Accommodating Winter Crowds at Drop-in: “Shuttle Play” Explained


Again this winter, we will switch to Shuttle Play whenever we have four or more stacks of paddles (four in each stack) awaiting play at Silverthorne Rec Center (SRC) drop-in. Shuttle Play ensures all games last only 10 minutes and sorts players a bit such that the skill level within any particular game is more compatible than if teams were paired randomly.

Lead-up to Shuttle Play

SRC initially gives us just two pickleball courts (half the gym). Once we have 20 players, SRC opens the other half of the gym (four courts). All games go to the usual 11 points, win by 2.

When we reach 3+ stacks of paddles waiting, games go to 9 points, win by 1.

When the awaiting stacks reach 4+, we give a heads-up that Shuttle Play will start in five minutes. After five minutes, all games stop, current paddle stacks become irrelevant, and we switch to Shuttle Play.

Shuttle Court Configuration

The courts are designated roughly by skill level, with the highest (USAPA rating 3.5+) on the far left (looking from the gym door), labeled Court 1. The court on the far right, labeled Court 4, is roughly for beginners (USAPA rating 2.0-). Each court has its own paddle stack.

Game Play and Subsequent Repositioning

When the start of a shuttle round is called, the first four players in each court’s stack start a 10-minute game to 9 points, win by 1.

  • If a team earns 9 points before 10 minutes passes, then declare them winner and keep playing until time is up.
  • If neither team reaches 9 points before 10 minutes, then the team with the highest score is winner. If tied, go one more point. The team winning that point (regardless of who served) is the winner.

The winning team places their paddles at the back of the stacks on the next higher court (or, in the case of Court 1, the same court). The losing team places their paddles at the back of the stacks on the next lower court (or the same court in the case of Court 4).

The individuals on each team split (i.e., do not play together) in their next game.

Note that the above links to USAPA skill designations go to our webpage summarizing USAPA’s levels. USAPA’s full (42-box!) matrix of skill level descriptions can be found here.

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