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What is Pickleball?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pickleball is an outdoor sport combining different rules of ping-pong, tennis, and badminton, using paddles similar to ping-pong. It is played on a badminton-sized net court with tennis-like rules. Pickleball uses a wood paddle and a perforated plastic baseball ball with holes. This game can be played on any hard surface, and has been for over 40 years.

The game is played with a net 36 inches (91 cm) tall on the edges and 34 inches (86 cm) tall at the center. A serve is made from behind either baseline. Serves are made below the waist and with an underhand stroke. The pickleball player on the right serves first, and both players on one team serve before yielding service to the other teams. Games are played up to 11 points, and sides are switched with every point.

Points are earned, as in tennis, when the ball is hit out of bounds, or when the other team fails to return a volley. The ball must bounce before returned on the serve, and also must bounce before the second return. There is a seven-foot no volley zone on either side of the net, within which a player cannot stand to volley, or land after their volley.

Pickleball is popular because it is easy to learn. With a Wiffle ball, the speed of the game can be slowed down for beginners. The ball is easier to hit than a tennis ball or a ping pong ball. The court is larger and the game is made easier with a short net. Players can play on a driveway, a badminton court, or an all-purpose sport court. Pickleball is popular nationwide in the United States in secondary-level gym courses, at YMCAs, and health and fitness centers.

Pickleball, while easy for beginners, can also develop into an intense competition for high-level players. With a low net, a court smaller than a tennis court, and a no-volley zone, the pace of the game can escalate with four experienced players. Many pickleball leagues around the country feature experienced players with high-levels of competitiveness.

Pickleball was created in the Puget Sound area off of Seattle in the state of Washington in the 1960s. It was named for the dog of one of the co-creators, Pickles. Pickles, legend has it, would chase after and retrieve the balls and hide them. The family began to play a game with Pickles’ ball. And so they named the game after the dog. The co-inventor and owner of Pickles, U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard, originally played the game as a family sport for fun. Over 20 years, though, the game developed a set of standard rules and a following around the country.

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Discussion Comments

By anon122801 — On Oct 29, 2010

Where can this game be learned? I live in Rancho Bernardo.

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