Your Biggest Gripe

By Matthew Schwartz

June 27, 2024


Although we love this game with the silly name, it’s human nature to complain at least once in a while. Pickleball players, while loving 99 percent of every aspect of the sport, are no different (although I think we are nicer and more welcoming in general than most of the population). I like to get readers opinions periodically, so I asked players and some of the top paddle reviewers: What is your single biggest gripe about pickleball rec play?

Chris Beaumont, 45, Stoke-on-Trent, England: “My single biggest gripe is people picking on the weaker player relentlessly in a rec game. Yes, they need to be challenged to improve (we all do) but it can take the “better” player out of a game for long periods which is equally not fun as being picked on!”

Todd Boynton, 55, Greenfield, MA: “I loathe people who won’t play with everybody. Rec play is open play. Stick to leagues and tournaments, ya d**ks!” (Todd is fired-up about this and used slang for a part of a male’s anatomy.)

Quentin Walls, 60, Pickerington, OH: “My biggest gripe about playing rec pickleball is people who take it too seriously. It's just a game, none of us are getting paid for it, and we were all beginners at some point. At the end of the day, I'm just there to socialize, exercise and have fun. No need for the temper tantrums, self deprecation, bad calls, etc. Just have fun.”

Kathleen Keel, 65, Candler, NC: “My gripe (and I really don’t have any big ones honestly) is that some people sign up and don’t show, or sign up for both earlier and later sessions and take up possible spots others could have taken. People also don’t sign up and then show up. I just wish there was more accountability. That helps with everyone being able to play as much as they can in their allotted time.”

Kevin Huff, 55, Anderson, IN: “There aren’t enough people organizing play…too many players hope to get invited but don’t actively work to get something going on their own.”

Barney Agate, 69, Tamarac, FL: “My gripe…when volunteer leaders have put great effort into setting up scheduling apps…and too many won’t use them.”

I also asked some of the most popular paddle reviewers for their biggest gripe.

John Williams, 52, Lafayette, CO, better known as Johnkew, operator of the Johnkew Pickleball website and YouTube channel: “I think my biggest gripe would be when people take it too seriously and forget to have fun. I'm guilty of this sometimes, too, and I have to remind myself to focus on what matters. Being competitive is fine, as long as you don't lose sight of what got you into pickleball in the first place: the inherent fun of the game.”

Braydon Unsicker, 31, Nampa, ID, who runs the Pickleball Effect website and YouTube channel and is a 5.0 player: “For open play rec my biggest gripe is wait times and uneven levels of players on the court. But I don't do much open play, nearly all my stuff is organized with players that are the same level as me. Will get a group of four together and play for two hours.”

Steven Shipler, 33, Scottsdale AZ, who operates the STS Pickleball channel on YouTube. “Honestly, my biggest gripe about playing rec pickleball is when people choose to be cold and offish with others. My dad was recently in town and he loves to have fun and has a pretty wild play style. A few of the guys I frequently play with at my local courts showed no emotion when he joked and didn't smile when he was having a great time. The next game with a different set of guys not only was the play more competitive, but everyone was smiling and joking around and shooting the s***. I've noticed this a lot in pickleball rec play where it can get very clicky and cold, and I think people need to relax a bit, smile, enjoy themselves, and lighten up a bit! This is not everyone, but it is a much more enjoyable experience when everyone is light and fun even at higher levels and in competitive rec matches. Pickleball is so damn fun!”

Lynn Hopkins, 34, Morristown, TN, the paddle reviewer better known as Farmer Lanky: “I don’t have many gripes for open play other than the lack of courts for rec play in my hometown. We have one good outdoor court and tennis courts. It's not a fun experience. Hopefully some get put in but that's all I have to gripe about to be honest.”

Dustin Fowkes, 33, Chapel Hill, NC, paddle reviewer who runs the Pickleball Medicine website and YouTube channel: “My single biggest grip is that we never have enough courts! I love the social aspect of pickleball, but I hate waiting long periods between games due to high demand. If we paved the roads with pickleball courts instead of asphalt, that may finally meet the court demand we so often feel the brunt of, haha.”

My biggest gripe: Joyless players. You know the kind. They rarely smile and you wonder why they’re there. Fortunately, in my four years of playing I can think of only two guys and one or two women who were like that. I tried to avoid playing with them but when I did, I was enthusiastic, positive and complemented them on good shots. Maybe I smiled more to show them how much damn fun I was having. I’m not going to let anyone ruin my fun while playing this wonderful game.


My thoughts of the week, not all pickleball

-Rest in peace, Donald Sutherland. One of the greatest actors of our time died on June 20th at 88 after an unspecified long illness. Sutherland appeared in nearly 200 films and television shows. His versatility was such that he could be both menacing and charming in the same role.

-After watching the eye-opening documentary Food, Inc. on Amazon Prime, if I hadn’t quit eating meat in 2018 I certainly would now. Food Inc 2 is out now and I’ll watch that soon.

-I’d rather lose a competitive match in pickleball rec play against a strong team than win 11-2 vs. weaker ones. You improve playing against better players. In most sports you tend to play up or down to your competition. If the other team is far inferior, I’ll use the match to work on specific shots.

-The city where I play pickleball most of the time, Asheville, NC, still does not have one dedicated public pickleball court. And since May 24th, no nets on the shared (with tennis) public courts. You have to bring your own net or rent one for a week from the city. The city’s parks and recreation department removed the nets it had provided without warning and hasn’t replaced them. The city said some pickleball players neglected to roll the heavy nets off to the side when they were done playing, causing divots on a couple of recently resurfaced courts. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the researchers who rank Asheville among the top cities for retirees must not be pickleball players.

Asheville’s parks and recreation department keeps saying it supports the pickleball community. To that I say: Actions speak louder than words.