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Ace Your Pickleball Game: Top Terms You Need to Know

Published on
Jo Vos
April 5, 2023

Are you new to the world of pickleball and scratching your head at all the funky lingo being thrown around? Don't fret, we've got your back. We've put together a list of all the jargon you'll come across during gameplay - from court lingo to equipment talk, scoring, and even some slang that might make you do a double-take. Here's a list of pickleball terms you should know: 

Ace: An ace is a successful serve that the receiving player cannot return. It's a powerful way to score a point, as it often catches the opponent off-guard.

Dink: A dink is a soft, short shot that lands in the non-volley zone (also known as the kitchen) near the net. The purpose of a dink is to force your opponent to move forward, making it difficult for them to return a powerful shot.

Bert: A Bert is essentially an Erne shot, executed on your teammate's section of the pickleball court. Instead of being played on your own side, a Bert involves jumping or running around the Kitchen area in front of your partner.

Kitchen: The kitchen, or non-volley zone, is a 7-foot area on both sides of the net where players cannot hit the ball out of the air (volley). Players must let the ball bounce once in this zone before returning it.

Serve: The serve is the starting shot of each point. It must be hit underhand and must clear the net and land in the correct service court.

Erne: An Erne is a maneuver where a player jumps into the air to hit a ball that's traveling down the sideline. It's a high-risk move, but it can be a game-changer if executed properly.

Lob: A lob is a high, arching shot hit over your opponent's head, typically used to get out of a defensive situation or to hit over an opponent who is at the net.

Topspin: Topspin is a shot where the ball spins forward, causing it to dip down and bounce high after it crosses the net. It's a great way to generate pace and create angles.

Drop Shot: A drop shot is a soft, precise shot that lands close to the net in the opponent's non-volley zone. Similar to a dink, it forces the opponent to move forward, setting up an opportunity for a winning shot.

Volley: A volley is a shot that is hit out of the air before the ball bounces on the court. Volleys are often quick and powerful, making them an essential aspect of aggressive play.

Fault: A fault is any action or violation that results in the server losing their turn. Common faults include serving out of bounds, stepping on or over the baseline during the serve, or hitting the ball into the net.

Groundstroke: A groundstroke is a shot that is hit after the ball has bounced once on the court. This term applies to both forehand and backhand shots, which are the most common types of groundstrokes in pickleball.

Let: A let is a serve that hits the net but still lands in the correct service area. When a let occurs, the server is allowed to try again without penalty.

Poach: To poach is to aggressively cross over into your partner's side of the court to hit a shot. This can be an effective tactic in doubles play, but it requires good communication and coordination with your teammate.

Pickle: A pickle is a situation where both players on a doubles team are caught at the non-volley line, resulting in a back-and-forth volley until one team makes a mistake.

Putaway: A putaway is a shot hit with power and precision that's intended to end the point.

Rally: A rally is a continuous exchange of shots between players. The more extended the rally, the greater the excitement and skill demonstrated by the players.

Third Shot Drop: The third shot drop is a strategic shot played after the serve and return. The goal is to hit a soft, high shot that drops into the opponent's non-volley zone, forcing them to hit the ball upward and allowing you to advance to the net.

Double Bounce Rule: This rule states that the ball must bounce once on each side of the court before players can hit it out of the air (volley). This rule applies to the serve and the subsequent return, encouraging longer rallies and more strategic play.

Side-out: A side-out occurs when the serving team loses the point, and the other team gains the serve.

Smash: A hard, overhand shot.

Slice: A swing/shot that imparts backspin with the ball staying low to the court.

Unforced Error: A missed shot that is entirely the fault of one’s own blunder and not the result of the opponent’s skill or play.

Now that you're familiar with the top pickleball terms, you're ready to hit the court with confidence. See you out there! 

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