Pickleball Time Out Rules

Pickleball Timeout

Timeouts are a common feature of many types of sporting events, but what are the specific rules regarding timeouts in pickleball? Pickleball novices may be unaware of the requirements for a timeout in their sport, so here we will take a look at the different types of timeouts in pickleball, how long they are, and when it is legal to call for a timeout.

Pickleball Timeout Rules

These are the rules for timeouts in pickleball:

  • Each side gets two timeouts in an 11- or 15-point game and three timeouts in a 21-point game.
  • Timeouts must be called before the next serve.
  • Timeouts cannot be called before the match, but they can be called between games.
  • Calling for a timeout when a side has none left does not incur a penalty, but no timeout will be granted.
  • Each player gets one medical timeout which may be used for medical emergencies.
  • Referees may call an equipment timeout if they determine a competitor must adjust or change their equipment.
  • Briefly drinking water or toweling off between rallies does not count as a timeout.
  • A two-minute break occurs automatically between games, but a timeout may be used in addition for extra time.
  • Referees may also call timeouts for impediments to play, such as debris on the court or inclement weather.

Pickleball Timeout Length

A standard pickleball timeout lasts for one minute. The automatic timeouts between games last for two minutes, and referee-mandated equipment timeouts can last up to two minutes, if necessary. Medical timeouts may last up to 15 minutes, depending on the amount of medical care needed. Referee-mandated timeouts for impediments to play can last as long as is necessary to return the court to a playable state.

Standard Timeouts

pickleball standard timeouts

The most common form of timeout in pickleball is a standard timeout, and it is meant to give both teams a brief period to reevaluate their strategy mid-game. As detailed in Rule 10 of the Rules of Pickleball, each pickleball team on the court receives a set amount of timeouts per game based on the number of points being scored to in that game. For games scored to 11 or 15 points, each team receives two timeouts, while for games scored to 21 points, each team receives three timeouts.

In pickleball, a regular timeout lasts one minute, with the referee calling out when 15 seconds remain on the clock and then calling out “time in” when the timeout ends. Timeouts can be ended early if both teams are ready to resume play before time elapses. Regular timeouts must be called before the beginning of the next serve and cannot be called prior to the beginning of a match, though they can be used between two games in a multi-game match.

If a team calls a timeout prior to the next serve but has no timeouts remaining, there is no penalty awarded. Players may briefly towel off or get a drink between rallies without being charged a timeout. However, activities only do not count as a timeout if they do not  excessively impact the continuous play of the game. As always, this is up to the discretion of the referee.

Medical Timeouts

The second form of timeout in pickleball is a medical timeout, which is called whenever a player on the court sustains an injury or has a medical emergency. If a medical timeout is called for by one team, Rule 10 states that the immediate procedure is to call for whatever on-site medical staff are available to the players or to contact the Tournament Director in the event that there are no medical personnel. Once either the medical team or the Director arrives, the referee will begin a 15-minute timer to allow the authorities to assess the situation, offer first aid, and perform other necessary procedures.

Players who require a medical timeout for an issue that is determined to be a valid complaint but who can also potentially return to the game are given 15 minutes to rest and recover. If a player’s condition makes it impossible for them to resume play, the match ends as a retirement, with the team who called the timeout forfeiting the match.

If medical personnel determine that there is no medical issue, the team will lose one of their standard timeouts (or receive a foul if they have no timeouts left), and they will also be given a warning.

Each player in a game has access to only one medical timeout and will lose that timeout whenever they call for it, even if they are determined not to have a medical issue. As with regular timeouts, medical timeouts cannot be called before the start of a match.

A final consideration regarding medical timeouts relates to the potential of a bleeding player. In the event that one player is bleeding, a referee timeout will be called and will last as long as is necessary for the bleeding to be controlled or stopped and for any blood to be cleaned off of the court and the player’s clothing or equipment.

Equipment Timeouts

The third type of timeout in pickleball is an equipment timeout, which can last up to two minutes. Normally, players are expected to use their regular timeouts in order to make any necessary adjustments to their playing gear. Still, if the referee determines that one team needs to adjust their equipment during play and that team has no timeouts remaining, the referee may call for an equipment timeout to correct the issue.

Timeouts Between Games and Matches

In pickleball tournaments where matches consist of multiple games, there is a two-minute period for teams to rest and prepare between the games of a match. This period is set at two minutes, but either team can request that one or both of their timeouts for the upcoming game be used to extend that time beyond two minutes. If the team that makes this request returns to the court before one or both of their standard timeouts are used to extend the period between games, they are allowed to keep that timeout for the game itself.

In tournaments where teams play multiple matches, there is a standard time gap of 10 minutes between the end of one match and the start of another. However, matches are allowed to begin prior to the end of that 10 minutes if both teams are ready to play. In certain tournaments with winners’ and losers’ brackets, an additional timeout rule exists if the winner of the losers’ bracket defeats the winner of the winners’ bracket, in which case a tie-breaker match is necessary. Then, there must be a 10-minute timeout between the championship match and the tie-breaker match.

Referee Timeouts

Referees can also special timeout for extenuating circumstances. These are for scenarios in which the referee can issue a timeout that does not impact either team’s number of remaining timeouts as a result of some necessary factor. Situations where referee timeouts can be called include medical situations such as heat exhaustion, when a clearly-injured player is incapable of or refuses to call a medical timeout, or when there is bleeding on the court.

Referees can call a timeout due to the presence of foreign objects or substances on the court, such as debris or fluids like water, which must be cleaned up. Referees can also temporarily suspend a game due to situations such as inclement weather.


How many timeouts are there in pickleball?

In pickleball, each side typically gets two standard timeouts per game. This means that in a match that lasts two games, each side would have four available timeouts, while a match played to three games would offer six total timeouts. In addition, each player may use one medical timeout if needed. The referee may also call timeouts if a competitor’s equipment needs to be adjusted or if the condition of the court becomes unplayable. In games that play up to 21 points, each side gets three standard timeouts.