Everything you need to know (and more!) about pickleball in the US
By Steve B
There’s much for Americans to love about pickleball, the game that’s become a social scene in the US. You don’t need to be a keen sport-lover to love the pickleball lifestyle, and even casual players can enjoy. It’s a sport very different from many American sports, and as its popularity has grown, so too has the number of national and international events and tournaments.
The game is still relatively young, with first pickleball competition starting in Japan in 1997, but many nations have embraced it, from the Netherlands to Russia and even the US. In the US, some tournaments take place in the US, while others are in neighboring countries, including Canada, Mexico and Argentina.
If you ask a new pickleball fan what they know of the sport, they’ll probably tell you that pickleball is “just like volleyball, but with a ball.” But pickleball, like volleyball, has many of the same basic elements. You have teams of three for the game’s set and three for its side (which is why you tend to have more sets per game than in volleyball). The pickleball ball is a disc, but not all play balls are shaped the same. Instead of the usual flat leather, many play balls are leather-covered plastic discs, which is why most tournament players have those discs for home use (though many people also use balls with rubber linings). The net is either a large, woven fiberglass or mesh (and sometimes a leather-covered polyurethane net), and it can be made from a variety of materials, including steel or plastic.
Like other games, you can only play a certain number of games per match and the maximum number is determined by the game’s official rules. (For example, in the Philippines, all team play must have a handicap in the double, and in Mexico, team play must be at least four players in the double team. In all other countries, teams play on their own for double team handicap.) The basic rules include a limit of six players per team, and only the team captain can be called on. The team score is based on the points the team has obtained and then divided by the number of teams and then averaged across the four players of each team. There’s more in the technical rules, but all