We just returned from a pickleball retreat organized by Audrey Phillips (all I have is her email address if you want to contact her about future events: Audrey Phillips –

The event was held at Club Med Turks and Caicos (I will blog about that later). Anyway, Audrey and her support team introduced us to a new game that I think is perfect for getting “advanced” players on the court with “less -than-advanced” players in a game in which the advanced players don’t have to play down.

I think the name of the game is “Rover Pickleball.” If not, that’s what I am going to call it from now on. Here’s the way it works.

The “less -than-advanced” players can serve and receive serve, as well as play the net. From this point on I will call these players the “Net Players.”

An advanced player starts at the baseline and only comes forward to play a ball. That player is called the “Rover.” The rover CANNOT make his/her way to the net or creep past a foot or so beyond the baseline. If the Rover has to go past that point to play a ball, he/she has to retreat back to the baseline in a hurry. In addition, the Rover cannot serve or return serve.

This is the setup on the court.

This is how the game proceeds:

One of the “Net Players” serves, and one of the other Team’s “Net Players” returns serve. From that point on the game is played as it would normally be played with these exceptions:

  1. If there is a lob, the “Net Players” stay at the net and the Rover plays the ball.
  2. If there is a ball down the middle that neither of the “Net Players” can get, the Rover plays it.
  3. If the ball is blasted down the middle, the Rover should play it.

The “Net Players” get a lot of net play, including dinking. The Rover gets to try his/her third shot drop a lot, or gets to blast away at the other Rover. It’s probably a good idea if the Rover blasts the ball at the other teams “Net Players” on occasion, only if to get the Net Players accustomed to that shot. On the few occasions I played Rover, I always did a third shot drop except for one time when another Rover and I blasted the ball at each other. I knew it was coming and so did he. It was great fun.

If you have a lot of players, you can freely substitute – that makes the game even more fun. Of course, when advanced players are up at the net, it is hard for them not to go for every shot, so it is important for the Rover to shout something like “I got this!”

You do want your team to win, of course, but I think it is a great way to practice specific shots. I thank Audrey for introducing it to us.


Audrey just sent me the “official” rules for Rover Pickleball. Here they are:

1. Six players on a team (mixed levels.)

2. Highest ranked player is the Captain.

3. Top two ranked players are the Rovers and play near the center line.

4. Play games to 11, win by 1 point; the first team to score 11 points wins.

5. Rovers do not serve, do not return serves, and cannot advance more than half-way from the baseline to the kitchen. Any violation of these rules is a fault and the opposing team wins the rally resulting in second server or side out.

6. Three players from the team are on the court at the same time: two Players and one Rover.

7. Three players are on the sideline: two Players and one Rover.

8. When a player makes an unforced error (hits ball out of bounds or into the net), he/she comes out and is replaced by one of the sidelined players. If the Rover makes the error, he/she is replaced by the other Rover.

9. The Rover gets balls that go between the other players, takes lobs, and generally keeps the ball in play as much as possible. They cannot form a 3-person wall at the NVZ line.

10. When a team scores three consecutive points, both Players and the Rover are substituted at one time with all three sidelined Players and Rover.

11. This game helps you focus on reducing your unforced errors and is also a great game for communication between all three players on the court. The Rovers may also coach their team.

12. Team Captains may also substitute freely to allow everyone to play, but substitutions are mainly for unforced errors.

13. If a team only has five players, the Rover will remain the same throughout the match unless he/she makes an unforced error. When the Rover makes an unforced error, he/she is replaced by a Player until the next unforced error when the Rover returns to the Rover position.