The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Pickleball: How to Unleash Your Inner Champion
Posted by Glen on
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET STARTED WITH PICKLEBALL
Everyone's at least heard of pickleball by now, the fun, trendy new sport created by Bill Bell and others that's an unusual combination of badminton, tennis, and ping pong - and for good reason.
This fun, fast-paced sport has a very low barrier to entry and can be enjoyed by people of all ages regardless of their skill level. Best of all, it can be played on any badminton-sized court with a net and only requires a small amount of affordable equipment.
Whether you're just curious about the game or looking to get started yourself, this beginner's guide is here to answer the most commonly asked questions about the sport including rules, lingo, equipment, strategies, and more.
By the end of this article, you'll know everything you need to get out on the court and enjoy the game. Let's get started.
Finding someone else to play with may sound obvious, but it's important seeing this isn't a sport you can play or practice by yourself.
Your best option would be to find a friend, group of new players, or mentor with some experience in the game. This guide will give you everything you need to know, but learning the game from someone else is always the best way to absorb all of the rules and guidelines.
With that said, it can be even more fun to grab some friends who've never played before. That way, you and your friends can learn the game as you go and bond over developing a new life skill.
If you can't find anybody you directly know to get into pickleball with, you have the option of finding a pickleball community online.
Your best option is to look for a local group of pickleballers who play at local courts so you won't have to travel far.
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HOW TO CHOOSE A PICKLEBALL PADDLE
The most important part of playing the game is choosing the right pickleball paddle. Playing with a good or bad paddle will make a huge difference in your gameplay and enjoyment, so make sure you take the time to look through your options.
Below are the three things to consider when choosing a pickleball paddles.
Pickleball paddles come in three weight categories:
Lightweight: 7.3 oz or less
Mid-weight: Between 7.3 to 8.4 oz
Heavy: More than 8.5 oz
The long and the short of it is that lighter paddles increase ball control, but have reduced power. On the other hand, heavier paddles decrease your ball control, but gives more power behind your swing.
TLDR; Beginners should go with lighter paddles.
Paddles come in a variety of shapes, but the four main ones are standard, blade, wide body, and thin body.
At the end of the day, shape comes down to personal taste, but beginners are best suited for a standard shaped paddle.
Again, grip size comes down to personal preference; it all depends on how it feels in your hand.
For beginners, the best grip size specs are:
Length: Slightly under 5"
Circumference: Slightly over 4"
TYPES OF PICKLEBALL PADDLES
There are four types of materials used in pickleball paddles; carbon fiber, composite, graphite, and hybrids.
Carbon fiber paddles are the best choice overall, especially for beginners.
They give you a better feel of the ball and a larger "sweet spot" to increase accuracy and reduce miss-hits, much like the Quantum Pro 2.0.
Carbon fiber paddles are the best choice overall, especially for beginners, because it gives you a better feel of the ball and a larger "sweet spot" to increase accuracy and reduce miss-hits.
Composite paddles, usually made of fiberglass, offer the most power due to the trampoline-like effect it has on the ball and are the heaviest option. As a result, the sweet spot isn't as big and therefore reduces your accuracy and control. Composite paddles aren't recommended for beginners.
Graphite paddles are made from a lightweight and durable material, making them the cheapest option, but not the best. These paddles will wear out quickly and have much less power than a carbon fiber or composite paddle.
Hybrids feature a combination of the aforementioned materials that will produce a unique experience based on each unique paddle.
Pro-Tip: If you're a beginner, don't bother with hybrids for now. They're much more expensive and require substantial experience to understand and use effectively.
WHAT IS THE BEST PICKLEBALL PADDLE FOR BEGINNERS?
The best pickleball paddle for beginners is the Quantum Pro 2.0™ Pickleball Paddle. Made from carbon fiber, this pickleball paddle provides premium performance and exceptional control.
Featuring the Reactive Polymer Core™, this top-notch paddle also produces more power and increases the size of the sweet spot so you can consistently play shots and reduce miss-hits.
This gear isn’t necessary, but is recommended for most players.
WHERE TO PLAY PICKLEBALL
Pickleball is a sport that can be played indoors or outdoors, but it's easier and more affordable to play somewhere outside. With that said, there are many different places to play the game depending on where you live.
If you score a pickleball net, you can set it up at home in your backyard or driveway, schools, parks, and community centers. Many parks and some community centers already have tennis courts ready to go that you can use to play pickleball.
If you want to play or practice professionally, you can rent indoor sports facilities with pickleball courts.
CHOOSING A PICKLEBALL COURT
You'll need to keep four things in mind when choosing a pickleball court; surface, lightning, size, and location.
The best surfaces to play pickleball on are asphalt and concrete seeing as it won't affect the speed and bounce of the ball negatively. Make sure that the court has adequate lighting.
When it comes to size, the minimum playing surface to meet USAPA regulations needs to be at least 30 feet wide by 64 feet long, which is roughly half the size of a tennis court. With that in mind, you can easily lay tape down and slice your local tennis court in half to convert it into a pickleball court.
You can also use a badminton court seeing as they're more or less the same size as a pickleball court.
Location is really for your own convenience; try and find some local courts that aren't packed or too far away.
PICKLEBALL RULES FOR BEGINNERS
Pickleball is a pretty straightforward game with a few basic game rules that are easy to understand and remember.
If you're just getting started, keep these main rules in mind when playing:
The serving team must serve diagonally across the net
The first serve of the game, and every subsequent serve, must be dealt with an underhand swing
The serving team must serve the ball into the other team's court, and it must land within the boundaries of the opponents' court
You can only strike the ball once before it goes over the net
You must use the flat side of the paddle to strike the ball
The ball cannot be caught or thrown
Similar to playing tennis, points are scored when the ball lands outside the opponents' court or when the opponent commits a fault
HOW TO PLAY PICKLEBALL
You can play pickleball with either two or four players. A two player game is called playing singles while a four player game is called playing doubles.
Just like tennis, the basic goal of the game is to get the ball over the net and into the opponent's court so that the other team can't get it back over the net onto your side of the court.
With that in mind, here's a basic overview of how to play a match:
The serving team starts the game by hitting the first serve diagonally across the net to the opponent's court
The other team must then hit the ball back over the net
The players continue to hit the ball back and forth until one of the players makes a mistake, such as hitting the ball out of bounds or hitting the ball twice before it goes over the net
When a mistake is made, the other team scores a point
The first team to reach 11 points (with a 2-point lead) wins the match
HOW TO SERVE IN PICKLEBALL
You'll need to know how to serve correctly if you want to improve your game and get more out of your experience.
Here's our top tips on how to serve in a pickleball match:
The serving team must serve from the right hand court
Serve using an underhand motion while holding the paddle with a relaxed grip
Stand behind the baseline and aim to hit the ball diagonally across the net into your opponent's side of the court. The serve must land within the service court
Try to serve using with the sweet spot of the paddle, meaning the center of it
Learn how to use spin so you can the ball move in different directions, in effect faking out your opponent and making it more difficult for them to return your serve
As we've said a few time, scoring in pickleball is pretty much the same as scoring in tennis.
You score a point when your opponent can't get the ball back onto your side of the court in one go. Your opponent scores when you do the same.
To win, you must be the first to reach 11 points with a 2-point lead.
There's no right or wrong way to move around the pickleball court. Your feet will be moving in all directions at a fast pace, so make you have the right pickleball court shoes when playing.
The one thing to keep in mind is the kitchen line, also known as the non volley zone. Your feet can not go inside, or onto, the kitchen line of the non volley zone unless the ball bounces.
If you touch the non volley zone, or something of yours falls off and into it like a hat, that's considered a fault and the other team scores a point by default.
If you've every played tennis, ping pong, or badminton, the bounce rules are very similar.
In a singles play match, the bounce rule is that the ball must bounce once before being returned.
In a double play match, the same bounce rule is in effect, meaning you have to let the ball bounce once before it can be returned. Thisbounce rule applies when you let the ball bounce off of the floor, walls, or ceiling.
If you're on a team with experienced players, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the slang and jargon used out on the courts. Here's some beginner's terms to get you by:
Dink: A soft shot that's hit with a downward motion, usually over the net and close to it.
Drive: A powerful shot that's hit with a flat motion, usually with the intent of hitting it hard and deep.
Dropshot: A shot that's hit with a soft and downward motion, usually with the intent of making the ball land close to the net on the opponent's side.
Lob: A high, slow lob that's hit with a backspin motion, usually with the intent of making the ball land far behind the opponent.
Volley: A shot that's hit before the ball bounces on your side of the court.
Rally: Continuous playtime between the serve and a fault
PICKLEBALL TRAINING EXERCISES
To improve your skills out on the courts, you'll want to focus on developing your hand-eye coordination, cardiovascular fitness, breathing, and footwork. Be sure you're wearing good court shoes to avoid injury, even a good pair of tennis shoes will work.
When it comes to hand-eye coordination, it comes down to simply using a wall or a partner to practice pickleball. Another great way to build hand-eye coordination is to play some ping pong.
To improve your cardiovascular fitness, you can go running, swimming, cycling, or work out using HIIT techniques. This will improve your endurance and speed.
Learning how to control your breathing is a skill that many athletes overlook, but the pros can't do without - so learn how to intentionally inhale and exhale with your shots to improve accuracy and focus.
Footwork is key in pickleball seeing as you'll be moving all around the courts at a fast pace. To practice your footwork, use cones or other markers to create a course in your backyard to build fast reaction times and build the muscles that allow for rapid forward, backward, and lateral movement.
SIMPLE PICKLEBALL STRATEGIES
When you're just getting started with pickleball, there are three main strategies you should stick to; keep the ball low, place the ball, and play in the middle. By adhering to these simple yet effective strategies, you'll begin to build your own unique strategies to dominate the courts.
By keeping the ball low, you'll make it more difficult for your opponent to reach the ball and return a volley.
Placing the ball refers to you hitting the ball where your opponent is not. For example, if they're on the right side of the court, hit the ball towards the left. You want to avoid hitting the ball where the other team is.
Playing in the middle means you should play the ball as close to the middle of the court as you can. This makes it easier for you to dive to the right or left side while also making it more difficult for your opponent to anticipate what you'll do next.
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a fun new sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It is typically played on badminton-sized courts with a net, a small plastic ball, and paddles. It is a fun, fast-paced sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels.
What equipment do I need to play pickleball?
To play pickleball, you will need a pickleball paddle, a pickleball ball, and a pickleball net. The paddle is typically made of wood or composite materials and has a small handle on one side and a larger, flat surface on the other side. The ball is small and light, made of plastic, and bounces similar to a wiffle ball. The net is similar to a badminton net, but shorter and lower to the ground.
How do I choose the right paddle for me?
When choosing a paddle, consider your skill level, style, and personal preferences. Beginners may want to start with a paddle that is lighter in weight and has a larger sweet spot.
As you improve, you may want to try out different paddles with different weight and grip sizes to find what works best for you.
What are the basic rules of pickleball?
The basic rules of pickleball play include serving the ball diagonally over the net, allowing the ball to bounce once at least once before being hit, staying out of the kitchen line, and scoring points when the opposing team is unable to return the ball. Players can play singles or doubles.
If you've ever played badminton or tennis, it's a very similar sport.
How can I improve my pickleball gameplay and strategy?
To improve your game play and strategy, establish a strong ready position, practice your footwork and positioning on the court, work on your dink and volley skills, and learn different plays such as serves, returns, and overhead shots.
Additionally, practicing drills and exercises that focus on hand-eye coordination, stamina, and coordination can be beneficial.
What are the benefits of playing pickleball for health and wellness?
The benefits of pickleball for health and wellness include weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, and enhancing hand eye coordination.
It can also benefit mental and social health by providing a fun, low-impact way to exercise and socialize.
What is the #1 mistake beginner pickleball players make?
The #1 mistake beginner pickleball players make is not positioning themselves correctly on the court. Taking the time and learning how to properly position yourself makes it easier for you to effectively return a volley or a rally as well as move around.
What are the three key things you should focus on in pickleball?
The three key things you should focus on in pickleball are proper positioning, fast footwork, and keeping your eye on the ball.
The growing popularity of the pickleball community has gained momentum at an incredible pace over the last few years without showing any signs of slowing down.
While you may be just beginning your pickleball journey, everybody starts somewhere, and jumping into this fun new game today will set you way ahead of the crowd that will continue to join the fast-growing sport over the next few years.
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