This is an age old problem in all sports – making the call. In rec pickleball, whether it’s making a close line call on an opponent’s shot, the legality of a serve, or a non-volley zone (NVZ) violation call…. all are difficult and any of these calls will have some degree of error. I’ve never seen arguments about a serve motion or NVZ violations in rec play. I’ve never seen a team demand a point due to an illegal serve. NVZ calls in my experience, are usually made by the side committing the error. Tho the rule states either side can make that call. Illegal serves generally lead to a discussion because they are usually committed by newbies. While I have never seen a team demand points for these calls, in tournament play, the referee will call either infraction in a heartbeat.
But for this discussion, let’s focus on line calls involving the ball (as opposed to where a player has stepped). Obviously there are no hard and fast rules for calling a ball in or out. Essentially, it is about determining where the ball touches the court in respect to a line. The ball can slide as well, so we need to know where it first or last touched the court depending on the line in question. Not always easy on a well hit ball. And even once you have made that call, there is a question of what happens when teammates disagree. Here is a guideline and a few specific rules from the 2021 Rulebook that may help correctly negotiate a call. Below that, a video where an instructor demonstrates techniques for making the best call you can. I was pleased to hear the him confirm what I believe is a long held misconception in tennis and pickleball. That is, because you are closest to the ball when it hits the court, does not mean you have the best view for making that call.
Here are a few 2021 Rulebook references to aid in negotiating line calls during a game. The Rulebook points to refereed matches. But in rec pickleball most of us try to stick to the Rulebook where it applies.
Guideline from page 7, under “1. The Game”
Either partner in doubles can make calls, especially line calls; there is no place in the game for one partner telling another, ‘that was my call, not yours’.
Meaning there is no rule governing which player has a right to a call.
Actual rules directing how calls should be made.
6.D.9. 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.13. 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.
Obviously these are directed at tournament play. But they are largely common sense.
Here is a video on making line calls that is kinda fun. I hope you enjoy it.
I’d love to hear for you folks if you have comments. firstname.lastname@example.org