Pickleball is played using a perforated ball that’s served diagonally across a tennis-type net. The game is played on a 20-foot-by-44 foot court. A Pickleball court is divided into left/odd service courts and right/even service courts, and non-volley zones.
The balls are shot back and forth until one of the players commits a fault (fails to play according to the rules). You get to score a point when you or your team win a rally or when your opponent(s) commit a fault. The servicing side continually serves while alternating service courts until they commit a fault or loss a rally.
The first side to hit 11 points while leading by at least 2-points are the winners. For instance, if both you and your opponent(s) tie at 10 points, the game goes on until one of your leads by 2 points.
Pickleball is played both as singles and doubles.
Fault: A loss of rally that results in the opposing side gaining a point, a side-out, or loss of serve.
First server: In singles, the first player to serve. In doubles, the player on the right/even service court when service is awarded to the team becomes the first server.
Starting First Server: For a doubles game, this is the player who is designated to serve first when the game starts. In a doubles tournament game, a starting server needs wear a visible identification.
Groundstroke: Hitting the ball after one bounce.
Left/Odd Court: The left service area of the court. When scores are odd, the first server in doubles or the singles server should serve from the serving area on left/odd court.
Let: When a serve or a rally must be replayed for whatever reason.
Rally: The continual back and forth shooting that goes on after service, before a fault.
Receiver: The player diagonally opposite the server, in the receiving side.
Replay: A rally that’s replayed for whatever reason without change of server or awarding of a point.
Right/Even Court: The right serving area of a court of the court. When scores are even, the singles server or the starting first server in doubles should serve from the serving area on right/even court.
Second Serve: When a team is serving for the second time after they’ve lost the first of its two allocated serves.
Service Court: The area on either side of the centerline, excluding non-valley zone (NVZ). It’s bordered by centerline, baseline, and sideline.
Serving Area: The area behind the baseline between the imaginary extended sidelines and centerlines.
Cross-Court: The Court diagonally opposite your court.
Technical Foul: when one side violates a rule. When this happens, a referee adds a point to the opponents.
Dead ball: When a ball is no longer in play.
Side out: when one side loses it is right to serve to the opposing side
Underhand: When shooting, a player’s arm must move in a forward and upward arc with the palm turned downward or upward.
Volley: Hitting the ball back while it’s still in the air before it bounces.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF PICKLEBALL
When a ball is first served, the receiving side must let it bounce before hitting it back, and then the serving side must let it bounce before returning it, thus two bounces. That’s the two-bounce rule.
After the ‘two bounces’, both sides can choose to either volley the ball or groundstroke. The two bounce rules extend rallies and eliminate the volley and serve advantage.
The non-valley zone is an area within 7 feet on both sides of the net. You can’t volley within the non-valley zone, it’s against the rules. The rule is meant to prevent players from smashing the ball from close the net.
It’s a fault if, when volleying a ball, you step in into the non-valley zone; this includes when stepping on the line and when momentum causes anything you’re carrying or wearing to touch the non-volley zone and its associated lines.
You can legally be on the non-valley zone at any given time except when volleying a ball. The non-valley zone is also known as “the kitchen.”
A Serve must be hit underhand.
A Paddle’s meet with the ball must be below the server’s waist.
You can only serve from the serving area; neither foot should contact the court or baseline until you’ve hit the ball.
You should serve diagonally crosscourt; the ball must land within the directly opposite court.
You’re only allowed one serve, except in a let serve. For instance, when the ball touches the net and then lands on the appropriate side of the court, that serve is replayed.
Any of the players on the serving side can serve and score points until their side commits a fault (except when adhering to the first service sequence rules of a new game).
The first serve of a side-out is made from the right/even court.
If the server side scores a point, they switch sides and initiate the next serve from the left/odd court.
With every subsequent score of points, the serves switch back and forth up to the point when a fault is committed and the first server losses the right to serve.
When the first server loses the right to serve, serving shifts to the partner who then serves from their side of the court (with the exception of the first sequence of a game).
The second server keeps serving until their side loses the serve to the opponents or commits a fault.
At side-out, when service shifts to the opposition, both players of that side can serve and score points up to when their team commits two faults.
In singles, the serving player serves from the left/odd side when the score is odd and the right/even when the score is even.
At the start of a new game, one player of the serving side is allowed to serve before fault after which service shifts to the receiving side.
10-Second Rule: Once the referee has determined the receiver side is ready and in position, the server has 10 seconds to serve. If the server exceeds the 10 seconds, a fault is declared.
Only the serving side scores points.
Typically, games are played to 11 points and won by a margin of two.
Tournaments games can extend to 15 or 21 (won by 2)
When the score of the serving side is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10), the first server in the game must be on the right/even court when receiving or serving; when the score is odd, (1, 3, 5, 7, 9), the first serve must be in the left/odd court when receiving or serving.
If a ball contacts any line other than the non-valley zone line, it’s considered ‘in.’
When a ball contacts the non-valley zone line, it’s considered a fault.
Code of Ethics of Line Calling
Players call the lines on their side of the court (except the non-valley zone lines and the service foot faults).
Opponents are given the benefit of doubt when they make line calls. If the ball is not called out, it’s considered in.
If the opponent was in a better position to see a line call on the player’s side, a player can ask the opponent’s opinion.
Dead Ball Rules
If any action stops play, a dead ball is declared
A dead ball is also declared dead if a ball bounces twice before being returned.
It’s also considered a dead ball when the referee calls it out.
Any action that violates rules and stops play is a fault.
If the receiving team commits a fault, the serving side is awarded a point.
When a serving side commits a fault, they lose their right to serve (side out.)
Players are entitled to two timeouts per an 11 or 15 point game. For 21 point games, the players are allowed three timeouts.
Time-outs last up to 1 minute.
Coaching is only allowed during time-outs.
Determining Serve Team
You can come up with any fair method of determining which team or side serves or receives first.
The Rules are published by International Federation of Pickleball in what’s known as, USAPA Official Tournament Rule Book.
Now that you the rules of the game, let the beautiful game begin!