The Most Popular Paddle-Type Sports: An Introduction to Pickleball

With today’s renewed interest in paddle sports, games like pickleball are growing in popularity.

Learn what the game entails and if you’re old enough to be reading this blog post, and you’re the kind of person who regularly finds themselves in a gym, YMCA, or community center, there’s a really good chance that you are already aware in the surge of interest around paddle and racket sports, including paddleball, racketball, squash, and of course, today’s hottest paddle game of all, pickleball! 

Sporting goods stores and sports complexes across the US and the world are experiencing a whole new level of demand in pickleball equipment and courts — so much so that even tennis centers and indoor soccer arenas are now dedicating space to the sport that’s taking the world by storm. 

While it is true that currently, paddleball is giving pickleball a decent run for its money in some parts of the country, overall, pickleball has the leading edge over all other paddle-type sports. So, what is it, exactly, that is creating the frenzy around pickleball, and how does it differ from other types of paddle and racket sports played around the world? Let’s take a closer look.


What Is Pickleball?

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the… paddle: pickleball has a weird name. While there is a lot of conjecture and plenty of theorizing about where the name came from, what we do know for sure is that the game itself was invented sometime in 1965 by a group of young fathers looking for something to do with their kiddos that would get them up off the couch while also being high-action enough to engage them and keep them from getting bored in the way children sometime can when they play games like tennis that can seem slower-paced to the novice who doesn’t understand how net sports work. 

Of course, the dads could not have known they would change the world of racket sports when they invented pickleball, which is actually largely based on the rules of ping-pong, tennis, badminton, and volleyball, among arguably others. The great thing about pickleball is that it can be played both indoors and outside depending upon your preference or the options available to you. And, as with many other sports, you can take pickleball as seriously or as casually as you like. 

In other words, you can enjoy some leisure time in your backyard with pickleball or you can get downright serious and train for hardcore pickleball tournaments, where courts are measured down to the nanometer and the competitors are fierce. 

Just as with most other paddle or net sports, pickleball has a court with baselines, sidelines, a service area, a non-volley zone, and a kitchen. And, like other net sports, you’ll go far if you can gain and maintain a mastery of skills like drop shots and serious services. 

Pickleball is played with wooden or graphite paddles, which are used to hit and volley a medium-sized plastic ball perforated in much the same way a Wiffle ball is. A pickleball net should be no more than 34 to 36 inches off the ground and suspended on either side of the court as well as right in the center court area. 

The pickleball court itself is roughly the same size as a badminton court, but if you are creating your own court, you will want to ensure there is plenty of space on all four sides, including both baselines and both sidelines to lessen the likelihood of injury while also making it easier to reach some of those tough shots that hit right at the margins of the court. 

Just as with badminton, pickleball matches are played to the high score of 11, and in order to be considered the victor, you must win by no less than two points.

How Is Pickleball Different From Paddleball? 

With paddleball, at least the way we play it in most places today, there are some pretty major differences from pickleball equipment, rules, and court size. To begin, paddleball is played with a graphite or wooden racquet that has a different overall shape than a pickleball paddle, especially in the sense that the handle is longer and the base of the racquet is not as squared off as a pickleball paddle. 

Perhaps most glaringly of all, paddleball only utilizes a single side of a court, as it is played up against a wall, making it a closer relative to squash and even handball. And yet, even in this congested court space, you can still play doubles, with four players essentially sharing what feels like a single side of a court pressed up against a wall, which is used for service. 

Of course, this is a description of one-wall or single-wall paddleball, which has been recognized as a sport by the United States Paddleball Association (USPA) since around 1955. The other type of paddleball, known as four-wall paddleball, makes use of an enclosed space with 20-foot tall front and side walls, a 12-foot back wall, and a court measuring exactly 20 feet by 40 feet. 

In this version of paddleball, the court is split into several different service zones and boxes, which clearly already make it very different from one-wall paddleball and an even farther cry from what we recognize as pickleball. 

At the end of the day, what matters is that you have fun, get in some exercise, and have relatively easy access to a court. In this sense, it doesn’t really matter what is most popular by any other person’s standards, but what is going to get your blood pumping, get you feeling competitive, and be most likely to compel you to get away from your couch and TV. 

If it’s paddleball that does that for you, great! If it’s pickleball, awesome! Either way, you will find that both are exceedingly popular today, making it pretty likely that you’ll find decent competition and good opponents wherever you go to play racket sports near you.


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