If you’re looking for a fun and easy sport to enjoy this summer, look no further! Pickleball is a paddle sport similar to tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It’s a great way to get together with friends for a while and enjoy some fun competition. Pickleball has been around since the 1960s, when children played it in their backyards.
Nowadays, tournaments are played each year, including the U.S. Pickleball National Championships and the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships. It’s played on a 20 by 44-foot court with a 36-inch high net. We will go into more details about how to play pickleball later, but first, let’s break down what you will need to start with.
You don’t need much to start out with pickleball, but you need to put some thoughts into the few items you bring to the table. That’s why this section will go into great detail about the products you’ll need to be a pro (ok, decent) pickleball player in no time!
Naturally, you’ll need a pickleball paddle to play. If you’re playing at a beginner-friendly court, they may provide you with a pickleball paddle. Otherwise, you’ll need to find one on your own. Don’t worry; pickleball paddles for beginners are inexpensive and easy to use!
Pickleball paddles are either made with plastic or aluminum cores. They can also be finished with fiberglass or graphite. Of course, the construction of the paddle will factor into the price. Paddles usually range in price from about $20 to $150.
There are three types of paddles:
Players do not often use wooden pickleball paddles anymore. They spiked in popularity between the 1960s and the 1980s. Some players still use wooden paddles, however, because they are cheap.
The problem with wooden paddles is that they are heavy. Wooden paddles can weigh up to 20 oz. Compared to the average composite paddle weighing in at 7.5 oz, this is a significant weight to play with. It makes pickleball difficult, particularly for beginners.
The major benefit of wooden paddles is that they are incredibly durable due to their weight. People that play pickleball all the time may find them useful. However, most experts do not recommend that beginners use wooden paddles due to the challenges they present. It is better to spend a little more on a paddle that you’ll get better use of.
Composite paddles are made up of many different materials. This is how most pickleball paddles are made. Excluding the handle, composite paddles have three main components:
- Edge Guard
The core makes up the majority of the paddle head. Plastic, aluminum, and polymer are common materials that manufacturers use to create the core. The core is always designed in a honeycomb pattern, making the paddle strong and durable while maintaining its lightweight nature. This is what makes it different from the heavy, cumbersome wooden paddle. There are three different core types that are good for beginners:
Nomex: Nomex has been used since the early 1960s and was the first material used in composite paddles. Now, they are the most popular type of paddle on the market. The most common paddle found in retail stores, the Onix Z5 Graphite, is made of Nomex.
The benefit of Nomex is that it lends you tons of strength when you’re playing pickleball. Keep in mind, however, that this strength may make it difficult to control. You’ll need to practice a lot to maintain a balance of strength and control when using a Nomex paddle. They may be challenging for beginners.
Aluminum: Aluminum paddles aren’t the most common paddles, but they are good for people who need a lightweight paddle. The drawback to having a lightweight paddle is that it does not have much power behind it. However, the lack of power allows you to have more control over the ball.
It’s easier to keep the ball in bounds when you’re in the heat of the game with an aluminum paddle. The center of gravity for an aluminum paddle is focused at the handle, making them easier to swing. Aluminum paddles are best for children or older folks who may have arthritis or trouble controlling a heavier paddle.
Polymer: Polymer is basically a type of plastic. The benefit of polymer is that it gives you both control and power. Polymer paddles are best for beginners and any player that doesn’t fit either of the criteria for aluminum or Nomex paddles. There are many different options in polymer paddles, and more come out all the time, so it’s easy to find something that works best for you in a polymer paddle.
If you’re looking for specific pickleball paddle recommendations, we’ve got your back. Here are a couple of paddles that you can look at to get started.
This paddle is quiet due to its polymer core and has been approved by the USAPA, meaning you can play in tournaments with this paddle. Therefore, if you’re looking to be a competitive player one day, this is the perfect paddle to practice with. You can purchase the Amazin’ Aces Classic Graphite Pickleball Paddle on Amazon here.
This paddle is inexpensive and lightweight. It is soft to the touch and comes in a pack of two with balls and a bag, making it a bargain for the price. It’s perfect if you’re starting out with a friend. This paddle is geared towards controlling the ball, which makes it a great starter paddle for beginners who are just learning new techniques. It’s important to keep in mind that control is just as important as power for a beginner player while you’re getting the basics down. You can purchase this paddle on Amazon here.
You can read our review of the best graphite pickleball paddles here
Most people just wear running shoes when they go to play pickleball. We wouldn’t recommend this. The problem with running shoes is that they are meant only for forward movement; therefore, support is removed from the sides of the shoes to make them lighter.
You are more likely to turn your ankle when moving side to side if you use a running shoe for pickleball. Instead, several other types of shoes will work.
Court shoes are usually used for basketball and volleyball, but they can also be used for pickleball! There are many benefits to court shoes. They have flat soles, which lead to minimal treading, and their soles don’t scuff the ground very much, if at all. Unlike running shoes, they have support on all sides, making them easier to move in.
They’re also easier to move in because they weigh less than a tennis shoe. It’s important to have a shoe you can move around a lot in, as you’ll be moving back and forth and side to side quite a bit as you play pickleball.
When you think of tennis shoes, you may be thinking of running shoes or sneakers. However, actual tennis shoes are a lot more durable and bulky than regular running shoes. Tennis shoes are much heavier than regular running shoes, and they bend near the toe instead of in the middle. They are bulky on all sides of the shoe, giving you support on all sides of your foot so you do not turn your ankle.
The best part about tennis shoes is that they are incredibly durable, so if you’re playing on a tennis court, they are the ideal option. We’d recommend tennis shoes for playing pickleball for their durability and support while you play, especially if you are playing on a tennis court.
There are five major rules that you need to know before you start playing pickleball. You’ll mostly learn through practice, so you don’t need to worry about memorizing these straight off the bat. It might be best to find someone who is familiar with pickleball to play with you and walk you through your first few games.
Most experts love teaching their craft, and it’s always fun to have someone new to play with. However, if you don’t have someone to teach you the rules, or you just want to study up ahead of time, we will break down the five most important rules of pickleball for you.
This is the case with most paddle sports, as you most likely know. The court is surrounded by bold white lines, and the ball must remain within these lines to be in play. If you hit the ball out of bounds, that means you lose your serve, or you have to give the ball back to the other team. It’s a major disadvantage, but it doesn’t mean all is lost.
One of the best things about pickleball is that it requires the ball to bounce both during the serve and the return of serve. This means if you hit the ball out of bounds on your serve, you have a better chance of scoring when you’re returning. Most points in pickleball are earned on the return.
You cannot hit the ball into the net or under the net. Any of these mistakes are known as “faults.” Committing a fault gives the ball to the opposing team. This means that you can only score a point when you’re serving. If you win the point and you’re the team returning the serve, that simply means you get the chance to serve and score the point.
Experts say the fewer faults you make in pickleball, the more likely you are to win. This makes perfect sense, right? Letting your opponent make mistakes is the key to winning at pickleball, so it’s best to make safe shots and wait for the other side to mess up.
This is the rule that makes pickleball, pickleball. New players often struggle with this rule, particularly on the serve. The ball can only bounce once on your side of the court when you are playing. Therefore when you are serving, make sure the ball only bounces once, and when you are returning, make sure the ball bounces before you hit it. This rule applies to singles and doubles. After the ball has bounced on both sides, you’re free to play as you wish and hit the ball whenever you want.
There are many purposes to this rule. It extends the game for more rallies, evens the competition, and even removes some advantages from the serving team. Pickleball wouldn’t be very fun if it was over in a couple of shots, would it? Of course not! This is why the two-bounce rule was created, to stop servers from rushing the net and getting the advantage as soon as the game started.
However, the struggle with this rule is remembering to allow the bounces to happen. Even experienced players can forget this rule, so it’s important to keep it on your mind when you’re playing to ensure that you don’t accidentally commit a fault.
Also, remember that this rule used to be called the “double bounce rule” but was changed in 2018 to the “two bounce rule.” Both of these terms refer to the same rule, so don’t get confused if you hear them used interchangeably.
There are four rules for serving that you must remember every time you serve in pickleball.
- Determine the server randomly. This can be by a coin flip, a random number generator on your phone, drawing straws, or any random method. The playing field in pickleball is generally balanced, so there’s no need to be too concerned if you don’t get to serve.
- The ball must be held underhand and below the waistline. Keep one foot behind the baseline to ensure the serve is starting from the right distance. This formation is a requirement to get the game started.
- Hit the ball diagonally to the opposite side of the court. If you hit it straight across, it will cause a fault. One serve is on the right side, then the next is on the left side, and it alternates continuously.
- If you make a fault on your serve, the next serve goes to your teammate if you’re playing doubles or to your opponent if you’re playing singles.
Serving isn’t too challenging once you get the hang of the rules. What makes pickleball unique is that the server doesn’t have an immense advantage over the opposing team, so there’s more of a level playing field between the players. Have fun as you get the hang of things!
There is a box surrounding the net within seven feet on each side. This is called the no-volley zone. In pickleball, it’s also known as the “kitchen,” and the line that divides it from the court is called the “kitchen line.” You can’t enter this zone during play unless the ball bounces within this zone.
That being said, the ball cannot bounce within this zone on the serve. If it hits that line during the serve, you lose your serve and have to give up the ball. Therefore, when you’re serving, it’s best to aim beyond the kitchen line and for the baseline. Deeper serves are better. One of the most common tactics in pickleball is keeping your opponent at the baseline while you remain at the kitchen line.
It takes practice to get the perfect serve. If you don’t hit deep enough, your opponent can charge the kitchen line easily. However, if you hit it too deep, you lose control of the ball and might hit it out of bounds. Don’t worry; once you practice enough, you’ll be a pro at serving in no time.
Pickleball ends at 11 points if the winning team is winning by at least 2 points. If they are not winning by at least 2 points, the game continues until someone is two points ahead. Singles usually play until 11 points, whereas if you’re playing doubles, the maximum score is usually 15 or 21 points. It is all up to you and your opponents to discuss.
Depending on how many points you are playing until, your team will switch sides whenever one team reaches 6 or 8 points. Remember that only the serving team can score in pickleball.
Now that you know all the basics of pickleball, it’s time to start thinking about getting on the court. If you’re looking for some tips to be on your best game, we’ve put together some for you, made especially for beginners, that will help you skip any fumbling around and pose a challenge to your opponents as soon as you get on the court.
Don’t try tricky shots. While it may look cool and be fun to pull off some fancy 360° spin shot on your serve or even while playing, it makes it more likely to make a fault and lose your chance at a point. Don’t make silly mistakes. Focus on letting your opponent make mistakes and get as many points as you can.
Always be in “ready position.” There are four characteristics of “ready position” that you’ll want to adopt.
- Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your knees should be bent slightly.
- Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, not your heels.
- Keep your shoulders and upper body relaxed.
- Keep your arms and paddle in front of your body and pointing slightly up.
Take this position before every serve and after every shot anyone makes. If you practice this enough, it should become instinctual for you on the pickleball court.
Return the serve deep. The deeper you hit your serve, the more time you have to get closer to the net, where most points are won or lost. If you arrive at the net before your opponent, you have the upper hand. You can also hit the ball to the center of the court during doubles play to confuse your opponents. Aim the return towards your opponent’s backhand, so they have a weaker hit.
Use the drop shot. Beginners often avoid the drop shot because it is difficult, but with practice, you’re sure to get the hang of it. Don’t overuse this shot, but if your opponent is already up at the net, you can buy yourself some time by taking advantage of the third drop shot.
After your opponent has returned the serve, hit a soft drop shot into the no volley zone so you can get to the net. It can be difficult to pull off, but it gets you time to get to the net if you manage to pull it off. This is also known as the dink shot.
Communicate with your partner. If you’re playing doubles, communicating with your partner saves you a lot of confusion and frustration. Communication involves calling your shot by shouting “mine” or “yours” when the ball is approaching.
It also means keeping an eye on if the ball is going to be in or out of bounds and calling “in” or “out” depending. More in-depth communication involves creating signals with your partner, such as hand signals or body language, to ensure you’re both on the same page while you’re playing.
Don’t lob the ball. Lobbing the ball is a risky shot with a low reward. Lobbing is when you hit the ball over your opponent’s head to get them away from the net. Lobs are not recommended against advanced players as they are skilled at countering it. New players might lob against one another, but it’s overall not a good shot to get used to using as you take on more and more challenging players.
Get to the net. The first goal in pickleball is to get to the net. A common mistake in newer players is to stay back away from the no volley zone. Even worse is hanging out in no man’s land, the area between the serving line and the kitchen line.
If you’re playing with a partner, both of you should move up to the net as soon as possible. As mentioned previously, most points are scored at the net, so you don’t want to give your opponent all the advantage by letting them be at the net all alone.
Keep out of “no-man’s land.” As we mentioned, no-man’s land is the area between the serving line and the kitchen line. Why is this area such a bad place to be? When you hit the ball from no-man’s land, the other team has time to react, and you provide them with more angles for them to hit you at.
Also, by creating a gap in front of and behind you, you give them plenty of room to lob or dink the ball into those spaces. Many newbies feel a false sense of comfort in no-man’s land, but this is false. The best place to be is right up by the net.
Master the topspin return. Your best shot is usually a forehand shot. With the topspin return, your paddle begins low and ends high above your opposite shoulder. It is a low to high swing.
While moving the paddle, give a small flick of the wrist to add spin. With this serve, the ball will jump towards the opponent when it hits the court and force them back further from the net.
Master the backspin return. Where the topspin return is a low to high swing, the backspin return is a high to low swing. Start with the paddle high in the air and bring it down towards the ball. This will cause the ball to bounce back towards the net and away from your opponent. This shot is particularly effective against new players.
Don’t attempt to skim your serve right over the net. This tip goes along with not trying anything too difficult. It’s okay if your shot arcs high in the air. You’re more likely to make a mistake if you hit the ball too close to the net, and a fault is worse than a returned ball for sure. Focus on safe shots to ensure that you have the chance to score points.
Sync movement with your partner. Whenever your opponent finds gaps or spaces on your side of the court, they’re going to take advantage. To prevent leaving spaces on your side, coaches recommend pretending there is an 8-10 foot rope connecting you and your partner at the waist.
Move so that this rope is always taut and maintaining that distance. Therefore, if your partner moves towards the net, you should as well. You want to ensure that there is enough space between you that you can move and hit the ball, but not enough so that there are gaps on your side of the court.
Aim for your opponent’s backhand. The backhand is a weaker shot than the forehand, and most players are not as comfortable with their backhand. Even better, most are not ready to use it at any given moment. That’s why it’s best to always aim for your opponent’s backhand to catch them off guard and get a weaker shot where they’re more likely to make an error.
Watch your opponent warm up. Watching your opponent warm up is a perfect way to spot any weaknesses that they have, such as a weak backhand or a poorly controlled shot. If you catch their weaknesses while they’re warming up, you can adjust your play during the game to take advantage of these weaknesses.
- The face of your paddle indicates the direction that the ball is going to go. Therefore, once you’ve hit the ball with your paddle you want to follow through to ensure that the ball moves in that direction. If you are consistent with your follow-through, you’re more likely to hit your target.
- Don’t throw or toss the ball up into the air to serve it like a tennis serve. Simply release the ball at waist height and hit it as it drops towards your paddle.
- The deeper you serve the ball, the harder it will be for your opponent to get to the net. Serve the ball deep to your opponent’s baseline.
- Always keep your opponent guessing. There are many types of serves you can learn, so by practicing different serves you can shake things up and keep everyone on their toes. Find out what serves work best for you.
With this equipment, rules, and tips, you should be ready to hit the pickleball court today! Remember to practice everything that you’ve learned, and don’t get frustrated if you aren’t a pro right away. It takes time to learn, but pickleball won’t pose too much of a challenge and you should be having fun playing with your friends in no time!
The most important thing is to have fun, and hopefully this guide helps you get started with a fun new sport that you enjoy!