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What Is Pickleball?

Well here's some information to sink your teeth into about Pickleball!

Pickleball - A Brief History

Once upon a time... back in 1965...
After playing golf one Saturday during the summer of 1965, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, returned to Pritchard's home on Bainbridge Island, WA, to find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised, cutting shafts of the damaged rackets and found a perforated plastic ball. The rackets didn’t work very well, so the dads created four wood paddles, similar to today’s wood paddles. At first they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together. The Pritchards had a cocker spaniel named Pickles, who became interested in this new game. Whenever a ball would come his way, he would take the ball and run off with it, because it was Pickles' ball. This is how the game got its name.

1967 – The first permanent pickleball court was constructed in Joel Pritchard’s backyard in Seattle, Washington during the winter of 1967.
1972 – A corporation was formed to protect the creation of this new sport.
1975 – The National Observer published an article about pickleball followed by a 1976 article in Tennis magazine about “America’s Newest Racquet Sport.”
1976 – During the spring of 1976, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. David Lester won Men’s Singles and Steve Paranto placed second. Many of the participants were college tennis players who knew very little about pickleball. In fact, they practiced with large wood paddles and a softball sized whiffle ball.
1984 – The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) “was organized to perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball on a national level.” The first rulebook was published in March, 1984. The first Executive Director and President of USAPA was Sid Williams who served from 1984 to 1998. He was followed by Frank Candelario who kept things going until 2004.
1984 – The first composite paddle was made by Arlen Paranto, a Boeing Industrial Engineer. He used the fiberglas/nomex honeycomb panels that commercial airlines use for their floors and part of the airplane’s structural system. Arlen made about 1,000 paddles from fiberglas/honeycomb core and graphite/honeycomb core materials until he sold his company to Frank Candelario.
1990 – By 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states.
1997 – Joel Pritchard passed away at age 72. Though he was Washington State’s Lieutenant governor from 1988 to 1996, he is probably better known for his connection to the birth of pickleball.
2003 – There were 39 known places to play in North America listed on the Pickleball Stuff website. This list represented 10 States, 3 Canadian Provinces and about 150 individual courts.
2003 – Pickleball was included for the first time in the Huntsman World Senior Games, held each year in St. George, Utah, during the month of October.
2005 – Mark Friedenberg was named the new President of USAPA, and created a Board of Directors.
2005 – Steve Wong (Past USAPA Webmaster) created the new, improved USAPA website which went live in March. Bill Booth took over as webmaster in May, 2006. Website activity continues to increase as the popularity of pickleball grows and the features of the website improve.
2005 – USAPA became a Non-Profit Corporation on July 1.
2006Pickleball Central (our parent company) was founded, and has since grown to become the largest supplier of pickleball equipment worldwide.
2008 – The Rules Committee, headed by Dennis Duey, published the USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook – Revision: May 1, 2008.
2008 – Pickleball was included for the first time in the National Senior Games Champion Festival held in Providence, Rhode Island, September 4 – 7.
2008 - Updated list of places to play tops 420 locations in North America, as listed on the USAPA website. This represented 43 states, 4 Canadian provinces, and about 1500 individual courts. This list did not take into account previously-listed places which added courts, or the many courts at private homes.
2009 - The first USAPA National Tournament for players of all ages was held in Buckeye, Arizona, November 2-8, 2009. The tournament drew almost 400 players from 26 states and several Canadian provinces.
2010 - The Villages, the mammoth active adult community in central Florida, boasts 150 outdoor Pickleball courts and 2,000 players, according to Masters Athlete Magazine, which ranked The Villages the top community for Pickleball in North America, calling it "Pickleball Paradise."

Basic Pickleball Rules

The Lines: The baseline marks each end of the court, running parallel to the net. Any balls bouncing past this line are considered out of bounds. When serving, you must stand behind this line. Sidelines and the baseline should be painted so that the court dimension falls at the outside of the line. A ball is good if the center of the ball falls on the line. On the serve, a ball hitting the non-volley zone line is considered a fault. Your ball must bounce inbounds, cross-court, for it to count.
The Non-Volley Zone, or "Kitchen": A line seven feet from the net delineates the non- volley zone. You are not allowed to hit the ball without letting it bounce first if your foot is on or between this line and the net, or if you stumble into this zone after hitting the ball. You may not serve the ball into the non-volley zone.
The Serve: The player on the right always serves first. The ball must contact the paddle below the waist using an underhand motion and must land in the diagonally opposite court, beyond the non-volley line but before the baseline. The server must hit the ball without bouncing it first. Both players on a team will serve before the service passes to the other team. The only exception is during the very first service of the game, and out of fairness, only the right-hand player serves before passing the serve to the opposing team. This is why the first score called out during a doubles match is 0 - 0 - 2 (rather than 0 - 0 - 1).
The Return: The receiving team must allow the ball to bounce before returning the serve. Also, the serving team must allow the returned ball to bounce once more before hitting it back; this is the double-bounce rule referred to above. This means that there will be two bounces during the first two hits of the rally, after which, any ball may be hit out of the air (known as a volley).
Keeping Track of Scoring: Because the players of the serving team switch sides (left/right) with each point, a simple scoring system was devised to keep track of who is serving. Before each serve, the server calls out their own team’s score, followed by the other team’s score, and then whether he/she is the first or second server for his/her team. For example, if the serving team has 5 points, the opposing team has 3, and his/her partner has already served and lost the point, he/she would call out, “5, 3, Server 2.”
Scoring and Winning: A team gets a point when they win a rally that they served. When a point is won, the players of the scoring team switch sides of the court (left/right) so the next serve is delivered from the other court. The first team to score 11 points wins (must win by two points).
Singles Play: The server serves from the right side of the court when his or her score is even and from the left side when the his or her score is odd. Serves are still made cross-court, and scores to be called out are simplified as server's score, followed by opponent's score. Just as in doubles, play continues to at least 11 points, and until someone wins by two points.

Definitions of Pickleball Terms

The pickleball court is identical to a doubles badminton court. Actual size of the court is 20' wide × 44' long, for both doubles and singles. The net is hung at 36 inches on the ends, dipping to 34 inches at the center.

Players - Pickleball is designed to be played in "Singles", defined as one person acting as a team on each side of the net, or "Doubles" in which two-player teams compete against each other from opposite sides of the net.
Baseline — The line at the back of the pickleball court (22 feet from the net). Serves are made from behind the baseline.
Sideline — The line at the side of the court, running perpendicular to the net, denoting in- and out-of-bounds.
Centerline — The line bisecting the service courts that extend from one side to the other. In a doubles match, the players on one team typically stand on one side of the centerline.
Non-volley zone — A seven foot deep area extending from sideline to sideline, adjacent to the net on both sides of it, within which you may not volley the ball. The non-volley zone is usually inclusive of all lines around it.
Serve — An underhand lob or drive stroke used to put a ball into play at the beginning of a point. Serves must be made cross-court, while standing behind the baseline, inside the sideline, and the server's paddle must make contact with the ball below his/her waist.
Server number — When playing doubles, either “1” or “2,” depending on whether you are the first or second server for your team. This number is appended to the score when it is called. As in, the score is now 4 - 2 - 2 (second server).
Crosscourt — The opponent's portion of the court diagonally opposite yours. The serving player hits the ball crosscourt to the receiving player of the opposing team.
Let serve — A serve that touches the top of the net, but still lands in the proper service court. The serve is replayed without penalty.
Fault — An errant serve which results in the server giving up his/her serve to the opposing team. A serve which fails to make it over the net, or lands out of bounds are examples of faults.
Double Bounce Rule — After a serve, the receiving player must let the ball bounce before returning it. Then, the serving team must also let the return shot bounce before hitting it back over the net. Once the serve has bounced, and the return has bounced, the ball may be played off the bounce or volleyed out of the air for the remainder of the point.
Foot fault — When a player's foot crosses into the non-volley zone ("kitchen") prior the ball bouncing into it.
Dink — A dink is soft, short shot which aims to place the ball barely over the net, landing in your opponent's non-volley zone (or "kitchen").
Half-volley - A type of hit where the player hits the ball immediately after it has bounced in an almost scoop-like fashion; a short-hop.
Poach — In doubles, to cross over the centerline into your teammate's area to play a live ball.
Rally — Hitting the ball back and forth repeatedly between opposite teams.
Volley — To hit the ball out of the air, before it bounces.

Official USA Pickleball Association Court Dimensions and Layout