How to play pickleball: Here are the rules and things to know before hitting the court

Maybe you’ve seen some big names backing new professional leagues, televised celebrity tournaments, or the Major League Pickleball season underway. Or maybe you’ve heard the popping of a plastic ball hitting a paddle on those new courts in your local park.

And maybe that has left you curious about what’s making pickleball one of the nation’s fastest-growing sports.

The equipment is straightforward: A pickleball is just a perforated plastic ball that resembles a heavier Wiffle ball. To serve and volley the pickleball, you’ll need a rigid wood or composite paddle and basic hand-eye coordination.

Whether you’ve already played pickleball or find yourself waiting to try out that new paddle you got for Christmas, here are the basics of pickleball – from the game to the equipment you’ll need to get started.

More pickleball: What is pickleball? Why this sport and its avid fans are taking over the courts.

A pickleball court measures 20 feet by 44 feet – the size of a badminton court – for both singles and doubles play, or nearly one third the surface area of a regulation tennis court. The smaller area creates tighter game play that shortens players’ reaction time and puts a great emphasis on precision shots.

Explore more:  Tiger Tracker: Follow Tiger Woods' Friday round shot-by-shot at the Northern Trust

The net height is the same as a tennis court: 36 inches on the ends and 34 inches in the middle.

To take away the advantage of the shorter court, a 7-foot non-volley zone on either side of the net, called “the kitchen,” creates a buffer between players on both sides and gives teams receiving a volley – a shot hit from the air and not on a bounce – a fair chance to return the ball. A volley shot hit while standing in the kitchen results in a fault.

An official pickleball weighs 0.78 to .935 ounces and measures 2.87 to 2.97 inches in diameter. Ball designs vary based on the kind of court. A ball designed for an outdoor court has 40 small holes evenly spaced around the surface. The plastic is smoother, harder and slightly heavier than an indoor ball. An indoor ball – designed for play on a wooden surface like a gym floor – has a softer plastic with a minimum of 26 larger, circular holes.

The only rule on ball color is that it must be uniform and provide contrast to the court.

Unlike tennis racquets, pickleball paddles should be “rigid, non-compressible material,” according to the USA Pickleball rules. In most cases, paddles are made of wood or composite material and have a largely smooth surface.

Paddle lengths can vary, but an official paddle cannot have a combined length and width greater than 24 inches. There is no restriction on a paddle’s weight.

Pickleball often draws comparisons to other racquet sports like tennis, pingpong and badminton, though with a smaller court area and the shortened reaction time needed to cover the area with your paddle, it’s closer to pingpong in feel.

Explore more:  south korea soccer jersey

Games are played to 11, and you must win by two points.

In doubles play, the player in the right service position (Team 1 in the diagram below) hits to the opposite corner, serving the ball with an underhand swing below the waist while standing behind the service line. The server first calls out the score and “two,” which would be “zero-zero-two.” To reduce the advantage of being the first team to serve, the initial server starts as the second server.

The serve must land in Team 2’s right service area. If the serve lands anywhere else, it is a fault.

If the server from Team 1 doesn’t fault and wins the point, the server and Team 1 partner switch service areas and makes another serve. The score would be called out “one-zero-two.”.

If, however, the server faults or misses a return, Team 2 takes over and the player in the right service area delivers the first serve, calling out “zero-zero-one,” with the “one” representing the first server. If Team 2 faults or fails to return the ball, the next serve goes to the second player on Team 2, who would call out “zero-zero-two,” with “two” meaning that player is the second server.

Only the serving team can score points; the receiving team cannot score points.

USA Pickleball maintains a full list of rules and scoring basics, but playing with people familiar with the game can be a good way to learn.

At the end of 2021, there were 9,524 places with pickleball courts in the United States and Canada, according to Places2Play, an online database compiled by USA Pickleball.

Explore more:  Lindor, Uribe homer to lift Indians over Rays

In that same year, roughly 4.8 million people were pickleball players, according to the 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) Single Sport Report on Pickleball. The report cited a 14.8% growth from 2020 to 2021. In all, SFIA claims an 11.5% average annual growth in the sport in the past five years.

Of the 4.8 million pickleball players, 1.4 million were considered “core” players – those who play eight or more times in a year – and nearly a third of the core players were age 65 or older.

SOURCES USA Pickleball; 2021 Equipment Standards Manual.

Published 1:12 pm UTC Feb. 5, 2023 Updated 1:12 pm UTC Feb. 5, 2023.

Related Posts