Pickleball Playbook

Pickleball is a game played with a paddle and ball on a small court. Due to the smaller court, it was easier for a beginner like me to get into the action. Not as much running around as on a tennis court!

Depending on who's on the other side of the net, the ball can move more slowly than a tennis ball. This makes it a touch easier for a beginner to connect with the ball, so it's a satisfying game from the very beginning.

And the paddles are firm bats, rather than stringed, so it makes a pleasant 'thwop' sound when you play. Personally, mishits happen less often for me in pickleball than tennis, because of the paddles.

The rules and objectives are very similar to tennis. Again, this makes it accessible for beginners as most people understand the basic rules of tennis. Scoring is essentially the same too.

Pickleball has taken the world by ... thwop! People simply love it. So much so that there are now official tournaments, clubs worldwide, online pickleball communities and even chatter of pickleball entering the Olympic Games. We can only dream!

Because we sell pickleball equipment, we're going to start by explaining the paddles, balls, nets and bags you need to play pickleball. Then we'll move into other interesting areas such as the origin story, player strategies, who's who, future of pickleball and more fun stuff.

Equipment and Court Specifications

What Specialist Equipment Is Needed to Play Pickleball (e.g., Paddles, Lead Strips, Ball, Net & Bags)?

You will need a pickleball paddle, a permanent or temporary pickleball court, pickleball balls, a pickleball net, two net posts, and plenty of energy

You may need tape to mark out the pickleball court dimensions if an official court is not available.

Other equipment you may need to play pickleball include bags, wicking playing clothes, breathable and lightweight sports shoes, covers for your paddles, lead strips, and a score counter if you are a referee.

While some pickleball stores and organizations offer rental services for basic playing equipment, it’s best to buy your own equipment, especially if you are a frequent pickleball player.

>> Learn more about paddles, balls, nets, and bags

What Are the Agreed Dimensions and Specifications of a Pickleball Court?

Think of a pickleball court as a smaller version of a standard tennis court but with more lines.

In exact terms, however, according to the United States of America Pickleball Association (USAPA), the standard dimensions of a standard pickleball court should be 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. When the out-of-bounds area is included, a standard pickleball playing area should be 30 by 60 feet as recommended by USAPA, but 34 by 64 feet is preferred.

A pickleball court is divided into two-right and two-left service courts and a non-volley zone (the ‘kitchen’). Each service court measures 15 by 10 feet, whereas the non-volley zone is 14 feet wide (7 feet wide on each side) and 20 feet long.

>> Learn more about the dimensions and specifications of a pickleball court

Which Equipment is Better Suited To Beginner or Advanced Players?

Beginner-friendly pickleball paddles are crafted with more emphasis on comfort and ease of use. Whereas, paddles made for advanced players emphasize performance features such as power and precision.

However, this doesn’t mean a beginner cannot play with paddles made for advanced players. The important thing is to choose what works best for you in terms of budget and feel.

Lighter, standard pickleball paddles are more convenient for beginner players because they are easy to control. Moreover, they have a larger sweet spot, which helps prevent mishits.

Elongated paddles are better suited to advanced pickleball players as they offer more reach, power, and control. No one can avoid mishits, but this isn’t such an obvious or recurring problem for those of us who’ve had a bit more time on the court!

Paddles made from polymer are more beginner-friendly because they are more versatile in terms of shot selection — strikes and dinks. They can also be more budget-friendly.

As an advanced player, you might choose to use pickleball paddles made from graphite or carbon fiber, as they are slightly harder to spin but offer more control.

>> Learn more about the equipment better suited for beginners or advanced players

Playing Techniques and Strategies

What Are Some Basic Playing Techniques in Pickleball?

Serving is the first motion when you start to play pickleball.

To serve in pickleball means to hit the ball with a paddle to the opposite and diagonal side of the net. You serve to begin a point or game.

Other basic pickleball techniques include dinks, volleys, groundstrokes, backspin, backhand, and drop shots.

Each of these basic pickleball playing techniques has rules you must follow to execute them correctly.

>> Learn more basic playing techniques in pickleball

Which Advanced Strategies or Techniques Are Commonly Used in Competitive Play?

There are two main categories of advanced pickleball strategies and techniques: offensive and defensive.

Offensive advanced pickleball strategies include the third short drop, the lob, and an approach shot.

Defensive advanced pickleball strategies include drop volleys, poaching, overhead slams, and backhand volleys.

>> Learn more about advanced strategies and techniques

How Are Player and Game Strategies Different in Pickleball vs Tennis?

In tennis, players tend to focus their energy and attention on powerful serves, strokes, backspins, slices, and topspins, whereas in pickleball, the goal is to hit the ball with control. You will notice that advanced pickleball players hit the ball with less force but with more control.

Also, in pickleball, players will hone in on ball placement, less power and more spin.

Another difference between the two games is that tennis players mostly play from the back of the court. However, pickleball players target the kitchen area to win.

>> Learn the difference between pickleball and tennis players and game strategies

Basic Rules and Objectives

What Are the Basic Rules of Pickleball?

Below are some of the basic rules of pickleball:

  • You can’t volley while standing in the non-volley zone
  • You must let the ball bounce once before returning it
  • You must serve while standing behind the baseline
  • The serve cannot land in the kitchen area
  • The game ends when one of the teams reaches 11 points. However, tournament pickleball games may be played to 15 or 21 points.

>> Learn the basic rules of pickleball

What Are the Single Player Rules of Pickleball?

The first single-player rule of pickleball states that a new server will always serve the ball from the right-hand side, and should they win the rally, they'll serve the next rally from the left-hand side.

This keeps alternating until the serving team loses the serve. The opponents will then start serving the ball from the right-hand side.

In single-player pickleball games, a side-out occurs when the server loses the rally, after which the service is awarded to the opponent.

So, unlike in doubles, single-player pickleball games don’t have a second serve.

You either win a point or lose the serve.

>> Learn single player rules of pickleball

What Are the Doubles Player Rules of Pickleball?

In doubles, both team players get to serve before the “serving authority” switches to the other team.

Also, the first server must serve from the right-hand side. However, if the first player loses the rally, their partner gets their chance (second serve) to serve from the right side of their side of the court.

If the second player loses the rally, that team will have lost their two serves. It is now time for the other team to serve. The exchange of the “serving authority” is known as a side-out.

>> Learn double player rules of pickleball

How Do You Score Points, and What Is the Final Objective of The Game?

The serving team only scores points in pickleball when they serve, and their opponent, who is the receiving team, commits a fault. If they score a point, it means they have also won a rally. As such, whoever previously served moves to the other side of their court and serves from there.

The goal of most pickleball games is to earn 11 points before your opponent and be ahead by at least two points.

However, some pickleball tournament games can play to 15 or 21 points, but to win, a team must always be ahead by at least two points.

>> Learn the pickleball game’s final objective and how you score points

Are There Any Unique Rules That Make Pickleball Different to Tennis?

Yes, there are unique rules that make pickleball different from tennis.

For example, a player can return a serve before the tennis ball bounces on their side. In pickleball, the double bounce rule applies.

Additionally, in tennis, an overhand service is used. Pickleball uses an underhand serve.

>> Learn the unique rules that make pickleball different to tennis

Are There Any Unique Rules That Make Pickleball Different to Badminton?

Yes, there are unique rules that make pickleball different from badminton.

For instance, in pickleball, the ball must bounce once on each side before it is returned, whereas in badminton, the shuttlecock should not bounce.

Also, in badminton, the shuttlecock should not touch the ground or bounce at all.

If it hits the ground on their opponent’s side, the serving team earns a point.

Whereas, in pickleball, the ball has to touch the ground once on each side before being returned.

>> Learn the unique rules that make pickleball different from badminton

Are There Any Unique Rules That Make Pickleball Different to Table Tennis?

Yes, there are several unique rules that make pickleball quite different from table tennis.

For instance, pickleball and table tennis players must serve underhand and across the court. However, in pickleball, the ball must go over the net and into one of the service boxes.

Also, volleys are not allowed in table tennis. In pickleball, volleying is permitted except in the kitchen area.

>> Learn the unique rules that make pickleball different from table tennis

Health and Fitness Benefits

Will Pickleball Make You Healthier and Fitter?

Yes, playing pickleball will make you healthier and fitter.

However, the rate at which pickleball will contribute to improving your health and fitness depends on factors like your age, fitness level, and general health.

Pickleball will help you lower your risk of heart disease, improve your cognitive function and memory recall, and burn up to 600 calories after playing the game for one or two hours.

Playing pickleball also helps your body release happy hormones, such as endorphins, responsible for lifting your mood.

>> Learn whether pickleball will make you healthier and fitter

Is Pickleball Suitable for Everyone, Regardless of Age, Ability, or Fitness Level?

Yes, pickleball suits everyone, regardless of age, abilities, background, and fitness level.

Various pickleball players prove that pickleball is suitable for everyone.

For example, Ben is a 24-year-old pickleball player who has won over 80 PPA titles and holds the most Triple Crowns in pickleball history.

Nevertheless, Michael is a regular wheelchair pickleball player who has competed in the US pickleball championships in Naples and won silver medals.

>> Learn whether pickleball is suitable for everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or fitness level

Community and Social Aspect

How Does Pickleball Foster Community and Socializing?

Pickleball fosters community and socializing by incorporating double-play games, rotating pickleball players, and planning community pickleball events such as clinics and cookouts.

Also, pickleball tournaments and leagues have helped unite their community by raising money for charities.

Through pickleball socializing, Ken Snow and Jennifer Shane share how they’ve made many new friends. Such a delightful ‘side-effect’ to learning a new, competitive sport.

>> Learn how pickleball fosters community

Are There Local Clubs or Groups That People Join to Play? And What Is the Cost?

Yes, there are quite literally hundreds of local clubs and groups that people can join to play pickleball.

Pickleball America is among the popular clubs and charges a standard one-year membership fee of $199 per person.

House of Pickleball Group and Anchorage Pickleball Club are other organizations you may join to play pickleball.

>> Learn about local pickleball clubs and groups

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Pickleball is accessible and inclusive for all players.

For instance, disabled players have bigger wheelchair-friendly pickleball courts, giving them more space to safely maneuver their wheelchairs without injury.

Also, using lightweight paddles helps players with limited strength or mobility in their arms to maneuver efficiently and play effectively.

>> Learn about how accessible and inclusive pickleball

History and Origin of Pickleball

Pickleball originated in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, where two families, Joel Pritchard’s and Bill Bell’s, had gone on vacation.

The creation of the game started when Joel and Bill returned from playing golf and found their families bored.

Joel’s son, Frank, challenged his father to develop a game as he claimed they did when they were younger.

Since then pickleball has evolved from backyard play to a world-player game.

>> Learn the history and origin of pickleball

Popularity and Growth

Pickleball has been among America's most popular and the fastest-growing sports for five years, as reported by SFIA.

According to a study by Apple Heart and Movement Study, in July 2023, the number of individuals playing pickleball in one month exceeded that of tennis.

Affordable equipment, the friendly and welcoming pickleball community, and pandemic restrictions are some of the factors that have contributed to the rapid growth of pickleball.

You can join pickleball leagues and tournaments such as the PPA Tour, Major League Pickleball (MLP), and USA Pickleball Tournaments and help the game grow and become more popular.

>> Learn about pickleball's popularity and growth

Future of Pickleball

The future of pickleball shows an increase in players, investors, and equipment.

According to updated research by the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP), there are over 48.3 million adult Americans, which represents about 19% of the total adult US population who have played pickleball at least once in the last year.

This is a 35% increase from the previous AP’s research concluded in August 2022, which claimed the number of adults participating was 36.5 million.

The recent study also shows that the average pickleball player is 34.8 years old, considerably younger than previously assumed, which shows the growth of the game, especially among people between 18 and 4 years old.

Also, more pickleball influencers are sharing the game on social media.

For example, Sydney Steinaker has garnered over 54k followers on TikTok. She shares relatable pickleball experiences and content.

Michele Stroyek - thepickleyogi, and Shea Underwood are other pickleball enthusiasts who have helped the game become popular on social media sites.

The growth will be attributed to the game's increasing popularity and awareness of pickleball's health benefits.

>> Learn about the future of pickleball

How to Get Started

If you're interested in playing your first pickleball game, your first step should be learning pickleball vocabulary and rules.

This will ensure you know what a term means when used in the court.

After understanding pickleball terms, watch as many YouTube pickleball beginner videos as possible. This will help you learn the pickleball rules, how to serve and return and serve, etc.

The third step is to visit a highly-rated pickleball store and buy the equipment you’ll need to play the game. Of course!

>> Learn how to get started with pickleball