Skip to Content

How to Become a Pickleball Referee

Pickleball referee watching the game.

Who can be a referee?  With pickleball, you do not need any particular diploma to be a referee. You only need a good knowledge of the rules of the game.

This is essential, as well as some training, if you have never played the game before. The rules are specific. You can find videos online to show you the procedure in more detailed fashion.

This is especially true if you are still in doubt after training. You will be taught how to officiate the game, how the game is scored and lots more.

What is the role of the referee?

Before starting the game, the referee is expected to explain to the players the type of game (number of games for a match, number of points for each game, side changes), authorized time-outs, his role in brief, ask who will be the first player ( the one who serves first) on each team, draw lots and obtain the choice of teams to serve or receive, and the side of the field.

During the game

During the game, the referee should give the score after ensuring that the receiver is ready, check for service errors (foot fault, misplaced players, let ball or fault, and, once the exchange has started, check for foot faults in the ZNV (kitchen); at the end of the exchange 3 possible announcements: “point”, “server change”, “side change”; check timeouts.

The end of the game

At the end of the game: announce the score and have the score sheet signed by the server on the winning side.

Does the referee call all faults?

Players having discussion during the pickleball tournament.

No, he calls only foot faults and kick-off faults. It is the players who announce the “out” balls. The home team declares the fault.

If the opposing team disputes, it asks the referee for its position; if he is able to answer, the referee announces his judgment, which is final. However, he can also declare that he has not seen, in which case the home team decides.

When does the referee announce the foot fault?

He does so immediately, whether on serve or during a volley. When does the referee announce a fault by the server (or the home team)? If the server is not on the right side (right if he is the first server and if the score of his team is even, left if it is odd (the reverse if it is not the first server) or if it is not the right server, he announces the fault only after the ball is served.

Likewise, if the receivers are not on the right side, the fault is announced after the ball has been played by them; such faults automatically lead to the change of the server and, possibly, the cancellation of the point if they are committed by the serving team. If the error is on the other side, the point is won by the servers.

Pickleball Master Course by Steve Dawson ($199)

The positioning questions

Can a player who is not sure of being correctly positioned ask the referee what is going on? Yes and this is of no consequence; so if in doubt, ask the referee. In general, the referee who notices that there is a positioning fault which is going to be committed, repeats the score with a little insistence…

Who requests a time-out?

Any of the two teams can ask for a time out. It lasts one minute and there can only be one time-out per game and per team. In case of interruption of the game, each player places his racket on the ground on the side where he will be at the next service. The server puts the ball under his racket; on the restart, the players resume play where they put their racket.

Do the teams change sides during a match?

Mixed doubles starting to play the pickleball game.

If the match is played in one game, on the announcement of the referee, each team moves towards the opposing field in the middle of the game (for example, when the score reaches 6 for a game up to 11). The server positions themselves on the side diagonally opposite to that on which they would have served if there had been no change of side.

If the match is played in several parts, the teams change sides at each end of the game and the designated servers will serve alternately, if it is the third part (hypothesis of match with two winning games). The referee announces the change of sides as soon as the score reached by a team reaches the maximum score divided by two plus one.

How do you decide who will serve first or choose the field?

A woman serving the ball in a pickleball game.

Before starting the match, the referee writes the number 1 or 2 on the back of the score card; then he will ask one of the players to choose 1 or 2; if the number announced is the one on the back of the sheet, the winning team decides whether it wants to choose to serve or receive or prefers the choice of the side; if it chose to serve or to receive, the other team will choose the side where it wishes to play; and vice versa.

If one of the players or one of the teams does not show up for the match, the referee announces the result by forfeit, giving victory to the complete team. The team that was not can still continue the tournament if it still has a match to play (especially in the case of double eliminations).


The first step to take in becoming a pickleball referee is to study the game and have enough knowledge to officiate the games. The next step is to attend different games and watch from the sidelines. Take note of how the other referees are approaching the game.

Finally, approach an organization that has a team and ask if they are interested in hiring you. Make sure you are prepared. You can also start off voluntarily before taking a paid position. As a volunteer, they will hire you faster.