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Reasons Why People Hate Pickleball

a grim look on the face of Anna bright
(Image credit: Kerry Pittenger) Pro Players Anna Bright, Anna Leigh Waters, and Catherine Parenteau

Why disrespect a sport that has gotten people of all ages moving, as well as using their minds, improving their reflexes and their hand-eye coordination, making them happier, healthier, and, in some cases, more outgoing? 

Comments I’ve heard: 

“Pickleball is for failed or washed up tennis players.” 

“Pickleball is for frail old people.” 

“Can’t believe pickleball is considered a sport. It’s a joke.”  

“My four-year-old can do that.”

“Pickleball is for people who can’t cut it in tennis.”

“How hard a game could it be with a sixteen-year-old ranked number one?” The answer: play her and find out.

Challenging the Skeptics

Could those who made the above comments score a point against a professional player? Beat them? Doubtful. If they did, the world would have heard about it in the post-match courtside interview. Something like, “I told you pickleball was easy. I told you it was for weaklings.” 

People of all ages play pickleball and compete in tournaments; some professional athletes play—or have played—both pickleball and tennis and succeed at both (and at other sports).  Anna Leigh Waters, Anna Bright, Callie Smith, Travis Rettenmaier, and Jack Sock, all top players, have competed in both sports. There are more, but enough for now.

The Online vs. On-Court Reality

It is easier to be aggressive on the keyboard than face an opponent on the court. Online, one can hide behind a username, provoke a reaction.  Insults seem to get more attention than real substance, disrespect spreading wider and faster than encouragement. As soon as one realizes their own inadequacies, knowing they can’t compete, they heat up, tension builds—that mountain of insecurity becomes volcanic. Remember, anything can be said with the mouth, with keystrokes or by tapping a cell phone, but can the body back it up? Have naysayers the courage to meet on court and prove their assessments? Well? 

Would You Criticize Someone You Care About?

Critics—if a loved one or a friend played pickleball, would you still criticize? What if pickleball helps their overall health? What if practicing and improving provides a sense of accomplishment? Still hate it? What if you yourself, critic, were told you were good enough to play as a professional and could earn more than you do now? Is the game still a joke?  Seen as a job, which it is, albeit more fun and glamorous than others, pickleball and its players should not be maligned. Nor should any job or any worker. 

A Personal Testimony

At fifty-three, I am active and in shape, having spent my life as a blue-collar worker, toiling in weather conditions—heat, cold, rain, snow—that many could not tolerate.  In pickleball matches, women and men—both young and old—have worked me hard, moving me around the court, overpowering me and beating me. Ask me if I feel like a pansy.

The True Rewards of Pickleball

For me, playing pickleball is strenuous exercise, demanding on my body. Aches and pains creep in after a match. Even during a match! But those sensations always surrender to happiness and pleasure and a better, balanced life, a stronger, more versatile mind and body. Those who cannot find value and purpose and benefit in pickleball—and disrespect it—have probably only given the sport a cursory look or listened to others who haven’t a clue. Please, take a longer, penetrating look—an honest look. If you still find yourself at a loss, well, that loss would be yours alone.

As for the rest of us, rather than behave as others do casting aspersions from a seated—or horizontal—position, we’ll see one another on the court, where all misconceptions are proven wrong. 

List of other reasons why people hate pickleball

It’s Not Tennis:

  • Tennis players find it hard to accept pickleball as a distinct sport.
  • Similarities in court and equipment lead to comparisons.
  • Professional pickleball players often have a tennis background.

Noise Complaints:

The sound of the game is a common complaint among those living near courts.

Reluctance to Pioneer:

  • People generally avoid being the first to try new things.
  • Pickleball, being less known, faces skepticism.

The Name “Pickleball”:

  • The unusual name can be off-putting.
  • It’s seen as less serious, affecting the sport’s perception and chances to get into the olympics

You just hate sports:

  • Some dislike pickleball without trying it, reflecting a broader dislike of sports.

Court Line Confusion:

  • Tennis courts marked for pickleball can confuse players.
  • Permanent lines are problematic; temporary markers are a compromise.

Pickleball’s Popularity:

  • Growing popularity, with cities converting tennis courts to pickleball courts.
  • Some tennis players and residents are resistant to these changes.

Pickleball Isn’t A Workout:

  • It’s enjoyable but may not provide an intense workout for everyone when playing doubles. 
  • Singles pickleball can be more physically demanding.

Scoring Complexity:

  • Pickleball scoring is often seen as confusing.

Ageism in Pickleball:

  • Perceived as a sport for older individuals, though demographics are changing.
Photo of author

About David Boyle

A versatile and diversified writer, David Boyle has written three short story collections, published by independent presses. Though he earned his readership by writing reality-based fiction, Boyle has gained a reputation for literary stories, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, analyses, travel writing, reportage, and poems, a good number of which have appeared in both print and online magazines. Inspired by his wife's passion for the sport, David now loves pickleball and aims to illuminate current pickleball events and subjects with a fresh, creative perspective, offering readers something they can't find anywhere else. | My website | boyled411@gmail.com | My Pickleball Journal

44 thoughts on “Reasons Why People Hate Pickleball”

  1. Matt, regarding sound, there is something interesting to share. A tennis ball hitting a tennis racquet is actually louder than a pickleball hitting a paddle. That’s a fact. But there are more details in this story. Go to YouTube.com and do a search with these words: Sound – Pickleball vs Tennis. Thanks for the interesting article and other blogs!

    Reply
    • I would beg to disagree. As a very recent convert to pickleball, and one who expects to return to playing some tennis in ‘22, I can affirm that the “crack” of a paddle striking a pickleball is, if not louder, per se, more jarring (only momentarily, of course) to the ear than the sound of a tennis racquet striking a tennis ball. I would compare the two, very unscientifically, as the difference between the sharp crack of a metal hammer striking a nail versus the sound of a rubber mallet striking the same object with a “thud”. Slightly more “scientifically”, the paddle’s surface has no “give”, or cushioning effect on the plastic ball, whereas we’re all aware of the tennis racquet’s strings’ flex when hitting a (rubber) tennis ball.
      When pickleball first began to invade my old tennis club (6 indoor courts, asphalt surface), our biggest complaint we tennis players had was about the “noise” – not the players’ voices, but the loud “cracks” of the paddles striking pickleballs. Frankly, it is my humble opinion that is precisely this sharp crack (a form of instant gratification, if you will) that lies subliminally at the core of pickleball’s appeal for so many people.
      Frankly, I would offer that pickleball’s appeal lies in a combination of its accessibility to us growing older, the (somewhat limited, but quick) reflex movements required – which are, in themselves, life-affirming – and the elemental fact that each of us improves with each segment of playing time.
      That is to say, NO regression and very little “plateauing”, so long as one plays at least twice a week.

      Reply
    • For me it’s not about the level of the sound, it’s about actual noise it makes. The constant “knocking” of the Pickleball is annoying for me, and many other tennis players I know.

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    • Loud vs not loud doesn’t matter. It’s a function of frequency. A tennis ball ”thud” is predominantly lower frequencies, to which out ears are not as sensitive. A pickleball “clang” is dominated by higher frequencies, to which human ears are more sensitive. So your “fact” needs further expositing.

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    • It’s not a loud hollow high pitched sound like a pickle ball. So science or not it will always be more annoying than a tennis ball

      Reply
  2. I am finding that after a period of time, the super competitive skilled people try to eliminate those who are more fun-oriented. or “newbies”……they will manipulate whatever system a group is using to “next to play”……..Sometimes if’s not possible for the folks who are more fun-oriented to separate themselves from those folks.
    So if you’re one of those “too good to play with you” people………………..make room in your world for the “less fortunate”

    Reply
      • Same here!! Vicki, I was so happy to see your comments. Not because they make me happy…but because I can so relate. I started playing in 2016 through my town rec department. Great sport…before it was trendy. Our group was inclusive and friendly and wonderful, and then…that first manipulative person entered the scene and decided he lived and breathed pickleball and everyone else must, too! As people got more serious about the game, we divided into ‘rec’ and ‘competitive’ groups. I played with competitive folks for years because it matched my skillset, but then finally, in the last 2 years or so, realized how ridiculous the seriousness was…I heard a lot of stories of exclusion from my friends in the ‘rec’ session and all-around poor sportsmanship-type behavior. I witnessed so much odd behavior, people shaking their heads in frustration if their partner didn’t make the point. Or commenting – even yelling – about what their partner should’ve done or how they should play. Or witnessing exclusion of other players, even within the competitive group. And if you’re wondering how to spread your intensity to the detriment of your partner, I would suggest screaming “YOURS!!!” as your partner is winding up to take a shot that’s coming right to their forehand. After enjoying the intense competitive play for years, I now play in the occasional rec group or private pickup games with people I ENJOY and actually LIKE. We laugh, we hit balls…sometimes we forget to call it and it’s a missed shot and we get a laugh out of it instead of frustration or anger….much more my speed.

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        • Omg, you nailed it. That is exactly how I feel… how ever I am an intermediate player. Want to have fun, improve and get exercise. I keep asking myself after losing every game I played in a 2 hour period, do I really Enjoy this. It’s hard to play with others at a higher level that do all the negative things you spoke about.

          Reply
          • Hi Suz,
            Thank you for taking the time to read my article and leave a comment. Yes, you do enjoy playing pickleball! That is most important. I’m sure you would agree. No doubt you will improve over time, though I hope you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself to do so. And please don’t get frustrated about losing every game in two hours. Shrug it off, don’t ruin the fun you’re having! Don’t let others ruin it either. Just keep playing, enjoy the workout, and stay fit.
            All the best,
            David Boyle – Pickleball Portal

    • Absolutely-I played this GAME (only capped because the addicted Pickleball players will tell you it is not a game anymore-sad) before it became the most popular sport-people were always competitive but now it is a battle-I can’t afford any more injuries by the aggressive players-gone beyond fun

      Reply
  3. The name really is “public enemy #1”. It kept me from playing 4 years sooner. As soon as I heard “geezer ball” I was out n I was 50.
    As for a “workout”? SERIOUSLY!?
    if you play with ANY vigor and live in the southwest, I’ve found NOTHING that comes close.
    Maybe only basketball gets your heart pumping more, and it’s the “start stop” action that really makes a difference..
    Toss the rest of the list as “sour grapes”…
    Pickleball is NOT Tennis..
    Get over it.

    Reply
    • If you are suggesting that a sport where you stand in one place and wave a racquet with your arms is as vigorous as something like basketball, a sport where you run up and down a long court constantly, well then you have lost all credibility right there. Anything else you say can’t be taken seriously.

      Reply
      • Hey Thomas, Dan here. As a basketball player myself, I agree and understand where you are coming from! I also have to confess that when I played singles pickleball last week in the Florida heat, I found the quick back and forth movements to be demanding and was exhausted after just a few games. Then again, any activity outside when its 100 degrees will become intense haha.

        Reply
  4. Hi Matt. Loved your article.
    I believe we should make rules that improve the quality of the game. Not rules that make a game that is already whacky….worse.
    For example, who was the wayward soul who came up with the idea of allowing a person to hit the net on the serve?!!! Worst rule ever in the history of mankind. I HATE that rule. Haven’t seen anyone return it yet. And don’t expect to. In every sport that has a net, hitting it on the serve is a fault. Period. As it should be. And what is the excuse of the other people on the committee that agreed to this horrible idea???
    Someone told me the rule is only experimental and could be reversed next year. I certainly hope so.

    Reply
    • I have found that pickleball players love to scream scream scream. Not just on a winning shot, but EVERY shot. This and the sound of paddle hitting the ball can really disrupt those playing tennis at the same facility. Additionally, there are often 8 players jammed into 2 courts. All within the boundaries of 1 tennis court.

      Reply
      • You hit the nail right on the head. I live across the street from the pickleball courts in my local park. And I play occasionally in the evenings.
        The courts open at 0600, when many in the neighborhood are enjoying a walk along the creek or coffee in their deck, that’s me.
        The sound of the ball and paddle is not a bother… it’s the screaming. And for what??? I swear it’s just noise. It doesn’t even match the pattern of play.
        (Side note: for some reason it only seems to be the real ‘serious’ early morning group that does the yelling. )

        Reply
  5. Another rule that would vastly increase the quality of the game would be to have the offensive players make the call, NOT the defenders. Why? Two reasons. First off, the team that hits the ball has a better angle and look at the ball 90% of the time. Yup, they do. Better look down the middle, better look down the sidelines, and better look at the kitchen line. That leaves only the baseline. Ok, fine. Let the receiving team call the baseline shots. No problem.
    How many times have your good shots been called out? And how many times have you seen long or wide shots called in? And almost invariably that one missed call completely changes the nature of the game. Point lost or side out.
    I am not suggesting that players are cheating. They just aren’t getting the best look at the ball!!!!
    In addition, most partners will not reverse a call or “get it right” because any disagreement will result in a lost point or fault. Even though they know their partner for it wrong. This poor rule encourages a lack of ethics. I’ve seen it time and again. It’s cheating, literally. I say get the call right. If people need to vote on it then do so. If no one can agree then replay it. Simple. The rule as it stands is not good for pickleball. Nor would it be good for any other sport for that matter. No other sport has such a silly rule. Why should pickleball?

    Reply
  6. The game is slow and clumsy and will never be watchable for a tennis player.
    I won’t play it as construed, instead I play ‘house rules’.

    1. No two bounce rule on serve. Serve must land but volley on return is fine.
    2. No one up, one back. All points start behind service line. Double fault and point penalty to
    cross before ball lands.
    3. No let on serve. Play if touches the net.
    4. Ball touching line is in.
    5. Volley in kitchen is ok when moving forward. Stationary volley in kitchen is penalty point.
    6. Winner on return is receiver point and switches service.

    Reply
  7. I agree that a let on a serve unless it lands out or in the kitchen should be replayed. Just like tennis!

    Reply
  8. As an avid tennis player, I confess I have an urge to arrogantly look down on pickeball – given its name and low skill level required. On the other hand, I acknowledge how it may be fun and beneficial for many people, and see it in a more favourable way.

    However, I still can’t help myself but to think that healthy, younger people playing it is pathetic and a big waste of coordination and stamina that is better used in tennis, padel or even squash.

    Reply
  9. This was a very good balanced piece, thank you. I’ve been playing pickleball regularly for about 2 years — 74 year old male — with no prior racquet experience except for ping-pong (basement recreation in my teens) and squash (in my twenties). Tennis always seemed to have a very high barrier to entry for reasonably decent recreational play — requiring lessons and considerable commitment, kind of like golf. Perhaps unfairly, it seemed a bit exclusive and elitist — a country club sport.

    So far, at least for me, pickleball has no time/fitness barrier at all and it’s fun immediately — it’s kind of like I’ve been miniaturized and placed on a ping-pong table. For seniors, it’s generally not very competitive. I also find that — despite the hype from supporters — it’s not a particularly good work-out, particularly for cardio work, even after hours of play. It does help with balance and coordination and hand-eye, and I hope that it helps the aging brain a bit. But I find that I really need to supplement it with resistance training (weights) and more rigorous cardio (biking, running).

    There is a social aspect that I thought I would hate (extreme introvert) since nearly all the games (particularly for seniors) are doubles. But I’ve found even that aspect kind of nice and I’ve met a lot of neighbors in our community that I would not have talked to absent pickleball. I have no clue whether it will continue its momentum as a sport, or become a niche low-impact recreational activity like badminton or table tennis. But I’ve found it surprisingly addictive. I do understand the relative lack of respect paid to the support by tennis players — “tennis for non-athletes” — a fair criticism, at least as I have experienced it at our suburban Virginia courts. But for seniors like me who are, admittedly and unashamedly, non-athletes, it provides a very nice outdoor social recreational activity.

    Reply
    • Sounds like you are in incredible shape for your age John! That’s awesome! I am 24, and currently dealing with back issues that prevent me from playing right now haha. Thanks for your thoughts and insight! My parents have also found it surprisingly addictive haha. And I tend to agree, pickleball is less of a sport than tennis is. Also, we are getting ready to do some major changes and upgrades to our site, one of them being a guest review program that gives those who love the sport a chance to test out some gear and give their own opinions. If any of this sounds interesting, don’t hesitate to reach out!

      Reply
    • Try playing singles pickleball for that cardio requirement. I promise it will make a difference! I’m 64, played recreational tennis and played competitive sports when younger. I discovered pickleball about five years ago. I found it to be a better option over tennis since the court is much smaller. I’ve tried playing doubles, but it’s just not for me. Scoring in singles is much less confusing and I like taking responsibility for my own play all the time. It’s a struggle though because everyone I know wants me to play doubles and they seem to take issue with me not wanting to.

      Reply
  10. Face it – Pickleballers are selfish. They unrealistically decide to ignore the reality that listening to whack after whack after whack is in fact annoying to everyone else in the world. You wouldn’t hesitate to call the police with a noise complaint if your neighbor played loud music to 4am every night, but you simply cannot understand why others dont want to listen to your ridiculous popping sounds all day long.

    Grow up and take some responsibility for your societal role, or remain the self-centered person you are.

    Reply
    • Thank you Joe. I agree whole heartedly. The sound of pickleball is beyond annoying and placement should be well thought out before installing in an existing community.

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      • Hey Effie, funny story I just bought a new townhome and found out soon after that they are building several pickleball courts directly behind the townhome. Should be interesting!

        Reply
    • I agree wholeheartedly Joe. I’ve seen such uproar over the noise, and even in my heyday, playing as much as I did….I am sensitive to noise and I would find the pop-pop-pop and screaming players incredibly obnoxious to have to listen to day in and day out.

      Reply
  11. Pickleball is what it is. Tennis is what it is. The rules and the way it is played makes pickleball unique. Don’t look for pickleball to fade as young people are getting into the game. The sport is growing every year. It’s a sport for all ages.

    Reply
  12. Oh, Come on now! Your friends hating pickleball? That’s like hating sunshine on a picnic day! But you know what they say, haters gonna hate, and lovers gonna love pickleball. It’s all in good fun, and if they give it a shot, who knows, they might get hooked and join the pickleball frenzy🤷🏻‍♂️

    Reply
    • Sunshine on a picnic day, that’s funny… Haha. Totally agree. I know people that hate the game, but have never even played. Born haters…

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  13. I am an aging tennis player and have played some PB. PB has lots of bending, glutes, quads, and hamstring workout. Nothing beats the pleasure of a nice, one handed backhand return or the fluid strokes of tennis. PB does sharpen some reflexes at the net. I did see a younger man smash a shot into an older woman. She was not quick enough to fend it off. The ball hit her face, made her sunglasses fall to the ground. She had to lay on the ground to recover, but was able to get up and play again. That was sad to watch. On our mixed level tennis courts, I have not seen that happen with the experience of our players. We manage to get the racket on the ball or on occasion, take a defensive position. We have had years and decades of balls coming at us and can deal with it. Will inexperienced PB without the tennis experience will have a steep learning curve with this situation? I also agree that young, athletic minded folks should seriously consider tennis. There are so many incredible tennis models for young men and women these days. Amazing skill and inclusiveness. As for noisy players…I can’t stand screamers like Azarenka nor people who talk constantly on the tennis court during a game.

    Reply
  14. I am thankful for all of the comments here as they helped me understand the game better. Many of my (retired and too athletic) friends started playing pickleball lately, and talk about it all the time. I admit that I do not know much about it but am already annoyed. The noise is one aspect I never thought about before, and for me it is a deal breaker. I hope everyone enjoys their pickleball activities away from my neighborhood.

    Reply
  15. I don’t hate pickleball. I hate pickleball players! Why? (Disclaimer: Tennis player here)
    They are freaking loud. Not just the ball against the paddle, but all the yelling. And the music! They bring their portable stereos and blast some hideous 80s music…
    They take over the tennis courts. There’s a public facility with two courts that I used to enjoy playing on, one with a backboard on one end of one court. Both are striped for pickleball, so that’s four pickleball courts on the two tennis courts. Where do the pickleballers play? On the one side of the court that has the backboard.
    I’m just hoping that pickleball goes the way of racquetball.

    Reply
    • Randal, Thank you for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it. People who behave like that are inconsiderate and disrespectful. However, their behavior does not mean that all pickleball players are jerks. A pickleball player myself, I’ve always been respectful and courteous on court. And while I’ve come across unkind tennis players from time to time I very much like most of the players I’ve shared a court with. Some of them have gone after our balls and brought them back, watched us play and made friendly conversation; I’ve done the same. I respect tennis players and appreciate their talent and their game. Maybe one day you will hold a more favorable opinion of pickleball players, the majority of whom just want to enjoy the outdoors like everybody else, exercising and having fun at the same time. Thanks for listening.

      Reply

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