A Beginner’s Guide to Pickleball – The Sport That’s Sweeping the Nation

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  • Post last modified:August 6, 2023

Pickleball, the exciting and fast-paced paddle sport, has taken the world by storm in recent years. Combining elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, this game suits players of all ages and fitness levels. Whether you’re looking for a fun way to stay active, connect with friends, or try out a new hobby, pickleball has something to offer everyone. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover the basics of pickleball, its rules, equipment, and strategies to help you confidently jump into the game.

The Origins of Pickleball

Pickleball was created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by friends Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. The trio wanted to invent a game that the entire family could enjoy, and thus, pickleball was born. Its peculiar name comes from the Pritchard family’s dog, Pickles, who was known for running off with the ball during play. What started as a backyard game soon became an organized sport with a dedicated following.

Pickleball Court and Equipment

The pickleball court is rectangular, measuring 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, with a non-volley zone, commonly called the “kitchen,” on each side. The net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches at the center. The court is divided into four sections: serving and receiving areas. The central line divides the court into two sections for singles play.

To play pickleball, you’ll need some essential equipment:

  • Paddle: Pickleball paddles come in various materials, including wood, composite, and graphite. Beginners often start with a wood or composite paddle, which provides a good balance of control and power.
  • Ball: Pickleballs resemble wiffle balls, featuring small holes that reduce air resistance. There are indoor and outdoor balls designed to perform optimally on different court surfaces.

Pickleball Rules and Gameplay

Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles format, but doubles are more common, making it a social and team-oriented game. The serving team must score a point to serve, and games are typically played to 11 points, with the winning team needing a two-point advantage. Here are some essential rules and terms to know:

  • Serving: The serving team must start behind the baseline and hit the ball underhand into the opponent’s diagonal service court. To be considered valid, the serve must land past the non-volley zone before the baseline.
  • Double Bounce Rule: The receiving team must let the serve bounce once before returning it. After that, both teams can volley the ball (hit it in the air) or let it bounce.
  • Non-Volley Zone (NVZ): Players can only volley the ball while standing inside the NVZ if the ball bounces there first. This rule prevents players from dominating the net and adds strategy to the game.
  • Faults: Common faults include hitting the ball out of bounds, stepping into the NVZ while volleying, and serving in the wrong service court.

Basic Pickleball Techniques

As a beginner, mastering some fundamental pickleball techniques will improve your performance on the court:

  • Dinking: Dinking is a soft and controlled shot that keeps the ball low over the net, making it challenging for opponents to return. This technique is crucial in the non-volley zone.
  • Groundstrokes: Similar to tennis, groundstrokes involve hitting the ball after it bounces. Practice forehand and backhand groundstrokes to maintain control during rallies.
  • Volleys: Volleys are shots hit in the air before the ball bounces. Work on your reflexes and hand-eye coordination to excel at volleying.

Strategies and Tips for Beginners

  • Stay Patient: Pickleball is about strategy, not just power. Take your time, be patient, and wait for the right opportunity to make your move.
  • Mind the NVZ: Avoid spending too much time in the NVZ. Instead, move in and out quickly to maintain a strong court position.
  • Communicate with Your Partner: In doubles play, communication is critical. Coordinate with your partner to cover the court effectively and avoid collisions.
  • Learn from Others: Pickleball is a friendly and welcoming community. Be bold and seek advice and learn from experienced players.


Pickleball is a fantastic sport that fosters camaraderie, sportsmanship, and fun for players of all ages. Its fast-paced gameplay and easy learning curve make it an excellent choice for beginners. Now armed with this beginner’s guide to pickleball, you’re ready to step onto the court confidently. So grab a paddle, find a local court, and enjoy this exciting game sweeping the nation!