What is OPA in Pickleball?

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A Cheer That Signals the Start of Open Volleying

“OPA!” is a term used in pickleball that is occasionally shouted after the third shot has been hit signifying that open volleying has begun. It is a cheer that is often used to encourage players and celebrate the start of open volleying.

What Does “OPA” Mean in Pickleball?

“OPA” is a celebratory exclamation that is shouted in pickleball to mark the transition from the start of a point to open play. It signals that both teams have made their initial shots and are now free to move about the court and volley the ball back and forth.

The word “OPA” itself has Greek origins and is used as an enthusiastic interjection, similar to “huzzah” or “hooray.” In the context of pickleball, players use it as a cheer to pump each other up as the point opens up into active volleying after the structured start. Shouting “OPA!” infuses energy and excitement into the game.

When Is “OPA” Shouted in Pickleball?

OPA!” is shouted after the third shot of a pickleball point, once both teams have made their initial shots and are ready to strategically volley the ball.

Here is the basic sequence:

  • The serving team serves the ball diagonally into the opponent’s service court.
  • The receiving team must let the serve bounce before returning it diagonally back to the serving team.
  • The serving team must also let the return bounce before hitting the ball back to the receiving team.
  • After the serving team hits this third shot, “OPA!” is often shouted to signify the start of open play.

So “OPA!” is timed to the moment after the two obligatory bounces have occurred and both teams can move freely around the court to volley the ball back and forth. The excitement and strategy builds as the volleying gets underway, which is marked by the “OPA!” exclamation.

Why Do Pickleball Players Shout “OPA”?

There are a few key reasons why “OPA!” is used as a celebratory cheer in pickleball:

  • To Mark the Transition to Open Play – As mentioned, “OPA!” signals the end of the structured start and beginning of dynamic volleying. Shouting it is a quick way to denote this transition.
  • To Pump Up Energy – Yelling “OPA!” adds enthusiasm and liveliness to the game, pumping up the energy as the point opens up. It helps create an electrifying atmosphere.
  • To Encourage Teammates – Players often shout “OPA!” to motivate teammates before the exciting volleying showdown begins. It’s a way to cheer each other on.
  • To Intimidate Opponents – Some players shout “OPA!” aggressively to rattle the other team before open play commences. It’s a way to amp themselves up while adding pressure to opponents.
  • For Fun – Lastly, shouting “OPA!” is simply a fun tradition that adds spirit and passion to this beloved sport. It helps bring people together in pickleball camaraderie.

What Are Some Other Pickleball Terms?

Beyond “OPA!”, there are many other unique words and phrases used in the sport of pickleball:

  • Dink – A soft shot landing just over the net that forces the opponent up close.
  • Third Shot Drop – A drop shot made after the two initial bounced shots.
  • Kitchen – The non-volley zone 7 feet from the net on each side.
  • Punch – A powerful spike usually performed at the net.
  • Niner – When the score is tied at 8-8 and a team must win by 2.
  • Double Bounce Rule – Each team must let the ball bounce once before volleying.
  • Two-Bounce Rule – Amateur rules allowing each team two bounces.
  • Cooking – Hitting shots that skim close along the top of the net.
  • Resetting – Returning to the starting position after each shot.
  • Poach – When you move into your partner’s territory to hit a shot.

And many more! Pickleball has developed its own unique culture and vocabulary.

What Are the Origins of “OPA” in Pickleball?

The exact origins of shouting “OPA!” in pickleball are unclear, but it appears to have emerged organically sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s as the sport was gaining wider popularity.

Here are some theories on how it started:

  • Pickleball players drawn from tennis may have adopted it from the similar exclamation “ole!” used in tennis when a great shot is hit.
  • It could come from recreational players experimenting with fun cheers to bring energy to matches.
  • “OPA!” may be borrowed from team sports like volleyball where vocal cues are often used.
  • Some attribute it to the game’s inventors, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, potentially using it in early play.
  • It may have Greek roots from the common interjection “opa!” meaning “hooray!”

However it began, yelling “OPA!” is now a trademark tradition in pickleball, signaling the exciting start of open volleying during a match. It adds passion and joy to this beloved sport.

How Can You Learn When to Shout “OPA!” as a Pickleball Beginner?

For newcomers to pickleball, knowing exactly when to yell “OPA!” can take some time to learn. Here are tips on getting the timing right:

  • Watch Others – Observe when more experienced players call “OPA!” during a match. Take note of the specific moment.
  • Count the Shots – Mentally count the first serve, return, and third shot out loud so you recognize the pattern. Shout “OPA!” after that third shot.
  • Ask a Coach – Seek guidance from an instructor who can clearly explain the sequence and signal to you when “OPA!” should be called.
  • Call It Early – When uncertain, it’s better to err on the side of calling “OPA!” too early rather than waiting too long.
  • Consider a Visual Aid – Ask partners to give a hand signal after the third shot to remind you it’s time for “OPA!”.
  • Get in the Habit – With regular play, shouting “OPA!” at the right time will become second nature. Don’t overthink it.

Paying close attention to the bounce pattern is key. The more you play, the more instinctual your “OPA!” timing will become.

Why is Mastering “OPA!” Timing Useful in Pickleball?

Learning exactly when to yell “OPA!” in a pickleball match is an important milestone for a few reasons:

  • Shows You Understand the Sport – Shouting “OPA!” at the proper moment demonstrates you’ve grasped pickleball’s unique flow and rules.
  • Marks Your Progress – Knowing when to say “OPA!” is a sign you’re advancing from beginner to intermediate player.
  • Helps With Strategy – Mastering the timing means you fully recognize the transition from structured start to open play.
  • Adds Enjoyment – Hitting great “OPA!” cheers boosts morale and makes the sport more fun.
  • Lets You Contribute – Calling spirited “OPA!” exclamations helps energize and encourage your teammates.

In a way, yelling “OPA!” at the right time allows you to fully participate in pickleball’s culture and feel part of the community. It’s a milestone worth celebrating!

Are There Any Controversies Around “OPA” in Pickleball?

For the most part, shouting “OPA!” is considered a lighthearted and positive part of pickleball. However, there are occasional controversies surrounding its use:

  • Excessive Shouting – Some players shout “OPA!” too loudly or aggressively, which can be unsportsmanlike.
  • Overused – Calling “OPA!” after every single point gets annoying to some players.
  • Premature Timing – Novices sometimes yell “OPA!” too early before the third shot, showing unfamiliarity with the game.
  • Unnecessary Distraction – A few players argue “OPA!” adds unnecessary noise and distractions during competitive play.
  • Omitting It – On the other hand, not shouting “OPA!” at all is seen by some as impolite rejecting of tradition and culture.
  • Alternative Cheers – Some players have suggested changing “OPA!” to less aggressive cheers like “Here we go!”

Overall though, these issues are minor compared to the positive energy “OPA!” brings to pickleball in most players’ opinions. The tradition remains a beloved part of the sport.

In Conclusion, What Does “OPA” Represent in Pickleball?

In summary, “OPA!” represents:

  • A celebratory cheer marking the transition from structured start to open volleying.
  • An enthusiastic call encouraging teammates and intimidating opponents.
  • A fun tradition that injects passion and excitement into pickleball.
  • A signal that players understand the sport’s unique flow.
  • A milestone that demonstrates pickleball knowledge and skills.

For most players, shouting “OPA!” is a joyful way to take part in the culture of a sport they love. This spirited exclamation has become a hallmark of pickleball as it continues gaining popularity across the globe. Understanding the significance of “OPA!” helps deepen anyone’s connection and participation in this fast-growing community.

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