Pickleball 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Playing the Game

pickleball 101

Pickleball, a sport that cleverly combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, has witnessed a surge in popularity in recent years. From community centers to resorts, pickleball courts are springing up everywhere. But if you’re new to the sport, you might wonder, how exactly is pickleball played? Let’s break it down step by step… Pickleball 101!

Pickleball 101

1. Pickleball Court Dimensions

The pickleball court is similar to a badminton court in size, measuring 20 feet in width and 44 feet in length (similar to Badminton doubles court). It’s divided into several zones, the most notable being the “kitchen” or non-volley zone, a 7-foot area adjacent to the net where volleys (hitting the ball before it bounces) are not allowed.

2. Equipment Needed

  • Paddle: Pickleball paddles are larger than table tennis paddles but smaller than tennis rackets. They can be made of various materials, including wood, composite, or graphite.
  • Ball: The pickleball is a plastic ball with holes, similar to a wiffle ball but more durable. The ball comes in different varieties for outdoor and indoor play.
  • Court: 44 ft x 20 ft. The net is 36 inches high at the sides and 34 inches in the middle.

3. Scoring

pickleball 101

Pickleball uses a unique scoring system. Only the serving team can score points.

Games are typically played to 11 with a win requiring a two-point advantage. For recreational games, some people play to 15 or 21 (similar to table tennis).

4. Serving

  • Players serve underhand from behind the baseline, diagonally to the opponent’s service court.
  • The serve must clear the non-volley zone (the “kitchen”) and land in the diagonal service box.
  • In doubles, each player serves before the serve switches to the opposing team.

5. Playing the Ball

pickleball 101
  • The ball can be volleyed (hit before it bounces) only if the player is outside of the non-volley zone.
  • The Two Bounce rule applies: After the serve, each team must play their first shot off the bounce. Only after these two shots can the ball be volleyed.
  • The ball can be played off any bounce, but players cannot scoop or carry the ball with their paddle.

6. Strategies and Common Shots

  • Dinks: Soft shots that arc over the net and land in the opponent’s non-volley zone. These are used to set up offensive shots or move opponents out of position.
  • 3rd Shot Drop: A soft shot aimed at the opponents’ non-volley zone to transition from the baseline to the net.
  • Drives: Hard, flat shots aimed directly at the opponents or the opposing side.
  • Lobs: High, deep shots aimed over the opponents’ heads, pushing them back from the net.

7. Faults

A fault is a play that stops the point.

  • Hitting the ball out of bounds.
  • Hitting the ball into the net (without landing in service area).
  • The serve does not clear the kitchen (including the line), and land in the service area.
  • Non-Volley Zone (NVZ)/Kitchen Faults:
    • Stepping into the NVZ and volleying the ball.
    • The momentum from a shot carries a player into the NVZ after volleying the ball.
    • Not re-establishing both feet outside of NVZ, after stepping into NVZ.

8. Game Etiquette

pickleball 101
  • Respect the lines and calls.
  • Always be safe and avoid dangerous plays.
  • Have fun and maintain good sportsmanship!

In summary, pickleball is a dynamic, fun, and accessible sport suitable for all ages and skill levels. It combines strategic play with physical skill (both power and finesse) making it a compelling game for both participants and spectators. As you familiarize yourself with the rules and get some practice, you’ll soon appreciate why pickleball has become such a beloved pastime for so many. Grab a paddle and join the fun!

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