“You can’t take them [time-outs] home with you.” Most pickleball tournament players understand this principle – yet, in the heat of battle – even the most experienced players tend to forget to take advantage of the 60-second opportunity to hit pause.

pickleball time out

Types of Timeouts When Playing Pickleball

There are several instances in a pickleball match in which there is a pause-in-play – most notably when a player/team calls for a 60-second time-out. That’s known as a “standard timeout.” It’s very similar to a football or basketball timeout called by one of the teams.

But before we talk about the details or strategies associated with standard timeouts, there are other examples of pauses-in-play when playing pickleball:

  • Medical Timeout – Each player is entitled to one 15-minute medical time-out if medical attention is needed.
  • Equipment Timeout – A player may be granted an equipment timeout of “reasonable” duration for apparel and equipment adjustments.
  • Referee Timeout – A referee timeout may be called at any time to address extenuating circumstances that may require an extended interruption of play.
  • Time Between Games – The standard time between games is two minutes.
  • End Change Timeout – One minute is allowed to switch ends during a game

Standard Timeouts

Players/teams are also entitled to “standard” timeouts. Standard time-outs are simply 60-second game pauses-in-play that give a player/team an opportunity to do whatever is necessary to put that player/team in the best possible position to win the match.

When Should You Call Timeout?

When you take standard timeouts is entirely up to you. However, here are 3 strategic occasions in which taking a 60-second pause-in-play may make a lot of sense:

1.  When you are Physically Exhausted

Perhaps you’ve endured a handful of long rallies and are absolutely winded.  Instead of playing at less than 100% physically, take a timeout. Drink some water. Rest. Stretch. Reset yourself mentally. Make sure you can go back on the court and continue grinding at the highest possible level.

2.  When In-game Adjustments are Needed

A timeout is ideal for those instances in which you want to make adjustments to your strategy, change patterns or completely overhaul your X’s and O’s. If playing doubles, discuss with your partner which type of adjustments or strategy tweaks are needed.

Should you be speeding the ball up more? Slowing it down? Should you isolate one of your opponents? Return the serve to the other player? Should you be switching left-side and right-side assignments with your partner? Sometimes it’s helpful to simply mix things up and change tactics.

Take the 60-second pause-in-play to discuss these tweaks and adjustments with your partner – or coach – before it’s too late.

3.  When you Want to Halt your Opponent’s Momentum

Using a timeout to stop momentum and disrupt your opponent’s rhythm is a surprisingly underutilized strategy. Sometimes a 60-second break-in-play (without doing anything else) does just that.

Unfortunately, most teams wait much too long until calling a timeout. Don’t wait until your opponent has 10 points and is on the precipice of victory. That’s too late! Instead, use a time-out to stop momentum much earlier. Perhaps your opponent rattled off 3 quick points. That’s the perfect time to take a pause-in-play with a 60-second timeout.

Final Thoughts

Knowing if and when to call timeouts in tournament play is an under-appreciated skill. Remember, you can’t take them home with you. Don’t not use them. What about you? When do you most frequently call for the 60-second pause in play?

See you on the courts!





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