While most of the time Pickleball is a very friendly game, at times things can get awkward (and even downright ugly!) when it comes to who “belongs” on a certain court at a certain time.
This can be avoided altogether by just going to open play. Open play is just that -open. This means it is open to all no matter what. It does not matter if you are one of the best players in the country or if you have never played before in your life.
This problem occurs during structured play and occasionally during private games. Structured play means level 4.0 and up for example. This can create problems/confusion because there can be times when a person who is clearly below (or above) this level shows up. This can interfere and at times defeat the whole point of structured play. This is especially true if it is a self-rated situation.
This matter gets even worse at the even higher levels of play. For example, level 4.5 and up. People in this group clearly don’t want lower level players in this group. In some cases, a lower level player showing up can cause confusion and even anger. One good idea to get around this is to have someone in the group or better yet someone at the facility vet and verify the skill level of all players involved. Is this mean/rude? The answers to this is not really and it depends on how the situation is handled. The polite way to do this is to just say “This time is reserved for 4.5 and up. The bad way “You stink, get out of here!” In tennis you just get snubbed Pickleball is still more friendly but at times people do get upset around this issue.
Why does this happen? Sometimes it is just an ego driven player who either is or thinks he is a “better” player. However, part of this is not their fault. If they are very good and trying to get better, the only way to get better is to player even higher skilled players. More poorly skilled players not only are not fun for all players, but they are also bad for the games of all involved. This can make the higher-level players game worse and a much lower level skilled player is not going to learn much when the levels are so miss matched anyway.
As mentioned above you cannot go wrong with open play. This can be frustrating if you are not a beginner and open play that day is all beginners. If that is the case, just play through it or come back on a day with fewer beginners.
If you are serious about improving your game just ask someone at your local facility as to where you might best fit in. In the end just play where you fit in best and have fun! After all, for the most part it is kind of hard to take things too seriously when the game is called Pickleball!