Refereeing: An Underrated Way to Improve Pickleball Skills?

If you ask most players the best way to get better at pickleball, many will say drilling, practice and of course, playing as many games as possible. Yet there’s another option that doesn’t often get discussed that will not only improve your abilities, but allow you to give back to the pickleball community—refereeing.

Becoming a referee isn’t an overly involved process, and it allows you to get first row “seats” to many competitive games. Get good enough and you might even find yourself making calls for pros. You can bet that watching and listening to some of the best will allow you to make better decisions in your own play, not to mention you’ll have a very clear understanding of the rules and how to apply them.

Top pickleball ref and competitor Byron Fresno explains that he’s greatly enjoyed the benefits refereeing has provided him, and his own skills have become polished enough that he’s become an ambassador for paddle manufacturer Onix.

Check out some of Byron’s tips about how to be a good ref and also learn what he believes to be the most misunderstood rules are so you can make sure you’re interpreting them correctly!

The USAPA provides free refereeing resources on their Referee Training Tools page. The most important reference you’ll need is of course the official pickleball rulebook. Once you’ve reviewed the rules and know them inside and out, you can take the corresponding rules test and make sure you have a solid working knowledge of the game.

You can then go on to refereeing local recreational games before reaching out to more experienced refs and learning from them in turn. Several pickleball centers such as our own Pickleball Station occasionally have referee training clinics, which can be great supplements if you’d like some firsthand advice on how to make calls.

Pickleball Channel has a great Quick Start Guide to refereeing which will walk you through many necessities such as techniques on how to accurately keep score, remember which player is first or second server and many other helpful tips on how to keep all of a game’s details clear in your mind.

After you have some experience under your belt, you can apply to become a certified referee and get in on the truly top tier games. You may end up loving reffing and find that it not only enhances your abilities, but allows you to become a more well-rounded pickler and community resource!

Have you had any experience refereeing or is it something you’d be interested in trying for yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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