Pickleball: How To Play (How To Avoid These 5 Mistakes)

pickleball how to play

Pickleball: How To Play & Avoid These 5 Mistakes

So you’re getting into pickleball, but you don’t have a grasp on the rules yet? You are in the right place! We will be covering pickleball and how to play. I’ll share the rules of the road and what mistakes to avoid so you can get up to speed quickly.

As the explosive growth of pickleball is rising, most people are still learning and gaining an appreciation for the sport. While it most resembles ping pong, badminton, and tennis it has some key differences in the rules that I’ll fill you in on. Let’s jump in!

Let's Talk About Pickleball Equipment. What Will You Need To Get Started?

If you are just starting out, at a minimum you’ll need to have a pickleball paddle and a ball (maybe a friend has both!) If you’re looking to buy one, I’ll fill you in on a few things to look for in your first paddle. Typically, GRIP, WEIGHT, and FEEL are the most important factors.  

Pickleball scoring for dummies

As for the grip, it’s more of a matter of your own personal preference. There are different grip sizes and lengths to consider, you should test a few out in your hand to see what feels most comfortable. You also want to make sure you look good out on the court so don’t forget about paddle color combinations! 

Most likely you’ll also want a good pair of tennis or pickleball-specific shoes that are comfortable.

Pickleball How To Play - Serving Rules

The server can be determined by flipping a coin or choosing a random number. Upon knowing the server, the whiffle ball must be struck underhand, below the waistline. The server should keep both feet behind the baseline/backline, and the ball should land diagonally to the opposite court. Remember, all pickleball serves should start on the court’s right side. If a point is won, the serve shifts to the left side of the court. For doubles, the players in that team must switch sides on the court to the other until the one serving is at fault.

Pickleball How to play

The server is at fault if the whiffle ball lands in the net, is out of bounds, or the serve is illegal. Therefore, the following serve goes to the opponent in singles or your teammate in a doubles match. It is crucial to understand that pickleball has no lets or second serves. Unlike other net-centered sports, in pickleball, only the serving team can win or score points. Hence, for the opposition team to score, they start by earning a serve back and then winning a rally.

The Double Bounce Rule (Two Bounce Rule)

This is a significant rule in pickleball because it applies in all standard games. Typically, the two-bounce rule prevents the pickleball game from ending quickly. After serving the ball, the other team must let it bounce once in their court before returning the serve. The team serving must also allow the ball to bounce once before proceeding with the rally. 

Remember, the rule where the ball must land during the double bounce rule still applies. However, if one player commits a fault during the double bounce process, the fault is counted and regarded as any other fault during the game. After completing the two-bounce process, either team can let the ball bounce or play it in the air.

The server can be determined by flipping a coin or choosing a random number. Upon knowing the server, the whiffle ball must be struck underhand, below the waistline. The server should keep both feet behind the baseline/backline, and the ball should land diagonally to the opposite court. Remember, all pickleball serves should start on the court’s right side. If a point is won, the service shifts to the left side of the court. For doubles, the players in that team must switch sides on the court to the other until the one serving is at fault.

The server is at fault if the whiffle ball lands in the net, is out of bounds, or the service is illegal. Therefore, the following serve goes to the opponent in singles or your teammate in a doubles match. It is crucial to understand that pickleball has no lets or second serves. Unlike other net-centered sports, in pickleball, only the serving team can win or score points. Hence, for the opposition team to score, they start by earning a serve back and then winning a rally.

Women playing pickleball

Pickleball How to Play - The No Volley Rule

Although players can start volleying the ball after completing the two-bounce process, volleying is not allowed in ‘the kitchen.’ The kitchen refers to the 7-foot zone on each side of the net. According to the no volley rule, pickleball players aren’t allowed to enter the kitchen to volley. It is also crucial to understand that players can violate the non-volley rule if they step on the non-volley line before or after volleying. Violating the non-volley rule is a fault against the player or team (in doubles). The non-volley rule is vital because it keeps the play running smoothly for a period. If volleying is allowed in the kitchen, games will end much faster, thus sucking the fun out of the game.

Second Bounce Rule

According to this rule, a ball should not bounce twice on the same net side before it’s returned. Therefore, failure to return the ball is counted as a fault. However, players can legally return shots from the kitchen with the second bounce rule.

Out of Bounds Rule

Players should serve and return the serve within the perimeter of the court. Players have a 20 × 22 foot area to land the whiff ball. If the ball is out of this area, the player has committed the out-of-bounds fault. Remember, a ball is deemed inbound even if it touches the inbound line and bounces outside the court. The player must be aggressive to ensure their opponent finds it hard to return the ball and earn a point.

A conventional pickleball net is 3 feet high, i.e., approximately 36 inches, and should cover the court’s centerline. When it comes to scoring, only the serving team can score, although the other team can regain service and earn a point in the long run. Typically, pickleball games end at 11 points. However, the winning team must win by a margin of two points. The game must end with the winning team having a two points cushion. Therefore, depending on the tournament or players, a pickleball game can be played to 11, 15, or 21 points. It is upon those playing to agree before playing to make the game fair and fun.

How Does a Player Commit a Fault?

Whether you are playing singles or doubles, a fault is committed if the wiffle ball:

  • Lands on the out-of-bounds area
  • Fails to clear the net
  • Touches the non-volley zone on the serve
  • Is volleyed by a player from the kitchen/non-volley zone
  • Is volleyed before the completion of the double bounce process, i.e., the ball has not bounced on each side

6 Things New Pickleball Players Should Master?

Besides being a good work out, pickleball is challenging, and can get very competitive. Work on these 6 things as you are starting out and remember it’s supposed to be fun!  

● Avoid scooting up after the service, don’t move towards the net too quickly! Your opponent will be sending the ball back from the baseline most likely putting you out of position.

● Understand the kitchen rules (we have a great article on THE KITCHEN RULE)

● Choose a proper racket for your game. Experts reveal that you choose one with a soft core, as its easier to handle. I suggest a mid-weight paddle for most beginners because it offers control and some power.

● Master all the rules to prevent any penalties or mistakes 

● Practice your backhand and forehand shots, serves, volleys, and lobes to help you cover most of the court. You can find a concrete wall to practice on if you don’t have a partner.

● Use different shots to prevent being predictable. You want to keep your opponent actively running so switch up your shot and where you position them on the court. 

Where Can You Play Pickleball?

As pickleball is gaining popularity, it is easy to find a place to play the sport in the US. For starters, check the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). The association has a list of the places you can play pickleball. Alternatively, check the private clubs, and check with your local YMCAs. Besides the US, pickleball is a renowned sport in the UK, China, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

You can try other alternatives if it is hard to find a pickleball court (Pickleball Court Near Me) in your area. For example, you can use a badminton court. Lower the net to 3 feet, and you are good to go. If you don’t have a badminton court, you can find a suitable area, draw a court, and hang a net. Remember to include the no volley zone when drawing the service courts. As an easy way of working out and having fun with family, friends, and colleagues, pickleball is becoming a household sports name globally.

Wrapping up

We hope you have a better understanding of the rules for pickleball now and how to play. Don’t worry if you can’t remember all the rules right away. Bookmark this article and reference it a few times. It’s also helpful to just get out and play and you will be on your way to mastering the game! Want to learn what is the right grip for your paddle? Check out our latest post!

Welcome to the 585 pickleball community and don’t forget to have fun out there on the court!

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