Everything You Need to Know About Pickleball: A Beginner's Guide to Gear and Equipment

people playing pickleball

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Pickleball is a growing, increasingly popular sport spreading all over the world. It's similar to racquet-based sports and is enjoyed by people of every age and fitness level. Pickleball uses a paddle similar to ping pong but combines elements of tennis and badminton. 

If you're interested in learning more about pickleball and trying your hand (and paddle) at the sport, you should get an idea of how it's played and what you'll need to get started. Keep reading for this information and more below.

Introduction to Pickleball

Pickleball was originally developed as a sport for children in the 1960s and, by the 1970s, was recognized by Tennis magazine. Gaining growing interest, tournaments and organizations started spreading. Over the years, pickleball has adjusted and evolved, now including equipment specifically designed for pickleball, from the paddles to shoes. Pickleball has now become the fastest-growing sport in the United States for adults as well.

Pickleball is thought of as a social sport due to its team-building and fun nature. It has grown substantially among seniors living in retirement communities. While pickleball can be played in teams, it can also be played one on one.

Pickleball is played on a court similar to a doubles badminton court. It is smaller than a typical tennis court but is also rectangular, measuring 20 feet by 44 feet. Pickleball courts have a seven-foot non-volley area lining either side of a 30-inch high net. The court is divided between right and left service zones, as with other paddle sports. If you do not have a pickleball court in your area, any outdoor court can function for a casual game; or you can make your own using chalk or tape.

Basic Rules of Pickleball

In pickleball, you can score points by volleying or serving the ball over the net with the goal that your opponent will not be able to return it. Points are also awarded if your opponent volleys the ball into the non-volley zone out of bounds.

Players alternate serving the ball, with points being awarded only to the serving team. The first team or player to reach the designated number of points with a two-point advantage wins. Without a twp-point advantage, the game continues. A very general outline of the five basic rules is as follows:

  1. Hitting the ball out of bounds is not allowed.
  2. Serving the ball must be underhand and below the waistline.
  3. Serving requires that the ball must bounce once on the opponent's side before being returned, then once on the server's side. After this two-bounce rule, players may volley the ball.
  4. Avoiding the no-volley zone when serving is required.
  5. Winning requires reaching 11, 15, or 21 points, with 11 points being the most common. A two-point advantage must be obtained.

Gear and Equipment

There are several pieces of gear and equipment you can buy that will help you make the most of your pickleball games. These include the following items.


Proper footwear is essential for any sport. While pickleball-specific footwear isn't strictly necessary, you will need to wear court-friendly shoes. These shoes should also provide support for lateral movement while being lightweight. Pickleball shoes are designed to cover these needs. Tennis shoes also work well for this purpose.

Popular brands and models include Sketcher's Viper Court Pickleball Shoes, Acacia Sports’ Tyler Loong Signature Edition Pro Shoes, FILA’s Volley Zone Pickleball Shoes, and K-Swiss’s Express Light Pickleball Shoes.

Key Features to Look for in Pickleball Shoes

  • Non-skid, non-marking soles
  • Good arch support
  • Breathable mesh to promote airflow
  • Heel stability 
  • Good traction
  • Shock absorbing mid-sole
  • Proper width for your feet


Of course, to play pickleball, you will require a paddle. There are various styles and sizes of paddles you can choose from. Some of the most common features to look for include face size, textured surface, durability, sturdiness, lightweight, large sweet spot, great control, and comfortable grip.

Paddles are also made from a range of materials, including wood, graphite, polypropylene (plastic), carbon fiber, and fiberglass. The more expensive carbon fiber is lighter, softer, and more durable and provides excellent control of the ball. However, you will not get as much power in your hit.

Fiberglass paddles are less expensive and will allow for more power. If power is an issue for you, then a fiberglass paddle may be the best choice. Graphite paddles are also lightweight as well as strong, providing a firm surface for quick shots and more responsive hits. Graphite paddles are more affordable than other materials.

Choose a paddle that suits the way you play, taking into consideration if you need more control or power. You'll also want to consider paddle size and grip size (to fit your hand). Popular brands and models of pickleball paddles include Joola Pickleball Paddle, Joola Swift Paddle, Selkirk Sport Pickleball Paddle, and Engage Pickleball Paddle.


Pickleballs are similar to wiffle balls, made from smooth, molded plastic with various-sized holes on the surface. They come in colors such as yellow, black, pink, blue, and more. Characteristics of a good pickleball include an excellent bounce and a hardness that walks the line between being easy to hit and not breaking too quickly. Very hard balls last the longest but may not hit as well as softer ones.

Differences between indoor and outdoor balls include the number of holes in the ball. Indoor ball holes are larger and lower in number at 26 per ball, while outdoor balls have 40 smaller holes per ball. Outdoor balls are typically heavier and harder than indoor ones to help them fly better and last longer in outdoor conditions. High-quality, durable pickleball brands include Dura Fast, Wilson, Onyx, and Joola.

Other Gear

You also may want to invest in athletic clothing that's not too loose and helps wick sweat. Look for shock-absorbing sports bras, totes or bags to carry your gear, ball band holder accessories, sweat-absorbing hats or visors that protect your eyes from the sun, and a water bottle. Many people also wear pickleball eye protection in the form of safety glasses or goggles.

Pickleball Basics

While pickleball can be somewhat strategic and require some skill building, it is still a relatively easy sport to learn. Below are some basics about how to play pickleball.

Grips: How to Hold the Paddle

There are three common grips in pickleball, Continental Grip, Eastern, and Western Grip. The Continental Grip (or hammer grip) is the most commonly used grip by professional players, as it allows you to easily hit all the strokes.

The Eastern grip is an easy, popular grip style that can be modified with a finger extended to stabilize your wrist. It's a beginner-friendly grip that allows you to learn while working toward using the Continental Grip. The Western Grip is another option that helps with forehand shots. You will need to use trial and error to see which grip you prefer and what works for your style of play.

How to Find a Grip

  • Eastern Grip: Hold the paddle in front of you by the paddle with your non-paddle hand so you are looking at the paddle's edge. Place your paddle hand on the face of the paddle. Slide your hand down the paddle face until you hold the handle in a handshake grip.
  • Continental Grip: Hold the paddle in Eastern Grip and rotate your wrist slightly counterclockwise if you are right-handed or slightly clockwise if you are left-handed. You should have a V-shape between your thumb and index finger that is angled toward your non-paddle side.
  • Western Grip: Hold the paddle in Eastern Grip, then rotate your wrist 90 degrees clockwise if you are right-handed or 90 degrees counterclockwise if left-handed.

Serving and Scoring

Singles scoring is the same basic scoring as doubles, but there is no second server. To serve, you must be on the right side when the server’s score is even and on the left side when the server’s score is odd. The receiver then lines up on the right or left side, depending on the server's score. Singles scoring can be for server or receiver.

For doubles, points are scored only on the serve, and the receivers cannot score. The player on the right side of the court serves the court diagonally opposite. If a point is obtained, the server shifts to the left side (odd court) and serves to the court diagonally opposite. This alternating pattern continues throughout the game. Servers only alternate if they score a point, and receivers do not alternate sides. Once the serving side commits a fault, the rally ends, and the other side serves.

Bottom Line

Pickleball is a fun and active sport that helps you improve your fitness while providing an opportunity to get out and be social. To really learn the techniques, strategies, and grips, go out and try playing with other experienced players. Most people are happy to teach you the strategies and techniques that will improve your game. For more info on pickleball strategy and tips, check out USA Pickleball's website.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How big is a pickleball court?

    A pickleball court measures 20 feet by 44 feet. If you do not have an actual pickleball court near you, you can use a tennis court or other available court with a net. Use chalk or tape to designate the playing area.

  • Can you play pickleball on a tennis court?

    You can play pickleball on a tennis court if you create your own markings using chalk or tape. In fact, you can use any court with a net. Simply, mark off 20 feet by 44 feet of playing space.

  • How do you serve in pickleball?

    Serve to the opposite side, on a diagonal, underhand, below the waistline. The ball must bounce once on the opponent's side before being returned, then bounce once on the server's side before being returned. After this two-bounce rule, players may volley the ball.

  • How high is a pickleball net?

    Pickleball nets are 30-inches high. Playing with nets higher or lower is usually not recommended.

  • Is pickleball good exercise?

    Pickleball is fantastic cardiovascular exercise that can also help build endurance, speed, agility, and mobility. If you are new to exercise, or have issues with your joints or lateral movements, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider first before trying the sport to ensure it is right for you.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USA Pickleball. Pickleball history: Pickleball origin.

  2. Ryu J, Yang H, Kim AC, Kim K, Heo J. Understanding pickleball as a new leisure pursuit in older adults. Innovation in Aging. 2017;1(suppl_1):1165-1165. doi:10.1093%2Fgeroni%2Figx004.4248

  3. Retirement Resource Guide. Pickleball is hot!

  4. USA Pickleball. Pickleball court setup: construction, DIY, dimensions.

  5. Pickleball USA. Basics - rules summary.

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.