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Decoding Pickleball Lingo: A Glossary for Beginners

pickleball terminology

Pickleball may seem like a simple game, but stepping onto the court can sometimes feel like entering a whole new world of pickleball terminology. If you’re new to pickleball or just want to brush up on your vocabulary, this glossary is here to help you navigate the jargon of the court.

1. Dink

Definition: A soft and controlled shot that is strategically dropped over the net, often used near the kitchen line to keep the ball low and close to the net.

2. Non-Volley Zone

Definition: Also known as the “kitchen,” this is the area on both sides of the net within seven feet where players are not allowed to volley the ball. The kitchen is a crucial zone for strategic play.

3. Pickleball Paddle

Definition: The paddle used to hit the pickleball. Paddles come in various materials and designs, each influencing the player’s style and control.

4. Baseline

Definition: The back boundary line of the pickleball court, parallel to the net. Players often refer to “playing from the baseline” when they are positioned deep in their court.

5. Fault

Definition: An error that results in the loss of the rally or point. Common faults include stepping into the kitchen while volleying or serving into the net.

6. Let

Definition: A stoppage of play due to an unexpected hindrance, such as ball interference from another court.

pickleball terminology

7. Side Out

Definition: Announced following the loss of service by one side and the subsequent awarding of service to the other side.

8. Third Shot Drop

Definition: A strategic shot used as the third shot in a rally, typically hit softly and with backspin to control the placement of the ball near the opponent’s kitchen line.

9. Stacking

Definition: A strategic positioning of players on the serving team, only used in doubles play. Ex: Player A serves from the right hand serves box, Player B stays to the right of the server. After the serve is hit, Player A goes to the left hand side of the court to play.

10. Topspin

Definition: A shot where the player imparts forward rotation on the ball, causing it to dip and bounce more aggressively. Topspin shots are often used for offensive play.

11. Slice

Definition: A shot where the player impacts the ball causing it to have a back spin rotation on the ball. The ball will not dip down but when it hits the ground the ball will skid and stay low. If the shot hits the opponets paddle directly, the ball will come off their paddle in lower projection than normal. Slice shots are used for offensive play.

12. Drive

Definition: A fast and powerful shot hit with a flatter trajectory, intended to force opponents to play defensively.

13. Poach

Definition: In doubles play, when one partner moves to intercept and play a ball that is intended for their teammate. Effective poaching can disrupt the opponent’s strategy.

14. Erne

Definition: A shot where a player jumps or runs around the non-volley zone (NVZ) to hit the ball on the other side, typically used in doubles play. The player’s feet must remain outside of the NVZ but can be as close to the net as possible.

15. Carry

Definition: Striking the ball in a manner that prevents it from bouncing off the pickleball paddle, instead causing it to glide along the paddle’s surface during its forward movement. Legal play as long as the ball does not come to rest.

16. Ace

Definition: A legal serve that is not returned by the opposing team.

17. Transition Zone

Definition: The area of the court between the baseline and the NVZ. Players usually move forward quickly through this area of the court to get to the non-volley zone. There are times players will retreat quickly backwards through this zone when they have hit a ball too high and their opponents are about to attack.

18. Approach Shot

Definition: A shot that is done while moving forward to get to the NVZ.

19. Ready Position

Definition: The optimal stance for receiving the ball involves positioning your paddle at chest height, maintaining an even weight distribution on your toes, and adopting a slight bend in the knees. This setup enables you to move freely in any direction and be prepared to execute forehand or backhand plays.

pickleball terminology

20. Two-Bounce Rule

Definition: The first two shots of every rally the ball cannot be volleyed and must be played after the bounce. That means the serve and the return serve must bounce.

Navigating the world of pickleball is made significantly easier when armed with a solid understanding of the key terms that define the game. This glossary serves as a comprehensive guide, providing players with the language they need to communicate effectively, enhance their skills, and fully enjoy the sport. Happy playing!