pickleball rules

Every game has its own specific rule by which its game play, competitions, and tournaments are run and managed. If there are no pickleball rules, there would be a haphazard way of playing the games and, as a result, they would hold little or no appeal. Besides, if there are no rules, how do you know who is winning and who is losing? So, needless to say that rules are an important asset to any organization, sport, or nation.

Like every other sport, pickleball has its own rules by which it is being run. And the rules are upheld by different governing bodies in different countries where they are played. The game is played in different parts of the world and they are seen as one of the fastest rising games in the world. It is one of the most popular sports in the world.


Who can play pickleball?

Pickleball is played by anybody who can hold a paddle and swing. It is easy to learn; the rules are not too stringent such that only few qualify. In essence, pickleball sport is a game for everyone. The body in charge of the governance and maintenance of pickleball sports in the United States, USAPA, released a report that there are at least 15,000 courts both indoor and outdoor in the United states alone. In all the 50 states, there’s at least one pickleball court.

Pickleball sport is being introduced in schools for kids and teenagers in physical education classes, both middle and high schools. And, although the game is becoming even more competitive as the years roll by, it is still a sport in which its players find enjoyment and fun socially. Apart from that, the game gives its players the opportunity and ability to remain active in their respective communities and towns.

There is an explosion of pickleball courts in the United States alone; communities are adopting and integrating the sports’ activities for their residents including those who have retired. The sport has such competitive nature which tennis, racquetball, and ping pong players find satisfaction in such that they regularly take part in tournaments and competitions held nationally, regionally, and locally.

Variations of the Sport

Pickleball is played as a singles or doubles sport. The rules are pretty much the same with a few adjustments. For the singles, there are two players, one side each. One player plays against the other player.

Singles pickleball – the rules governing the pickleball game is similar to that of the doubles. The singles sport is simply a competition between two players where one player plays against the other. In the singles pickleball sport, there’s only one chance for a fault. Once the first player who is serving commits a fault, he loses the position to the other side, the opponent side. The same goes for the other side.

Doubles pickleball – for the doubles, players have the grace of two faults. There are two players against two players so one fault for each player in each side. If a player on one side commits a fault, the other player takes over serving. If his partner also commits a fault, then the side loses the serving opportunity to the other side. The game play goes on like that between sides until the game is over i.e. until a team has won.

Para-pickleball or wheelchair pickleball – The para-pickleball, also referred to as wheel chair pickleball, is a branch of pickleball played by people in wheel chairs – as the name implies. It was officially acknowledged as a competitive branch of Pickleball in 2016 by the United States of America Pickleball Association. Because of the people it was invented for, the rules are made just to serve them.

The rules are, however, similar in a way to the already established rules of pickleball with little adjustments. The adjustments are basically alternatives. As far as the game is concerned, the player’s wheelchair is seen as part of the player’s body. So, every rule that applies to the player’s body applies to his wheelchair. As opposed to the bounce required from a standup pickleball player, the wheel chair pickleball player is allowed to bounce the ball twice. When a wheelchair player is serving the ball, they are expected to stand still.

This implies that the player must have been able to control the wheelchair such that it doesn’t move when it is supposed to stand still. This is because, if the wheelchair moves, the rule says the player himself moved and it would be counted against him. If they are able to stand still, they are allowed to push forward just once before they serve the ball.

When the ball is served by the player, the wheels of the wheel chair must not touch any of the lines i.e. the baselines, sidelines, center lines, and the extended sidelines or center. When both standup and wheelchair players are playing together, each player’s rule applies to them as usual. By implication, standup players are expected to follow the standing pickleball rules and players in the wheel chair are expected to adhere to the rules governing the wheelchair pickleball game.

The Court

Pickleball court is much like the doubles badminton court which isn’t surprising considering it was the badminton court that was customized into what is now known as the pickleball court. The standard size of the pitch or court is 20 by 44 feet both for the doubles and singles. Nets are used and hung at about 36 inche on the ends of the court and then 34 inches at the center. The pickleball court is striped, has lines, just like the tennis court. There are no alleys on a pickleball court. However, the outer courts are divided into half by lines known as service lines. The inner courts are not divided by any line. They, i.e. the inner courts, are zones without volley which extend some 7 feet from either side of the net.

The Ball

Pickleball balls are plastic in form and they are perforated. There are different balls with different colors and different number of holes (usually between 26 and 40 holes). Outdoor balls are for outdoor pickleball games. They are a bit heavier, harder with smaller holes and they travel faster than indoor balls.

The Paddle

The paddles are used in playing the pickleball. They are of different shapes, materials, weights, prices, and weights. It all depends on the one you prefer because one size doesn’t fit everyone. Before you buy the paddle, be sure to try some out so you can know which one will be comfortable for you. If you’re a novice at pickball, ask for help from experts or people who know about pickleball paddles.

The Referee

Refereeing a pickleball sport can be so much fun provided the rules are understood. The deeper you understand the rules, the easier refereeing is. There are many tools designed to help a person who wants a career as a pickleball referee. The USAPA has its own certified referees who are trained and made to be experts. If you want to become a pickleball referee;

  • Acquaint yourself with the rules. Then, take the rule test. Questions change all the time so, be sure you thoroughly understand the rules.
  • Watch videos on training pickleball referees. There are many of them online.
  • Download the Referee Handbook and practice the tips listed out in the book.
  • Practice, they say, makes perfect. Being a pickleball referee takes practice, too. So, practice until you are perfect or almost perfect. Go to local courts and volunteer yourself to referee some recreational games being played. Apart from them appreciating it, it will also give you the opportunity to put into practice the theories you already acquired and also put your skills to the work in a relaxed environment.
  • After this, take a step further and reach professionals who will be able to answer questions you may have. This will help you to further fine tune your skills.

The Serving Rule

The rule for service is basically the same in all the variations of the game. Servicing must be done underhand, with a swinging motion with the ball making contact with the lower hips. When the player to serve the ball wants to serve, he is expected to do so while standing behind the baseline and serve the ball into the service box adjacent to the baseline – exactly the way it is done in tennis game. Server can only serve once and if, after serving, the ball lands outside the court into the net or the no-volley zone, that side is out. The centerline, sidelines, and base lines are of consideration when serving. However, if the ball lands on the no-volley line, the side is out. On the other hand, if the server was able to get the ball to hit the net and into the service box, the server gets a point and keeps his position as the server. Points can only be scored when serving.

The doubles game differs a bit from the singles game in that each player on each side serves until a fault is committed and a point is lost after which the other side takes up serving. When the game starts, the first team to serve produces only one player to serve. Scores are usually recorded as 0 – 0 – 2. The two means that the second server is serving already. The first server on each side serves from the right service box on his side to the right service box on the other side.

Summarily, the serving rule is as follows:

  • Serving must be done underhand.
  • When hitting the ball with the paddle, contact of the paddle and ball must be below the waist of the server.
  • Not one of the foot is allowed to touch the baseline or court until after the ball has been hit.
  • Each serve must start with one foot, at least, behind the baseline.
  • The serve must be done diagonally in crosscourt and it must land in the rival’s diagonal court too.
  • Unless the ball, when hit, enters the net onto the other side, only one serve attempt is given to each player. When the ball hits enters the net, a re-serve is usually called for.
  • Each player on each team gets to serve until a fault is committed and then their opponent takes over.
  • For every time the serving sides change, first server must serve from the right hand court.
  • In singles game play, when their goal points are even, the server serves from the right side of the court and on the left side if the point is odd.
  • In doubles play, the partner of the first server takes over serving when the first server has lost the serve. The service is done on the same side; no switching of sides unless there’s a point scored.
  • Each time a player scores a point, both teams switch sides for the next round of serve.

Volley Rule

A volley is said to have been made if the ball was hit before it touches the ground and bounces. The rules state that:

  • Ball cannot be volleyed within the non-volley zone.
  • Volleying within the non-volley zone is disallowed to prevent being smashed by the net.
  • If player steps on the line of the non-volley zone or directly into the non-volley zone, a fault is committed and player loses serving opportunity.
  • When a player, in a bid to catch the fast moving ball, enters the kitchen or the line after the volley, fault has been committed.
  • The non-volley zone can be entered at any time except during the volleying of the ball.

Non-Volley Rule

The non-volley or no-volley zone is situated within 7 feet of the net on both sides and is labelled with a line. It is also referred to as the ‘kitchen’. The rules are:

  • Player must not hit the ball if he is standing inside the no-volley zone or even on the line marking the no-volley zone otherwise a fault would be committed.
  • If player is hit by a ball in the no-volley zone before the ball bounces, server loses a point.
  • If the ball has bounced, the player is allowed to hit the ball while he is inside the zone.
  • If the player happens to hit the ball while he is outside the no-volley zone, the action can take him into the no-volley zone and cause him to lose a point.
  • If your leg is on the line, you are in the zone and any hitting of ball while standing there would be a fault.
  • If your leg is behind the line, however, you can reach over above the line and hit the ball.
  • If after serving the ball, it hits the line denoting the no-valley zone, the team that served loses a point.

The Double Bounce Rule

The rule governing the double bounce in pickleball sports are as follows:

  • The ball must bounce once before it is hit. If the player to receive the ball hits before it bounces, a fault is committed.
  • As the ball is being returned to the serving side, the ball has to bounce again before it is hit.
  • Once the ball has bounced once on each side, player can hit the ball without bouncing a second time. However, you must not be in the no-volley zone or on the line demarcating the zone.
  • Once two returns have been done, the ball doesn’t have to bounce before being hit. You are allowed to hit the ball with a ground stroke. This must be done on the spot where the ball bounced first or with a volley that had no bounce.

Scoring Goal Points

A standard pickleball game is played to 11 points and the leading team has to lead by 2 points. The rules are that:

  • Points can only be scored when serving.
  • Goal points scored must be spoken out loud for everyone to hear before each serve. In doubles game, the last number on the score board would identify which server would be serving next.
  • The winning team has to win by 2.
  • Tournaments are played up to 11, sometimes 15 or 21 but the winner must lead by 2 before he can be declared winner.

The Lines

There are lines on the court identifying various zones. The lines also have rules governing them. The rules are:

  • Player standing on the no-volley line is seen as standing in the no-volley zone and so any hitting done while standing there would be counted as a fault.
  • Balls contacting any of the lines on the court are counted as in with the exception of the no-volley zone.
  • If a serve touches the no-volley zone, a fault is committed and server loses to the opponent.

The Serving Team

The team to start the game by being the first team to serve is decided by the tossing of a coin as is done in racquetball game. Whoever wins the coin toss gets to choose whether to serve or receive. The other team is left with the choice the winner didn’t choose.

Rules concerning Faults

Faults are counted in pickleball sports when:

  • The served ball hits the no-volley zone.
  • When the serve lands outside the receiving court.
  • The ball is hit before it bounces.
  • The ball bounces twice before it is hit.
  • The ball, when served or returned, is made to enter the net.
  • The ball goes out of bounds when hit.
  • The ball is volleyed before it has bounced once on each side.
  • The server volleys the ball within the no-volley zone or on the no-volley line.
  • Any part of the player’s body or clothing or paddle touches the net or net post while serving.
  • The service rule has been infringed.
  • The ball in play hits any obstruction before it bounces on the court.

The Governing Bodies of Pickleball Sport

The Pickleball sport has many governing bodies depending on the country in which it is being played. For example, in the US, the USAPA i.e. USA Pickleball. However, the highest governing body of pickleball games with more recognized standards is the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP). Association. Both the IFP and USAPA work together to put down, amend, and implement the rules by which the game is governed. IFP works with USAPA to maintain and direct the pickleball sport worldwide. Although the IFP, USAPA, and other governing bodies of the pickleball sport are different in some ways as par organization and all, yet they have a common goal and that is to ensure that the rules that affect the game play and the technique of playing the pickleball remains the same worldwide.

These are basically everything you need to know about the rules by which the pickleball game is played. Understanding the rules of the game will help you play the game better.

Benefits of Playing Pickleball Game

Pickleball exercise has a lot of health benefits both for the young and the old. The benefits range from mental to physical. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Muscle strengthening: when you play the pickleball, you are running around, right? Well, the running around causes you to carry your own weight. And, consequently, you are building strength when you run around playing pickleball. The game aids in the loss of excess muscle mass.
  • Stress reduction: have you been stressed lately? Overworked to the point that you feel you will break down any time soon? Try playing pickleball. When you play, endorphins are released in your body. Endorphins are regarded as feel-good chemicals in the brain. When we exercise, they are triggered. They are released when the heart is pumping; playing pickleball makes your heart pump fast.
  • Weigh maintenance: playing pickleball helps you maintain your weight such that you don’t lose or gain more than is needed.
  • Brain function enhancer: when you play pickleball, you exercise your brain muscles thereby working the brain. And, the more you work your brain, the higher it operates.