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How to get started in pickleball

Curious about how to join America's fastest-growing sport? You're not alone; nearly 48.3 million people picked up a pickleball paddle last year, ready for action. This post lays out the simple steps to jump into pickleball, ensuring you start off on the right foot with gear tips, rules, and finding a community.

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Let's dive in and get you playing!

Understanding Pickleball: A Brief Overview

Pickleball is a lively racket sport that merges elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis into a uniquely enjoyable game suitable for all ages and skill levels. Conceived on Bainbridge Island in Washington during the summer of 1965 by Barney McCallum, Joel Pritchard, and Bill Bell, pickleball has evolved from a family pastime to an exciting sport with a dedicated following.

It stands out for its approachability; since its rules are uncomplicated and the court dimensions are smaller than those of tennis courts, it appeals especially to older adults who appreciate the mix of friendly competition with reduced physical strain.

The game's quirky name belies its growing popularity: nearly 19 percent of U.S. adults dabbled in pickleball recently, signaling the remarkable expansion of this pastime across America.

Despite being relatively easy to pick up—a factor leading to its widespread adoption—participants should be mindful that injuries have been on the incline parallel to its surge in popularity.

Thus newcomers must prioritize learning proper techniques and safety measures right alongside mastering volleys, serves, and groundstrokes as they embrace this rapidly expanding sport beloved for both leisurely playdates and spirited tournaments alike.

Essential Pickleball Equipment

When getting started in pickleball, it's important to have the right equipment. This includes paddles, balls, shoes, and other gear that will help you play the game effectively.


Picking the right pickleball paddle can make all the difference on the court. Composite paddles stand out as a top choice for beginners, thanks to their lightweight and durable design.

These paddles combine a robust core with a sturdy face and an edge guard to enhance performance during play. For those new to the game, models like the Paddletek Phoenix LTE and Selkirk NEO reviewed by Pickleball Advisor are worth considering because they balance weight and design for optimal use.

Remember that wooden paddles are generally too heavy for pickleball, potentially hindering your gameplay. Instead, opt for composite options made from materials such as carbon fiber or graphite which offer better control and power.

This choice helps ensure you handle volleys confidently and strike with precision whether at the baseline or charging towards the non-volley zone, also known as "the kitchen." Keep these tips in mind as you select your paddle - it's not just about style but finding a trusty partner that complements your approach to this exciting sport!


Pickleball balls are crucial for the game, much like wiffle balls, they're made of plastic and feature small holes to allow for easy flight through the air. The USAPA sets standards for their size, weight, and bounce to ensure fair play.

For indoor games, choose balls with larger holes; they’re softer and less bouncy which makes them perfect for gym floors or other indoor surfaces. Meanwhile, outdoor pickleball requires tougher balls with smaller holes that can handle breezy conditions without sacrificing performance.

Keep an eye on the color of your pickleballs; bright yellow and green make them easier to see during fast-paced play. Always bring extra balls to your matches as they can easily go out of bounds or wear down from all the action on the court.

With these tips in mind, you'll be prepared with the right kind of ball whether you're playing indoors or outside.


Now that you've got your pickleball and paddle ready, let's talk about the importance of shoes. Proper footwear is vital for stability and safety on the court. Go for court shoes if you're playing indoors to prevent slips and falls on smooth gym floors.

These shoes provide the grip needed for quick lateral movements and can save you from injuries.

For outdoor play on harder surfaces like tennis courts, durable tennis shoes are your best bet. They offer the toughness needed to withstand rougher terrain while supporting your feet during intense play.

Stay away from running shoes for pickleball; their lightweight design may lead to ankle twists due to insufficient side support. Invest in a good pair of court or tennis shoes before hitting the pickleball courts – it’s essential for both performance and protection underfoot.

Other Gear

Pickleball players should also consider investing in proper athletic clothing that wicks sweat and provides support during play. Additionally, accessories like totes, ball band holder accessories, and sweat-absorbing headbands can enhance comfort and convenience on the court.

These additional gears can make a significant difference in players' overall experience while enjoying the game of pickleball.

To further elevate their game, players may want to explore various paddle options beyond those made from wood, graphite, polypropylene, carbon fiber, or fiberglass. It's essential for individuals to find the right balance between weight and control when selecting paddles tailored to their playing style.

Selecting the Right Pickleball Gear

When it comes to choosing the right pickleball gear, it's important to look for key features in your shoes and paddles that will enhance your game. Understanding what to prioritize in your equipment can make a big difference in your overall playing experience.

Key Features to Look for in Pickleball Shoes

Quality pickleball shoes should feature a supportive and durable upper material that offers stability and protection during fast-paced play. Look for shoes with a grip pattern on the outsole to provide traction on various court surfaces, helping to prevent slips and falls while allowing for quick movements.

Additionally, ensure the shoes have adequate cushioning for comfort during intense gameplay, as well as support for lateral movement to minimize the risk of injury.

Pickleball shoes are crucial in enhancing overall performance on the court. They should not only offer support but also be designed to withstand the demands of this dynamic sport. A focus on features such as grip, durability, stability, and cushioning will contribute significantly to a comfortable playing experience while reducing the likelihood of accidents or discomfort caused by inappropriate footwear.

What to Know About Paddles

Pickleball paddles vary in price and materials, with options ranging from $20 to $250 and featuring plastic, aluminum, fiberglass, or graphite construction. As a beginner, it's important to avoid Nomex and aluminum core paddles, elongated or "blade" designs, wooden paddles, as well as those under 6.5 oz or over 9 oz in weight.

Now that you understand the essentials of pickleball equipment let’s delve into basic rules of pickleball.

Basic Rules of Pickleball

The basic rules of pickleball include starting each rally with a serve and using underhand serves. Points are only won on your serve, and the first team to 11 points wins, but you must win by 2.

Rule #1: Each rally begins with a serve

Each pickleball rally kicks off with a serve, setting the game in motion. The server must use an underhand stroke and ensure that the ball clears the non-volley zone. This pivotal rule dictates the start of every point, dictating each player's strategic approach to gaining an advantage at the beginning of play.

As a result, mastering various serving techniques becomes crucial for players aiming to gain an upper hand from the very onset of each rally.

Rule #2: Your serve must be underhand

Serving in pickleball is a fundamental skill, and abiding by the underhand serve rule is vital for fair gameplay. This rule ensures that players use proper technique, preventing excessive power and spin.

Serving underhand allows for greater control and accuracy, making it an essential element for beginners to focus on mastering early in their pickleball journey. By emphasizing the underhand serve, the game promotes inclusivity and reduces the advantage of players with strong overhand serves.

Understanding and following this rule not only aligns with the sport's principles but also sets a solid foundation for developing essential skills in pickleball. It creates an even playing field, encouraging all players to prioritize technique over sheer strength or power.

Rule #3: Each point continues until a fault

Each point in pickleball continues until a fault, meaning that players keep serving and returning the ball until a mistake is made. The game only stops when one team commits an error, such as hitting the ball out of bounds or into the net.

This rule emphasizes the importance of consistency and precision in each rally, making every shot crucial to maintaining control over play.

The continuation of each point until a fault occurs increases the strategic aspect of pickleball, requiring players to focus on accuracy and placement with every shot. This rule adds intensity to the game as both teams strive to avoid making errors while looking for opportunities to force mistakes from their opponents.

Rule #4: You can't volley in the kitchen

In pickleball, players are not allowed to hit a volley while standing inside the kitchen or if their momentum causes them to step into the kitchen. This rule aims to prevent players from crowding the net and allows for fair play by giving opponents enough room to react and defend against volleys.

By following this rule, players can maintain a safe distance from the net and create an equal playing field for both teams.

Understanding and adhering to "Rule #4" is essential when learning how to play pickleball as it ensures fair gameplay and sportsmanship. Players need to be mindful of their position on the court at all times, especially when close to the net, in order to comply with this important rule.

Rule #5: You can hit groundstrokes in the kitchen

Groundstrokes, which are shots hit after the ball has bounced once on your side of the court, can be executed from within the kitchen. This rule allows players to maneuver and strategically place their shots while standing in this restricted area.

It adds a layer of complexity to the game by requiring players to carefully consider their positioning and shot selection when inside the kitchen. Mastering groundstrokes in this confined space can significantly enhance a player's overall strategy and performance during pickleball matches.

The allowance to hit groundstrokes from within the kitchen enables players to maintain control over rallies and dictate play even when positioned close to the net. This rule encourages skillful shot placement and strategic thinking, enhancing both offensive and defensive capabilities during gameplay.

Rule #6: The ball must bounce on both sides before either team can volley

Before either team can volley in pickleball, the ball must bounce on both sides. This rule adds an extra layer of strategy and skill to the game, ensuring fairness and equal opportunities for both teams.

Adhering to this rule promotes sportsmanship among players and offers a level playing field for all participants. Understanding and applying Rule #6 is crucial for anyone looking to get started in pickleball as it forms an integral part of the game's dynamics.

Familiarizing yourself with all the rules of pickleball, including Rule #6, is important before starting to play. Understanding how this rule operates helps players develop their strategic thinking and adapt their gameplay accordingly.

Rule #7: You only win points on your serve

Transitioning from the requirement to have the ball bounce on both sides before either team can volley, Rule #7 emphasizes that players can only earn points when serving. This rule is a fundamental aspect of pickleball and significantly impacts gameplay strategy.

Beginners must prioritize mastering their serves as it offers a crucial opportunity for scoring points in each rally.

Understanding and applying Rule #7 not only contributes to fair play but also adds an element of tactical decision-making for players. Players aiming to succeed in pickleball need to focus on developing effective serving techniques while keeping this essential rule in mind.

Rule #8: Both partners serve in a turn

In doubles pickleball, both partners take turns serving. Each player gets the chance to serve before the ball is turned over to the opposing team. This rule ensures that both players have an equal opportunity to contribute to the game and showcase their serving skills.

This rule adds an element of teamwork and fairness in doubles pickleball, allowing each player to actively participate in serving throughout the game. It also requires communication and coordination between partners as they strategize on when and how to best utilize their serves during gameplay.

Rule #9: First team to 11 points wins—but you must win by 2

To win a game of pickleball, the first team to reach 11 points must secure a 2-point advantage over their opponents. In case of a tie at 10-10, the game continues until one team gains a 2-point lead for victory.

While informal play often follows this format, tournament matches may adhere to a 15-point or 21-point game style with the same rule requiring teams to win by a margin of two points.

For casual and competitive players alike, understanding this scoring system is crucial as it adds an extra level of strategy and excitement to each match.

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Getting Started: Learning Pickleball

Learn the fundamental techniques of serving, playing singles and doubles, as well as understanding scoring in pickleball. Embrace the game's strategy and start honing your skills on the court.

How to serve in pickleball

To serve in pickleball, stand behind the baseline and wait for the referee to call the score. Toss the ball upward and hit it diagonally over the net, aiming to land it within the opponent's service court. Here are some essential tips for serving in pickleball:

  1. Use an underhand serve to start each rally.
  2. Aim for a deep serve to keep your opponents back.
  3. Vary your serves by changing placement and speed.
  4. Focus on consistency and accuracy with your serves.
  5. Practice different serving strategies such as lob serves, drive serves, and drop serves.

Where to serve in pickleball

When serving in pickleball, it is essential to follow specific guidelines for a fair game. Here are the key areas where you can serve on the pickleball court:

  1. The serve must be made from behind the baseline.
  2. The ball should be served diagonally to the opponent's service court.
  3. It needs to clear the non - volley zone, also known as the kitchen, and bounce once before being returned.
  4. When playing doubles, each server must serve from the right - hand side of the court when their team's score is even and from the left when it's odd.

Serving strategies

To improve your serving game in pickleball, consider the following strategies:

  1. Aim for the non-volley zone: Try to serve low and close to the net, making it difficult for your opponent to return.
  2. Mix up your serves: Vary between deep and short serves to keep your opponents guessing and off-balance.
  3. Use spin: Adding spin to your serves can make them more challenging to return, especially if you master topspin or sidespin.
  4. Serve wide: Serving towards the sidelines forces your opponents to move quickly, creating potential openings for you during rallies.
  5. Watch your opponent: Pay attention to how they react to different types of serves and adjust accordingly.

How to play pickleball singles

To play pickleball singles:

  1. Start by standing on the right - hand side of the court if your score is even and switch to the left side if it's odd.
  2. Begin serving from behind the baseline, making sure it clears the non - volley zone, also known as the "kitchen."
  3. Aim your serve diagonally to your opponent's service court after bouncing once on your side.
  4. After serving, stay back and return the ball hit by your opponent with an overhead shot or a groundstroke.
  5. Hit strategically, using both forehand and backhand shots to continue rallies until one player scores 11 points, winning by at least 2 points.

How to play pickleball doubles

To play pickleball doubles:

  1. Each team consists of two players, and the serving team decides who serves first.
  2. Both players on a team get a turn to serve before the serve switches to the opposing team.
  3. Communication between partners is key to covering the court effectively and avoiding collisions.
  4. Players should focus on coordinating their movements and shots with their partner to maintain a strong defense or set up offensive plays.
  5. Due to the double bounce rule, teamwork is essential to maximize each player's involvement in rallies.
  6. Understanding your partner's positioning and movement patterns can help in executing effective shots and strategies during gameplay.
  7. Keeping an eye on your partner’s positioning will allow you to cover for them when needed and ensure efficient court coverage.
  8. A solid understanding of scoring systems, including tracking which player on a team has the serve, is crucial for maintaining game momentum.

Understanding pickleball scoring

After learning how to play pickleball doubles, it's crucial to understand the scoring system. Below are the essential points regarding pickleball scoring:

  1. Points can only be won on the serve, and players continue serving until they lose a rally.
  2. The game continues until one team gets 11 points, with the requirement to win by 2 points.
  3. The double bounce rule in pickleball requires the ball to bounce once on each side before either team can volley.

Finding a Pickleball Community

Look for pickleball courts near you and join the fastest growing pickleball community to meet new players and improve your skills. Read on to learn more about getting started in pickleball.

How to find pickleball courts near you

Finding pickleball courts near you is easier than you might think. There are several ways to locate nearby courts:

  1. Check local schools, parks, and community centers for public pickleball courts.
  2. Visit the USAPA website or use the Places2Play app to find a database of available courts in your area.
  3. Contact your local recreational department for information on pickleball locations and lessons.
  4. Explore online resources like Play pickleball to connect with teachers and discover court options for beginners.

Joining the fastest growing pickleball community

Discovering a burgeoning pickleball community can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Engaging in this rapidly expanding sport offers the chance to meet like-minded individuals, build friendships, and partake in a vibrant social scene.

As the fastest-growing sport in the United States, pickleball provides ample opportunities to bond over friendly matches, tournaments, and social events centered around the game. The inclusive nature of pickleball fosters camaraderie among players of all levels, facilitating strong connections within the ever-expanding community.


Get started in pickleball by finding the right equipment and learning basic rules. Understand serving techniques, court strategies, and scoring to improve your game. Join a pickleball community to meet fellow players and enjoy the social aspect of this fast-growing sport.

Take care of your well-being by stretching before playing and staying aware of common injuries associated with pickleball.

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