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What I Wish I Knew Before My First Pickleball Game - Basics & Essentials

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Have you been interested in trying Pickleball? Here's everything you need to know before you get going.

Pickleball basics.
updated on:
March 22, 2023

I have been seeing Pickleball everywhere the past couple of years and had been wanting to try it for a while now! I didn't know anything about it besides the fact that it looked like a mix between tennis and ping pong.

A few months ago, me and my fiancé decided to order some paddles and mess around on a court. It was fun but we didn't really know what we were doing. A little time passed and we watched some videos on the rules before going back out and it totally changed everything for us!

Here's a pro (and semi-obvious) tip: before trying out a new hobby, learn the rules first!

In today's post I'm going to give you all the info you need on how to start Pickleball as a beginner. This should save you some major time (and potential embarrassment) so you can feel confident the very first time you step out on the court.

This post is all about pickleball basics.

History of pickleball


Pickleball has been exploding in popularity over the last few years, but has been around for a lot longer! Pickleball was actually invented in 1965 in Washington State, USA. When Joel Pritchard's family couldn't find the shuttlecock for their afternoon badminton game, he challenged everyone to come up with a new game.

The family experimented with different paddles and balls, settling on ping pong paddles and a Wiffle ball. They eventually lowered the net and changed to larger paddles and a more durable ball.

Pickleball was named by Joel Pritchard's wife as it reminded her of a term from crew called "pickle boat" where leftover members from the crews of other boats are assembled and used to create a new crew. The game itself was a combination of many different sports (badminton, table tennis, and tennis) into one new sport.

The family later named their new dog Pickles to honor the sport they created.

Pickleball gained steady popularity in the Pacific Northwest for years, and continued to spread to places like California, Arizona, Florida, and Hawaii due to snowbirds bringing the sport to these frequently traveled areas.

The sport itself is growing rapidly due to its uncomplicated rules, low cost to start, and the fact that it is friendly to all ages and abilities. Pretty much all ages and all levels of athleticism are able to play Pickleball, which makes it fun to play with the whole family!

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Pickleball basics

Pickleball can be played doubles or singles on a Pickleball court. The court is a standard badminton court, with a lower net separating the two sides. You'll need Pickleball paddles and a Pickleball ball (see below).

Learning how to score a Pickleball game is an important part of the fun, as it makes it exciting and interesting; Pickleball is scored in a way where either team can easily go on a run and win the game, even from a lack of advantage. If you're playing doubles, each team gets two chances to go on a run and score before it is the other team's turn. The only exception is the very first serve of the game. Since having the first serve gives that team an advantage, they only get one chance to score before the other team gets to try. The score is called out before each serve as "POINT-POINT-SERVE".

For example, the very first server calls out the score as "0-0-2". There are no points yet, but they are on their second serve chance. Technically, it's their first try, but since they are the first team to serve, they only get one chance. Let's say the other team wins the rally. The score would now be "0-0-1". Since you only get points when you're serving, the opposing team still has 0, and they are on their first chance serving. If that team loses that rally, the score is now "0-0-2" and they switch servers. Let's say that team wins the rally. The score is now "1-0-2" and the server switches sides.

This can be kind of confusing at first, but I promise once you get it it makes the game so fun! Here's a video explaining scoring in a little more detail:

For singles, the scoring is the same, except without the last SERVER number. You only get one chance to serve and earn points before it switches to your opponents chance.

Serving is done underhand from a toss or a bounce. You must serve the ball into the opposite zone across the net from where you are standing. You must also serve low so as to not replicate a tennis or overhand serve. The person in the back right spot starts serving first and you keep switching sides (staying on the same server) until you lose the rally. The server now switches and you keep switching sides until you lose the rally again.

After serving, the ball must bounce before the receiving team returns it, and the serving team must allow the ball to bounce the first time it comes over before you are allowed to hit the ball back over without it bouncing. You only get one contact per side (not like volleyball where you have 3 contacts).

One very important piece of Pickleball is the "non-volley zone" AKA "the kitchen" which spans from the net to about 7 feet into the court. You must let the ball bounce before entering the kitchen. If you hit the ball before it bounces while you're in the kitchen, or if you enter the kitchen immediately after you hit the ball without it bouncing, it is a violation. It is also a violation if you touch any of the lines defining the kitchen.

You can imagine that since the net is low, you can really slam the ball down (as long as you stay out of the kitchen)! These plays are super fun, but it's also fun to get into "dinking" wars while you're inside the kitchen.

If you like this post you may enjoy this post: Everything You Need To Know About "Peanuts" - A Fast & Fun Card Game

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Pickleball etiquette

pickleball basics

One thing that we have learned over the last few months, is that when you hit a ball onto someone else's court, you are supposed to yell "Pickle!" so they know a ball is interrupting their gameplay. Usually you just apologize and they will gladly toss the ball back over to you.

If you need to access a court by walking closely by another court, kindly wait until their rally is over and quickly make your way to your court so as to not interrupt their game!

These might seem like fairly obvious things, but a little respect goes a long way in the Pickleball community!

Pickleball essentials

One nice thing about Pickleball is that it is relatively inexpensive to get started. You only need a ball and some Pickleball paddles. There are many free & public Pickleball courts, it's easy to quickly Google one near you.

In terms of attire, you can wear pretty much anything to Pickleball. I recommend wearing similar clothing to what you would wear to tennis. Tennis skirts, sports tops, and hats/visors are common for ladies while for men, athletic shorts, shirts, and shoes are pretty common.

When we got started, we bought some wooden paddles off of Amazon. These worked just fine, but I personally recommend getting paddles that are more of a carbon fiber material with a honeycomb core. These are closer to the kinds of paddles you will see out on the courts. They're a little more durable and should last you a little longer until you are ready to upgrade.

Pickleball paddles

Buy on Amazon

"I was very happy with this purchase. My wife and I are new to playing Pickleball and this kit worked perfectly for us. I don't think they are much different than any of the other brands, but I can confidently say that we were happy with our purchase and felt like it was a good deal!"

For a while, me and my fiancé rocked with the balls provided from our starter kit from Amazon, but we started noticing that no one else around us used those balls, and they would crack and break after a few games. They're good in a pinch, but we recently were recommended these balls by some players that decided to help us out a little. We do notice a difference in our gameplay when we play with these balls and basically everyone on the Pickleball courts plays with them.

Pickleball balls

Buy on Amazon

"I had my first dozen of these balls for well over a year before having to start replacing them. This brand and style is the best for outdoor play."


Have you ever tried Pickleball? We have gotten all of our family and friends hooked on it and we can't stop playing it it's so fun!

This post was all about pickleball basics for beginners.

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