Competitive pickleball can be played as singles or doubles, i.e. with two or four players respectively but what if there are more than four players who want to play the sport at the amateur level.
We have already spoke about playing pickleball with three players, but below is a way that pickleball can be played by more than four players.
Let’s dive quickly into this.
Typically the reason why we look at the aforementioned option is because of the lack of availability of courts. Very often at clubs, there are more players than there are courts and that pushes the need to come up with a variety of ways in which this issue could be solved.
While it’s not the most ideal thing to do, especially if you are looking at a competitive setting, pickleball can be played by more than four players at a more amateur setting and becomes a fun event as well if done right.
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A 12-Player Pickleball Match
If there are way more players than a court can handle, then one of the ways to get going is to get some of those players to feature in a 12-player pickleball match.
A 12-person pickleball game can be played in fun settings, like a charity event or a fundraiser, or it can also be used to signal the start or finish of a pickleball tournament.
This has its own set of rules and can lead to a lot of chaos but it can be a lot of fun too. Here’s how it can be played.
Rules of 12-Player Pickleball
- Choose two players, who will captain the teams and divide up the players into two teams, A and B, of six players each
- Captains are needed to be able to decide on substitutions throughout the match
- They will also decide on the two players who take to court for their respective teams for starters
- Team A will begin serving while Team B will receive the serve
- Team A will continue to serve till their Team B don’t win two points in a row on Team A’s serves
- A player is substituted with a new one off after he/she has won two points
- Substitutions need to be quick so that nothing slows the game down
- Team getting to 11 points first wins
In order for the game to remain competitive, a player who has won two points needs to be subbed out. This is over and above the substitutions which need to be made otherwise as well.
As a result of this, the game can get very chaotic and exciting at the same time with players running in and out of the court between points.
Mortimer Pickleball – Playing Pickleball with Six Players
There’s a form of pickleball which allows six players to take part in a game and it’s called Mortimer Pickleball.
Each team consists of three players, one of these three is called the Mortimer. Here’s how it works.
All three serving team players start at the baseline but only two of them head to the kitchen after the serve is made. The third player, called Mortimer, remains at the back.
Typically a Mortimer player’s role is to go for shots which are played to the back of the court, either as lobs or those at the middle of the court which beat the players at the kitchen.
The designated Mortimer player cannot serve and also cannot receive the serve.
Teams can rotate their Mortimer player in different ways but one of them could be like this. If a serving player commits an unforced error, he/she can swap places with the Mortimer player.
If the Mortimer makes a mistake, he/she continues to remain one.
- Mortimer is the third player in the team.
- He/she plays from the baseline and in the middle
- He/she takes care of the deep balls which includes the lobs.
- He/she cannot serve or return the serve.
- If one of the other two players makes an error that loses them the rally, that player becomes a Mortimer.
- If Mortimer loses the point, he/she stays a Mortimer.
Check out an amateur game of Mortimer Pickleball for six players below.
By playing the Mortimer format, it allows people to play for a lot longer than they would otherwise especially if they were to play doubles. Overcrowded clubs and courts could use this format to allow people to not have to wait for a long time for their chances.
There’s a format very similar to Mortimer Pickleball which goes by the name of Rover Pickleball. In this format, the Mortimer player cannot pass a point beyond the baseline during the game.
This point is typically a foot in front of the baseline. The Rover comes into the game after the service has been returned by the defense team.
Playing Pickleball with Five Players
You can also play an amateur game of pickleball with five players.
The one way to do that is to have the fifth player sub in and out of the two teams while the other method of doing that is to allow the supposedly weaker of the two teams that luxury of a Mortimer player.
One can add another variation to this. Alternate the Mortimer player between the two teams and at the first instance of a team winning a match/set without having that Mortimer player is when that team is declared the winner.
Playing Pickleball with Seven Players
The aforementioned game of Mortimer Pickleball can be played with seven players as well.
Like with the six-player game, the two teams will enter the court with three players apiece with the third player in each team playing as a Mortimer.
The seventh player will sit outside till the Mortimer on either side ends up fluffing a shot or making an unforced error. In such a case, the seventh player will exchange positions with that erring Mortimer and the game will continue!
Final Words on Playing Pickleball with More Than Four Players
Pickleball is slowly becoming more and more professional but at the amateur level, it has multiple variations using which more than four players can play the game. Keep it fun though!