What the Hell is Pickleball?

Yup, I know! You’ve heard it in passing. You’ve heard it’s growing but really, “What the hell is pickleball?”

What the hell is pickleball

Pickleball is a racquet sport played with a pickleball paddle and a perforated hollow pickleball on a outdoor or indoor pickleball court in doubles (4 players) or singles (2 players). 

Pickleball is two things actually, it’s a sport as well as a ball used in the sport. The game is similar to badminton, ping pong and tennis.

Who invented pickleball

Pickleball was invented by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum on Bainbridge Island, Washington State in 1965.

Why? Because they lacked the proper equipment to play an existing sport so they combined elements of existing racquet sports.

Why is it called pickleball?

A common question about pickleball is “Was pickleball named after a dog?” Yes, and no. So, there are two legends about the name “pickleball”. 

The first story states that the Pritchard’s family dog, “Pickles” would cut across the court and fetch the pickleball and scurry along. 

A cockapoo like Pickles, the dog that PIckleball was supposedly named after
A cockapoo like Pickles

The second story states that Joel Pritchard’s wife named the sport “pickleball” because it was the last (leftovers) of other racquet sports. This only makes sense because she was a rower. In rowing, the last boat to cross the finish line is called a “pickleboat.”

Honestly, paddle tennis won’t have been a bad name for the sport, but unfortunately that name was already taken. 

For more on why it is called pickleball, check this post

How to play pickleball

doubles game of pickleball

Playing pickleball is very, very similar to playing tennis. You alternate serves, you rally, and you either win or lose points. 

You play to win points against your opponent in either singles or doubles play. You win points when your opponent can’t return your shot or when they make a fault. 

Quick and fast pickleball rules

  • Serving must be done at the baseline.
  • You can’t serve into the non-volley zone, aka the kitchen.
  • Your goal is to keep the ball inbounds.
  • After a serve, the ball must bounce twice on either end of the net before a player can legally hit a volley. 
  • First team to 11 points wins (it’s 15 or 21 in some tournaments).
  • Only serving team can score. Receiving team cannot score.
  • If server scores a point, server switches to other side of court in singles or doubles play.
  • Server serves until team commits a fault.
  • You must win by at least 2 points. So 11 to 9, or 12 to 10. Winning team must score 2 points in a row to win.

For more, check out our complete guide on pickleball scoring

There are just a few differences in rules, court and equipment.

6 pickleball courts beside 2 tennis courts
Check out the size differences between the pickleball and tennis courts
  1. You can’t serve overhand in pickleball like you do in tennis. All serves must be underhand. 
  2. The pickleball net is slightly different from the tennis net. The pickleball net is both shorter at the posts and in the middle of the court.  In addition, pickleball nets are shorter in width than tennis nets
  3. If you thought the sport’s name wasn’t weird enough, there’s also a section of the court famously called “kitchen”. Inside the kitchen, you can’t hit a volley.
  4. Tennis courts are significantly larger than pickleball courts. You can fit 4 pickleball courts in a standard tennis court.
  5. Pickleball uses a pickleball paddle and pickleball vs tennis racquet and tennis ball. 

These are just some of the rules in pickleball, you can find a complete list in the official USAPA Rulebook.

Related: Pickleball vs Padel (another super fast-growing sport)

What playing pickleball looks like

This is what pro pickleball looks like

If you want to watch professional pickleball, you can follow the PPA Tour channel to watch pickleball matches among the top pickleball players like Ben Johns, Simone Jardim, and Zane Navratil.

Quirks about pickleball


The “pop-pop-pop” is pickleball’s signature sound. It’s pretty noisy, but we love it all the same. Even though, it drives people living close to pickleball courts up the wall.

Fastest growing sport in America

For three consecutive years (2021 – 2023), The Sports & Fitness Industry Association has named pickleball as the fastest growing sport in America. The report states that there are over 4.8 million players. 

This is what pickleball is like for us mere mortals

Just look at the graph of the ramp up in pickleball interest in America. 

Pickleball interest in the US past 5 years from 2022

Now, you’ve got a short rundown of what pickleball is. I hope I’ve piqued your interest in it. It’s a good workout and since it’s generally played in doubles, it’s a great way to relax with your buddies.

Interested in pickleball? Learn the basics here.

Where to Play Pickleball

The final great thing about pickleball is that it can almost be played anywhere. From pickleball courts, tennis courts, basketball courts (including indoors), on concrete, grass, asphalt, in the sun, or in the rain.

Your local gym, sports club, YMCA should have a space where you can set up pickup pickleball games. Check out this complete directory for places to play pickleball in America.

As long as you can mark your court and have portable pickleball nets, paddles and pickleballs, you’re good to go.

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