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How to Get Started Playing Pickleball

by Jason Flamm on

I've been asked by a few people recently how they can get started playing pickleball.

So, it got me thinking that maybe I should write an article about it.

This is that article. If you've been wondering how to get started playing pickleball but don't want to look silly asking, this one's for you.

This is pickleball

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It’s played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes – like a Wiffle ball, you may have hit around with a yellow bat as a kid.

It's played on a court that’s about one-third the size of a tennis court. While it was created in the 1960s, pickleball has really grown since COVID in 2020. Each year since, it's steadily gained popularity across the United States and the world.

The game was invented by three dads—Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum—who wanted to create a fun activity for their families. The quirky name "pickleball" is said to have come from the Pritchard family dog, Pickles, who would chase after the ball.

The History of Pickleball and How it Got Its Weird Name
Get to know the history of pickleball, including where it was invented and how it got its weird name.

Today, this once-modest backyard game has grown into a beloved sport for people of all ages and skill levels. It even has multiple pro leagues.

How to Get Better at Pickleball by Watching the Pros Play
One of the best and easiest ways to expand your pickleball skills? By tuning in to the pros.

Perhaps the best part about pickleball is its community. Players often find themselves making new friends and a healthy sense of competition. It's also a fantastic way to stay active.

Understanding the basics

Equipment essentials

To start playing pickleball, you’ll need a few key pieces of equipment:

  • Paddle: Pickleball paddles are smaller than tennis rackets but larger than ping-pong paddles.
  • Ball: The ball used in pickleball is lightweight and perforated, similar to a Wiffle ball. Indoor and outdoor balls have slight differences in size and weight.
  • Court: The standard pickleball court is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, divided into right and left service courts. Courts can be found in public parks, YMCAs, Life Time Fitness centers, and private clubs.

Scoring and rules

Understanding the basic rules and scoring system of pickleball is essential for beginners:

  • Game Play: Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles–doubles is the most common recreational way to play. The game starts with a serve, which must be hit underhand and diagonally to the opponent's service court.
  • Scoring: Points can only be scored by the serving team. Games are typically played to 11 points, and you must win by at least two points.
  • The Non-Volley Zone: One area of the court – the 7 x 20 rectangle on both sides of the net – is called the non-volley zone (or more casually, the kitchen). It's a very unique part of pickleball and you'll learn the rules of the kitchen as you play.
Never Fall for These Five Fake Pickleball Rules
Pickleball rules can be confusing, and it doesn’t help when people make up their own. We’ve got a handful of “rules” you may have heard of that aren’t actually a thing.

Of course, there's a lot more to pickleball than that, but that's enough to hopefully get you on the court and smacking the ball around.

Getting started playing pickleball

Because so many people are playing pickleball these days, finding places to play is fairly simple. Here are some ways to get started.

Find local courts

One of the first steps to getting started with pickleball is finding a place to play. Many local community centers, gyms, and parks offer pickleball courts. You can use online resources and apps to locate the nearest courts in your area. You can also join Facebook Groups that share places to play.

If someplace has (or had) tennis courts, there's a great chance they now have pickleball.

Join a club

Joining a pickleball club is a great way to meet other players and improve your skills. Clubs often host regular games, clinics, and events. Don’t be intimidated if you’re a beginner—clubs are welcoming environments where you can learn at your own pace.

One of the best ways to meet new players or find players with similar skills is to join 'Open Play.' These group play sessions are often held at clubs at various times throughout the week.

Set up your own game

If you prefer to play more casually, you can set up a pickleball game at a local park. Grab a friend who might also be interested – or who just wants to do something active and fun, and hop on the court. You can learn the rules as you go.

And, there's a great chance there will already be players there who can show you the ropes.

Staying safe and injury-free

Warm-up exercises

Warming up before playing pickleball can help prevent injuries. Simple stretches and light cardio exercises, such as jogging or jumping jacks, can prepare your muscles for the game.

How to Properly Warm Up Your Body and Mind Before Taking the Pickleball Court
Eating properly, planning ahead and preparing your mind and body for an intense day of pickleball can go a long way to on-court success, writes our Eric Roddy.

Proper footwear

Wearing appropriate footwear is essential for safety and performance. Pickleball shoes should provide good support, traction, and stability to handle quick lateral movements.

The Differences Between Tennis and Pickleball Court Shoes
Don’t think you need pickleball specific shoes while playing? We highlight the differences between tennis and pickleball footwear.

Injury prevention tips

  • Hydrate: Keep yourself hydrated throughout the game.
  • Rest: Listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
  • Technique: Use proper techniques to avoid strain on your joints and muscles.
Seven Critical Recovery Methods for Pickleball Players
Do you take your physical recovery seriously after a tough day of pickleball? We share some methods to bouncing back and some products that could help in the process.

Grow your game

Improve your skills

Because pickleball is so accessible, it's easy to get better quickly. All it takes is some practice, experience, and finding ways to improve continuously. You can do that by watching tutorial videos or taking lessons from experienced players or coaches.

There are some amazing content creators in pickleball, here are a few of our favorites:

Participate in tournaments

Once you feel confident in your skills, participating in local tournaments can be a fun and rewarding experience. Tournaments offer a chance to challenge yourself and meet other passionate players.

You can find tournaments near you on Bounce.

How to Find The Dink Minor League Tournaments Near You
Want to play in Major League Pickleball-style events near you? Check out our guide on how to find The Dink Minor League events in your area.

Join the community

Staying engaged with the pickleball community can keep you motivated. Follow pickleball news, join online forums, and attend local events to stay connected.

The PicklePod is the number one pickleball podcast – it's also produced by The Dink, so we're a bit biased.


Pickleball is an exciting and accessible sport that offers numerous benefits, from physical fitness to social connections. Whether you’re playing for fun or aiming to compete, the world of pickleball has something for everyone.

Just be warned - this will probably become your new addiction.

Sorry, not sorry.

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Jason Flamm

Jason Flamm

Jason is a writer from St. Louis. He’s been a coach in several sports and is currently working on his pickleball coaching certification. He loves to teach and share his passions.

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