Pickleball is a sport meant for everyone (not just athletes). It's easy to learn at any age, requires little special equipment, and is fun for families and communities. The best way to get started is to find a local place to play, pick up some basic equipment, and try it!
Choose Your Pickleball Equipment
Starting with the basics is the best place to start when choosing Pickleball equipment. You’ll need a pickleball paddle, a pickleball ball, and court shoes.
It’s not important to buy special pickleball gear, such as clothing or accessories, at the beginning. Just wear what’s comfortable to play in.
Get a Paddle
The best pickleball paddles for beginners are well-balanced, comfortable to hold, and offer control over power. Paddles come in a variety of materials, sizes, and price points.
Beginners should choose a standard paddle with a thicker core, textured surface, comfortable grip size, medium weight, and a wide body for maximum surface area.
Once players become more advanced, paddles can be tailored to your individual playing style.
For further information, check out this beginner’s guide on choosing the best pickleball paddles!
Get Court Shoes
Pickleball court shoes are different from running shoes or sneakers.
Standard tennis shoes aren’t ideal for Pickleball because of the repetitive lateral movements that are required by the game.
Pickleball court shoes have extra stability built into the sides of the shoe, reducing the chance of injury. They also have a heel cup to help keep ankles stabilized, as well as specialized tread patterns along the sole to ensure proper traction with the court surface and prevent slipping.
To choose pickleball court shoes, look for the following features:
- Labeled as pickleball court shoes
- Adjustable shoe laces
- Features a heel cup
- The shoe should feel sturdy, and heavier than normal shoes
- The shoe should not have much give or be too flexible when pressing on the sides
- Should have a pronounced tread pattern
Popular brands that produce pickleball court shoes are Fila, Head, Nike, Babolat, and K-Swiss.
Buy a Ball
Once you have a paddle and some court shoes, the last thing you’ll need is a pickleball ball. They come in both indoor and outdoor versions depending on where you plan to play. Be sure to purchase the right type of ball to match the environment.
Pickleball Ball Characteristics
- The balls are made from lightweight plastic (similar to a Wiffle ball but with smaller holes)
- Pickleball balls are meant to have a soft bounce
- Indoor and outdoor pickleball balls are different, since windy conditions and the type of playing surface affect the kind of ball that can be use.
- Indoor Pickleball balls are made with 26 holes and have a weight of 0.8 ounces
- Outdoor Pickleball balls are made with 40 holes and have a weight 0.9 ounces
Learn the Most Important Rules
It’s not important to spend hours learning pickleball rules upfront or to obsess over pickleball strategy. Most everything you need to know you will learn as you play.
With that being said, a few basic rules are important to keep in mind for pickleball beginners. Knowing these key rules upfront will help you when you play for the first time.
Double Bounce Rule
The double bounce rule applies for the first two shots after a serve.
After a serve, the receiving team must let the ball bounce once before returning it. Then, the serving team must allow it to bounce once before returning.
After the double bounce has been completed, players are free to hit the ball either while it’s still in the air, or after it’s bounced once.
The kitchen is a special area in Pickleball that extends seven feet from each side of the net. It may be referred to as the NVZ, non-volley zone, or the kitchen.
Players aren’t allowed to hit balls in the kitchen unless the ball has bounced on the ground first.
Players can’t cross the non-volley line immediately following a volley. If they do, it’s considered a fault.
In Pickleball, only the team serving the ball is eligible to win points.
The team that is receiving the ball is eligible to have the chance to serve should the serving team fail to win a point.
The score is announced before each serve, and includes the number of the server (1 or 2), followed by the score of each team.
To win in Pickleball, you must be the first team to reach 11 points and you must win by at least 2 points.
Avoid Common Mistakes
The most common Pickleball mistakes beginning players make are ones that are made because a player is new and needs to develop some basic Pickleball skills.
To help you avoid common missteps, be sure to keep the following Pickleball tips in mind.
Moving too far forward after serving the ball.
- After you hit a serve, stay back and allow the other team to return the ball.
- The return shot is usually hit deep. If you’re too far forward, it’s hard to hit it.
Not taking the centerline shots as the forehand player.
- As a beginner, it’s easier to hit a forehand than a backhand.
- The person who is playing on the forehand side of the court should hit the centerline shots for the optimal chance of successfully returning the ball.
Getting too fancy, too soon.
- Performing trick shots or trying to put spin on the ball is best reserved for experienced players with an advanced skill level.
- Hitting the ball overly hard (smashing the ball) is often seen in newbie players. Yet doing this without having good control that comes with practice often causes it to go out of bounds
- Focus on the basics until you’ve mastered them.
Hitting shots that would have been out.
- Balls that are in a trajectory to fall out of bounds should not be hit.
- It is important to let those shots go to win points or the chance to serve.
Using the “Kitchen” properly.
- It is important to get to the Pickleball kitchen after open rallying starts as many soft shots (called dinks) are hit here.
- If you’re too far away from the kitchen, you won’t be able to return the majority of shots hit into the kitchen
- It is also important to know when to back away from the kitchen line. If opponents are hitting harder shots or high lobs (shots that go over your head), you will need to back away to hit those shots.
- Learning the intricacies of the kitchen takes time to master.
Get a Sense of Pickleball Terminology
Knowing the basic lingo or Pickleball slang terms can be helpful when you first get started with a Pickleball game.
Here are the most common terms you will hear on the court and what they mean.
Dink – a soft shot that is hit with little force behind it. The purpose is to drop the ball over the net and make the opponents dive for it.
Kitchen or Non-Volley Zone – The 7-foot area immediately in front of the net that doesn’t allow volleys (shots hit without the ball bouncing first).
Backhand – A ball hit with the backside of your paddle hand facing the net. This is usually performed cross-body or requires players to pivot to reach the ball.
Forehand – A ball hit with your dominant hand facing forward while holding the paddle. This allows for the most natural shot.
Pop up – A shot that is hit higher into the air, allowing opponents to slam the ball back to the ground. Pop-ups are undesirable. In pickleball, you want to keep the ball low and controlled.
Drop shot – A soft shot hit from deep in the court, meant to land on the opponent’s side as close to the net as possible, which is difficult to return
Groundstroke – A ball that is hit after it has touched the ground
Find a Place to Play
Joining your local Pickleball community is one of the best ways to get started.
One of the easiest and best resources to find a local court is USA Pickleball’s Place 2 Play finder.
You can choose if you want to take a pickleball clinic (lessons) or if you want to jump into a pickup game. Most clubs and communities will have a schedule and sign-up opportunities.
Lessons can be great if you want to understand the basics and meet other beginner players. The first lesson is usually free at most pickleball clubs but there may be fees, so be sure to ask.
Pickup games may include players with different levels of experience because most open-play sessions are welcoming to players of all skill levels. It can be helpful to let the other players know you are just starting out.
The pickleball community is known for being welcoming to new players. It is a game that is built on a backbone of community and camaraderie.
Above all, Pickleball is meant to be fun.
So get out there and try it!
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