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Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: Ball on Court? Maybe Not

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 01-24-2022

We here at Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket headquarters would like to address the disappointing “ball on court” etiquette frequently on display.

Due to the increasing popularity of pickleball, we can’t always be too choosy about where to find an open public court. Of course, everybody would like to play on a court that is fenced off on all four sides.

Preferably in Leonardo DiCaprio’s backyard.

But let’s be honest, most of us are happy to play on slapdash public courts, even those on converted roller hockey rinks with three courts sitting side-by-side and no fencing to stop errant balls from interrupting nearby games.

It’s the price we pay for free pickleball. And sure, there may come a day when new pickleball courts are constructed with containment fencing around each court. But for now, we’re happy to knock the ball around, even if every third or fourth rally gets aborted by a ball from the next court – or a ball from the next court beyond the next court.

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket: Ball on Court? Maybe Not | Pickler Pickleball

I don’t have a beef with that. But I do have a beef with the way some pickleballers handle this situation.

Screaming “ball!” every time somebody on your court hits one that starts to sail into an adjacent court is excessive.

A pickleball is not a nuclear device. It won’t wipe out the people on the next court upon impact. If you hit a ball into another court, you have time to make an assessment of the situation.

If the ball is hitting anywhere near the feet of the other players on the court, who are blithely playing a point and not paying attention to your wayward ball, then you should certainly yell, “ball” or “ball on court” or some other warning that makes the people on the next court stop playing.

The same thing goes for a ball that may stop rolling while being on or near the in-bounds area of their court. Even if it’s not near the players.

There’s no telling if somebody on that court will lob the next shot, sending a player suddenly close to the errant ball on the court.

Safety first. No game is worth a twisted ankle. If it’s remotely possible some player on the other court will step on your ball, then yell out the warning.

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket: Ball on Court? Maybe Not | Pickler Pickleball

But more times than not, the invading ball is quickly transiting the next court at a harmless spot and will come to rest along a fence, far from play. After all, the court is 44 feet long, and for much of the action, all four people on the next court are playing in a 14-foot space in the middle of that area.

That leaves a lot of empty court for a ball to cross. So, let’s say all four players on the next court are toeing the Non-Volley Zone line when the ball from your court crosses their court either somewhere beyond the baseline or through the transition zone several feet behind the nearest player.

Ball on court? Nah. It’s just passing by like a harmless asteroid millions of miles away from the planet. No need to sound the alarm. Let them play.

It’s time for you to be a good neighbor. That means keeping quiet until their rally is done before pointing out that you would like them to return your ball.

Unnecessary “ball on court” calls don’t only come from the court where the ball originated. Some players stop rallies they are about to lose by calling “ball on court” when a harmless ball rolls through their own court, often as the winning smash is being hit.

“Well, it distracted me for a moment,” is frequently the excuse.

Bah!, we say. Bah! We here at Murmurs from the Losers Bracket are wise to your scheming.

Be safe, yes. But don’t be a ninny.


Read past editions of Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket, including “The Ozempic Ad,” which you have certainly seen on TV.

Frank Cerabino is a long-time columnist for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, a pickleball addict like the rest of us, and a newly published author. Check out Frank’s newly released book, I Dink, Therefore I Am: Coming to Grips with My Pickleball Addiction (available on Amazon and a great read (or gift!) for any pickleball player), for pickleball tips and laughs!

I Dink, Therefore I Am | Frank Cerabino


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