How to Play Pickleball

Pickleball is very similar to tennis or badminton; it involves 2 sides, either singles or doubles, and is played on a badminton-sized court, 20′ x 44′. This sport is relatively easy to play, but it can be challenging to get to grips with the rule changes that are different compared to normal net and ball sports. 

Read this article to learn more about how to play pickleball, the main rules for the sport, and what scoring method is used to win pickleball. 

How to Play Pickleball?

Is Pickleball Hard to Play?

Many say that pickleball is easy if you play at a beginner level, but it becomes very difficult to progress to a more advanced level. Of course, this is because your opponent is more experienced, but so are you. 

However, the hardest factor is that although this game is fun to play because there are so many variables, it’s a pretty random game. 

At a high level, these variables get in the way of things and make it challenging to create set rules that equal, fair play. 

Read more in-depth about pickleball here: What Is Pickleball?

How to Play Pickleball?

The game must start with one player or team serving. This can be decided through a coin flip. Once this has been done, the players should go to their designated court sections. The game begins with the server serving from the right-hand side of their court over to the right-hand side of the opposing court. The ball should go diagonally across the court. 

The serve can be a fault if the ball does not bounce once on each courtside. It must bounce twice before the teams can continue to play in the air. If this does not happen, the side that didn’t let the ball bounce must pass the ball to the opposing team, therefore giving up their serve. 

Once the correct serve has been done, and the opposing team has returned correctly, the game commences until either side makes a fault. Faults are: the ball going out of bounds, the ball hitting the net, or the ball going under the net. If a fault is incurred, the ball must be given to the opposing team for their serve. 

The game continues like this until one side reaches 6 points (if an 11 point game is being played) or 8 points (if a 15 or 21 point game is being played). At this stage, the players must switch sides of the court. This rule is sometimes skipped over.

The game continues until the winning team has 11 points, and the losing team is at least 2 points behind, so 9 or below. If this happens, the winning team has officially won. If the winning team is not 2 points ahead of the losing team, the game will continue until the winning team gets 15 points and the losing team is 2 points behind. This can continue up until 21 points. 

What are The 5 Rules of Pickleball?

Many things are left open to discussion when playing this game so if you choose to participate, expect a few hot-headed conversations between the players. There are, however, 5 main rules that must be followed:

The Ball Must Stay Inbounds

This means that the ball must stay within the court and cannot bounce outside of the court and then hit a player again. If the ball happens to go out of the court, you will lose your serve, and the ball will go back to the opposing team. 

This can significantly affect the game if you lose a chance to serve. It puts you at a significant disadvantage as you have a better chance of winning points during a serve. 

This makes this sport so unique compared to other ball and net sports. 

Serving Regulations Need To Be Followed

The server needs to be determined randomly by flipping a coin or a random name draw when you begin the game.

To serve, the ball must be underhand and not overhead, under the waistline. Also, you must always serve with both feet behind the baseline. This ensures that every serve is done from the same distance away from the net. However, some games are played with only one foot well back behind the baseline. 

Next, you must hit the ball in a diagonal direction, across the court, not straight forward. The first serve is from the right side, serving towards the right side of the opposing court. The following serve is from the left-hand side of the court, serving to the left-hand side of the opposite court. 

If you fault during your serve, you must pass the ball to your teammate if you’re playing double or the opposing team playing singles. 

You Must Let the Ball Bounce Once on Your Side Before Hitting it

This rule can be particularly hard to follow as the court isn’t too large, and many people forget this rule. The ball must never bounce two times on your side during a serve or return of a serve, but it must bounce once. If you are serving or returning a serve, it must only bounce once on your courtside. If the ball comes your way, post serve or post-return, then you need to make sure it bounces once on your side before you return it. Once the allowed two bounces have been done, players can continue to play with hitting the ball without a bounce or let it bounce first, once on their side.

The Served Ball Must Not Land in the No-volley Zone

The no-volley zone is 7 feet surrounding the net, therefore a 14ft zone in the middle of the court. Sometimes this section is referred to as the ‘kitchen,’ so the line separating this section and the play area is called the kitchen line. 

During play, especially in doubles, players often shout to each other ‘get away from the kitchen’ or ‘stay away from the kitchen, which can be quite amusing. 

When you serve the ball, it cannot bounce in the no-volley zone/kitchen. You lose the chance to serve if it does, and the ball goes to the opposing team.

After serving, though, the ball can be played in the no-volley zone/kitchen, and a ‘drop shot’ will then be played, but players must not go into the kitchen area unless the ball has already bounced on their side.

Read an in-depth article on the kitchen here: What is the Kitchen in Pickleball?

Fault Rules Must Be Followed

If you serve the ball and it hits the net or goes under the net, this is a fault. Unfortunately,  faults mean that you have to give the ball to the other team; this puts you at a disadvantage. This is because most points are made when serving; if you miss a serve due to a fault, you miss the chance of scoring points. Experts believe that the fewer faults you have, the higher your chances of winning. 

Is Pickleball Easy for Beginners?

Pickleball is very easy and fun to plan. It’s a great sport to participate in if you don’t enjoy more serious net and ball sports like tennis or badminton. The court is relatively small; therefore, unlike tennis, the games don’t involve too much running around.

Related article: Can You Play Pickleball on a Tennis Court?

Also, you are not supposed to go into the no-volley zone without the ball going in there. First, it cuts your court in half, so there isn’t too much movement.

This sport doesn’t involve a lot of power when hitting the ball, but it is all about tactics and the technique of hitting the ball. 

What is the Scoring Method in Pickleball?

The scoring goes as follows: the game finishes when either side reaches 11, 15, or even 21 points for more experienced players. 

Usually, a pickleball should end at 11 points, but this can only be done if the losing team is more than 2 points behind the winning team. For example, the winning team is at 11. The losing team needs to be at 9 or under. If the winning team is at 11 and the losing team is at 10, then the game will continue until the winning team gets to 15 points and the losing team is more than 2 points behind, and so on.

Most single games end at 11 or sometimes 15 points, and doubles end at 15 or 21. Some games add to this; if you play an 11 point game after a side has reached 6 points, the players switch sides of the court. If the game is being played up to either 15 or 21 points, the side-switching is done after a team gets to 8 points. 

What Else is Important to Know About Pickleball?

The ball itself might differ from when you are playing indoors too when you are playing outdoor. These balls bounce differently, so always make sure you know which type of ball you are playing before commencing the game. 

When players are serving they must serve the ball straight into the air, the ball cannot be bounced below the server’s feet and then served.

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