What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a racket/paddle sport that combines features of numerous different racket sports. A perforated polymer ball is hit over a net by two or four players using solid paddles. The ball has 26–40 spherical holes, similar to a Wiffle ball. Pickleball is played on a court similar to badminton, with a tennis-style net and paddles similar to those used in table tennis.
Pickleball was created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, as a backyard pastime for kids and was designated as Washington’s official state sport in 2022.
The popularity of the sport in community centers, physical education programs, public parks, private health clubs, YMCA facilities, and retirement communities is credited with its spread. There are thousands of pickleball competitions across the United States, including the United States Pickleball National Titles, the United States Open Pickleball Championship, Major League Pickleball, and other foreign championships.
(Barney and Carol McCallum)
The game was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, at Joel Pritchard’s vacation house. Pritchard later served in the US Congress and as Washington’s lieutenant governor. The game was created and established by Pritchard and two of his pals, Barney McCallum and Bill Bell.
“The name of the game became Pickle Ball after I stated it reminded me of the Pickle Boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the remnants of other boats,” Joan Pritchard, Joel Pritchard’s wife, said.
According to other versions, the word “pickleball” was taken from the Pritchards’ family dog, Pickles. According to the Pritchards, the dog arrived after the game had already been named, and it was the dog that was given the name pickleball. They claimed the misunderstanding began when a writer interviewing the Pritchards in the early 1970s felt that a dog would be easier for readers to relate to than a pickle boat. According to USA Pickleball, their research has revealed that the dog Pickles was born after the game had already been named.
The writers of History of Pickleball; More Than 50 Years of Fun!, Jennifer Lucore and Beverly Youngren, were unable to determine whether the game was named after the dog or the dog was named after the game. They did, however, uncover a third option. Bill Bell claimed that he named the game after the fact that he enjoyed hitting the ball in such a way that it would catch his opponent off guard.
Pickleball In Hawaii
Pickleball was carried to Hawaii by some of the inventors and their friends shortly after it was invented, and the game was dubbed pukaball. Puka, which means hole in Hawaiian, was originally used to refer to the ball because pickleballs are covered in holes, but it later came to be associated with the game.
Inventing the Game
Joel (front) and Frank Pritchard
When Pritchard and Bell returned after a Saturday day of golf in 1965, their families were bored. They attempted to set up badminton, but the shuttlecock was nowhere to be found. Pritchard and Bell tasked their children with creating their own game. Adults and children alike arrived at the badminton court and began trying with various balls and rackets, including table tennis paddles. To accommodate driving the ball, the 5 foot (1.5 metre) badminton net was eventually lowered to hip level.
A Wiffle ball was initially thought to be the ideal ball, but the Cosom Fun Ball was later discovered to be more durable and provide a better playing experience.
The table tennis paddles were shortly replaced with larger, more durable plywood paddles made in a neighboring shed.
In his father’s Seattle basement studio, McCallum proceeded to experiment with various paddle designs.
One paddle, which he dubbed the “M2,” or McCallum 2, became the go-to paddle for most of the game’s early players.
Pickleball quickly gained popularity among local residents and the founders’ families. Pickle Ball, Inc. was founded in 1968 by Pritchard, McCallum’s son David, and two other friends. Around the same time as they trademarked the name Pickle-ball, the company submitted its first annual report in 1972. To meet demand for the sport, the company produced wooden paddles and pickleball kits. Pickleball grew in popularity, spreading from the Pacific Northwest to warmer climates as “snowbirds” introduced the sport south to Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Florida.
Explosive Growth – Millions of Players
Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle and proprietor of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, co-hosts the US Pickleball National Championships, which have been held near Palm Springs, California since 2018.
They had previously performed in Arizona between 2009 and 2017. The competition is overseen by the United States of America Pickleball Association, which was founded in 1984 and reincorporated in 2005 with a new rule book. The U.S. Open Pickleball Championships began in 2016 in Naples, Florida, another pickleball hotspot. Active gamers are expected to number 3.3 million in 2019, up 10% from 2016. The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) had 58 member countries as of 2021.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the sport increased in popularity as an outside alternative to indoor activities. According to a poll conducted by the Sport and Fitness Industry Association, the number of Americans who began playing pickleball in 2020 increased by 21.3 percent. With 4.8 million active players, it was dubbed one of the country’s “fastest-growing sports.” The International Federation of Pickleball had 70 member nations by March 2022, but eleven countries had resigned their memberships by April, bringing the overall number of member nations to 59.
In 2022, the state legislature designated pickleball as Washington’s official state sport. Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill on the original Pritchard family court, where the sport was invented.
Specifics of the game
A pickleball court’s dimensions
One 26–hole pickleball (blue) and one 40–hole pickleball on a pickleball paddle (yellow). The court is the same size as a doubles badminton court, measuring 20 feet (6.1 m) by 44 feet (13 m) for both doubles and singles. Pickleball’s front service line is seven feet from the net, six inches longer than the front service line in badminton. The non-volley line, sometimes known as the “kitchen line,” is the front service line in pickleball, whereas the baseline is the back service line. The non-volley zone, or “kitchen,” is defined as the region surrounded by the non-volley line, sidelines, and net, including the lines. The centerline divides the court into right and left service courts, running from the non-volley line to the baseline. Except for the non-volley line, which is part of the non-volley zone, each service court comprises the lines encompassing that service court.
The net measures 36 inches (0.91 m) at the ends and 34 inches (0.86 m) at the middle. From the interior of one post to the inside of the other, the net posts should be 22 feet (6.7 m) apart.
When the game was first invented, the ball used was a wiffle ball. The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) and USA Pickleball (USAP) have since approved pickleball-specific ball standards. Balls must be constructed of a sturdy, smooth-surfaced molded material with between 26 and 40 equally spaced round holes. They must weigh between.78 and.935 ounces (22.1 and 26.5 g) and have a diameter of 2.87 to 2.97 inches (73 and 75 mm). Tournaments sanctioned by the USAP and IFP must select from a list of preapproved balls available on the websites of the USAP and IFP.
Outside play often uses balls with smaller holes to reduce the impact of wind, however any sanctioned ball can be used for either indoor or outdoor play.
For games that are sanctioned The aggregate length and width of the paddle must not exceed 24 inches (0.61 m), and the length must not exceed 17 inches, according to USAP and IFP paddle size requirements (0.43 m). There are no specifications for thickness or weight. The paddle must be composed of a noncompressible material and have a smooth surface without any texturing. Paddles used in sanctioned competitions must be on the USAP and IFP websites’ list of preapproved paddles.
Any technique is appropriate for choosing which team or person will serve first, as well as which side of the net each team or player will be on.
Serving and announcing the score
The official in charge of the match announces the score before each serve. The server announces the score if the match is not officiated.
Doubles: In doubles, the score is broken down into three parts: the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and the server number, which is either a “1” or a “2” depending on whether the server is the serving team’s first or second server. The game’s first server is always considered the serving team’s second server, thus the server number may be referred to as “start” or “2.” In doubles, the starting score is declared as “zero zero start” or “zero zero two.”
Singles: There are just two parts to a singles score: the serving player’s score and the receiving player’s score. “Zero zero” is always announced as the starting score in singles.
The game’s first serving server makes the first serve from their team’s right service court, also known as the even service court. Serves are always made to their opponent’s diagonal crosscourt. The right service court of one team is likewise the right service court of the opposing team. The left, or odd, service court is the polar opposite.
The Two Bounce Rule
A serve must land on the opponent’s side of the net on the diagonal service court (see “service in” diagram). Before returning the ball to the server’s side of the net, the serve receiver must allow it to bounce once. The serving side must allow the ball to bounce once after the receiver has returned it over the net before returning it to the non-serving side. The two-bounce rule is what it’s called. 
Any side may volley the ball after the first two returns; return the ball before it bounces. Before the ball is returned, it can never bounce more than once. While standing in the non-volley zone or touching any of the lines surrounding the non-volley zone, no player is allowed to volley the ball.
Play continues until their team commits a fault, a server continues to serve, alternating between the right and left service courts.
Doubles: The side serving first is only allowed one error before their side is “out,” or a side–out, and the serve is passed to their opponent. After the game’s first side–out, each team is permitted two faults before a side–out is called, allowing each member on a doubles team to serve before the serve is passed to the other team. From where their partner left off, the second server on a team must continue alternating between the right and left service courts. If their partner’s last serve came from the right service court, for example, the second server must begin serving from the left service court. After a side–out, the initial serve is always made from the right serving area.
In singles, a side-out is called if the serving side makes a mistake. The serving player must serve from the right, or even, service court if their score is zero or even. Otherwise, they must serve from the service court on the left, or odd. The initial serve after a side-out can come from either the right or left service court, depending on the current score.
The game is won by the first team to score 11 points while leading by at least two points.
Players rotate sides at 6, 8, or 11 total points in tournament games, which can be played to 11, 15, or 21 points.
Pickleball uses side-out scoring, which means that only the serving side can score. Each time the non-serving team makes a mistake, the serving team receives one point. When the serving team makes a mistake, neither team receives a point. When a side-out happens, the two scores are inverted since the serving side’s score is always called first, followed by the receiving side’s score. If a doubles team faults with a score of “five three two” (two denoting second server), the opposing team becomes the new serving team with a score of “three five one.”
The server must serve the ball to the opponent’s diagonal service court from behind the baseline on one side of the center line. A volley serve or a drop serve are the two types of serves allowed.
When a ball is struck by the server’s paddle without touching the ground, the ball must be served with an underarm stroke, with contact with the ball made below the waist in an upward arc and the highest point on the paddle head below the wrist. The navel level is considered the waist level.
No further restrictions apply when a ball is dropped to the ground and allowed to bounce before being struck by the server’s paddle, save that the ball cannot be tossed or propelled in any way by the server.
There are no rules specifying where each player must stand when the serve is initiated, save for the server, but serve receivers typically begin behind the baseline until they know where the serve will bounce. Typically, the receiver’s partner begins along the kitchen line. Typically, the server’s partner waits behind the baseline with the server until they know where the first service return will bounce.
It is vital for each player to remember their game starting position when serving and receiving a serve. Faults include serving from the incorrect side of the court, serving from the wrong side of the court, and returning a serve to the wrong player.
When serving from the right service court, a team’s score should always be an even number, and when serving from the left service court, it should be an odd number. In the case of a team’s non-starting server, the opposite is true.
Singles: When serving from the right service court, a server’s score will always be even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) and odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9…) when serving from the left service court.
The non-volley zone is a section of the court that is not used for volleyball. While standing in the non-volley zone or touching any of the lines surrounding the non-volley zone, no player may volley a ball. A player may enter the non-volley zone to play a bounced ball and may remain there to play further bounced balls, but before playing a volley, the player must re-establish both feet outside the non-volley zone (See the highlighted area in the “Service out” diagram).
The rally: faults
A rally continues after the serve until one side commits a fault, resulting in a dead ball.
The following are some of the faults:
When the wrong server delivers the ball, or when the ball is served from the wrong side of the court, either of the server’s feet step over or touch the baseline, or they are outside the imaginary midline or sideline extensions. avoiding serving into the diagonal service court of the opponent volleying the ball when returning a serve volleying the ball when returning the first service return not hitting the ball beyond the net not hitting the ball before it bounces twice on one side of the net hitting the ball out of bounds stepping into the non-volley zone, or touching the non-volley line, in the act of volleying the ball touching the net with any body part, clothing, paddle, or assistance device touching the net with any body part, clothing, paddle, or assistance device.
Variations in the rules
Because the game is still relatively new, rule changes are common. A “net serve” that hits the top of the net and landing in the proper service court is no longer replayed, according to a rule change introduced in 2021. The prior regulation on a “let serve” was adapted from tennis, which requires a “let” call to be replayed at all times.
Para Pickleball – Accessibility
In 2016, USA Pickleball recognized para pickleball, also known as adaptable pickleball or wheelchair pickleball, as a competitive branch of pickleball. Wheelchair users must follow the same rules as everyone else, with a few exceptions. The wheelchair of a player is considered part of the player’s body, therefore any rules that apply to the body also apply to the wheelchair. A wheelchair pickleball player is permitted two bounces instead of one. When a wheelchair player serves the ball, he or she must remain in a stationary position. After that, they get one more push before hitting the ball for service. The wheelchair wheels shall not touch any baseline, sideline, center line, or extended center or sideline when the player strikes the ball. When there are both wheelchair and standing players in a game, each player must follow their own set of regulations. Standing pickleball players must follow standing pickleball regulations, while wheelchair pickleball players must follow wheelchair pickleball rules.
Status on the international stage
Pickleball is not currently an Olympic sport, nor is it represented in the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), however there are two pickleball federations that serve as regulating organizations for various countries:
The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) was founded by the USA Pickleball Association in 2010 and had 63 national members as of May 2022.
At the end of March 2022, the IFP had 70 member states, but a controversy inside the organization caused 7 of the 8 full member nations and 2 associate member nations to depart, including USA Pickleball.
The World Pickleball Federation (WPF) was founded in 2018 and has 34 member countries as of April 2022.
Pickleball is being considered for inclusion as an Olympic sport, possibly as a demonstration sport, by both the IFP and the WPF. The IFP is focusing its efforts on the summer games in Paris in 2024 or Los Angeles in 2028. According to Sports Illustrated, the game will most likely not be featured at the Olympics until 2032.
The International Federation of Pickleball established the annual Bainbridge Cup in 2017, named after the location where pickleball was invented. It was the first intercontinental team competition in the sport’s history. The first edition of the tournament was held in Madrid, Spain, and pitted North America against Europe. As the sport rises in popularity, more continents/teams are expected to participate. The Bainbridge Cup is awarded to the victorious team. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the Bainbridge Cup events in 2020 and 2021.
Pickleball Around the World
The World Pickleball Federation had planned to hold the first World Pickleball Games in May 2022 in Austin, Texas, but the games have been postponed until 2023 owing to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The World Pickleball Games are designed to serve as a model for future Olympic pickleball competitions.
Controversy over noise
A sharp popping sound can be heard when the hard pickleball paddle meets the hard ball. Pickleball court owners and other surrounding property owners have clashed about the continual noises during play. Pickleball’s quick surge in popularity has sparked a fierce response in many places.
Despite having just erected new pickleball courts five months prior, one park in the Portland metropolitan region had to impose a pickleball ban in September 2020. Residents living near the pickleball courts complained that the noise from the courts made it impossible to have a discussion inside their homes. Despite the ban, people continued to utilize the pickleball courts the following year. One neighboring resident told the West Linn City Council in June 2021 that the noise had made family gatherings “wrought with dissension and physically painful stress.” The noise was described as “trauma-inducing” by at least one resident.
Sports that are similar
Pickleball is played on a hard surface, the most popular of which is a cement base with a specific acrylic covering. Sandy Pickle, a modified variation of pickleball designed to be played on sand and grass, was introduced in 2021. Sandy Pickle is played with normal pickleball paddles and balls, but because bouncing is impossible on sand and grass, the basic pickleball rules have been modified to allow for an all-volley version of the game. A rules comparison between pickleball and Sandy Pickle can be found at Rule Comparison.