Thursday, October 28, 2021

Time for a Time Out

American football referee with calling a time out vector isolated on white background.

Most sports have “time outs” which are initiated and utilized by coaches for variety of strategic reasons. As sports fans, we are used to seeing time outs being called in our favorite team sports that we regularly watch on television. However, the majority of recreational pickleball players are not aware of the fact that the sport of pickleball has a timeout rule as well.

Though generally not used in social/recreational play, time outs can be a viable strategy in tournament competition.

First off, let’s review the rule as it appears in the USAPA & IFP Official Tournament Rulebook.

11.A. Normal Time-Outs. A player or team is entitled to two time-outs per game; each time-out period shall last only one minute. Then play must be resumed or another timeout must be called by either side. Time-outs may never be called once the ball is in play or the server has started the serving motion. For games to 21 points, each team is allowed three time-outs per game.

Okay, so now that we are aware of and understand the definition of the time out rule, let’s review how and why it should be strategically applied during tournament competition.

Fundamentally speaking, time outs are utilized to break our opponent’s momentum and provide ourselves time to regroup, refocus, and re-strategize.

Following suit of one of my favorite comedians, Jeff Foxworthy, with his, “You may be a redneck if…”

  • Here are a few helpful hints on when you may want to call a time out.
  • If your opponents have scored more than six or seven straight points in a row on server number one, you may want to call a time out.
  • If your score is zero to eight, or higher, you may want to call a time out.
  • If your team loses your serve rotation, back to back, two turns in a row, without scoring any points, you may want to call a time out.
  • If you become confused because your opponents begin applying a new strategy against you, like stacking in their positional set up, you may want to call a time out.

Momently speaking, how do we know when to, or when not to, call a time out? (Beyond the above mentioned and somewhat obvious Jeff Foxworthy time out calls).

For instance, if you are battling it out, point by point, with multiple side outs at nine or 10 all in the game, I personally believe this is not a good time to call a time out, because, in actuality, you are not only breaking your opponents’ stride, but your own as well.

On the flip side of that, if it’s been a really close game and all of a sudden, say at five points all, your opponents score three or four quick points in a row on the server number one rotation, this would be a good time to call a time out.

Like a free throw in basketball or a field goal in football, the successful goal of utilizing a time out is to break my opponents’ momentum and give them time to think about (or overthink) what they are doing.

In line with that theory, as a social competitive tennis player, whenever my opponent was playing really well and beating me, I would use an old, somewhat evil, but very effective ploy. During a change over, I would casually mention and compliment him on the fact that he was serving better than I had ever seen him serve before. Well, sure enough, more times than not, he would start to think about it and a couple of games later, I would get a break of serve! I refer to this tactic as “the curse of the compliment.”

Either way, time outs are a strategical option for us to use, to find a way to apply the brakes on our opponents, put out the fire, re-group, and hopefully turn things around into our favor.

The key to strategically and effectively utilizing a time out, is all about timing. So make sure you know when it’s “Time for a Time Out.”

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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