Playing Pickleball Up and Down

The Pros and Cons of Playing Pickleball Up and Down

Skill Levels in Pickleball

Pickleball has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. As more people flock to the game, the skill levels of players at open play sessions at gyms and outdoor courts have become increasingly diverse. This has sparked a debate about the pros and cons of playing with others who are at higher and lower skill levels.

Playing “Up” and “Down” in Pickleball

The concept of playing “up” or “down” in pickleball refers to engaging in games with players who are either more skilled (playing “up”) or less skilled (playing “down”) than you.

Pros of Playing “Up” in Pickleball

Improvement: Playing with more skilled players can help you improve your game. You can learn new strategies, improve your reaction time, and gain experience in handling more challenging shots.

Challenge: Playing “up” in pickleball can be exciting and challenging. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to strive for better performance.

Networking: Playing with higher-level players can also help you build relationships with more experienced players. And these players can provide advice and mentorship.

Cons of Playing “Up” in Pickleball

Frustration: If the skill gap is too wide, you may find yourself losing frequently, which can be frustrating and demotivating.

Limited Participation: Higher-level players may prefer to play with others at their own level, limiting your opportunities to play “up” in pickleball.

Pros of Playing “Down” in Pickleball

Teaching Opportunity: Playing with less skilled players gives you the chance to pass on your knowledge and help others improve.

Skill Refinement: It can also provide an opportunity to work on specific aspects of your game. Such as dinking or your slow game, in a less pressured environment.

Cons of Playing “Down” in Pickleball

Limited Challenge: Playing with less skilled players may not provide the challenge you need to improve your own game.

Frustration: If the skill gap is too wide, it can be frustrating if the game is not competitive enough. Or if the less skilled players make frequent errors.

The Social Aspect of Skill Levels in Pickleball

The discussion around skill levels in pickleball isn’t just about the game itself. It also touches on social dynamics and etiquette. Some players feel that those who overestimate their abilities and insist on playing in higher-level games can disrupt the balance and enjoyment for others. This can lead to feelings of frustration and exclusion.

On the other hand, some players argue that everyone should remember they were beginners once and that it’s important to be inclusive and supportive of less skilled players. They believe that the spirit of pickleball is about having fun and enjoying the game, regardless of skill level.


The debate about playing “up” or “down” in pickleball is complex and multifaceted. It’s about balancing personal improvement with respect for others’ enjoyment of the game. It’s about fostering an inclusive community while also providing opportunities for players to challenge themselves and grow.

Ultimately, the key may lie in self-awareness and situational awareness. Players should be honest about their skill levels and respectful of the skill levels of others. They should strive to improve but also be willing to support others in their improvement. And above all, they should remember that pickleball, like any sport, is about more than just winning or losing. Pickleball is about having fun, staying active, and building community.

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