Just when I think that I have heard everything, I come across the weirdly named sport of pickleball. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Or, if you’re like me, then you’re wondering what the hell is pickleball and how do I play it? Well, apparently it was considered the fastest growing sport in America as recently as March 2014. I did my homework on it, and here’s what I’ve learned.
What The Heck Is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a good sport choice for people who enjoy badminton, tennis and ping-pong. Why? Because it is really just a combination of those three things in one sport. As someone who loves all those things, I’m even more upset that I’d never heard of pickleball!
The game is played a short court – the same size court you’d use for a doubles badminton game. And, you use paddles and a wiffle ball. As someone who got beaned with a wiffle ball in third grade, this makes me a little nervous.
From what I can tell, the sport is enjoyed by people of all ages, but the retired folk really seem to get a kick out of it since the shorter court requires less exertion while playing. But don’t assume that this is an “old people’s sport” because it’s not. It is the real deal, with a legit sports association and everything. The game is fast paced and can be quite competitive.
What Do You Need To Play Pickleball?
Like most racquet sports, your required gear for pickleball is very minimal. That makes it a very cheap sport to pick up as a hobby.
All you need to play the game is:
- pickleball paddle
- pickleball ball
- proper size court with net
Yup, that’s all you need. If you’re looking to play this at a local park or something, then I suggest looking for a badminton court since they’re basically the same size that you need for a game of pickleball.
And, of course, you’ll need someone (or another team) to play against. But other than that, you’re ready to hit the court. So, put on something comfortable and get out there!
Basic Pickleball Rules of Play
A game is played either with doubles or singles. Doubles is a team of two against two and singles is a team of one against one. For the most part, doubles is what you usually see on the court.
When you serve, it must be underhand and the ball must connect with the paddle below your waist. At least one of your feet must be behind the baseline when you serve. And neither foot can connect with the court or the baseline until after the serve.
Like in tennis, your serve needs to send the ball diagonally to the other side of the court and fall within the confines of that side’s boundaries. You only get one serve attempt unless the ball hits the net and ends up on the proper service court.
The receiving team must let the ball bounce before returning it, and likewise for the serving team. But after it has bounced once on each side, players no longer have to let it bounce before returning the ball.
Only the serving team can score points. Games are played to a score of 11, with the winner needing a 2-point lead.
As you can see, those rules are pretty similar to the other games that it’s based on.
See the game in action below.
More On Pickleball Scoring
Probably the one thing that new players have the hardest time with is understanding how to keep score during a game of pickleball. So, we’ll try to break it down for you here.
The game ends once a score of 11 points is reached, as long as that team has a two point lead (minimum). If there is not a spread of at least two points between the two sides, then the game continues until that spread is reached. For tournaments, it’s common to see games where the goal is 15 points or 21 points.
As previously mentioned, only the team/player who is serving can score. When serving, the right side of the court is where the game play starts. And each time they serve, the servers switch sides. For instance, if a point is scored, the server moves to the left side (odd court) and serves to the diagonally opposite court. This is done until the team commits a fault.
Both teams are required to let the ball bounce on their court one time after each serve before they can return the ball. To return the ball, you can use either the ground stroke or the volley method.
Once you get to playing, the side that is serving will continue to do so (and earning points) until a fault occurs. A fault, is anything that causes the serving team to either score, or give up the serve to the other team (going out of bounds, missing the ball, two bounces etc.).
If you’re not playing a game of doubles, then you don’t really need to learn a whole new scoring system. In fact, scoring for singles games is pretty much the same except that there isn’t a second server.
Just like with doubles, the serve is always done from the right side when the server’s score is even and from the left side when the server’s score is odd. And, the server’s score that determines serving position, not the score of the receiver. The receiver lines up on the right or left side according to the server’s score.
top image: Wikipedia