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What Is Pickleball

What Is Pickleball? Understanding This New Sport

Pickleball is a recently invented sport that is picking up in popularity. You might have seen it somewhere, with players holding something like a miniature tennis racket and playing on a mini tennis court. But what is pickleball anyway?

Pickleball is a racket-based sport with elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Two or four players play at a time, exchanging a perforated polymer ball over a net. A pickleball court is similar to badminton, with the netting similar to tennis and paddles similar to table tennis. 

This article will explore pickleball, such as how the name came about and some basic rules of the sport. We will also examine how different it is from tennis and if ordinary people can pick it up fast. 

Why Is Pickleball Called Pickleball?

Pickleball gets its name from the pickle boat and the name of the dog that one of the inventors owns. Joel Pritchard’s wife Joan gave the name pickleball as it reminded her of the pickle boats, and Pritchard’s dog is conveniently called Pickles.

The pickle ball started as two fathers’ attempt to help their family pass the time in Bainbridge, Seattle, WA. In 1965, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell were trying to figure out what to do with their family members after a golf outing. 

They ended up on a badminton court, with table tennis rackets and a Wiffle ball. As they played, they developed the rules, and the game pickleball was born. They later roped in another friend Barney McCallum to further refine and develop the rules of pickleball. 

However, the name pickleball came easier. There are two reasons why pickleball gets its current name. The first is Joel Pritchard’s wife. She started calling the game ‘Pickleball’ as the way the game combined multiple sports disciplines reminded her of the pickle boat. 

Another reason unsurprisingly comes from the name of a man’s best friend. Barney McCallum mentioned that pickleball came about because of Pritchard’s dog, which was named Pickles.

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How Is Pickleball Different From Tennis?

Pickleball differs from tennis in many ways, such as the court, serve, ball and racket. The court is one-quarter of a tennis court. Instead of serving overhead in tennis, you serve underhand in pickleball. Pickleball also bounces less and travels less far than a tennis ball.


A pickleball court is only one-quarter (25%) the size of a tennis court. This makes sense since the sport is designed for family, meaning a large tennis court may tire out older folks and children. Smaller courts also do not allow powerful playing like tennis, making the sport suitable for everyone. 


In tennis, balls are often served overhead, meaning the ball is hit when it is above the head. This is required since the tennis court is large, and the ball needs to travel from a higher point to make it past the net. In pickleball, players serve underhand, meaning the ball is hit underneath the shoulder. This makes sense since the ball is light and the court is small. It also makes the sport less intense, making it more suitable for everyone to play. 


Pickleballs are made of polymer and are perforated. This means the ball does not bounce, not travel with as much force as a tennis ball. This also helps to make the sport less intensive since players do not have to hit the ball hard to return it. It also allows pickleball to be played on a smaller court since the ball would not travel too far after being hit. 


Tennis rackets are larger and have strings. A pickleball racket resembles a table tennis racket, but the side of a badminton racket. The racket face is solid with a rubberized surface, similar to a table tennis racket. Still, the size is close to a badminton racket. The handles have the length of a tennis racket. 

What Are The Basic Rules in Pickleball?

Some of the fundamental laws in pickleball are that a game is won with 11 points, serves must be underhanded, and no volley shots can be attempted until the ball has bounced on both sides of the court. Serves are also done similarly to table tennis. 

  1. When serving, it needs to be done underhanded and diagonally to the opponent’s service court. The ball must not be bounced during service and must be performed behind the baseline. 
  2. The serve must clear the net and may not land in the kitchen. The kitchen refers to the area right after the netting, before the service court. 
  3. After service, the ball must bounce at least once on both sides of the court before a volley shot can be made. This rule is known as the double bounce rule.
  4. Volley shots can only be made while being outside of the non-volley zone or the non-volley line. 
  5. If the opposing player is not able to return the ball, hits the ball out of bounds, into the net, or other notable faults, a point is scored.  
  6. The team that serves can score. 
  7. The serving player will continue to serve, alternating between the service courts, until the serving side performs a fault. 
  8. A game is completed with a side scoring 11 points, and a game must be won by two points.

Is Pickleball Easy To Learn?

Pickleball is easy to learn as it does not have a fast pace, is not too physically demanding, and has simple ruling. If you have experience with racket sports such as badminton, tennis or table tennis, you might learn pickleball much faster. 

Pickleball is relatively easy to learn, with many able to pick up the sport in just a few games. One reason it is easy to learn is that it does not need too many specialized actions that need training and coaching. 

For example, a service can be done by diagonally tapping the ball underhand to the other side of the court. This is unlike tennis, where the action of serving the ball must be taken seriously to pick up, with coaching and hours of practice needed. 

The sport is also not physically intensive, meaning you can focus on learning the rules and strategies when you play. You are less likely to need to constantly catch your breath because you spend so much energy. This can be likely with badminton and tennis due to the speed and the court size.

Pickleball is also not too fast, meaning you have time to react to the balls and still think about the rules and strategies. This is unlike badminton, where the speed is blindingly fast that if you are a beginner, you could probably only focus on returning shots and nothing else.

Learning pickleball will be much faster if you have experience with any racket sport. This is because you are used to a racket sport, meaning all you need to learn is the rules, get the feel of the racket and the ball, and you should be good to go.

You may pick up pickleball much faster depending on the racket sports you play. If you play badminton, you will be very comfortable with the court size, as it is similar. If you play tennis or table tennis, you will also be able to learn the services and points rules quickly. 

Do You Have To Be Athletic To Play Pickleball?

You do not need to be athletic to play pickleball, as the sport was created for recreational purposes. That means the sport is designed to suit adults, children and even veterans. In fact, pickleball’s popularity has exploded with boomers who are retirees and need a less stressful sport to stay active. 

You may be able to play pickleball much better if you are athletic. You may be able to react faster, hit the ball harder during volleying, and you can cover more ground during the game. 

However, you can still play and enjoy pickleball well, even if you are not athletic or have suffered an injury that made you unable to do sports.

This is because the court is small, meaning you do not need to move too much to play pickleball. The court is designed to be small in the first place so that adults, children and the elderly can play the sport.

The ball also needs to be served underhanded and required to bounce once during service. This means the ball will not travel fast during the game, meaning you may be able to play the sport, even if you cannot react fast.

 Sometimes your eyes and mind can read where the ball is going to be, but your body may not be able to react to it fast enough. This is often the case in badminton, as it is fast-paced. But with pickleball, you usually have time to react. 

In the situation that you are physically unable to even play pickleball, you may simplify the game by playing it as doubles. This reduces the ground you need to cover during a game, allowing you to move less and slower in games. Plus, it would also be great to add some social elements during your pickleball game.

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