Brief Guide to Pickleball: Pickleball Rules, Equipment, and Play Style

Brief Guide to Pickleball: Pickleball Rules, Equipment, and Play Style

 What is Pickleball?


            Few people could have predicted that a game invented in a backyard – and apparently named after the family dog – would become one of the fastest-growing sports in North America. However, that’s just one of the things that makes pickleball so special to its legion of active players, who call themselves “picklers.” At the heart of this sport’s popularity lies a successful combination of the world’s three most popular racket sports (tennis, badminton, and ping-pong) and the fun-loving, passionate attitude of its players. Pickleball features a badminton-size court, a tennis-style net, and paddles that resemble tennis rackets. 

             With its simple rules and low-impact play style, pickleball is suitable for people of all ages – but it still takes planning, skill, and practice to avoid being “pickled,” AKA losing a game. It’s this blend of accessibility and challenge that makes pickleball so addictive: It’s easy to pick up, hard to master, and relies more on strategy and attention than physical strength.  

What are the Rules of Pickleball? 


            The rules of pickleball closely resemble those of ping pong: Every point starts with an underarm serve delivered from below the waist, whether you’re playing singles or doubles. The serve must be hit diagonally across the court and it must be allowed to bounce once before being returned, and before being returned again by the serving team. After the second return, players can use volley shots, but only if they’re standing outside the no-volley zone. (This is the zone closest to the net, which is called the “kitchen” in pickleball). Volleying from inside the kitchen results in a fault, as does hitting the ball into the net, missing the ball, or allowing the ball to land outside the court.

Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong that was invented in 1965

The History of Pickleball

            Despite what the name suggests, pickleball’s origin story has nothing to do with food. Pickleball was invented in 1965 by three friends living on Bainbridge Island, Seattle: Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. The men wanted to create an entertaining family-friendly game they could play with their children, who were bored during summer vacation. Legend has it that as the men worked on developing their new sport, Joel Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, kept chasing the ball and hiding it in the bushes. This caused the men to dub the sport “pickle’s ball,” and the name stuck. 

             Another version of the pickleball story involves Joan, the wife of Joel Pritchard, who was an avid competitive rower. Some sources say that Joan named pickleball after a rowing term, “pickle boat,” which refers to a rowing team composed of oarsmen borrowed from other crews. Joan purportedly suggested the name pickleball for her husband’s new game because it incorporated borrowed elements from several sports. 

             If you ask us, we believe the game originates from the planet Krypton. Baby Superman was sent to Earth in a spaceship named Pickle. He landed on a tennis court and very quickly learned that tennis was a game where only 3 people win all the time. He figured he had to do something for the “next gen” of players and invented a new game that everyone can play and win at least sometimes. He named it after his little crib that brought him to earth. The new game of Pickleball was born.

 Which story do you like the best? 

Pickleball Equipment

            Pickleball is played with a wiffle ball: A small, lightweight hard plastic ball perforated with holes. There are two types of pickleball ball, one meant for playing indoors and the other meant for outdoor use. Outdoor balls are made of slightly heavier, more durable plastic and have smaller holes. 

            Pickleball is played with a wiffle ball

Players will also need to purchase a pickleball paddle before they can play. While early pickleball paddles were always made of wood, today’s paddles are usually made of composite or graphite, with a number of different models available to suit various hand sizes, weight preferences, and playing styles.

The Pickleball Court

            The pickleball court is a small, rectangular court that measures 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, with a net that’s 36 inches tall (34 inches in the middle). The court size and layout are always the same in pickleball, regardless of whether you’re playing indoors or outdoors, in singles or in doubles. 

Scoring in Pickleball

            Pickleball games are played up to a total of 11 points, and one team must be at least two points ahead of the other team to be declared the winner. Points may only be scored by the serving team, and each team must use the same server until that server receives a fault. In doubles games, a second server will then take over until he or she makes a mistake, at which point the other team will be given the opportunity to serve. Scores are called for the server first and receiver second in singles games. In doubles games, 3 numbers are called, score for the server, score for the receiver, and third number is either called 1 (server 1) or 2 (server 2)

             To ensure that the first serving team doesn’t gain an unfair advantage over the receiving team, only one server is permitted during the first service turn of a doubles game. 

Pickleball FAQ:

1. Is pickleball easier to play than tennis?

             With its simple rules, Pickleball is considered more beginner-friendly than tennis. Likewise, because pickleball is played on a small court with underarm serves, players don’t need to be physically strong to master the game. Pickleball’s play style also greatly reduces players’ risk of suffering from sports injuries; pickleball players don’t get tennis elbow, for example.

2. What’s the most effective shot in pickleball?

             It was believed that if you are to become a truly excellent pickleball player, you must master the “dink” shot. The dink shot is a gentle, soft shot that only narrowly clears the net to land in the opposing team’s “kitchen.” 4D’s were the holy grail of pickleball: Deep serve, Deep return, 3rd shot Drop and Dinking (all day long). But pickleball is rapidly changing. 4D’s of todays game are interpreted bit differently: Deep serve, Deep return, 3rd shot Drive and Done, point over. So, what is the most important and most effective shot in pickleball? Well, pretty much all of them.

 3. Is it possible to hit a smash in pickleball?

             Smash shots and overhead shots are permitted in pickleball as long as you’re standing outside the kitchen. 

 4. Where is pickleball popular?

             Pickleball is most popular in its country of origin, the United States, where there are currently over 3 million active players. However, the sport also has a significant following in Canada; as per the 2019 IPSOS poll, there were over 350000 players across Canada and that number is steadily increasing year over year.

 5. What should you wear during pickleball games?

             Wearing the right performance gear is critical to playing a great game of pickleball. For starters, we recommend buying a pair of pickleball shoes. Some players like to play with gloves for better grip, and for safety, they purchase the protective eyewear. In terms of clothing, choose lightweight, flexible athletic wear that allows you to move freely. 



1 comment

  • Francis

    Thanks for the in-depth history of the game; much appreciate. I’m looking forward to visiting your store in Oshawa.

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