Want to know what it means? You’ve found it! The world’s best dictionary/glossary of pickleball terms. (Bookmark now!)
If you think some definition is missing or you have other suggestions, please drop me a note—I do update/maintain this list as new terms are coined and gain widespread use.
AAU: See “Amateur Athletic Union”.
ace: A legal serve that is not touched by the receiving team.
advanced player: There is no formal nor official definition, however it’s generally considered to be at least a 4.0 rated player. A 4.5 player and above is considered by just about everyone to be advanced.
Advanced Sports Media Group: The parent organization of National Pickleball.
Amateur Athletic Union: One of the largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations in the USA and is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports programs which, in 2018, officially began to include pickleball. [aaupickleball.org]
AMB: Abbreviation for “Ambassador” sometimes used by USA Pickleball.
ambassador: An official volunteer representative of the USAPA charged with promoting the game of pickleball in a given region.
APP: See “Association of Pickleball Professionals”.
APP Tour: A series of tournaments that runs from March to late October throughout the United States. Started in 2020. [apptour.org]
approach shot: A shot made while moving up to the net.
approved paddle: A paddle meeting the specifications set by the USA Pickleball.
Area Team Leader: Part of the ‘chain of communication’ between a USA Pickleball member and the USA Pickleball Director of Ambassadors, sitting between an Ambassador and a District Ambassador. Not all districts have a ATLs.
around-the-post: A legal shot whereby the ball is returned from outside the court and into the opposing team’s court, never passing over the net. May pass below the level of the top of the net.
ASBS: The American Sports Builders Association, a non-profit trade association comprised of builders, designers, and suppliers for sports facilities.
ASM: See “Advanced Sports Media Group”.
Association of Pickleball Professionals: The founder of the APP is Ken Herrmann. At its beginnings, the APP is an advisory committee for the APP Tour. Also see “APP Tour”.
ATL: See “Area Team Leader”.
ATP shot: An abbreviation for an around-the-post shot. (Term popularized by Kyle Yates.)
backcourt: The last third or so of the court furthest back from the net.
backhand: A shot made with your paddle arm across your body.
backspin: Spin applied to the ball by hitting it while the paddle is moving from high to low, causing the bottom of ball to rotate away from the hitter while in flight. A ball with backspin will have a tendency to slow—or even stop—forward motion once it contacts the ground.
backswing: Moving the paddle backward away from the ball while preparing to hit it.
bagel. A slang term for a completed game in which the losing team failed to score even a single point. Also known as being or getting “pickled”.
“Ball on!” A warning shout indicating that an errant ball has entered a court, typically while some players on that court are unaware.
banger: A player who typically hits every possible shot very hard, often from the baseline.
baseline: The furthermost parallel line to the net from which the ball is served.
beer bracket: Slang for the state of being eliminated early from a tournament. Not in the winners bracket or the losers bracket, in the “beer bracket”, simply watching others play.
bert: Similar to an Erne, but instead of hitting the ball while leaping over the kitchen on your own half of the court, you run laterally on the court in front of your partner before executing your Erne shot. Crossing your partner makes the Erne a bert instead.
blended court: A tennis court that is additionally striped in the same color family as the court surface to accommodate different court configurations such needed for pickleball.
block: A shot, typically made from near the non-volley zone, whereby a player returns a hard-hit ball by simply holding up his/her paddle versus having to swing.
body bag: A shot that hits the opponent in the chest with the ball. Can be considered a rude or disrespectful reference in some circles.
“Bounce it”: Communication from one partner to the other when one partner feels that the ball in flight may—but may not—land out of bounds; most common with lobs or other slower shots.
calling the score: The announcement required prior to each serve, by the server or referee, composed of the serving team score, receiving team score, and lastly the server number, such as “5, 8, 2”. In a singles game, the last number (server) is omitted.
carry: Paddle contact with the ball whereby the ball doesn’t immediately leave the face of the paddle during the hit but instead the ball and paddle remain in contact during a significant part of the stoke.
centerline: The line equally dividing the two service courts and stretches from the non-volley zone line to the baseline.
challenge court: During social play or a large group practice, a court where the winner(s) of a match stays and takes on the next challenger(s). Since there is no rule regarding this, variations abound, such as limiting a winning player to a specific number of games on the challenge court.
chainsaw serve: A nickname for a serve popularized in 2021 by Zane Navratil, the serve involves pinching the ball between the opposite hand and the paddle handle then tossing the ball in the air, imparting dramatic spin the process, then as the ball drops, striking it with as much topspin as possible. Banned by rule in 2022.
chicken wing. Positioning your paddle arm with your elbow pointed up but your paddle down in an attempt to hit a ball coming to toward the vicinity of your same-side armpit.
chop: Swinging the paddle sharply down to put backspin on the ball.
closed face: Having the top of the paddle face tilted forward toward the net.
coaching: A player receiving advice from anyone other than his/her partner during a game is prohibited unless it’s during a timeout. (Any advice from a third party between games in a set is permitted.) In 2021, the rule was changed to allow coaching between end changes.
continental grip: Holding the paddle in your hand as you’d hold a hammer, the most common grip. This grip can be used for forehands and backhands.
CPI: Certified Pickleball Instructor. A credential issued by the IPTPA after successfully completing a two day workshop.
crosscourt shot: To hit the ball to the opponent’s portion of the court diagonally opposite from your own.
CTPR: Canadian Tournament Player Rating.
DA: District Ambassador
de la Rosa: An offensive very hard, low drive back to the net off a deep lob. Named after Daniel de la Rosa.
dead ball: Once a fault or hinder occurs, the ball is declared dead and action on the rally is over.
dedicated court: A court that is striped and set up for only a single sport.
deef: An shortened casual form of “default”.
default: To give an opponent a win by absence or choice.
defer: One of three options given to the team winning the “coin toss” before a match and gives the choice of ‘service or side’ to the opposing team.
deflection: Describes the flexibility and “trampoline effect”—or “pop”—of a paddle. USA Pickleball tests paddles for deflection as part of their approval process.
Dingles: While there are a number of versions of this dinking drill game, it typically involves play using only the non-volley zone as the legal court area. In one variation, initially two balls are only dinked crosscourt and once a fault occurs, a player yells “Dingles” and the entire court becomes become the legal playing surface for the remaining ball. Other variations include serving crosscourt simultaneously and working toward the net then using only the NVZ until one ball faults.
dink: A soft and low shot over the net intended to land in the opponent’s non-volley zone, made from near one’s own kitchen line.
dinker: A player who much prefers the soft game as opposed to a banger who relies heavily on hard shots.
disconnect: When a partner offensively moves forward from his/her partner’s back position on the court to attack a ball, abandoning the convention of staying the same depth from the net as one’s partner.
distraction: An illegal attempt to get the attention of an opponent about to take action on the ball.
double bounce rule: After each serve, the ball must bounce once on each side of the net before it can legally be volleyed.
double elimination: A team must lose twice to be eliminated from a tournament.
double hit: A ball that is hit twice before returning over the net by either one player or both partners. Generally illegal, permitted only when the ball is unintentionally—and almost instantaneously—struck twice by one player in a single stoke motion.
doubles: A game of one team of two players versus another team of two players.
down the line: A shot hit directly ahead of the hitter, usually along a sideline.
draw: The determination of who a team/player will play as their opponents in a tournament.
drive: A hard hit that sends the ball more or less parallel to the court surface.
drop flight: A tournament format where players move down a level/bracket each time they lose.
drop serve: Implemented in January 2021 as a provisional rule change, this allows the server to drop a ball and serve the ball after it bounces once. Using this serve allows the server to hit the ball however he or she chooses—downward swing, paddle below the wrist, etc.
drop shot: A soft ground stroke made from back in the court that gently sails just over the net and lands in, or very close to, the opponent’s non-volley zone.
drop shot volley: A shot made on a ball before it bounces and gently sails it just over the net; typically made while close to the net.
DUPR: An abbreviation for “Dynamic Universal Pickleball Ratings”. Created by Steve Kuhn, founder of Major League Pickleball, in 2021. A player rating system that takes into account a variety of factors including score differential.
dwell time: How long a ball stays in contact with a paddle during a hit. Softer and springier paddles will have a longer dwell time.
Dynamic Universal Pickleball Ratings: See “DUPR”.
edge guard: Tape that is applied along the edge of a paddle for protection and/or to increase weight of the paddle head.
EEC: Equipment Evaluation Committee (of the USAPA).
Elo Rating System: The underlying method used to help determine official USAPA player ratings. Named after professor Arpad Elo, this algorithm was originally developed to rank chess players. A player’s rating rises or falls based on his/her game performance considering the strength of his/her opponent. See “USAPA Tournament Player Rating”.
Equipment Evaluation Committee: A committee of the USAPA responsible for reviewing and approving equipment, such as paddles and balls, for use in sanctioned tournaments.
erne: A volley from immediately left or right of the non-volley zone (outside of the court). Coined by Jeff Shank after Shank first saw this technique used by Erne (pronounced “Ernie”) Perry at the 2010 Nationals.
equipment timeout: A 2-minute stoppage of play allowed by the referee when it is determined that an equipment repair/replacement is necessary for fairness or safety.
even court: The right half of your court while facing the net. The service court from which the first serve after a side out is made. (Called the “deuce court” in tennis.)
face: The large flat surface of a paddle that is intended to contact the ball.
falafel: Less common slang for a hit that falls well short of its target, such as a dropshot that doesn’t even reach the net.
fault: Any rule violation that results in the stoppage of play—such as hitting the ball out of bounds or into the net, serving a ball that doesn’t land in the correct service court, hitting the ball twice, etc.
figure 8 drill: Typically done with two players. One player is designated to only hit the ball diagonally to the other player, while the other player only hits the ball straight ahead. After a period of time, the players switch up. With modification, may be done with four players. Called “figure 8” due to the path of the ball when viewed overhead.
flapjack: Somewhat obscure slang for a balls that must bounce before being hit, such as the serve and return of serve.
flat face: When the hitting surface of the paddle is kept parallel to the net and perpendicular to the ground.
flying erne: Similar to a standard erne shot, but volleying while leaping across the NVZ instead of from an established position to the left or right of the NVZ.
follow through: The swing of your arm after it has already made contact with the ball.
foot fault: When a player’s foot illegally touches the non-volley zone while volleying or when both feet are not fully behind the server’s service court during the serve.
forehand: Hitting the ball on the same side of the body as the hand holding the paddle.
forfeit: When game or match is either voluntarily or by rule awarded to the opponent.
game: A competition between two teams. Typically played to 11 and won by 2 points. Sometimes played to 15 or 21. Some venues, such as some tournaments, may utilize games that are “win by 1”.
Global Pickleball Rankings: Managed by Pickleball Global, these rankings are age-based and player’s best 15 event results over the past year.
golden pickle: Winning a game using solely the very first server, with the opposing team never serving.
golden ticket: An automatic qualification to enter the National Championships that is granted by winning a gold medal at a qualifying event.
GPR: See “Global Pickleball Rankings”.
green zone: The space above waist, where attacking a ball is generally a good and safe strategy.
grip: How you hold the paddle in your hand. Somes orientations of the paddle head while it is held have specific names, such as “continental grip” and “western grip”. Can also refer to the handle of a paddle.
groundstroke: A long (non-lob) hit made after the ball has bounced on the same side as the hitter. (As opposed to a volley.)
half volley: Hitting a ball almost instantaneously after it bounces and well before it reaches its full bounce height. Sometimes called a “short hop”.
head: The main portion of the paddle that does not include the handle.
hinder: Some outside interference that affects the game, such as a ball that rolls into the court or an animal or person that violates the court space. Instances of a hinder are declared a let and are replayed. Wind is not considered a hindrance. (Sometimes confused with “distraction” which is an illegal action by an opponent.)
Horizon Sports & Experiences: Launched in November 2022, this New York City-based marketing company organized the inaugural Pickleball Slam held in April 2023 featuring retired top tennis pros competing for a one million dollar prize.
HS&E: Horizon Sports & Experiences.
I formation: Borrowed from American football, this refers to when serving partners are lined up one behind the other perpendicular to the net with the intent of disguising which side each player will be covering—once the opponent hits the ball, the partners split to their respective halves of their court. This is considered a highly unorthodox and often risky strategy.
IFP: International Federation of Pickleball.
injury time-out: The old name for a “medical time-out”. See “medical time-out”.
inside-out: A shot where the hitter displays all signs of hitting a ball toward the middle but alters the wrist position at the last instant and sends the ball straight or to the sideline instead.
intermediate player: There is no formal nor official definition, however generally it’s considered to be around a 3.0 to 4.0 rated player. A 3.5 player is considered by nearly everyone to be an intermediate.
International Federation of Pickleball: The IFP officially established its Constitution, Bylaws, and Officers in 2015 with inaugural member countries of the USA, Canada, Spain and India. ifpickleball.org.
International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association: An organization established to certify pickleball instructors to consistent standards. IPTPA.com
IPTPA: International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association.
IWTG: Indian Wells Tennis Garden, located in southern California.
kitchen: The very commonly used nickname for the non-volley zone.
kitchen line: A commonly used nickname for the line parallel to the net separating the non-volley zone from the rest of the court.
ladder: A tournament held over the course of a number of weeks where players move up and down in ranking depending on play against other players in the tournament. Ladder tournaments can be indefinite or have a set time limit with winners determined at the end.
let: A point that is to be replayed. Can also refer to any point that is replayed due to a hinder or other rule such as a ball crossing the net but striking a crossbar on the way down. Used to include a serve that hit the net cord on the ball’s way to landing in the service court, but this rule was changed in 2021 so such serves are a live ball.
line call: A determination if a ball landed within the court (contacted the paint of the line or therein) or landed outside of the court (fault). Calls made before the ball contacts the ground are considered “player communication” and are not valid line calls.
line judge: An official charged with determining if a ball lands legally in the court or not.
live ball: A ball that is currently in play. Once a fault or interruption in play occurs, a live ball becomes a dead ball.
lob: A shot high over an opponent’s head, forcing him or her back from the net.
lobster: A slang term for a player who relies heavily on lobbing during games.
Lobster Pickle: A brand of pickleball ball feeder machine used for practicing. Made by Lobster Sports. [website]
losers bracket: Also known as the “opportunity bracket”, it is where players continue to play in a tournament once they have lost a match but still have an chance to medal.
Major League Pickleball: Founded by Steve Kuhn, MLP launched on September 21, 2021 at Dreamland in Dripping Springs, Texas. Jenny Klitch is be the first commissioner. The inaugural MLP season featured a league of 8 teams of 4 players (2 men and 2 women), drafted by the owners of each team. MajorLeaguePickleball.net.
majors: The three premier tournaments (“majors”) typically recognized in pickleball are the U.S. Open, USAPA Nationals (now the USA Pickleball Nationals), and the Tournament of Champions.
MD: An abbreviation sometimes seen for men’s doubles.
medal match: A tournament match of which the outcome determines which team/player earns which medal, if any. The gold medal match determines gold and silver. The bronze medal match determines which of the two teams wins bronze and the remaining team earns no medal.
Medal Match Plus: A class of USA Pickleball sanctioned tournament where only the medal matches have referees.
medical time-out: A time-out called by a player to recover from a temporary injury. The player is allowed up to 15 minutes by the referee after which time the match is forfeited. This timeout cannot be called during action, regardless of severity of the injury. (Prior to January 2018, called an “injury timeout”.)
men’s doubles: A doubles game in which all four players are male.
midcourt: The area of the court between non-volley zone and backcourt. Considered part of the court called “no-man’s land” or the “transition zone”.
misdirection shot: When the hitter gives the impression of a sending the ball in a certain direction but then hits it in an unexpected direction, such as setting his/her body for a crosscourt shot but then hitting the ball down the line instead.
mishit: A shot where the contact with the ball was not as intended and sends the ball in an unexpected direction.
missed shot: Swinging and missing the ball. This has no effect on play and the ball is still considered live. (Swinging and missing on a serve is considered a fault, however.)
mixed doubles: A doubles game whereby each team is composed of a man and a woman.
MLP: Major League Pickleball.
MMP: See “Medal Match Plus”.
momentum: Usually in reference to the non-volley zone, if your hit on the ball causes you (or something that was touching you) to touch the NVZ—such as failing to maintain your balance—it is a fault. There is no time limit on momentum, so if the ball is already dead but your momentum still causes you to violate the NVZ, it’s a fault. (It’s best to go read the rules about this one!)
mulligan. An informal term derived from golf, it means a “do-over” given based on pure generosity. Such as when a brand new player is allowed a second serve—in violation of the rules—after his/her first attempted serve fails.
MXD. An abbreviation sometimes seen for mixed doubles.
Nasty Nelson: Serving into the body (or paddle) of the unsuspecting doubles partner of the receiver which results in a point for the server due to interference rules. Coined by Scott Lipitz after Timothy Nelson, who was known for using this against unsuspecting opponents.
National Pickleball: A subsidiary of Advanced Sports Media Group that promotes and helps grow amateur pickleball athletics in the United States.
National Pickleball League: Kicking off in April 2023, a national league for all skill levels with a chance to advance to state/regional tournament, then national tournament. usa-npl.com
Nationals: The USAPA (now USA Pickleball) national championship started in 2009.
net. A mesh strung cross the center of the court, dividing the opponents. 36″ high at the sidelines, 34″ high in the middle.
net posts. The vertical support found at both ends of a net.
NGB. A national governing body. The NGB for pickleball in the United States is the USAPA, also known as USA Pickleball.
no man’s land: A space of particular tactical disadvantage where a player is situated partway between the non-volley zone line and the baseline.
Nomex: A resin-infused honeycomb paper core used in some pickleball paddles. Lightweight and strong.
non-volley line: The line parallel to the net that spans from sideline to sideline, indicating the start of the non-volley zone.
non-volley zone: The seven-foot deep area, the width of the court, adjacent to the net within which you cannot volley the ball. Nicknamed the “kitchen”.
normal time-out: A 1-minute stoppage of play called by a player. Teams are allowed 2 timeouts, unless the game is to 21 points when 3 timeouts are permitted instead. Also see “medical time-out”.
not-ready signal: Given by a member of the receiving team to delay service. Indicated by raising a paddle, or free hand, or by turning one’s back. This is only allowed prior to the call of the score.
NSGA: National Senior Games Association.
nutmeg: Slang for a hit that passes between an opponent’s legs for a winning shot. Derived from soccer and hockey. Believed to have originated in Victorian times when the term meant “to make someone look foolish”.
NVL: Non-volley line.
NVZ: Non-volley zone.
odd court: The left half of your court while facing the net. (Called the “ad court” in tennis.)
open face: Having the top of the paddle face tilted away from the net.
open play: Games where players of any skill level are welcome to play.
opportunity bracket: Also known as the “losers bracket”, it is where players continue to play in a tournament once they have lost a match but still have an chance to medal.
over and back shot: When a hit ball has so much spin that after bouncing on the opponent’s side of the net, the ball returns untouched back over to the hitter’s side of the net. If such a ball is indeed untouched by the opponent, the shot results in the hitter’s point. This shot is the only instance where a player is allowed to legally reach across the net and contact the ball. (The best shot for the player is to hit the ball back toward himself/herself into the net, thereby winning the point.)
overhead: A shot made while the ball is above the hitter’s head. Often a slam, but may be a soft shot too.
overhead slam: See “smash”.
overhead smash: See “smash”.
overgrip: Material wrapped around the handle of a paddle to thicken the handle and otherwise improve the grip.
paddle: A hard flat surface with a handle used to hit the ball. Originally of plywood, are now constructed of a variety of durable light-weight materials.
paddle head: The large flat area of a paddle above the handle that is intended to contact and strike the ball.
pantry: A lesser-used term to describe the space outside the court immediately left and right of the kitchen.
panty dropper: An around-the-post shot hit behind the back. Coined in 2017 by Kyle Yates and other pickleball youngsters.
passing shot: A low shot that passes outside the reach of the opposing player and bounces inbounds.
PB: An abbreviation of “pickleball”.
PBR: 1) See “Performance Based Ratings”. 2) See “Pickleball Brackets Rating”.
PCI: See “Pickleball Coaching International”.
PCNS: See “Pickleball Canada National System”.
PCO: See “Pickleball Canada Organization”.
Performance-Based Ratings: Rating a player based on his/her game results.
permanent court: A court that is permanently striped with a permanently mounted net.
permanent object: Any permanent fixtures around the court, including net posts, lights, seats, etc. This does not include the net.
pickle: The definition of a ‘pickle’ varies significantly and it appears that there is no consensus on the term. For some, it’s a shot between the legs. For others, it’s holding the opponent to no score in a game. A very small number of clubs yell out “pickle” when a ball rolls onto an unsuspecting court, instead of the far more common “ball on!”. Yet others have different uses of the term.
picklebacks: The matches that occur in the losers/consolation bracket of a standard double elimination tournament. Derived from the term “wrestlebacks” in the sport of wrestling.
pickleball: 1) A game played as singles or doubles on a badminton-sized court in which players hit a hard ball over a net using paddles. 2) A hard perforated plastic ball used in the game of pickleball.
Pickleball Brackets Rating: A player rating based on tournament results registered with PickleballBrackets.com.
Pickleball Canada National System: The membership system for the Pickleball Canada Organization.
Pickleball Canada Organization: The national governing body of pickleball in Canada. pickleballcanada.org
Pickleball Coaching International: A commercial venture by Mark Renneson of Third Shot Sports providing education and insurance to pickleball coaches. pickleballcoachinginternational.com
Pickleball Inc.: An ownership group that owns the PPA, pickleballtournaments.com, pickleballcentral.com, and pickleballbrackets.com.
Pickleball Tutor: A brand of pickleball ball feeder machine used for practicing. Made by Sports Tutor. sportstutorinc.com/pickleball/
pickled. A slang term describing when a losing team fails to score even a single point in a game. “We got pickled.”
Pickles: The name of the dog belonging to one of the inventors of pickleball to whom the name of the game is sometimes accredited. (It’s also been said that the wife of one inventor claims the game is named after the “pickle boat” in rowing, so there is a debate.)
player communication: Any verbal communication on the court other than calling the score and line calls. Can even include the words “out” or “in” prior to a ball touching the ground, but once the ball bounces, these words are construed specifically as line calls.
playing surface: The ground/floor upon which a game is played. This includes the court and the area around it upon which the ball may legally bounce.
poach: To hit a ball that is expected to be the partner’s responsibility.
point award: A tournament format where a point is awarded for each win. Teams/players winning the first two games of a match receive an extra point.
pool play: A tournament format where teams/players are divided into two or more groups (pools) which then play round robins to determine who will advance.
PPA: Pro Pickleball Association
PPF: Professional Pickleball Federation. (Disbanded.)
PPR: Professional Pickleball Registry.
Pro Pickleball Association: Offers a series of professional tournaments. ppatour.com
Professional Pickleball Federation: Founded in 2016, an association of players 4.5 or 5.0 who pay the annual fee to join. This group advances opportunities for professional players. This group ceased operations at the end of 2017. Its website was pbfederation.com.
Professional Pickleball Registry: The Official Education and Certification Partner of USAPA, a subsidiary of Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). PPR began serving members on June 21, 2018 with the goal of fostering coaching certification. pprpickleball.org
Professional Tennis Registry: The parent organization to the Professional Pickleball Registry. The largest global organization of tennis teaching professionals and coaches. ptrtennis.org
PTR: Professional Tennis Registry.
punch volley: A quick volley shot to the ball with very little to no backswing. Usually a shot made while at the net. Sometimes called “punching the ball”.
put away: To win a point by hitting the ball in such a way as your opponent cannot hit it.
rally: A longer sequence of back and forth shots between opposing teams during a single point.
rally scoring: Under this unsanctioned game variant, the team that wins a rally gains a point, regardless of whether they served or not. This is not common for pickleball and is not found in the IFP rules. A game played under rally scoring will typically be completed 2 to 3 times faster. Rally scoring can also tip the balance of the game in favor of the receivers.
ratings: See “USAPA Tournament Player Ratings”.
RD: Regional Director.
readiness: A state in which a receiver is properly prepared and expecting to receive a serve. It is illegal to call the score and serve when the receiver is not ready. In refereed play, the referee calls the score when the receiver is determined to be ready or should be ready.
rec play: An abbreviation of “recreational play”.
receiver: The player diagonally opposite the server.
recreational play: Any non-tournament game. Also called “social play”.
red zone: The space below your knees, where attacking a ball is ill-advised.
Regional Director: The individual responsible for overseeing a given geographic region within the territory of USA Pickleball.
replay: A point that is played over, typically due to some interference to the game.
resetting the point: Successfully moving from a position of tactical disadvantage during a rally to one of neutrality.
ripcord: A nickname for the cable that runs along the top of the net and supports the net.
roll shot: A low-to-high stroke made on a low ball at the net that lifts the ball and applies a large amount of topspin while keeping the shot low.
roll volley: A low-to-high stroke volleying a low ball at the net that lifts the ball and applies a large amount of topspin while keeping the shot low.
roof shot. A formerly legal technique of while standing to the left or right of the court while on the opponent’s side of the net, holding one’s paddle over over the ball thus preventing the opponent from properly hitting the ball up and back over the net. The rules have been changed to prevent this.
ROS: Return of Serve.
round robin: A tournament format where all players (singles) or teams (doubles) rotationally play games against all the others to determine the winner.
sanctioned tournament: A tournament that meets the criteria to be formally recognized by the governing pickleball association. For example, in the USA, the tournament fulfills the USAPA requirements for referees, ball type, and rules of play. Generally, there is a fee paid to the governing body for sanctioning.
sanctioned tournament tier levels: The USAPA assigns sanctioning fees based on specific tournament criteria such as the number of competitors, the amount of the prizes pool, whether there will be national television coverage and other metrics. The largest tournaments are assigned “Tier 1” and the smallest tournaments are “Tier 5”. [website]
SBR: See “Skill Based Ratings”.
scrub: A weakly skilled player. Also a player with little experience and skill but opts to enter a tournament anyway.
second serve: When a team loses its first service and serving passes to the other partner. Technically, can also refer to the very first service of a game when a team only has one allocated service and that score is called “0-0-2”.
self-rating: Under the UTPR, a temporary initial two-digit rating—such as “2.5”—supplied to the association by the player. Over time, a self-rating is supplanted over time with adjusted ratings after each qualifying tournament.
serve: The first hit on the ball to start action on a rally.
serve motion: The forward arm swing used used to serve the ball.
server: The player about to hit the ball to start action on a point.
server number: In a doubles game, the number distinguishing between the first or second server, either “1” or “2”. Prior to the serve, this number is announced immediately after the scores of the two teams, e.g., “4-5-2” would indicate the second server is serving.
service court: The area on either side of the centerline between the baseline and the non-volley zone. There are four service courts on a pickleball court.
service let: A serve that contacts the net but still lands in the correct service court. A let may be replayed. A specific type of let. Also see “let”.
service motion: The swing of the server’s arm backward or simply forward to contact the ball for service.
SGA: State Games of America.
shading: Shifting on the court as a team toward the left or right side with the ball in order to better cover the sideline and the center of the court and thus better handle a shot coming from the opponent’s side of the net.
shadowing: Moving in conjunction with your partner to maintain a consistent distance between.
shake and bake: Slang for a situation where the first partner hits a hard drive which results in a bad pop-up by the opposing team and the second partner ends the point with a smash.
short hop: See “half volley”.
shot: A hit of the ball and the travel of the ball once being hit.
shot around the net post. The more formal and less-used phrase to describe an “around the post” shot. See “around-the-post”.
side out: The switch of serve from one team to the opposing player(s).
sidelines: The two long lines perpendicular to the net marking the perimeter of the court.
Simon: A brand of pickleball ball feeder machine used for practicing. Made by Big Whale Promo. [website]
single elimination: A team must lose only once to be eliminated from a tournament.
single elimination with consolation: Any team after losing once may still play in the consolation bracket for the 3rd place/bronze medal. A second loss will result in elimination from the tournament.
singles: A game played with only two opposing players. (As opposed to doubles with two opposing teams of two.)
skill-based ratings: Rating a player based upon evaluation of his/her skillset instead of tournament results.
skinny singles: Playing a game of singles using only the right or left side of the court. Typically used for practice or drills and never used in a tournament.
slam: See “smash”.
slap shot: A disguised quick attack off a low ball at the net with little backstroke.
slice: Hitting the ball with a downward stroke to impart backspin on the ball.
sling serve: A nickname for a serve whereby the ball is tossed into the air from the paddle face. This was an rule change in 2021 due to COVID-19 to allow the server to not have to touch the ball when serving.
smash: A hard overhead shot intended to end the point. Also called an “overhead smash” or “overhead slam”.
social play: Any non-tournament game. Also called “recreational play” or “rec play”.
soft game: The portion of a match that includes non-drive shots, such as drops, dinks, and lobs.
spiking: An alternative name for a smash.
spin: Rotation imparted to the ball to alter its behavior in the air and/or after contact with the ground/paddle. See “topspin” and “backspin”.
split step: Standing with both feet approximately shoulder width apart and parallel; it is a very temporary stance while preparing to hit or deciding where to move to next.
SSIPA: Super Senior International Pickleball Association.
stacking: Whereby doubles partners maintain their court positions throughout the game aside from their required service positions, in which one player always assumes position on the right side of the court immediately after service, and the other on the left.
starting server: The player of a team who serves for the very first time for that team and begins the game in the even court. In a tournament, the starting server wears an band as an indicator of such.
State Games of America: A multi-sport event for amateurs held in the USA every two years and is organized by the National Congress of State Games. Athletes qualify by medaling in their respective State Games in the previous two years. Includes pickleball events. stategamesofamerica.com
stroke: The swing and hit of the ball.
Super Senior International Pickleball Association: A group to “support the growth of pickleball around the world, through a social, competitive environment for players of all skill levels ages 60 plus”. ssipa-pb.org
tank: To lose points or a game intentionally.
TD: An abbreviation for “tournament director”.
technical foul: Called by a referee when he or she feels a player is abusive or is otherwise not following the rules, adding a point to that player’s opponent’s score. Two technical fouls on one team/player results in a forfeiture of the match.
technical warning: A warning given by a referee if he/she feels that a technical foul is not warranted. Typically given prior to calling a technical foul, but a warning is not required.
tier levels: See “Sanctioned Tournament Tier Levels.”
ten second rule: The server has 10 seconds to initiate a point once a referee has called the score in a game. A delay will result in a fault. (Prior to January 2018, it resulted in a warning, then a foul.)
third, the: An abbreviation of “the third shot”.
third shot drop: A soft shot made by the serving team immediately after the service return with the intention of dropping the ball shallow into the opponent’s kitchen thus allowing the serving team time to advance to their own kitchen.
timeout: A stoppage of play called by a player. See “normal timeout” and “injury timeout” and “equipment timeout”.
TKR: Total Knee Replacement, a surgical procedure.
TOC: Tournament of Champions.
topspin: Spin/rotation applied to the ball by hitting it while the paddle is moving from low to high, causing the top of ball to rotate away from the hitter while in flight. A ball with topspin will have a tendency to accelerate forward motion and stay low once it contacts the ground.
tournament director: The top/lead organizer for a tournament.
Tournament of Champions: An annual tournament held in Utah.
tournament tier levels: See “Sanctioned Tournament Tier Levels.”
tracking: Shifting left or right with the ball along the non-volley line to help prevent a passing shot.
transition zone: Sometimes called “no man’s land,” a space of particular tactical disadvantage where a player is situated partway between the non-volley zone line and the baseline.
triple crown: Winning gold in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles at a single tournament.
tweener: A slang term for a ball that is successfully returned between the hitter’s own legs, often while the hitter has his or her back to the net. A derivative of “between”.
underhand serve: The only legal serve in pickleball, whereby the ball is contacted below the server’s navel by an upward motion paddle positioned fully below the wrist.
unforced error: A critical mistake made on a shot that is not considered difficult to execute.
United Pickleball Management: A company which governs the individual tournaments associated within The APP Tour. Founded by Ken Herrmann in the midwestern United States and operated by Ken and partners Rick & Bridget Witsken and Dana Joseph. [unitedpickleballmanagement.com] [background article]
USA Pickleball. The January 2020 rebranding of the United States of America Pickleball Association (USAPA). USAPickleball.org.
USAPA: United States of America Pickleball Association, the formal and full name of USA Pickleball.
USAPA Tournament Player Ratings: A player rating system released on July 9, 2018. Under the old system, players were rated solely as 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, or 5.0. Under UTPR, using a semi-dynamic automated system—using an implementation of the Elo Rating System—players are assigned a four-digit rating, such as 3.123, which is used for seeding at tournaments. A player’s two-digit abbreviated rating is determined by rounding his or her four-digit rating down to the nearest “.0” or “.5” to a maximum of 6.0. Under UTPR, new 5.5 and 6.0 ratings were added.
UPM: See “United Pickleball Management”.
U.S. Senior Pickleball: US Senior Pickleball is a division of Super Senior International Pickleball Association.
USSP: See “U.S. Senior Pickleball”.
UTPR: See “USAPA Tournament Player Ratings”.
United States of America Pickleball Association. The formal name of USA Pickleball. See “USA Pickleball”.
Verbal Warning: A corrective statement made by a referee to a player or team, such as addressing profanity or delaying the game. If the behavior continues, a penalty is assessed.
Vibe Pickleball League: Founded in 2022, a team pickleball league endorsed by the PPA Tour. Created in a similar vein to Major League Pickleball.
Villages: The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida covering 32 square miles. A very popular spot for pickleball featuring approximately 200 dedicated pickleball courts. Hosted large national tournaments back in 2001-2002.
volley: To hit the ball out of the air before it has a chance to bounce.
volley serve: Service whereby the ball is hit out of the air and not after the ball bounces as with a drop serve.
VW: Abbreviation for “Verbal Warning”.
WD. An abbreviation sometimes seen for women’s doubles.
western grip: Holding the paddle in your hand with the top of your paddle tipped substantially forward for more topspin, a less common grip. This grip typically requires a grip change for backhand shots.
windshield wiper dinks: A dinking drill whereby two players dink to each other while incrementally moving parallel to the NVZ line between shots. Players can move to the same side of the court or in opposite directions during the drill.
winners bracket: At a tournament, it is where players continue to play until they have lost a match. In a double-elimination tournament, once they lose, they drop into the losers (or “opportunity”) bracket.
withdrawal. A team or player dropping out of tournament by choice.
winner: A clearly successful shot ending a point. Such as, “They dinked at least a dozen times before she had a clear winner and took it.”
World Pickleball Federation: Founded in February 2010 with the expressed goal of qualifying pickleball as an Olympic sport. The initial two member countries with governing bodies were the United States and Canada.
World Pickleball Foundation: A non-profit founded in 2023 with the mission to establish pickleball programs in schools.
WOSPB: World Series of Pickleball.
World Series of Pickleball. A pro-am event held in 2017 to benefit charities, promoted by Chris Allen of the podcast, The Pickleball Show. Official web pages for this event are defunct.
WPF: World Pickleball Federation or World Pickleball Foundation.
WPR: World Pickleball Rating. Developed by PickleballTournaments.com, this system uses the Glicko-2 ratings system to rate players based on tournament results.
yellow zone: The space between your knees and your waist, where you want to use caution when attacking a ball.
yips: A state whereby a routine muscle-memory action consistently fails with no explanation. Typically, in reference to serving. Such as, “He’s got the yips and is missing all of his serves.”
Youth Provider Program: A service by USA Pickleball to provide resources to organizations for instructing children.
YPP: See “Youth Provider Program”.
© 2017-2023, Andrew T. Lenz, Jr. All rights reserved.
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(This page will continue to be updated with new terms as well as reflect rule changes.)