Pickleball: The Beginner’s Guide to America’s Fastest-Growing Sport

The Allure of Pickleball

Pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in America, has piqued the interest of many. With courts sprouting up across the country, there has never been a better time to get into the game. What makes pickleball so enticing is its beginner-friendly nature. Landon Uetz, a certified pickleball coach, points out that you don’t need any experience with racquet sports to give it a try. Unlike tennis, pickleball is less intense, with a smaller court and a slower ball. The paddle is also easier to control, resulting in longer rallies and less hand-eye coordination challenges. Jennie Melin, a certified personal trainer, adds that pickleball also fosters a sense of community. With most people playing doubles, the sport has a social vibe. Plus, it’s relatively affordable, as it requires minimal equipment and many parks offer free outdoor courts. As Melin explains, pickleball is not only fun but also a great workout that challenges your coordination and keeps you moving in all directions.

Gather Your Essentials

To get started with pickleball, you’ll need a pickleball-specific paddle and balls. The paddle must meet certain length and width requirements to be legal for play. You can easily find a pickleball paddle online, at sporting goods stores, or even rent one at fitness facilities. Pickleball balls are made of non-textured material and have holes. Different variations of balls exist for indoor and outdoor games, with indoor balls having larger holes. You can purchase these balls at retailers that sell pickleball paddles.

Dress the Part

When it comes to clothing, there is no specific attire required for pickleball. Any comfortable workout attire that allows easy movement will do. However, if you want to invest in pickleball-specific shoes, look for court shoes designed for pickleball or tennis. Court shoes provide better lateral support and grip, which is important for the multidirectional movement required in pickleball. If you’re just starting out, regular athletic sneakers will suffice. However, if you plan on playing regularly, consider purchasing a pair of pickleball shoes from major footwear brands like K-Swiss, Asics, or Sketchers.

Finding a Court and Familiarizing Yourself with It

To play pickleball, you need access to a court. Luckily, pickleball courts are popping up everywhere, from community centers to dedicated pickleball facilities. Use online search tools or court finders to discover pickleball courts near you. Familiarize yourself with the court layout, which consists of a rectangular shape divided by a net. The boundaries of the court are the baseline and the sideline. Additionally, there is a non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, located seven feet from the net on both sides.

Learning the Basic Rules of Pickleball

Before stepping onto the court, it’s essential to understand the basic rules of pickleball. In doubles play, which is the most common format, two players are on each side. To determine who serves first, a coin flip can be used. The server and their teammate start behind the baseline, while the opposing team stands at their baseline and kitchen line. The serve in pickleball is underhand, and there are two ways to execute it: the drop serve or the toss serve.

After the serve, the opposing team must let the ball bounce once before hitting it back. This double bounce rule applies until the opponents can return the ball across the net. However, if a player is standing in the kitchen, they must let the ball bounce before hitting it. Only the serving team can score points, and they do so by winning a rally. Points are earned when the opposing team commits a fault by hitting the ball out of bounds, hitting it into the net, allowing it to bounce twice, hitting it out of the air while standing in the kitchen, or getting hit by the ball. The first team to reach 11 points, with a two-point advantage, wins the game.

Warming Up and Following Etiquette

Before diving into a game, it’s crucial to warm up to reduce the risk of injury. Simple exercises like jogging in place, jumping jacks, lateral lunges, and forward lunges can get your heart rate up and prepare your body for the physical demands of pickleball. Additionally, incorporating resistance training into your routine can help prevent overuse injuries. Aim for two strength-training sessions per week, focusing on squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling, and pressing movements.

To ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience on the court, follow basic pickleball etiquette. Use a “paddles-up/open-play” system to determine who gets the court next. Avoid hogging the ball in doubles play and maintain a competitive but kind attitude towards your partner and opponents. Offer positive feedback and only give advice if someone asks for your opinion. Lastly, be courteous when calling balls in or out of bounds, always erring on the side of calling them in if you’re unsure.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

If you’re new to pickleball and feeling nervous, it can be beneficial to work with a coach or take an intro to pickleball course. Coaches can provide guidance and help you acclimate to the game and its rules. Once you’ve gained some confidence, set aside time for regular pickleball games. Many players find themselves hooked, as the sport is incredibly fun and addictive. As Jennie Melin suggests, you may start with the intention of playing for a certain amount of time but end up extending your play session because of the sheer enjoyment pickleball brings.

Whether you’re a novice or looking for a new sport to add to your fitness routine, pickleball offers an accessible and enjoyable experience. With the right equipment, understanding of the rules, and a positive attitude, you can dive into the world of pickleball and enjoy the benefits it offers. So grab a paddle, find a court, and let the games begin!

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