Pickleball for Beginners: What You Need to Know

As a social game, pickleball is skyrocketing in popularity. The rules are simple for beginners to learn, and it’s the kind of sport that can be easily picked up by beginners. Once you jumpstart the learning process, it’ll quickly become a game you play for the competitive thrill. Here’s pickleball for beginners — everything you need to know.

The Pickleball Basics

If you’ve never seen or heard anything about pickleball before, here’s what you need to know.

  • It’s a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong
  • It can be played either indoors or outdoors
  • It’s normally played on either a doubles badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net
  • It requires a pickleball paddle as well as a plastic ball with holes
  • It’s a game that can be played with either singles or doubles
  • It can be enjoyed by all ages or skill levels

How Does a Pickleball Court Work?

The Court

A pickleball court is the same size as a double playing court in badminton. This court measures 20 x 44 feet. Regardless of whether you play singles or doubles, you’ll play on the same court in pickleball.

The Net

A pickleball net is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. The court has lines like a tennis court with both right and left service courts. There is a 7-foot non-volley zone in front of the net that is referred to by pickleball players as the “kitchen.”

Depending on where you play, you may find specific pickleball courts, or you may play on existing tennis and badminton courts.

What Equipment Do I Need?

You’ve been invited to play pickleball! What should you buy before you head to the court?

  • Pickleball paddle: A pickleball paddle stands between a ping-pong paddle and a tennis racquet in size. From the first pickleball game, paddles have radically evolved. Originally, they were made of wood. Today, however, they are made from lightweight composite materials including aluminum and graphite. Visit here to see the approved paddle list.
  • Pickleball net: If you’ve been invited to play, chances are a net will exist for you. However, if you’re planning to take up this hobby on your own and need to transform a nearby badminton court into a pickleball court, then you’ll need to have a net on hand to do so.
  • Pickleball: A pickleball net is unique as it has holes through it. There are also different models of pickleball for indoor and outdoor play. These balls will come in various colors such as white, yellow, and green. Most players prefer darker colors as they’re easier to see. To meet International Federation of Pickleball regulations, the ball must be in a single color. Visit here to see the approved ball list.

What to Wear to Play Pickleball?

Pickleball has taken off, and the sport welcomes new players. However, this “anyone can play” mentality often results in equipment and clothing oversights. For the most part, pickleball players can wear just about anything comfortable or appropriate for the climate in which they’re playing a game. With that, though, you want to make sure that you’re protecting yourself from injury and wearing clothing that makes it easy to move on a court.

The most common outfit options include:

  • Athletic shorts
  • Sweatpants
  • Wicking apparel
  • T-shirts
  • Tennis-style dresses and skirts
  • Light jackets or sweatshirts

We also recommend comfortable court shoes. These do not necessarily include sneakers or running shoes as these do not provide the correct support for side-to-side action during pickleball games. When playing pickleball, you require a lot of lateral movement (including lunging forward and backward).

Most running and athletic shoes are built for movement in a straight line. If you’re trying pickleball out for a day, an athletic shoe is suitable. However, for ongoing play, you’ll want to invest in a court shoe intended for indoor or tennis courts. These shoes are designed for lateral motion to keep your foot stabilized when moving in different directions, prevent rolling or spraining an ankle, and stop slipping or falling on the court.

Consider sporting accessories while playing pickleball as well. Eye protection is highly recommended to prevent injury. While this is not required, goggles or glasses can protect your eyes and allow you to see better during windy, sunny, or cloudy conditions. Many players also wear hats, visors, or sweatbands.

What skills are needed?

As previously mentioned, pickleball is essentially a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, but in our opinion, the key skill set comes from tennis.

If you are proficient at badminton, you will have developed good eye-hand coordination, but not extreme forward movement, as is required for pickleball. Watch a badminton game. You will see very little movement.

Ping pong uses a lot of spin, and that certainly applies to pickleball, but again, there is little movement by the players. Proficiency at ping pong does require quick reaction time, which is also needed for pickleball net play.

Tennis, on the other hand, has numerous cross over skills. Chief among these are ground strokes. Tennis players hit ‘up on the ball’ in an attempt to add top spin. This is an important skill for pickleball players, especially for returning shots deep in the court.

Another important cross over skills is ‘moving forward’. Skilled tennis players are use to coming to the net. It’s an essential part of singles or doubles. The all important ‘serve and volley strategy depends upon quick acceleration to the net, which is exactly what the pickleball server must do after the ball is struck for a second time.

Finally, the psychology of successful tennis is similar to successful pickleball: controlled aggression. Full-out effort while maintaining composure.

Final Thoughts

Go hit the courts! These pickleball basics should help you feel confident as you begin to learn the rules of the game and join the masses learning North America’s fastest-growing sport.

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