Pickleball is a fun paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Like any sport, pickleball has a set of rules that must be followed. Committing a fault is one way a player can break the rules of pickleball and lose a rally. So what exactly constitutes a fault in pickleball?
- What is Considered a Fault in Pickleball?
- How Can You Avoid Committing Faults in Pickleball?
- What Happens When a Fault Occurs During Gameplay?
- What Are Some Pickleball Faults That Beginners Commonly Commit?
- What Are Some Pickleball Faults that Advanced Players Commonly Commit?
- What Are the Penalties for Flagrant Faults or Poor Behavior?
- Conclusion: Follow the Rules and Have Fun Playing Pickleball!
What is Considered a Fault in Pickleball?
A fault is committed when a player violates a rule of the game while the ball is in play. There are several common faults that can occur in pickleball:
Is Hitting the Ball Out of Bounds a Fault in Pickleball?
Yes, hitting the ball out of bounds is considered a fault in pickleball. The lines on the court are considered in-bounds, so a ball that hits on or inside the boundary lines is still good. However, if the ball lands outside of the court or hits an object outside the court like a fence or pole, it is ruled out of bounds and a fault is called.
The player or team that hit the ball out of bounds loses the rally. So it’s important to keep your shots controlled and aim to land the ball inside the court boundaries.
Is Volleying the Return of Serve a Fault?
Volleying the return of serve is another common fault in pickleball. The return of serve must be allowed to bounce before being struck by the receiver.
Trying to volley the serve return usually occurs when the receiving player is anxious and rushes to hit the ball before it bounces. However, volleying the return is almost always a fault resulting in the serving team winning the point.
The exception is if the serve touches the net on its way over. In that case, the ball is still in play and the return can be volleyed or allowed to bounce.
What is a “Kitchen” Fault in Pickleball?
The kitchen extends 7 feet back from the net on each side and is clearly marked on the court. After volleying the ball, a player must stay out of the kitchen area until the ball bounces.
If a volleying player or any part of their body touches the kitchen before the ball bounces, it results in a fault. The kitchen rule prevents players from approaching the net too aggressively after a volley.
Are There Other Common Rules that Can Result in Faults?
Yes, there are a few other important pickleball rules that players must follow to avoid faults:
- Double hitting – Intentionally hitting the ball twice is a fault. The only exception is if the ball inadvertently hits your paddle hand or arm after striking the paddle face.
- Distracting your opponent – Deliberately shouting, waving your paddle, or otherwise distracting your opponent during a rally can result in a fault. Good sportsmanship is expected.
- Reaching over the net – Only time it’s legal to reach over the net is to hit a ball that has bounced into your side. Reaching over on a volley is not allowed.
- Touching the net – Players are not allowed to touch the net with their body, clothing, or paddle during a rally. Incidental contact is OK, but intentionally touching the net causes a fault.
Knowing these basic pickleball faults will help you avoid errors and improve your game. Let’s look closer at strategies for avoiding some common faults.
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How Can You Avoid Committing Faults in Pickleball?
Now that you know what constitutes a fault in pickleball, here are some tips to help avoid them during gameplay:
What’s the Best Way to Avoid Hitting the Ball Out of Bounds?
To reduce hitting balls long or wide, focus on consistent, controlled shots. Big, aggressive swings often lead to more errors. Try keeping your paddle face square to the ball and use smooth strokes instead of punching at the ball.
Positioning yourself effectively is also key. Don’t stand too close to the back line which reduces your margin for error. Give yourself enough room to hit comfortable, measured shots.
What Can You Do to Avoid Volleying Faults?
When receiving serve, train yourself to let the ball bounce before striking your return. Be patient and don’t swing too early.
During rallies, avoid rushing the net after a volley which often leads to kitchen violations. Only advance forward after volleying once you have good control of the ball and court position.
How Do You Stay Out of the Kitchen Area After Volleys?
The best way to avoid kitchen faults is to clearly understand its boundaries and purpose. Always be aware of your proximity to the non-volley zone when near the net.
After volleying, concentrate on moving laterally or backward until the ball bounces – don’t be tempted to move forward unless you are well behind the kitchen line. Discourage opponents from hitting at you near the kitchen.
Anticipating where returns will go also helps avoid the temptation to enter the kitchen area prematurely when trying to get to the ball.
What Happens When a Fault Occurs During Gameplay?
Commit a fault, and here is what happens next:
Does the Server Get Another Serve After Their Fault?
No, the server does not get a second serve attempt after faulting. Only one serve attempt is allowed per server, except at the start of each new game when the server gets two chances.
So if the serving player faults on their first (and only) serve, it results in a “side out”. The opposing team then gets to serve.
Can You Still Score After Your Opponent’s Fault?
An interesting pickleball rule is that you can still legally score a point after your opponent commits a fault.
For example, if your opponent hits a serve fault, but in your attempt to return it you hit a winning shot, your point still counts! The server cannot call a fault after the fact.
However, if in your opinion the rally should not continue after an obvious fault, the sporting thing to do is to stop play and award the fault.
What If Both Teams Commit Faults During a Rally?
If both opponents commit faults simultaneously, it results in a replay. For example, if one player steps into the kitchen and the other player hits the ball out of bounds, no point is awarded and the rally is simply replayed.
Rather than offsetting or cancelling out faults, the rally is treated as a continuous sequence of play. So the fault that happens last determines which team wins the rally.
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What Are Some Pickleball Faults That Beginners Commonly Commit?
For newcomers to the sport, here are some of the most frequent fault infractions to be aware of:
Volleying the Serve Return
Eager to hit the ball, new players very often incorrectly volley the serve return instead of letting it bounce. Remember – always allow the serve to bounce before striking it back.
Many beginners reactively hit the ball twice in a row, resulting in double hits. Only one contact with the ball is allowed on shots other than blocked volleys.
Kitchen Foot Faults
With excitement to get to the ball, novices often slightly step into the non-volley zone after volleying. Be conscious of the kitchen area boundaries at all times.
Paddle Touching the Net
It takes practice to master clean volleys near the net. Beginners tend to slightly graze the net, which is a fault if intentional.
Hitting Out-of-Bounds Balls
Lack of control on groundstrokes and difficulty judging angles causes many shots to go long or wide. Out-of-bounds shots are common with new players.
What Are Some Pickleball Faults that Advanced Players Commonly Commit?
Even experienced pickleball players make faults sometimes. Here are some of the more common errors that crop up:
Calling Faults Too Late
Veteran players occasionally commit a fault but continue playing the rally and only call it afterwards if they lose the point. Faults should be called immediately.
Net Serve Foot Faults
When serving near the net’s edge, players sometimes graze the net or step into the court before striking the ball. Both are foot fault infractions.
Allowing the ball to bounce twice on a return – either unintentionally or deliberately to disrupt pace – is a fault under the rules.
Volleying From Inside the Kitchen
If the ball takes an unexpected bounce, a player who has moved forward might improperly volley the ball while still inside the kitchen area.
Hitting Distraction Shots
Intentionally hitting balls very high or wide to disrupt the flow of play is considered poor etiquette, if not an outright fault.
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What Are the Penalties for Flagrant Faults or Poor Behavior?
Intentionally breaking rules, shouting, throwing your paddle, or other unsportsmanlike conduct can result in penalties:
- First offense – warning from the referee
- Second offense – point penalty
- Third offense – game penalty
- Fourth offense – match penalty (default)
In extreme cases such as hurting others, damaging property, or excessive verbal abuse, stiffer penalties like tournament disqualification or suspension can be immediately imposed.
The idea is to maintain an atmosphere of friendly competition and fair play. Don’t intentionally commit faults, call them honestly when they occur, and avoid unsportsmanlike behavior.
Conclusion: Follow the Rules and Have Fun Playing Pickleball!
There are many regulations to keep in mind, but learning the basic faults will go a long way toward playing pickleball by the book.
Most importantly, avoid volleying errors, stay out of the kitchen if volleying, and keep shots in-bounds. Call faults on yourself promptly and fairly. Brush up on the more intricate rules as you advance in skills.
By understanding common pickleball faults and penalties, you’ll avoid mistakes that cost points. That will help improve your game and make pickleball more fun for everyone! The key is balancing competition with having a good time.