Pickleball Open Play – Playing for the First Time

If you have yet to discover the expanding sport of pickleball, you’re in the right place to open up a whole new world. You may have heard all about pickleball and would love to try it out, but you need to figure out how you join in the fun. 

Pickleball open play is a great place to start, as it’s simple to sign-up, holds a limited schedule commitment, and all skill levels have a home. Turn up when you feel the inspiration, and play! From rotation etiquette to rules, we’ll help you show up for a pickleball open play without embarrassing yourself. I was nervous the first time I showed up but quickly found that the pickleball community is a beautiful thing to be a part of. And remember, in the grand scheme of things, pickleball is new to most people!

How Does Pickleball Work?

Pickleball is a game that shares elements from badminton, tennis, and ping-pong. With a pickleball paddle, you play on a badminton-size court as a single or a doubles game, but it’s most commonly a doubles game. 

The light plastic ball is hollow, covered with large holes, and user-friendly. Like tennis, you serve the ball from one serving box of the court into the diagonally opposite serving box, where it must bounce before being returned. You serve in a pickleball game by moving the paddle in an upward underarm motion below the waist. 

Unlike tennis, when you return a serve, it must bounce once before you hit the ball. When both players have hit the ball once after a bounce, you can begin to volley the ball as you wish. The only exception is the court area in front of the net, marked as a no-volley zone. You must not volley the ball from either inside this zone or let your momentum walk you into it after hitting a volley outside of it. 

You only score points when you’re on the serving team, and games are usually played to 11 points, winning by 2. The rally ends when somebody makes a fault by sending the ball out of bounds, being unable to clear the net, or letting the ball bounce more than once. If it sounds tricky, it isn’t. It’s easy to follow when you see it in action. 

Why Pickleball Open Play Is A Great Place To Begin

Doing anything new, especially when it involves new people, can be daunting, and many people miss out simply because they need help getting over the hurdle of the first time. Thankfully, the pickleball community is generally friendly, inclusive, and welcoming. 

Players often enjoy the game as much for the social fun as the exercise. When you show up for a pickleball open play, people are more than willing to help guide a newbie. You only have to ask for help. People won’t know you need direction unless you ask questions and let them know. Don’t be shy or feel as if you have to appear experienced. You will quickly wonder why you felt so nervous.

How To Enter a Game During Open Play

Sometimes when we show up for a pickleball open play, there are only a handful of people there, and we can get right to playing with whoever is there. Some venues use a paddle rotation system when there is a bigger turnout of people. 

Reminiscent of old-school pool hall rules, when you want to enter the rotation to get a game of pickleball, there will be a line of paddles in a rack or a row in which you place your paddle. The teammates and opponents will be decided based on whose paddle is next to yours. 

How many sports are so inclusive that you get to play with everyone from day one? Pickleball is a unique sport that puts people first and gives you the biggest chance to make friends and improve your skills. 

What About Skill Level?

Depending on the size of the venue or the number of players that turn up, there might be different options for different skill levels. Some games with just one paddle rotation will include all skill levels, where the opponent and teammate will be random based on whose paddle was next to yours. This is a great opportunity to learn by getting on the court with people at a higher skill level to help you learn and adapt very quickly.

Most players at a more advanced level are happy to play with newcomers and show you the ropes, so you don’t need to feel too awkward about your inexperience. However, be honest about your pickleball skill level from the outset so other players can adjust their play accordingly. The benefit of playing this way is that the variety of players with different skill levels can quickly bring your skills up to speed. 

There will sometimes be separate courts for different skill levels at venues with more courts or players. Select your category honestly, but don’t be afraid to push yourself a little once you learn the ropes. After all, you won’t get to the advanced level by sticking with a novice group forever. 

What You Need To Know About Etiquette in Pickleball Open Play

It’s always good manners in any sport to greet your teammates and opponents before and after a match, but particularly important in pickleball. It’s a sport with a big emphasis on socializing and making friends. 

During open play, most players referee their games themselves and go by the honor system. The system keeps playing relaxed and friendly. Aside from honesty, it requires giving the benefit of the doubt to opponents and team players. It retains a friendly vibe during the game. 

It’s good etiquette not to take calls from bystanders on the sidelines and keep things between the players when possible. Similarly, don’t ask bystanders to comment on the calls you are unsure about. Be decisive, and remember that it’s only a game. 

Pickleball open play allows so much opportunity for you to make friends, keep fit and hone your skills that you will wonder why you didn’t join us much sooner. There’s a good reason we have players of all ages from all backgrounds; pickleball is for everyone. For more information on the news, history, and current rules in pickleball, visit USA Pickleball for more.

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