Intrigued by pickleball? Yeah, same. Luckily, with courts springing up across the country, there’s never been a better time to get into the game. By learning basic pickleball rules—as well as a few other fundamentals—anyone can try their hand at America’s fastest-growing sport and experience what the hype is all about.
Part of pickleball’s allure is that it’s pretty beginner-friendly, Landon Uetz, PT, DPT, physical therapist and certified pickleball coach in Chandler, Arizona, tells SELF. And you don’t need experience with other racquet sports (like badminton or ping pong) to give it a go, he says.
In fact, it’s more suited to novices since it’s less intense: Compared to tennis, the pickleball court is smaller, the ball doesn’t travel as fast, and the paddle is easier to control. As a result, you don’t have to move around as much, there’s less of a hand-eye coordination challenge, and you’re usually able to sustain longer rallies, or the periods where you’re hitting the ball back and forth, Jennie Melin, certified personal trainer and certified pickleball coach at LifeTime in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, tells SELF.
Another perk? “It’s really quite an inviting community,” says Melin. Most folks play doubles, meaning there are four people on the court at a time, which can give the sport a social vibe. Plus, pickleball is relatively affordable—it doesn’t require expensive equipment, and tons of community parks have outdoor courts where you can play for free.
To boot, pickleball is a great workout, says Melin, since it gets you moving in all directions, challenges your coordination, and often gets your heart rate up. Perhaps most important, though? “It’s so fun,” she says. And chances are, the more you enjoy a workout, the more likely you are to do it consistently, which means pickleball could just become a staple in your fitness routine.
Ahead, all you need to know to get started, including how to play pickleball, basic rules and etiquette tips to keep in mind, what equipment and gear you need, and how to reduce your injury risk. Consider this your go-to pickleball for beginners guide!
1. Gather your specific essentials.
First up: the paddle. You’ll want to choose a pickleball-specific racquet—it’s smaller and more rectangular than what you use in tennis—to make sure it’s legal for play. (Basically, its length can’t exceed 17 inches, and the length and width combined can’t be greater than 24 inches.) You can find a pickleball paddle online or at a sporting goods store, says Uetz. You can also rent them at some fitness facilities, says Melin.
Then there are the pickleball balls, which, unlike those in tennis, are made of non-textured material and have holes. There are different variations for indoor versus outdoor games, says Melin—indoor balls have larger holes than outdoor ones. You can buy these at the same retailers that sell the paddles.
2. Dress the part.
There’s no specific clothing you need for pickleball. “Any type of workout attire is fine, as long as you can move easily and you’re comfortable,” says Melin. On the footwear front, consider getting a court shoe, which are specifically for pickleball or tennis, says Melin. Compared to running or walking shoes, which are primarily crafted for forward movement, court shoes support action in all directions, especially laterally (side to side). That’s especially important in pickleball, since the sport will have you moving in all sorts of ways.