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What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a paddle sport that takes aspects from tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It is played with a paddle, wiffle ball, and a net. Various rules for the game help make it so all ages and genders can be competitive against one another. People love pickleball because it is great physical exercise, requires strategy, and is very social. The game is fairly inexpensive compared to other sports, as paddles can be found for less than $100 and most courts are free to play on.

Most players have gotten their first taste of pickleball during school gym classes or seen it played at local parks and community centers. Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America, and more and more courts are popping up everywhere. It is most commonly played in groups of 4, but can be played with 2 people as well. Unlike tennis, pickleball can be learned very quickly and there is no limit on improvement and new techniques. A player does not need any previous racquet sport experience to be able to pick up and enjoy the sport of pickleball.

Pickleball is a year round sport that can be played both indoors and outdoors. Pickleball courts have smaller dimensions than tennis courts and are 20 feet wide and 44 feet long. A tennis net is used to split the two sides of the court that is 36" tall and droops to 34" in the center. As the sport continues to grow, you will see tennis courts tennis courts getting replaced with pickleball courts and some tennis courts get dual lines that support pickleball and tennis. There is no better time than now to grab a paddle and get involved in pickleball. There is no guarantee that you won't become hooked after one time of playing.

How to Play Pickleball

General Rules

  • Pickleball is played as either doubles or singles, but doubles is the most common
  • The same rules and playing area are used for both singles and doubles

How to Serve

  • Must be performed underhand
  • When the paddle contacts the ball, it must be below the servers waist
  • At least one foot must be behind the baseline, and neither foot may contact the baseline or court until the ball is struck
  • The serve must got diagonally crosscourt and land within the opposite service court
  • Only one attempt on the serve is allowed. If the ball touches the net and lands in the correct service court, you play on. There is no let rule.

Serve Order

  • If playing doubles, both players on the doubles team get to serve and score points until they commit a fault(Unless it is the first serve of the game)
  • If it is the very first serve of the game, only one partner on the serving team gets to serve the ball.
  • One fault from the opening serving team results in the serve being passed to the opposing team(After that both players get their chance to serve)
  • The first serve by any team member is always made from the right hand side of the court
  • If a point is scored, the players on the serving team switch sides and the next serve comes from the left hand side of the court
  • Every point scored by the server requires them and their partner to keep switching back and forth until a fault occurs
  • Once the fault is committed the first server loses the serve and then the partner serves and they repeat the sequence
  • Once the second server commits a fault, the serve goes to the other team
  • When the other team takes the serve, the first serve is from the right hand side of the court
  • Both players on that team repeat the serving until each server has committed a fault
  • For singles players the server serves from the right hand side of the court when the score is even and from the left hand side of the court when the score is odd

Score

  • You can only score points when you are on the serving team
  • Games are typically played to 11 or 15, and in some situations 21.
  • You must win by 2
  • The teams first server will be in the right hand box when their score is even for receiving and serving
  • That player will be in the left hand box when their score is odd

Two-Bounce Rule

  • The receiving team must let the ball bounce before they can return the initial serve
  • The serving team then has to let the return shot bounce on their side of the court before returning the shot
  • Once the ball has bounced once on each side of the court, both teams can return the remaining shots out of the air or after it bounces
  • This rule is implemented to eliminate the serve and volley advantage, and make for better rallies

Non-Volley Zone

  • Also known as the kitchen, it is the 7 foot area in front of the net on both sides of the court
  • It is against the rules to hit the ball out of the air while in the kitchen
  • It is considered a fault if a player steps into the kitchen or has a foot on the line to volley the ball
  • It is also considered a fault if the players momentum carries them into or touches the kitchen line
  • A player may be in the kitchen any time other than when they are volleying the ball

Line Calls

  • A ball hitting any line, except the kitchen line on a serve is considered a clean shot
  • A serve that contacts the kitchen line is considered short and is a fault

Faults

  • A fault any play that ends because of a violation of rules
  • If the receiving team makes the fault, it results in a point for the serving team
  • The serving team commits the fault, it results in that player losing the serve
  • If a second fault is committed by the serving team, the serve transfers to the other team

List of Faults

  • The ball hits the net or is hit out of bounds
  • The serve does not land within the correct receiving court
  • If the ball is hit out of the air before it bounces once on each side of the court after the serve
  • If the ball is hit out of the air while the player is in the kitchen
  • If the ball bounces twice on either side of the court
  • If any part of the player touches the net or post when the ball is in play
  • If the ball strikes a player

Who Serves First?

  • Any fair method to determine the first serving team can be used(Example-Rock/Paper/Scissors)
  • Some courts determine the first server by which team is on what side of the court(Example-North side)

Click here for the Official Rule Book


History

Pickleball got its start in the summer of 1965, by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell. When they returned home from a round of golf and noticed their families sitting around with nothing to do. The two men set out to find an activity for the families to do. The property on Bainbridge Island, WA(just across Elliot Bay in Seattle), had a badminton court and their first idea was to play badminton. However, they were unable to find a full set of racquets. Being the smart men they were they came to a solution of using ping pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. The first games were played with the badminton net set at the standard 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As they continued to play the game they realized that the ball bounced well on the asphalt court, and lowered the net to 36 inches(the standard it is played at today). Soon after Barney McCallum was introduced to the game and the three men started creating rules based on the game of badminton. The rules were created for the original purpose of the game, which was to make sure the whole family could play together.

In 1975 the National Observer published the first article about pickleball, and in 1976 Tennis Magazine wrote an article about "America’s newest racquet sport." Along with the article by Tennis magazine in 1976, the first known pickleball tournament was held. By 1984 the U.S.A.P.A.(The United States Amateur Pickleball Association) was formed to help with the growth and development of the sport on a national level. The same year the U.S.A.P.A. formed, the first composite paddle was developed. The first composite paddle featured a fiberglass face and a nomex core.

In 2001 pickleball was introduced to the Arizona Senior Olympics, which drew 100 players. By 2005 a new corporation for the sport was formed, the USA Pickleball Association(USAPA). 2008 was a big year for pickleball as it was included in the National Senior Games Association, 43 states have started playing the sport, and ABC’s Good Morning America did a segment on the sport, which was the first mass media exposure of pickleball.

2010 brought the creation of the IFP(International Federation of Pickleball) to help foster the growth of the sport. By the year 2015 the Sports and Fitness Industry Association estimates there are just over 2 million pickleball players. 2016 brought the first US Open Pickleball Championships and included the first national televised broadcast of pickleball on CBS Sports Network. In 2017 the Pickleball Hall of Fame was created and over 1,300 players competed in the USAPA National Championships. 2018 featured over 2,299 participants in the Pickleball National Championships and 17 hours of the event was live streamed on ESPN3. The rest as they would say is unwritten.

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