Pickleball Rules And Regulations
In the summer of 1965, three parents invented a game to entertain their bored children over their school break. Inspired by a badminton court and some old ping pong paddles, Bill Bell, Joel Pritchard, and Barney McCallum invented pickleball. Pickleball is very similar to tennis, but due to its slower pace, smaller space, and reduced physicality, pickleball allows people from all age ranges to compete against each other. That, combined with pickleball’s simple rules, make it a very fun and fast-growing sport. Read on to learn more about the rules of pickleball.
The pickleball court is a rectangular area 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, the same measurements of a badminton court. The court’s surface is preferably made out of asphalt, but the game can be played on any indoor or outdoor surface that allows the ball to bounce. The court has a tennis-type net that should be around 30 inches high, which divides the playing space in half.
The playing space is limited by baselines and sidelines, and each half of the court is divided into three smaller areas, the left and right service courts and the kitchen, which is also sometimes called the non-volley zone. The kitchen is a “forbidden zone” where, once players step in it, they cannot volley the ball back to the opponent. An exception is made when the ball bounces inside the kitchen first, in which case, players are allowed to step inside it and volley the ball back.
To play the game, in addition to an even surface and a net, players need paddles and a ball. Paddles are slightly smaller than a tennis racket and slightly bigger than ping pong paddles. When the game was invented back in 1965, the inventors used wooden paddles, which can still be used, but nowadays, paddles are also made of lighter materials, such as aluminum and graphite, and come in different sizes and shapes.
Pickleball balls are about the size of a tennis ball, made of plastic, and have holes that allow air to go through them, like a wiffle ball. Balls are different for games played indoors and outdoors. Other than that, tennis shoes are recommended, but there is not really much more necessary for someone to play the game competitively, or to just have fun with some friends.
The game can be played either by two people competing against each other, or two doubles pairs competing against each other. Pickleball is most commonly played in the doubles format, and the court does not change size depending on the number of players.
Starting the Game
For the game to start, a player must serve from behind their baseline using an underhand movement. The ball must first touch the opponent's service court diagonally opposite the server, and after that, players volley the ball back and forth until a side-out happens.
In pickleball, players can only score if they are the ones who served for the rally to start. Players seek to make the ball bounce twice on the opponent's court or to force the opponent to volley the ball outside of the playing field or into the net. If one of those things happens, a fault is called, and either a side-out is awarded or a point is scored.
In doubles games, for the serving rights to change, it is necessary for both players to serve. That way, for the team who did not serve to score a point, it is first necessary for their opponents to commit two faults, so that they can get the right to serve. There is an exception, however: the only time where it is not necessary for the two players in a double to serve is during the first serve of a game or a match. That way, if the first server commits a fault, a side-out is called and the opposing double gets the right to serve.
In pickleball, if a fault is made by the player or pair that did not serve, one point is awarded to the opposition. The server will always announce the score out loud before they serve. In doubles, the score announced takes three numbers into consideration: the server's score first, the opponents’ score second, and what player on the serving team is serving third. That is, if a game has a score of 4-3 and a team is about to serve for the first time after a side-out, the server will shout “Four, Three, One!” For a singles game, the score is only called by the number of points each person has. Scorekeeping is often confusing to beginners, but once you know the rules, it is really simple to understand.
A pickleball match is divided into games, similar to tennis. The player or pair to first win two games wins the match. Games can be played to 11, 15, or even 21 points.
Players and doubles can call for timeouts in pickleball, similar to many other sports. In games played to 11 or 15 points, each player or team has the right to call two timeouts per game. In games to 21, that number goes up to three per game.
In professional medal matches, players are able to challenge a ruling via video replay review. Each player/team has one challenge per game and must have a timeout left to challenge. If the player/team loses the challenge, they will lose their timeout. If they win the challenge, the ruling is overturned and they retain their timeout.
How many games are in a pickleball match?
Pickleball matches are either played in a best-of-three or best-of-five game format. In a best-of-three format, the first player or team to win two games wins the match. In a best-of-five format, the first player or team to win three games wins the match.