CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

Your Pickleball Journey – The First Steps

Getting Started in Pickleball

There is a Chinese table game called “Go” that was sold under the name “Othello” in the U.S. The byline for the game is:

“a minute to learn … a lifetime to master.”

Pickleball is much the same. You can start playing the game after a few initial
instructions. But it will challenge you as much as you will allow.

Learning to play Pickleball should be fairly straightforward. We will give you
some shortcuts to get you out on the court and playing sooner rather than later. Once you have gotten the hang of the game, you can remove the shortcuts. Bear in mind that the shortcuts are only available if you are playing with people you know and who are willing to adopt them as well. If you are playing at a rec center or other sort of open play, the shortcuts will not be available. The good news here is that the other players at the rec center are probably familiar with the scoring and other rules and can walk you through the process – in other words, don’t sweat it either way.

Below is a link to the best video out there to learn the basic rules of the game.
The only exception I take to its explanation of the game is the no volley zone (or
kitchen) rule.

The no volley zone (kitchen) rule (probably one of the most important but also misunderstood rules of the game) can best be understood by what you cannot do in there.  The only thing you cannot do in the kitchen is hit a volley while standing inside, falling into, or coming out of, the kitchen. Otherwise, you can do whatever you want in there. If you are just getting started, see the kitchen shortcut below.

Link: Video to get you started in the game

Link: The Kitchen or NVZ Rule – Explained

What you will need

All you need to play is a Pickleball paddle, a Pickleball, and a place to play.

The Pickleball Paddle

For your initial paddle, we recommend buying something better than the four-
pack paddle available on Amazon or a big box store. While you do not need to buy the most high end paddle out there, the four-pack paddle and ball combinations will not give you a real feel for the sport. If you are reading this, then your interest in the game extends beyond these sets.

We have put numerous paddles through the paces to determine what paddles we
recommend. We have also categorized those paddles according to:

A. your experience with paddle sports,
B. your ability/desire to handle weight,
C. grip length and circumference (these are pretty important),
D. type of game – power (pace) vs. control (placement), and
E. budget.

Visit our Paddle selection by clicking the Store above or at www.In2Pickle.com to see what paddle is best for you.

The Pickleball

For the ball, there are two balls we primarily recommend. One is the Onix Pure
ball. Don’t be dissuaded by the fact that it is no longer USAPA tournament approved. If you are just getting started in the sport, it has some of the best feel for the beginner player. This ball will not break and will provide you with countless hours of enjoyable game play. You can also use this ball indoors (do not worry about it being an outdoor ball, it works for both).

The other ball is the Dura 40. This ball is the “standard” ball and is the ball most
used in tournament play. It is harder than the Onix Pure ball, will not bounce as high and will normally crack at some point. It is also lighter and more wind sensitive. We recommend transitioning to this ball once you are ready for it or if you plan on playing tournaments in the near future.

As with the paddles, we do not recommend off brand or big box balls. These
balls will not give you the playability of the above balls.

Both of the recommended balls are “outdoor” balls (though as noted you can use
the Onix Pure II ball indoors as well). When we distinguish outdoor from indoor play (which is important when considering shoes and balls), we are referring to the surface of play and not the fact of being indoors or outdoors. Indoors refers to wood or polished concrete floors like in gyms. Outdoor refers to a tennis court surface, usually rough, regardless of whether the tennis courts are covered or not.

Do not worry about indoor balls. If you are playing at a YMCA or rec center,
these locations will have balls available for use.

Visit our Other Gear selection above or at www.In2Pickle.com for your ball (and other equipment) needs.

During our pickleball travels, we often come across players using certain paddles
and balls that, in our opinion, are not suited for their game. When we ask them why they are using this ball or that paddle the answer is often “because that is what I saw someone at my club using” or “my friend told me to get that.” Don’t be swayed just because other players are using a particular paddle or ball or what you hear out there.

Try it out first and make sure it is right for you. Otherwise, rely on folks who have been there and tried that – like In2Pickle.

Where to Play Pickleball

Lastly, you will need a place to play pickleball.

Some areas have permanent dedicated Pickleball courts. These courts have
permanent nets and are dedicated only to Pickleball. You will generally find regular play at these courts. You can just show up when there is what is generally termed “open play” and join in the games. Just ask someone how the system there works and they will normally be glad to fill you in.

There are also indoor courts at many rec centers and YMCAs as well as indoor
tennis centers (for the Northern brethren). These courts offer Pickleball open play on a set schedule. Contact the rec center or YMCA and ask about their schedule.

A lot of times these facilities will offer free beginner clinics for players. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Other areas have Pickleball courts painted on tennis or basketball courts.
Normally the nearby rec center or tennis facility will have removable nets you can use while you play there. These courts may not be as regularly occupied with Pickleball players as dedicated courts so make sure you check for open play times – unless you have your own group.

If you do not know where to play in your area, you can search at
www.placestoplay.org. Search by actual cities, townships, etc. Do not rely on a general area search as that may miss an available location in a nearby township.
When you find a place, contact the person listed there to confirm play dates and
times. Remember that the persons whose names are on the placestoplay.org website voluntarily placed themselves there. They are usually an ambassador of the sport and are willing to be a resource to point you in the right direction.

Good luck out there
Tony Roig

Hola. Hello. Konichiwa. After 40 years playing tennis, I am now a full-time pickleball player and professional. As a 5.0 rated Senior Pro Pickleball Player and an IPTPA-certified Master Teaching Professional, my focus is on helping players like you learn to play their best pickleball. In 2016, shortly after starting to play pickleball, my friend Tom and I jumped into the highest division at the first US Open in Naples, Florida. That morning it became clear just how much there is to learn in this seemingly simple sport – a lifetime of learning if you so choose. Since 2018, I have been on a mission to share my knowledge of pickleball so other players can enjoy the game at a higher level and attain their pickleball objectives. When not studying or playing pickleball, I like to travel with my other half, Jill.

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