How Do You Play The Game Pickleball? The Complete Guide!

One of the highlights every summer when going to our house on the beach is playing pickleball with our kids. It is an easy game to pick up since the beginning, and is so much fun to play.

Wait , you don’t know how to play? Keep reading, game is on!

How do you play the game pickleball? Pickleball is a paddle sport played with a perforated ball and with a net similar to the one used in tennis. The size of the court is the same as the ones used in badminton. The paddle is solid, similar in shape to a ping pong paddle, but bigger in size. It can be played as doubles or individually.

If you are curious about the sport and want to know the basics to start playing soon, I will help you out with this article.

Do you want to get started now? Check this article where we talk about all you need to start playing.

Playing Pickleball

As we said before, pickleball is a discipline reasonably easy to start practicing.

In the following list you will find 10 easy steps to understand the game of pickleball:

  1. Solid paddle, similar to ping pong, but bigger.
  2. Perforated ball, similar to a wiffle ball.
  3. Net similar to tennis.
  4. Court same size as badminton.
  5. It can be played individually or as doubles.
  6. The games are played normally to 11, but in tournaments the games can go to 15 or 21 points. The winner must win by 2 points difference.
  7. Serving must be done under hand.
  8. Points go to the team that is serving, and occur when the opponent fails to play without committing a fault.
  9. Non volley zone: it is the area where no volleying is permitted. It covers 7 foot or 2,1m on both sides of the net. This rule was created so players are not able to smash from a position within the zone.
  10. Double bounce rule: when a team is receiving the ball from the serve, they should play the ball off bounce, letting the ball bounce first. Likewise, when the serving team receives the ball back again, they must let it bounce before returning it. Only after that, the teams can start volleying.

How do You Keep Score in Pickleball?

Although the game itself is not very complicated, sometimes it can get a bit confusing, especially when it comes to keeping the score. I have seen several arguments over so many different aspects of the whole scoring topic that I would like to make an easy guide to clarify things up.

  • No score call must be done after the server begins the motion when serving.
  • The entire score must be called before the server begins his or her service motion.
  • If a player is serving from an incorrect position, his or her team can be faulted until the next service. Consequently, all the points before that fault will stand, but a point scored during that rally won’t be counting.
  • A player can’t start the motion for service until the score has been entirely called. This is known as “readiness”

There are some signals that the players can use to show that they are not ready:

Server Receiver
Raising paddle above head Raising paddle above head
Raising the non-paddle above head Raising the non-paddle above head
Turning back completely to the server

– These signals don’t apply to the receiver’s or the server’s teammate.

– The receiver can’t call that is not ready once the score has been called, for the exception of a valid hinder. In this case a player or a team out of position won’t be a valid hinder.

  • Therefore, the referee will only call the score when the receiver is completely ready. This rule doesn’t apply to the receiver’s partner when playing doubles.
  • In order to promote the flow of the game and to avoid intended delays, pickleball has the 10 second rule.
  • The server has 10 seconds to serve the ball since the referee determines that the receiver is entirely ready and in position to receive the ball. If there is no serve after the 10 seconds, the server will incur in a fault.
  • Time-outs can be called before the server begins the motion.

Depending on the score, there is a side of the court assigned for serving and receiving.

The following table will hopefully help you get a clear idea:

Even (0,2,4…) Right Left
Odd (1,3,5…) Left Right

Until a rally is lost or a fault is called to the server’s team, the server will be alternating service sides after each point is won.

In other words, the server from the serving team will be alternating positions as long as her or his team keep winning points.

On the other hand, the team that is receiving, does not switch positions when a point is won by the team that serves.

Along the rally, there is no limitations for both partners to alternate positions. But after the point is finished, both should be returning to their correct positions, according to the table I made above.

4.B.7. Partner Positions. In doubles, there is no restriction on the position of the partners of the server and receiver as long as they are on their respective team’s side of the net. They can be positioned on or off the court.

Server can ask “Am I the correct server?”

Receiver can ask to confirm the score.

Players may not ask if they are in the correct position.

4.F. Scoring. A singles player or doubles team scores points only when serving. Points may also be scored when technical fouls are called against the opposing side

Whether if you are playing individually or as doubles, points are scored by the team who is serving. If the receiving team gets a fault, a point may be also scored for the serving team.

The team scoring first the winning points -11,15 or 21- wins.

In pickleball there is a sequence to be followed by referees when calling the score in matches. It differs slightly from singles to doubles.


  1. Server score.
  2. Receiver score.

Example: “one-zero”


  1. Serving team’s score.
  2. Receiving team’s score.
  3. Server number (one or two).

Example: “one-zero-one”

If a wrong score is called -it may be called by the server or the referee-, any player can stop play. It should be done before returning a serve in order to get a possible correction

If the score call was incorrect, itl will be corrected and there won’t be no penalty for any party.

In the other hand, if a player asks for a wrong score call correction and the score call was indeed correct, the player will get a fault, losing the rally.

4.K.2. A player who stops play after the serve when there is no error in the score will have committed a fault and shall lose the rally.

Is Pickleball Easy to Learn?

It is widely assumed that pickleball is an easy to learn sport. Some even go further: a beginner could be playing long rallies only 30 minutes after trying it for the first time.

I am not sure if I would go to that extent, but it is obvious that pickleball is a simple sport, easy to start playing. And that is the key to its popularity.

Since its origins, pickleball was meant to be a social sport, accessible to anyone. We can see people of all ages playing the sport:

  • Senior players. Because of the size of the court, players don’t have to move around as much and yet getting good exercise, which is why many older people like to play it.
  • Young players and adults: as other games like ping pong, pickleball can get very intense due to a short reaction time when playing at a high intensity. This will make for a good challenge for players that are thirsty for competition.

The game of pickleball is a slowed down version of tennis which stresses control, patience, and strategy rather than strength or speed.

Whereas the learning curve from other sports – tennis for example- is less steep at the beginning, in pickleball is easier to get a decent service down or a swing within the first approaches to the sport.

Pickleball may be easier to learn due to 2 main factors:

  • The size of the court is small. This allows players to easily reach almost the entirety of the court at ease.
  • Simplicity of rules. Although there are many particularities when playing official tournaments, in general the rules in pickleball are rather simple.

Last but not least, there is a major factor somehow related to learn pickleball: it is a cheap sport. Whereas other sports’ equipment are more expensive, you can get a set of paddles and a ball for 30-50 dollars.

Finding a place to play is quite easy as well, as you can find courts in recreational centers, gyms or even in parks. There are websites like the USAPA in the USA or the club locator from the UK Pickleball site that will help you find the nearest court in the area.

All those factors combined make the sport more attractive and increase the amount of hours players spend practicing.

What is the Objective of Pickleball?

As well as in the majority of sports, the main objective of the game of pickleball is to score more points than the opponent.

By using solid paddles of wood or other materials, the player tries to hit a ball similar to a wiffle ball over a net to the other side of the court.

The sport combines elements and characteristics of other games like badminton, tennis and table tennis.

However, pickleball can be used with other objectives,such as the following:

  • Introduction to other racquet/paddle sports. Due to its simplicity, pickleball can be used for introductory purposes when approaching more complex sports.
  • Educational purposes. The game of pickleball can be played regardless of age, sex, strength, or athletic skills. Pickleball also helps students to learn about decision-making and teamwork. Therefore, it is a good discipline that enables the successful participation in a racquet/paddle sport.
  • Inclusion. Pickleball is a popular choice to bring disabled people to racquet/paddle sports. The possibility of being easily played by people of all ages also makes pickleball a good sport for inclusion.
  • Training purposes for other sports. Some instructors use pickleball to develop hand-eye coordination and in game strategy.

Is Pickleball Easier than Tennis?

Yes, pickleball is easier than tennis. In fact, one of the purposes of the sport in its origins was to be a familiar game.

Therefore, the rules and the whole game were created so anybody could easily pick a paddle and start enjoying the game in a matter of minutes.

But, are there any reasons behind that statement? In order to answer the question, we are going to list arguments that support our theory.

5 Reasons Why Pickleball is Easier than Tennis

  • #1 The Size Of The Net. The net in tennis is stretched across the full width of a tennis court, which is 27 feet (8,23m) for singles and 36 feet (10,97m) for doubles. In pickleball, the net length must be at least 20 feet (6,1m) extending from one side to another, being the same size for both singles and doubles.
    The fact that the net is 7 feet shorter makes easier for the players to reach more balls throughout the game. Therefore, the chances to make “finishing” shots are way lower in pickleball than in tennis.
  • #2 The Non-volley Zone. In pickleball, there is an area where it is not allowed to volley. The non-volley zone decrease the probability of making smashes, thus making it easier for the receiver to hit the ball back. On the other hand, in tennis getting a smash from the net typically leads to a point in most of the cases.
  • #3 The Serve. In tennis, you can actually win points on the serve. In pickleball, this rarely ever happens and on the pro level, it almost never happens.Like I mentioned in the list at the beginning of the article, you’re not allowed to serve the ball overhand in pickleball. You instead have to hit it underhanded.Considering this and considering that the ball is light and perforated, the serve in pickleball isn’t powerful enough to get aces. Instead, players tend to focus on ball placement rather than power.
  • #4 Muscle Memory Factor. Directly related to motor learning, the muscle memory is the ability of our muscles to learn certain motor function, usually through repetition over time. In tennis, the muscle memory is proven to be harder to develop that in other racquet/paddle sports as in this case, the pickleball.
  • #5 Conditioning. Due especially to the size of the court, pickleball is a less condition demanding sport. On the other hand, tennis at a medium-high level can be highly demanding, not only for the strokes, but for the legs work.

What is a Smash in Pickleball?

A smash in pickleball is perhaps one of the most difficult pickleball moves to master, and certainly one of the most aggressives. The overhead smash involves hitting a ball over your head and down into your opponent’s court with force.

Normally, we use smashes in pickleball when getting high balls -lob for example-. These balls allow us to hit the ball downward using the leverage of a full arm extension and wrist snap (or pronation)

Steps to Make a Proper Smash in Pickleball

  1. Turn to a side on position , raise your paddle to shoulder height.
  2. Get behind the ball and extend your paddle over your head at full extension.
  3. When the ball is at the highest point, switch your weight from your back foot to your front foot, and make contact. with a final wrist snap downwards.

Here are some more Tips:

  • Keep your eye on the ball, and try not to aim too close to the lines.
  • Don’t execute the shot when running backwards.
  • Don’t hesitate.

Hi, I'm Simon, and I am passionate about "other sports".

There are many other (and much more fun!) sports than football, soccer and hockey.

If you are looking for inspiration beyond the most popular sports in the world, then you have come to the right place.


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