Pickleball is an exciting sport that involves agility, strength, and endurance. While pickleball may not be as common as football or baseball, it is gaining traction due to easily understandable rules and fun play style. Many local recreation centers have been adding pickleball to their weekly program.
Like any other popular sport, certain equipment is required to play pickleball correctly. Getting a good working understanding of how to play the game is an important first step to knowing the roles of each equipment piece.
Basics of Pickleball
Pickleball is a blend of many popular sports, but has a unique set of rules. It is played on a standard badminton court. This court is similar to a tennis court, but is smaller, and has a secondary line for playing doubles.
A player serves the ball using a pickleball paddle. If the ball clears the non-volley zone, it is considered in-play (similarly to tennis). If it doesn’t, the Server loses a point. Like table tennis, the ball is hit back and forth over the net until it goes out of bounds or is missed.
Basic Pickleball Equipment
The most basic pickleball equipment a new player will need is a paddle and a ball, but there are many other equipment pieces to look into. And your pickleball play strategies – like how you try to spin or dink the ball – can be enhanced by the equipment you choose.
This paddle has the appearance of a large ping pong paddle. The shape is roughly square with rounded edges. In size, they are larger than ping pong paddles, but smaller than a tennis racket. These paddles were historically made from wood, but modern paddles are often made of lightweight materials such as aluminum. They come in an infinite variety of colors and patterns, so finding the best pickleball paddle can take some research.
With so many options, picking out a paddle can be a confusing experience. There are three main things to consider when looking for pickleball paddles.
- Price – If you’re looking for a solid, strong paddle, you’ll probably need to invest around $50. Paddles under this price are much more likely to break or hinder your play due to their weight. If you’re not sure how much you’ll enjoy pickleball and just want to try it out, consider borrowing a paddle from a friend to get an idea for the sport before purchasing your own.
- Material – The most ideal paddle material for a new player is aluminum. Wood paddles often are less expensive but are much heavier. Many pickleball players love the “pop” sound that the sport is known for. Graphite paddles are the most lightweight and efficient but can be incredibly expensive. They often range between $60 and $145. Graphite paddles are great for hardcore or professional players, but do not offer enough advantages to a casual or new player to be worth the price difference. Aluminum paddles offer a lightweight option at a reasonable price, making it the best option.
- Weight – Most paddles are 6 to 14 ounces, and the lighter the paddle is, the better. Lighter paddles are more maneuverable and easier to swing. Heavier paddles can be clumsy and slow down the player during crucial moments.
- Grip – Paddles come with a range of grips for differing hand size. Playing with the wrong grip can impair the player’s abilities and cause awkward movement.
The smallest grip size is 4”. This size is usually suited for petite women and children. The largest grip size is 4.5”, which is usually used by adult men. Most people fall in the middle and fit best with a grip size around 4.25”. If possible, try to visit a local store with a range of pickleball paddles and try out a few grip sizes in your hand to get an idea of which works best for you.
The ball used for pickleball is similar to a wiffle ball. This ball has holes throughout it to allow it to be aerodynamically efficient. Pickleball balls can be designed for indoor or outdoor play and differ in weight and hole diameter. Indoor balls usually weigh less than outdoor balls and have larger holes throughout.
Outdoor balls often weigh about 25 grams (0.88 ounces). They are offered in many colors, with the most common being orange, white, or yellow. Indoor balls usually weight in at around 24 grams (0.85 ounces). The larger holes help slow the ball down for better indoor play. They usually come in the same standard colors as the outdoor balls, but some indoor balls can come in indigo, pink, or blue to contrast against the typical light-colored indoor court color.
The net is the third of the crucial equipment pieces for pickleball (check out our review of the best portable pickleball net for more details). These nets are similar to tennis nets and are placed halfway across the rectangular court, bisecting it. The net fits into two posts that sit right outside the lines of play. Many nets are long lasting as they are not commonly worn away or damaged during the game.
Portable nets are a new wave sweeping through pickleball players. These nets can be easily set up and broken down and can be moved from place to place. With these nets, a pickleball can be set up anywhere with the help of chalk or white spray paint to set up the lines of play.
Pickleball nets and poles commonly costs between $90 and $150. Once you have the posts, pba01-20nt nets are around $50.
Looking to grab equipment and go? Consider choosing a complete pickleball set. These sets are curated by pickleball experts that know what to look for in the equipment. Sets include a pickleball net, balls, and four paddles. Different sets include varying extras, such as carrying bags, court tape, or a rule book.
These sets are a great option for people looking to get all of their equipment in one place. Sets can often be less expensive than their constituent parts. They range from $300 to $500 depending on the equipment included and the quality or brand of the equipment.
When you invest in a sturdy pickleball paddle, it’s important to get a cover to protect it when it’s not being used. These sleeves help protect the paddle from rust or environmental factors. Covers and pickleball bags come in a wide range of sizes and designs. Small sling bags are designed to hold just the paddle and can be designed to carry a single paddle or multiple. Other players vouch to use duffle bags to hold their paddles, balls, and clothes. See our review of the best pickleball paddle bags for more details.
Pickleball is best played in lightweight, maneuverable clothes. Pickleball clothing, like other sports clothing, is often made of breathable, skin-tight fabric as heavy and baggy clothing can weigh down the player. One of the most popular categories of clothing is pickleball t-shirts. There are a variety of attractive and funny shirt designs for both men and women players.
An important component of pickleball clothing is shoes. Pickleball should never be played with street shoes or running shoes— the lack of traction on the typical court material can lead to dangerous falls and injuries. A sports shoe with a smooth bottom ensures better traction against the court. Proper pickleball shoes allow for quick changes in direction and provide plenty of support to the ankle.
If you’ve found you enjoy playing pickleball, investing in training accessories can be a great way to have fun when nobody is available to play. A pitch rebound net can volley a ball back at you if you don’t have a partner to run drills with. These nets are great for gaining reflexes and increasing response speed. Use one of these nets to impress your friends next time you play!
There are many nonessential extra equipment pieces that can make your pickleball experience more enjoyable. A pickleball court stencil can allow you to draw out a perfect pickleball court no matter where you are. If you’re just looking for a temporary court, a set of court lines and corner lines can be easily picked up and put down to set up a court anywhere.
If you are really serious about the sport, you can even get a complete pickleball court setup shipped to you. It is a bit pricey, but if you have the lawn space what better way to enjoy a game whenever you want.
Pickleball ball holders are an important tool to keep all of your balls in the same place. There are many types of ball holders. Some players like rolling caddies that can be easily moved. Many players vouch to get a belt that has a pouch for holding pickleballs, allowing them to easily grab a new ball without running back to the car or even walking off the court.
There are many other extraneous tools to be used. Targets can help players to improve aim and speed. A steel frame squeegee can soak up any water on your court to make it ready to play after rain. A wearable bracelet score band can permanently end all debates over the score by easily recording the point balance.
Here is a YouTube video that discusses some of the things to consider when choosing a pickleball paddle:
Many players love to show off their love for pickleball with home accessories and jewelry! There are many options available for players to always keep pickleball close to them. Pickleball books, weather vanes, aprons, water bottles, pillows, wall art, and kitchen hand towels are among the most commonly available home accessories. There are many options for pickleball jewelry. Bracelet charms, necklaces, and earrings are often found with subtle references to the sport. Pickleball merchandise makes a great gift for any lover of the sport!