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Essential Rules: How do you play pickleball step by step?

Essential Rules: How do you play pickleball step by step?

Pickleball is a popular sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It is played on a smaller court with a solid paddle and a plastic ball with holes. If you are new to pickleball or curious about how to play, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential rules and steps to get you started.

Equipment Needed

Before diving into the rules and steps of playing pickleball, you need to make sure you have the necessary equipment. Here's what you'll need:

1. Pickleball Paddle: Choose a paddle that suits your playing style and level of expertise. Paddles come in various materials, sizes, and weights. For beginners, it is recommended to start with a lighter paddle that offers better control and maneuverability. As you progress, you can consider upgrading to a paddle that offers more power and spin. It's important to find a paddle that feels comfortable in your hand and allows you to generate the desired level of performance.

2. Pickleball: Use a plastic ball with holes, specifically designed for pickleball. These balls come in different colors, indicating their level of hardness and suitability for indoor or outdoor play. The hardness of the ball affects its bounce, so choosing the right ball for the playing surface is crucial. Softer balls are typically used for indoor play, while harder balls are used for outdoor play. Experiment with different balls to find the one that suits your playing style and the conditions of the court you'll be playing on.

3. Pickleball Court: Find a dedicated pickleball court with the proper dimensions. A standard pickleball court measures 20 feet wide and 44 feet long for doubles play, with non-volley zones near the net. The court should have clear lines and boundaries, allowing for accurate gameplay. It's essential to play on a court that meets the official dimensions to ensure fair play and adherence to the rules. If you don't have access to a dedicated pickleball court, you can also set up a temporary court in your backyard or any suitable flat surface.

4. Proper Attire: Wear comfortable clothing and athletic shoes suitable for court sports. Consider wearing lightweight, breathable material to help you move freely. Opt for shoes with good traction and ankle support to prevent injuries while making quick movements on the court. It's also advisable to wear a hat and apply sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays, especially when playing outdoors. Dressing appropriately will enhance your comfort and performance during the game.

Pickleball Gameplay

Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles format, but we'll focus on the doubles version as it is the most commonly played. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to play pickleball:

Step 1: Serving

To start the game, a player from the serving team stands behind the baseline on the right side of the court. The serve must be made diagonally across the net and land within the opponent's service court. Here are a few key rules to keep in mind:

- The server must keep both feet behind the baseline until the ball is struck. This rule ensures a fair start to the game and prevents any advantage gained by stepping over the baseline prematurely.
- The serve should be underhand and made below the server's waist. This technique ensures that the serve is not too powerful and allows for better control and placement of the ball.
- The ball must clear the non-volley zone (also known as the kitchen) during the serve. The non-volley zone is a designated area near the net where players are not allowed to hit volleys. Clearing the ball over this zone ensures that the receiving team has a fair chance to return the serve.

Step 2: Return of Serve

After the serve, the receiving team must let the ball bounce once before returning it. The return shot should be aimed at the opponent's service court. Here are some important guidelines for the return of serve:

- The receiver should let the ball bounce before playing a volley or groundstroke. By allowing the ball to bounce, the receiver gains an advantage in terms of positioning and timing.
- The ball must clear the net and land in the opponent's service court. Failing to clear the net or hitting the ball out of bounds results in a point for the serving team.
- After the return, both teams can play either a volley or a groundstroke. A volley is a shot played in the air without letting the ball bounce, while a groundstroke is a shot played after the ball has bounced. Players can choose the most suitable shot based on their positioning and the trajectory of the ball.

Step 3: The Rally

Once the ball is in play, both teams must hit the ball over the net and keep it in play. The ball must bounce once on each side, except for volleys. Volleys are shots hit in the air without the ball bouncing. Here are some key rules during the rally:

- Players cannot enter the non-volley zone to hit a volley unless the ball has bounced first. This rule prevents players from gaining an unfair advantage by hitting volleys too close to the net.
- Each team must hit the ball back and forth until a fault is committed. A fault can occur if the ball is hit out of bounds, fails to clear the net, or is hit into the non-volley zone on a volley. Committing a fault results in a point for the opposing team.
- The rally continues until one team commits a fault or the ball goes out of bounds. The team that wins the rally earns a point and gets the opportunity to serve in the next round.

Step 4: Non-Volley Zone (Kitchen) Rules

The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is a designated area on the court close to the net. Specific rules apply when playing within this zone:

- Players cannot volley the ball while standing inside the kitchen, including any part of their body or paddle. They must let the ball bounce before hitting it. This rule promotes fair play and prevents players from dominating the game by playing volleys too close to the net.
- A player can enter the kitchen after hitting a groundstroke, but they must immediately vacate the zone. This rule ensures that players do not gain an unfair advantage by lingering in the kitchen area after hitting a shot.

Step 5: Scoring

Pickleball uses a unique scoring system known as rally scoring. Both serving and receiving teams have the opportunity to score points. Here's how the scoring works:

- Only the serving team can score points. If they win a rally, they earn a point. This scoring system ensures that both teams have an equal chance to score points based on their performance during the game.
- The serving team continues to serve until they commit a fault or lose a rally. Then, the opposing team gets a chance to serve. This rotation of serving ensures that both teams have an opportunity to serve and score points.
- Games are typically played to 11 or 15 points, and players must win by a margin of two points. This rule adds excitement and competitiveness to the game, as players must strive to maintain a lead and win by a clear margin.


Pickleball is a fantastic sport that combines elements from various racquet sports. By following the essential rules and step-by-step guide provided above, you can start playing pickleball with confidence. Remember to practice, have fun, and enjoy the game with fellow enthusiasts. So grab your paddle, find a court, and get ready to experience the excitement of pickleball!


What equipment do I need to play pickleball?

To play pickleball, you will need a pickleball paddle, a plastic ball with holes, a pickleball court, and proper attire.

What are the rules for serving in pickleball?

The server must stand behind the baseline, make an underhand serve below the waist, and clear the non-volley zone during the serve.

What happens after the serve in pickleball?

The receiving team must let the ball bounce once before returning it and aim to land the return shot in the opponent's service court. Both teams can then play either a volley or a groundstroke.

How is scoring done in pickleball?

Pickleball uses rally scoring, where only the serving team can score points. Games are typically played to 11 or 15 points, with a two-point margin required to win.

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