Pickleball has a funny name, but you shouldn’t misunderstand this particular pastime! Pickleball tournaments are growing in popularity, even though you might never have heard of this game before. In fact, I was surprised to learn that this game is actually several decades old.
There are several reasons why this sport is among the fastest-growing activities within the United States alone. Basically, this is a sport that combines some aspects of badminton, ping-pong, and tennis. The rules are simple enough, so anyone can start playing straight away. It’s challenging, competitive, and fast-paced. Plus, it’s also excellent for your health.
Are you ready to start playing this contagious game? You should know the rules first.
The Rules You’re Expected to Follow in Pickleball Tournaments
Before you start aspiring to play in those pickleball tournaments, you should update yourself on the rules. Fortunately, the rules here are quite similar to ping-pong. That’s why no one should have much trouble grasping the basics. Every game is different, however, so let’s see the rules that define pickleball today:
The pickleball court is much the same size as a badminton court, which is around 20 feet by 44 feet. The right-hand service square is where you serve the ball. Only the side which is currently serving can stand to score any points.
Pickleball serves are conducted diagonally. You alternate between players for each serve. The aim is to have the ball fly over the non-volley-zone before the net, which measures around seven feet. You should always serve underhand, keeping your paddle below your waist.
Plus, the server needs to put both their feet behind a back line in order to serve. From there, they have to hit the ball in the air, with no bounces allowed. If there’s any fault in the service, it will switch over to the opposing team. The ball might also touch the net, yet land in the service court. In such cases, the other players take over the serve.
Volleys are the part where you hit the ball into the air but do not let it bounce. In pickleball tournaments, this is only acceptable if your feet are behind the line of the non-volley zone, or seven feet from the net.
This is also dubbed the “two-bounce rule,” and entails each team playing a shot of a bounce. The receiving team has to let the ball bounce. The serving team needs to let the server’s return bounce before hitting it. Sounds complicated? You may keep ping-pong in mind. That’s what helped me understand the rules and remember them.
However, this rule only applies to the first shot. After the two bounces are over, you can volley the ball or play it off a bounce.
In the case of any fault during pickleball tournaments, a fault will mean that the serve goes to your opponent. If you’re receiving, you stand to lose a point. That is why you should avoid the following faults:
- The ball touching any part on the non-volley zone while you’re serving (remember, this includes the lines!)
- Hitting the ball out of the court’s bounds (this is frustrating, but even more so when you lose your right to serve)
- The ball doesn’t clear the net, just like in ping-pong, tennis, and badminton
- Volleying the ball from that dreaded non-volley zone
- Volleying the ball before the double bounce occurs.
Only the serving team can stand to score any points. Each player on every team will keep on serving until one of their members makes any fault. If this does happen, the opposing team will get the serve. This occurrence is dubbed a “side out.”
To win, your team must score at least two points more than the other side. You should also keep in mind that in pickleball tournaments, the game lasts only up to 11 points.
The player positions in pickleball tournaments are usually based on a double play. The first player will make their serve from their own right side. The serve, if correct, will go diagonally to the receiver on the right hand of the opposing team. That receiver has to let the ball make one bounce before they return the serve.
The returning serve also needs to bounce once before they play it. If the receiving team makes a fault, the serving team scores a point. If the serving team makes a fault, the service will move to their receiving team.
When the receiving team makes any fault, the serving team will also have its players switch sides. This way, both players will get to make their serve while playing on the same team.
After the first fault from the serving team, the players will remain on their original sides, but the second player will continue to serve. With a double play, it’s usually only after the second fault that the opposing team gets the ball.
Mistakes to Avoid While Participating in Pickleball Tournaments
There’s no doubt that pickleball tournaments are exciting, competitive, and stimulating all at once. However, you obviously don’t want to make too many mistakes and lose the game! Even a beginner may quickly pick up on the rules. That’s why there’s no excuse for a brutal match for any side.
There are some mistakes that you need to avoid when playing pickleball tournaments, whether they’re major league or casual events. We’ll go over the five main mistakes below:
Don’t touch that ball
At all times, you need to make sure that the ball has cleared the net before you rush to return it. Of course, you also need to let it bounce once if it’s the beginning of the serve. Once you’ve seen that the ball has clearly landed on the surface of the court, it’s fair game.
This is why you need to develop your patience and let the ball complete both these important steps. Whether you attack the ball before it cleared the net or before it bounces, the receiving team is the one that will suffer a fault.
Yikes! What did that ball just touch?!
Another of the common faults occurs when the ball knocks against something permanent before it hits the court. This is one of the most contentious rules of pickleball tournaments, so you must pay careful attention here.
This rule has nothing to do with the ball touching a player. The object in question could be the court’s ceiling, a light fixture, or any equipment in the area. This fault is obviously more likely when you’re playing indoors.
Don’t volley there
If you’ve come this far, you know that volleying is only allowed after the ball clears the non-volley zone. This is probably the most common fault of all, so no one’s judging if you suffer from repeated occurrence in the beginning. You should make sure that your feet are behind the court lines at all times.
This fault isn’t just limited to the wrong position of the feet. Even if something you’re wearing or carrying (like the bat) overlaps into the non-volley zone, it’s still a fault. The other team will be well within their rights to call the fault and get the serve. But it can only be performed when the player isn’t standing in the non-volley zone of the court.
Nonetheless, this fault isn’t limited to the player’s feet. If anything the player is wearing or carrying touches the non-volley zone while performing a volley shot, others are safe to call the fault.
Don’t volley yet
Yes, most of the faults in pickleball tournaments have to do with volleys. This particular fault is simply about not waiting until the ball completes that necessary double bounce. In fact, the volley isn’t legal until you have the following conditions in place:
- Everyone should be outside the court’s non-volley zone
- The ball should bounce twice at least, once apiece on both sides of the court
If you hit a volley without these prerequisites in place, you’re at fault. When you’re the serving team, you’ll lose your serve. If you’re on the receiving end, the other team will get a point.
Hey! That was the wrong player
Finally, a surprisingly common fault in pickleball tournaments occurs when the players don’t follow the correct service sequence.
The first hits have the players serving from the right side only. The returning player must also be positioned on the right side of the court. If either of the teams has a player that serves or returns out of turn, they stand to lose a point or a serve.
What to Pack for a Pickleball Tournament
Now that you’re aware of the rules and etiquettes you’re required to follow in pickleball tournaments, you should know what to pack for the tournament. First, focus on the factors. Is the game indoors or outdoors; is it a casual game or one of the major tournaments? You also need to consider whether you’re playing at a staffed facility or a public court.
At all events, you should tick off the following checklist for your pickleball bag:
- Water to stay hydrated
- Court shoes for lateral stability for the sideways movements
- Foods like an energy bar or some nuts to keep your energy up.
- A first aid kit in case of unexpected injuries
- Recovery products for replenishing electrolytes and restoring energy levels
How to Prepare for Pickleball Tournaments
Pickleball tournaments require a decent amount of preparation. You need to hydrate your body properly, along with cutting back on the caffeine. Your diet is also a significant part of your health. Therefore, you should make sure to eat a balanced one on a constant basis. These precautions are not just for a few days before each tournament, so it’s better to stay alert consistently.
Other preparations you can try out include staying focused, keeping up your practice, and stretching at intervals. Besides, you should remain immersed in thoughts about your own game instead of watching pickleball tournaments. The latter may tense you up and actually cause more harm than good.
Time to Head to Pickleball Tournaments
I personally believe that a healthy interest in sports is worth cultivating in any case. Sports improve our coordination, give us a sense of achievement, and help us get that much-needed exercise. However, pickleball seems to be a touch above the usual sports options. This is probably why they’re becoming a regular part of most parks and recreation departments.
Participating in pickleball tournaments may be challenging, but the benefits are worth your while. Don’t believe us? Try it out just once and let us know about the fun you have in the comment section below!
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