Jump on the pickleball bandwagon by learning the basics of this ever-popular game.
Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. for the third year in a row, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). Its popularity is fueled in large part by older adults — 60 percent of people who play pickleball eight or more times per year are 55 or older, per the SFIA.
If you’re curious about pickleball, here’s what you need to know to get started — and have fun.
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What are the basic rules of pickleball?
Pickleball can be played as doubles (two players per team) or singles, but doubles is the most common. The winning team is the first to reach 11 points.
The same basic rules apply to both singles and doubles games:
- The server (the person taking a shot to start a point) hits the ball diagonally crosscourt.
- When the ball is served, it must bounce twice before a point can be scored — once within the playing area of the opposite diagonal court and once on the return. This is the two-bounce rule.
- Once the ball has bounced once on each team’s court, players may either volley the ball (hit it before it bounces) or play off the bounce.
- The serving team can also score if the player returning the serve hits the ball outside the playing area.
- Points are scored only on the serve.
- Any action that stops play is known as a fault.
- When the receiving team faults, the serving team scores a point.
- When the serving team faults, they lose the serve to the opposing team.
Knowing these basics will make for a more enjoyable first outing. For a complete list of the rules, review the “rules summary” at USAPickleball.org.
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What do I need to know about a pickleball court?
The pickleball court is divided into two sides with the net in the center. Each side is then divided into two by a vertical line, creating a righthand court and a lefthand court.
There is a non-valley zone within 7 feet of the net on both sides. If you’re volleying the ball, you’re not allowed to step into the non-volley zone — including the line.
If your serve hits the non-volley zone line, it’s considered short and will be a fault. Balls that hit any other line on the court are considered in.
What gear do I need to play pickleball?
You’ll need a pickleball paddle and a pickleball to play. Pickleball paddles are smaller than a tennis racket and larger than a ping-pong paddle.
The ball itself has holes through it. And there are different balls for indoor and outdoor play.
USA Pickleball offers an approved paddle and ball list, plus tips for choosing the right gear.
What do I need to know about the serve in pickleball?
The serve is made diagonally crosscourt. When serving, your arm must move in an upward arc. The paddle must contact the ball at or below waist level, and your feet must be on the ground behind the court baseline.
What is the serving sequence?
You can flip a coin to decide which team gets to serve first during a game. Whichever team serves first starts from the righthand court.
If that team scores a point, the server initiates the next serve from the lefthand court. The server continues switching between the lefthand court and righthand court until they lose the serve to the opposing team.
I’ve never played a paddle or racket sport. What tips do you have for true beginners?
If you’ve never picked up a paddle or racket of any kind before, consider taking a lesson from a Professional Pickleball Registry (PPR)-certified coach or USA Pickleball Ambassador.
“A couch will tend to be skilled enough to keep the rally going and patient enough to play easy so you can experience success quickly,” says Ernie Medina, a USA Pickleball Ambassador and board member. “And being successful usually means you will also be having fun.”
Recommended reading: 5 Hidden Health Benefits of Pickleball
What tips do you have for those crossing over from another paddle or racket sport?
Don’t expect to play perfectly right off the bat. Pickleball may feel different from tennis, ping-ping, and badminton — and that’s OK, says Medina.
His best advice? “Just get on the court and start hitting.”
Where can I find places to play pickleball?
- Many SilverSneakers participating fitness locations now have pickleball courts on site
- Search for pickleball clubs through USA Pickleball
- Check your community’s park and recreation website for a list of pickleball courts near you
- Ask friends and family for suggestions
See our sources:
Pickleball stats: Sports Fitness & Industry Association Topline Report Tabs Pickleball as America’s Fastest-Growing Sport for Third Consecutive Year. USA Pickleball
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