Learn How to Play Pickleball


Your friends, the news, your co-workers, celebrities, everyone is talking about the fastest growing sport... pickleball! Now, I hope you are ready to join the fun.

As previously noted, pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis.

Pickleball is played on a pickleball court. A pickleball court has two sides and is divided by a net. There are four lines—the baselines, the sidelines, the centerline, and the Non-Volley Zone lines. The area in the center of the pickleball court is called the Non-Volley Zone, which we also affectionately call the Kitchen.

In addition to the court, you will need a pickleball paddle, a pickleball and some friends to play with.

Now, that you know what pickleball is... let’s breakdown how to play!

Pickleball can be played as a doubles game, where there are two players on each side of the court, or as a singles game, where there is one player on each side of the court. To start a game, decide who will serve first; any fair method will do. Once you decide who serves first, the player starting on the right-hand side of the court will serve from behind the baseline and between the centerline and sideline. Pickleball uses an underhand serve or a drop serve, and the serve must go crosscourt to the opposing service box and beyond the Non-Volley Zone line.

Pickleball has a two-bounce rule, which means the first two shots of a rally must bounce. So, both the serve must bounce, and the return must bounce. From there, you may hit the pickleball off the bounce or out of the air.

The rally will continue until someone makes a fault—for instance, there is a double bounce, someone hits the pickleball out of bounds, the pickleball hits someone anywhere other than below their paddle-side wrist, someone hits it into the net, etc.

All shots that are in the court, or on the lines of the court, are “in,” except that the serve must be in the service box beyond the Kitchen line—if the serve hits the Kitchen or Kitchen line, then that is “out.” Out balls are called by the player or team on the side of the pickleball court, where the pickleball bounces (or is supposed to bounce). Be sure to call out balls loudly, and only when you see the pickleball out of bounds.

Now, let’s discuss scoring in pickleball—which we admit can be a little confusing.

You can only score as the serving team in pickleball. So, if you win the rally as the serving team, you win a point, you switch sides of the court, and the same server will serve, but in the opposite direction. If you lose the rally as the serving team, then the serve moves to the next player. If the serve goes to the other side of the court—which we call a “side out”—then, in doubles pickleball, the person on the right-hand side of the court will go first. In singles pickleball, you will serve on the side of the court based on your score.

In doubles pickleball, the first serving team only has one service turn (so if the serving team loses the first rally, then the serve goes to the other team). After this first side out, each side has two service turns—in other words, each player gets a shot at serving. This is why you start every doubles pickleball game with a loud 0-0-2!

Speaking of the score, be sure to shout it out before every serve. The first number is your score, the second number is the other side’s score, and the third number is which service turn you are on in doubles pickleball. Singles pickleball, which is less popular than doubles pickleball, will only have two numbers—for instance, 0-0— because each side will only have one service turn. Most pickleball games are played to 11 points and you must win by two points.

One other unique rule to the sport of pickleball is that you cannot hit the pickleball out of the air—also known as a volley—while you are standing in the Non-Volley Zone (also called the Kitchen). This also means that your momentum cannot carry you into the Kitchen on a volley. Reaching over the Non-Volley Zone line above the surface area of the court to hit the pickleball is permitted. Also, you may hit the pickleball in the Non-Volley Zone after the pickleball has bounced. You may even stand in the Kitchen (although, not recommended) as long as you are not volleying the pickleball. So, again, no volleys in the Kitchen.

To put it all together, we have an underhand serve, that must go crosscourt. Both the serve and the return must bounce. If the serving team wins the rally, they get a point and switch sides. Remember you only switch sides if you win a point as the serving team. If the serving team loses, then everyone stays put, no points are awarded, and the serve goes to the next person. First team to 11 points wins! At the end of the game, be sure to paddle tap and give kudos for a great game. And, lastly, remember... no volleys in the Kitchen!

Do you have it all down? If not, no worries—you will. Get out there, and join the fun on the court and the fastest growing sport... pickleball!

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