Pickleball: The Not so Distant Cousin of Racquetball


Pickleball: The Not so Distant Cousin of Racquetball

Racquetball, Pickleball… these sound similar but are they? They both require agility, strength, focus, and they are both incredibly entertaining. Lately, Pickleball had gained popularity so we decided to explore this game in greater detail. We will explore the rules of play, benefits of playing Pickleball and in the end, we will analyze Pickleball vs Racquetball – similarities and differences.

Are you ready to start?

What is Pickleball?

The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but Pickleball can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players. The game of Pickleball doesn’t need any special skill and attracts players from all age groups. 

Pickleball can be played as singles or two per team. It follows the same rules for both modes of play, both in an indoor or outdoor court.

Racquetball on the other hand is an indoor sport that originated from tennis. It was created with the idea that you can enjoy your favorite sport indoors which is perfect if the weather conditions are less than ideal. If there is a snowstorm or heatwave, have no fear because your Racquetball game won’t be affected. 

Why is it called Pickleball?

Like all great stories, this story originated on a sunny day when there was little to do. Two dads, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell arrived at home after a golf outing where they found that their families were bored with no way to pass the time. Looking to alleviate the boredom, Pritchard took to the old badminton court but couldn’t find enough rackets for a full game. Instead, he improvised using spare ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball – and a new game was born.

Now you know how it all started, but why do they call Pickleball, Pickleball?


According to the U.S.A. Pickleball Association, the name origins differ between two accounts.

The first story comes from Pritchard’s wife, Joan, who started to call their game Pickleball as the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where the oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. But the second story originates from Barney McCallum, who believes they named the game after Pritchard’s dog named Pickles!

Why is Pickleball popular?

It is affordable, fun, competitive, easy to catch on to, and has many social benefits. Many people are looking for ways to stay active and have a good time and Pickleball is a great way to do it. The popularity of Pickleball is increasing significantly so why not try it out like everyone else. 

Pickleball is on the rise but so is a staple that has been around for years, Racquetball. It’s everything Pickleball regarding fun, competitive, easy to follow, etc. but Racquetball is much more well known around the world so it is most people’s go to game. With people starting to show more interest in individual sports due to COVID-19, Racquetball play has become even more popular.

Why is Pickleball so addictive?

It’s no coincidence that Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. The sport has a simple learning curve which makes it great for people of all ages to enjoy and it’s easy on the body. Some other racket sports can require hours of play to just understand the sport, but this sport was designed for family enjoyment. It’s easy to get a game going and show off your skills! 

One of the best reasons why Pickleball is so addicting is the small court size. A small court allows for a fast-paced game to improve hand-eye coordination, test your reflexes, and socialize since you’re so close to the other players. However, it is still easy to break a sweat and get good exercise.

Racquetball has a bigger court which means it’s another great exercise and really gets you to break a sweat. You can burn extra calories while having fun and everyone knows that after a great cardio workout, your serotonin levels are sky-high. 

Will it be an Olympic sport?

While Pickleball is a popular sport in the U.S.A., it’s not so popular in other countries. By Olympic requirements, men of 75 countries of four continents must play the sport, or, women of 40 countries of 3 continents must compete in the game. 

Currently, it does not meet the criteria yet to be an Olympic sport. With the game spreading rapidly around the world, we possibly will see it in the Olympic games in the future.

What about Racquetball?

Racquetball is not an Olympic sport yet either since it is not as popular outside the United States. But with the growing popularity of this sport, it is only a matter of time when people will start realizing the true beauty of this sport and will want it in the Olympic games.


Pickleball rules

Now let’s see some rules of play. Is it different from Racquetball and Tennis? We already know racquetball rules but are they different?

What are the rules? Let’s see some basic rules:

  • Pickleball is played either as doubles or singles; doubles is the most common
  • The same size playing area and rules are used for both singles and doubles
  • Some Serving Rules
  • The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc when the ball is struck
  • Paddle contact with the ball must not be made above the waist level
  • The head of the paddle must not be above the highest part of the wrist at contact
  • A ‘drop serve’ is also permitted in which case none of the elements above apply
  • Only one serve attempt is allowed per server

The Serving Sequence

  • Both players on the serving doubles team can serve and score points until they commit a fault
  • If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the server initiates the next serve from the left/odd court
  • As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve
  • The second server continues serving until his team commits a fault and loses the serve to the opposing team

 Scoring in Pickleball

  • Points are scored only by the serving team
  • Games are normally played to 11 points, win by 2, tournament games may be to 15 or 21, win by 2

The Two-Bounce Rule

  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning, and then the serving team must let it bounce before returning
  • After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may either volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke)
  • The two-bounce rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage and extends rallies

Line Calls

  • A ball contacting any part of any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, is considered “in”
  • A serve contacting the non-volley zone line is short and a fault


  •  A fault is any action that stops 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 or side out

The Non-Volley Zone

  • The non-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net
  • Volleying is prohibited within the non-volley zone. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone

How hard is it to play Pickleball?

Pickleball is an easy sport to learn how to play, but it is a bit more difficult to play at a high level. This is because the game is so random with so many different variables. 

How do you play Pickleball for beginners?

To begin, you will need the proper equipment and some basic knowledge of the game. Refer to the rules of Pickleball to learn more. Finding a place to play and someone to play with (preferably with some previous experience) are the next steps. 

There are a handful of ways to find local Pickleball play locations. If you don’t know anyone that plays, then you’ll have to seek out some locations on your own. There are plenty of options available for you though, and most of them are affordable.

What are the levels of Pickleball?

Level ratings span from 2.5-5.0, ranging from beginner to very complex and high-level. A level 2.5 is a player that moves around the court in a balanced and safe manner, gets some serves in, realizes the rules, scorekeeping, and where to stand during different parts of the game, and has some basic stroke skills.

What is the highest level in Pickleball?

The highest level is level 5.0. This player can regularly convert a hard shot to a soft shot, exhibits patience in play at a superior level, and shows noticeable skill. A level 5.0 player has a much higher level of strategy, quickness of hands and movement, judicious use of power, elite placement of shots, and superior put-aways, all with very high consistency.

Who is the number one Pickleball player in the world?

The number one best Pickleball player in the world is Benjamin Johns from the United States of America. He dominated the national championship in Indian Wells, only playing Pickleball for a couple of years before winning.

What is stacking in this game?

Stacking is an approach used in Pickleball when players on a team are not in traditional positioning and are instead rearranged to keep one player on one side of the court.

Is the line in or out in Pickleball?

When it comes to whether the ball is in or out, here’s what you need to know: If the ball physically touches the paint that the line is made of, it is in. If it does not touch the paint and lands outside the zone in question, it is out.

Pickleball equipment

Is Pickleball equipment expensive? Which equipment do you need? We discussed which essentials are the most important for a great Racquetball game, so is Pickleball any different?

What kind of equipment do you need for Pickleball?

Pickleball doesn’t require much equipment. You need a court, a net, a paddle, and a ball. Pickleball courts are 20 feet wide and 40 feet long, meaning about four courts can fit in the same space as a standard Tennis court.

A Pickleball paddle is an integral requirement for playing Pickleball. Without a Pickleball paddle, it’s just not Pickleball.

What kind of shoes do you wear for this game?

Shoes designed for volleyball or other indoor sports would be a good fit for indoor Pickleball. Some companies like Fila have even come out with a line designed specifically for Pickleball.

Can you wear Tennis shoes for Pickleball?

Yes! Comfortable Tennis shoes that you feel support you are a great option for Pickleball shoes. You don’t need to splurge on a pair of fancy shoes to enjoy the sport!

What do you wear to play indoor Pickleball?

Unlike Tennis or other sports, you don’t need to follow a dress code for a Pickleball game. All you need is basic athletic apparel and comfortable Tennis shoes to play in.

What are the best Pickleball balls?

Originally, Pickleball was played with a spare wiffle ball. Today, the sport is played with a similar ball that is still lightweight. Make sure you purchase the right ball to use depending on indoor or outdoor use. Some of the best Pickleball balls for outdoor play come from prevalent brands of outdoor Pickleballs like TOP, Dura, and Onix. All three of these balls are approved by the USA Pickleball Association for tournament play. 

They are made through a rotationally molded one-piece construction process. After cooling, holes are drilled out of the ball. Outdoor Pickleball’s have a thick wall construction for increased durability.

For indoor play, there are several brands available like Dura Big-Hole Indoor Balls, Jugs Indoor, Midnight Indoor, Gamma Photon Indoor, and Onix Fuse Indoor Balls. If you are playing in a tournament, check with the tournament director to find out which balls are approved for use in tournaments.

How long does a Pickleball ball last?

Simple answer, it depends on a few factors. Outdoor and competitive games have harder Pickleball balls and will crack or go out-of-round after a while. Indoor balls usually last longer and will not crack. Indoor balls will also get soft spots after extended use. If you don’t play hard, you can play indoors for a few weeks, but at some point, the indoor ball can get too soft to play well. 

Can you use a Wiffle ball for Pickleball?

While the wiffle ball is similar to a Pickleball, some differences are apparent. In general, the Pickleball is a little bigger, heavier, has more holes, and is bright in color.

 Pickleball health benefits

Now let’s dive into some health benefits of playing Pickleball!

Is Pickleball easier than Tennis?

Differences between Tennis and Pickleball include obvious ones, like the size of the court and the style of the balls and rackets/paddles. Because Pickleball uses a smaller court and underhand serves which are easier on the shoulder, the game is a good fit for mature adults. Though it is easier to play than Tennis, players are set to get a good workout.

A competitive game can be quite active, providing healthy fun that is right in line with an active lifestyle.

If you want to start playing Racquetball, it is important to take the steps and prepare. It is a very dynamic sport so first, you will want to improve your cardio. One of the best solutions is to start practicing yoga as it is good for flexibility and keeping your joints healthy. 

Is Pickleball OK for seniors?

Why is Pickleball good for seniors? As a simple, low-impact sport, seniors embracing Pickleball are attracted to its simple rules and its low impact on knees and joints, and studies have shown playing Pickleball regularly can improve fitness levels in seniors.

Is it hard on your joints?

Pickleball is an easier sport on your joints than some of the others. However, according to Racquet Network, the most common major Pickleball injury is a broken wrist. This can occur when a player moves rapidly toward the back of the court and loses their balance. 

While falling, they put out their hand to break their fall and end up breaking their wrist instead.

Also, while easier on the body than Tennis, Pickleball players can also suffer from “Tennis elbow.” Tennis elbow is a condition caused by overuse of the arm, forearm, and hand muscles that can result in elbow pain.

Is it bad for your back?

Pickleball requires players to complete movements in numerous planes of motion, which demands high levels of stability around the low back. 

Side-to-side movements, spinal rotation, jumping, running, and bending over all place participants at increased risk of developing low back pain if spinal stability is impaired. 

Of all movements in Pickleball, repetitive dunking is probably the most strenuous on the lower back. Luckily, there are many exercises established to prevent any injuries that may arise.

When it comes to any sport, no matter if it is Racquetball or Pickleball, it is crucial to warm up before a game or practice and stretch.  A lot of people are dismissing this advice because they don’t have time which can result in injury. Taking the time to stretch will ultimately decrease your risk for getting injured significantly. 

You can also try adding weight lifting exercises to your routine. This will help you build lean muscle mass and it can help you prevent back injuries. Also, have in mind that you should consult your doctor before implementing any changes to your fitness routine. Plus, while exercising don’t think about the number of repetitions, think about perfecting your form.

Is Pickleball a good way to exercise?

Pickleball is a great sport for all-round fitness. It exercises all the major muscle groups, provides a cardio workout, and improves dexterity, mobility, agility, and balance. It is also a form of interval training with quick bursts of movement.

The benefits to why Pickleball is a good way to exercise also apply to why Racquetball is a good way to exercise but Racquetball takes it a step further with being even more intense when the game is reaching the climax. 

Both sports are good ways to build stamina, better orientation, and mobility.

How many calories do I burn playing Pickleball?

A 160-pound adult can burn around 250 calories playing Pickleball for just 30 minutes of casual play. A more aggressive and competitive player can burn roughly 350 to 475 calories for 30 minutes. The sport is a great way to get your body moving in a fun way.

On the other hand, Racquetball is also a great way for burning calories. If you play the game intensive and vigorously you can burn 800 calories.

Should I play Pickleball or Racquetball?

If you are looking for great exercise for your mind and body, Pickleball is the sport for you. Playing the sport allows you to work on your agility, balance, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination without a lot of extra strain on your body. 

Pickleball is a wonderful alternative for older players who have physical limitations. The sport also has an excellent social aspect, unlike many other sports which makes it so unique!

Racquetball is an excellent choice if you want to add more dynamics to your training. It’s an individual sport, perfect for people that want to go that extra mile and move their limits.

 Pickleball vs Racquetball

Pickleball and Racquetball are the two important sports of outdoor and indoor games. Though they differ a lot in the gaming rules and mode of play, aficionados always love to embrace both according to the different seasons. Clubs are beginning to take up these games and it is no more a mere exercise. 

Here are some differences and similarities between the two.

Pickleball shares a lot of the same qualities as Racquetball but the major difference is that Racquetball features no net. In its place, players hit the ball to each other without a net or any out of bounds area. 

Pickleball features a smaller size court that is easy to run around and it is simple to see the out of bounds area. Racquetball can be played with two, three, or four players whereas Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles.

In conclusion – why not try both?

Both sports require a great deal of hand-eye coordination and agility, provide a fun social aspect, and are relatively affordable. Pickleball and Racquetball have their own perks with their own rules, so why not take the time to try both?!



1 Comment

  • Sam Duncan, April 3, 2021 @ 9:18 am Reply

    Nice update on positives, but to be fair, balanced, objective, you did not mention any cultural nor environmental possible issues.

    It is a very noisy sport
    It sounds like a gunshot when the racquet strikes the ball
    Noise abatement is a major issue and cost factor for a Cuty
    N Berklev CA is a classic example where Pickle Ball did not work.

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