Easy to learn, but hard to master, pickleball is a great game with an unfortunate name. It is a racquet sport often described as a cross between tennis and ping pong. Perhaps a more apt description is that it is like playing ping pong while standing on a giant ping pong table. The game rewards finesse over strength and can be enjoyed by young and old alike playing together. It is not unusual for more senior, cagier players to beat younger, more nimble competitors. In Pickleball, people play in singles format or between two players, but the doubles game is far more popular.
Pickleball paddles resemble oversized ping pong paddles. They are made of wood, but carbon fiber and graphite are more common. According to the International Federation of Pickleball, the organization that governs pickleball: "The most common paddle measurement is approximately 8 inches (20.32 cm) wide by 15¾ inches (40 cm) long. There is no restriction on paddle thickness." Here’s a link to a starter set we purchased on amazon.
A pickleball ball is a perforated plastic ball that closely resembles a wiffle ball.
An official pickleball is made of plastic and is between. 78 to. 935 ounces and 2.874 to 2.972 inches in diameter. There are no color restrictions other than the ball must be a single, consistent color. The Franklin x-40 or the Onix Pure are good beginner balls
Setting up a pickleball court is relatively simple. The court is the size of a doubles badminton court, 20 feet wide and 44 feet long. The court is divided by a net that is 36 inches high on each end and 34 inches high in the middle. All that is needed to set up a pickleball court is a hard surface of appropriate size, some tape, and a net. Conveniently, two pickleball courts can be taped off on a basketball court, or a tennis court. Portable nets are easy to use and tennis nets can be lowered to pickleball height.
Points can only be scored by the serving team and a game is usually played to 11. Serving must be done with an underhanded motion similar to a bowling swing. The ball is served to the opposing player located diagonally across the court from the server. The receiving player must let the ball bounce once before returning it. The serving team must let the returned ball bounce once before returning it. From that point, the ball can be returned without bouncing, with one important exception - the No Volley Zone.
On each side of the net, a rectangle extends from one side of the court to the other and seven feet out from the net. This rectangle is the No Volley Zone and it is a large part of what makes pickleball well pickleball. After the serve and initial returns, the ball can be hit out of the air without it bouncing first, unless the player hitting the ball is standing in the No Volley Zone. If a player is standing in the No Volley Zone, or enters the No Volley Zone before hitting the ball, the ball must bounce before being hit. Skilled players make strategic use of the No Volley Zone, hitting the ball into it from a variety of positions on the court in order to slow the game down and nullify any advantage in power that an opponent might have. A soft hit into the No Volley Zone is called a dink and dinking well is essential to good play.
Pickleball is a game designed to be easy to learn and can be enjoyed for a lifetime. It might have a silly name, but don't let that stop you. Go find a pickleball clinic and some games, borrow a paddle, and give it a try. You will be glad that you did.