So Now You Play Pickleball - Where To Start For Pickleball Beginners
So Now You Play Pickleball…
By Anne Hedin
Before wasting any money by buying some cheap wood paddles online, find out what is actually needed to start playing pickleball. Unfortunately most of my knowledge has been gained by making every mistake that I’m about to warn against. A good friend invited my husband and myself to a couples low key, friendly pickleball tournament and we started this adventure with an Amazon purchase. As we walked up to the courts we saw that no one else had wooden gear and we soon understood why. Pickleball had taken on a whole new look since the last time we had experienced it.
Remember how golfer’s back 40 years ago used to use wood clubs? Pickleball is no different, and today’s state of the art equipment is one of the reasons why this is the fastest growing sport in the nation.
Cities everywhere are putting up public pickleball courts faster than they are fixing potholes to fill the rising desire to learn this fantastic sport. Ages 10-100 are starting to compulsively play this entertaining and uplifting game. After a year of my own consistent recreational, league, and tournament play, here are the things that I wish I would’ve understood from the start.
Paddles are incredibly important to this game.
My favorite pickleball company, Selkirk, has amazing gear that is worth every penny and made right here in the USA! Their paddles make hitting the ball fun, lift the game to highly competitive levels, and have a great warranty. Showing up to play with friends with my vintage wood gear, not only was embarrassing, it was frustrating as well. Top spin, backspin, and power are much easier to create when using modern, quality equipment. I personally use the Vanguard 2.0 Invikta and love it!
Selkirk also offers entry level paddles in their SLK by Selkirk Line!
Because pickleball is such great entertainment, I had no idea that hours had gone by that night of the couples’ tournament, until my feet started to whimper. Since then, playing frequently each week for over a year, I’ve discovered:
Shoes matter almost as much as the paddles do!
An actual shoe made specifically for tennis has support for the toes which is a big issue when moving side to side quickly on the court. Running shoes are not made to support the side to side and back and forth movements, so do not think those will suffice. Knee pain such as jumper’s knee, achilles issues, hamstring problems, and more can all be avoided by getting the proper shoes and by stretching prior to playing.
Even the best of shoes, even ones made especially for pickleball will wear out in 3-4 months if playing frequently on traditional courts. My shoes and many of my friends as well, have literally worn holes through the bottom of the soles from chasing those little neon green balls around multiple times a week.
Not all pickleball balls are created equal
- Balls with seams down the middle do not often hold their shape well.
- Indoor balls are generally softer, have larger holes, and are made for wood or rubber courts.
- Outdoor balls are firmer with smaller holes and they can be hit with more power.
- Outdoor balls usually crack more readily than their indoor counterparts. However, indoor balls will turn even softer like a hard Play-Doh in the heavy heat of a summer day outside.
- Likewise, outdoor balls will break at record speed if the temperature is under 40 degrees.
- Most intermediate and above players’ prefer outdoor balls.
Selkirk has both indoor and outdoor balls in a variety of colors!
If you are playing with a banger, a ball’s lifecycle can be over after a single game. These plastic necessities can lose shape and start to wobble with just a few hard hits if they are not a quality ball.
Now that you know what type of ball is best, the serve is the next item to understand.
At all levels, serves vary in style
Simple, high, lobby ones work just as good as hard, low, powerful ones do, but serving in the net or out of bounds will never gain you a point. Keep it simple and change up the pace and depth frequently. Being predictable is what makes a serve easy to return. With all of your shots, being predictable is the fastest way to lose at this strategic game.
A couple closing notes:
While this is a very enjoyable sport, no one actually likes playing with someone who makes poor line calls. Sportsmanship line calling is rarely an issue, but the people who repeatedly cheat on the court are burned into our soul’s memory ensuring we never enjoy playing them again. Don’t be that person, who makes 2-3 selfish calls in a game that were too close to called, and should’ve gone to the opponent. Out of the 100 people that I play on a regular basis, there are 3 who always make poor calls and no matter how much I want to, I just don’t like playing with these self serving line callers.
One last thing to know is that not only is pickleball fun to play, it also can improves one’s health. The slight jostling of the body due to the movement on the court stimulates the lymphatic system to help the body detox and heal. This game improves health, stimulates the mind, and creates endorphins that will make your day a little happier. If you aren’t not already playing pickleball, then start today and reap the benefits of a happier, healthier life.
Summary of key beginner pickleball points:
- Quality Paddles Are Key
- Proper Court Shoes Save the Body From Injury
- Brand of Balls Do Differ
- Good Sportsmanship Makes the Game Better
- Serves Need To Vary In Speed/Height
- Pickleball Is Good For the Soul