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How to Play Popular UK Sport: Pickleball

Pickleball: A newly popularized sport that combines tennis, ping pong, badminton, and some serious intelligence.

Now, I have never played badminton, and outside of middle school PE class, I have never played tennis, so I relied heavily on my previous ping pong-playing experience in my friend’s garage to get me through an afternoon of pickleball.

Pickleball equipment consists of a wiffle ball and four very oddly shaped rackets--like ping pong paddles but bigger and square-ish. The game is played on its own special court, though many people make due with a tennis court, which is what I did.

Prior to playing myself, I had only seen pictures and videos of older people playing pickleball, so I assumed that it could not be that difficult. I could not have been more wrong. Now, I have only played basketball and soccer in my life, so the whole paddle, racket, bat thing was new to me, but it was definitely a challenge. Since it is a smaller court, the game moves a lot quicker than tennis, but it’s less confined than ping pong, so it requires a little bit more movement.

Altogether though, the toughest part of the whole thing is the scoring. It was quite complicated as a first-time pickleballer.

So, there are two teams, with two players on each side. Unlike a tennis court though, a pickleball court has the net, with a seven-foot-long rectangle on either side of the court called the “kitchen.” The main thing I gathered about the kitchen is that you are supposed to act like a man from the 1900s, and stay out of it!

Past the kitchen, is the area where the players stand, and that is divided into a right half and a left half for each player.

To start the game, one team takes the ball to serve it. The person on the right side serves first and it must cross over the net, past the kitchen, and into the box on the opposite side of the court, where it bounces before the other team hits it. Then, of course, the team hits it back and it must bounce again on the other side of the net and so on. Like tennis, though, bounces are not necessary before every time you hit the ball. They are, however, necessary for the first two back-and-forths. So the ball must bounce one time on each side before anybody can hit it in the air without a bounce.

For serving, both players on a team must serve before the other team starts to serve. Since I was standing on the right side of the court, I served first and I won the point, because the other team hit it out of bounds after a few rallies. Because I served, my team won a point and my partner and I switched sides. However, I continued to serve until we lost the point, then my teammate served and continued that until we lost the point again. That is when the ball switched to the other team.

This whole serve, switch, serve again thing was very, very complicated to do, and even more complicated to explain in words, so I suggest watching a YouTube video or two if you’re interested in playing a serious game of pickleball.

For a point to be won, the other team must hit the ball into the net, hit the ball out of bounds, or let it bounce twice. To win a point, you also have to have been the team serving. Like I said earlier, you HAVE to stay out of the kitchen, unless the ball bounces in it first, then you can go in to hit it over the net, but otherwise no entering at any time.

The game goes until one team scores eleven points, and they have to win by two points, similar to ping pong.

It took me about an hour to totally get all these rules down, but once I did, I will admit the game was very enjoyable. I felt very proper and high-class while playing it, so I can see why it is so big in the UK and among older people. It never got overly competitive or aggressive, I think probably because we were all so focused on getting the overly-complicated rules down.


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