Learn How to Play Pickleball
Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country, that you either have already fallen in love with if you are already a pickleball player or will quickly fall in love with if you are just coming into the sport. Pickleball may be a sport with a funny name, but it is way more than just a sport.
The Pickleball Guide – brought to you by Pickler – is a collection of knowledge, tips and stories to get you started on the pickleball court and in the pickleball community. The Pickleball Guide breaks down everything that you need to know about the sport of pickleball and addresses all things pickleball.
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a sport that is commonly referred to as a mix of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Pickleball is a racquet/paddle sport that is played with a paddle and a whiffle ball (i.e. a plastic ball with holes) on either an indoor or outdoor court that is the same size as a badminton court and a modified tennis net (i.e. a pickleball net is two inches lower than a tennis net). Pickleball is a sport for all ages and skill levels, that can be played as either doubles or singles, is easy to learn, and comes with an amazing and welcoming culture and community of people.
What You Need
Other than a few friends, what do you need to play pickleball? There are 5 things that you will need before you join the fun:
The Official Rulebook for pickleball sets forth the rules for pickleball. The Official Rulebook for pickleball has been published by the USA Pickleball Association (USA Pickleball) since 1984, and has been adapted by the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) since 2010. The Official Rulebook is reviewed and, to the extent necessary, revised and updated every year by a joint effort between USA Pickleball and the IFP, as pickleball rules have continued to evolve as the sport itself evolves. The Official Rulebook applies to both recreational pickleball play and tournament pickleball play.
What Rules Make Pickleball Unique
There are lots of situations and circumstances that could play out on the pickleball court, and the Official Rulebook for pickleball covers most, if not all, of these situations and circumstances. However, to get started playing pickleball, or when teaching others to play pickleball for the first time, there are a few essential rules to cover that make pickleball truly unique:
- The Serve in Pickleball Must be Underhand. To start a point in pickleball, the serving player must serve the pickleball underhand, which means that the player makes contact with the pickleball below his or her waist, with the head of the paddle below his or her wrist. The pickleball must travel crosscourt into the opposite serving area, which is the area between the baseline and the Non-Volley Zone line (also known as the Kitchen line).
- Both the Serve and the Return of Serve Must Bounce. Both the serve and the return of serve must bounce in the sport of pickleball. This is called the 2-bounce or 3-hit rule in the sport of pickleball. After the serve and return of serve, either team or player may volley the pickleball. In other words, after the serve and return of serve, either team or player may hit the pickleball either in the air or after a bounce. To note, if the pickleball bounces twice before you can hit the pickleball, then the point is over.
- Be Aware of the Non-Volley Zone (also known as the Kitchen). The Non-Volley Zone (also known as the Kitchen) is the 14-foot area in the middle of the court, which extends 7 feet on either side of the pickleball net. You may not volley (in other words, hit the pickleball in the air, without a bounce) the pickleball while making contact with the Non-Volley Zone. Contact with the Non-Volley Zone includes standing in the Non-Volley Zone, dropping your paddle or hat into the Non-Volley Zone, or allowing your momentum to carry you into the Non-Volley Zone after you hit the pickleball outside of the Non-Volley Zone. To note, reaching over the Non-Volley Zone line above the surface area of the court to hit the pickleball is permitted. Also, to note, you may hit the pickleball in the Non-Volley Zone after the pickleball has bounced, and you may generally stand in the Non-Volley Zone (although, not recommended) as long as you are not volleying the pickleball.
Pickleball Rules Explained
We know pickleball rules can be tricky at times. Don’t worry. Pickler will explain the ins and outs of all of the pickleball rules in a series of pickleball rules blogs to make sure that you make the right call on the pickleball court.
- 10 Must Know Pickleball Rules Before Your Hit the Court
- Pickleball Rules – Learn How to Start – 5 Things You Need to Play
- Pickleball Dictionary – Quickly Learn the Pickleball Vocabulary
- Pickleball Serving Rules – Master the Start of Every Pickleball Game
- Pickleball Scoring Rules – Learn How to Keep the Score in Pickleball
- Pickleball Kitchen Rules – Learn Important Non-Volley Zone Rules
- Pickleball Line Call Rules – How to Make the Right Call
- Pickleball Rules – Faults & Dead Balls on the Pickleball Court
- Pickleball Rules – Commonly Misunderstood Rules in Pickleball
- Pickleball Tournament Rules – Must Read Before a Tournament
- Singles Pickleball Rules – How to Play Singles Pickleball
There are plenty of reasons why you should pick up a pickleball paddle and start playing pickleball. Here are just 7 reasons why you should join the movement and start playing pickleball today:
1. Be Part of a Community
Pickleball is much more than just a sport; it is a community. Pickleball and pickleball players are social (both on and off the pickleball court) and inclusive of players from all backgrounds, ages, and skill levels.
2. Easy to Learn and to Get Better
The rules of pickleball are simple and easy to learn, no matter what your skill level or age. Pickleball is also a sport that you can easily improve at and excel at! See below for some tips and tricks to get you started!
3. Be Physically Fit
Pickleball will improve your physical fitness (you can burn 600+ calories per hour playing pickleball), and will help with weight loss and weight management. Pickleball also leads to stronger cardiovascular and metabolic health, as well as stronger bones and muscles.
In other words, playing pickleball will help you live longer!
4. Be Mentally Sharp
Pickleball will also help keep you mentally alert, as the sport involves strategy and social interaction. Pickleball will also give you a stronger, more positive mental state (those endorphins make you happy!).
5. Play All-Year Round
Pickleball is a sport that you can play both outdoors and indoors, which allows you to play all-year round, no matter the weather!
6. Inexpensive to Play
Pickleball is relatively inexpensive to play. All you need is a pickleball, a paddle, and a court (which could be in a driveway, a street, or a local public park).
7. Pure FUN
Most importantly, pickleball is FUN! Pickleball will also lead to lots of laughter, and will give you friends for a lifetime and that extend well-beyond the pickleball court.
Where to Play
Short answer for where you can play pickleball: Anywhere that is at least 20 feet wide by 44 feet long!
There are close to 11,000 places to play pickleball, with more than 44,000 pickleball courts, across the globe. Common places to play pickleball include senior-living communities, YMCAs, and local parks, schools, and recreation centers. To find a place to play pickleball near you, check out USA Pickleball’s Places 2 Play website at https://www.places2play.org.
With that said, you can play pickleball on just about any hard surface that is at least 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. For instance, you can create your own pickleball court by marking out pickleball court lines (by using line kits or even chalk) and setting up a temporary net on any concrete area, wood or gym floor, or other hard surface, including a tennis or basketball court. You can also play pickleball on grass or clay tennis courts, as pickleball players are slowly testing the ability of pickleball to be played on these alternative surfaces.
The fact that you have the ability to play pickleball just about anywhere is one factor that makes the sport of pickleball so great. Pickleball is accessible and relatively inexpensive to play.
How to Improve
To get better at pickleball, try the following:
1. Learn Proven Tips and Strategies on Pickler’s Pickleball Blog
Learn the best pickleball tips and strategies proven to help improve your pickleball game by reading and subscribing to Pickler’s pickleball blog. Pickler continuously updates blogs to bring you proven pickleball tips and strategies to continuously improve your pickleball game. These pickleball blogs include:
- Basic Pickleball Tips to Improve Your Pickleball Game
- Basic Court Positioning on the Pickleball Court
- Pickleball Strategy: 13 Tips & Techniques to Win Big
- Pickleball Strategy: 9 Singles Pickleball Tips to Win Big
- 7 Pro Tips for a Killer Pickleball Serve
- 7 Strategies on How to Defeat a Banger in Pickleball
- What Is the “Shake and Bake”?
- What Is an Erne?
- What Is a Nasty Nelson?
- 3 Pickleball Grips Explained
- Why the Middle May Be the Best Pickleball Strategy
- What Is “No Man’s Land” & 6 Strategies on How to Be Better There
- Hit Your Spot! Why Placement Is More Important than Power
- Help, I Am Being Targeted, or “Iced Out,” on the Pickleball Court!
- Pickleball Drills to Up Your Skills: DIY Volley, Dink & Wall Drills
- Pickleball Drills to Improve Your Pickleball Game
- 6 Tips for Playing With & Against a Lefty on the Pickleball Court
- Pickleball Tournament Tips
- AND MORE!
2. Practice, Practice, Practice!
It is important to drill, rather than go straight into a pickleball game. This is because, in a game (whether in a tournament or not), you are in a stressful, high-speed situation. Things tend to break down in stressful, high-speed situations, such as your pickleball mechanics. Practice your pickleball mechanics in a non-stressful environment. In other words, DRILL, DRILL, DRILL! It is so important to drill to commit the proper pickleball mechanics to muscle memory and to make your proper pickleball mechanics part of your habits. Generally, you must do any skill, such as hit a particular pickleball shot, properly at least 10,000 times to master it. This is worth reiterating—you must hit 10,000 of each of your dinks, drops, drives, volleys, serves, returns, lobs, overheads, etc.—the PROPER way—to master each shot and each skill. This means that you may need to hit a particular shot more than 10,000 times—say 20,000 times—to hit 10,000 proper strokes. So, emphasize quality on every shot!
For more information on pickleball drills, including a sample pickleball drill routine, check out Pickler’s blog on Pickleball Drills to Improve Your Pickleball Game!
3. Find a Pickleball Coach
While it is important to practice each skill properly, you need to understand what the proper way is. One way to understand how to master each skill or shot on the pickleball courts is to find a pickleball coach, which you have access to at Pickler 24/7/365 with Pickler’s online video lesson collection called My Pro Pickleball Coach. My Pro Pickleball Coach is a fraction of the price of one clinic or lesson, and features over 140 video lessons (over 7 hours of instruction!), as well as a corresponding e-book, that breaks down every aspect of the sport of pickleball, including pickleball mechanics, fundamentals, strategy, advanced concepts, and drills.
4. Play with and Against Pickleball Players that Will Challenge You
By playing with and against pickleball players that are as strong or stronger players than you, you will be required to step up your level of play. You will also have the opportunity to watch and learn their techniques and strategies in order to adapt or emulate in your own game.
Another way to challenge your pickleball skills is to play in a pickleball tournament, league, or round robin, where the competitive element is present. Read below to learn more about pickleball tournaments!
5. Work on Your Overall Fitness
The better fitness you have, the more shots you will be able to track down, the easier it will be to move on the pickleball court, and the faster your reactions will be to the pickleball. You may also find yourself hitting the pickleball harder and exerting less energy to play, which means that you can play even longer! So, work on your overall fitness by cross training, lifting weights, doing pilates or yoga, or even participating in other sports.
History of Pickleball
Pickleball was created by Joel Pritchard (former United States congressman), Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum in the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The three founding fathers of pickleball created the game out of a necessity to entertain their bored children. They improvised with the recreational gear they had at hand, which included a badminton net, table tennis paddles, and a wiffle ball. Pritchard, Bell, and McCallum tweaked the rules to eventually come up with the first rules of the sport of pickleball. Needless to say, the newly created game was a hit with the children and quickly attracted the attention of the adults, too.
Other Key Dates in the History of Pickleball:
- 1965 – The sport of pickleball was born on Bainbridge Island, Washington.
- 1967 – The first pickleball court was constructed.
- 1972 – Pickle-Ball Inc., a corporation, was created to protect the sport of pickleball.
- 1975 – The National Observer published an article about pickleball, which helped garner national attention for the sport.
- 1976 – Tennis Magazine published an article about pickleball, calling the sport “America’s newest racquet sport.”
- 1976 – The first pickleball tournament was held in Tukwila, Washington.
- 1984 – The USAPA was created to grow the sport of pickleball nationwide. The first rulebook was also created.
- 1984 – Arlen Paranto created the first composite pickleball paddle.
- 1990 – Pickleball reached all 50 states in the United States.
- 2005 – The USAPA was re-born as a not-for-profit corporation. The mission remained the same, which was and is to grow the sport of pickleball in the United States.
- 2009 – Almost 400 pickleball players from the United States (26 states) and Canada participated in the first USAPA National Tournament in Buckeye, Arizona.
- 2010 – The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) was created.
- 2020 – Two professional pickleball tours were created – the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and the Association of Pickleball Professional (APP).
- 2021 – Major League Pickleball (MLP) was created.
- 2022 – Pickleball4America (also known as Pickle4) was created.
Today, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, there are more than 8.9 million pickleball players in the United States. There are also almost 11,000 places to play, with more than 44,000 pickleball courts, across the globe. The growth of pickleball since 1965 is staggering, and this is only the beginning. The sport of pickleball continues to grow and capture the hearts of players worldwide.
Pickleball may be sport with a funny name. But, where did the name “pickleball” come from?
There are a couple of theories on how the sport of pickleball became to be named pickleball. The first is that one of the founding father’s wives, Joan Pritchard (wife of Joel Pritchard), named the game “pickleball” because the game reminded her of a pickle boat, which is a term in crew to refer to the boat that has mismatched, leftover oarsmen from other boats.
With that said, the second and more popular theory professed by Barney McCallum and other firsthand eye witnesses from the early days, is that the sport of pickleball was named after the Pritchard family’s cock-a-poo named “Pickles.”
In the early days, a passionate debate broke out about amongst the guests at a cocktail party hosted by the Pritchard family about what to call the newly created paddle game. At the time of the debate, Pickles the dog ran across the room. As Pickles flashed across the room, someone suggested that the new, fun paddle game be called “pickleball” because Pickles would run around and chase the ball on, off, and around the court. It was “Pickle’s ball.” Hence, pickleball!
Whatever theory you prefer to tell, and whatever the paddle game invented by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum may be called, one thing is certain… we in the pickleball community are all extremely grateful for pickleball!
A pickleball tournament is a competitive event where you can showcase your pickleball skills and compete with others. Pickleball tournaments are typically organized by (a) your age and (b) your rating (including your UTPR), skill level, and/or ranking. Pickleball tournaments are also typically organized by type of event, which include mixed doubles, gender doubles (i.e. men’s doubles and women’s doubles), and gender singles (i.e. men’s singles and women’s singles).
Pickleball tournament players probably make up less than three percent of the overall pickleball population. For these pickleball tournament players, more and more pickleball tournaments are being played across the country, and even the world, each and every week. If you are one of these pickleball players that loves to put your court skills to the test and play in a pickleball tournament, or are trying to decide which pickleball tournament should be your first pickleball tournament, what do you look for?
There are many things pickleball players could look for in a pickleball tournament. One thing that may be important to pickleball players is the size of the pickleball tournament (which could also tend to correlate with quality). Some of the largest pickleball tournaments across the world include, among others:
- USA Pickleball National Championships
- US Open Pickleball Championships
- Ballpark Series
- IFP Bainbridge Cup
- Pro Pickleball Tour Events
- Amateur-Focused Events
There are also smaller local pickleball tournaments across the country and across the world.
How to Sign Up for a Pickleball Tournament
PickleballBrackets.com handles a number of the sign-ups for the large pickleball tournaments. Other pickleball tournaments, like the Ballpark Series, may use Pickleball Den or another technology provider.
Don’t forget to also reach out to your local pickleball club to learn about other events, which could include pickleball tournaments, leagues, round robins, and other social events.
Pickleball Tournament Tips
Pickleball tournaments can be a fun way to test your skills on the court. However, playing competitive pickleball in a pickleball tournament is very different than playing recreational pickleball, as there can be added pressure, lots of starts and stops throughout the day, and different pickleball rules to be concerned with. As a result, it is important to prepare yourself both physically and mentally if you decide to play in any of these pickleball tournaments. Pickler is here to help! Check out Pickler’s blogs, social media, e-books, and online video lessons to elevate your pickleball skills and strategy on the pickleball court!
The sport of pickleball is considered friendlier on the body than other sports, such as any contact sport, like football or basketball, or even tennis. However, like any other sport, there is a risk of injury that comes along with playing the game. To help reduce the risk of injury on the pickleball court and play pickleball safely, consider the following pickleball safety tips:
- Be Aware of Your Playing Area and the Various Obstacles
- Do NOT Play on Wet Pickleball Courts
- Learn from a Professional
- Pay Attention to Your Body
- Know Your Limitations
- Improve Your Balance
- Avoid Backpedaling
- Learn to Fall Without Injury
- Communicate with Your Partner
- Wear Proper Pickleball Shoes
- Use Proper Equipment
- Stretch and Warm Up
- Consider Wearing Eye Protection
- Protect Yourself from the Sun
- Consider Consulting with Your Doctor
- Have an Emergency Plan in Place
- Teach Others Good Habits
Pickleball is a “social” sport. This generally means that pickleball is as much about interacting and socializing with people (in other words, having fun) as it is about physical activity and competition. This “social” culture around pickleball is one defining characteristic of the sport itself. In connection with that unique culture, it is important to understand some “pickleball etiquette” tips before hitting the pickleball court. These include:
- Introduce Yourself to New Players – Before starting a pickleball game with new people, be sure to introduce yourself to others.
- Do Not Cross a Pickleball Court During a Point – Avoid crossing over a pickleball court when a point is ongoing. This includes avoiding entering the baseline area or the sideline area.
- Know the Rules – Do you best to know and understand the rules of pickleball. This will help avoid disputes on the pickleball court and ensure that everyone is playing by the same set of rules.
- Bring Your Own Ball – Do not rely on other players to always bring the pickleball. Have your own stash! Also, when a pickleball rolls onto your court, avoid switching the pickleball with your own. Keep the pickleball that you or your court is playing with – most players are particular about their ball.
- Call the Score Loudly – When you are serving, be sure to call the score loudly so that all players on the pickleball court can hear you.
- Allow the Players to Make the Calls – If you are a spectator, avoid the urge to make the call, including line calls. Allow the players on the pickleball court to make the call.
- Keep the Coaching to Yourself – Only provide coaching advice when asked. Be wary of coaching other players on the pickleball court, as they may not want to hear any unsolicited advice.
- Welcome New Players and Play with Weaker Players Every So Often – The culture of pickleball is welcoming, so do not be afraid to welcome new player onto your court. Also, if you are a stronger player, consider playing with weaker players from time to time, as they will greatly appreciate your game and you may have an opportunity to work on a specific skill or shot. By welcoming new players and helping weaker players, the sport of pickleball will grow in number and in talent.
- Don’t Play Keep Away – If you are a weaker player that is able to play with a stronger player, avoid the urge to play keep away from the stronger player. Hit more shots to the stronger player for the opportunity to improve your pickleball game and to keep the stronger player willing to play with you more! Also, do not outwear your welcome with the stronger player. Play a few games and say thank you.
- Practice Good Sportsmanship – Fair play and good sportsmanship are cornerstones of pickleball. Be sure to respect and practice both.
- Practice the Golden Rule – As in life, treat others the way that you want to be treated. Be nice to others and have fun on the pickleball court!
- “Paddle Tap” After Every Game – After every game, players meet at the pickleball net to tap pickleball paddles – either with the head or butt of the pickleball paddle. When paddle tapping, also consider giving your opponents a compliment – for instance, “great game.” *If you are social distancing due to COVID-19, consider a gesture toward the net, as well as a friendly paddle wave to your opponents.
Hopefully, by this point in the Pickleball Guide, you are ready to exclaim that “I play pickleball!”
With that in mind, in the past, the sport of pickleball developed a reputation for being a senior game, as the game was predominantly played by people over the age of 55. While a huge percentage of the pickleball population is over the age of 55, recent trends show that the sport of pickleball is catching fire with younger generations.
Even though the sport of pickleball has a reputation as a senior sport and is still largely played by players over the age of 55, the sport of pickleball is re-characterizing itself as a sport for all ages. From juniors to seniors, the sport of pickleball is for you!
What Is Pickler?
Pickler is about celebrating pickleball as more than just a sport with a funny name. We celebrate the friendships, community, and FUN of pickleball. For both pickleball enthusiasts and pickleball newbies alike, Pickler provides inspiration and information to help you play your best pickleball and join the pickleball movement.
Our mission at Pickler is to promote the sport of pickleball and inspire others to play pickleball. Pickler promotes the unique and welcoming community of pickleball, as well as pickleball’s great exercise, family-friendly, high-quality play, meaningful relationships, health and wellness benefits, and fun culture. Pickler also strives to help pickleball players improve their game and play their best pickleball, whether it is (1) through Pickler’s FREE email newsletter; (2) through Pickler’s pickleball videos and pickleball e-books that focus on every aspect of the sport of pickleball; or (3) by helping pickleball players show off their love of pickleball with some Pickler gear.
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