Home News Community Pickleball Basics: How to Play, Strategy, Rules

Pickleball Basics: How to Play, Strategy, Rules

The sport of Pickleball is exploding in popularity across the world, and we take a look at the basics of Pickleball with helpful information from USAPickleball.org:

What is Pickleball?

The Basics

  1. A fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.
  2. Played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net.
  3. Played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes.
  4. Played as doubles or singles.
  5. Can be enjoyed by all ages and skill levels

Brief History

Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington. Three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum — whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities — are credited for creating game. Pickleball has evolved from original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout the US and Canada. The game is growing internationally as well, with many European and Asian countries adding courts.

Learn the Game

There’s a reason so many players get hooked on this sport – it’s easy to start, but hard to stop. Get the basics and get started on your new obsession!

PickleballCourtGraphic

Pickleball Court Layout

A pickleball court is the same size as a doubles badminton court and measures 20×44 feet. In pickleball, the same court is used for both singles and doubles play. The net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. The court is striped similar to a tennis court with right and left service courts and a 7-foot non-volley zone in front of the net (referred to as the “kitchen”). Courts can be constructed specifically for pickleball or they can be converted using existing tennis or badminton courts.

Read more about the sport of Pickleball HERE

Equipment

A couple of paddles, a ball and a net, and you’re ready to get started. Here are the basics for beginners.

What to wear when playing

A couple of paddles, a ball and a net, and you’re ready to get started. Here are the basics for beginners.

Pickleball Basics – Rules Summary

Overview

The following is an abbreviated form of the rules to give a quick overview of how the game is played. If there is a conflict between this summary and the official rules, the official rules prevail.

Basic Rules

  • Pickleball is played either as doubles (two players per team) or singles; doubles is most common
  • The same size playing area and rules are used for both singles and doubles

The Serve

  • The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc when the ball is struck.
  • Paddle contact with the ball must not be made above the waist level.
  • The head of the paddle must not be above the highest part of the wrist at contact.
  • A ‘drop serve’ is also permitted in which case none of the elements above apply.
  • At the time the ball is struck, the server’s feet may not touch the court or outside the imaginary extension of the sideline or centerline and at least one foot must be behind the baseline on the playing surface or the ground behind the baseline.
  • The serve is made diagonally crosscourt and must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court.
  • Only one serve attempt is allowed per server.

Service Sequence

  • Both players on the serving doubles team have the opportunity to serve and score points until they commit a fault *(except for the first service sequence of each new game).
  • The first serve of each side-out is made from the right/even court.
  • If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the server initiates the next serve from the left/odd court.
  • As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve.
  • When the first server loses the serve the partner then serves from their correct side of the court (except for the first service sequence of the game*).
  • The second server continues serving until his team commits a fault and loses the serve to the opposing team.
  • Once the service goes to the opposition (at side out), the first serve is from the right/even court and both players on that team have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team commits two faults.
  • In singles the server serves from the right/even court when his or her score is even and from the left/odd when the score is odd.
    • *At the beginning of each new game only one partner on the serving team has the opportunity to serve before faulting, after which the service passes to the receiving team.

Scoring

  • Points are scored only by the serving team.
  • Games are normally played to 11 points, win by 2.
  • Tournament games may be to 15 or 21, win by 2.
  • When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10…) the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be in the right-side court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9…) that player will be in the left-side court when serving or receiving.

Two-Bounce Rule

  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning, and then the serving team must let it bounce before returning, thus two bounces.
  • After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may either volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke).
  • The two-bounce rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage and extends rallies.

click diagram to view larger:

Non-Volley Zone

  • The non-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net.
  • Volleying is prohibited within the non-volley zone. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone.
  • It is a fault if, when volleying a ball, the player steps on the non-volley zone, including the line and/or when the player’s momentum causes them or anything they are wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley zone including the associated lines.
  • It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried by momentum into or touches the non-volley zone, even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens.
  • A player may legally be in the non-volley zone any time other than when volleying a ball.
  • The non-volley zone is commonly referred to as “the kitchen.”

Line Calls

  • A ball contacting any part of any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, is considered “in.”
  • A serve contacting the non-volley zone line is short and a fault.

Faults

  • A fault is any action that stops play because of a rule violation.
  • A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team.
  • A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.

Determining Serving Team

Any fair method can be used to determine which player or team has first choice of side, service, or receive. (Example: Write a 1 or 2 on the back of the score sheet.)

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David Keech
Author: David Keech

David Keech is a math teacher in Wisconsin Rapids and public address announcer for Abbotsord High School. He officiates basketball, baseball, and softball in central Wisconsin. He has reported on amateur sports since 2011, known as 'KeechDaVoice.' David can be reached at [email protected]