How to Play Pickleball Like a Pro!

What is pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that combines different elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton sized court with a slightly modified tennis net (it needs to be slightly lowered). It is played with a paddle and a small ball with holes in it. You can play in either doubles or singles (doubles are more common). This game can be enjoyed by all ages, with a multitude of skill levels and mobility ranges.

What are the rules/basics of pickleball?

The head of the paddle must not be above the highest part of the wrist at contact.

When serving:

  • The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc when the ball is first struck, after that, when the paddle comes in contact with the ball, it must not be above waist height.
  • When serving, the servers’ feet must be outside of the court (not touching the court or the outside extension of the court ex. sidelines), at least one foot must be behind the baseline on the playing surface (see pictures below)
  • The serve also must go cross court to the opposing side
  • The serve will initially take place on the right of the court If a point is won upon a lone serve, the server and only the server, will move to the left side of the court and indicate that the serve will be taking place from there.
  • If the first server loses, then their partner serves until they lose and then the serve goes to the opposing team. Both players will have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team as two faults, then the serve will go to the opposing team (a fault is any action that stops the play because of a rule violation, a fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team, a fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve)

When scoring:

  • Points are only scored by the team who is serving, games are typically played to 11 and win by 2.
  • When the serving teams score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8…) the first server of the game will be on the right side of the court when serving or receiving, but if the serving teams score is odd (1, 3, 5, 7…) the first server of the game will be on the left side of the court when serving or receiving.

Two-bounce rule:

  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning it.
  • After the ball has bounced once on each team’s court, both teams can either hit the ball before or after it bounces.

How to prevent injury while playing pickleball

According to The Center of Orthopedic and Neurosurgical Care and Research, the most common pickleball injuries are ankle sprains, Achilles Tendonitis, Hamstring and Quadriceps muscle strain, shoulder impingement, and wrist fracture  

Proper footwear:

Another way to prevent injury when playing pickleball is to wear proper shoes. You should wear shoes that provide balance and stability, as well as good traction.

  • The shoes you choose should be selected based on the surface you will be playing on (ex. indoor vs outdoor courts – indoor court more slippery)
  • Before stepping onto the pickleball court, you need to know and understand your limitations, do not push yourself past your physical abilities. You will become better the more you practice, do not over work yourself too early or it may limit your pickleball career.
  • In order to play at your best capacity, drink lots of water before and after matches, make sure that you are giving your body the proper nourishment of carbohydrates and protein, also, give your body the appropriate amount of rest in between matches.

Key aspects to include before, during and after your pickleball games:

  1. Warm up

It is crucial to warm up properly before engaging in a pickleball match. A good dynamic warm up should take place before playing, lasting approximately 5-10 minutes. For examples of dynamic warm-ups, view our running mechanics #1 blog post.

Starting with rally of some sort and stretching before hitting the court for a game is important. The main idea behind this is to get blood flowing to your muscles warming them up so they are less likely to be injured during play.

2. Practice

Some of the recommended training to prevent pickleball related injuries according to usapickleball.org is to stand and look as if you were hitting the ball overhead and take one step back, if you feel dizzy or off balance, you should try and do this drill without a ball until you no longer feel dizzy (see picture below).

Source: usapickleball.org

You should also warm up your knees before playing, practice twisting in a crouched position to improve stance and agility during your match (see picture below)

Source: usapickleball.org

Another stretch designed specifically for pickleball is a high knee lift with a twist. This warm-up helps to stretch your waist, shoulders, hips and it also works to improve your balance.

Source: usapickleball.org

3. Strength/ Balance and Flexibility Training

Since pickleball can be, at times, a rather quick game that requires fast movements and reaching, injuries will start to present themselves if proper care is not taken before, after and during. Ensuring that you incorporate a proper warm up before each game is essential loosen muscles and joints and increase blood flow to working muscles. In addition to warming up, incorporating strength and flexibility training in between pickleball games is a great way to strength bones, ligaments and muscles to prevent injury.

Furthermore, it is important to make sure that you have good balance before stepping onto the pickleball court. Adequate balance helps to prevent falls or hyperextensions that could result in sprained ankles, tears or pulls of joints, as well as potential concussions or wrist fractures.

Strength exercise examples:

Balance exercise examples:

The health and social benefits of pickleball

Pickleball is an activity that can be enjoyed by everyone, independent of age.

It is a great way to help you meet the Canadian Physical Activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity. Furthermore, pickleball can increase your cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). CRF is an important marker for health as it reflects the ability of the respiratory and circulatory system to supply oxygen to working muscles during physical activity. Thus, low CRF (inefficiency or low capacity to supply oxygen to muscles) can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease events and all-cause mortality.

As with many forms of physical activity, pickleball offers improvements in mental health, incorporates social engagement and increases overall physical wellbeing. Pickleball is a fun and engaging game that will make physical activity easy to accomplish without having to do, what some may consider, boring exercises alone.

Benefits of pickle ball for Older adults

Pickleball tends to be a great sport for the older population to partake in. Pickleball is a great option for older adults who are looking to become more physically active as it’s an activity that is low impact. Pickleball is also a great way to increase agility and balance. Balance issues are prevalent among older adults and account for most injuries related to falls that can be devastating. Therefore, incorporating low impact activities that work on balance, such as pickleball, can offer peace of mind to older adults who may have a fear of falling.

Below is a list of additional benefits pickleball (and physical activity in general) can offer:

Have you recently played a game and just aren’t feel “right” on the court?

The physiotherapy team at the Right Move can help! Whether you are looking for strength, balancing and flexibility exercises to incorporate into your exercise routine in between games, or have an injury that is causing pain while playing, physiotherapy is right for you.


There are many modalities that the team can walk you through to ensure you are able to play in top shape for you pickleball games.

If you have any questions regarding pickleball and physiotherapy, please each out via email (admin@rightmovept.com) or phone (613 384 3222) and we would be happy to answer them!

Where to find pickleball in Kingston

Are you unsure where you can play pickleball in Kingston? Head on over to kingstonpickleball.com or ontariopickleball.com to learn more.