Pickleball comes with its own set of unique rules on when it’s illegal (or legal) to touch the pickleball with your body.
In this article let’s look at what happens when a pickleball touches you. We’ll serve up answers to common questions like:
- When does touching the ball lead to a fault?
- Are there any scenarios where touching the pickleball is allowed?
- Frequently asked questions around your body, hair or clothing touching the ball, including what the infamous ‘Nasty Nelson’ is.
What Happens if the Ball Hits You in Pickleball?
In almost all situations, if the pickleball touches any part of your body or clothing – it is considered a fault. If this occurs the opposing team wins the point or gains a sideout. However, there is one situation where it’s okay for the ball to touch you - if the ball makes contact below the wrist of any part of the hand you’re using to hold the paddle, this is a legal touch and the point continues.
What Happens if the Pickleball Touches Your Clothing or Hair?
According to official pickleball rules, any part of your hair and clothing are not allowed to touch the ball. If either touches the pickleball – even if it’s just a graze – it’s considered a fault and the opposing team will get a point or sideout.
It’s often a good strategy to opt for clothing that isn’t overly baggy and tie up your hair if you wear it long. This gives you the best chance of avoiding a fault.
Can you hit a pickleball with your hand?
Yes, it’s okay to hit the pickleball with your hand – but only if it’s the same hand gripping the paddle. To be considered part of your hand, contact with the ball must be made below your wrist.
It’s still considered to be a point for the opposition if the ball hits you above the wrist, on your arm or on your non-paddle hand.
And of course if the ball hits your paddle hand below the wrist, the pickleball must then land in your opponent’s court to be considered a legal shot.
Can you change what hand holds the paddle?
Absolutely! Changing hands is legal in pickleball, and could give you an advantage as you can reach more balls with a hand an arm extended out from your body (versus a backhand where your arm reach is minimized).
What is the Official Rule for Touching the Ball in Pickleball
Rule 7H of the official pickleball rulebook states that a fault occurs if:
After the serve, the ball contacts a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying, except the paddle or the player’s hand(s) in contact with the paddle and below the wrist. If the player is in the process of changing hands with both hands on the paddle or is attempting a two-handed stroke and either hand is hit below the wrist, as long as a player’s hand is in contact with the paddle, the ball is still in play. The fault is on the player who was hit by the ball.
The key takeaways from this rule are:
1) any touching of the ball with your body or clothing is a fault unless
2) the ball touches a hand, below the wrist, that is being used to swing the paddle.
What Happens if You Hit Your Opponent in Pickleball?
So, you might be left contemplating a more aggressive approach: Can you win points by hitting your opponent with the ball? Technically, yes. If your opponent’s body, hair or clothing, makes contact with the ball, the point is all yours.
Of course, the exception to this is if the pickleball hits their paddle hand below the wrist!
Bear in mind that while it’s technically legal to purposefully hit the opposing team, it’s not generally considered good sportsmanship – especially if done deliberately and with force.
You would never want to be on the sending or receiving end of something like this!
What if a Pickleball Serve Hits You?
The rules of serving are the same for the rest of the game: if a pickleball serve hits you (before or after bouncing), it’s a fault and the opposing team will win a point.
Let’s break down a few scenarios:
The serve hits you before bouncing
This is considered a fault. The pickleball must not hit your body, clothing, or hair at any time. In this case, as it made contact with you, it’s a point to the other team, even if you and the ball are out of bounds when the ball makes contact with you.
The serve hits your paddle hand before bouncing
While it’s permitted to hit the ball with your paddle hand, unfortunately, this is still a fault! Serves must bounce in the court before you can hit or touch the pickleball..
The serve hits your paddle hand after bouncing
Success! This is the one scenario that is legal. If the serve bounces, hits your hand during your swing, and then makes it back inbounds to your opponent’s side of the court, this is a legal shot and play continues!
Frequently Asked Questions - What Happens if The Ball Hits you in Pickleball
What is a Nasty Nelson in pickleball?
A Nasty Nelson is a rather controversial shot. It’s named after Tim Nelson, a popular and talented (if not slightly controversial) player.
The Nasty Nelson is a trick serve that involves purposefully hitting the ball directly at the opposing players. The goal? To force a fault either by making the ball hit the opposing player’s body, or making them hit the ball prior to it bouncing.
Technically, this is a legal move and can be quite effective (particularly if the opposition isn’t paying much attention). But beware, it may not win you many friends if you perform it often!
Can you kick the ball in pickleball?
Kicking the ball is considered an illegal touch and will definitely result in a fault!
There’s only one scenario where you can hit the ball with anything other than your paddle, and that’s if you hit it with the hand holding the paddle.
Therefore, avoid using your feet for anything but running in a game of pickleball!