CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

Play Pickleball? No…Thank…You

It took me almost 52 years to figure out how to properly use this simple three-word phrase, no thank you, to exercise my agency.

I had been playing in a group. There were a few other players drilling and some playing on courts near us. We were done for the day and were getting ready to go.

A male player approached and challenged me and a specific player in my foursome to play against him and his friend. A playground sort of challenge that lacked any introduction or even consideration of what the other two players in our group, with whom we were chatting, would do while we dueled things out. To be clear, the player who approached us had already inquired as to who I was before issuing the challenge.

I politely refused the request to play – the reality was that one of the players in our foursome had given me a ride to the courts and needed to leave to make an appointment.

This was, in fact, the reason we were wrapping up our games. I explained that we had to leave to make an appointment.

As if on cue, the player indicated that they would “make it quick.” I generally prefer to sidestep these sort of verbal tussles, so I simply agreed with the man and told him that it was why I was not playing, that I would like to save myself the embarrassment of a quick defeat. And we thereafter departed the courts (the appointment was made on time).

I regretted one aspect of my communication with the challenger that day. I regretted the need to explain my decision to him, to tell him that we had to leave for an appointment. This is where the phrase “No thank you” would have been the perfect response.

The phrase communicates “no” in response to the request to play. And it concludes with a “thank you” because that is what we say in polite society. And that is all that is needed.

Anticipating a follow-up of “why not?” the appropriate response would be “no reason.” This should conclude the conversation and tie up any loose ends (though even suggesting that there are loose ends to tie up is itself problematic).

The point of this is that you have the right to exercise agency in all aspects of your life, including when on the pickleball court.

Players will approach you for various reasons and perhaps with an agenda that is inconsistent with your purpose for being there that day. If – for whatever reason – you opt not to engage (play pickleball in this case), a simple “No thank you” will do.

To be perfectly clear, I am not suggesting that you say “No thank you” to any player who asks to play. What I am recommending is that you learn to say “No thank you” in any situation where playing would be unproductive for you. Playing with players who are not yet at your level but are working on their games would not be, in my definition, unproductive (the same way it was not when the better players played with you as you grew in the sport). But when a player has an agenda or playing with that player engenders strong negative feelings, reserve your right to simply say “No, thank you.”

Has another player made you feel uncomfortable on the pickleball court? What did you do? Did you say no thank you or did you handle it another way? Leave it in the comments below.


  1. Peter H Sylvain on October 3, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    In an open, social play, players rotate on and off the court with players who are waiting. Some players refuse to rotate, forcing one of the waiting players to wait through two games for the chance to get on the court. Don’t know how to handle this–hints to this player are generally rejected. Any thoughts?

    • CJ Johnson on October 6, 2021 at 2:29 am

      It depends on why they are skipping. If it’s because they don’t want to play with someone who they think isn’t at their level that’s not acceptable it’s open play. If they are skipping because a player is rude, threatening, gives unsolicited advice, or in general disrespects the other players on the court that’s when it’s best to stay no thank you.

  2. Jay Cohen on October 3, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    Happens, my go to is, I’m whooped or I’m done, toast, too tired. end of story.

  3. Janice on October 4, 2021 at 4:23 am

    The same goes for all areas of life. Simply say no thank you.

  4. Joanne on October 5, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    I am tired of encountering these types of situations on the Pb court. Rude and demanding individuals with no social skills expecting they join a group or determine the rotation during drop in sessions. I don’t recall this happening with any other sport. I have learnt to say no thank you and be more selective to when I attend the local games centre in order to keep my Pb play enjoyable.

Leave a Comment

Like what you see?

Subscribe to the free newsletter today for more exclusive pickleball tips.