What is Pickleball? The Ultimate Guide to Your New Favorite Sport

Two women wearing pink play pickleball on an outdoor court

Have you ever heard of pickleball

Is it a game where you have to pickle a ball? 

Well, not quite

Pickleball is an exciting and fun sport that is quickly gaining popularity in the US.

It’s similar to tennis but easier to learn and play (and that’s coming from a tennis player!). 

If you’re looking for a new way to:

  • Get active
  • Learn something new
  • Have some good old-fashioned fun

then it might be the perfect activity for you. 

Let’s take a look at what pickleball is all about and why it’s suddenly become so popular. 

What is pickleball?

Pickleball is an easy-to-learn sport that combines elements from tennis, badminton, and ping-pong.

It’s played on a court similar to tennis, but with different lines.  

It can be played with two or four players on a court with a net that’s similar to a tennis net but slightly lower.

How much lower?

A pickleball net is 34 inches high instead of 36 inches at the center like a tennis net.

The game is played with paddles and a plastic ball which kind of resembles a whiffle ball. 

Players score points by hitting the ball back and forth over the net until one side misses or faults.

The first team to reach 11 points wins! 

Why it’s so popular

Pickleball is great for any age group—from kids to seniors.

It requires minimal effort to get a rally going, yet offers plenty of challenge for more advanced players

And since it’s relatively new, pickleball courts are popping up all over the place – from community centers to parks.

This means you don’t need your own court or even your own equipment to get started!

According to a 2022 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America. We believe it.

One major advantage of pickleball over other racquet sports?

It’s much easier for beginners to learn how to play

Since the court size isn’t as large as a traditional tennis court, there’s less ground to cover.

This makes it easier for beginners or players who are out of shape (or both!). 

And since the paddles are smaller than other racquet sports, they don’t require as much strength or stamina to use. 

This means that even if you’re not an experienced athlete or don’t have access to expensive equipment, you can still enjoy playing this sport with relative ease.

Pickleball doesn’t just have physical benefits—it also has mental benefits too. 

It can help improve your hand-eye coordination and reflexes and offers a great opportunity for socialization with friends and family.

It’s also incredibly easy for people of all ages and ability levels so everyone can join in on the fun! 

Two men in blue shirts play pickleball on an outdoor court

When was pickleball invented? And who invented it?

Pickleball has a fascinating history.

It was invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell. 

The two friends were looking for something to do on a hot summer day, but they couldn’t find the equipment they needed to play badminton. 

Instead, they started hitting a plastic ball with a ping-pong paddle over a net. 

As time went on, they lowered the net and discovered something:

The ball could bounce quite well on the pavement.

From there, pickleball was born!

At first, pickleball was only played by a small group of people. 

However, word spread about this new game and the sport grew quickly. 

The first permanent court was constructed in 1967, and the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held in 1976.

The athletes played with large wood paddles and a plastic ball the size of a softball. 

Today, pickleball is played by people of all ages and is even considered the fastest-growing sport in America. 

Thankfully, the equipment has grown with it. Hurrah for fiberglass paddles!

Who would have thought that a game invented by a group of friends on a hot day would become so popular?

Certainly not Joel Pritchard! 

Nevertheless, pickleball has come a long way from its humble beginnings and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Check out this cool video about the history of the game:

Why is it called pickleball?

It seems no one can agree on the history of the name ‘pickleball’. 

The internet is full of theories on how the sport got its name. 

Some people say the name “pickleball” was suggested by Pritchard’s children—they named it after the Pritchard family dog, Pickles, who would often chase the ball.

Others have claimed the name comes from hitting ping pong balls over a net and into empty pickle jars in an attempt to create a more challenging game. 

The truth is, neither of these theories is correct!

USA Pickleball did some digging and discovered that the sport is actually named after the local “pickle boat” crew race competitions. 

The dog rumor goes back to 1969 when Joel Pritchard thought it would be funny to tell a newspaper reporter that the game was named after his dog, Pickles.

He never thought the name would stick.

He probably never thought the game would stick, either. 

How To Get Started

The best way to start playing pickleball is by finding local courts and joining leagues or tournaments near you. 

You can also find pickup games (where people meet up at pre-determined times) or just hit around with friends at home if you have access to your own court! 

There are also plenty of YouTube tutorials out there if you need help getting started. 

Make sure you dress appropriately for pickleball—wear comfortable clothes that won’t restrict your movement and make sure your shoes have non-marking soles (white sneakers work great).

Once you get going, you won’t want to stop! 

Where can I play?

USA pickleball has a great database called Places 2 Play, where you can search your address, city, state, or zip code, and it will give you a map of pickleball courts near you. 

There are currently more than 8000 pickleball courts in the US and more are being added every single day. 

An aerial view of pickleball and tennis courts

Most public tennis courts and community centers have added pickleball lines to their courts, and you can easily use a tennis net to play pickleball if you’re in a pinch (just use a tie to lower the net from 36 inches to 34 inches at the center). 

We also wrote a complete guide on how to play pickleball on a tennis court. 

If you live somewhere with four seasons, check with community centers and gyms to see if they have open indoor gym time for pickleball

What are the rules of pickleball?

The rules of pickleball are quite simple, but your best bet is to find someone who can actually show you the rules on a court instead of just reading about them. 

You can play pickleball with two (singles) or four players (doubles). 

If you’re familiar with tennis, badminton, or table tennis, the aim of the game is essentially the same. 

Players must hit the ball onto their opponent’s side of the court while avoiding committing any faults or missing the ball.

The server stands behind the baseline and serves the ball diagonally into their opponent’s square on the other side of the net. 

Their opponent must let the ball bounce once before returning it. 

The server must now let the ball bounce once before returning it.

After these two bounces, no bounces are necessary and the ball can be hit at any time. 

Perhaps the most important rule (or at least most unique to pickleball) is the non-volley zone.

It is also affectionately known as ‘the kitchen’.

The non-volley zone is the area within seven feet on both sides of the net. 

Players are not allowed to step in this area to hit the ball unless the ball has bounced first. 

This prevents any advantages that taller or stronger players might have when volleying the ball so close to the net. 

The non-volley zone is one of our favorite rules because it forces players to play smarter, not harder. 

How to keep score in pickleball

In pickleball, you can only score when you have the serve

Games are played up to 11 points and you must win by two points. 

For example: If I have seven points and my opponent has four points and I am serving, I would read the score as 7-4. 

In doubles, the scoring gets a bit more complicated. 

As each player on the team will get a chance to serve before ‘siding out’ and giving the other team the serve, the score must be read as 7-4-1 (if I am the first server on my team) or 7-4-2 (if I am the second person to serve on my team). 

You can read about keeping score in pickleball in greater detail on the USA Pickleball website

The gear you’ll need

It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to start playing pickleball.

That’s what we love about the sport.

Recess Pickleball Paddle
  • Buy directly on Recess for 10% off your first paddle
  • High-quality, industry-standard honeycomb interior.
  • Foam is wrapped in a sweat-proof grip tape
  • Durable fiberglass, designed to withstand the elements
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12/10/2023 02:32 am GMT
WILSON Tru 32 Pro Outdoor Pickleball Balls (2 Pack)
  • Faster, livelier ball ideal for advanced competitive play
  • Patented hole pattern featuring 32 evenly distributed holes
  • Approved by USA Pickleball for competitive outdoor play
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12/10/2023 06:09 pm GMT
Wilson Portable Pickleball Net System
  • Sturdy and Reliable: Solid steel base ensures stability.
  • Durable: Thick, durable netting for consistent, long-lasting play.
  • Safety: Curved side legs reduce tripping for safer play.
  • Easy Storage: Includes a great carrying bag
  • Quality: USAPA approved for assured quality and standard.
  • Quick and Easy Setup: Set up or pack away in under 10 minutes.
Buy Now on Amazon Buy Now on Wilson
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For a detailed breakdown of the exact equipment you need to play pickleball, read through our buyer’s guides:

The Best Pickleball Paddles For Beginners In 2023

The 7 Best Pickleball Shoes (2023)

The BEST Gifts For Pickleball Players (Ideas For 2023)

What ball is used in pickleball?

A pickleball is a hollow, hard plastic ball with holes drilled in. 

There are different types of pickleballs for outdoor and indoor play. 

Outdoor pickleballs are harder, sturdier and have smaller holes for less impact from wind. 

Indoor pickleballs are softer and have larger and fewer holes

Read our detailed breakdown of indoor pickleballs vs. outdoor pickleballs and which one is better to use.

Is Pickleball safe for seniors?

Pickleball is a great sport for seniors because it is safe and easy to play

There is no running or jumping involved, so it is a low-impact activity that is gentle on the joints. 

A senior woman smiles as she plays pickleball indoors

It’s also a social game, which can help seniors stay connected with friends and neighbors.

Just be sure to never play alone, drink lots of water, and take it easy if you’re new to the game. 

No overhead smash (no matter how tempting!) is worth falling backwards for a point. 

What is major league pickleball?

Major League Pickleball (MLP) consists of 12 co-ed teams of two men and two women.

The league is growing quickly— it is expanding to 24 teams in 2023.

Six MLP tournaments will be played across the US in 2023. Players can win more than two million dollars in prize money!

To become a pro, you need to have great hand-eye coordination, be able to hit the ball in all directions, and have quick reflexes. 

You also need to be able to stay calm under pressure and make quick decisions. 

Playing pickleball takes a lot of practice, so the pros have to be willing to put in the time necessary to improve their skills.

So what do you think?

Pickleball is a fun sport that combines elements from several sports into one fast-paced game.

And its popularity continues to grow every single day. 

If you’re looking for a way to stay active and have fun while doing it, this is it. 

With its mix of familiar elements combined with its unique rules and accessibility for all ages and skill levels, pickleball is sure to provide hours of entertainment while helping improve your physical fitness too.

It’s easy to learn and courts are available almost everywhere. 

All we know is that once you start playing this funny hybrid game…you won’t be able to put down your paddle anytime soon.


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