So you want to know how do you play pickleball?
It’s easier than you think!
I love pickleball for so many reasons and I’m sure you will too.
Pickleball is a great sport because it’s relatively easy to learn the basics and you can pretty much start playing games right away.
What makes this sport addictive is that it is easy to learn, but challenging to master.
Some compare pickleball to a game of chess, knowing and anticipating when to make the right move – when to dink and how to dink (lift dink/push dink/volley dink) when to speed up, attack, drop or drive or lob.
So many choices and techniques to master…
Which makes the game so much fun!
This pickleball guide will provide you with all the basics so that you can show up to a game knowing how to play.
And it’s best to show up to open play at least knowing the basics of pickleball.
When you go to an open play game for beginner level players (up to 3.0), you’ll find most people will be willing to help you out during game play, but will appreciate if you at least know the fundamentals:
- How to keep score and how to call out the score before serving
- How to serve
- Where to stand when you’re the serving team vs non-serving team
- Two-bounce rule
- Non-volley zone (NVZ), aka kitchen rules
- Getting to the kitchen line after you return serve as soon as possible!
- Knowing how and when to move up to the kitchen line when on the serving team
- Not hitting the ball as hard as you can all the time (aka, being a banger)
Below are the basics of how to get started and some of the best how do you play pickleball videos from coaches and pros.
How to Play Pickleball
This video covers all the basics to get you started.
The videos below go into more detail about each aspect of the game such as serving, scoring, etc..
How to Serve in Pickleball – Volley Serve
The volley serve is the original basic serve where you hit the ball in the air after dropping it out of your hand.
This was the only way to serve until 2020, when the USA Pickleball Association allowed a drop serve (video follows below after the volley serve).
How to do a Drop Serve
In 2021, the USA Pickleball Association serving rules changed to allow a drop serve in addition to the volley serve.
The drop serve allows you to drop the ball and hit it after it bounces off the court instead of having to hit it out of the air as in the volley serve.
Here’s more about pickleball serving rules.
How to Keep and Say the Score in Pickleball Doubles
Learning how to keep score in pickleball is one thing.
But ask most people you know and one of the most difficult things in pickleball is remembering the score.
What’s the score? Who’s serve is it? Am I a one or a two? LOL!
And you’ll hear some people begin the game by saying “0-0-Start” while others say, “0-0-2”.
In 2018 the USA Pickleball Association changed the way you say the score when you begin a game from 0-0-Start to 0-0-2.
However, you’ll find that most people who have been playing for awhile continue to say, “Start” instead of “2”. No biggie. The video explains further.
Tip: Remember who on your team served first when you start a game.
Because this way you won’t lose track of the score and your position.
Believe me, this happens a lot.
The person who serves first will always be on the right side of the court when the score is even – 2, 4, 6, etc..
And will be on the left when the score is odd.
Pickleball Kitchen Rules
The “Kitchen,” officially known as the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) a seven foot area that between the net and your side of the court.
There are some rules that you must know about the kitchen so that you don’t violate them when you go out and play your first game.
You don’t want other players yelling at you, “You were in the kitchen!”
Pickleball Double Bounce (Two Bounce) Rule
This is a simple rule.
Two bounces of the ball have to occur after the serve before anyone can volley it.
- The first bounce is when the serve bounces into the serving box onto the receiving team’s side.
- The second bounce occurs when the return of serve bounces on the serving team’s side.
Because if the serving team didn’t have to wait for the return of serve to bounce, it’s too easy for them to volley it out of the air and make a winning shot.
Where Do I Stand On The Court?
You can stand anywhere you want with the exception of serving.
You must stay behind the baseline when you serve and if any part of your foot touches the baseline while serving, it’s a foot fault.
However, even though you can stand anywhere you like, there are optimal and logical places where most people will stand.
Where To Stand When You Are On The Receiving Team
When you are the receiving team, one person will stand just behind the kitchen line (there is an exception when stacking, but that’s not something to worry about now).
The other person on the receiving team will be returning the serve so they will stand behind the baseline on the side of the court will the ball will be served.
Where to Stand When You Are On The Serving Team
When you are serving, both players will stand behind the baseline.
This is because of the double bounce rule (mentioned above).
Since you need to let the ball bounce before you hit it, you wouldn’t want to be standing inside the court.
There’s a lot more strategy about positioning, but for now, this is all you have to know as a beginner. 🙂
This is also the third shot of the game:
- 1st shot is the serve.
- 2nd shot is the return of serve.
- 3rd shot is from the serving team.
The third shot is important because if it is a good shot, it will help you and your partner as the serving team to advance to the kitchen.
The third shot can be a drop, drive, or lob.
You will learn more about how to do each shot as you progress.
Choosing Pickle Paddles, Shoes, and Nets
Spending more time on learning the game is more important than spending more money on a paddle.
Here are our pickleball equipment buying guides:
One of the best ways to learn how to play pickleball is playing games with people who are willing to show you how.
But if you are a beginner and don’t know anyone who plays, it can be intimidating to just show up to a court, which was my circumstance when I first played.
I learned how to play pickleball mostly by watching YouTube instructional videos and also watching pro matches (which are also available on YouTube on the PPA, APP, USPA, and other channels).
Watch Pro Pickleball Matches to help you understand how the game is played!
Red Rock Open Gold Medal Match
Ben Johns/Anna Leigh Waters vs Riley Newman/Catherine Parenteau
Once I felt I knew the basics of pickleball, I then searched for open play games in my area for beginners.
In my area, this was on Playtime Scheduler. You can try the demo to see what pickleball courts and open play are available in your area and then create a free account for more features.
We also have a page about how to find pickleball courts near me.
There are a few other open play apps like Places2Play, PicklePlay, Pickleball Buddy, etc..
Any recreational open play games inviting players rated up to 3.0 is appropriate for a beginner.
I encourage you to search for an open play game and join in the fun! Good luck!
Let’s play pickleball!
Have any pickleball questions?
Feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below.
If we’re not out playing pickleball, we’ll answer them asap!