Looking for a fun recreational activity that anyone can learn quickly? Pickleball just may be your answer. This paddle sport has exploded in popularity for good reason – it’s social, competitive, and easy to pick up.
By combining elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, pickleball provides an enjoyable workout for all ages. The game is played on small courts with nets, paddles, and plastic balls. Players use underhand serves and groundstrokes to rally, with the option to volley once the ball has bounced. Ready to give this unique sport a try?
Let’s cover the basics so you can get started as a beginner.
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a fun recreational activity that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. Players play it with paddles and a plastic ball with holes on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net.
You can play pickleball as singles or doubles. The game is easy to learn but can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players. It’s a great way to get some exercise, work on hand-eye coordination, and spend time with friends and family.
With its popularity soaring in recent years, pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. Pickleball draws people of all ages and fitness levels as a social, yet competitive activity.
The History of Pickleball
Pickleball has seen immense growth as a popular racket sport in recent decades.
The game was invented in the 1960s by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell in Washington state. They designed pickleball as a relaxed activity for families with a lowered net and perforated plastic ball. By the 1990s pickleball began spreading beyond the Pacific Northwest as more seniors and retirees took up the sport. The USA Pickleball Association was formed in 2005 to promote growth.
Today pickleball has over 4 million players as “the fastest-growing sport in America.” Most communities host courts, and tournaments draw serious competition. With friendly people, low cost, and an easy learning curve, pickleball offers fun, fitness, and competition for all ages.
How Do You Play Pickleball as Beginners?
Players play pickleball on a badminton-sized court that measures 20×44 feet for both singles and doubles matches. Players hang the net at 36 inches on the sidelines and 34 inches in the center.
The players divide the court into right and left service courts by a non-volley zone line, also known as the “kitchen.” This zone extends 7 feet from the net on both sides.
You must make the serve underhand and hit it diagonally into the opponent’s service court. Hit the ball below waist level. The serve occurs from the right-hand court and alternates sides.
Only one fault is allowed on the serve. The second fault results in a side-out with the other team gaining the serve.
Games are played to 11 points and teams must win by 2 points. Scoring is the same as in tennis with 15, 30, and 40 points, but no “advantage” scoring.
If the ball is served into the non-volley zone (kitchen) and not returned, it is an automatic point for the serving team.
You can only make volleys outside of the non-volley zone. Inside this 7-foot zone, you must let the ball bounce before hitting it.
Double Bounce Rule
Each team must play their first shot off the bounce. After the ball has bounced once on each side, both teams can either volley the ball in the air or play it off the bounce.
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What are the Rules of Pickleball?
Here is a quick summary of the basic pickleball rules:
- Games are played to 11 points, win by 2
- Serve must be underhand and diagonally
- Only one serve attempt (fault) allowed
- Volleys can only be made outside of the non-volley zone
- The double bounce rule applies
- The ball must be hit, not caught or held
- Non-volley zone is 7 feet from the net
- Side out occurs when the server is not returned
- Faults result in loss of serve
- Equipment standards for paddle & ball
While the rules may seem simple at first, experienced players use strategy and placement to create a fast-paced, tactical game. As you improve and move up divisions, you’ll appreciate the intricacies of high-level pickleball.
What Equipment Do I Need to Play Pickleball for Beginners?
You need quite minimal equipment to play pickleball compared to other racquet sports. Here is the essential gear:
- Paddle – Pickleball paddles weigh between 7-14 ounces and have a large surface area about twice the size of a ping pong paddle. Composite materials like aluminum, graphite, or fiberglass are common.
- Ball – A pickleball is made of plastic with a diameter of 3 inches and weighs 0.9 oz. The ball has holes to reduce air resistance for controlled bounces.
- Court Shoes – Athletic court shoes provide the best traction and support for quick starts, stops, and side-to-side movements. Cross trainers or running shoes can work.
- Comfortable Athletic Clothing – Move freely in athletic shorts, shirts, skirts, or dresses. Layers are key for outdoor play in varying temperatures.
- Visor/Hat – Keep the sun out of your eyes while looking up to serve or volley.
- Water Bottle & Towel – Stay hydrated and wipe away sweat during active games.
Where Can I Play Pickleball?
The great thing about pickleball is that you can play in many locations:
- Dedicated Pickleball Courts – More public parks, community centers, YMCAs and recreation areas now have designated pickleball courts.
- Tennis Courts – If the court size is similar, tennis courts can easily be converted into pickleball courts using portable nets and court boundary lines.
- Driveways or Quiet Streets – For casual games, set up nets in driveways or closed streets near your home.
- Indoor Gymnasiums – Schools, community centers, churches, and fitness clubs often make room available for indoor pickleball.
Look for pickleball meetup groups in your area or talk to your local parks department about available courts. Many towns now have dedicated pickleball facilities to meet the rising demand.
What are Some Tips for Pickleball Beginners?
Starting pickleball can be intimidating. Here are some tips to help you build skills and confidence as a beginner:
- Take a lesson – Consider a pickleball clinic or private lessons to learn proper grips, swings, footwork, and rules.
- Start slow – Focus on just getting the ball over the net to start. Don’t try to crush every shot.
- Follow rules – Abide by the double bounce rule and kitchen boundaries as you learn.
- Use appropriate paddle – Get a midsize, lightweight paddle designed for control as you develop your swing.
- Watch experienced players – Notice positioning, strategy, and communication between partners.
- Have fun – Don’t worry about win/lose at first. Enjoy learning and socializing.
- Practice often – Try to play frequently to reinforce muscle memory for shots.
- Stay positive – Mistakes will happen. Keep a growth mindset as you improve over time.
How to Develop Pickleball Strategy for Beginners
As you become more comfortable with pickleball basics, you can start developing strategies to improve your game. Here are some beginner tips:
Understand Your Partner’s Strengths
Talk with your partner about your skills. Who has the better forehand? Backhand? Lobs? Communicate during games about positioning and shot strategy.
Control the Net
When at the non-volley line, focus on hitting the ball down with pace to gain a quick advantage. Move laterally to cover shots.
Aim Deep Cross Court
Hitting deep cross-court shots forces your opponent to move laterally and have less angle for offensive returns.
Vary Shot Selection
Keep your opponents guessing by mixing up soft shots with slow pace and low trajectory along with fast, low shots.
Take Control with the Serve
Use placement, depth, and pace on the serve to put your opponents immediately on defense.
What are the Most Common Pickleball Mistakes for Beginners?
Don’t get discouraged when starting. Most beginners make these common mistakes at first:
- Not getting in the ready position – Stay balanced and ready to react.
- Gripping the paddle too tightly – Relax your grip pressure.
- Taking eyes off the ball – Watch the ball all the way to paddle contact.
- Swinging too hard – Control and placement over power.
- Hitting the ball into the net – Come over the top slightly and use smooth strokes.
- Forgetting the double bounce rule – Remember to bounce once on each side first.
- Rushing shots – Move into position and have the patience to execute shots.
- Poor communication with partner – Discuss strategies before and during the game.
Where to Attend Pickleball Clinics for Beginners
Introductory pickleball clinics are a great way to learn and improve as a beginner. Here are some places to take group lessons and clinics:
- Local Parks & Recreation Departments – Look for group lessons offered in your community.
- YMCA or Community Centers – Check schedules for pickleball clinics for all levels.
- Retirement Communities – Active adult communities often organize weekly skills clinics.
- Pickleball Retreats & Camps – Multi-day immersions to learn and play extensively.
- National Pickleball Clinics – USAPA partners with locations like Club Med for 3-5 day clinics.
- Resorts & Vacation Destinations – Pickleball is frequently offered at destinations catering to active travelers.
Where to Take Pickleball Lessons for Beginners
If you want personalized instruction, taking private or small group lessons can rapidly boost your skills. Places to take lessons include:
- Local Pickleball Pros – Experienced players often coach in their communities. Check pickleball Facebook groups.
- Tennis Facilities – Many tennis pros cross-train to teach pickleball.
- Online Lessons – Take virtual lessons from certified instructors.
- Camps & Resorts – Private lessons are commonly offered when attending pickleball camps or vacations.
When selecting an instructor, look for certification from the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) or the Professional Pickleball Registry (PPR). Taking periodic lessons, even as you improve, provides valuable feedback to advance faster.
Pickleball is a fast-growing sport that is accessible to people of all athletic abilities.
The fun, social vibe makes the appeal of pickleball easy to see for both active adults and kids. Start by learning the basic skills and rules, use appropriate beginner strategies, and don’t let initial mistakes discourage you.
Take a lesson, find a regular group to play with, and pickleball will hook you in no time!
FAQs about Pickleball for Beginners
What is the best way to learn pickleball?
The best way to learn pickleball is to take lessons from a certified pickleball instructor who can teach you proper grips, strokes, footwork, rules, and strategies. Group clinics and camps are also great for instruction and practice.
What are the 3 skills needed to play pickleball?
The 3 key skills needed are consistent underhand serving, solid groundstrokes with control, and the ability to volley and return shots in the air. Mastering paddle grip, reaction time, and footwork is also critical.
How do you play pickleball in simple terms?
You play pickleball on a small court with a net by hitting a ball back and forth over the net using solid paddles. The goal is to hit the ball in a way that your opponent cannot return it. You only score points when serving, not during rallies.
Is pickleball hard to learn and play?
Pickleball has simple rules and equipment needs, making it one of the easier sports to learn. You need to practice to develop consistent and accurate shot-making, but you can pick up the basics quickly.
Is pickleball hard on the body?
Pickleball provides a good cardiovascular workout, but the stop-start motion and use of an arm paddle reduce overall body strain compared to other racquet sports. Injuries are not common with proper warmup and gear
What are the negatives of pickleball?
The main negatives are the risk of less serious injuries like muscle strains or elbow/shoulder discomfort from overuse. The sport is also not aerobically challenging for very fit athletes. Noise from shouting and popping paddles may bother some.