What Do You Need to Play Pickleball? A Helpful Beginner’s Guide

The game of pickleball is literally gaining millions of new followers per year. So, if you’re one of those people wondering “What do you need to play pickleball”, then this article is for you!

All you need in order to play pickleball is a paddle, a pickleball ball, a pair of court shoes, a partner, and some friendly competition. After that, all you need is a court with the proper pickleball lines laid down, and you’re ready to get started.

Let’s talk more about the equipment you need to start playing pickleball and answer some common questions that a lot of beginners typically have.

What Two Pieces Of Equipment Are Most Important For Pickleball?

Essentially, for any beginner learning pickleball for the first time, the only two things you need to start playing are a paddle and a standard pickleball-approved wiffle ball.

It’s pretty simple, in order to show up to your local pickleball courts and learn the game you’ll first need a paddle. You can’t hit the ball without the proper paddle. So, that’s usually what people buy first.

Next comes the ball. Pickleball uses a specific kind of plastic wiffle ball so playing with a designated USAPA-approved indoor or outdoor pickleball is the next important step to playing and learning the game of pickleball.

But, there are thousands of paddles to choose from and even hundreds of different balls. So, if you’re a beginner, knowing how to sift through all the cheap junk, and buy quality gear is essential. That’s where I can help.

Let’s break down what to look for with regard to pickleball paddles and break down the different types of balls so you can make an educated buying decision and get the most bang for your buck.

I’ve been playing pickleball for over six years, so I am happy to share the lessons I’ve learned and more importantly, the brands I trust and the ones I don’t.

Let’s talk about my favorite pickleball topic – gear!!

Pickleball Equipment – Paddles

The most important piece of equipment when first learning to play pickleball is your paddle. You’ll need a quality paddle to get the most enjoyment out of the game.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to choose your paddle based on weight, paddle shape, and price. If you’re a complete beginner, I recommend reading my friendly guide on how to choose a pickleball paddle (without having to buy it). There are many online retailers that will give you a 30-day trial period where you can return it within 30 days with no questions asked. Click this link for a complete breakdown of where to take advantage of such programs.

Most beginners tend to pick their first paddle based on price. This is a mistake. My advice is to pick from a reputable pickleball brand and choose something in the $80 to $100 range.

Don’t just buy a cheap knockoff brand from an online retailer. Amazon is littered with them so beware! Instead, look for brands like Prince, Engage, Paddletek, Wilson, or Selkirk.

Once you’ve set a budget for your paddle, the next important feature is the weight of the paddle. When you are first getting started playing pickleball, the options for weight can be a little overwhelming.

Overall, the weight you choose for your paddle will be based on personal preference. Lighter paddles allow more control over where the ball goes, whereas heavier paddles allow you to hit the ball harder and faster.

Paddle Weight Explained

Lighter paddles tend to be 7.8 to 8.1oz. Medium-weight paddles are 8.2 to 8.4oz and heavy paddles weigh above 8.4 ounces.

If this is your first paddle, I recommend aiming for 8.1 to 8.2 ounces and trying that first. See how that feels. Many brands make a light and normal-weight version of the paddle and allow you to return an item 30 days later. So feel free to buy both and return the version you don’t like.

Remember, choosing a pickleball paddle that is too heavy means that you have less control over where the ball goes. Heavier paddles will also tire your arm out faster. So, using a heavy paddle when you are still learning, may cause your arm to get tired quickly or even lead to an elbow or arm injury.

Lighter paddles require more effort behind your swing to get the ball where you want it to go, but overall they are better for beginners.

Pickleball Paddle Grips Explained

Grip size is also an important factor to consider when buying paddles. The grip should feel comfortable in your hand, but that’s not the only reason that size is important.

Paddle grips that are too large can slip while you are playing, and they also become difficult to hold on to over time. On the other hand, paddle grips that are too small may be uncomfortable to hold in your hand despite being easier to control while playing.

As with paddle weight, most reputable brands will give you a choice between a small grip size and a medium grip size so it may come down to your personal choice based on what feels good to you.

What beginner paddle do I recommend? The Prince Response Pro is the most forgiving paddle I’ve ever played with because its got a huge sweet spot! It’s a little pricey but literally everyone I’ve recommended it to hasn’t been disappointed. It’s worth every penny and Prince backs it with a lifetime warranty for when it wears out.

Pickleball Equipment – Balls

Finding the right ball is another important part of learning the game. First, it is important to decide if you will be playing indoor or outdoor pickleball. This will help determine the type of ball you play with.

Outdoor pickleball balls need to be heavy in order to withstand wind, so they tend to be harder and heavier than indoor pickleball balls. Outdoor balls have 40 smaller holes while indoor balls have 26 larger holes.

So if you see a set of balls that has the number “40” after the name it’s an outdoor ball. And if it says “26” after the name, it’s an indoor ball.

As a beginner, the only thing you need to worry about is not buying indoor balls when playing outside or vice versa. The top brands to choose from regardless of indoor or outdoor are Dura, Onix, Franklin-X, and Core.

It’s important to note that heavier outdoor pickleball balls tend to move faster because of the increased weight and hardness. This means that controlling outdoor pickleballs can be harder than indoor ones.

Indoor balls are lighter and softer than outdoor balls and they’re not as easy to hit hard. You’ll need more effort to hit indoor pickleball balls hard down the line, but they’re a little easier to control.

Pickleball Lifespan

Balls used for pickleball will also wear out over time. So, it is important to consider longevity when choosing a brand. Based on my play experience with outdoor balls, Franklin X and Core last a long time, so I’d recommend those two for sure.

Outdoor balls usually wear out fast because an outdoor court creates more wear and tear on them. Not to mention, exposure to the elements and sunlight, can cause outdoor balls to wear out and crack. Again Franklin-X balls and Core balls take a long time to crack in my opinion. I’ve got a lot of use out of them.

Overall, the ball you choose should depend on where you want to play. Keep in mind that you may need to replace these balls frequently, depending on how often you play. So, buy a few extras to get you started.

Pickleball Equipment – Court Shoes

What do you need to play pickleball? Shoes. Yes a good pair of dedicated pickleball shoes.

One of the most overlooked items you’ll need is a good pair of court shoes. The biggest mistake you can make, as a beginner learning the game, is to step out onto the court with your old running shoes or cross trainers on.

Court shoes are tailor-made for racquet or paddle sports like pickleball. In fact, any decent pair of court shoes for tennis will also work perfectly for pickleball. Literally any shoe designed for tennis will work for pickleball.

Court shoes are ideal for pickleball because their soles are designed for both forward and backward motion but also lateral movement as well. Its this lateral movement functionality that separates court shoes from running shoes and cross trainers.

I’ve seen to many new players go down with knee and ankle injuries by stepping out onto the court with a standard pair of running shoes on. It’s a recipe for a sprained ankle or worse and I don’t recommend it.

What brand of court shoes do I recommend for beginners? I’m a big fan of the Express Light Pickleball Shoe from K-Swiss. I’ve worn many pairs over the years. Another good brand and one that excels in durability is Asics. The Asics Gel RENMA pickleball shoe is very highly rated and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for their first court shoe for pickleball.

Pickleball Equipment – Nets and Portable Nets Explained

Chances are, if you’re planning on playing outdoors, you’ll either be playing on a tennis court with pickleball lines laid down on it or on a standalone, dedicated outdoor pickleball court. In either scenario, then the net will already be provided for you.

But, if you’re playing in your driveway or neighborhood, a portable pickleball net will be necessary. A standard pickleball net should be 22 feet across, 36 inches high at the posts, and 34 inches down the middle so, all portable regulation nets accommodate these specifications.

Fun fact: Tennis nets are slightly higher than pickleball nets for a reason.

But again, if you’re just learning to play pickleball, then buying a portable net isn’t something you’ll need to do. I’d recommend heading to your local park or wherever there are tennis courts to see if they have stand-alone pickleball courts or tennis courts with pickleball court lines laid down within the tennis court.

If you’re looking for my recommendation for a quality portable pickleball net you can set up in your driveway in just 10 minutes, then I recommend the Portable Pickleball Net from PickleNet. This is the one my family sets up and plays with every Summer. It’s super easy!

Pickleball Rules For New Players

Picture pickleball as the cousin of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong having a friendly cookout next door!

So, here’s the gist. Singles or doubles? Both work. You play on a court about the size of a badminton one with a lower net. Your serve gets the game rolling. Remember to serve underhand and hit that ball past the kitchen (more on that soon), landing it diagonally across into your opponent’s court. And remember to keep those feet behind that baseline or else the serve is invalid.

Next up, we’ve got the “two-bounce rule.” It means the ball has to bounce once on each side before anyone can start smashing volleys mid-air. 

And the points? Well, they only count when your team serves. We’re aiming for 11 points but the twist is you need to be 2 points ahead to win.

One quirky fun part to pickleball is the area on the court called The Non-Volley Zone, also called “the Kitchen.” This is a 7-foot area extending from the net on both sides where volleying is a no-go. You can step into it, sure, but only if the ball has bounced there.

Sounds like a lot? Nah, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Just remember the main goal: outwit your opponent either by hitting a shot they can’t return or coax them into hitting out-of-bounds.

Scoring in Pickleball For Beginners

Now that you’ve got the ball bouncing, let’s talk pickleball’s scoring system. It’s a bit quirky at first, but a whole lot of fun once you’ve got the hang of it!

First things first, only the serving team can score actual points. That means if you serve, you’ve got a shot at adding a point to your scoreboard; if you’re receiving, your main goal is to stop the other team from scoring and earn the right to serve yourself.

A game is usually played to 11, but you need to win by at least a two-point margin. So, it’s not over ’til it’s over! You often hear lots of cheering and high-fives when matches stretch past 11!

Here’s where it gets interesting. In a doubles match, both players on the team serve before the other team gets their shot. Each player is only entitled to one service turn – it’s a bit of an oddball rule but it keeps things interesting.  If the first server loses the point, that team’s second server gets a crack at it.

If they lose that point, the serve goes to the other team where they each get one serve. 

Calling out the score can be confusing at first.  Pickleball scoring requires you to say three numbers before each serve – the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and whether the server is the first or second server (marked as 1 or 2). 

So, if you’re the first server and the score’s 4-5, you’ll yell out “Four – Five – One!” This keeps everyone on the same page and excited about what’s next.

Remember, the magic of pickleball scoring is in the keep-away. The secret sauce to winning? Gain the serve and keep those points coming!

What Do You Need to Play Pickleball – My Final Thoughts

Overall, you don’t need much to start playing pickleball, and it won’t cost you a whole lot to get started either.

Consider purchasing a good pair of court shoes to go along with your paddle. Paddle features such as shape and weight can be subjective and come down to personal preference so I recommend making sure the item is returnable so you can try multiple versions.

When you boil it all down, all you need is a good medium-weight paddle, decent court shoes, and the proper ball based on indoor or outdoor use. I hope this article has answered your question “What do you need to play pickleball” and has given you some great recommendations on where to start for beginner-level gear. Now off you go!

What Do You Need To Play Pickleball – Other FAQs

Here are some other related questions that I typically get from new players that will also be helpful for you.

1. What is pickleball and how is it played?

Pickleball is a fun and easy-to-learn game that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It is typically played on a paddle and racket sport court. Players use solid paddles to hit a ball over a pickleball net. The game can be played as a two-player or four-player game.

2. What gear is essential to play pickleball?

Everything you need to play pickleball includes pickleball paddles, pickleballs, a suitable pickleball court or tennis court, and appropriate footwear such as tennis shoes or specific pickleball shoes. Additionally, understanding the pickleball rules and having knowledge of the non-volley zone and other pickleball equipment is important for a beginner.

3. What do I need to know about pickleball before starting to play?

To start playing pickleball, you need to know about the pickleball rules, how to serve, the non-volley zone, and the scoring system. You’ll also need to learn how to hit the ball and must understand the basic strategies and tactics used by pickleball players.

4. What are some essential tips for beginners in pickleball?

For beginner pickleball players, it’s essential to work on your technique, positioning, and understanding court positioning. Learning when to be aggressive and when to play a defensive shot is also important. Additionally, using the right pickleball gear and the proper stance can make a big difference in the quality of your game.



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