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Pickleball Equipment – What You Need to Play

Author: Andrew Gilman | March 12, 2024

Selkirk and Franklin pickleball equipment

Ready to play? 

Have you got your ball and your paddle? What about your sunscreen and your water bottle? You’re definitely going to need those. Oh, don’t forget a snack or two.

OK, maybe you’re not quite ready yet, after all. Read on for all the things you’re going to need to make sure you and your friends have the best time playing pickleball. 

Perfect paddles

Don’t be intimidated or scared. There are lots of choices out there and there’s something for everyone.

And there are plenty of price points for all different types of budgets.

Just remember, when you are choosing a paddle, find one that’s comfortable for you, suits your style and gives you confidence. If possible, try out a bunch of different kinds to find out what you like.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Find a paddle that feels like the right weight for you. Usually, they weigh between 7-9 ounces and 9 ounces is going to feel very heavy. You’ll want something you can maneuver easily and control for every type of shot – from the serve to the dink. Consider your strength and playing style before choosing a paddle that’s the right weight.
  • Grip size is also important for comfort and control. A grip that’s too small, might cause hand fatigue and also force you to hold the paddle too tight. A grip too large will feel cumbersome and make it hard to move the paddle around freely. Most paddles have a grip size between 4-4.5 inches in circumference. Just make sure comfort is your criteria when choosing a grip size.
  • Materials matter when it comes to picking a paddle. Most are made from wood, carbon fiber, or graphite. Each material does different things and contributes to differences in power, control, and durability. Composite paddles, made of a combination of different materials are popular for balance and control, are popular. Wood paddles work well, too, and are more traditional. 

What ball works for you?

The main thing you need to know is whether you’re playing on an outdoor or an indoor surface. An indoor surface, like a gym floor, a basketball floor or some sort of sport-court means you need a ball that’s a bit “softer.”

These “softer,” indoor balls are also a bit “slower” and won’t bounce as aggressively, so they are more suitable for a gym floor.

An “outdoor” ball, used on courts that are similar to tennis courts, are going to feel “harder” and bounce more aggressively. 

Vulcan, Franklin, Onix, Selkirk, Gearbox and many others make both indoor and outdoor pickleballs.

Whatcha wearing?

  • Like paddles, there are a lot of choices out there, and the key is to be comfortable.
  • Make sure your pickleball clothes aren’t too tight, allow freedom of movement, are made of breathable fabrics, and have some moisture-wicking components.
  • Polyester and nylon blends are great for keeping the sweat off your body as well as keeping you cool. You’ll want that for those long days on the court and those intense games.
  • Remember, pickleball requires lots of quick movements, so make sure your clothes don’t get in the way or hinder you. Avoid bulky, heavy materials that can weigh you down and end up retaining sweat. Lightweight clothing helps you move better.
  • Watch out for the sun, too. Several different brands feature UV protection in their clothes. If you’re playing outdoors, it’s something to consider if you’re sun-sensitive. Look for long-sleeve shirts or sun sleeves to help keep the heat off your arms.
  • Choose apparel that fits comfortably. Too tight or too baggy is a bad idea. 

Many brands offer clothing specific to pickleball and there are dozens of styles, colors, and fun looks to suit any personality.

It’s in the bag

Anyone who plays regularly needs a bag to store all the gear, paddles, and more, and several different styles will work for you.

Consider these factors when deciding which bag works best for what you need:

  • How many paddles do you want to fit in there? Do you need a change of clothes, shoes, etc.? If so, grab a “tour” bag that will hold more gear. If you need balls, water bottles, towels, shoes, and personal items, don’t get a backpack style, get something much bigger. 
  • Small or large, look for a bag or pack that is easy to find things in. You want pockets and compartments that can help you stay organized. 
  • Durability is important here. Your bag is going to be on the ground or floor, hanging up, etc. Make sure you don’t get something that will wear out quickly. Make sure the zippers are high quality and look for reinforced stitching and a product that has durable fabric construction.
  • Comfort is key. You don’t want a burden when carrying your gear. You just need to be able to find something with good shoulder straps and handles that will make things easier for you to carry your gear around, especially if you have a long walk or commute to the courts.
  • Of course, don’t discount fashion. If you don’t like the way it looks, the bag doesn’t need to be comfortable or durable, because you’re not going to buy it. Find a fashion, a cool color, pattern, or brand that agrees with you.
  • Extras like ventilation and mesh panels, places for water bottles, or a fabric that holds up to moisture are also other factors to consider.

Grab a snack

The best snacks for pickleball are those that provide energy, help with hydration, and are also easy to digest. Need some options? Here you go:

  • Fresh fruits like bananas, apples, grapes, and berries are great choices. They have natural sugars, lots of vitamins, and also hydrate the body. Perfect for a quick energy boost, too.
  • A trail mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits is good for carbohydrates and protein as well as providing some healthy fats for sustained energy
  • Energy bars are good if they are made from natural ingredients and have minimal sugar. Look for ones that have high protein and a lower amount of ingredients. 
  • Single-serving packets of peanut butter or almond butter are excellent for energy and are high in protein.
  • Greek yogurt is full of protein, helps with muscle recovery, and will fill you up, too. Add fresh fruit for a satisfying snack.
  • Vegetables and hummus are good for those who like crunchy snacks. Carrots, cucumbers, and peppers also pair well with hummus. You’ll get plenty of vitamins and fiber that way, too.
  • Don’t forget the water. It’s a good way to cool down and oftentimes water is an appetite suppressant. Energy drinks are good too, just watch for ones with too much sugar. 

Make sure to pick snacks that work well with your personal system and provide energy without causing any stomach issues. Try different things to see what satisfies you the best. Most importantly, stay hydrated!

Heads up! 

If you’re playing outside, you definitely need some sun protection for your head. It will also serve the purpose of keeping you cool, as well as safe from the sun.

Popular styles among players include baseball hats, visors and moisture-wicking hats designed to trap in sweat and wick it away. 

Choose a hat that’s durable so it can hold up to gameplay. You’ll want it to be durable because it will definitely need to be washed frequently.

Look for hats with mesh panels and some ventilation to help with airflow and help with overheating on hot days. A lot of hats have UV protection, too. That will help to keep those harmful sun rays off your skin and scalp. 

Adjustable fit hats are also a good idea. Velcro straps or “snap-back” closures work well and ensure that the hat stays on well and fits snugly for those intense matches. 

Visors work well for those players who want better visibility while still providing some protection and shade. Longer visors work better for sun protection.

Lightweight is the key. A heavy hat, or one that retains sweat won’t be a pleasant experience. You want to make sure you’re playing your best, so something light on your head is the best bet.

Recover

OK, you’re done playing, but need to be fresh for the next time you hit the courts. What can you do?

  • Get yourself a foam roller. It’s a great way to help relieve muscle tightness, is affordable and easy to use. 
  • Compression garments like socks, sleeves, or leggings help improve circulation and can reduce fatigue during play. Wearing it afterward can help in recovery by promoting blood flow and reducing swelling.
  • Ice is nice! Applying ice packs to sore muscles and joints is a tried-and-tested way to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Heat can help, too. Heating pads, a warm shower, or a bath help to relax muscles and increase blood flow which alleviates soreness and stiffness.
  • Proper hydration and nutrition are important after playing. Make sure to drink lots of water and have something to eat. The water will help you be ready for your next match. You’ll need some carbs for energy and some protein to help with muscle repair and recovery.
  • And, of course, there’s always stretching. Allow your body time to heal up and recover between sessions. Do some gentle stretching, yoga poses, and relaxation to help reduce muscle tension and to prevent injury.

Pickleball Practice Equipment

If you truly want to get better, you’re going to want to invest in spending time practicing. There are several different training aids to help a player get better and enhance their gameplay:

  • A ball machine is great, but can be expensive, but the repetition of getting in lots of the same shots is very helpful. The machine can feed balls at different speeds and angles allowing players to practice their shots, footwork, and reaction time. Some machines even come with remotes making practice even easier.
  • Targets are good for dinks, drives, and execution drills. They are usually very cheap. Adjustable to put down anywhere around the court for players to work on shot placement. 
  • YouTube and social media offer a wide range of videos and drills to help players work on everything from strategy to serves. 
  • Resistance bands are excellent training tools that players can use to strengthen muscles like shoulders, arms, and core. Using the bands can help with stability and endurance.

Remember, practice only leads to more confidence. The more you practice, the more confident and successful you’ll be during important matches.

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