Phones in Pickleball?

Phones in Pickleball?

Maybe it’s coaching. Maybe it’s a spam call. Maybe it’s a text message.

More and more players on the PPA Tour are relying on their phones during matches, but the question is, what’s going on and is it illegal?

Can you hear me now?

Rule 3.A.2 clearly states, “Coaching is the communication of any information, including verbal, nonverbal and electronic from someone other than a player’s partner, that a player or team may act upon to gain an advantage or help them avoid a rules violation.” 

That seems pretty straightforward and obvious, and if the only time a player can absorb information and coaching is between games and during the short timeouts, it stands to reason that screens and phones would be powered up and ready to go for those short breaks.

“I’ve never done this,” said PPA player Tyler Loong, but I have noticed many players doing this. I don’t think it’s a good look for the sport or player.”

It might not be a good look, but it could be a huge advantage. While many other sports have coaches, personnel, and others on the sideline helping with all sorts of elements, in pickleball, it’s just the player, a paddle, and the opponent, so there’s not a lot to rely on. Football players are often seen on the sideline with a headset on or even looking at a tablet - clearly receiving help from others, and that even happens between plays. It’s allowed, but not in pickleball.

At least not yet.

The current rule says the only coaching a player can receive is during timeouts and in between games. However, the ability for players to get coaching is going to expand next year with the USAP adopting coaching being allowed at any time except during a live rally. That means, there will be plenty of technological help as well as a lot of in-person help.

Many PPA matches are live-streamed and the ones that aren’t are often being recorded, so a break in the action might mean a chance for a player to check out the phone, watch a quick replay of a point, and possibly gain some valuable information.

“It might be a chance to mentally refocus if things aren’t going well,” said PPA Tour player Ryan Sherry. “Or you could be looking at your notes. There are a lot who watch their matches online. When you’re in the heat of battle, you might not realize you’ve missed six forehands in a row down the line and you might need to change it up.”

“I’ve noticed it a bit but I try not to focus on other things outside of myself and the things I need to do well when I’m playing,” said PPA pro Aanik Lohani. “Realistically, they are probably looking at replays.”

Just make sure that phone is off and silent when the game resumes. 

“I don’t like getting involved in that,” said PPA referee Don Stanley. “Unless I’m sure there’s coaching, I don’t get involved. They could be texting, or making a dinner reservation.”

They could be, Stanley is right, but Stanley said unless it’s blatant he doesn’t want refereeing turning a pickleball match into a police state. 

“There’s nothing that requires me to see what’s going on when a player is on his or her phone,” Stanley said. If I see or hear coaching, I have a rule that allows me to handle it.”