How to Play Pickleball: A Guide to Game Rules & Tips
- by Lotto Sport
- October 06, 2023
- 6 min read
Pickleball has been taking the world by storm.
From its humble origins in the 1960s, this sport has grown in popularity, captivating people of all ages — it’s a great way to remain active and have fun!
Whether you're a seasoned athlete or just looking for a fun, active pastime, pickleball is a fantastic option.
In this blog we'll take you through the ins and outs, from equipment essentials to game rules, techniques, strategies, and even some exciting game variations!
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a unique paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It's played on a court similar in size to a badminton court, but instead of a racket, it uses a solid paddle and a wiffle ball.
What sets pickleball apart from other sports is accessibility — it's easy to learn for beginners but still offers a challenging experience for more seasoned players.
With a social and inclusive atmosphere, it's no wonder pickleball is growing in popularity across the globe!
Before you step onto the pickleball court, you'll need the right equipment to play the game effectively.
Here are the essentials:
- A paddle - The pickleball paddle is a solid, rectangular racket with perforations. It comes in various materials like composite and graphite. The choice of paddle material can affect your game, so it's essential to find one that suits your playing style.
- Pickleball Balls - Pickleballs are similar to wiffle balls, but they are designed specifically for the sport. They come in different colors, with indoor and outdoor variations. Be sure to use the appropriate ball for the court you're playing on!
- Court and Net - A standard pickleball court measures 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, with a net in the center set at 34 inches.
- Footwear - Don't overlook the importance of proper footwear! Pickleball requires lateral movements — you’ll want comfortable, non-marking court shoes to reduce the risk of injuries.
To enjoy pickleball, you’ll need the proper equipment. You can find pickleball paddles, balls, and suitable footwear at most sporting goods stores or online retailers!
Just like tennis, soccer, or any other sport, you’ll need proper attire to play pickleball.
Comfort and functionality are key — while there isn't a strict dress code, choosing the right clothing can make a significant difference in your overall playing experience.
For tops, we recommend breathable t-shirts or polos with moisture-wicking. Short-sleeved or sleeveless options are ideal for freedom of movement.
For example, the Superrapida Tee from Lotto Sport. It comes in four different colors and is 100% polyester — one of the best moisture-wicking materials.
For bottoms, opt for comfortable shorts or skirts made of stretchy, moisture-wicking fabric. These Superrapida Shorts blend polyester with elastane for the ideal balance of moisture-wicking and stretch. Or, for women, the Superrapida VI Skirt is an ideal option.
If you're playing outdoors, consider clothing with built-in UPF sun protection to shield your skin from harmful UV rays.
Similarly, a wide-brimmed hat or a visor can protect your face from the sun, while sunglasses with UV protection help shield your eyes during play.
Lastly, choose clothing that makes you feel confident and allows you to move freely on the court. Staying comfortable and well-dressed can contribute to an enjoyable pickleball experience!
How to Play Pickleball: Basic Rules
With the attire and the right equipment, you’re ready to play!
Starting a Game
- Pickleball games typically start with a serve. The serving team stands behind the baseline and serves diagonally to the opponent's service box.
- The ball must clear the net and land in the diagonal service box opposite the server. If it doesn't, it's considered a fault.
- The receiving team must let the ball bounce once before they return it.
- Once the ball has bounced, both teams can volley it (hit it without letting it bounce) or let it bounce before hitting it.
- Pickleball uses a unique scoring system. The serving team scores points when they win a rally.
- You can only score points when your team is serving.
- Games are typically played to 11 points, but you must win by at least two points.
Faults and Let Calls
- A fault occurs when a player fails to serve correctly or violates other rules. Common faults include stepping on or inside the baseline during the serve, hitting the ball out of bounds, or volleying from the non-volley zone.
- A let is called when a rally must be replayed. This can happen due to various reasons, such as a serve that hits the net but lands in the correct service box.
Winning a Point or the Game
- Points are won when the opposing team commits a fault or fails to return the ball correctly.
- A game is won by the first team to reach 11 points, with a margin of at least two points.
Pickleball also has a unique rule called the "two-bounce rule” — the ball must bounce once on each side (the server's side and the receiver's side) before volleying is allowed. This rule encourages longer rallies and strategic play, making pickleball a dynamic and engaging sport.
As you play and gain experience in pickleball, you'll become more familiar with the game's nuances!
Basic Pickleball Techniques
Understanding the rules is only the start of your pickleball journey. To get the most out of the sport, you’ll need to understand the different techniques you can use to play!
- Serving is a critical part of pickleball — it’s your opportunity to initiate the rally and gain an advantage.
- Start with an underhand serve. Stand behind the baseline, keep one foot behind the baseline, and hit the ball underhand, making sure it clears the net and lands in the opponent's service box.
Dinking and Volleying
- Dinking is a low, controlled shot that barely clears the net. It's used to engage in strategic placement rather than power.
- Volleying involves hitting the ball in the air before it bounces. In pickleball, you can volley if you're not in the non-volley zone (also known as the "kitchen").
Groundstrokes and Overhead Smashes
- Groundstrokes are shots hit after the ball bounces. Great pickleball players practice forehand and backhand groundstrokes to return the ball effectively.
- Overhead smashes are powerful shots executed when the ball is high above the net. These can be game-changers, but they require timing and precision.
Mastering these basic techniques will give you a solid foundation to build upon as you improve your pickleball skills.
Pickleball Strategies and Tips
To excel in pickleball, it's not just about knowing the rules and techniques; it's also about strategy and smart play. Here are some strategies and tips to help you succeed.
- Proper court positioning is crucial. In doubles, work with your partner to cover the court effectively.
- Stay back when receiving a strong serve and move closer to the net as the rally progresses.
- If you’re playing doubles, effective communication is key — call out who will take each shot and ensure you're in sync. That way, you’ll avoid errors.
- Coordinate your movements to cover the court efficiently and reduce vulnerabilities.
Defense and Offense Tactics
- Defensive shots like dinks and lobs can help you control the pace of the game and force errors from your opponents.
- On the offensive side, use smashes and well-placed shots to put pressure on your opponents and create openings.
Reading Your Opponents
- Pay attention to your opponent's strengths and weaknesses. You can then adjust your strategy to take advantage.
- Try to anticipate where your opponents will hit the ball, positioning yourself to respond effectively.
Remember that practice and experience are key to improving your skills and making the right decisions on the court.
Pickleball Game Variations
The standard rules of pickleball provide an excellent foundation for the game. However, there are several variations and formats of the game to keep things exciting as you progress through your pickleball journey.
Let’s look at some of those.
Singles vs. Doubles
Pickleball can be played as singles (one player on each side) or doubles (two players on each side).
Singles pickleball requires exceptional mobility, agility, and stamina — it's an excellent way to challenge your skills in one-on-one play.
On the other hand, doubles play is more common and often more dynamic. You’ll need to rely on teamwork, communication, and strategic court positioning. It also allows for faster rallies and engaging exchanges at the net.
Mini pickleball is a modified version of the game played on a smaller court, typically half the size of a standard pickleball court. It’s fantastic for beginners, children, or individuals with limited space. It also offers a more relaxed pace and is excellent for refining basic skills!
Find Pickleball Attire From Lotto Sport
Ready to start your pickleball journey? Or maybe you’re a veteran who needs some new attire?
No problem — Lotto Sport has the attire you need to dominate the world of pickleball.
Shop our collections today!