By: CJ Johnson | December 5, 2020 |

The One Pickleball Fundamental You HAVE to Understand

What’s the saying? Hindsight is always 2020. If I could turn back the clock on my pickleball journey and learn the game again, I’m convinced that I’d become a better player faster if I focused less on hitting the ball and more on understanding the fundamentals of the game. A concept critical to understanding pickleball strategy is the two bounce rule.

At the time, I thought of the two bounce rule as one of those quirky pickleball rules. When I was on the serving team, it was hard to remember to wait for a juicy popped up return to bounce. All I wanted to do was run up and put it away. After all, anyone who’d played tennis surely used a serve and volley to win a point or two.

Unfortunately, everyone I was learning pickleball fundamentals from was the same level as me, grab a paddle and hit the ball. I wish I would have had someone explain to me the strategy basics and how this seemingly quirky rule impacted the entire game plan.

I like to compare learning chess with learning pickleball. It’s one thing to know the basics of how a chess piece moves; it’s quite another to apply a winning strategy. Learning to control the non-volley zone or NVZ is THE first pickleball fundamental players need to know.

This excerpt from Tony Roig‘s book Play Pickleball: A Beginners Guide, explains exactly what every beginning pickleball player needs to know!

The one pickleball fundamental you have to understand

Pickleball is more than just getting the ball over the net and into the court. Pickleball is easy to learn, but it can take a lifetime to master every aspect of the game.

The first fundamental that you have to understand is that the strategies when you are the serve team differ from the strategies when you are the return team. If you do not understand this difference, you cannot succeed as a player. Period.

When you are the serve team, you are at a disadvantage because of the Two-Bounce Rule. The disadvantage is that your opponents (the return team) will be able to move up to the NVZ line before you. Most successful doubles pickleball is played at the NVZ line. You must first neutralize that disadvantage and get you into a position to win the rally and score a point.

When you are the return team, you have the positional advantage of being able to control the NVZ line first. You must maintain that advantage and make it as difficult as possible for the serve team to score a point.

Neutralizing when you are on the serve side of the ball and maintaining your advantage when you are on the return side of the ball is how you will win more rallies and, as a result, win more games.


Understanding the purpose of a game’s rules is one of the essential skills for learning to play the game well. A pickleball player who can hit a few shots AND understands this basic pickleball fundamental strategy will improve more quickly than someone who hits a few great shots.

If you have a new pickleball player in your life, you’ll trim their learning curve with Play Pickleball: A Beginners Guide.


Excerpted from
Play Pickleball: A Beginners Guide

Available for purchase at Amazon



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CJ Johnson

Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)