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As with any other sport, there are some key pickleball terms you should know before heading out to the court, so you can start getting comfortable using the lingo.
As you play more and more, you’ll undoubtedly add on to this basic vocabulary with more technical terms and techniques.
For now, let’s start at the beginning with the must-know gameplay court terms for your first game.
ATP/Erne: “Around the Post” - ball is hit on outside court line (generally near kitchen), other player runs off court and makes a good return. No contact with kitchen at any time!
Ace: A serve that is not returned by your opponent.
Backhand: A stroke made on your non-dominant side. You know it’s a backhand hit when the back of your hand is facing the net as you hit the ball.
Backspin (aka slice/chop): Spin on the ball by striking it with high to low motion, causing the ball to spin in the direction opposite of its flight direction.
Backswing: The motion of swinging the pickleball paddle back from the ready position before following thru with forehand swing.
“Creepin”: After a serve you move forward on the court, “creppin” towards the kitchen before the return (2ndbounce).
Cross-Court: Court area diagonally opposite your side of court.
Dead Ball: A ball is declared dead after a fault, point is over.
Dink Shot: A soft shot that arcs over the net and falls into the opposing no-volley zone.
Down The Line: A pickleball shot which travels near and parallel to the sideline.
Drive: A forehand shot hit straight and low; deep into the opposing backcourt.
Drop Serve: New rule 01/25/21. Server holds the ball at any height, must “drop” (not toss or throw) ball, then hit. Can also hit ball as backhand.
Foot Fault: Touching court line during serve or touching kitchen line while volleying.
Forehand: A stroke made with your dominant forearm facing forward. This is typically the most comfortable and natural stroke
Fault: Anything that causes a dead ball.
Groundstroke: Hitting the ball after one bounce.
Kitchen Fault: When hitting a volley, the player is not allowed to make contact with the kitchen area or kitchen line.
- After the ball is returned, if momentum carries you into the kitchen, it’s a fault. - This includes articles of clothing, paddle, etc.
- Should a ball lands in the kitchen on a serve, or touches the kitchen line, it’s a fault.
Lob: Hitting the ball high and deep to opponent. Generally used to slow ball down and allow player to get to net. Used as a serve and during play.
No-Man’s Land or Transition Zone: The area on the court between the kitchen and the baseline. You should try to avoid this area as much as possible as it opens angles for your opponent to hit at you.
No Volley Zone (aka the kitchen): Section of the court that is 7 feet away from both sides of the net and extends to each sideline.
- Continental (handshake): Used for forehand and backhand - good for dinking.
- Western: Great grip for forehand strokes because the palm of your hand is behind the flat portion of the paddle - great for top spin, bad for backhand
- Eastern: Place hand on back of paddle and slide down to handle - usually a beginner player grip - universal grip.
Poach: Crossing over into partners side of the court and hitting a shot.
Paddle Ready: Used at all times while on court. Stand with knees slightly bent, paddle up chest high in the 11 o’clock position, weight equally balanced on pads of feet.
Put Away: A shot with no chance of being returned.
Rally: Continuous play that occurs after the serve and before a fault.
Server Number: The number (1or 2) indicates which server is serving for each team in the pickleball serving sequence.
Shadowing: Strategy in pickleball of moving in tandem with your team partner; keeping roughly 10 feet between each other. Both players move laterally, approach the net or retreat to the baseline together in sync.
Side Out: When one side loses its serve, and the other side is awarded the serve.
Split Stance: Position with feet separate and parallel in the “ready position” to return the ball.
Stroke: The swinging motion of striking the ball with the paddle, ex: forehand, backhand, ground.
Sideline: The lateral border of the pickleball court delineating the playing zone from out of bounds area.
Slice: A chop shot used to create back spin on a ball.
Stacking: When players stay in one court the entire game (no switching), common with left-handed players.
Switch: When a partner gets a ball on your side of the court (usually a lob), you move to their side of the court to continue proper court coverage.
Technical Foul: In tournament play, the referee may add a point to a team’s score when the opponent violates one of the rules other than standard play faults.
- Example: abusive language or unsportsmanlike play.
Tempo: Used for dinking: stand paddle ready, when ball comes, meet the ball in front of body, bending knees, shoulder arm stroke (no elbow or wrist), hit ball low to high holding a light grip (about a 3/10).
Third Shot Drop: Ground stroke used to return the ball in the opponent’s kitchen by the serving team.
Top Spin: Applying spin on the ball from low to high causing the pickleball ball to spin in the same direction as the flight of the ball.
Two Bounce Rule: After a ball is served, the receiving team must let the ball bounce before returning. Then the serving team must also let it bounce before returning.
Volley: Hitting the ball in the air before the ball has a chance to bounce.