Pickleball Basics

Pickleball Basics

Pickleball is not a very hard sport to learn if you have experience with other racket sports. The equipment needed is standard across all pickleball games, and while doubles are the more common format, you only need two people to play a game. When mastering pickleball, some aspects can be confusing, which need further explanation.

What are the basics of pickleball? What are the most important things to understand about pickleball? Read on to learn more about the basics of pickleball.

Pickleball Basics

Pickleball is a racket sport played similarly to tennis. It was invented as an adaptation of badminton when a wiffleball was used instead of a shuttlecock. It can be played in a single or doubles format. The objective of the game is to reach 11, 15, or 21 points before your opponent, with the number depending on the tournament format. The court is split in half by a net that the players must hit the ball over. There is also a no-volley zone unique to pickleball that is on either side of the net. Each point begins with one team serving the ball, and points are won if the opposing team hits the ball out of bounds or into the net, fails to return a live ball, or commits a zone infraction.

Court Setup

Pickleball Court

The court is divided into six parts. A net cuts the rectangle through the middle with the no-volley zones on either side. The no-valley zones are often referred to as the kitchen. Each half is then split again by a centerline to denote the left and right side of the court.


Pickleball Equipment

In addition to the court itself, a pickleball game will feature paddles, a ball, and a net. Players generally wear sneakers for greater mobility. There are additional pieces of pickleball equipment available to enhance the playing experience, but the only basics needed are a paddle, ball, and a net.


Pickleball is typically self-officiated, meaning the players use the honor code to make calls about whether the ball landed inside or outside of the court. A ball that lands on the line is considered inbounds, similar to tennis. However, official tournament games will typically feature referees. These referees will make calls deciding whether a ball is in or out of bounds and who receives the point.


Pickleball Scoring Rules

In pickleball, points can only be earned by the team that is serving. Points are scored by making the opposing team fail to return the ball over the net into a legal area. Games are either played to 11, 15, or 21. Matches are played best two out of three games.

List of Pickleball Basic Rules

There are not many rules in pickleball, but the ones that exist can be confusing. Many guidelines must be followed while serving for the service to be legal, as well as a specific way of saying the score. Servers must state their own score, then their opponents, and finally their server number, which correlates to their position on the court relative to the first serve of the game. The no-volley zone has regulations regarding when you can be in it, but the rest of the gameplay is almost identical to tennis.

  • Serves must be cross-court
  • No double faults like in tennis
  • Non-alternating serving: The team who serves first will have one player serve until the point is lost, and then each team will have both players serve before it goes back to the other team
  • Serves must be delivered underhand
  • Double bounce rule: Players are not allowed to volley the ball in the air until it has bounced once on either side.
  • It is illegal to hit the ball in the air while standing in the kitchen.
  • Using any body part to hit the ball is illegal and results in a point for the opposition.

Pickleball Basics Summary

Pickleball is a variation on a racket sport. It differs from the traditional court setup but has all the elements of a net game. The sport is often played strategically, so strength is not as important as athleticism and technique.

Once beginner players understand the rules regarding the no-volley zone, gameplay becomes much smoother. The more experienced a player gets, the further toward the kitchen they will stand, often having their feet right behind the lines. The USAPA, United States Pickleball Association, is the premier governing body for pickleball tournaments for people looking to get involved in recreational play.


What are the different skill levels in pickleball?

Pickleball players often have their skill assessed on a scale from 1 to 5.5+, with 5.5 being the best. Within this scale, the different grades are 1.0 to 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, and 5.5+. These skill level grades are based on a few different aspects of the game: forehand, backhand, serve/return, dink, third shot, volley, and strategy.