Often a lower level pickleball player will come to a day set aside for advanced players. (Pickleball has 4 people on a court &usually played at community centers.) It seems if I am nice to them and play a game with them, they do not get the hint that they should not be there. What seems to happen most is that everyone allows them and yet are annoyed with the play or get passive aggressive and start forming groups that exclude the lower level person and then certain players (newer people like me) are left playing with them. It is a winning situation for the lower level player and a losing situation for the advanced players who do not get the exercise they want or the skill competition that they like.

No one in charge of setting up who is advanced-People just assume/guess. There is pressure from other players to play with everyone, yet they all avoid games with certain people. I get stuck playing with the lower level people, even though I beat the advanced players when I play in games with them. The lower level player really ruins the game for other 3 players on the court. How can this be handled properly & politely?

How can you tell someone that they are not good enough to play or that they should not come that day? I am not a mean person, but I feel that trying to be nice is victimizing me to play with people I do not enjoy playing with and who I do not want to play with. I want this to be a win-win situation ideally.

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    Who is setting up this "day set aside for advanced players" and who decides what an advanced player is? Is this at a club, a public event, …? Is anyone forcing you to play with these people?
    – AsheraH
    Mar 3, 2019 at 11:23
  • Pickleball has 4 people on a court &usually played at community centers. No one in charge of setting up who is advanced-People just assume/guess.There is pressure from other players to play with everyone, yet they all seem passive aggressive & avoid games with certain people & form cliques so that newer people like me get stuck playing with the lower level people-even though I beat the advanced players when I play in games with them.The lower level player really ruins the game for other 3 players on the court.How can this be handled properly & politely. Thanks for your response.
    – anne ley
    Mar 3, 2019 at 12:29
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    how is the "advanced day" announced? Is there a sign? Is it always a particular day of the week? Mar 3, 2019 at 15:07
  • Is this always the same person that is labelled 'low-level player'? Or are these different people each time? Are you more annoyed that you end up playing against a low-level player or that you can't seem to get into one of the other (longer existing?) groups? You say you beat the more experienced players, you're also saying you're one of the newer players. Are you sure that playing against these 'experienced' players and your winning isn't also courtesy of having a great teammate? Do these cliques seem to think the same about you as you're thinking about the low-level player?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Mar 3, 2019 at 15:28
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    @BKlassen that question feels like a much friendlier sports club environment, and the question was focused on communicating with a known party. Here, there is no known party, and the other advanced players have opted for an anti-social method of dealing with the issue.
    – Ed Grimm
    Mar 5, 2019 at 6:12

2 Answers 2


Here is one strategy that might work. You're a nice person, so play with anyone who asks. But, after a game where one person was clearly outmatched, on the advanced day, talk to them afterwards and say something like:

I expect that was a bit hard for you - the rest of us are all advanced level players. [If there is a metric like "we have master scores above 10" or "we have all qualified for regionals" mention it here.] That's because today is advanced-play day. [Point to the sign or the calendar, or explain that every Tuesday is advanced day, or tell them how to sign up for the newsletter that will tell them which day is what.] I think you'd have an easier time a different day.


[Say something nice if you can, "I enjoyed our game" or "you have a good serve" or "I like your skill at the baseline"] and I'm going to look for some advanced folks to play for the rest of the day. See you later!

Do not say but where I have and above. Saying "[compliment], but" completely negates the compliment emotionally. Use and. If you can't find anything nice to say, just start with "I'm going to look for". Be sure to include "the rest of the day" so they understand you won't be playing with them again.

Keep it pleasant. Don't accuse them of coming on the wrong day, or of ruining the game for the 3 advanced folks, or anything, really. You're friendly, you're welcoming, and you're showing them how it's done. (Obviously they don't realize their level doesn't match the day: whether it's lack of knowledge about the day or about their own level, you can fix that lack of knowledge gently.) It's important to only do this after the game when the player has been revealed as insufficiently advanced, and not before based on what they look like or if you've seen them before.

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    Thank you.Sometimes it is the same person coming back again & not getting the message and sometimes not.It is tricky because they tend to be very unaware of social cues even when very clear. They will keep asking me to play when I am nice to them. I now do not even look or acknowledge them, or act like I do not hear them(these are all the passive aggressive tactics others use)& shift my focus elsewhere-they will still go out of their way to find me. etiquette of the game is if an advanced player wants to play with you it is their choice. These people expect advanced to play with them-clueless
    – anne ley
    Mar 3, 2019 at 17:19
  • If you have played with them before, you can say "I don't think we're at compatible levels" rather than pretending you didn't hear them or can't see them. It is possible the people literally do not know it's advanced day (that's why I asked how it's announced) and/or think they are advanced (Kruger-Dunning) so you need to tell them both of these facts quite clearly and simply. Gently, nicely, but clearly. Mar 3, 2019 at 17:25
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    I like what you said, "Tues is advanced day, I think you might enjoy coming out more on Wed." It is just an awkward situation and no one really wants to talk about it or do anything except be passive aggressive. Maybe that is best?
    – anne ley
    Mar 3, 2019 at 18:26
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    "I think you may find more compatible games on Wed. This group is only for advanced players"- that might work.Thank you for your thoughts!I will figure something out from what you have suggested.I thihnk you are right-let them know about advanced day and not compatible. I don't like being mean to people & felt I was resorting to that because of their lack of awareness dominating 2 hrs of play and affecting all the games and creating an awkward situation in all of them.The advanced players all look down or away or glance at each other, switch games at last minute, etc-all pass.aggressive.thanks
    – anne ley
    Mar 3, 2019 at 19:01
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    @EdGrimm sounds like the start of an answer, one actually backed up with experience. May I encourage you to write it? We could really use more answers that are actually based in, and backed up with, experience. This answer that you commented on is still lacking that back up.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Mar 4, 2019 at 7:35

Kate Gregory's answer will work with most people, but it requires that the person get social cues. Some people are simply unaware of social cues. Sometimes it's simple unfamiliarity with the cue, but other times these cues are just things we do not perceive. As one of those people who just does not perceive whatever it is that makes the difference between a friendly thanks for the game and a please don't try to play more on this day, I tend to find it immensely helpful if people trying to give cues could note that I missed the cues and tell me without behaving in a hostile manner.

I'm not meaning to be dense when I don't get these social cues. I'm borderline autistic (aspie according to the older terminology). I just don't see the body language that means I'm not welcome. I'm better at it than many people on the spectrum, but this seems to be one of the harder cues to learn. Or maybe I've simply met a lot of people who really wanted me to leave but really, really didn't want it verbalized.

But the good news is, at least based on my limited experience, the people that don't get these cues are generally fine and maybe even appreciative with being told in a civil but blunt fashion, "The community center reserves the courts on /x/ day for advanced players. You're not an advanced player yet." Depending on how eager they are to be an advanced player, that might sting a bit, but after a game that made it clear, it shouldn't be a surprise, and if they're assertive and (they talk fast or you give enough of a pause after the first sentence), they might even make that assessment for you.

That said, keeping the tone friendly is still important. Most of us do get blatantly unfriendly tones, and we generally have a lot of experience with them. What we miss is the distinction between an honestly friendly tone and the friendly tones meant to convey near the limits of tolerance. We also may not understand what to do about an obviously unfriendly tone in the face of friendly words.

I will point out there are some people who pretend to miss the social cue to try to get an extra mile out of the inch you gave them. I've also been told that it's possible to read these people, as they will tend to start getting a little hostile to your social cue that they're missing. I'm not entirely sure what to make of these people, but I have seen them get upset at being given the direct message. That having been said, I'm under the impression that they'll get upset whatever you do to make your message clear, the only real difference is how much of your time you let them waste.

  • This makes a good point. I'd suggest adding a reference to the Dunning-Kruger effect - that people who don't have much knowledge have no idea of how little they know. Mar 29, 2021 at 14:31

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