What Is Carry In Pickleball?

What is Carry in Pickleball?

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Pickleball is a fun sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball on a badminton-sized court. Carry is when you hit the ball in a way that it stays on the face of your paddle instead of bouncing off. Carrying is against the rules in pickleball. If you carry the ball, you will be penalized.

What is Carry?

Carry Means the Ball Stays on Your Paddle

When you hit the pickleball, you want it to bounce off the paddle. Carry happens when the ball does not bounce off the paddle. Instead, it sticks to the face of the paddle.

It looks like you are carrying the ball on your paddle instead of hitting it. This is why it is called “carry.”

Examples of Carry

Here are some examples of what carry looks like:

  • You scoop under the ball and it sticks to your paddle face.
  • You hit the ball softly so it does not have enough force to bounce away.
  • Your paddle angle is too flat, causing the ball to cling to the surface.
  • The ball gets caught in the holes on the paddle surface after you hit it.

In all these examples, the key thing is that the ball is not bouncing off the paddle. It is being carried along on the face of the paddle due to insufficient force or angle.

Carry vs Double Bounce

Carry is different from a double bounce.

With a double bounce, the ball bounces off your paddle and then hits it again. With carry, the ball never bounces off the paddle at all.

Double bounces are legal in pickleball as long as they happen in one continuous motion. But carry is never allowed.

Why is Carry Illegal in Pickleball?

There are a few reasons why carry is against the rules in pickleball:

1. It Allows Too Much Control

When you carry the ball, you have a lot more control over the shot. You can gently place the ball exactly where you want since it sticks to the paddle.

This extra control takes away the challenge of having to hit a clean bouncing shot. Carry gives players an unfair advantage.

2. It Slows the Game Down

Pickleball is meant to be a fast-paced game. But carry shots can really slow things down.

Since the ball stays on the paddle longer, the pace of play drags. This goes against the energetic spirit of pickleball.

3. It Looks Unnatural

Carry shots just look awkward and unnatural compared to crisp bounce hits. The ball is not behaving the way it should after a paddle strike.

Pickleball is meant to involve back-and-forth rallies. Carry disrupts this natural flow of play.

4. The Rules Prohibit It

Most importantly, carry is clearly prohibited in the official pickleball rule book. The rules explicitly state that carry is a fault.

So even if there were no issues with carry, it would still be illegal simply because the rules declare it a fault. All players must abide by the established rules.

How to Avoid Carrying

Now that you know what carry is and why it is not allowed, here is how to avoid it:

Hit the Ball Cleanly

The key is making clean contact with the ball at the right angle. You want the ball to have enough speed and bounce to leave the paddle surface cleanly.

Striking the ball with purpose will prevent it from clinging to the face. Follow through completely to impart force.

Keep the Paddle Perpendicular

Hold your paddle fully perpendicular to the ball upon impact. If the angle is too flat, the ball can skid along the surface.

A looper perpendicular paddle gives the ball a trampoline effect rather than a sticky landing pad.

Use Control Carefully

It’s fine to impart some spin or place the ball carefully. But remain aware of carry.

If you see the ball clinging too long, adjust your swing to get more bounce. Use control judiciously.

Know the Rules

Make sure you fully understand the carry rules for the specific tournament or league. While the basics are the same, details may vary.

Knowing the exact rules will help you avoid penalties. Ask if unsure.

Penalties for Carry in Pickleball

Carrying the ball will get you penalized. Here are some common penalties:

Loss of Serve

If the server carries the ball, it usually results in loss of serve. The serve switches to the opposing side.

No Point Scored

If a carry occurs during a rally, the player who carried is not awarded the point, even if they hit a winning shot. The other team gets the point instead.

Replay the Serve

Sometimes the server gets a “fault” call for carry and gets to replay the serve. Two fault serves lead to loss of serve.


For a minor first offense, the referee may just issue a warning. But further carries will incur penalties.

Again, exact penalties depend on the governing league or tournament. Know the rules to avoid unwanted violations.

How to Call Carry

If you see an opponent carry the ball, you need to call it out loud. Here is proper carry call etiquette:

Call “Carry” Quickly

As soon as you observe a carry, loudly call “Carry!” This alerts the referee and stops play.

Do not wait – call it quickly when you see it. But make sure it is a genuine carry.

Be Consistent

Enforce carry consistently, not just when it benefits you. No one likes selective enforcement.

Uphold the rules in a fair manner for all players.

Accept the Call

If your carry is called, acknowledge it politely without argument. Arguing will not change the call.

Take the penalty and move on. Do not carry next time!

Calling carry helps keep the game fair and flowing. While unpleasant, accept carry calls with grace.


  • Carry occurs when the pickleball gets stuck on the paddle face rather than bouncing off.
  • It is illegal because it allows too much control, slows the game, looks unnatural, and violates the rules.
  • To avoid carry, strike the ball cleanly at the right angle and keep the paddle vertical.
  • If you see carry, call it out quickly and fairly. Accept carry calls with poise.

Now that you know the ins and outs of carry, get out on the pickleball court and hit some clean bouncing shots! Carry on within the rules and enjoy this fun paddle sport.

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