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Indoor vs Outdoor Pickleball

Author: Andrew Gilman | July 11, 2023

Whether playing outside at the park, indoors on a basketball court, or anywhere in between, pickleball is a great way to have a lot of fun.

But no matter where you serve it up, be ready for the differences between playing indoors or outdoors.

And the differences are many and varied, from the court to the ball, the weather and the wind, and it doesn’t matter if you’re playing singles or doubles. Your paddle better be up and ready, because the inside and the outside game are quite different.

Be prepared.

Indoor pickleball

Oftentimes indoor pickleball is played on basketball courts or some sort of wooden surface. It doesn’t mean the game can’t be just as fun, but it does mean the game is quite different.

In an indoor environment, you won’t have any wind or weather to deal with. That’s helpful for a lot of reasons and they are all quite obvious. Consistency is a huge benefit of playing indoors and can be really helpful for beginner or novice players. Not having to worry about the wind, heat or elements means the player can solely focus on the ball, the paddle, the score, and all the shots.

Indoor facilities also provide relief from the rain, wind, heat, cold, and sometimes, most importantly the sun. Looking into the sun on any given shot can be a burden and something an opposing team can use against you.

Indoor facilities are typically well-lit, which means consistent visibility. When a player doesn’t have to worry about the changing natural light, there are fewer variables in play.

Clearly, the best thing about playing indoors is the regulated temperatures. More and more facilities are being opened across the country that are indoors. Lots of restaurants and food concepts are attached to them and many are extremely popular, giving players an opportunity to socialize without the elements being a factor.

Another thing to consider about playing indoors is the surface. Sure, there is no wind, rain or sun to consider, but playing on a basketball court or  a hybrid “sport court” means the ball will bounce differently than on an outdoor “tennis court.” 

Since the ball is going to perform differently, it means you need the right kind of ball. The wrong kind of ball can hinder your enjoyment of the game. Pickleballs used for indoor play can differ significantly from outdoor balls. Outdoor pickleballs are heavier and more durable and designed to withstand rougher surfaces, wind, and elements. Indoor pickleballs are lighter, have larger holes, and are optimized for better performance on a smooth court. Using an outdoor ball on an indoor surface won’t be a good experience for anyone. 

Acoustics are something to think about, too. Indoor pickleball can be noisy and the indoor space can affect the sound of the ball hitting the paddle. If you have auditory issues, this is something to think about.

One of the positives about a “sport court” or a basketball court is there is less stress on the joints. A lot of these courts have some “give” to them that outdoor concrete or asphalt courts don’t offer. One of the negatives is often these courts have “dead” spots where the ball doesn’t offer a true bounce. That can be unpredictable and frustrating, too.

Outdoor Pickleball

Weather! It matters. Everything about the weather dictates how you play. If it’s cold, that means more layers and you likely won’t be able to move as freely. If it’s hot, it means your energy level could get depleted much quicker and you’ll need to think more about what it will take to stay hydrated.

The wind is an issue. You might not be the better team, but on a windy day, the wind could have a massive impact on the result of your game. Driving the ball with the wind behind you becomes difficult. Dinking the ball into the wind becomes a challenge. In a match, think about which end of the court suits your game best and try to make sure you’re in the right position to take advantage of the situation. Players need to adjust their shots and strategies. 

Skill level has so much to do with dealing with the elements. A highly skilled player can adjust to the wind. Weaker players will have a hard time dealing with it and will end up being considerably more erratic.

Lighting is the next thing to really be concerned with. Outdoor pickleball can vary, depending on the time of day, weather conditions, and even artificial lighting if you’re playing in the evening or night. Shadows and glare can affect visibility, especially during early morning or late evening play. This can result in players needing to wear a hat or sunglasses and that can be distracting if that player is not used to wearing more accessories.

In a more-competitive environment expect your opponent to use any and all elements against you. You may not see as many people trying to lob the ball in an indoor facility, but in an outdoor environment, don’t be surprised if the team across the net from you lobs the ball into the sun to make it as difficult as possible. It may not be considered ethical or good sportsmanship, but it is fair. And it happens all the time. 

Surfaces tend to vary a lot more outdoors as well. Is the surface a tennis court, asphalt, or concrete? Different surfaces mean different results with the way the ball performs. One isn’t better or worse than another, but there are major differences. 

Outdoor courts, especially those made of concrete, may have a slightly lower bounce and slower pace, which means the ball can be “harder” and give the players more time to react. 

Everyone has their own preference and there are many contributing factors to which type of game suits a person better. 

It’s always a great idea to get outside, breathe some fresh air and socialize with your friends on the court. A cool evening or a temperate morning are great times to play, however, access to an indoor place when it’s rainy, too cold, or too hot, is a welcomed relief.

Indoor or out, windy or calm, just find a place to play and have a great time.

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