A Beginner's Guide to Pickleball

Are you ready to get in the game and try your hand at pickleball? This beginner's guide will walk you through everything you need to know to start playing this fast-paced and exciting sport. From understanding the basics of pickleball, including its history and equipment requirements, to learning the rules of the game, we've got you covered. So grab your paddle and join us as we dive into the world of pickleball and help you become a skilled player in no time.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a unique paddle sport that blends elements from tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It takes place on a smaller court and involves hitting a plastic ball with holes over the net using a paddle. Both singles and doubles formats are available, making it accessible for beginners to pick up and enjoy.

A Brief History of Pickleball

Pickleball has a fascinating and distinctive history. It originated in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, when a group of friends decided to combine the aspects of badminton, table tennis, and tennis into a new paddle sport. This innovative game quickly gained traction and popularity, spreading throughout the United States and beyond.

Today, pickleball is played by millions of individuals of all ages and skill levels, making it one of the fastest-growing sports in America. The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) serves as the governing body for the game, overseeing tournaments and implementing the rules of play. With its roots firmly planted in multiple sports, pickleball offers a unique and enjoyable gameplay experience that continues to captivate players around the world.

What you need to play pickleball

To enjoy a game of pickleball, you'll need a few essential items:

A pickleball paddle, resembling a large ping pong paddle, is used to maneuver the ball across the net. Equally important is the plastic ball with holes, specifically designed for the game. You'll also need a suitable court (regulation is smaller than a tennis court) with marked boundaries that define your play area. Don't forget to wear comfortable athletic shoes and appropriate clothing, ensuring you're ready to move swiftly on the court.

How to Play Pickleball

To get started with pickleball, it's important to familiarize yourself with the game's basic rules and techniques. Each point starts with an underhand serve, and the game continues until a fault occurs. Keep in mind that volleying in the kitchen is not allowed, but hitting groundstrokes is. Make sure the ball bounces on both sides before either team can volley, and remember that points are only scored on your serve.

Rule #1: Each point begins with a serve

In a pickleball game, every point starts with a serve. The server, using an underhand motion, must hit the ball diagonally across the net into the opponent's designated serving area. It's important to remember that after the serve, both teams must let the ball bounce once on their side before returning it. The rally then continues, with players hitting the ball back and forth over the net, until one team fails to properly return the ball. This is how points are scored, either by the opposing team's failure to return the ball or if it goes out of bounds.

Rule #2: Your serve must be underhand

One important rule to keep in mind is that your serve must be underhand. This means you cannot use an overhand or sidearm motion to serve the ball. By serving underhand, you gain better control and accuracy, which is especially beneficial for beginners who may not have as much power in their serves. Practicing your underhand serve is essential to meet the game's requirements and avoid faults or lets during gameplay.

Rule #3: Each point continues until a fault

In pickleball, every point in a game continues until a fault occurs. You need to be aware of the various faults that can happen, such as hitting the ball out of bounds, failing to clear the net, or allowing the ball to bounce twice before returning it. Understanding these rules is crucial to prevent faults and ensure a fair game. When a fault is made, the opposing team gains a point and takes over the serve.

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

The "kitchen", a designated area on either side of the net in pickleball, plays a pivotal role in gameplay. It is a 7-foot zone that restricts players from volleying. By adhering to the kitchen rule, players have to wait for the ball to bounce beyond this zone before they can volley it back. This rule ensures fair play, prevents overcrowding near the net, and adds a strategic element to the game. During a game of pickleball, players must be mindful of the kitchen and its limitations to enjoy the sport to its fullest.

Rule #5: You can hit groundstrokes in the kitchen

Pickleball enthusiasts will encounter an important rule known as the "kitchen" or non-volley zone. This area, located closest to the net on both sides of the court, allows players to execute groundstrokes strategically. By hitting shots in the kitchen, players apply pressure near the net and force opponents into challenging situations. However, it is crucial to remember foot faults and keep both feet outside the kitchen while executing groundstrokes. Adhering to this rule amplifies the strategic element of the game and demands precise movements around the kitchen line.

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

In pickleball, there is a crucial rule known as the double bounce rule. This rule states that both teams must wait for the ball to bounce on their respective sides of the court before they can volley. The double bounce rule is an essential aspect of pickleball gameplay, ensuring fair play and equal opportunities for players of different skill levels. Timing and strategy play a significant role in successfully implementing the bounce rule. By practicing your volleys and honing your skills, you can take full advantage of this rule to enhance your performance on the pickleball court.

Rule #7: You only win points on your serve

In pickleball, points can only be won by the serving team. If the receiving team wins a rally, they do not score a point but instead gain the opportunity to serve. The server must keep one foot behind the baseline and aim for the diagonal box on the opposite side of the net. This rule ensures fairness in the game and allows both teams to have an equal chance of scoring. It also adds an element of strategy to the game, as the serving team must carefully place their serves to maximize their chances of winning points.

Rule #8: Both partners serve in a turn

During a pickleball game, both partners take turns serving. The serving order is determined at the start of the game and alternates between partners throughout. The first serve occurs from the right-hand court, followed by subsequent serves from the same court until the serving team loses a point. Then, the other team gets their turn to serve, also starting from the right-hand court. This alternating serving pattern continues, ensuring fairness in the game.

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

The objective of each pickleball game is for one team to reach a score of 11 points, but with a requirement of winning by a 2-point lead. This adds an extra layer of competitiveness and strategy to the game. If the score is tied at 10-10, the game continues until one team manages to gain a 2-point lead over the opposing team.

This rule ensures that the winning team has truly outperformed their opponents and solidifies their victory. It adds an element of suspense and anticipation as the teams battle it out to achieve that 2-point advantage, and can make games become more intense and thrilling for players and spectators alike.

How to start a pickleball game

Before starting a game of pickleball, it's crucial to warm up and prevent injuries. Prepare by engaging in beginner-friendly drills and practicing various shots. This will help improve your skills and accuracy on the court. Once you're warmed up, playing friendly matches with other beginners is a great way to gain experience and further develop your gameplay.

Look for local pickleball courts or clubs where you can join and participate in regular games. These environments provide opportunities to play against individuals with varying skill levels, allowing you to challenge yourself and improve.

How to play pickleball singles

To experience the thrill of pickleball singles, you need to familiarize yourself with the game's fundamental techniques and strategies. Master the key shots, like the serve, forehand, backhand, and volley, to gain control over your opponent. By practicing shot placement and court coverage, you can outmaneuver your rival and dominate the court. Remember that clean footwork and proper positioning are crucial for executing powerful shots. Embrace the challenge of singles play and savor the excitement of this rapidly growing sport.

How to play pickleball doubles

To play pickleball doubles, understanding the game's rules and techniques is essential. This fast-growing sport is played on a smaller court than tennis and is divided by a net. With two players on each team, the objective is to hit the ball over the net onto the opposing side of the court to score points. Starting on the right side, the serving team must serve the ball underhand to the diagonal service court. Once the ball is in play, both teams can freely move around their side and volley the ball before it bounces. Remember, the ball must bounce on both sides of the net before volleying. The game goes on until one team reaches 11 points, but they must win by a margin of 2 points.

Where to stand during pickleball doubles

When participating in a doubles game of pickleball, understanding where to position yourself on the court is crucial. In pickleball, each team is composed of two players, with one player positioned on each side of the net. At the commencement of the game, the team serving will occupy the right-hand service box, and the opposing team will stand within the left-hand service box. It is essential to adhere to this arrangement until the ball is returned. Following the return, players are allowed to move freely within their designated side, ensuring optimal shot execution. Effective communication with your partner is pivotal in determining shot responsibility and court coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you play pickleball on a tennis court?

Yes, you can play pickleball on a tennis court by using temporary pickleball lines or tape to mark the court. However, it is important to adhere to any local regulations or guidelines regarding the use of tennis courts for pickleball.

What are the basic pickleball rules?

Pickleball is played on a court similar in size to badminton with a modified tennis net. The game begins with an underhand serve to the opponent's court. The ball must bounce once on each side before volleys are allowed. Scoring follows a tennis-like system, with only the serving team earning points.

How long is a game of pickleball?

The duration of a pickleball game is determined by the score, with most games ending when one team reaches 11 points. However, some players may opt to play until 15 or 21 points. Each point is won by either the serving team or the receiving team. The length of the game can vary based on skill level and pace of play.

Can you play pickleball with 2 people?

Yes, pickleball can be played with just 2 people. In a 2-player game, each player will cover their side of the court. While playing with 4 people is the traditional way, a game with 2 players can still be enjoyable and competitive.


In conclusion, pickleball is a fun and exciting game that is easy to learn and play. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced player, pickleball offers a great way to stay active and have fun with friends and family. Remember to follow the rules, practice good sportsmanship, and most importantly, have fun on the court.

Whenever you're ready, find yourself a pickleball court on Swimply, then grab your paddles and get in the game!

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