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How to Play Pickleball

May 10, 2024
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How to play Pickleball
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How to play Pickleball

Welcome to the world of pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the country (and many places around the world). Pickleball is a paddle sport commonly referred to as a combination of table tennis, tennis and badminton. It’s easy to learn and great for people of all ages and skill levels.

Let’s start with a little history on where Pickleball came from…
In 1965 on Bainbridge Island, WA, Joel Pritchard, a Washington State congressman, and his friend, Bill Bell, went to work finding a way to keep their two families entertained one afternoon. An old badminton court rested in the Pritchard’s backyard, and after Pritchard and Bell scrounged up some ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball, they invented the game we know today as pickleball.

As they continued playing, Pritchard’s neighbor, Barney McCallum heard about the game. Together, Pritchard, Bell, and McCallum, created rules for the sport. As they brainstormed how to structure this new game, they didn’t waver from the original catalyst of the sport, keeping it as a game that the entire family could enjoy together.

There has been some debate as to the origins of the game’s name. A rumor claimed the Pritchards named it after their dog, Pickles. Joel Pritchard later confirmed his wife, Joan, coined the name. The assortment of equipment Pritchard and Bell had thrown together that afternoon reminded her of crew races. The pickle boat is the final boat in a crew race, and the crew members who don’t start all pile into this last boat to finish the race.

So, let’s cover the basics. The court has 2 sides and is divided by a net. There are 4 lines: the baselines, the sidelines, the center line, and the non-volley zone lines. The non-volley area is also known as the kitchen.

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In addition to a pickleball court, all you need to play is a pickleball paddle, a pickleball and some friends to play with. Pickleball can be played as both a doubles and a singles game but most commonly played as a doubles game. If playing a doubles game, you would have 2 people set up on each side of the pickleball court to start a game.

To start a game, one team will serve. The pickleball must be served cross court into the service box. Unlike tennis, the serve in pickleball must be underhand, or you can use a drop serve. Also, both the serve and the return of serve must bounce. This is called the 2 bounce rule.

After the serve and the return of serve, either team may volley the pickleball. Meaning after the serve and return of serve, a team can either hit the ball in the air or after a bounce. Each rally will continue until someone makes a fault.

Faults include a double bounce, if someone hits the ball out of bounds, the pickleball hits someone anywhere other than below their paddle side wrist, or someone hits the ball into the net.

How to Play Pickleball blog image

All shots that are in the court or on the lines of the court are in. Other than the serve, the ball must be in the service box beyond the kitchen line. If the serve hits the kitchen or kitchen line, it is considered out.

Out balls are called by the player or team on the side where the pickleball bounces. So, now that you know the basics, let’s talk about scoring. First, you can only score if you are the serving team. So, if you win the rally as a serving team, you win a point.

If you win a point, the same server would then switch sides on the court and then serve again in the opposite direction. If you lose the rally as a serving team, then the serve moves to the next player. Both players on each side of the court will get a shot at serving each round. The exception in doubles pickleball being on the first serve, the starting team will only have one service turn.

When the serve goes to the other side of the court to the other team, which we call a side out, then the person on the right hand side of the court will go first in doubles pickleball. For scoring in doubles, it will consist of 3 numbers. For example, if the score is 0-0-2, that means the serving team has 0, the opposing team has 0, and then the last number is the service turn. After the first side out, each side will have 2 service turns since each player will get a shot at serving.

How to Play Pickleball Blog Image 2

In Singles pickleball, you will serve on the side of the court based on your score. Singles scoring only has 2 digits, starting with 0-0 because each side will only have 1 service turn.

One thing that makes pickleball unique is the non-volley zone, also known as the "kitchen." The non-volley zone is the 14 foot space in the middle of the court, which extends 7 feet on each side of the court.

You may not volley the pickleball, meaning hit the pickleball out of the air while making contact with the kitchen. Contact with the kitchen includes standing in the kitchen or allowing your momentum to carry you into the kitchen after you hit the pickleball.

Winning a game
Most pickleball games are played to 11 points and you must win by 2 points. The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game.

Whether you're a seasoned athlete looking for a new challenge or a beginner eager to dive into a dynamic sport, pickleball offers something for everyone. And if you have not downloaded it already, download the FREE PicklePlay app to find your favorite courts, connect with other players and more!

You can also click here to watch our YouTube tutorial on "How to Play Pickleball". So, grab your paddle, lace up your sneakers, and embark on an exhilarating journey to join the exciting world of pickleball!

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