A Hot Take Re: Pickleball Line Call Etiquette

Lines on a pickleball court

I was recently asked to write about how to respond after a bad line call, as many players unfortunately allow themselves to get mentally flushed down the toilet bowl after a bad call.

*Full transparency: I’ve been known to lose my stuff at specific opponents when I think they’ve made bad calls on purpose. My “justice league” DNA comes to the surface if I believe a player is purposely cheating, rather than accidentally missing their call - we all miss calls.

The cliche advice to players who get overheated after a bad call sounds something like, “Ignore it, don’t worry, move on.” 

The traditional pickleball line call etiquette calls for this laissez-faire mindset that the casual side of the game is known for. Only problem is: it doesn't always work. 

We can’t pretend the call didn’t happen and there’s no “ignoring” it. Instead, we need a mental place to focus that replaces the emotions we feel from the crappy call.

Also, counterintuitively, I’m a fan of allowing ourselves to be upset and express it to the opponent and referee (if applicable), as long as we mentally shift to our new position of strength before the next point begins.

Tiger Woods gave himself 10 steps to be pissed after a bad shot.

Kobe internally yelled at himself quickly before mentally moving on.

If you feel the need to let out the negativity, do so, BUT…adjust before the next serve is hit.

There isn’t one technique that works for everyone, nor will I pretend to know each possible mental adjustment.

This type of work needs to take place long before you even step on the court, through visualization, meditation, or other internal techniques that help calm the mind.

I personally use what I’ve defined as the “let it out and snap back” technique:

  • I’ll let the player know I thought the call was bad (maybe even have a few ’fun’ words back-n-forth)
  • When I turn my back and walk to the baseline for the next point, my head drops, eyes close, breathing slows, and I focus on competing THROUGH the emotion
  • My personal mantra is, “Next point now! This is why I compete!” I’ll repeat this sentence over and over, until it’s taken the place of the bad line call.

I’m not ignoring the call, I’m acknowledging it, but simultaneously shifting the power struggle from anger to a competitive intention.

However you find your new mental spot, I do suggest purposely turning your back on the situation (figuratively and literally), slowing down your walk and your breath, and intentionally shifting your mind to, “Now what? What do we need to do next?”

Read Next: No, You Shouldn't RUSH to the Kitchen in Pickleball

This will automatically take you to a neutral, more powerful mental place before starting the next point -- traditional pickleball line call etiquette be damned.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

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