How do you play pickleball? This is one of the first questions you’ll likely ask when you’re invited to a badminton court for a bit of fun in the sun.
The growing popularity of this great game is mainly because the pickleball rules are pretty straightforward. Also, the game of pickleball in itself is very simple to enjoy once you develop good hand-eye coordination. Certainly, owing to the rapid growth of this game, the USA Pickleball Association is on the way to transforming many local community centers into pickleball courts.
In this guide, we’re going to show you some great steps on how to play the game, and we touch on some pickleball rules so you can have fun despite being a complete beginner.
What Is Pickleball?
The pickleball journey started in 1965 on Bainbridge Island outside of Seattle. Pickleball is basically a social game with so much fun. The pickleball game is a combination of ping-pong and tennis and is enjoyed on a court designed for badminton. In fact, a court meant for badminton is one-third of the size of a normal tennis court. A pickleball is hit with the same underhand motion you’d use with ping pong.
The pickleball court is fitted with a 34-inch high net in the center that separates players. In fact, pickleball is considered one of the fastest-growing sports in America because it quickly became very popular.
Requirements for Playing Pickleball
You don’t need a lot of equipment to enjoy a game of pickleball. Here’s a quick look at the basic requirements for this popular game.
Pickleball Court or Badminton Court
Pickleball can be played on a court designed for badminton or any other courts present in community centers. In fact, one can play pickleball on a tennis court as well. A pickleball court usually has a diameter of 20 x 44 inches for each side of the court. The center of the court will be separated by a net that’s positioned at a height of 34 inches. This leaves 36 inches of playing space for players and includes a 7-inch no-volley zone (the kitchen zone) at each side of the net.
Courts can be placed indoors or outdoors, but the equipment may vary (indoor balls and outdoor balls are used for different courts). In fact, any pickleball community can start playing the game at any of the local courts designed for similar racquet sports and paddle sports like table tennis or even on a gym floor. Indeed, many pickleball courts are coming up rapidly owing to the growth of the pickleball community around the country and the craze of the game.
Each player will need a paddle to play pickleball. These paddles are very similar to ping pong paddles and are made from high-tech composite. There are a huge variety of colors to choose from. Earlier the pickleball paddles were wooden paddles. But with advancement, now there are paddles available in other materials as well. The right kind of pickleball equipment will only assist the player in achieving the optimal level of comfort during a game.
Pickleball paddles can vary between brands, but, to prevent elbow strain, they’re usually extremely lightweight. Beginner pickleball paddles are also lighter compared to heavy-duty paddles used by professionals.
You’ll need an official pickleball! Pickleballs are made from plastic, and are usually 0.78 to 0.935 ounces in weight, with a size of 2.87 to 2.97 inches in diameter. In fact, a pickleball is quite similar to a wiffle ball. The materials and construction of the plastic ball with holes may vary, and some are more equipped for beginners than others, but you can choose a plastic ball of any color or design for a pickleball game.
Number of Players for Pickleball
Pickleball can be enjoyed as teams of singles (two players) or doubles (four players). This is the same number of players per game as tennis or ping pong.
Pickleball Attire and Pickleball Shoes
Athletes are usually required to wear branded sports garments that support their teams or country. For general play, you can wear any comfortable loose clothing that suits the climate: women often enjoy wearing tennis-style clothing like tennis skirts or skorts.
Also, you can go with any court shoes like tennis shoes, depending upon the kind of court. The choice of pickleball court shoes will be on the basis if the court is hardwood flooring or not. Avoid using any normal running shoes. A shoe with high lateral stability should have a larger base and a sturdy lower structure to assist minimize typical pickleball injuries. Other aspects to consider in a good pickleball shoe include comfort, lightweight, and breathability.
Pickleball Age Category
Whether you are a beginner pickleball player, a casual player, a tournament participant, an enthusiast, or simply have friends who play in a pickleball community, you may have heard – is there any ideal age bracket to play pickleball? The answer is no. It is important to note that age has no bearing on skill ratings.
This sport is suitable for all age groups and all athletic abilities. For athletic and championship purposes, athletes are usually categorized into certain age groups. While the pickleball sport is perfect for people of any age, 17% of players are over the age of 65.
How Do You Play Pickleball?
When you play pickleball, the same simple rules apply to singles and doubles. The main objective of the game is to keep the ball from bouncing outside the court. It is best to avoid hitting the ball on the strong side of the opponent player. Anyone who has played badminton before can easily switch to pickleball and become a pro.
The game starts with the server hitting the lightweight ball, and projecting it toward the opponent’s side. The opponent must then hit the ball and return it back to the server’s side. The server then needs to defend and project the ball back toward the opponent’s side.
Basic Rules for Playing Pickleball
Knowing the important rules of pickleball is essential for all levels and skills of players. You can play pickleball in doubles (two players per team) or singles; mostly, players go for doubles. Both singles and doubles pickleball games have the same size playing area and rules. When you strike the ball, the server’s arm must move in an upward arc. Also, the serve in a pickleball game must always be an underhand swing.
The pickleball paddle should not come in contact with the ball above the waist. The paddle’s head must not be higher than the highest point of the wrist during contact. A ‘drop serve’ is also permitted, in which case none of the preceding elements apply. You should make the serve diagonally crosscourt and it must land within the borders of the other diagonal court. Each server in a pickleball game can have only one serve attempt.
The non-volley zone is the area of the court within 7 feet on both sides of the net. You can also call this zone as “the kitchen.” You cannot volley in the non-volley area. This rule prohibits pickleball players from doing smashes while in the zone.
It is a violation if, when volleying a ball, the player walks on the non-volley area, including the line, and/or if the player’s momentum forces them or whatever they are wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley area, including the accompanying lines. It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried into or touches the non-volley zone by momentum, even if the volleyed ball is pronounced dead before this occurs. A player may lawfully be in the non-volley area at any time except when volleying a ball.
Faults in Pickleball
A fault in pickleball is any action that halts play due to a rule infringement. A serve that does not land within the borders of the receiving court will result in a fault. It is also a fault if the ball is struck into the net while serving or returning. Furthermore, volleying the ball before a bounce on each side will result in a fault.
In reality, a fault by the receiving team will result in a point for the serving team. Furthermore, a fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.
How Are Points Scored in Pickleball?
Only the serving side receives the points. So, the receiving side will not earn any points. The serving side receives any points when the opponent fails to return the ball after it goes toward their side (faults). The serving side will receive points if the ball bounces out of court, or if the returning ball bounces into the net.
How to Determine the Serving Sequence in Pickleball?
Talking about the serving rules of pickleball, you know it as the toughest ones when compared to those of similar racket sports. You do the first serve of a pickleball game always from the right side of the court.
For duals, the player on the right always serves first. The two players on the right will, however, switch between serving as the game progresses. The player on the right will do the first serve every time the service side changes. If the right player was the first to serve during the previous score, the players will switch sides so the left player can start the game first from the right side.
The serving side will also keep serving until the serving side faults: when the server faults, the serving side alternates with the opponent, and the opponent becomes the server.
If the game is refreshed after a break, the right side of the court is the serving side if the score is even or zero at the start of the game. The game begins only from the left side of the court if the score is odd.
How to Serve in Pickleball
To serve the ball to your opponent, the pickleball paddle must make contact with the ball below the server’s waist. The server must also start the game at least one foot behind the baseline or non-volley zone line and no foot should touch the baseline of the court until after the ball is served.
The server will only get one chance. There is, however, an exception. If the pickleball hits the net and lands on the other side of the service court, you call it “let” and the server can serve again. Also, it is worth noting that, during a doubles game, each player gets to serve prior to the serve switch to the other team.
Bounce: The “Two Bounce Rule” of a pickleball game states that there should be one bounce per side. The returning side must let the pickle ball bounce before hitting it. Further, the serving team must do the same with the ball. After completing the “two bounce rule” or the double bounce rule, any side may hit the pickleball ball out of the air or off of a bounce. This provides the receiving side the edge (at least in terms of court position) at the start of each point.
How to Determine the Winner in Pickleball?
Only the serving team can acquire points. The receiving team won’t score when the ball bounces out of court on the serving side.
The first side to score 11 points with a lead of at least 2 points wins the game. You have to have a 2-point lead and score 11 points before you can win the game.
For tournament play, you can play the game to 15 or 21 points. But winners still need to win with a 2-point advantage.
Tips to Improve Pickleball Game
Attend the serve. You have complete control over the toss, timing, and pace of this stroke. Keep these ideas in mind before serving.
- To ensure consistency and precision, toss the ball in the same area each time.
- Maintain your contact point below the waist.
- You need to have the depth above strength (both excellent)! The deeper your serve, the longer it takes the returner to reach the kitchen line.
- Return for a reward. Your goal is to make it difficult for your opponent to drive or drop the third shot.
- For reliable, deep returns, take a short backswing and a long follow-through.
- Adjust your body to its proper position. Bend the elbow slightly and in front of the body.
- Set your body before hitting, and then go forward after contact.
The Third Shot
Make use of the third shot drop. This one is especially critical for hard hitters! In pickle ball, third shot drops are critical. It allows you to get up to the kitchen line (where you should be gaining the majority of the points!) while also putting pressure on your opponent to make a decision.
Aim for three feet above the net. Maintain a relaxed hold on the ball so that it does not bounce high when it lands on the other side of the net. Consider a shorter backswing and a longer follow-through. Steer the ball using your shoulder, using as little wrist movement as possible.
Drives are a terrific technique to change up the tempo and have an easier fifth shot to drop. Drive if the ball is too deep to drop or if you can step into your shot. Keep the drives low. Aim down the line or through the center.
You can call it as the game’s most significant shot. Your goal is to put yourself and your partner up for a winner. Ready position in a game of pickle ball is paddle up. Further, the edge of the paddle is facing you or your opponent. Keep your elbows apart and in front of your body. Hit the ball directly in front of your body, not to the side. Never, ever take the paddle to the back. If you hit the ball deep, step back.
Plan to Attack
- Keep your hold light and drive the ball with your body weight.
- The work you invest in getting to the kitchen line and hitting dinks is preparing you for an attacking shot.
- The best spot to attack is down the line. This offers your opponent less time to respond to the ball.
- There will be instances when you or your partner will pop a ball up and need to protect. Stay in the game and stay prepared to block.
- On hit, retreat and stand your ground. When you sense your opponent going to attack, take a couple steps back before they make contact to allow yourself time to defend.
- Block the ball in front of your body. Keep yourself prepared!
- When the ball is near your body, it is time to use your backhand to block it.
Now that you know the answer to the question “how do you play pickleball,” you can get out there and have some fun with friends. Use this beginner’s guide to learn how to start playing pickleball, understand the game’s basic rules, which is the right kind of pickleball equipment, how to choose the best pickleball paddle and how to ace the pickleball game.
If you want to learn how to play other great sports or need more information on the best sports gear to buy, have a look at some of the other guides we have on The Volley. With our guides, you can find the best products and tips for a myriad of sports.