All about pickleball

By Chelsea Retherford | Living 50 Plus

While Richard and Jan Pflueger are credited with starting the Shoals Area Pickleball league, and initiating conversations about adding public courts in Florence and Muscle Shoals, Richard said it was Don McBrayer who first introduced the sport to north Alabama students in the early 1970s.

McBrayer, professor emeritus of Physical Education at the University of North Alabama from 1972 to 2001, had picked up the game in 1965 not long after it was invented by Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington State.

“You still run into people who say, Don McBrayer taught me how to play,” Richard said.

Today, McBrayer can still be found enjoying a weekly game of pickleball in the gym at Woodmont Baptist Church, where he is a member. The Florence church hosts pickleball most Mondays and Fridays at 6:30 p.m.

The Pfluegers said anyone interested in playing can log on at, or download the USA Pickleball Places2Play app to find courts in their area and around the world.

“You can do a search and they’ll tell you places to play wherever you’re travelling, what the hours are, and all that. I’ve met a lot of friends through pickleball,” Richard said. “Most every week, you have people who are traveling on business, for weddings or family reunions, you always take your paddle with you.”

Pickleball origins

After a round of golf on Saturday during the summer of 1965, Joel Pritchard and his friend, Bill Bell, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington, to find their families sitting around with nothing to do.

According to, Pritchard and Bell found some badminton equipment, some ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, and the game that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong came to life over the next few days.

“The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton,” the official pickleball website says. “They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together.”

The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA) was organized in 1984 to see the new sport advance on a national level. In March of that year, the first rulebook was published, and by 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states.

How to play

The objective is to hit the ball back and forth until a player makes a mistake, otherwise known as a fault.

Pickleball can be played as doubles (two players per team) or singles, though doubles is most common. The game can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a tennis net lowered to 34 inches.

The court is divided into five sections. Each opposing side has a left and right service lane as well as a non-volley boundary marked seven feet from the net and extending to both sidelines of the court. The non-volley zone is known as the “kitchen.”

Matches are played best two games out of three. Each game is played to 11 points, win by two; or some games can be played to 15 points, win by two.

The following is an abbreviated set of rules. Official rules can be found by visiting

The Serve

• Each start of game begins with a serve where the server calls the score.

• A pickleball serve must be hit underhanded cross-court into the opposing team’s service court. The serve must clear the net and not land in the kitchen.

• Sometimes, the ball will hit the net but still land in the correct serving court. This is called a let and the server must redo their serve until they either serve correctly, hit the ball into the net, or hit the ball out of bounds. If the ball hits the net and lands in the kitchen, it is a fault.

• According to the double-bounce rule, the ball must bounce once on each side before either team may start volleying the ball in the air.

• The player returning the serve must let the ball bounce before returning it to the opposing team’s side in either service court.

The Kitchen

• Volleying is prohibited within the kitchen, or non-volley zone, to prevent players from executing smashes from a position in the zone.

• It is a fault if, when volleying a ball, the player steps on the kitchen, including the line and/or when the player’s momentum causes them or anything they are wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley zone including the associated lines.

• It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried by momentum into or touches the kitchen, even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens.

• A player may legally be in the kitchen any time other than when volleying a ball.


• 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.