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What is pickleball? Everything you need to know about the popular Utah sport

If you live in Utah you’ve probably heard of, or played, pickleball. But for the uninitiated — what is pickleball?

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Four players play on either side of a pickleball court.

Spencer Smith, bottom left, and Chuck Taylor play pickleball with professional pickleball player Callie Smith, bottom right, and her husband, Kyle Smith, in Lehi on Tuesday, July 21, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Anyone who lives in Utah knows about pickleball. Personally, I had never heard of the sport until I moved to Utah. And until my friends starting playing pickleball, I assumed it was basically tennis with smaller paddles.

As my friends quickly informed me, I was very mistaken. While it is a game similar to tennis, pickleball is a Utah-loved sport with unique rules, an interesting history and even dedicated courts.

What is pickleball?

According to USA Pickleball, pickleball is “a fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and pingpong.” If you live in Utah, there might be a pickleball court in your area. But if you live outside the state, you can play pickleball on a badminton court.

Pickleball is played with a paddle similar to a pingpong paddle, except larger in size. Either one or two players stand at either side of the net and volley the pickleball over the net. You can either hit the pickleball in the air or hit it after a bounce.

One team serves the pickleball until that team makes a “fault.” A fault occurs if the pickleball double bounces, hits the ball out of bounds, hits the net or hits a player. When that happens, the next team will serve.

Only the serving team can win points, and pickleball is typically played until a team gets 11 points.

The history of pickleball

According to USA Pickleball, the game was created in 1965. It was invented by three dads — Bill Bell, Barney McCallum and Joel Pritchard — as a way to combat their kids’ boredom.

Pritchard and Bell arrived at Pritchard’s home one summer to find their families doing absolutely nothing. So in order to get their families moving, they decided to play badminton. But because they couldn’t find badminton rackets, Pritchard and Bell used ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball.

Later, Bell and Pritchard introduced McCallum to the game. Together they created rules for the new game, and thus pickleball was born.

Pickleball tips for beginners

Are you intrigued by pickleball? If you’ve never played the game before, here are some tips to help you get going:

  • Always be ready. You never know where the ball will go or when it’ll fly right by you. Be prepared to make a move at any moment.
  • Don’t be afraid of the ball. When it comes to sports, beginners might shy away from the ball. But if you avoid the ball, you’ll never learn how to play. It’s OK if you miss the ball — as long as you give hitting the ball a good effort, you’ll improve.
  • Know the rules. You don’t have to be a pickleball expert, but try to learn the pickleball basics before you play.
  • Wear comfortable clothes. Pickleball isn’t an intense sport, but you might find yourself darting across the court to hit the ball. Make sure to wear comfortable or athletic clothes.
  • Have fun. It can be easy to let the pressure of any sport get to your head. Keep in mind that pickleball is a casual, fun sport for everyone to play.