back, or even just control it well. So, you want to keep your balls low as they cross the net, and ultimately land at your opponent’s feet. Generally that means follow the rule, ‘if they’re back, keep them back,’ but if they are at the kitchen, you really want your shots to land at their feet. Let them be the ones to high shots to you!

There are some exceptions to the rule. Lobs have to go high enough that the opponents can’t reach them, but not so high that they have time to run to the baseline and return them.

Serves and return of serves can be high and floppy, as long as they land close to the baseline.

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The One Great Simplification

If you only keep one thing in mind in all of the pickleball you play, it’s ‘keep everything low.’ If you pop a ball high above the net, you, or your partner are going to be in a bad situation.

There are exceptions. Serves and returns of serve can be high and floppy, as long as they land deep, near the base line.

Lobs give you time to reset, to get back to the kitchen.

However, if any shot after the second one, which has to bounce before it can be returned, is high, expect trouble. This is even more true if the high shot lands behind the kitchen line.

So how do you keep every shot low? Practice is the main thing. Additional techniques that will help are to stay calm, and get low. Bend your knees. I’m not sure of all the dynamics, but when you get low, your accuracy improves tremendously.

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Why Good Pickleballers Eat This Way

Don’t you hate it when someone dies on the courts? Even worse, if you, or any other player, is lethargic, moving slowly, thinking unclearly, and just not playing to their potential.

So what’s the answer?

It turns out simple changes in diet can make a big difference.

Let’s use me, your author, as an example. When I was in my teens, I seldom had energy, but when I did, it was too much energy and I was crazy. The rest of the time I challenged my friends to do things because I simply didn’t have the springiness, the enthusiasm to do things myself. Sometimes I’d even become dizzy and have to sit down for a while.

I would have thought there was something wrong with me, but it was like that for some of my friends also. In my twenties I came across some information that I entirely ignored for a while.

The idea was that by eliminating sugar and cutting down on starch, a person might have more energy and consistent energy for hours at a time. That’s just bullcrap right?

My wife convinced me to try this stupid idea. So to appease her, I give it a legitimate trial. I gave up soda entirely. I quit eating candy bars when I needed a quick pick-me-up. I started eating yukky salad and generally nutritious foods rather than baked goods. I didn’t like it. This food wasn’t as comfortable, yummy and quickly and easily digestible. But for her, I stuck it out for a week even thought nothing good came of it.

Oddly at the end of the week, the salads weren’t really that bad. To my surprise, I didn’t miss the soda one bit. I started taking an interest in tea.

Now, here’s where it really gets weird: after being convinced to stick it out another week, I was able to do things that required energy. I could ride my bike longer distances, no problem. Pickleball would still be years into my future, but suddenly tennis, hiking and even soccer were easier. I was shocked to discover that two hours of strenuous exercise could go by, and I was still doing fine.

Then too, and I don’t know if I can talk about this here: I was no longer having occasional bouts of constipation. Sometimes I’d even have a strong intestinal ache from time to time due to poor digestion. That’s all gone now, and has never come back.

As a result, for several years, I ate better.

Scientific studies have shown that this low-sugar diet is also helpful in preventing many dreadful diseases.

But by my early 50s, I had slipped part-way back to my old habits. Oh sure, I was eating less meat and focusing mostly on organic foods for long-term health, but my blood pressure was getting out of control. It was running around 150 over 100, and sometimes even like 170 over 105. Normal is 120 over 80. The doctor wanted me to take pills. I looked over the long list of side effects and didn’t like it, but what could I do?

Well, my wife knew what to do. She literally yelled at me when I tried to fill my prescription. She said to try cutting out all sugar and reduce carbs.

It took only two weeks to get my blood pressure back to where it was averaging around 130 over 90. Months later it was even better than that and sometimes even lower than average. I don’t know if everyone would have such spectacular and instant results, but I figure it’s worth a try, right?

In coaching, I tell people to get low, to move quickly, split-stepping and getting behind the ball. But maybe they can’t. They just don’t have the energy. I hope this info helps!

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Socratic Method

I am starting to use the method described below throughout OddPickleball.com so you can learn new pickleball tips, tricks and techniques. Some will take practice. Others you can implement as soon as you see them. All you need to do is click the Random button on any page to get started.

Having coached about two dozen players this summer with a new method, I discovered a system that is without a doubt the fastest way for people to improve their games. I call it “Socratic Pickleball,” or “Socratic Analytical Pickleball.”

It works like this: Four players of approximately equal skill level, or three players and a coach play games that are ordinary doubles pickleball. However, we stop between many of the rallies to discuss strategies.

I haven’t yet tried it, but I believe this would work well for two singles players, or a singles player and a coach as well.

The players are encouraged to interact. It doesn’t always have to be advice handed down from on high from the coach. As rallies are discussed, many interesting notions come up, many of which are presented in ways that are more memorable than just watching videos, or having the coach say ‘do this,’ or ‘do that.’

The player who is reluctant to come to the kitchen quickly learns to do so. The player who has never tried a long shot with forehand topspin learns how it’s done. The player who has gone into a serving slump (‘the yips’) learns ways to quickly over come the problem. The experienced player who is trying to answer many deep shots with backspin learns why that may not be a good idea, players learn the difference between a defensive lob and an offensive lob, and much more!

This can be done without a coach. Any four players can get together and critique at the end of rallies. Even without the coach, a lot of improvement will come to these players.

Did I say critique? It is important not to load up anyone with too much advice, especially negative advice. It is a rare human who could handle someone telling them “For the thousandth time, I’m telling you you’ve got to come to the kitchen!” without feeling resentful. In ideal Socratic pickleball, it is better to say something like, “Your backcourt play is so good, maybe you should see what you can do when you come more quickly to the kitchen,” or “I find I can cut off more angles at the kitchen.”

So go out there and try Socratic pickleball, and let me know how it works for you.

The Socratic method is attributed to the philosopher Socrates, who it is said would often ask questions, then offer his students to debate the relevant issues.

I’m planning to say much more about this. I’m planning to incorporate some Socratic methods into this very website. I’ve registered the name socraticpickleball.com. Do you think I should change from oddpickleball.com to that?

If you’re lucky enough to live in Marin County, California, check out Marin News, I may have an opening for you, and you may be surprised by my winter price.

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Line Calls


There is a lot of confusion in the pickleball world about calling balls in or out. So, here’s the scoop:

If a ball touches any portion of a line when it lands, it is in, unless it is the kitchen line (NVZ or non-volley-zone line) on a serve.

It is up to the receiving side to state whether a ball was out.

The opposing players do not get to argue, object, cross-examine or even doubt the call. That’s poor pickleball etiquette. If you see the ball you sent bounce inside a line by a meter (39 inches) that’s called out, you still don’t get to say anything.

Pickleball players are not supposed to ask people watching the game for their thoughts on a ball that might be out.

A player can ask an opposing player for their opinion, but then must accept that opinion as the absolute truth.

In doubles pickleball, if the players on one side cannot agree on a call, then it was in, awarding the rally to their opponents.

In doubles, if a ball is near the left sideline, the player on the right side is less qualified to call it than the player on the left.

Also in doubles, when one player is receiving a deep shot, it is better for that person’s partner to watch and possibly call the ball out since the person receiving will be busy at that moment just trying to return the ball.

A ball cannot be properly called until it has hit the ground because it’s final trajectory may be surprising.

In doubles, a ball can be called in or out by a player’s partner to assist that partner in knowing what to do. Any other discussion, especially if loud, can potentially be considered a distraction causing the loss of the point.

If there is doubt about whether a ball was in or out, the receiving player or team has the final word. Replays are not appropriate for unclear line decisions.

To visually indicate an out ball, a player can point upward. To indicate an in ball, the player points downward.

Here are the USA Pickleball official rules from https://usapickleball.org/what-is-pickleball/official-rules

SECTION 6 – LINE CALL RULES
6.A. A served ball that clears the non-volley zone and lands in the correct service court or on any correct service court line is in.

6.B. Except the serve, any ball in play that lands in the court or touches any court line is in.

6.C. A ball contacting the playing surface completely outside of the court is “out.”

6.D. Code of Ethics for Line Calling. Pickleball is played according to specific rules. It also requires a code of ethics for line-calling responsibilities when performed by players.

The line-calling responsibilities of players are different from those assigned to referees or line judges. The officials make impartial judgment calls with all players’ interests in mind. The player, when assigned line-calling duties, must strive for accuracy and operate under the principle that all questionable calls must be resolved in favor of the opponent.

The basic elements are:

6.D.1. Players are responsible for calling the lines on their end of the court (excluding short serves, service foot faults and all non-volley-zone faults, if being called by a referee). If a player makes an initial line call, and then asks for either the opponent(s) or the referee’s opinion, if the opponent or referee can make a clear “in” or “out” call, the clear call will stand. If no clear call can be made, the initial line call by the player will stand. A call made by the opponent can be appealed to the referee for a final “in” or “out” decision.

6.D.2. Players’ only line call is the centerline on the serve in matches that have line judges.

6.D.3. 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. A player who does not make a call may appeal to the referee to make the call if they did not clearly see the ball land. If the referee is unable to make the call, the ball is “in.” The moment the receiving player/team appeals to the referee, they lose their right to make any subsequent “in” or “out” call for that rally.

6.D.4. Spectators should not be consulted on any line call.

6.D.5. 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. The receiving team/player may also appeal to the referee to make a clear call. If the referee cannot make a clear call, the outcome of the opponent’s ruling will stand.

6.D.6. Players shall not call a ball “out” unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits the ground.

6.D.7. All “out” calls must be made prior to the ball being hit by the opponent or before the ball becomes dead.

6.D.8. In doubles play, if one player calls the ball “out” and the partner calls it “in,” then doubt exists and the team’s call will be “in.” Any player may appeal a call to the referee. If the referee did not see the ball, the ball is considered in.

6.D.9. “Out” line calls should be promptly signaled by voice and/or hand signal (as described in Rule 13.E.2).

6.D.10. 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.

6.D.11. An “out” call made after the ball bounces is a line call. The ball is dead and play shall stop. If, upon appeal, the referee overrules any type of “out” call, it is a fault against the player or team that made the “out” call. Exception: If the match has line judges, the baseline and sideline judges are responsible for the call. (See Rule 13.E.2)

6.D.12. After the completion of a rally, players may overrule a partner’s line call, an officiating team’s line call, or an opponent’s “in” call to their own disadvantage.

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Criticism, Praise and Pickleball


It has been studied and documented that we hear thirty-two items of criticism for each item of praise! It starts when we are babies, ” Ooooh, your diapers stink!” or ” Can’t you keep out of trouble for even one minute?” Sure, we may not have known what the words meant, but even Continue reading Criticism, Praise and Pickleball

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Our Obligation as Pickleballers

Pistas de pickleball en Madrid España, Polideportivo Municipal Gallur

We have no obligation! Just go out there and play the game, as long as you are not hurting or bothering others.

However, we do have opportunities:

We can be examples of good behavior both to our fellow pickleballers, as well as the general public. For instance in this website, you’ll see no references to smoking, drinking, drug use, or bad behavior.

Is it possible that through the ripple effect we pickleball players could eventually create a better society? Can I go so far as to suggest that if we all do that we’ll quite possibly end world warfare?

So, anytime you’re on or off the courts and have a choice of acting badly, or acting nicely, well… you get the idea.

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Don’t Be The Popper!

Sometimes four people will get together to play pickleball. Three of them are high intermediate players. One is a beginner or lower intermediate. This can be a dreadful situation for the one good player who is on the same side as the lesser player.

What happens is the lesser player will consistently ‘pop the ball.’ That means this player will return the ball high. When that happens, the opponents will smash it back, generally at the higher level player next to the ball popper. I have seen experienced players just turn around to protect their bodies in resignation rather than even try to return the smashed balls.

What can be amusing about this is often the popper doesn’t even realize that they are doing anything wrong. They wonder why their partner isn’t managing to return anything. Why isn’t their partner even trying?

So what do you do if you realize you are the popper? Keep your shots long and low. You probably won’t have the skill to drop balls from the back court into the kitchen. For best results you should come to the kitchen as soon you can, and direct your shots toward the opponents’ baseline. Keep them low and hard and ideally not directly to the opponents. Instead, try to place your returns to the opponents’ left side. Even right handers struggle with balls placed to their left rather than right in front.

This is not the best strategy for an experienced player, but it is the best for the popper.