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Beginner Tips: What Is Open Play Pickleball?

Pickleball open play gives players a chance to play with new players to up their skills and get some extra practice in.

Some clubs do it, and it works as a great introduction to the fantastic pickleball play for newbies.

Whether you’re new to the sport or have been around for a while now, you may wonder what pickleball open play is.

What Is Pickleball Open Play?

two guys playing pickleball
image: Picklerpeej, see page for license, via Wikimedia Commons

Pickleball open play is when different players, irrespective of their skill level, play on the courts, rotate in different games and play with the other players there.

Playing with multiple players of different skill levels can help players practice their skills and bring a very social element into the game.

Pickleball players simply turn up at the courts during open play, which is a set period for play.

You don’t have to be concerned about finding three more players or being unable to play.

Finding out where and when is all that is required before showing up with a paddle in hand – ready to hit the court!

Some clubs divide games and put weaker players together and more advanced players together.

While other clubs let people of different levels play together.

Most clubs have a certain set of rules, written or unwritten, and it is best to get well-informed before getting on that court.

Open play is recreational play for players to have a good time, socialize, and improve their game.

You might have to play with a weaker opponent or a stronger one – whatever the case is, you’ll have a good time!

Player Rotation Ideas For Open Play

The following are some rotation ideas to use during pickleball open play, and with a basic strategy, you’ll be good to go!

Rally Scoring

Regardless of who served, each rally receives a point under the rally scoring system.

Obviously, games move faster when rally scoring is used.

Additionally, their time duration is more consistent and predictable.

The disadvantage is that some players may object to such a “drastic” alteration because they believe rally scoring “messes with the essence of the game.”

Musical Chairs

First-In, First-Out. It’s pretty easy to do this.

Place the chairs in a row, so those leaving the courts sit at one end and those entering the court after them sit at the other.

Then, as fresh players enter the court, it’s musical chairs, with everyone moving to the next chair.

Smaller Scores

Another great to make the game a bit shorter is to play for a smaller final score.

This works well when there are loads of players.

Make Use Of A Timer

Set your timer between 10 to 12 minutes.

This guarantees equal playing time for all players.

Four fresh players enter each court once the timer goes off, and the previous four players leave to join the waiting line.

All courts will finish at the exact same time with a timer.

“Winners Stay and Split”

“Winners-Stay-and-Split” is often used if there is a long waiting queue.

The winning team gets to play an additional game, while the losing team needs to drop two players and send them back to the waiting queue.

These players, who were partners in the previous game, “split” and play against one another in the subsequent game.

One player is frequently only allowed to play a maximum of two or three games before being asked to join the waiting list, whether they win or lose, in order to prevent dominance and monopolization of open play time.

Four Players On And Four Players Off

It is highly recommended to switch four players on and four players off after each game when the courts are crowded.

The “waiting queue” gets shorter faster, but the four players who were eliminated will usually be paired up again in the subsequent game because they all return to the queue in the exact same order.

Paddle Rack

Paddles (players) are arranged in a rack arrangement, or possibly in improvised buckets or crates, along the queue.

You place your paddle in the next bucket or box or at the very end of the paddle rack after leaving the court. 

You take your paddle out of the paddle rack (or box or bucket) and proceed to the court when it is your turn to play.

Make sure your name is on your paddle because if it isn’t, there will undoubtedly be bottlenecks because you can’t be sure whose paddle is coming after yours.

A two-paddle rack arrangement, one for the “winners” who leave the court and one for the “losers,” is a nice variation.

Games will be more competitive if there are separate racks since players with similar skills will be placed together.

Sometimes it is best to put a weaker player with another weak player, and the same goes for a stronger player.

Work On A Skill Or New Ability

From game to game, open play might vary greatly.

You may occasionally find yourself in a thrilling, evenly-balanced match that ends in a 10-10 tie.

However, some games will only last three minutes and end in an 11-1 score.

The 10-10 game definitely offers you a lot to work on.

However, the 11-1 game might occasionally seem pointless.

Choose ONE thing to focus on during open play, such as improving the consistency and depth of your return serve to make the most of your time there.

Then, keep your attention on your returns of serve rather than worrying about the results of the games.

By doing this, you will have a measurement tool that is far more useful than victories or losses.

If you are an experienced player or not, just choose one skill or tactic to work on.

You can practice different skills in different games or depending on the pickleball player you play with.

Final Thoughts

Pickleball matches with open play may be a lot of fun to experiment with different player combinations.

Some result in thrilling matches, while others can be boring and fail.

At the end of the day, it is always good fun to play around on the court with other people and get in some extra practice.