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What is Pickleball?

Published on
Jo Vos
April 7, 2023

It appears that no matter where you turn, be it social media or your local park, you're bound to encounter someone either engaging in or discussing pickleball these days - it’s one of the fastest growing sports in Canada, and the world! This article will walk you through what pickleball is, the basic rules, and how to get started on your pickleball journey.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a super-fun paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It was invented in 1965 on the West Coast by three friends, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, as a fun way to keep their families entertained during a summer vacation. Played both indoors and outdoors, it’s a low barrier sport that can truly be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, which is part of the reason why it’s so addictive and gaining popularity across the world. 

What do you need to play pickleball?

Short answer is, not much! In contrast to tennis, where it tends to be expensive and timely to get started, with pickleball, basically all that's needed is a court, net, paddle, and ball. Here’s a quick breakdown.

  1. Paddle: Pickleball paddles are made of a variety of materials, including wood, composite, and graphite. They are larger than ping-pong paddles but smaller than tennis rackets, with a perforated surface to help reduce wind resistance.

  2. Ball: Pickleball uses a unique, lightweight plastic ball with holes, similar to a wiffle ball. These balls are designed specifically for pickleball play and come in both indoor and outdoor varieties.

  3. Court: A pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, measuring 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. It's divided into sections, including a non-volley zone (also known as the "kitchen") near the net, where players are not allowed to hit volleys.

  4. Net: The standard size of a pickleball net is 22 feet in width and 36 inches in height at the center of the court. The net is suspended by two vertical poles or posts that are 36 inches apart and extend 22 inches above the net. The net itself is made of a mesh material that is typically black or dark green in color.

Basic Rules and Scoring

The rules of pickleball are relatively simple, making it an accessible sport for beginners. Here are some key rules to keep in mind:

Serving: The serve must be underhand, and the ball should be hit from below the waist. The server must stand behind the baseline and serve diagonally to the opposite court.

Double Bounce Rule: After the serve, each team must let the ball bounce once on their side before hitting it. This rule applies to both the serving team and the receiving team.

Non-volley Zone: Players may not hit the ball in the air (volley) while standing within the non-volley zone, a 7-foot area on both sides of the net. Players can only hit the ball in the non-volley zone if it has already bounced.

Scoring: A team can only score points when serving. The game is played to 11 points, but a team must win by at least two points. In some cases, games may be played to 15 or 21 points.

Other tips to help you get started:

  • Become a member at Fairgrounds - it’s free, and we offer lessons and open play.
  • Invest in a good-quality paddle and some pickleballs.
  • Familiarize yourself with the rules and practice your serve, volleys, and groundstrokes.
  • Consider taking a beginner's clinic or lesson to learn proper technique and strategy.
  • Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the camaraderie of the pickleball community!

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