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Referee standing courtside
Referee standing courtside at the 2023 North Carolina Open. PPA Tour

The referee misses a call... What do you do?

DALLAS, TX – We’ve all had that special moment on the pickleball court.

A line call seems ambiguous... and time seemingly slows down while you contemplate your next move. You’re at a crossroads. Do you call it out or just let it go and move on? 

Or how about this scenario? Out of the corner of your eye, you see your partner foot fault across the kitchen line and the referee doesn’t catch it. 

Do you call it? Do you stay silent?

It’s all based on the honor system, especially in rec play. Gregory Kent Young posed this question on the Pickleball Facebook Forum, and as per usual, things got interesting. 

“You see your partner make a clear NVZ foot fault. Referee misses it. What do you do?” asked Young.

“No question, do the right thing,” shared Sarah Smith, implying you should call out your partner's mistake.

“Integrity – that’s what you do,” wrote Ryan Shults. 

“Call it. It’s integrity for both you and the game. Besides, you’ll gain respect from other players,” said Skip Sorich.

Three referees stand in the middle of a court during a time out
Three referees at the 2023 North Carolina Open. PPA Tour

The overwhelming majority of players in the Forum claimed integrity and good sportsmanship matter above all else. Whether you’re winning or losing, call it fairly, because at the end of the day, it’s just a game.

“I don’t want to win by cheating, intentionally or not. I have to sleep at night, there’s more to life than winning a point by cheating. It’s the small things like this that reveals one’s character,” noted Ernie Medina Jr.

“It all depends on how ethical of a sportsman you are,” said David Hoel. 

However, a counter-argument emerged:

“If there’s a referee then why on earth would I call it?” asked Tanner Cervenka. 

“Do nothing. That’s the ref’s job. If the ref is blind then keep doing it,” said Albert Chavez.

“I’d say nothing since it is the referee’s job to see it and call it. If he/she doesn’t catch it, then consider yourself lucky and play on,” wrote Shelly McCune Greenwood. 

“Just say to them quietly, ‘watch your feet’ but I’m no snitch,” said Joshua Alexander Carriere. 

When it comes to referees, it’s easy to forget that there’s always room for human error. While they usually catch everything, it’s impossible to be perfect. 

Either way, those who stressed integrity didn't appreciate this stance.

A lagre group of referees standing in a circle talking
Referee meeting at the 2023 North Carolina Open. PPA Tour

Don Stanley, the head referee at the PPA Tour, shared his thoughts on the Forum, too. 

“It’s in the rules with or without a ref; players are expected to call faults on themselves. It’s the height of sportsmanship and integrity in my opinion. I’m saddened at some of these answers,” said Stanley.  

At the end of the day, how you decide to handle these unique situations is a choice you need to make. It's always on the player, so make it a fair game. 

But, as the old adage goes: “Cheaters never prosper.”

What’s your stance on this argument? Leave us a comment on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).

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