Learn how to play pickleball in 5 minutes

Pickleball rules, scoring, player positioning, court dimensions, and more.

Danea & Barrett Bass



June 12, 2024



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If you want to learn how to play pickleball quickly, learn everything you need to know about playing pickleball — in five minutes. Learn more about:

  • Pickleball rules.

  • Pickleball scoring.

  • Player positioning.

  • Pickleball court dimensions.

  • The pickleball kitchen (or non-volley zone).

  • The difference between a volley and dink shot (and when you can and can’t hit those specific pickleball shots).

This will be a quick introduction to pickleball so you can learn everything you need to know to get started playing.

Pickleball court dimensions

The pickleball court is divided into three sections on each side:

  • The left and right service box.

  • The kitchen (or non-volley zone), which is the seven feet area in front of the net.

  • There are two baselines, each at the top of the service boxes. 

  • The sidelines span both sides of the entire court.

  • There is a center line separating the left and right service boxes.

    • For the serve only, the center line is considered a part of whichever box the serve is headed to.

  • The kitchen line is the line at the top of the kitchen on each side of the court.

    • The kitchen line is considered a part of the kitchen.

Learn more about all pickleball court dimensions.

Pickleball serve rules

Each rally begins with a serve. Here are some basic rules of the pickleball serve:

  • The serve must be underhand.

  • The serve must land diagonally into the opposite server's box.

    • From left box to opposite side left box or right box to opposite side right box.

  • If the serve lands in the kitchen or hits the kitchen line, it is out.

  • If the serve hits the baseline, mid-court line, or side line in the opposite server box, the serve is in.

  • After the serve, the returning team must let the served ball bounce before contacting the ball.

  • After the return of serve, the serving team must let the ball bounce before returning it.

  • The return of serve can land anywhere on the opponent's side of the court.

Learn more about all the pickleball serving rules.

Serving player positions

Here are some basic suggestions (not rules) of serving player positions:

  • The serving team will always serve the ball with both players back on the baseline.

  • During the serve, the receiving team will be staggered.

    • The player receiving the ball will be back at the baseline (because they have to let the ball bounce before they hit it).

    • Their partner up at the kitchen line.

Here is a tip to remember those player positions: ”Serve and stay, return and run.”

  • The serving team will serve the ball with both players back to let that next shot bounce.

  • The player returning the ball will return and run to the kitchen line to meet their partner at the kitchen.

Pickleball rally player positions

After the serve and serve return, the players will be positioned in this way:

  • This serving team is still back, and the returning team is up at the kitchen line.

  • The serving team will use the third shot in the rally to try to approach the kitchen line.

  • The returning team will try to keep the serving team back at the baseline or transition line.

  • Once the rally is in process, it's common that all four players will be positioned at the kitchen line.

    • The kitchen line is the best place to play on the court.

    • The kitchen line is where most of the points are one once you get through the first few shots in the rally.

Learn more about pickleball player positions.

Kitchen/non-volley zone (NVZ) rules

The kitchen is also referred to as the non-volley zone, or NVZ. You cannot volley the ball (or hit the ball out of the air) while standing in the non-volley zone/kitchen, with a few nuances to the rule, including the “momentum rule.”

Learn more about all the pickleball kitchen rules.

Pickleball volley rules

If your feet are in the kitchen (including on the kitchen line), you are not allowed to hit a volley shot out of the air.

If you're behind the line and hit a volley, you are not allowed to let your momentum take you forward into the kitchen.

Learn more about the rules of pickleball.

The pickleball dink shot

One of the most important shots in pickleball is called a “dink.” A dink is a soft shot that is difficult for opponents to attack out of the air or off the bounce. Players will often wait for a high ball that they can attack, or a dinking error from their opponents, before they hit an attack shot.

What is a pickleball dink?

Rules of pickleball scoring

Some of the ways to earn points are faults by your opponents, including:

  • If the opposing team hits the ball into the net.

  • If the opposing team hits the ball out of bounds.

  • If the opposing team lets the ball bounce twice on their side.

Learn more about all the faults in pickleball.

Here are some more details on the rules of pickleball scoring:

Most pickleball games (recreational) will play to 11, and you must win by 2.

  • In side out scoring, which is what most recreational leagues use, you can only score a point when you're serving.

  • The first server (Server 1) on your team will serve, and continue to serve, until your team loses a rally.

  • When this happens, the second server (Server 2) on your team will serve, and continue to serve, until your team loses a rally.

  • If the serving team wins the rally, the servers will switch sides (from left to right service box, or vice versa) and the same server will continue to serve.

  • When your team loses a rally during Server 2’s serve, it’s called a “side out” — the serve is now given to the opposing team.

  • The player on the right side of the court (facing the net) after an opponent’s side out becomes Server 1.

Calling the score in pickleball

Before you serve, you will call out the score in this format:

  • Your team score - the opposing team’s score - the number server that you are.

    • Example: 5 - 3 - 1. The 5 is your score - the 3 is your opponent’s score - and you are the first server on your team.

Pickleball scoring rules example

Here is an example of how to call the score in pickleball:

  • The score is 5 - 3.

  • The first server (Server 1) will be standing in the right service box.

  • Server 1 calls 5 - 3 - 1.

    • 5 (their score) - 3 (their opponent’s score) - 1 (the number server they are).

  • They serve the ball and they win the rally.

  • Now they switch sides with their partner, from right to left.

  • The score is now 6 - 3 - 1.

  • If they called 5 - 3 - 1, and then lose the rally, the ball would change sides and now Server 2 would call out 5 - 3 - 2.

    • They would still be standing behind the left service box.

  • After each server from the serving team has lost a rally, the ball will change sides (to their opponent) for a side out.

  • The other team will now be the serving team and Server 1 will call out 3 - 5 - 1.

One exception to the scoring rule

The only exception to the pickleball scoring rule is at the very beginning of each rally. The rally will start with the right server calling out: 0 - 0 - 2, because the first serving team of each rally is only allowed one server.

Learn more about all the scoring rules of pickleball.

How to play pickleball for beginners

If you are getting started in pickleball, we hope this quick summary of the sport helps out. To see these rules in action, please watch the video above or you can also watch it here.