Everything you need to know about pickleball

Pickleball is definitely having a *moment* right now (and no, not just with your mom). Girls around the country are taking up the game in droves (matter of fact, it's the fastest growing sport for teens in the country). It's a fab workout, a great way to hang with friends and don't even get us started on the adorable gear (have you seen those paddles?).

"You're going to meet sooo many people once you start playing pickleball," enthuses 16-year-old Anna Leigh Waters, a pro pickleball player who is currently ranked number one in the world for singles and doubles. "I've met so many friends through my games and practices. You never know, you might find your next BFF on the pickleball court!"

Bonus: It's easy to learn. "Pickleball is like if tennis and ping-pong had a baby," says celeb pickleball coach Matt Manasse. "Just imagine you're standing on a ping-pong table or playing a mini version of tennis with a paddle instead of a racket."

Like tennis, pickleball is played on a court—but instead of using a fuzzy yellow ball, players opt for a plastic ball with perforated holes (kind of like a wiffle ball). Since it is so light, it moves pretty quickly, making pickleball a great choice for anyone who's down to work up a sweat while having a blast.

Ready to hit the kitchen? (Nope, not for a snack—it's part of the court!) We've got the dillball deets.

Pickleball 101

While pickleball may seem a little complicated (see the above kitchen reference), it can actually be pretty easy...once you get the hang of it.

"One of the best ways to get started is to simply hit the ball back and forth just to get the official feel of things," says Manasse. As soon as you start to get comfy with a paddle in your hand, you can move on to learning the game.

First things first: the serve. It has to be underhand, diagonal and past the kitchen line (the 7-foot area around the net). Once the play gets going, "the main rule is that you can't take a ball out of the air in the kitchen," Manasse says. In other words, you have to let the ball bounce before you strike it there.

You end your turn in three different ways: an out-of-bounds ball, a ball bouncing twice on a side before being hit and being in the kitchen when you shouldn't be.

And as for winning? "Games are to 11, and you need to win two of three rounds," says Manasse. "You can only score on your own serve, and you have to win by two points."

We know it's a lot, but once you find your flow, you'll be serving and scoring in literally no time. "I've seen players start to have rallies and play games on day one," Manasse reveals.

Get some game

Pickle's rapid rise has made the sport really accessible (some schools are now even offering it in gym class!). But if you still haven't gotten your pickleball on, experts suggest connecting with leagues or people in your circle who already play.

"The easiest way to get involved is to find a family member or friend to show you the ropes," says Riley Chervinski, pickleball competitor and owner of the online pickleball boutique Racket Royalty. "Once you understand the basic rules and hit a few balls, you'll probably feel more comfortable joining a pickleball community or league, where you can work to develop your skills further. Or just treat pickleball as a fun activity to do with your friends."

Depending on your area, you might find that some community centers offer pickleball lessons, day camps or drop-ins so that you can practice in a low-pressure environment. Most of these places have pickleball paddles you can rent, too.

"As you start to play more people, you'll get better and better and start to learn your own strategies," says Manasse, who also suggests checking out instructional videos on YouTube or Instagram (@mattmanasse has plenty).

Friends in the kitchen

Sure, it's great to get outside and get your sweat on—but what's really fueling pickleball's popularity is that the game is super social. "Pickleball offers lots of opportunities to meet people," Manasse shares. "There's such a huge community surrounding it."

Pickleball player Laila M., 17, agrees. "Yes, you are getting exercise, but you're also hanging out with friends and making new ones," she says. "It's so fun and it truly is easy to learn. I love it—there's really nothing else like it."

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our June/July 2023 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.

Top image: @abigaile.jones
Slider image: @itsjennaraine
Story edited for digital coverage by Ava Slocum. Graphics by Annika Chaves.


by Amanda Kohr | 6/26/2023