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Dive into the world of Pickleball: Unravel the rules, master the terminology, and own the court!

Rules of the Game

  • Pickleball can be played as doubles or singles; doubles is more common, with the same court size and rules for both.
  • The serve must be made with one foot behind the baseline, underhand with paddle contact below waist level.
  • The serve is made diagonally crosscourt, landing within the opposite diagonal court, and only one serve attempt is allowed per server.
  • In doubles, both players have serving opportunities until a fault occurs (excluding the first service sequence of each new game). The second server continues until a fault, leading to a loss of serve for the team.
  • In singles, the server serves from the right/even court when the score is even and from the left/odd when odd; points are scored only by the serving team.
  • The ball must bounce once in each team’s court before either team can volley or play it off a bounce, enforcing the two-bounce rule.
  • A ball contacting any part of any line is considered “in” with the exception of a serve contacting the non-volley zone line. The non-volley zone is 7 feet on both sides of the net and is also known as the “kitchen”. This would result in a fault.
  • Stepping on or touching the non-volley zone during a volley is a fault.
  • A fault by the receiving team awards a point to the serving team, and a fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.
  • Games are typically played to 11 points, and must be won by 2. Tournament games may be played to 15 or 21, and must also be won by 2.

Equipment for Play

  • Pickleball paddle is a flat composite paddle, available in various sizes and thickness levels. The maximum length of a pickleball paddle must not exceed 17 in.
  • Plastic, single-color (excluding logos), perforated ball with 26 to 40 holes, ranging from 2.87 to 2.97 inches in diameter.
  • 3-foot-long net at a height of 34 inches in the center.
  • Court space should be about 44 feet long and 20 feet wide.

Pickleball Terminology

​Ace: A serve that is not returned by the opponent. Point is won on serve without being returned.

Approach Shot:  Ball is hit while moving in forward motion towards the pickleball net. ​

ATP shot (Around the Post): When a ball is flung towards the sides of the court, the ATP shot is a trick shot that players use to hit the ball around the post and under the top of the net.

Backcourt:​ The area near the baseline, roughly the few feet inside the court from the baseline.

Backspin: Also called “Slice” or “Chop”, applying spin to the ball by striking it with high to low motion​, causing the ball to spin in the direction opposite its flight direction.

Backswing: The motion of swinging the pickleball paddle back from the ready position before following thru with forward swing.

Backhand: Shot where the player strikes the ball on the opposite side from their dominant forehand.

Baseline: Line at that forms the back end of the court, 22 feet on either side of the pickleball net.

“Bounce It”: Instructions called out to a partner to not hit the ball and let it bounce (because you think it will land out of bounds). ​

Carry: A shot where the pickleball does not bounce directly off the paddle but rather is carried along the face of the paddle during the forward swing.

Centerline: The line that extends from the Non-Volley Zone to the Baseline and divides the service court into two equal halves. ​

Champion Shot: A pickleball shot that bounces twice in the Non-Volley Zone.​

Chop: Slice from high to low to put backspin on the pickleball. ​

Cross-court: The court area diagonally opposite your side court.

Dead Ball: A ball is declared after a fault, the point is over.

Dig: Defensive shot usually in the ‘Transition Zone’ with paddle low, split stance very wide, and absorbing the power of the offensive shot so that (ideally) the ball can be reset into the kitchen.

Dillball: Shot that is inbounds and has bounced once, a live ball. ​

Dink Shot: A soft shot that arcs over the net and falls into the opposing non-volley zone.

Doubles: Pickleball game played between 4 people (2 on each team). Teams can be men, women or mixed doubles.​

Double Bounce: A ball that bounces more than once, on one side of the net before being returned resulting in a lost point.

Double Hit: Ball is hit twice by one team before returning over the net. Double hits may occur when the same player hits twice or can involve both players on a team.

“Down the Line”: A pickleball shot that travels near and parallel to the sideline. ​

DriveA forehand shot hit straight and low, deep into the opposing backcourt. ​

Drop Shot: A soft shot that clears the pickleball net and then falls short of the opposing players.

Drop Shot Volley: A type of volley shot done to take speed of the ball and return it short, near the net when opponents are positioned at the baseline. This shot is especially effective when initiated close to the non-volley line.

Drop Spin: A shot that is chopped or sliced to drop sharply after it crosses the net, this is an advanced pickleball shot. ​

Face: the broad surface of either side of the pickleball paddle used to strike the ball. ​

Falafel“dead paddle” or a short shot due to hitting the pickleball ball with little or no power.

Fault: A fault is any action that stops play because of a rule violation.

Flabjack: A midair pickleball shot that must bounce once before it can be hit during one of the first two shots of any point (the return of serve or return of the serve return). After the third shot no bounce is necessary and can volley (hit in midair without bouncing). ​

Flat Face: Keeping the pickleball paddle hitting surface parallel to the net.

Flick shot : When you flick your paddle downward as you extend your arm near the net and reach for a ball that otherwise would barely lay in the kitchen and be difficult to hit with speed.

Foot Fault: On the pickleball serve, at least one foot behind the baseline; neither foot may contact the baseline or court until after the ball is struck, breaking either of these rules is a serving foot fault. A Non-Volley Zone foot fault is when volleying a ball, the player steps in the Non-Volley Zone or steps on the line of the NVZ.

Follow Through: On the swing, the continuing forward motion (after the backswing) in the direction you want the pickleball to travel.

Forehand: Paddle stroke on the same side of the body as you are holding the paddle. A right handed player’s forehand would start with their right hand behind them and follow-through across their body.

Game: A series of points played until one team has accumulated 11 points (winning by 2 points. Some pickle-ball tournaments play games to 15 or 21 points (win by 2).

Grip: The manner that you hold the paddle handle with your hand (i.e. continental grip) or the material that is wrapped around the paddle handle to protect it and provide cushioning.

Groundstroke: Hitting the ball after one bounce (compared to a volley which is hit midair).

Half-Volley: A ground stroke shot where the paddle contacts the ball immediately after it bounces from the court. The ball is still low before it has risen to its maximum bounce height.

Head: Part of the pickleball paddle above the handle that includes the paddle face (hitting surface and paddle edge). ​

Hinder: Any element that interferes with play or an occurrence that affects play.

Kitchen: Slang term for the Non-Volley Zone. The 7 foot section of court on either side of the net. Pickleball players are not allowed to volley the ball in this zone. It includes all lines surrounding the zone. ​

Let: A serve that hits the net cord and lands in the service court. Let serves are replayed, just as in Tennis.

Line Calls: Verbal indication said out loud indicating if the ball bounced inbounds or out of bounds. Normally players call the in/out on their side and the opposing team makes calls on their respective side.

Lob: A return shot sent as high and deep as possible, thereby forcing the opposing side back to the baseline.

Midcourt: The middle area on the pickle court between the Non-Volley Zone and the ​baseline.

Non-Volley Zone (NVZ): The 7 foot section of court on either side of the net. Pickleball players are not allowed to volley the ball in this zone. It includes all lines surrounding the zone. Also known as “The Kitchen” and the NVZ.

Overhead Shot: Any shot hit where the paddle starts high above your head and drives downward, similar to the motion of a tennis serve.​

Overhead Slam: powerful, overhand shot hit in a downward motion. Often performed on the return of a lob or high bounce shot.

OPA!Sometimes shouted out after the 3rd shot has been hit, open volleying has begun. ​

Open Face: Holding the pickleball paddle tilted slightly upward.​

Paddle: The equivalent to the racket ​in racquetball or tennis. Pickleball paddles can be made of wood, composite or graphite.

Painting the Line: An expression for hitting a great line shot that lands right on the line.

Passing Shot: A volley or groundstroke shot that is aimed at a distance from the player and is designed to prevent return of the ball.

Permanent Object: Any object around the pickleball court that could interfere with the flight of the ball. Permanent objects may include walls, fences, fixtures, lights, net posts, bleachers or spectator seating, the referee, line judges, spectators themselves and all other objects around and above the court.

Pickle!: Warning shouted out by the server to alert all players on the pickleball court that they are about to serve. ​

Pickled: The equivalent to getting “skunked” in other sports, scoring zero points in a whole game. If you lose a pickleball game 11-0, you’ve been “pickled”.​

PickledomeCourt where the championship match in a pickleball tournament is played. Something similar to center court in tennis.

Pickler: A pickleball addict. A pickleball freak who can’t stop talking about the sport.

Poach: In doubles pickleball, to cross over into your partner’s side of the court to hit a shot.

Put AwayA shot with no chance of being returned.

Punch Shot: Quick, short volley shot with little back swing and short follow through.

Rally: Continuous play that occurs from the time the ball is served and until play ends in a fault.

Rally Score System: In the rally point system, the side that wins the rally scores the point and earns the right to serve.​

Ready Position: Ideal position to receive the ball for return. Paddle is out in front of the player’s body and up at chest height with a neutral grip for either forehand or backhand return. Weight is evenly balanced and weight on toes with knees slightly bent and ready to move in any direction. ​

Receiver: Player diagonally opposite from the server who will return the serve. ​

Replays: After any discrepancy between teams (for example if shot landed in/out, a point can be replayed for any reason without the awarding of a point or a side out.

Resetting (or Reset): To stop a hard/fast rally and bring it back into the kitchen for dinking.

Second Serve: The second serve by one team after having faulted on their first serve.

Serve: An underhand stroke used to put the pickleball into play. Serving team has two attempts to serve the point. ​Paddle must contact the ball under the server’s waist level.

Server Number: The number (1 or 2) indicates which server is serving for each team in the pickleball serving sequence.

Service Court: The area on either side of the center line, bounded by the non-volley line, the baseline, and the sideline. All lines are included in the service court except the non-volley line.

Shadowing: The strategy in Pickle-ball of moving in tandem with your team partner, keeping roughly 10 feet between each other. Both players move laterally, approach the net or retreat to the baseline together in sync. ​

Sideline: The lateral border of the pickleball court delimiting the playing zone from out of bounds area.

Side Out: Declared after one side loses its service and the other side is awarded serve.

Singles: Playing pickleball with only 2 players, one player on each side. ​

Slice: A chop shot used to create backspin on the ball.

Smash: ​ Shot that is hit above the hitter’s head with a serve-like motion. It is also referred to as an overhead.

Split Stance: Position with feet separate and parallel in the “ready position” to return the ball. ​

Stacking : This refers to a doubles offensive formation in which the two players are on the same side of the court before the serve or return and then shift into a spot they feel more comfortable with after the ball is in play.

Stroke: The swinging motion of striking the pickleball with the paddle (i.e. ​forehand stroke, backhand stroke, ground stroke).

Technical Foul: In tournament play, the referee may add a point to a team’s score when the opponent violates one of the rules calling for a technical foul other than standard faults in play. For example abusive language or unsportsmanlike play.

Top Spin: Applying spin to the ball from low to high causing the pickleball ball to spin in the same direction as the flight of the ball. ​

Transition Zone: An area between the baseline and the non-volley-zone line that serves as a middle ground as players move from far hitting shots to dinks near the non-volley-zone.

Two Bounce Rule: In pickleball: after the ball is served, the receiving team must let the ball bounce before returning, and then the serving team must also let it bounce before returning. After the 3rd hit, the ball can be volleyed (hit midair without bouncing).

Volley: Hitting the ball in the air before the ball has a chance to bounce onto the pickleball court.