Kids and Pickleball: How to Introduce the Game to a New Generation
by Patrick Moore on Dec 22, 2022
While playing pickleball is an unquestionable joy, nothing really compares to passing on your love for the game to your kids, grandkids, or other relatives. Pickleball may feel technical and difficult for young kids to pick up, but with the right perspective many kids can easily be bit by the pickleball bug.
Whether your kid has begged to come play pickleball with you, or you are just introducing the game to them, the important thing to remember is to keep the game fun. For younger kids and children who are just picking up a paddle for the first time, we recommend finding a paved area to start playing. No need to battle for court space or even have a net present. Children have a great imagination, and the lack of pressure will only make it all easier.
Start by just dinking the ball back and forth like you do in warmups. The close range will help boost hand eye coordination and allow them to understand what it feels like to hit the ball in the sweet spot of the paddle. When this starts to feel repetitive, back up to a distance similar to a serve and see if they can hit the ball harder to cover the distance. You don’t have to be super accurate, just giving them experience with hitting the ball far and hard will go a long way in their development.
Pro pickleball player, Brandon Nsekpong started out at an early age playing sports and now is able to pass on his love of the game to his son, Kamden."There aren’t too many better feelings than being able to enjoy a sport you love with your children. On top of the emotional benefits, creating an atmosphere where your kids can be active tends to bode well for them throughout their life.
At only 18 months old, my son already loves chasing around a pickleball and occasionally finding a paddle to play with. I’m aware that when he gets older he may choose to play other things but why not introduce him to something that’s taken over my lifestyle?
The rules I tend to follow are: Make it enjoyable, challenge him, and praise his small wins.
Everything else is up to him."
Here at Pickleball Central we offer a number of entry level paddles that offer pickleball performance in its simplest form. Usually made of wood, these paddles provide a large hitting surface in a lightweight design to allow young athletes to figure out how to properly strike a pickleball without hurting your wallet. Some great budget-friendly wood entry level paddle bundles, which include two paddles and four pickleballs, are:
If any of these catch your eye and you need to provide a paddle for multiple children, take a look at our Pickleball Paddles & Balls Bundles.
As kids start to get hooked on the game the next step would be to start teaching them the rules and how to score the game. Start with digestible and stable rules like the two-bounce rule and the kitchen rule. Follow up by showing them examples either on video or in real life. This is a great way to keep them from feeling overwhelmed.
While the scoring of pickleball isn’t overly difficult, they will still need a little practice to get the hang of serving order and what plays result in what points. To help them learn it, we recommend watching some professional games on the internet and explaining the scoring as they go. Also, letting them score games you are casually playing against friends in real life will help them understand and feel included.
Now that little superstars have basic coordination and a base level understanding of pickleball, it is time to find a way for them to play games. If you have a family of four or very close friends that are willing to play with children, then you can create a fun controlled environment to introduce them to the game. It is key to remember during these first games that FUN is the name of the game. Let them play a ball after it bounces twice, spike one from inside the kitchen, or get a re-do on a serve, it is just for fun after all!
As they start to hone their skills and are starting to really play the game, it is beneficial to get them on the court with their peers. As pickleball continues to increase in popularity, there are an increasing number of camps that teach beginners and local clubs sometimes have kids events both for learning and competition. Eventually children will be ready to compete in the youth division of local tournaments. Just remember to not push them too hard; if they fall in love with the game the progression will come naturally.
When the pickleballer in your life starts to really focus on technique and competition, it may be time to get them a new paddle. Often youth paddles can be lower performance versions of their bigger siblings. Luckily some brands see the importance of providing youth players with high performance paddles that will add power, spin, control, and confidence to their game. The youth paddles we recommend for progressing youth players are:
ProXR The Junior Pickleball Paddle
Baddle Junior Composite Paddle
Oneshot Juniorshot Series Paddle
"It’s every parent’s dream to find an activity where they can truly bond with their children. The best way to get them warmed up to the idea of playing pickleball is to make sure it’s easy and fun for them! Our kids’ favorite game is popping bubbles with their paddles. Emma loves the Jurassic and Luca loves the Ocean! And after a fun “pickleball drill” they absolutely love coloring their paddles with chalk." - Cristina, Oneshot Pickleball Cofounder
Vulcan V300 Youth Paddle
Whichever paddle you choose for the young pickleball player in your life, they will now have a tool that will help them get to the next competitive level or have more fun on the court. These simple steps are a surefire way to help kids fall in love with the game, make friends, stay fit and healthy, and most importantly, have way more fun.