A new racquet sport is gaining popularity in the USA. It started as a recreational sport for kids, and then elderly tennis players adopted it for themselves. And now the pickleball is played everywhere by everyone. The Pickleball boom is here.
Pickleball is a combination of tennis, table tennis, and badminton. Sometimes it is called “life-size” table tennis. It helps senior tennis players remain active, and helps kids with the transition to tennis. Currently, it is played by all age categories and courts are made available in all regions. Pickleball is an inexpensive sport with a big potential for a rise.
What is pickleball
Pickleball is a racquet sport played with a paddle and perforated ball. It is a combination of tennis, badminton and table tennis. It is played by two (singles) or four (doubles) players at the court of badminton size. Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoor on all possible surfaces (grass, clay, hard, taraflex, etc.). You can play it even in public parks or any other free space. The only necessary equipment is a paddle, ball, and net.
The sport itself was invented and played first in 1965. Friends who wanted to entertain their kids and could not find badminton shuttlecock decided to replace the shuttlecock with a ball and badminton racket with a wooden paddle. That was the start of pickleball.
By the way, one of the above mention friends was Joel Pritchard, who later served as a congressman, the other was Barney McCallum, who in 1972 incorporated the Pickle-Ball Inc.
Pickleball rules are very similar to tennis rules. You have to hit the ball into the court over the net. The ball can bounce once, or you can play volley (outside of no volley area). In contrary to other racquet sports doubles are more popular than singles in pickleball.
Pickleball is played on court 20 feet wide and 44 feet long. The opposing sides are divided by net in the middle. Every side of the court has three sections. Non-volley zone, where players are not allowed to play volleys, right, and left service zone.
The game always starts with service. All players (two in singles, four in doubles) stand at baseline. The serving player needs to serve diagonally (from the right service zone to left and vice versa).
The point can be awarded just to the serving side. In case the serving player loses the exchange, the opponent will serve.
The game is played till one side did not score 11 points (or 15 or 21 points depending on the tournament). In case that the score is 10:10, the game goes on till one side is ahead by two points.
Usually, when the game is played on 11 points, the match is played as best of three games.
Players are changing their sides after playing 6 points when playing to 11 points, after 8 points when playing to 15 points, and after 11 points when playing to 21 points.
You lose an exchange when you make a fault. The faults are:
– not servicing diagonally
– not hitting the ball beyond the net
– when you strike the ball outside the court borders
– when you play volley with feet inside the “non-volley zone”
– not hitting the ball before the 2nd bounce on one side of the net
– when you play volley when receiving service
– when you play volley on first return of serving side
The good thing about pickleball that you do not need much for it. You can play on whatever surface, e.g., park, clay, or concrete. The only specific equipment is the paddle and ball.
The paddle consists of a core made from polymers or polycarbonate, face from graphite or polymers, and handle. The handle can be of different size (the same like a tennis racket grip sizes).
The size of the paddle should not exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm) combined (length plus width). The paddle length should not be longer than 17 inches (43.18 cm). Therefore, the standard paddle dimensions are 15.75 inches (40 cm) length and 8 inches (20.32 cm) width.
There is no rule about the thickness of the pickleball paddle. The weight varies from 6 to 14 oz but most common are 7 oz (200 g) to 9 oz (255 g) according to the type and playing characteristics of the paddle.
Pickleball paddles are manufactured by many companies, with the most prominent tennis brands like Wilson and Head taking part in the industry too.
The entry barrier for pickleball is very low. The starting sets of two paddles and two to six USAPA approved balls are usually below $100 and that makes pickleball inexpensive alternative to any racquet sports.
Pickleball is played with hollow plastic balls with holes. There are indoor and outdoor pickleball balls. The indoor balls have bigger holes as there is no wind inside. The outdoor balls have smaller holes and are made with extra durability.
The standard ball weight should be between 0.78 o.z. (22 g) and 0.935 o.z. (26.5 g). The diameter of the ball should be between 2.784 inches (7.07 cm) and 2.972 inches (7.55 cm).
You will find more about the differences between outdoor and indoor balls and our choice of the best pickleball balls here.
The net on the court is similar to the tennis net. It should be higher on the borders of the court and lower in the middle. The exact heights should be 36 inches (91.4 cm) on the edges of the courts and 34 inches (86.4 cm) in the middle.
Dress & Shoes
The most common attitude for pickleball players is to wear tennis or badminton apparel. The only difference is in shoes where you should take into the count the surface and also requirements of the pickleball. The movement is not extensive as you need to cover less space on the court. On the contrary, you need to be more proactive and faster, therefore shoes should be light and comfortable with good responsiveness.
The many tennis shoe manufacturers like Fila, Wilson, Head, Babolat, and Yonex are currently producing specialized pickleball shoes. What are the common features of pickleball shoes? Check our guide for best pickleball shoes for players of every level here.
The premium tennis ball machines manufacturers like Spinshot, Lobster Sports or Sports Tutor are doing the pickleball machines too. They are suitable for players who mean it seriously or are in a lack of partners for play. The machine essentially throws the balls at the opposite side of the net at various speeds, oscillation, and directions.
The practice would not be such fun as playing doubles with your friends, but it will make you a much better player. The list of the best pickleball machines available with the review of their features, advantages, and disadvantages is here.