Pickleball is a fun and challenging sport that has gained notoriety in the United States and other countries over the last few decades. However, there are still many people who do not know much about it. With that in mind, this guide will go over the rules and terminology of pickleball, hopefully allowing newcomers to have a successful first time playing the game. Apart from going over the most important pickleball rules and terminology, it will go over all the items that are needed to become a well-equipped participant in this sport.
Perhaps as important as having a knowledge of all pickleball rules is owning the right equipment for the game. Before anything else, it is vital to have enough space to have a regulation-sized court. This court will have the same dimensions as a badminton court (20 feet by 44 feet). A 36-inch tall net should divide the court into two sides of the exact same size.
Individually, all players need to be armed with a regulation pickleball paddle. You can start by reviewing some quality graphite pickleball paddles. Once all that has been taken care of, all that is needed in order to start playing is a pickleball ball. This is a lightweight ball that is very similar to a whiffle ball.
7. The Basics
Before going over the most in-depth pickleball rules, it’s important to lay down the basics of the sport. Pickleball is played on a standard badminton-sized court (20 feet by 4 feet).
The game can be played either by a single player or a two-player team representing each side. The game begins when a side serves the ball by hitting it with the paddle from the right-hand side of the court.
The serve must avoid the no-volley zone. If that happens, it’s time for the defending player or team to hit the ball and send it over to the opposite side of the court. It must be noted that, however, after a serve, the ball must bounce once for each player or team before it’s allowed to hit it back.
6. The Pickleball Serve
Starting with the right-hand service-square and alternating with each new iteration, the serve is made diagonally. To be considered valid, each serve must clear the non-volley area, landing on the diagonal service court.
In terms of posture, serves are made underhand with the paddle hitting the ball below the waist. During this action, the server has to keep both feet behind the back line of the court. The result should be the ball being hit without touching the floor and traveling to the opposite side of the court. Ideally, the ball goes over the volley zone and bouncing off the floor before it can be hit by the opposing player or team.
If a serve is failed, the server gets a second chance to do it correctly. In a two-person pickleball game, when a member of the team fails a serve, the opportunity to produce a valid serve goes to their teammate. This second serve has to be done from the left side of the court.
A volley is a move that entails hitting the ball before it bounces on the floor. Naturally, this can only be done when the player hitting the ball is not standing on the non-volley zone of the court. Additionally, the player should not be stepping on any lines when hitting the ball for the volley to be valid.
Non-Volley Zones: One of the most important pickleball rules has to do with the zones where it’s not allowed to hit a volley. These zones span seven feet to each side of the net.
4. The Double-bounce Rule
Without a doubt, one of the most unique pickleball rules is the double-bounce rule. This rule requires that, after the serve, each player (or team) must let the ball bounce at least once before hitting it back. Once each side has allowed the ball to bounce once, both sides are allowed to produce volleys.
However, that does not mean that after these two bounces the ball is no longer allowed to bounce. Instead, it is up to each side to choose to either hit a volley or let the ball bounce before responding.
Bonus Read: Best Pickleball Balls
3. Calling Lines
Like most racquet sports, pickleball is played within a well-established area that’s signaled with clearly-drawn lines. Because, normally, there is no one besides the players to arbiter the game, pickleball depends on the players to tell whether a shot fell inside or outside a line.
If a fault takes place, depending on who caused it, either a point is earned, or a serve is lost. There are various instances on which a fault should be called, namely when:
The ball touches the non-volley zone during a serve for the second time in a row. This includes the line.
The ball is hit out of court bounds.
A volley hit is done from the non-volley zone.
The ball does not clear the net after a hit.
The ball is volleyed before each side has allowed it to bounce at least once.
Another pickleball rule that is also unique is that sides can only score when serving. After scoring, a player or team will continue to serve until a fault is made. Once that happens, the serve (and, therefore, the opportunity to score) goes to the opposing team in a transition that is called Side Out.
Points: A player or team wins the game after scoring 11 points. However, it should be noted that a victory cannot be called unless a player or team has at least a two-point advantage over the other team.
4. Communicate With Your Partner
Being able to communicate properly with your partner is one of the most important reasons to learn pickleball terminology. Following are the most useful terms you can use to this end.
Side out: This term refers to the moment when the second serve causes a team to lose a point. Very straightforwardly, it indicates that the team on one side is out and it’s the turn of the opposite team (side).
Get: According to pickleball slang, a “get” happens when a player manages to reach or return a ball that is particularly difficult.
Setup: As used by most people, setup refers to the manipulation of the opponent in order to place them in a particular area, typically in order to create holes in their defense.
Rally: A rally is an extended streak of shots between both teams. Such a session keeps the ball in the air for an impressive period of time.
Dead ball: This term is used when the ball goes out of bounds, effectively ending a point.
Fault: Quite simply, a “fault” is a violation of pickleball rules.
Put away: A shot that closes a point for a team.
3. Talk About Your Gear
It’s important to know the correct pickleball terminology when it’s time to acquire or talk about pickleball gear. Take into account the following terms:
Composite: Most manufacturers use composite material for their high-quality pickleball paddles. Simply put, a composite material is a single structure made of two or more basic materials. For example, many paddles are made of a graphite face and a fiberglass face.
Nomex: Due to its power and bounce, Nomex is one of the materials that are most commonly used to make pickleball paddles.
Aluminum: Because it’s lightweight and yet resistant, aluminum is often used in the construction of pickleball paddles.
Polymer: Another very popular for making paddle cores, polymer provides a great balance between power and control.
Polypropylene: This is the technical word for the type of polymer that is used in most paddles.
Paddle face: The face of a paddle is the material that is used to cover its surface.
Graphite: Graphite is a material that is very lightweight yet solid at the same time. For that reason, it’s often used to make the surface of the paddle.
Fiberglass: Fiberglass is another material that is often used to make paddle faces. Even though it’s somewhat heavier than graphite, it provides extra power.
Roughness: Roughness refers to how pronounced the texture on a paddle’s face is. The higher the level of roughness, the more traction it has the ability to produce.
2. Regarding The Pickleball Court
Being a central part of the game, the pickleball court is something that players will often discuss. The following pickleball terminology can be used to do so:
Baseline: The baseline is the line at the back of the court. You can’t step on it or cross it while serving.
Sideline: The lines at the sides of the court.
Non-volley zone: Simply put, the no-volley zone is an area that extends seven feet to each side of the net. As its name implies, it’s a zone where volley shots are not allowed.
Kitchen: This is the slang term that is used to refer to the non-volley zone.
No man’s land: Located halfway between the no-volley line and the baseline, this sector is dangerous as it creates large open areas where your opponent may direct the ball. Players know how difficult it is to save a point here.
1. Discuss Your Pickleball Techniques And Skills
Finally, it’s important to learn the correct pickleball terminology to describe certain techniques and skills that will help you get ahead in the game:
Groundstroke: A shot that occurs after the ball has had an opportunity to bounce.
Overhead smash: A shot where you hit the ball above your head.
Volley: Any shot you produce before the ball has had a chance to bounce off the ground.
Serve: Any shot that starts a point. Typically, players call the score out before each serve.
Dink: Typically made at the kitchen line, a dink is a soft shot meant to go as low as possible over the net. This makes it very difficult for your opponent to respond.
Cross-court dink: A dink shot that goes from one side to the court to the other. Normally, this shot will land on the opponent’s no-volley zone.
Lob: This term refers to a high shot that goes over the head of your opponents, hopefully hitting the backcourt without going out of bounds.
Poach: Poaching is a term that defines that moment when a player goes after the shots that are actually for their partner.
Ace: An ace is a serve that wins a point after failing to be hit by the return player.
Third shot drop: A third shot is when the ball is hit for the third time within the frame of a single point. Because it is a transitional point, players consider the third shot to be highly important.
Backhand: A backhand is a shot that sees the back of your dominant hand facing forward during the movement.
Forehand: A forehand refers to any shot that sees the palm of your dominant hand facing forward throughout it.
Hopefully, having all the essential pickleball rules and terminology clearly described in this guide will give you the push you needed to become a participant in this exciting sport. Challenging, fun, and a perfect way to exercise in the company of friends, pickleball is a sport that will only continue its rise to prominence. Have you ever tried it? Let us know in the comments!