What sport is pickleball most similar to?

Pickleball is a combination of three sports: tennis, badminton, and ping pong (table tennis). It is played on a badminton sized court with an approximate tennis height net (2 inches lower) and what can be thought of as an enlarged ping pong paddle. The pickleball itself is a wiffle ball.

The NVZ (non-volley zone) is a distinctive feature in pickleball. The NVZ, also referred to as the Kitchen, is an area on the pickleball court that measures 7 feet deep and 40 feet across. It runs from the NVZ line to the net. 

In pickleball the ball cannot be hit into the the NVZ or touch the NVZ line on the service but can be hit into this area at any other time. 

The game can be played as either doubles or singles. The first team to reach 11 points wins the game, although a team must win by at least 2 points. 

Pickleball is a fun and relatively easy game to learn, making it a great sport for people of all ages and skill levels. 

Who invented pickleball?

In 1965, two fathers by the name Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, who were looking to keep their kids occupied during the summer vacation, invented the game of pickleball on Bainbridge Island in Washington.

As per Long Cove Club article, “The History of Pickleball”, Pritchard’s property had an old badminton court so they started there with hopes of playing. However, they couldn’t find enough rackets for a full game so instead, he improvised by using spare ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball. 

With these bits and pieces lying around, a brand-new game was born. Today, you know it better as pickleball.

Why is it called pickleball?

In a very interesting podcast called The Pickler, guest Roger Belair explains two stories on the possible origins of the name “Pickleball”.

The first version of the story is that up until the time the sport got its name, the creators and those around them just referred to it as “the game”. But, one day, around 5pm at Pritchard’s house (according to Barney McCallum), when the cocktails started flowing, someone in the group suggested they give the game a legitimate name.

Some ideas got bounced around such as “rally ball”, “tennis pong”, etc.

Finally, someone pointed out that Pritchard had a dog named Pickle who would always grab the ball and run around with it. Technically, it was “Pickle’s Ball”. So, it was decided that the game would from then on be called Pickleball.

The second story that is floating around came about when Joel’s ex-wife, Joan, told the media later on in life, 32 years after the game was created, and said that she came up with the name. She said that it came about because of a pickle boat and the dog actually came later on.

What is a pickle boat you may be asking yourself?

A pickle boat is when you take different parts of different boats and put them together to create a new boat.

Now there exist these two different stories that are quite the topic of conversation in the pickleball community. Roger Blair says he tends to believe that whatever story people hear first is usually the one they think is the right one.

We’ll leave it up to you to decide on which side of the fence you land on. 😉

When did pickleball become popular?

The game has grown tremendously in the last 7 years or so. It is especially popular in the senior community.

According to USA Pickleball and the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball grew in 2021 to 4.8 million players in the US. This 14.8% growth from 2020 to 2021 follows closely behind on the 21.3% growth the previous year and contributes to a 11.5% average annual growth rate over the past 5 years. 

In terms of gender, 60% of total participants are men and 40% are women.

Some people believe that the great increase in pickleball players over the past couple of years may have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic as people were looking for outdoor activities that could be played safely. Pickleball is a great option because it can be played outdoors with social distancing in mind.

Another reason for the sport’s growing popularity is that pickleball is a relatively easy sport to learn, making it accessible to people of all ages and skill levels.

Why is pickleball so popular?

Pickleball may be popular for many reasons other than the simple fact that it is just a lot of fun to play.

Smaller Court

The pickleball court is relatively smaller than a tennis court which means less running around, especially in doubles. This is a factor that can be enticing for seniors and for those people who are just starting off in their fitness journey.

Easy to Learn For Beginners

The rules of pickleball are not difficult to understand and the game can be played relatively quickly. This is perfect for people with busy lifestyles who want to get a quick workout in without having to spend hours on the court. 

Two relative beginners, even those that aren’t that athletic, can engage in at least a dink rally on their first day. This is not true for tennis.

Great Exercise

Despite its easy-going nature, pickleball is actually a great workout. It is a full-body sport that uses all the muscles in your legs, arms, and core. Players are constantly moving which means they are burning a lot of calories.

Social Aspect

Pickleball is a social sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It is a great way to meet new people and make friends, especially if you are new to an area.

Ball Is Less Bouncy

The ball doesn’t bounce as high as in tennis which means that the contacts are lower and more manageable.  

Because the ball doesn’t bounce as high you can really take a good swing at it and it won’t go that far. The same swing in tennis would send the ball well over the fence and into the parking lot and beyond. We all know how annoying it is to run after those fly away balls!

Club Owners Willing to Make the Switch

Tennis club owners are willing to make the switch to pickleball courts as they get 4 courts for the price of 1. 

In addition, pickleball is a game that can be played by all ages which means that the same court can be used by juniors, adults and seniors. This flexibility is great for clubs trying to maximize their profits.

Easy Underhand Serve

The point is started with an underhand serve which means a complex motion can be avoided such as the serve in tennis. 

The exception to this rule is the spin serve which is somewhat of a side slice motion rather than a low to high motion as with the underhand. The chances of the serve being successful are more likely than in tennis and there is also a reasonable chance of the return being successful as well.

Forgiving Technique

If you wish, you can play everything with a continental grip which will be useful for practically any shot. As you advance up in levels you may want to add a variety to your grips for better shot execution but you won’t need to do that for quite some while.

Closer Targets

Your targets are closer to you due to the fact that the court is smaller (relative to tennis) so your shots don’t have to be as precise. In tennis you have to hit the ball much further which requires much more pin point accuracy.

Less Intimidating Ball Speed

In tennis the ball can reach up to speeds of 100 mph or more. This will not happen in pickleball. You will max out at half that speed more often than not. This will allow for more reaction time which is more manageable for all players.

All Ages Sport

Pickleball is a great sport for all – older and young players alike and everything in between – because it is quite easy to pick up. This is especially a great sport for players of older ages, namely seniors, as your reflexes don’t have to be the best and neither does your mobility.

What are the 5 rules of pickleball?

The game of pickleball has multiple rules but if you’re a beginner and social player you only really need to know the 5 basic rules in order to have a blast. 

We will cover the general idea of these 5 points but for a more detailed explanation click here to read our full blog post covering this topic.

The game of doubles is more popular than singles and the doubles scoring is definitely more confusing than in singles. So, we’ll mainly be covering the rules and scoring for doubles.

1- How To Score Without Getting Confused

Pickleball games are played until one side or player reaches 11 points. Furthermore,  the winner needs to be 2 points ahead when they reach 11.

The score is called before each serve and is referred to as “The Call”. The first number reference’s the serving team’s score, followed by the receiving team’s score and then the third number (in doubles only) represents the number of the server which is always either a 1 or a 2. 

For example, 2-0-1 would signify that the serving team has 2 points, the receiving team has 0 points and the serving team is on their first server.

Keep in mind that in doubles, the serving team has the chance to serve at least twice per their team’s turn as each player on the team gets at least one chance to serve.

There is an exception to the above point however for the first player to serve in each game. Once that first player loses their serve, the opposing team gets to serve the next point. After this, each player will get their turn every time their team is the serving team.

2- The Services Sequence 

For both singles and doubles, the player on the right side of the court will serve to the person that is diagonal to them on the opposite side of the court.

The team that is serving will continue to serve until their team makes an error at which point their serve will move on to the second server on that team (keep in mind the exception that we mentioned in the previous point). 

As the serving team continues to win points they will change sides from right to left and then from left to right which gives each player on the returning team a chance to receive the serve.

It’s important to note that the players on the receiving team do not switch sides after each point. This change is only done by the serving team.

There are some important points to keep in mind to ensure the serve is legal which are explained in detail in our 5 Rules For Pickleball article.

3- Two Bounce Rule

This rule is quite simple. It simply means that the receiving team must let the ball bounce after the serve and then the serving team must then also let the return bounce before making contact with the ball.

After that, it is free rein except for when a player is standing in the NVZ.

4- NVZ (Non-Volley Zone) Aka “The Kitchen”

If a player is standing in the NVZ area, on the NVZ line or about to step into the NVZ, then they have to let the ball bounce before making contact with it.

You are allowed to reach forward into the NVZ to volley the ball but you cannot step into the area.

5- Who Is The First To Serve?

Any fair method used to decide will do. For example, you can toss a coin or pull a name out of a hat, etc.

The main point to remember is that the team that serves first will only have one serve and not two on the very first turn to serve.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a fun, yet challenging sport to play, pickleball is the perfect option. 

This game has quickly become one of the most popular sports in America due to its similarities to other racket sports and the many advantages it offers players. 

Whether you are just starting out or have been playing for years, be sure to follow our blog and YouTube channel for more tips and information on this exciting sport.