ELEVATE: Pickleball

ELEVATE: Pickleball

Pickleball for Beginners

Six expert tips for those just starting this exciting and addictive game

There are 4,800,000 people who play pickleball around the world — which is more than 195 times the population of Bainbridge Island, Washington, where the game was invented in 1965. The sport has grown 39.3% over the past two years, according to a 2022 report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), making pickleball the fastest-growing sport in the nation two years in a row.

“The pickleball learning curve is so easy, 95% of all players can have fun the first day they start playing.”

Approximately zero percent of picklers are surprised by this number. Just ask anyone who has played the addictive game, which is challenging, a fantastic workout and so much fun.

It’s also quite easy to learn. Jonathan Fralick, national director of racquet sports for Invited Clubs, calls pickleball contagious because it’s so enjoyable.

“This sport is contagious and is very social,” Fralick tells Invited. “The pickleball learning curve is so easy, 95% of all players can have fun the first day they start playing.”

He explains that the sport, which is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, has seen “early signs of massive growth,” even with people who don’t typically play racquet sports. Fralick does issue a warning for new players, though: “Be prepared to play every day.” You just won’t be able to resist!

John Kudrick, director of racquet sports for The Clubs of Kingwood in Texas, tells Invited that players looking to improve their skills shouldn’t lose sight of what’s most important: having fun. “It is possible to see improvement in your game and still make fun a priority,” he says.

Consult a doctor before beginning pickleball (or any new exercise routine), and make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes that you can move around in. Then, follow these six tips for beginner pickleball players:

  1. Start by playing with those in the know. “Start with a clinic or a few seasoned players to learn the basics,” Fralick advises. “Be prepared to learn ‘what is the kitchen,’ scoring and the basic rules of the sport.” There are pickleball ambassadors in almost every market, according to Fralick, who assures newbies that they “will quickly find a network of players because this sport is so inviting for new players.”
  2. Continue to train off the court. Improve your pickleball skills in your downtime with some off-court training. “Start in the gym with a trainer, hop on a treadmill and build some endurance,” Fralick recommends. Kudrick agrees. “Playing a lot of pickleball will automatically improve your game, but since it is still a sport, getting into a better physical shape by cardio workouts and strength training will take your game further.”
  3. Don’t eat a big meal beforehand. “Eat healthy and light so you can stay quick on your feet,” Fralick says.
  4. Don’t sweat the rules on the first day. Pickleball has a unique scoring system and rules that are definitely confusing. Those will come with time, but for starters, focus on the game. Kudrick says, “It does not take long to get the hang of hitting a pickleball. Most of the time it is the scoring and rules that take the longest.”
  5. Enjoy the social aspect. Unlike many other sports, pickleball is generally fun and welcoming for everyone — so embrace it! “Personally, I love how pickleball brings couples, families and friends together,” Kudrick says. “There are not many physical or skill activities that allow our differences to become more equitable. There is a new game night in town, and it’s called pickleball!”
  6. Keep your eye on the ball. It’s a classic tip for a reason and one that Kudrick reiterates. “One of the best tips for beginner pickleball players is one that will stay with you even as you advance your skills: Watch the ball!”

“Pickleball is so much fun and easy to learn,” Fralick says. Whether you want to simply enjoy its lighthearted, recreational nature or find a more competitive group, Fralick encourages all players to “find what works for you. After just one day, you will be having so much fun.” So pick up a paddle and get lost in the joy of pickleball.

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