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Was That A Distraction?

Rules Refresh Stacie Townsend 09-06-2021

You may not distract an opponent when the opposing team is about to play the pickleball. If you distract an opponent that is about to play the pickleball, then you would have committed a fault. For instance, if you yell at the opponent or otherwise do something to distract your opponent as your opponent goes for an overhead (for instance, intentionally wave your arms and jump up and down), then you would have committed a fault and will lose the rally.

Whether something rises to the level of a distraction is ultimately a “facts and circumstances” analysis. In pickleball games with a referee, this analysis is based on the referee’s judgment. The referee in competitive play will determine if the distraction caused the opposing team to lose a rally. In pickleball games without a referee, a distraction will only result if all of the players agree. Otherwise, a player may elevate the decision to a referee or tournament director.

With that said, team communication (for instance, saying “nice shot,” “watch the line,” or “get back”) typically does not constitute a distraction. This means that, generally speaking, if you communicate to your partner as the opposing team plays or is about to play the pickleball (i.e. “watch out!”), then no distraction (and no fault) would have occurred. However, there are circumstances where even team communication could cross the line and constitute a distraction. For instance, if you step into the Non-Volley Zone as your opponent is about to play the pickleball and yell “WATCH OUT!” directly at your opponent, then that could be deemed a distraction and you would have committed a fault.

To summarize… Distractions are prohibited. However, exactly what is, and what is not, a distraction may be tough to concretely identify around the edges. There is some gray area, which depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the rally at hand.

For a deeper breakdown on the rules of pickleball, check out Pickler’s Ultimate Guide to the Rules of Pickleball.

Have you had an interesting rules issue on the pickleball court? Send it to us at stacie@thepickler.com, so we can share with the rest of the pickleball community in a future newsletter.

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