What is Pickleball?

pickleball playersHISTORY OF PICKLEBALL

Pickleball is a court sport played on a badminton-sized hard court with the net set to a height of 34 inches at the center. It is played with a perforated plastic ball similar to a whiffle ball and plastic or wooden paddles about 2x the size of table tennis paddles. It can be played indoors or outdoors and is easy for beginners to learn, but can be a fast-paced, highly-skilled competitive game for more athletic and experienced players.  

The game has developed a passionate following due to its friendly, social nature, and its multi-generational appeal. Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles. New players can learn the basic rules quickly in a few minutes. Equipment is relatively inexpensive. Pickleball is popular in school Phys Ed programs and in senior living communities. The sport is governed by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPickleball.org).  

Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Washington by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. They were looking for a fun activity for their children during the summer break from school. According to Barney McCallum, the game was originally named after the Pritchards’ dog Pickles who would chase the ball and run away with it. As the game progressed, a name for the sport was needed and “pickleball” was adopted as the official name. 


Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court of 20’ x 44.’ The ball is served diagonally starting with the right service area, and points can only be scored by the side that is serving. Players on each side of the net must let the ball bounce once before volleys are permitted. There is a seven foot deep “no-volley zone” on each side of the net to prevent spiking and/or smashing of the ball. The server continues to serve, alternating service courts, until he or she faults. The first side that scores eleven points and leads  by at least two points wins the game.

Pickleball court


Serves are made diagonally, starting with the right-hand service area and alternating for each serve. The serve must not bounce within the seven foot non-volley zone in front of the net and land in the opposing diagonal service court.

Serves should always be performed as an underhand serve with the paddle held below the waist. The server must keep both feet behind the baseline when serving. The ball must be struck while in the air without being bounced on the ground. The serving side will continue to serve until the there is a fault on the service, at which point the service will be given to the opposing side. A serve that hits the non-volley zone is out. Only one service attempt is given unless the ball touches the net on the serve and lands in the correct service court. In this instance the serve may be taken over. Each team is allowed only one fault before surrendering serve their opponents. Each member of each team will serve and fault before the ball is surrendered to the opposing team. When the receiving team wins serve, the player in the right hand court will start play.

Volleys are defined as hitting a ball in the air without letting it bounce. In Pickleball, volleying can only be done with the player’s feet behind the non-volley line. It is a fault if the player steps over the non-volley line during the volley follow-through.


According to the Two Bounce Rule, each side must play their first shot off of the bounce. The receiving team must let the serve bounce and the serving team must let the return of the serve bounce before playing the ball. Once these two mandatory bounces have happened, the ball can be volleyed or played off the bounce.

A fault occurs when the ball:
⦁ Touches ANY part of the non-volley zone on the serve
⦁ Is struck out of bounds
⦁ Does not clear the net
⦁ Is volleyed from the non-volley zone
⦁ Is volleyed before the mandatory bounce has occurred on each side

A side can only score a point when serving. A player who is serving continues to serve until a fault is made by his/her side. When playing doubles, each player on a side keeps serving until their side faults. Then the serve moves to the opposing side – this is called a “side out” which is similar to tennis. A game is played to 11 points and a team must win by 2 points. Players switch sides of the court only after scoring.

For more information on Pickleball, click here. For an entertaining article on Pickleball, click here.