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The 8 Essential Rules of Pickleball

Pickleball Scoring Consists of Three Components
So you’ve tried pickleball–which is to say you’ve gone out and rallied back and forth to get the feel of the paddle and ball–but maybe you haven’t actually played a game. The rules of pickleball are not that hard to master, and here’s a simple overview of 8 essential rules to get you started. We will focus on doubles rules since that’s what most people play (singles rules are a little different).
  1. Every point must begin with calling the score. The score comprises of three numbers and is called in this order: serving team score, opponent score, server number (1 or 2). The server on the right hand side always serves first and is Server 1. That person remains Server 1 until your team loses the serve. For example, if you are the first server on your side and your team has 4 points and your opponents have 5, the score is 4, 5, 1.

    Pro Tip: If you’re overwhelmed with the scorekeeping, ask your partner to announce the score until you get the hang of it.

  2. Serves must be underhand–out of the air (volley) or off a bounce (drop serve). The only requirement is that contact must be made below the waist and the server’s feet must be behind the baseline.

    Pro Tip: For beginners, a drop serve is usually easier to learn than serving out of the air.

  3. Serves must be delivered diagonally to your opponent's side, and the ball must stay in the court, get over the net, and avoid the kitchen, including the kitchen lines.

    Pro Tip: A serve that hits the net but lands in the diagonally opposite service box is considered fair.

  4. Sides alternate serving with each player on the team serving until there’s a fault. When your team wins the point, you switch positions with your partner and the server serves again from the opposite side, continuing in this way until there’s a fault. The only exception to the service order is that the team that serves first in a game has only one server, with that first server announcing themselves as Server 2.

    Pro Tip: Unlike tennis, you only get one chance to get your serve in, so focus on accuracy over power or spin until you are consistent.

  5. The ball must bounce once on each side after the serve (two-bounce rule), and then it can be hit out of the air.

    Pro Tip: Be sure to stay back at the baseline until your team has hit their second shot.

  6. Games are generally played to 11 and must be won by a margin of two points, though some venues may make their own rules, especially when other players are waiting to rotate in. Only the serving team can score points.

    Pro Tip: Because you can only score points when your team has the serve, it is advantageous to be the first serving team.

  7. Volleying (hitting out of the air) is allowed only behind the kitchen line–no article of clothing or body part may cross the kitchen line!

    Pro Tip: Crossing the kitchen line on the momentum of a volley is also considered a fault.

  8. Rallies are commonly lost in three ways: out-of-bounds balls, the ball bouncing twice on your side before being hit, and volleying from inside the kitchen.

    Pro Tip: Try to avoid hitting balls that are headed out of bounds by being aware of where you are standing on the court.

If you can't remember all 8 rules, don't worry. Once you start playing, other players will remind you of a rule until you’ve mastered them. Because you only need to know these 8 essential rules, almost anyone can start playing full games in a matter of minutes. Now get out there and have fun!

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