Pickleball is a paddle sport (similar to a racquet sport) that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle Ball, over a net. The sport shares features of other racquet sports, the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules somewhat similar to tennis, with several modifications. Pickleball was invented in the mid 1960s as a children's backyard pastime but has become one of America's most popular growing sports among all ages
1965: The Beginning
After playing golf one Saturday during the summer, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA (near Seattle) to find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. At first they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together.
Pickleball has a very interesting name, especially since no pickles are used. Accounts of how the name originated differ. (1)According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat and crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats€¯. (2) However, according to Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Pritchards’ dog Pickles who would chase the ball and run off with it. According to McCallum, the Pritchards had a dog named Pickles, and you’re having fun at a party, right? So anyways, what the hell, let’s just call it pickleball.€¯
Others claim both accounts may actually be true. In the early years, no official name was assigned to the game. However a year or two after the game was invented, the Pritchards purchased a cocker spaniel and named it Pickles. As the game progressed, an official name was needed and pickleball was it.
The pickleball court is similar to a doubles badminton court. The actual size of the court is 20x44 feet for both doubles and singles. The net is hung at 36 inches on the ends, and 34 inches at center. The court is striped like a tennis court, with no alleys; but the outer courts, and not the inner courts, are divided in half by service lines. The inner courts are non-volley zones and extend 7 feet from the net on either side.
The ball is served with an underhand stroke so that contact with the ball is made below waist level (waist is defined as the navel level) in an upward arc. The server hits from behind the baseline on one side of the center line and aims diagonally to the opponent's service zone (as in the figure on the right).
Only the serving side may score a point. Play ends for a point when one side commits a fault. Faults include:
- not hitting the serve into the opponent's diagonal service zone
- not hitting the ball beyond the net
- hitting the ball or not hitting after the 2nd bounce on one side of the net
- hitting the ball out of bounds
- volleying the ball on the service return
- volleying the ball on the first return by the serving side
- stepping into the non-volley zone (the first seven feet from the net, also known as the 'kitchen') in the act of volleying the ball.
Some good things to know...
- The first side scoring 11 points leading by at least two points wins the game. If the two sides are tied at 10 points apiece, the side that goes ahead by two points wins the game.
- A player may enter the non-volley zone to play a ball that bounces and may stay there to play balls that bounce. The player must exit the non-volley zone before playing a volley.
- Tournament games may be played to 15 or 21 points with players rotating sides at 8 or 11 total points respectively.
- The server or server and partner usually stay at the baseline until the first return has been hit back and bounced once.
- At the beginning of a doubles game before any serving, the score is 0-0. Then the side serving first gets only one fault before their side is out, meaning that their opponents serve next. After the first fault each side gets 2 faults (one for each team member serving) before their side is "out".
- In singles play, each side gets only one fault before a side out and the opponent then serves. The server's score will always be even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10...) when serving from the right side, and odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9...) when serving from the left side (singles play only).
Rules for those in wheelchairs are similar to the standing rules with minor alternatives. The player’s wheelchair is considered to be part of the player's body and all applicable rules that usually apply to the body will also apply to the player's wheelchair. A pickleball player in a wheelchair is allowed two bounces instead of the one a stand-up player would receive. When a player in a wheelchair is serving the ball, they must be in a stationary position. They are then allowed one push before striking the ball for service. When the player strikes the ball, the wheels of the wheel chair shall not touch any baselines, sidelines, center lines or the extended center or sidelines. When there is a mixed game of those in wheelchairs and those standing, the applicable rules apply for those players respectively. Standing players will adhere to the standing pickleball rules and the wheelchair players will adhere to the wheelchair pickleball rules.
If you’ve just started playing pickleball you may be confused by some of the funny terminology used in the sport. We’ve compiled a starter’s list of common lingo used in pickleball including just a few terms used to describe the court, equipment, scoring and other slang you might hear while playing the game. Below you will find 18 of the most common terms used in the game of Pickleball. Learning, identifying, and actively using these pickleball terminologies will help you to learn and master the game quickly.
Baseline - The line at the back of the pickleball court (22 feet from the net).
Centerline - The line bisecting the service courts that extends from the non-volley line to the baseline.
Crosscourt - The opponent's court diagonally opposite a player's.
Dink - A dink is a soft shot, made with the paddle face open, and hit so that it just clears the net and drops into the non-volley zone.
Fault - An infringement of the rules that ends the rally.
Foot fault - Stepping on or into the non-volley zone while volleying a ball, or, while serving, failure to keep both feet behind the baseline with at least one foot in contact with the ground or floor when the paddle contacts the ball.
Half-volley - A type of hit where the player hits the ball immediately after it has bounced in an almost scoop-like fashion.
Kitchen - The non-volley zone which is 7' from the net on both sides is commonly referred to as “the kitchen.” Players may not enter the kitchen to return a ball unless the ball first bounces.
Lob - Hitting the ball in a high arc to the back of the opponent's court. Ideally designed to clear an opponent who has advanced toward the net.
Net serve - A serve that touches the top of the net and lands in the proper service court (it is replayed without penalty).
Non-volley zone - A seven-foot area adjacent to the net within which you may not volley the ball. The non-volley zone includes all lines around it. Also called the "kitchen".
Poach - In doubles, to cross over into your partner's area to make a play on the ball.
Rally - Hitting the ball back and forth between opposite teams.
Serve (service) - An underhand lob or drive stroke used to put a ball into play at the beginning of a point.
Server number - When playing doubles, either “1” or “2,” depending on whether you are the first or second server for your side. This number is appended to the score when it is called, as in “the score is now 4 - 2, second server”.
Sideline - The line at the side of the court denoting in- and out-of-bounds.
Side-Out - occurs when the serve moves to your opponent’s side.
Volley - To hit the ball before it touches the ground and bounces.