Developed as a children’s game for their kids in 1965, Congressmen Joel Pritchard and his friends William Bell and Barney McCallum couldn’t foresee that what they invented would become a national craze in the 21st century. One summer on Bainbridge Island, WA, their children lamented the need for something new and fun to do, so the three friends gathered a few pieces of equipment from three different games and invented pickleball. Today, the USA Pickleball Association oversees tournaments and issues the official rules as well as the USA Pickleball guide to equipment.
Throughout the USA, children, teens, and adults play pickleball each day. Now recognized as an organized sport, instead of players making their own equipment, major manufacturers create equipment. You only need one other person to play or three for playing doubles, and the right equipment.
Equipment Needs for Playing Pickleball
Initially, pickleball used a badminton court with a lowered net, table tennis paddles, and a whiffle ball. The Congressman and his friends had merely gathered what they had available. That rainy summer day in Washington, they made up the rules as their kids batted the ball over the net.
They kept them simple, so the children could set up the game themselves and play it when the adults weren’t around, too. Today, you’ll need five essentials to play the sport. Those equipment pieces include:
- An indoor or outdoor lined hard court,
- Indoor or outdoor pickleballs,
- pickleball paddles,
- A pickleball net,
- Sturdy athletic shoes.
If you play at an organized pickleball court, it may rent all of the equipment except the shoes.
Each of the types of equipment has its own specifications. Although you could throw together a game the way the first players did if you decided to play regularly, investing in some equipment makes sense.
The pickleballs used for indoor games differ from those for outdoor games. Although both use a whiffle ball model at the core of their design, the outdoor balls feature smaller holes, more frequently distributed throughout the ball. They also use a smoother surface and harder plastic.
The pickleballs for indoor games weigh less, feel softer, and feature fewer holes of a larger size. The former comes in a bright rainbow of colors, while the latter tends to come in yellow, white, or orange.
Pickleball paddles, also called pickleball rackets, utilize a design that resembles a table tennis/ping pong paddle crossed with a paddle ball paddle. Most serious players own one and they can get pricey. If you just want to give the sport a try, you can pick up an entry-level Franklin paddle for about $19.99, but if you really enjoy the game, you might move up to the Head Extreme Tour Lite racket for $89.99.
Those who compete in tournaments regularly often purchase top-of-the-line equipment, such as the Diadem Warrior Pickleball Paddle for $199.99. Check out the USAPA website for its list of more than 900 approved pickleball paddles. Consider the racket’s weight, length, grip size, paddle face shape, core and face materials, edge guards, and overall design.
If you live near pickleball courts, you probably won’t need to erect a net. If you want to play at home though, you’ll need a net to place in your yard. A regulation net measures 20 feet in width, 36 inches in height at the posts, and 34 inches in height at the center strap.
A Lined Hard Court
Whether you play indoors or outdoors, you need to mark off the court. You can do this using tape, paint, or chalk. For the right width tape, you can nab a package of pickleball court tape to make marking the boundaries simple.
The measurements for the field of play, inclusive of lines, include:
- 20 feet wide,
- 44 feet deep,
- 48.4 feet diagonal, meaning from corner to corner.
You’ll need a measuring tape of at least 50 feet to measure the field. Include the seven-foot non-volley zones on either side.
Appropriate Athletic Shoes
Which type of shoes you choose depends on whether you play indoors or outdoors. For indoor play, choose a shoe designed for basketball or volleyball, but when playing outdoors, choose a shoe designed for tennis or cross-training shoes.
You can make things simple for yourself if you only plan to play the occasional backyard game. Buy a pickleball set that comes with two or four paddles, depending on the size of the set, six to 12 balls, and a net. An athletic bag for organizing all of your equipment can also make trips to the pickleball courts easier.
If you wear down the seal or tape on your paddle’s handle, purchase grips to cover the handle. This extends the life of your racket. A pair of gloves can keep you from developing blisters.
Also, consider a pickleball paddle cover to protect your racket. If you get very serious about the game, you might consider buying a pickleball machine, so you can drill certain shots and practice solo.