Pickleball: Understanding the Basics of the Fastest-Growing Sport

Pickleball is a fast-paced, engaging sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. 

Played with a paddle and a perforated plastic ball on a court similar to a badminton court, it can be enjoyed in both singles and doubles formats. 

Known for its accessibility to players of all ages and skill levels, pickleball has quickly become a favorite recreational activity across the globe.

Over the past few years, pickleball has experienced exponential growth in popularity. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), pickleball participation grew by 21.3% from 2019 to 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. 

As of 2023, there are an estimated 4.8 million pickleball players in the U.S., with the sport gaining traction in numerous other countries as well.

Basic Rules and Gameplay

Court Dimensions and Setup

A pickleball court is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, divided into two halves by a net. The net is 36 inches high at the sidelines and 34 inches high in the middle. 

Each side of the court has a 7-foot non-volley zone, commonly referred to as the “kitchen,” which prohibits volleys within this area to prevent spiking near the net.

Basic Rules and Scoring

The game begins with an underhand serve diagonally across the court

The receiving team must let the ball bounce once before returning it, and the serving team must also let the return bounce before playing it, a rule known as the “double bounce” or “two-bounce” rule. 

After these initial bounces, players can volley or play the ball off a bounce.

Points are scored only by the serving team, and games are typically played to 11 points, with a requirement to win by 2 points. Matches can also be played to 15 or 21 points in tournament settings.

Types of Play (Singles and Doubles)

Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles formats. In singles, each player covers the entire court, while in doubles, teams of two share the court. The doubles game is particularly popular because it emphasizes teamwork and strategy, making it a social and engaging experience.

Essential Equipment

To play pickleball, you’ll need a few essential pieces of equipment: a paddle, a ball, and appropriate attire. These items are designed to enhance your playing experience and ensure you have the right tools for the game.

Detailed Look at Paddles

Pickleball paddles are typically made from lightweight materials such as wood, composite, or graphite. Wood paddles are more affordable and durable but heavier, making them less popular among serious players. 

Composite paddles offer a good balance of weight, power, and control, while graphite paddles are the lightest and most expensive, providing excellent control and precision.

When selecting a paddle, consider factors such as weight, grip size, and surface texture. A lighter paddle can improve maneuverability and reduce fatigue, while a textured surface can enhance spin control. Popular brands for high-quality paddles include Selkirk, Paddletek, and Onix.

Best Pickleball Balls for Different Playing Conditions

Pickleball balls are perforated plastic balls, similar to wiffle balls. There are two main types: indoor and outdoor balls. 

Indoor balls have larger holes and are lighter, making them easier to control but more susceptible to wind. Outdoor balls have smaller holes and are heavier, designed to withstand wind and rough surfaces.

Some of the best pickleball balls for different conditions include the Onix Pure 2 Outdoor Ball for outdoor play and the Jugs Indoor Pickleball for indoor courts. These balls are known for their durability and consistent bounce.

Recommended Footwear and Attire

Proper footwear is crucial for preventing injuries and ensuring agility on the court. Tennis shoes or court shoes with non-marking soles provide the best support and traction for pickleball. 

Look for shoes with good lateral support to accommodate the quick side-to-side movements typical in pickleball.

Comfortable, moisture-wicking attire is recommended to keep you cool and dry during play. Athletic wear such as shorts, skirts, and breathable tops are ideal choices. Consider wearing a hat and sunglasses for outdoor play to protect against the sun.

Pickleball Techniques and Strategies

Serving and Returning Techniques

A successful serve in pickleball is crucial for gaining an advantage. The serve must be made underhand, with the paddle contacting the ball below the waist. A well-placed serve can put your opponent on the defensive. Practice different types of serves, such as the deep serve, short serve, and angle serve, to keep your opponent guessing.

Returning serves effectively involves positioning and quick reflexes. Focus on returning the ball deep into your opponent’s court to push them back and create space for your next shot.

Positioning and Movement on the Court

Proper positioning and movement are key to controlling the game. In doubles play, both partners should cover their respective sides of the court and communicate effectively. 

Stay near the baseline when receiving a serve and move towards the net as the rally progresses. This positioning allows you to cover more ground and respond to your opponent’s shots more effectively.

Common Strategies for Winning

Winning strategies in pickleball involve a combination of shot placement, patience, and teamwork. One effective strategy is the “third shot drop,” where the third shot of the rally is gently placed into the non-volley zone (kitchen) to neutralize your opponent’s power and set up a potential volley.

Another strategy is to target your opponent’s weaknesses, such as their backhand or slower partner in doubles play. Consistent communication and coordination with your partner can also create opportunities for poaching shots and applying pressure on your opponents.

Pickleball is a dynamic and rapidly growing sport that offers numerous benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, enhanced muscle strength, and better flexibility. 

It provides mental stimulation through strategic gameplay and fosters social connections by encouraging community and teamwork. 

Understanding the basics and investing in the right equipment can help you fully enjoy the myriad benefits pickleball has to offer.

Chris Michael
Chris Michael
Chris Michael is a writer who delivers engaging and informative news on sports to readers of blogs, websites, newspapers, or magazines.



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