I'm New, what now?
So you're excited to learn about pickleball but have a million questions. Here I'll try to point you in the right direction on lots of things. If you still have questions, please let me know and I'll try to update this sheet.
There are simply too many options here to provide very specific info, but let's start with some general rules of thumb.
DO NOT BUY A WOODEN PADDLE. Just trust me.
Good paddles are made with a honeycomb core covered by either fiberglass or graphite. Some paddles are designed for more power, while others are a little softer and are better for control. It's almost exactly like choosing string tension on a tennis racket; tighter strings are more powerful, but you give up control.
Paddles can be purchased from around $30 to $200. Definitely start on the lower end and go from there.
If you forced me to make recommendations, I think the Selkirk Latitude is hard to beat as a beginner paddle. The Amazing Aces paddles are less expensive and really quite good, but many of them are not approved for tournament play, so that's why I like the Latitude.
Try before you buy! Several online retailers have a paddle trial program where they'll send you paddles to try and you mail them back. Tennis Warehouse (in Alpharetta) has a loaner program so you can borrow some paddles to try. If you don't mind a short road trip, the pro shop at the Spalding County Pickleball Association has LOTS of paddles for you to try before you buy.
There are different balls for indoor and outdoor play, so be sure you buy balls for the surface you'll be playing on. For outdoor play, the Franklin X-40 is the official ball of USA Pickleball, and my personal favorite. It's durable and just soft enough to allow for some longer exciting rallies. The Onix Durafast40 is the next most popular ball. It's not as durable, but plays faster and is often preferred by more advanced players.
"Tennis" shoes are appropriate here. Never "running" shoes. You need the lateral support of a court shoe, which the running shoe doesn't provide. You don't want to roll an ankle, so well fitting court shoes are critical.
Styles of play
"Open Play" is the most common way that we play pickleball. This is a unique style of play where players show-up to the court and simply play with whoever is there, typically rotating partners each game. While different parks implement this slightly differently, most of the time you can show-up to a park and play with whoever is there. Yes, there will sometimes be people there who don't want to play with others, and that's also fine...but in general pickleball players are very welcoming and happy to share the love of the game, so do not be afraid to walk up to a big group at the courts and ask if you can play; the answer will almost always be YES!
Some players enjoy the added pressure and challenge of tournaments. In these cases you generally need to arrange for a partner and register ahead of time. There are divisions for players of various ages and skill levels.
This type of play gives players the opportunity to play several games, changing opponents after each game. Within this style there are two basic ways to play
Fixed Partners: You will play each game with the same partner, and you'll play one game against each other team in your pool/group.
Rotating Partners: This is a format that's totally unique to pickleball, and one of the most fun! You'll rotate partner every game. This means you'll play one game with each other player, and two games against each other player. This is a very social format that is beloved by many in our community.
Leagues are played in the round robin format, sometimes with a fixed partner, and sometimes rotating partners. But leagues are always run over a period of several weeks, as opposed to a tournament that is completed in a day or two.
Ladders can be run as individuals or fixed pairs. This is a subset of the league category where players (or partners) move up the ladder (to a higher skilled court) by winning, and they move down the ladder by losing. The goal here is to provide every player with similarly skilled opponents, so everyone has good, competitive games. We run a ladder league at EE Robinson; see our Current Activities page for more details.
Oftentimes leagues operate at a fixed location and run for a fixed number of weeks/events.
This is a style of league where players generally register as doubles partners and each week they are assigned opponents. The two pairs communicate to find a time/place to play, then scores are recorded online.