Introduction: How to Play Doubles in Pickleball

Pickleball is a sport played with a paddle, inspired by racquet sports such as tennis and badminton. This Instructable has been created to teach the basics of the game, focusing on playing doubles.

Whether you’re a beginner, a singles pro, or you just want to learn more about how this game is played, keep reading!

Step 1: Gathering Supplies

To play pickleball, you will need a ball, a paddle for each player, and a net. Pickleballs and paddles can often be rented or borrowed from gyms or can be purchased online or at your local sporting goods store. Playing at a court or gym with a net can also be more convenient than setting up your own. Here are our favorite paddles:

Step 2: Perfecting Your Grip

There are a few different ways to grip a paddle. Grip, often overlooked by beginners, can make a big difference in your playing experience. The most simple grip is called the Continental grip. Hold the handle of the paddle in your dominant hand like you would hold a hammer, the flat surface of the paddle facing your opponent. This grip will allow for ease in backhand strokes and volleys.

Step 3: Using the Paddle

Volleying, the most effective way to hit the ball and score points, is hitting the ball without letting it bounce on the ground on your side of the net. When you hit the ball, make sure you make contact with the ball in front of your body. This gives you control over the ball and where it goes next. To do this, make short swings, pushing your paddle toward the opposing team.

Step 4: Volleys & the Kitchen

There is a rectangular box on either side of the net that you are not allowed to volley inside. This space is called the kitchen. Because players can’t volley inside the kitchen, stand directly behind the kitchen line and play from that position. Be careful not to step inside the kitchen--if you volley inside the kitchen, the other team automatically wins that rally. The only exception to this rule is if the ball bounces inside the kitchen. If this happens, you can step inside the kitchen to hit the ball, but be sure to get back into position quickly.

Step 5: Positioning

When playing doubles, one team serves first to start the game. One partner waits at the kitchen line while the other serves from the back of the court. Teams and partners take turns serving from game to game.

Serve into the diagonal court, which means the returner diagonal from the server should stand at the baseline with their partner at the kitchen line. Since the ball must bounce before the serving team can hit it again (we’ll mention this again later), both players on the serving team should stand at the back line. Thus, at the beginning of a point, everyone should stand at the back line except for the returner’s partner, who should stand at the kitchen line.

Step 6: Scoring

You serve until you lose a point. You lose a point when you hit a ball out or in the net. Each time you win a point on your serve, you and your partner switch sides. You only gain points when you win on your serve. You state which server you are as you call out the score. If the score is 1-2, you will say, “1-2-1” if you are the first server on your team, or, “1-2-2,” if you are the second server on your team. Call out the score every time you serve. This helps every player keep track of the score throughout the game or rally. Whenever the second server on a team loses their serve, the ball goes to the other team and it is now that team’s service game.

Unless otherwise indicated, the team who wins is the team to first get to 11 and win by 2. If the score is 11-10, the game is continued until a team wins by 2.

Step 7: How to Win

As stated previously, the easiest way to win is by charging the net. This next part is important: the serving team must let the ball bounce on their side again after the serve (they serve, the returning team hits it, the serving team must let it bounce, and then volleys are allowed to be hit). If the serving team hits their first receiving ball out of the air, they automatically lose the point. This prevents the serving team from charging the net after they serve.

This also allows the receiving team to charge the net after they return the serve. Because of this, you’ll often see the returner’s partner already standing at the kitchen line, and the returner running up to the kitchen line after hitting the serve. For the serving team to counter this, they will often hit what is called a third-shot drop, because it will typically be the third shot (the shot after the serve and return) and because it will drop at the returning team’s feet when they are at the net.

When your opponents are at the net, keeping the ball low and short (so they can’t hit an offensive volley) allows you to charge the net. If you are confident in your groundstrokes (when you hit the ball after it bounces), you can try to hit a big passing shot (a shot that goes past your opponents) or a lob (a shot that goes above your opponents), but these are generally high risk, high reward shots.

Step 8: Have Fun!

Get together with a few friends and learn something new! When played outside, Pickleball can be a great COVID safe sport to do with a small group.

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