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What is Pickleball and Why is it So Popular?

Pickleball racquets and balls on a pickleball court

There’s a new sport in town—and it’s taking over courts near and far. It’s called pickleball, and if you’ve never heard of it or seen it played, you will soon. A cousin to tennis, it involves players, racquets, and nets, but it’s easier to play and easier on your body. From where it originated to the easy-to-follow rules, read all about it below.

When Did Pickleball Become a Sport?

It all started in 1965 as an idea between three fathers in Bainbridge Island, Washington, to keep their kids entertained. Now, it’s morphed into a viral sport for professionals and amateurs alike.

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

The unique name “pickleball” has two different origin stories. The first (and most common) is that it’s named after one of the founders’ dogs, Pickles. The second is that one of the founders’ wives laughed at the hodge-podge game and said it reminded her of the tradition of “pickle boat races” at some universities.

What Is Pickleball, Anyway?

Pickleball is equal parts of all your favorite racquet sports—tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It’s played with pickleball paddles a bit larger than those used for ping-pong, and a plastic ball with holes, about the size of a Wiffle ball, on a badminton-sized court with a modified, low tennis net dividing it in two.

Man laughing while playing double in a pickleball game

It can be played singles or doubles, though the game’s social nature lends itself perfectly to doubles. A healthy activity, pickleball allows players to engage in a little friendly competition with new workout partners, old friends, or family members, which can stimulate both mental and physical well-being.

Why Is Pickleball  So Popular?

Because of the low-impact and accessible gameplay, pickleball was first a popular hobby among older crowds. The smaller pickleball court dimensions and ball size make for a less intense game than tennis or badminton, while still being a workout and a good way to get out, breathe fresh air, and get healthy

The firm ball doesn’t bounce as far or fast as a tennis or badminton ball, so you’re less likely to risk injury chasing after it. Plus, the smaller court means the ball stays close, and you don’t have to reach too far to hit it.

Today, people of all ages and activity levels play the sport. The social aspect, affordability, and minimal equipment requirements are huge selling points, but overall, it’s just fun!

What Are Important Pickleball Terms?

While pickleball is as easy to play as it is to pick up, newbies should know a few terms before heading to their nearest court. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Serve: The first hit of the game that begins play.
  • Volley: The pass-and-return action of hitting the ball back and forth between two teams or two players, keeping it off the ground.
  • Double-bounce rule: Pickleball rule that the ball must bounce once on each side before players can begin volleying.
  • Fault: A mistake made during gameplay.
  • The Kitchen: A non-volley zone between the net and the service zones. Players may not volley or serve in the Kitchen.
  • Service zone: One half of each court behind the kitchen where players must be standing to serve and volley.

Pickleball Rules: Here’s How You Play

With paddles, a ball, court, and players ready, you’re set to play! First, either two players—for singles—or four players—for doubles—position themselves on either side of the center net. Then, follow these steps to start a game:

Step 1: A player positioned in the rightmost service zone begins play by serving the ball. Each serve is done underhand, below waist level, which makes the ball fly diagonally across the court. Players must always serve from behind the baseline.

Step 2: The receiving player lets the ball bounce once before hitting the ball in return. The ball must then bounce once more in the starting team’s play zone before they hit it back. Allowing the ball to bounce once on each side before players can begin volleying is the double-bounce rule.

Step 3: Once a player serves the ball and follows the double-bounce rule, players volley the ball back and forth. Continue  hitting the pickleball ball from the air or let it bounce once before striking it back until someone either misses or faults.

Top Rules to Remember for Scoring

Pickleball scoring consists of playing up to 11 points and winning two out of three matches. You must win by at least two points. Keep the following in mind:

  1. Call out the score prior to serving.
  2. Points can only be scored by the team that served the ball.
  3. Teams switch sides after each point is scored, so each player rotates service zones.

Gear Up and Play Some Pickleball! 

With pickleball becoming more popular over the years, it will continue to attract players of all ages to compete in this low impact sport. With its origins as a simple idea to entertain children, it has evolved into a viral sport enjoyed by professionals and amateurs alike. Offering accessibility and a social atmosphere, pickleball provides a unique and enjoyable experience for players on the courts.


When Did Pickleball Become a Sport?

Pickleball became a sport in the mid-1960s, and it has gained significant popularity ever since. If you're interested in joining this trending sport, simply search for "pickleball lessons near me" to start your journey and get moving!

Can Pickleball Be Played as Singles?

Yes, pickleball can be played as singles. Playing pickleball as singles allows individuals to enjoy the sport individually, enhancing their skills and strategy.

Whether you're looking for pickleball singles matches or lessons, explore local options to get started and experience the excitement of playing pickleball solo.

What Muscles Does Pickleball Work?

Pickleball is a sport that involves several muscles, including the legs, arms, shoulders, and core. It provides a great full-body workout, making it an excellent choice for fitness enthusiasts.

Where is Pickleball Most Popular?

Pickleball is most popular in the United States, especially in retirement communities. However, its popularity is growing worldwide as more people discover the sport's fun and accessible nature.

Are Pickleball and Paddle Tennis the Same?

While pickleball and paddle tennis share similarities, they are not the same sport. Both use paddles and a net, but the rules, equipment, and court dimensions differ. Pickleball has a distinct set of rules and is played on a smaller court.

Can Pickleball be Played on a Tennis Court?

Yes, pickleball can be played on a tennis court. In fact, many pickleball games are played on modified or shared tennis courts.

The dimensions and layout of a tennis court can accommodate pickleball, making it a convenient option for players who don't have access to dedicated pickleball courts.