Pickleball Terms Every New Player Should Know

Pickleball Terms Every New Player Should Know

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Pickleball as a sport was invented in 1965 by Congressman Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell in Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA. But even though it's been around for decades, the sport's popularity has only recently hit mainstream.

Today, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America, with thousands discovering the game every day. Since learning about pickleball, you may have wondered about all the terminology used to describe this newly popular game.

Below is a list of common terms compiled by USAPA, the official governing body of pickleball. If you'd like to learn more about the official rules, check out their official pickleball rule book.

Pickleball terms

Backcourt – The area nearest the baseline inside the court of play.

Carry – Hitting the ball in such a way that it does not bounce away from the paddle but tends to be carried along on the face of the paddle during its forward motion.

Court – The court is defined as the area inside the outer dimensions of the baselines and sidelines.

Cross-Court – The court diagonally opposite your court.

Dead Ball – A ball that is no longer in play.

Dink Shot – A soft shot that is intended to arc over the net and land within the non-volley zone.

Double Bounce – A ball that bounces more than once on one side before it is returned.

Double Hit – Hitting the ball twice before it is returned.

Drop Shot – A shot that falls short of the opponent’s position on the opponent’s side of the court.

Drop Shot Volley – A volley intended to diminish the speed of the ball and return it short on the opponent’s side of the court, near the net.

Fault – A loss of the rally resulting in a point for the opposing team, a loss of serve (from first serve to second serve), or a side out.

First Server – In singles, the player who serves first. In doubles, after each side out, the player who is correctly positioned on the right/even service court when service is awarded to the team becomes the first server.

Starting First Server – For each doubles team, the player designated to serve first at the start of the game. In doubles tournament play, the starting first server shall wear a visible form of identification determined by the tournament director.

Groundstroke – Hitting the ball after one bounce.

Half Volley – A groundstroke that contacts the ball immediately after it bounces and before the ball reaches its full height.

Hinder – Any element or occurrence outside of the player’s control that impacts play. Example: a stray ball that enters the court during play.

Left/Odd Court – The service area on the left side of the court, when facing the net. The starting first server or the singles server should be positioned on the left/odd side of the court when his or her score is odd.

Let – A serve or rally that must be replayed for any reason.

Lob – A high and deep shot that is intended to force the opposing side back to the baseline.

Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) – The 7-foot-by-20-foot area adjacent to each side of the net. All lines bounding the NVZ are part of the NVZ. The NVZ is two-dimensional and does not rise above the playing surface

Overhead Slam/Smash – A hard overhand shot.

Paddle Head – The paddle, excluding the handle.

Passing Shot – A volley or groundstroke that passes an opponent, usually to win the rally.

Permanent Object – Any object on or near the court, including hanging over the court, that can interfere with play. Permanent objects include the ceiling, walls, fencing, lighting fixtures, net posts, the stands and seats for spectators, the referee, line judges, spectators when in their recognized positions, and all other objects around and above the court.

Rally – Continuous play that occurs after the serve and before a fault.

Receiver – The receiver is the player diagonally opposite from the server.

Replay – Any rally that is replayed for any reason without the awarding of a point or a change of server.

Right/Even Court – The service area on the right side of the court, when facing the net. The starting first server in doubles or the singles server should be positioned in the right/even court when his or her score is even.

Second Serve – A term used to describe the condition when a serving team loses the first of its two allocated serves.

Second Server – In doubles, the first server’s partner. The second server serves after the first server loses serve.

Service Court – The area on either side of the centerline, including the centerline, sideline, and baseline, excluding the NVZ.

Service Motion – Begins when the player’s arm moves to initiate the swing backward or forward to contact the ball.

Serving Area – The area behind the baseline and on or between the imaginary lines extended from the court centerline and each sideline.

Side Out – When a singles player or doubles team loses its serve(s) and service is awarded to the opposing side.

Technical Foul – When a player violates any rule calling for a technical foul, the referee will add one point to the opponent’s score.

Technical Warning – A referee’s first verbal warning of a rule or behavioral violation given to a player or team prior to a technical foul being called. Points are not awarded for a technical warning. Once a technical warning has been issued, a second technical warning for any reason, given to the same player or team during the match, will result in a technical foul being issued to the player or team.

Underhand – The player’s arm must be moving in a forward and upward arc with the palm turned upward or downward.

Volley – During a rally, hitting the ball while in the air, before the ball bounces.

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