Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in America and around the world. The game combines numerous paddle sports, like tennis and badminton, into a slightly different game. What makes the game so great, outside of being fun to play, is how all ages can play and how affordable it is to get started.
So, what is pickleball precisely at a high level, and what do you need to play a game of it? Where can you play pickleball matches? What are some basic rules to remember, and what is the difference between points and faults? Finally, what is the most common mistake that first-time players make when getting into pickleball?
Here is the complete breakdown of how to play pickleball.
What is Pickleball – A High-Level Breakdown
Pickleball games combine table tennis (ping pong), badminton, and tennis, into one game. The game’s goal is to hit the pickleball over the net and play against your opponent, like in ping pong. In traditional games, the objective is to be the first team to score 11 points, and you have to win by two points over your opponent to win that match.
What Do You Need to Play Pickleball?
You only need a pickleball paddle, a pickleball itself, and a place to play with a net. One popular place to play pickleball is on a tennis court since the net is already there, and there are lines on the court to clarify out of bounds. You can also play at an indoor basketball court if you need to play inside. If you do that, you can bring in your own net to create that separation between both sides of the court and some duct tape to create the baselines of the makeshift pickleball court.
However, with the growth of pickleball players in towns, many places are building dedicated pickleball courts. These pickleball courts are a good idea to play on since you will only take over an existing tennis court or basketball court from individuals who want to play those sports instead.
Finally, when it comes to what to wear for pickleball, you can wear comfortable clothes. Consider wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and a hat in the summer. When the weather gets a bit cooler, consider wearing warmer clothing, but not something you will get hot in since you will be moving around during the game. Finally, everyday sneakers are perfectly suitable for playing on the court. There is no need to buy specific running shoes to play if you are a beginner.
Where Do You Play Pickleball?
As pickleball becomes increasingly popular, more towns and cities are building specific pickleball courts for residents to play the game. For example, in Saratoga Springs, NY, they announced the construction of a 20,000-square-foot space specifically for pickleball games. Saratoga Springs is building this facility due to the increase in people playing this game and individuals joining leagues within the city.
Suppose your town or city has no specific pickleball courts—no need to worry. You can play the game on your town’s existing tennis, basketball, or badminton court. However, if you play on a badminton court, you must drop the net’s height down to the ground to play the game.
Finally, you can always make your own court if you need access to a tennis, badminton, or basketball court. The size of the pickleball court is 20 feet by 44 feet, and the net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 32 inches in the center. From there, you can put down the tape to create the boundaries of the court and sections like the non-volley zone (kitchen) on the court and more.
Basic Rules to Remember / Rules of Pickleball
Pickleball rules are similar to other sports, like tennis, but there are some key differences to remember. First, there is the non-volley zone, a seven-foot area away from the net on each side of the court. Players can’t stand in this area during a game and hit the ball, or it will create a fault. Aso, if a player’s momentum after a hit has them go into the kitchen, they get a fault.
Another rule to remember is that all serves must be underhand and land diagonally of where you serve it outside the non-volley zone. From there, the ball must bounce before the other team can return the shot to the other team. Also, like in tennis or ping pong, the ball can’t bounce twice. If the ball bounces twice without the opponent returning it, it is a point for the other side.
Finally, scoring only goes to the serving team during a game. That means that if you are on the receiving side and hit a shot that bounces and goes by your opponent, you get to serve next, but you don’t get that score. Games end once one side scores 11 points and win by two or more points.
How Do Players Score Points in Pickleball?
Pickleball scoring only occurs by the serving team and always begins on the right side of the court. After that, there are multiple ways to score points during a match when you are on the serving team.
- Hitting the ball into your opposing team’s side with them failing to return it to you
- Having the ball bounce twice (two bounce rule / double bounce rule) on your opponent’s side
- Your opponent hits the ball back into the net
How Do Faults Work?
Breaking a rule in pickleball is a fault. If you are the serving team and create a fault, you give the other team serving duties. If you are the receiving team and commit a fault, the other team’s score goes up by one point.
Here are some ways you can create a fault during a game.
- Crashing into the net during a game. Also, if you cause physical damage to the net, like slamming your paddle across the top, that is a fault.
- Hitting the pickleball out of the bounds
- Striking the ball in the air on a serve before it bounces
- Hitting the ball in the air while having a foot in the non-volley zone
- Returning the serve directly into the net.
What is a Common Mistake that Occurs for New Players in Pickleball?
Faults are generally the most mistakes that occur in pickleball. However, for first-time players, the most common mistake is hitting the ball in the NVZ in the air with a foot in that area.
The non-volley zone (NVZ or kitchen) is a seven-foot area outside the net that doesn’t allow you to stand and hit the ball in the air. Players familiar with tennis might crash the net during games, especially on lob shots, and want to smash the ball on their return. In pickleball, you can’t be standing in the kitchen (or on the kitchen line) and hit the ball when it is in the air. If you do so, you will create a fault.
However, if you let the ball bounce in the kitchen area and then hit it, that is fine.
Simple Pickleball Strategies to Consider
If you are playing singles pickleball, there are some strategy tips to consider. First, it is best to hit your shots against your opponent, requiring them to perform a backhand shot. Depending on their skill as pickleball players, a backhand shot might not be as powerful as a forehand shot, which means it can set you up for a powerful return to score a point.
Next, when playing singles pickleball, consider placing the ball on both sides of the court to make your opponent tired. While working on their weak side is a good idea, you also want them to move back and forth during games to increase a chance of a mistake. If possible, aim your shots to the left and right sides of the court on volleys to make them move and never have their feet planted.
When playing doubles pickleball, communication will be critical. During games, ensure you and your opponent are communicating about where you are going. Saying “I got it” or “yours” will help clarify who is going after that ball on plays.
Conclusion: How to Play Pickleball
In summary, pickleball should be familiar to people who have played tennis, badminton, or ping pong before. The game takes the elements of those sports and creates a new game with familiar rules to make the game interesting.
To play pickleball, you only need a few things. Those things include a court to play on, a pickleball paddle, the pickleball itself, and a net if the court still needs to get one. Also, wearing sneakers and comfortable clothing is all you need to play the game via athletic wear. There is no need to buy specific clothing to play with if you are a beginner.
Finally, the game starts with the pickleball serve on the right-hand courtside. From there, the ball must land and bounce diagonally from the serve, not in the NVZ zone. From there, the returner returns the ball, and the game continues.