If you are looking to understand a bit more about how to play wheelchair pickleball, here’s an exhaustive guide on wheelchair pickleball rules and how is it different from normal pickleball.
First things first though, what is Wheelchair Pickleball? Wheelchair pickleball is an extension of the sport pickleball in which one or more players in action are seated in a wheelchair.
All players who are in a wheelchair while playing pickleball must continue to remain seated during the game.
Origins of Wheelchair Pickleball
According to The Free Library, it was Washington’s Adrienne Barlow who has taken an immense effort in pushing for a ‘national program for both competitive and recreational para-pickleball (wheelchair pickleball) players’.
One of the reasons behind the need for this push is the difficulties that wheelchair pickleball players face in getting a chance to play at even the recreational level. Lack of courts is one issue.
Barlow pushed for para-pickleball after she herself suffered a paralysis because of a progressive muscle disease. Needing a wheelchair after that, she took to promoting wheelchair pickleball or para-pickleball as a means to make the sport more inclusive to all.
In 2016, Barlow launched Rock N Roll Pickleball, an initiative she described as follows:
“I love the meaning of Rock N Roll Pickleball. The ROCK is all the standing players and the ROLL is all the wheelchair players, and they are quickly finding out they can be great partners on and off the courts.”
Rock N Roll Pickleball has been recognized by USAPA and supports the “development of the national para-pickleball program under Rock N Roll Pickleball.”
Getting coaches to train for para-pickleball is another issue that para-pickleball faces apart from the lack of infrastructure.
Moving on to the rules of Wheelchair Pickleball, those were decided by a committee of a select few individuals from Standing Pickleball and Wheelchair Pickleball.
Wheelchair Pickleball Rules
Much like the Standing Pickleball, para-Pickleball can also be played on courts which are indoors or outdoors, with both singles and doubles action allowed. 11-point games are the norm and a player or a team needs to win a game by two points with only the server or serving team winning points.
These form the section 16 of the IFP Pickleball Rule Book. Here goes the set of rules for Wheelchair Pickleball which are different from Standing Pickleball.
The Wheelchair Rule for Wheelchair Pickleball
According to the official pickleball rules, the wheelchair used in Wheelchair Pickleball is an extension of the player. This implies all the rules associated with a player’s body are naturally extended to the wheelchair in all but one case.
That exception is the Non-Volley Zone where the rules have been tweaked to be more specific to this version of the game.
Here’s how things change.
A wheelchair player can volley in the Non-Volley Zone but must ensure the larger-rear wheels are not in contact with the zone. Also, when the player decides to get off the NVZ after playing the bounced ball, he/she needs to make sure the larger-rear wheels are outside the NVZ boundaries before the player is allowed to volley.
Have a read about what the USA Pickleball Association has to say about this rule.
Ball Bounce Rule for Wheelchair Pickleball
Unlike in standing pickleball, Wheelchair Pickleball allows players to return shots after two bounces as well. The first bounce needs to be within the court boundaries but the second bounce can be outside that too.
Interestingly when the rules were formulated, Wheelchair Pickleball was already being played with the one-bounce rule and players weren’t very happy to change things around to accommodate for the two-bounce rule. Later, when they realized a lot of strategy can become a part of the game with the addition of this rule, things became easier for them.
Serving Rule for Wheelchair Pickleball
At the start of the serve, the serving player will need to be stationary position.
The player will then be allowed to make one push to the wheelchair before striking the ball but at the same time at the time the ball is struck, the player’s wheelchair cannot be in contact with any of the lines on the court – baselines, sidelines, center lines or the extended center or sidelines.
Mixed Pickleball Rule for Wheelchair Pickleball
In case of a wheelchair pickleball player taking on a standing player, the rules applied will be different for different players. So the rules around wheelchair pickleball will be applied for a wheelchair player and the rules of standing pickleball will be applied to the standing player.
Singles Pickleball Rule for Wheelchair Pickleball
If a match of Wheelchair Pickleball is played between two singles player, only half of the court will be used. This is applicable even if the singles game is played between a wheelchair player and a standing player.
Final Words on Wheelchair Pickleball
An attempt to make pickleball more inclusive has led to a lot of focus on Wheelchair Pickleball. The rules associated with Wheelchair Pickleball are similar to Standing Pickleball with a few tweaks to ensure this inclusivity and it has made for an exciting time for players featuring in wheelchair pickleball.