The Basic Pickleball Rules Every Beginner Should Know

Intrigued by pickleball? Yes, same. Fortunately, with courts springing up across the country, there has never been a better time to get into the game. By learning the basic rules of pickleball, as well as a few other fundamentals, anyone can try their hand at the fastest growing sport in the United States and experience what all the fuss is about.

Part of pickleball’s appeal is that it’s pretty beginner-friendly, Landon Uetz, PT, DPT, a physical therapist and certified pickleball coach in Chandler, Arizona, tells himself. And you don’t need experience with other racket sports (like badminton or ping pong) to try it, he says.

In fact, it’s more suitable for beginners since it’s less intense: Compared to tennis, the pickleball court is smaller, the ball doesn’t travel as fast, and the paddle is easier to control. As a result, you don’t have to move as much, there are fewer hand-eye coordination issues, and you can generally sustain longer rallies, or periods where you hit the ball back and forth. Jennie Melin, a certified personal trainer and certified pickleball coach at LifeTime in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, tells SELF.

Another advantage? “It’s really a very attractive community,” says Melin. Most people play doubles, which means there are four people on the court at a time, which can give the sport a social atmosphere. Plus, pickleball is relatively inexpensive—it doesn’t require expensive equipment, and many community parks have outdoor courts where you can play for free.

Pickleball is a great workout to start with, says Melin, as it allows you to move in all directions, challenges your coordination, and often gets your heart rate up. Perhaps most important, however? “It’s so fun,” she says. And chances are, the more you enjoy a workout, the more likely you’ll do it consistently, which means pickleball could become a staple in your fitness routine.

Here’s everything you need to know to get started, including how to play pickleball, basic rules and etiquette to keep in mind, what equipment you need, and how to reduce your risk of injury. Consider this your beginner’s guide to pickleball!

1. Gather your specific essentials.

First up: the oar. You’ll want to choose a pickleball-specific racket (it’s smaller and more rectangular than the one you use in tennis) to ensure it’s legal to play. (Basically, its length cannot exceed 17 inches, and its combined length and width cannot exceed 24 inches.) You can find a pickleball paddle online or at a sporting goods store, Uetz says. You can also rent them at some gyms, Melin says.

Then there are pickleballs, which, unlike tennis balls, are made of non-textured material and have holes in them. There are different variations for indoor and outdoor games, Melin says: Indoor balls have bigger holes than outdoor ones. You can buy them at the same retailers that sell the palettes.

2. Dress the piece.

There is no specific clothing you need for pickleball. “Any type of exercise outfit is fine, as long as you can move easily and feel comfortable,” says Melin. On the shoe front, consider buying court shoes, which are specifically for pickleball or tennis, Melin says. Compared to running or walking shoes, which are designed primarily for forward movement, court shoes withstand action in all directions, especially laterally (side to side). That’s especially important in pickleball, since the sport will get you moving in so many ways.

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