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Master Pickleball: 9 Simple Rules for Beginners’ Guide

Introduction to Pickleball

An Intriguing Game with Humble Beginnings

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in a new sport, pickleball should be on your radar. This quirky named game is an amalgamation of tennis, badminton and table tennis, all wrapped into one.

It’s a game that is as interesting as its name suggests, chock-full of energy, strategy and fun. Pickleball has been around for over half a century but has recently exploded in popularity.

It bridges the gap between leisurely backyard games and competitive sports skillfully which makes it appealing to a broader audience. Whether you’re in it for the fun or the competition – there’s room for everyone.

A Quick Peek at the History of Pickleball

The origins of pickleball hark back to mid-summer 1965 when three dads – Bill Bell, Joel Pritchard and Barney McCallum – strived to alleviate their children’s holiday boredom. They improvised a game using available equipment: ping-pong paddles plus a perforated plastic ball, on an old badminton court at Bainbridge Island near Seattle. Little did they know that their creativity would lead to the birth of an entirely new sport.

As they refined rules and gameplay over time, it evolved from just being a backyard pastime into something more structured. Over time, this makeshift game caught on with friends and relatives resulting in growing popularity beyond their local community leading eventually into formalized play with dedicated courts becoming commonplace across North America.

Why is it Called "Pickleball" Anyway?

The name ‘pickleball’ itself has stirred up many amusing debates among enthusiasts for decades. One popular theory suggests it was named after Pritchard’s family dog, Pickles, who had a notorious habit of running off with the ball. However, according to Joan Pritchard, Joel’s wife, the name was derived from the term ‘pickle boat’, which refers to the last boat to return with its catch in rowing.

She believed that their game resembled a pickle boat because it combined elements of different sports much like how a pickle boat comprised of leftover oarsmen from other boats. Whether you favor the humorous dog story or believe in Joan Pritchard’s explanation – one thing is undeniable: The term ‘pickleball’ undoubtedly adds an extra layer of charm and intrigue to this already fascinating game.

Action shot from a female pickleball player on a outdorr court

The Rising Popularity of the Game

Since its inception on that languid summer afternoon in 1965, pickleball has grown exponentially and has firmly established itself as one of America’s favorite pastimes. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), there are now more than 15,000 indoor and outdoor courts spread across North America – a figure that continues to grow each year. The resurgence of this sport is not just confined within North America but it is gaining momentum worldwide.

Its intuitive gameplay combined with simple rules makes it easily accessible for beginners while still offering ample strategic depth for seasoned players – making it universally appealing. Whether you’re young or just young at heart – pickleball caters for all ages and fitness levels.

Understanding the Basics

Before we delve into the intricacies of the game, let’s lay a strong foundation by understanding the basic elements of pickleball. Just like any other sport, there are some fundamental pieces to this puzzle that we need to put together first.

The Lowdown on Pickleball Equipment

Pickleball equipment isn’t overly complicated or expensive, and once you’ve got the basics down, it’s as easy as pie. Key components you’ll need include a paddle, a ball, and a court.

Paddles: What's the Big Dill?

First off, let’s talk about pickleball paddles – arguably your most important piece of equipment. These are larger than ping-pong paddles but smaller than tennis rackets— think of them as their lovechild!

They’re usually made from lightweight materials like aluminium or graphite and typically have an ergonomic grip for minimizing hand fatigue during those intense back-and-forths. Your paddle is your primary tool in this game; it dictates how hard you hit the ball and how much control you have over its direction.

It should feel comfortable in your hand and not too heavy. Keep in mind that different models cater to different play styles so take some time to find one that suits your personal flair.

Male and female playing pickleball on a outdoor court

Balls: Not Your Average Wiffle Ball

You might think at first glance that pickleball uses standard wiffle balls – but don’t be fooled! Though they might resemble their backyard counterparts, these balls are designed specially for pickleball play with unique sizes and hole patterns for optimal flight properties.

The balls used indoor vary slightly from those used outdoor because wind can affect their movement significantly; hence outdoor balls have smaller holes. So depending on where you’re planning to play, make sure you’re using the appropriate ball!

The Court: It's a Bit Like Tennis, But Not Quite

A pickleball court is similar to a tennis court but smaller in size. The dimensions are 20 feet wide by 44 feet long, divided by a net in the middle.

At each end of the court, there’s an area called ‘the kitchen’ – but more on that later. The court can be hard like tennis courts or have artificial grass like some badminton courts.

You might even find indoor ones with wooden floors! Regardless of the surface though, knowing your way around it is crucial for strategic gameplay.

Scoring System Simplified: No Need for a Math Degree Here!

Fear not, this is one sport where you don’t need a math degree to keep track of the scores. In pickleball games are played typically to 11 points; however, tournaments may play up to 15 or 21 and must be won by at least two points.

Scores are always reported in three numbers representing the serving team’s score first, then the opposing team’s score and finally which server on the serving team is currently serving (either ‘1’ or ‘2’). So when you hear “10-7-1”, it means that team one has scored ten points while their opponents have seven and that it is player number one’s turn to serve on team one.

Pickleball Paddles for Sale

JOOLA Solaire Professional Pickleball Paddle
JOOLA Collin Johns Scorpeus Pickleball Paddle
JOOLA Ben Johns Perseus Pickleball Paddle

Getting Started with Playing Pickleball

The first step in your pickleball journey, after acquainting yourself with the equipment and scoring system, is to actually start playing. Sounds thrilling, doesn’t it? But before you leap headfirst into the game, there are a few essential skills that need your attention – serving and returning the serve.

Serving in pickleball isn’t just about getting the ball over the net. It’s about setting the tone for the rally ahead, putting pressure on your opponent right from get-go.

Similarly, a good return of serve can rattle your opponents and give you an edge. So let’s delve deeper into these two key aspects of pickleball gameplay.

Serving Up Some Fun: How to Serve in Pickleball

In pickleball – like tennis – serving is integral; it kickstarts each point and can set up early dominance in rallies. You only score points on your serve, so mastering this technique becomes pivotal to victory.

To serve accurately and effectively requires practice as well as tactical understanding of where to place serves for maximum advantage. Of course, before you move onto placing serves strategically around court segments, it’s crucial that you overcome initial hurdles of hitting an accurate underhand serve.

Positioning Yourself Right: Where to Stand When Serving

Crafting an effective serve begins long before paddle meets ball; it starts with positioning yourself correctly on the court. In pickleball, all serves must be made diagonally from one side of court to corresponding side on opponents’ half. Your feet should be positioned behind baseline when serving.

You may stand anywhere along width of court but don’t cross sideline or centerline at baseline. Maintaining this order ensures no foot faults occur – a common beginners’ mistake!

As for your body, it should be angled towards direction you plan to send ball. Rotate your torso slightly towards serving direction for an easier swing and better control.

Remember, small adjustments in your stance and position can have a tremendous impact on accuracy and power of your serve. So experiment with different stances until you find what works best for you.

Mastering the Underhand Stroke: It’s All in the Swing!

Serving in pickleball involves an underhand stroke. This rule is designed to keep serves less aggressive than other racket sports, maintaining a fun and fair balance of play.

To execute a legal serve, start by holding ball at waist level. Your arm should move in an upward arc motion, striking the ball below navel level.

The paddle face must also be below wrist when making contact with ball – another distinct feature of pickleball serving rules. A smooth follow-through is key to achieving depth and accuracy on serve.

Think of guiding the ball over net rather than hitting hard at it. Remember, an ideal pickleball serve lands deep into opponent’s court while remaining low over net – a challenging combination that comes naturally with practice.

Experimenting with different grips (like Continental or Eastern) can affect how much spin or power you impart on the serve. So don’t hesitate to try different styles till you discover what suits your game best!

Returning Serve like a Pro - Even If You're Not One Yet

The return of service — it’s that critical moment bridging defense into offense. Do this right and you’ll put yourself in prime position to take control of rally; falter and well…you’re playing catch-up from word go.

In returning serve, aim to neutralize opponent’s advantage by forcing them deep into their court. This gives you precious extra time to transition into your ideal position at mid-court, or ‘kitchen line’ as pickleballers call it.

Like serving, the return should be hit with an underhand stroke. But unlike serving, there are no restrictions on how high you can strike ball.

So use this to your advantage by striking ball at its peak bounce for a deeper and more powerful return. Remember that patience is a virtue in pickleball.

The two-bounce rule dictates that you must let serve bounce once in your half before returning it – and trust us when we say resisting the temptation to volley back serve is one of hardest rules for beginners to follow! But stick with it, and soon enough you’ll be returning serves like an old pro – even if you’re not one yet!

A young boy playing pickleball hitting a shot on a pickleball court

Diving Into Scoring Details – It’s Easier Than You Think!

Unveil the veil of apprehension and allow me to guide you through the scoring details of Pickleball. For many starters, this part often seems intricate, but I assure you it’s not a Gordian knot.

Think of it as English tea – best enjoyed when sipped slowly and with patience. First, kindly banish all thoughts of complex sports scoring systems from your mind.

So, are you ready? Sit back, relax and let’s delve into the world of Pickleball scoring.

How Points are Scored – Only on Serving Side, Folks!

Yes! You read that right!

In Pickleball one must be serving to score a point; a break from tennis where either side can score irrespective of who serves. It has an amusing similarity to some card games – you have to be dealing to win!

So picture this: if your team is serving and wins the rally (causing your opponents to commit an error), congratulations! You’ve just earned a point for your team.

However, if you are on the receiving end (not serving) and win the rally, don’t celebrate just yet! Although winning the rally while receiving does not add points to your scorecard, it does result in one thing – loss of serve for the opposing team.

This intriguing aspect lends itself wonderfully well in keeping games tight and nail-biting until the very end since only one side can accumulate points at any given time. This way each serve becomes critical as it could swing momentum like a pendulum!

Understanding Faults - Avoid These Common Mistakes

Here’s where things get juicy (or should I say ‘pickle-y’?). A fault in Pickleball is akin to stepping on banana peels in real life- they hinder progress towards victory.

Faults can occur in various situations, and comprehending these can be your secret weapon to dominate the pickleball court. For starters, if the ball bounces twice before you hit it back, that’s a fault!

Remember the two-bounce rule? Also, hitting the ball outside of your opponent’s court boundaries results in a fault.

Serving from an incorrect position or failing to serve diagonally across to the correct service box is also considered a fault. Perhaps one of the most unique faults is venturing into ‘the kitchen’ (the non-volley zone) and volleying (hitting without letting it bounce).

In Pickleball, stepping into ‘the kitchen’ is not as delightful as it sounds! So remember, keep out of ‘the kitchen’ while volleying unless you want to serve up some faults!

Understanding these common mistakes will not only enable you to play by the rules but also devise clever strategies to make your opponent commit these very follies. After all, that’s what Pickleball – or any game for that matter – is all about: Strategy wrapped in rules.

Making Sense of Basic Strategies

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s all in the strategy”? Well, when it comes to pickleball, they weren’t kidding.

After mastering the basics of gameplay and scoring, it’s time to move on to formulating strategies that will have your opponents chasing their tails. Remember: While physical skill is essential, mental acuity is equally crucial in this fast-paced sport.

Put the Pressure on: Mastering Your Serving Strategy

The Power Serve: Not Just for Tennis

Consider starting with a power serve. This is where you hit the ball hard and fast into your opponent’s court.

The trick here is to aim for their backhand side (for right-handers, that would be their left side). This forces them into a potentially weak return and sets you up beautifully for a winning follow-up shot.

Deception Is Key: The Disguise Serve

Another effective serving strategy? Disguise your serves. One way could be by using identical body movements for different types of serves – topspin, backspin or deep serves – effectively keeping your opponents guessing about where the ball will land until it leaves your paddle.

Aerial view of blue pickleball courts

Keep 'Em Guessing: Perfecting Your Returning Strategy

Mastering Return Depth – Keep It Deep!

The depth of your returns can prove pivotal during play. Aiming deep into your opponent’s territory not only gives you more reaction time but also pushes them back towards their baseline, restricting their ability to attack aggressively.

Mix It Up - Variety Is The Spice Of Pickleball!

Add variety to keep things unpredictable – intersperse drop shots with lobs and drive shots in random sequences across different points during the game. Changing the pace and direction keeps opponents off-balance and opens up opportunities for you to attack.

Patience, Grasshopper! The Art of the Dink

Remember the old adage: “slow and steady wins the race”? In pickleball, this translates to mastering the art of ‘dinking.’ This involves hitting soft shots that just clear the net and land within your opponent’s kitchen. The goal is to force them into a fault or set yourself up for a kill shot.

But remember – patience is key. It’s like a chess game at the net until one player gets “dinked” out! And there you have it – basic serving and return strategies to get you started on your pickleball journey. It may seem overwhelming at first, but with practice (and maybe a little sweat), these tactics will soon become second nature. Now, go forth and dink!


In essence, pickleball isn’t just about following rules; it’s about enjoying the game while improving your fitness level in an engaging manner. The journey from being a novice player who struggles with serving properly to becoming a seasoned player capable of executing masterful techniques will certainly test your patience but remember, perseverance often leads to success! Take these simple rules along with bonus tips into account – they will guide you through each step towards becoming proficient at this captivating sport.

So there you have it – A beginner’s guide that should have you volleying like a pro before too long! Remember that every journey begins with that first step (or serve!).

So pick up your paddle today and let’s start making some noise on those pickleball courts.

Happy playing! 😊