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What Is Pickleball?

Posted by Josh K on

How many people today know what pickleball is? No, the name has nothing to do with pickles. Imagine a sport that’s a mix between ping-pong, badminton and tennis. Well, that’s pickleball in a nutshell. The rules for pickleball are almost the same as the rules for other racquet games. For example, a serve can be made from any side of the baseline, just like with tennis. But unlike most racquet games, pickleball doesn’t allow access to the middle of the court, which is called ‘the kitchen’. This means that there is an area surrounding the net which may not be touched. No ball may enter the kitchen, and no foot may touch it. Even though most people still haven’t heard about pickleball, the game is gaining popularity. Pickleball is a simple game that’s easy to learn, and very fun to play.


The history of pickleball

Pickleball is almost 50 years old. That would surprise a lot of folks, since most people haven’t even heard about the sport. In 1965, in Bainbridge Island, Washington, a bored family decided to have some fun. The family’s initial plan was to play badminton. Since the family couldn’t find any shuttlecock, they decided to do something with a plastic whiffle ball and some old plywood. The family made wooden paddles from the old plywood. With wooden paddles in one hand, and a plastic whiffle ball in another hand, pickleball was born.  Notice the yellow line that defines where the 'kitchen' ends[/caption] It is still not certain as to how the name ‘pickleball’ came about. One story says that the Pritchard family had a dog named Pickles. The dog had a whiffle ball as a toy. Therefore, the combination of Pickles and the ball produced the name pickleball. Another story says that one member of the Pritchard family compared the game to a Pickle Boat. In the beginning, people used to play pickleball in their backyards, driveways or on dead-end streets. During the 70’s, Pickleball went from being a family game to an official sport, with formal rules. Today, the sport is played everywhere, and it is becoming increasingly popular among senior citizens, and in high schools and colleges.


Basic rules of pickleball

Pickleball rules are pretty simple, even though they might seem complicated at first. The baseline is the back of the pickleball court; if a ball passes the baseline, it is out. Players need to stand behind that line when serving. In order for the point to count, the ball must fall on the other side of the court. In order for the game to begin, the player on the right side needs to serve first. When a double match is being played, two players on one of the teams are the first to serve. The player must hit the ball with a paddle below his or her waist. The ball needs to land on the other side of the court. If two people are playing, then one player serves the ball underhanded to the other player. The serving player is the only player that can score points. The serving player scores points in the following scenarios.

  • when the ball goes out of bounds
  • when the ball is not returned
  • when the other player fails to return the volley

After winning a point, players switch court sides. Both sides of the net have non-volley zones. A non-volley zone is a zone that’s seven feet far from the net. If a ball hits the non-volley zone, that’s a fault. The ball can’t be served into the non-volley zone. If a player’s foot is on or between the non-volley line and the net - he or she shouldn’t hit the ball without letting it bounce first. Even if a player finds him or herself in this zone after hitting the ball, it still must bounce first. The server of the ball has to wait for the returned ball to bounce before he or she can hit it back. The player who is serving only gets to make one fault. Beyond one fault, a side out is called, and the other player gets to serve then. Pickleball games are played up to 11 points. One side must win by at least 2 points; if it’s a tournament, the game can be played up to 15 or 21 points. Since players switch court sides after each point, it’s easy to keep a scoring track. If there are four players in the game, here is how the players keep track of the score.

  • the players must call out each side’s score prior to each serve
  • the player of the team who is serving says whether he or she is the first or second server

The receiving team needs to let the ball bounce first; after that, the receiving team can return the serve. Before hitting the ball back, the serving team needs to allow the returned ball to bounce one more time. This is called the double-bounce rule; this rule says that during the first two hits of the game, there will be two bounces.

Does pickleball sound complicated? The sport is pretty simple actually, quite similar to tennis. A whiffle ball is so much easier to handle than a tennis or ping pong ball. The net is short and the court is quite large, making it very easy to play. But pickleball is also a great sport for those who want intense competition. One doesn’t necessarily need an official pickleball court in order to play this game. Pickleball can be played on driveways, or on badminton courts. This game can be played by people of any age. It takes only a few minutes to learn the basic rules and start playing. Pickleball is played in nursing homes, schools, parks, etc.


Pickleball Equipment

A pickle ball isn’t exactly a whiffle ball, but they’re very similar. A pickle ball is stronger and it lasts longer than a whiffle ball. Using a regular whiffle ball for a pickleball match isn’t a good idea; the whiffle ball would fall apart. There are no rules as to what color or type of ball one should use for this game; it’s a matter of personal choice. A pickleball paddle essentially looks like a ping pong paddle. Wooden paddles have been used for this game from the beginning. Wooden paddles are still frequently used, since they’re cheaper. The highest quality paddles are made from fiberglass, which is very durable and lightweight. Pickleball courts are of the same size as badminton courts. Since a pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, it is easier for the physically-challenged to play the sport.

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