You’ve heard of it, but until now you’ve never really considered it. After all, what is pickleball? Surely people aren’t throttling pickles across a tennis court. Or are they?
Let’s find out.
What Is Pickleball?
So, what is pickleball? The really simple explanation is that pickleball is like ping pong and badminton had a baby. Players use ping pong-like paddles to hit a plastic whiffle ball around a badminton court. And because it can be played both indoors and outdoors, it’s super-easy to get into.
Also, it’s the fastest-growing sport in the world right now, because anyone can play it. The courts are small and easy to set up.
If there isn’t already one in your community you can make your own. Just set up a net, like this ZENY portable pickleball net that comes with a frame stand and a carrying case. You’re ready to play!
You don’t need a lot of skill to play. Seniors can play, as can young children. There are pickleball leagues for all ages and skill levels. No wonder people love it!
So what is pickleball? It’s a fun game everyone can play!
Pickleball’s Unusual Origins
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Would you believe that pickleball has been with us since 1965? That’s when three bored fathers from Seattle created the game for their kids to play.
Legend has it that they were visiting Bainbridge Island and had nothing to entertain their kids. But they were able to get hold of some ping pong paddles, a couple of whiffle balls, and a badminton net. Because their kids were young, they kept the rules simple.
But why name it “pickleball?”
There are several stories behind the name. One is that Joan Pritchard, one of the inventor’s wives, named it because it reminded her of a pickle boat where all the oarsmen were mixed up from other boats.
But a more likely explanation lies with the dog of another of the dads. This dog’s name happened to be Pickles and he loved to chase the whiffle balls around as the group played.
Today, there are more than 15,000 pickleball courts in the United States alone. And get this.
There are over 2.5 million pickleball players in the U.S.
The game is also exploding in popularity all over the world. It’s extremely popular in Canada and Australia but is also growing in the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Most schools in the US and Canada include pickleball in their phys-ed curriculum. And senior centers can’t keep up with the demand for pickleball gear.
Five decades after a group of dads created an obscure game, we have pickleball. If anyone asks you, “What is pickleball?” you’ll be able to tell them the rules and history.
How to Play Pickleball
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Be honest. You still want to know, “What is pickleball?”
Because until you know how to play it, you don’t know what it is. But there’s good news!
Pickleball is one of the easiest games to learn. If you’ve ever figured out how to play “Go Fish,” you can learn how to play pickleball. And let’s be honest. Even a four-year-old can play Go Fish.
But you don’t need a deck of cards for pickleball. Instead, you’ll need some pickleball gear.
When someone asks “What is pickleball?” they’re probably not expecting ping pong paddles and a 22-foot net. But if you want to play, that’s what you’ll need.
Also, you’ll need some plastic whiffle balls covered in holes.
You heard that right. Holes.
The balls are light, and the holes help them fly through the air without bouncing all over the place uncontrollably. Also, it makes them softer. Your kid can get hit in the face with one and probably won’t cry.
Now the paddles themselves aren’t your standard ping pong paddles. Although they’re shaped like ping pong paddles, they’re actually the size of tennis rackets. Also, they’re constructed out of composite materials such as aluminum. Many of them use bamboo as well because it gives the whiffle ball an extra kick.
You can try it yourself with a set of graphite pickleball paddles and balls from Amazin’ Aces.
Then, you’ll require a pickleball court. It is the size of a badminton court, which is small. To illustrate, that’s 20 feet across and 44 feet long. Each person’s play area is 15 feet, and there’s a 14-foot “no volley zone” between the two. A 22-foot long net separates the opponents.
Finally, you’ll need some good tennis shoes. Believe it or not, but pickleball shoes are a thing. Check out these Tyrol Volley Series pickleball shoes for women and men.
Once you’ve got your gear sorted out, it’s time to play.
Setup and serve
If you’re playing singles, then there’s one person at either end of the court. But if you’re playing doubles, it’s a little different.
First off, the team that is serving both stand at the back of the court. Meanwhile, the receiving team positions themselves so that one person is at the back of the court, and the other is up at the “No Volley” line on the top of the court.
Next comes the serve, which requires an underhand hit, with the paddle kept below waist-level. Both feet must remain behind the line when serving.
Also, the ball needs to sail into the air without any bouncing, so it shouldn’t hit the ground. It’s going to arch up like a pop fly in baseball and come down diagonally from the server, beyond the No Volley zone.
If the ball doesn’t make it, then the other team gets to serve. But if it does go as planned, then it’s game on.
What is pickleball? It’s a game of volleys. That is, the players volley the ball back and forth across the No Volley zone.
But there’s more.
There’s a funny little rule called the “Two Bounce Rule.” This means that every team’s first shot must be off the bounce. So after the ball gets served, it needs to land outside the No Volley zone and bounce once before it can get volleyed back to the other team.
Then it needs to bounce once on the other side. Only then can it be played. But unlike most other paddle sports, pickleball can be played entirely with volleys.
Once you’ve accomplished the two bounces, there’s no need to bounce the ball again. Fire it back and forth!
When it gets a fault, that’s when play stops, and the other team serves.
You’re probably wondering how to score in pickleball. And how to lose. When answering the question “What is pickleball?” it’s important to discuss faults.
A fault is what happens when the ball does something it’s not supposed to. Or, put more simply, it’s what makes the other team lose.
There are five faults in pickleball.
First, when the ball lands in any part of the No Volley zone, that’s a fault. And yes, that includes touching the line. If the ball touches this zone, the team that didn’t put it there gets to serve.
Secondly, if the ball goes out of bounds, that’s a fault. Whichever team hit it out of bounds loses the ball, and their opponents serve.
Likewise, if the ball doesn’t clear the net. So if you volley it or serve it and it hits the net, your opponents get to serve.
Finally, if the ball gets volleyed from the No Volley zone, or if it’s volleyed before it bounces once on each side, the other team gets it.
What is pickleball without scoring? It’s not pickleball. That’s because pickleball is all about scoring. In fact, you have to reach 11 points to win the match.
So how do you score?
Specifically, you can only score on the serve. That means you need to serve it diagonally across the court and land it in your opponent’s side without touching the No Volley zone and hope they screw up. Only then do you get the point.
But if they let it bounce and then volley it back to you, you need to follow the rules and force them to get a fault before they force you to take one. Because you can only score on the serve, the faults are everything.
And there’s one more thing.
Your team can only win if you have a two-point lead or greater. So you can’t win 11 to 10. It has to be 11 to 9 or less. If your lead is less than two points, you need to keep going until you reach that magic two-point mark, then you’ve automatically won.
But remember, the other guys can use this opportunity to outscore you by two points.
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So what is pickleball? Ultimately, it’s the most fun you can have with every member of your family. That’s thanks to it being low-impact and high-entertainment. Old and young alike can play!
No wonder pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America. Also, in many other parts of the world. If you’ve never played before, it’s time to grab some paddles and a net and get out there.
What’s your favorite part about pickleball? Let us know in the comments!