How To Play Pickleball

How to play pickleball

Pickleball is a game that works for all ages and fitness levels, plus it’s easy to learn. A few basic rules are all you need to get started (well, that and a court to play on!). What we love about pickleball is that there’s nothing elite or pretentious about the sport. It’s pure fun but can also be challenging and requires a bit of strategy. 

Whether you’ve never heard of pickleball or have played a little and want to know more, here are the basics of how to play a great game on the court. 

How to Play Pickleball 

Pickleball is a type of racket sport where the goal is to rally the ball back and forth across the net, doing your best to get the other team to miss the ball or commit a fault according to the pickleball rules. While pickleball is similar to other sports like tennis, badminton, and paddleball, it’s also quite unique in its own ways. 

Pickleball was created in 1965 as a way to cure some summertime boredom. It started out combining elements of badminton, wiffle ball, and tennis. The result was an incredibly fun game that has gained massive popularity in recent years. 

You only need a couple of things to play pickleball. The first is a court set up for the game. Then you need a good pickleball paddle, some pickle balls, and the willingness to find yourself addicted to a fun, challenging, and competitive game. Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles, so if you don’t want to do singles play, the final thing you need is your favorite doubles partner. 

Are you ready to try your own hand at pickleball? Here’s everything you need to know to play the game. 

The Basics of a Pickleball Court 

The Basics of a Pickleball Court 

The dimensions of a pickleball court are the same as a doubles badminton-sized court, both measuring 20×44 feet. While these two courts are the same size, they are set up entirely differently. The court in pickleball is divided into three distinct zones on each side. 

In the middle of the court is an area that spans the entire width of the court and measures 7-feet in length on either side of the net. This area is called the non-volley zone or kitchen. Then, the remaining court is divided into service courts, with a left service court and a right service court on each side. 

Each service court extends 15-feet from the boundary of the kitchen to the baseline at the back of the court. There’s also a center line that divides the two service courts on each side. Lines that run along the sides of the court mark the playing surface and the area that’s considered out of bounds. The baseline also does this, but it’s also an important line because players should be standing behind the baseline when serving. 

Rules for the Serving Team 

Rules for the Serving Team 

Every game of pickleball starts with the pickleball serve. There are no hard and fast rules about who makes the first serve attempt. This can be decided and agreed upon by both teams. The serve in pickleball is intended just to get the ball into play. You need to know how to serve properly, but the serve itself isn’t considered a strategic shot in the game. 

There are a few basic rules of the serve that every pickleball player needs to know. The first is that when a person serves, they must be standing with at least one foot behind the baseline on the court. The first serve of the game should be done from behind the baseline of the right-hand service court (from the server’s perspective). 

The serve must be made underhand, with the paddle making contact with the ball below the waist level of the person serving. The highest point of the paddle during the serve should never be higher than the point where your wrist joint bends. 

When serving the ball, you want to hit the ball to the opposite diagonal court. This would mean that if you’re hitting from the right-hand side of your court, the serve hits the right service court from your opponent’s perspective (or the left opposite court from your perspective). The ball should go deep into the proper service court. 

Unlike some other racket sports, you get only one serve attempt. This means if you miss the ball or it falls dead, then the next serve goes to whoever is next in the serving sequence. The only exception to this is if you hit the net and the ball by some miracle happens to land in the correct service court of the opposing team. 

Serving Sequence 

Serving Sequence 

In pickleball, only the serving team has the chance to score. So, to make the game fair, each player gets a chance to serve. Since most pickleball games are played as doubles, we’ll outline the serving sequence for doubles teams. 

As mentioned earlier, each player should start their service sequence from the right-hand court. The first server is allowed to continue serving until a fault is made. With each new serve, the server switches sides of the court. So, if the first serve is made on the right side, the second serve by the same player will be made on the left side of the court. The server continues switching sides until a fault is made and they lose the serve. 

At this point, the service passes to the player that is next up in the serving sequence. In most cases, it will be the second team member on the serving side. The second player of the serving team then serves the ball from whichever side of the court they are in since that side of the court would have been next had their partner not lost the serve. By hitting the ball into alternating service courts, each player has the chance to play, and it levels out the game, preventing rapid scoring. 

When the second server loses the serve, the serve is passed to the other team. They then serve from behind the correct serving court (which starts on the right-hand side) and continues to switch sides according to the service rule until they lose the serve. The ball is then passed on to the second player of that team for the serve. 

The only exception to this sequence is when a server initiates the very first serve of a new game. When the first service sequence of a new game is lost to a fault, the ball then passes to the opposing team rather than the other member of the first serving team. 

The Double Bounce Rule

The Double Bounce Rule

There’s a very important rule in pickleball called the double bounce rule or two bounce rule. When the ball is served during a game of pickleball, it must bounce twice before either team can begin to volley it back and forth across the net. 

This is how the double bounce rule works. When the server serves the ball, and it lands in the opposing team’s service court, the opposing team must let the ball bounce once (not twice!) before hitting it with a ground stroke. 

The ball then lands back into the serving team’s court, where they also make sure the ball bounces once before hitting it. To simplify, each team must let the ball bounce once in their court before striking it in the shots immediately following the serve. The purpose of the two-bounce rule is to eliminate the serve and volley advantage, which makes for more challenging gameplay and extends the rally. 

How to Hit the Ball in Pickleball 

How to Hit the Ball in Pickleball 

When playing pickleball, you can hit the ball with either a forehand or backhand stroke. You’ll find that getting comfortable with both is a good pickleball strategy. As you become more comfortable with the game, you’ll also learn about more strategic shots, but for now, we’ll focus on the basics. 

There are two basic shots in pickleball  – the ground shot and volley. The difference between them is that with a ground shot, the ball touches the court and bounces once before it is hit. With a volley, the ball is hit while in the air before it has a chance to bounce. Both shots can be used during the rally, but there are some very specific rules for volleying the ball. 

Volleying the Ball 

Volleying the Ball 

The volley, or hitting the ball in the air, is a good way to score a point or make the game more challenging for the receiving team. A volley shot often ends up sending the ball hard but low over the net, leaving the receiving team making some split-second decisions on how to respond. 

Volleys can be hit with a forehand or backhand stroke, but backhand seems to be the more popular technique. While a ground shot can be made anywhere on the court that the ball hits, a volley can only be made from the service area of the right or left-hand court. One area where you absolutely cannot hit a volley is in the non-volley zone. 

The Non-Volley Zone 

The Non-Volley Zone 

On the court in pickleball is an area that extends 7-feet on each side of the net. This area is called the non-volley zone but is also often referred to as the kitchen. Understanding the non-volley zone is very important for a successful game of pickleball. 

As the name implies, players can’t volley the ball in the no-volley zone. Instead, they can only hit the ball after it bounces using a ground stroke in this zone. It’s considered an illegal move and a fault if a player is in the kitchen or touching the non-volley zone line and fails to make sure the ball bounces before hitting it. 

The rules of the non-volley zone are pretty specific, and it’s easier than you might think to commit a fault by volleying the ball too close to this area. For example, it’s a fault if any part of your foot touches the non-volley zone line when you hit a volley. It’s also a fault if you hit a volley outside of the kitchen, but the momentum of doing so propels you forward past the line. 

To make things even more complicated, if anything on your person falls into the kitchen while volleying the ball or immediately after, this is also a fault. This includes your paddle, your hat if you’re wearing one, or even if your keys fall out of your pocket – so be careful!

Scoring In Pickleball 

Scoring In Pickleball 

In pickleball, for both singles and doubles play, it’s only the serving side that scores. As mentioned earlier, each time a point is earned, the server moves to the other side of their court. The receiving or opposing team never switches sides until the serve is given to their side of the court. 

Teams score points in increments of one point at a time. In standard play, the game continues until a team reaches 11 points. However, to call it a win, the team that’s ahead in the scoring must win by at least two points. Some tournament games are played to higher scores. 

Learn To Play Pickleball & Discover Your New Favorite Sport 

Pickleball is fun, challenging, and great exercise for all ages and levels of fitness. It’s also one of the fastest-growing sports in terms of popularity. Start with the basics and have fun. You’re going to love playing pickleball!

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