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what is pickleball - pickleball player

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is an exciting paddleball sport that incorporates elements of table tennis (ping pong), tennis, and badminton. It accommodates two to four players on a badminton-size court. It is played using solid paddles, similar to table tennis paddles, to hit a perforated polymer ball over a net placed at the centre of the court (34 inches in the middle and 36 inches at the sides). This net and its rules are why pickleball is synonymous with tennis, although the rules have many differences. 

Rules of Pickleball 

As with every sport, pickleball has its own set of unique rules. These are a general outline to get you started.

  • Players must hold the ball underhand, the paddle below the waistline, and both feet behind the back line while hitting a serve. The ball must be hit below the waistline on the serve only.
  • The serving team will continue to serve until they make an incorrect one, also known as a fault. At the beginning of the game, the team serving first can only fault once before giving up the ball to the opposing team. After that, it will take both team members each faulting a serve before the ball is given to the opponent. 
  • The server announces the score before serving. It is a combination of three numbers. The first is the serving team’s score, the second is the opponent’s score, and the third is the order of serve. Order of serve refers to whether you are the first server (1) or second server (2). At the beginning of a match the server would announce 0,0,2.
  • A fault occurs when a player hits a serve across directly into the opponent’s court. When a player serves, the ball should go diagonally. It is a fault if the ball hits the net or doesn’t go past it. Hitting the ball out of the court also invokes a fault. 
  • The serve is always from the right side of the court when the server’s score is even and from the left side when the server’s score is odd. 
  • Players on each side must allow the ball to bounce at least once on each side before attempting a volley. This rule is called the “Double bounce rule,” and it is to eliminate the serve-and-volley advantage. Volley is the term that describes the act of hitting the ball in the air without letting it bounce. 
  • Volleying is not allowed when players find themselves in an area referred to as the Non-volley zone (NVZ) or The Kitchen. This zone is within 7 feet away from the net on both sides of the court and to the outside lines.
  • A player is only allowed to go into the kitchen when the ball has first bounced in the kitchen or NVZ.
  • The serving side is the only team eligible to earn points, and the pickleball game ends at eleven points, with either team leading by two points. However, if one team is at 11 points and the other is at 10, the game will continue. In this case, the game can stretch to 15 or 21 points before ending. 

Pickleball Terminologies 

Here are some terms that anyone new to pickleball should become familiar with:

Around-The-Post (ATP): When a shot goes outside the net posts and not actually over the net. 

Backhand: When a player hits the ball with the back of the paddle face, with their arm placed across the body. 

Dink: A shot taken with the paddle face open, around the kitchen line, and carefully aiming to land the ball at the opponent’s non-volley zone. 

Rally: The act of hitting the ball back and forth between two teams after the serve. 

Half-volley: When a player takes a shot immediately after the ball has bounced. 

Lob: A shot taken over opponents' heads to drive them back to their baseline. 

Baseline: The line at the end of the court, and it is usually 22 feet away from the net. 

Centreline: This line extends from the non-volley line to the baseline to divide the even service court from the odd service court. 

Nasty Nelson: When a player intentionally aims at hitting the non-receiving player of the opposing team with the ball. 

Ernie: A volley taken close to the net by a player positioned outside the boundary of the non-volley zone. 

History of Pickleball 

The origin of pickleball goes back to the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island - not far from Seattle, Washington, home to Joel Pritchard. Along with his friends, Benny McCallum and Bill Bell, they invented pickleball when they were trying to create a game that could entertain kids and accommodate the whole family. 

Their original plan was to play badminton, but in the absence of a shuttlecock, they made do with a wiffle ball. They then lowered the net and made paddles with plywood. While playing the game, Pritchard’s family dog, Pickle, would chase after the ball and run into the bushes to hide it. Hence, “Pickle’s ball” and later modified into Pickleball. 

Another version of how the sport derived its name states that Pritchard’s wife, Joan, came up with the name, using the idea of Pickle Boat, which consists of spare or borrowed rowers from other crews. This analogy makes sense, considering that pickleball is a sport borrowed from other sports. 

McCallum incorporated Pickleball, Inc in 1972, and since then, the game has kept growing. First, it became a popular family game played in backyards and then became a standard court game with formal rules. There are several pickleball competitions held around the country and the world. Such examples are the U.S Pickleball National Championships, first held in 2008, and the U.S. Open Pickleball Championship since 2016. Pickleball had its first international break in the 2002 Special Olympics when Glendolyn Sanchez-Vicario represented Spain. Fast forward to 2021, the International Federation of Pickleball now consists of 57 member countries worldwide. 

Interested in checking out more news, updates, and products from the world of pickleball? Have a look at our Team Pickleball page and signup for the newsletter!

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