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Lessons from the Pickleball Court – Sportsmanship Matters

Strategy & Technique Stacie Townsend 11-29-2021


In early November 2021, a new format for the sport of pickleball was unveiled with the launch of Major League Pickleball. Major League Pickleball featured teams of 2 men and 2 women, with 8 teams in total. These teams competed as, well, teams, where the team who won the most matches (4 matches in total (one men’s doubles, one women’s doubles, and two mixed doubles) with a singles playoff, if tied), won the team battle and earned a point.

One of the most interesting parts of this event, however, was that the players were mic’ed up, so you could hear everything that was said on the court between them in these epic showdowns. One such showdown was between the top 2 teams—the Chimeras (with Anna Leigh Waters, Lee Whitwell, Kyle Yates, and AJ Koller) and Team BLQK (with Irina Tereschenko, Andrea Koop, Ben Johns, and Rob Nunnery). During the women’s doubles match-up between these two teams, there were some line calls and other out calls called into question. Luckily, each team had one challenge per game. A challenge would result in an analysis of the video or rule—just like a challenge in the NFL or MLB. But, remember, each team only had one…

Sportsmanship Matters

Late in the women’s doubles match-up, Anna Leigh Waters and Lee Whitwell hit an overhead put away shot, but immediately upon landing in the court Irina Tereschenko and Andrea Koop raised their hand to call the ball out to their favor. Waters and Whitwell immediately disagreed and desperately wanted to challenge a line call by Tereschenko and Koop, claiming that the pickleball landed 6 to 8 inches inside the line. However, Tereschenko and Koop remained steadfast that they saw the pickleball land out. Waters and Whitwell were out of challenges (as they already used their challenge) and seemingly out of luck.

Lessons from the Pickleball Court – Sportsmanship Matters | Pickler Pickleball

Then, in a show of good sportsmanship, Team BLQK (who had their team’s challenge remaining) decided to challenge themselves, as they could see the Chimeras were unhappy with the situation. At which point, Tereschenko shouted on behalf of her team, “I challenge myself.” Team BLQK used their own challenge to confirm whether their line call was accurate.

The result of the challenge overruled Tereschenko and Koop. Waters and Whitwell were correct in the pickleball landing very much in the court. Tereschenko and Koop apologized for getting the line call wrong, which happens to all of us. The game happens so fast, sometimes it is impossible to be 100% correct, no matter how certain of the call we may be. Nevertheless, Team BLQK’s self-challenge was something that they did not need to do, but, in doing so, exemplified great sportsmanship, which is a cornerstone of the sport of pickleball.

Lessons from the Pickleball Court – Sportsmanship Matters

As a result of the self-challenge, Tereschenko and Koop may have lost their momentum, which helped Waters and Whitwell go on to win the women’s doubles match for their team, the Chimeras. However, in the finals for the inaugural Major League Pickleball event (which was a repeat match-up between the Chimeras and Team BLQK), it was Team BLQK that came out victorious as champions. And… just maybe… the good karma that Team BLQK earned as a team in their display of good sportsmanship with their self-challenge had something to do with it.


Read past blogs from the “Lessons from the Pickleball Court” series:

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