What to Wear to Play Pickleball

What to Wear to Play Pickleball

As the game grows in popularity, more players are paying attention to their on-court outfits. Here are the top dos and don’ts when dressing for pickleball success.

two women playing doubles pickleball

Do invest in excellent hardcourt pickleball or tennis shoes 

Pickleball involves a lot of quick starts, stops, pivots and position changes on a hard surface. It’s important to wear real athletic footwear to prevent stumbles, ankles turns and knee tweaks. Plus, your feet will need support once you start playing for hours… almost everyday. (No shame, it happens to the best of us!)  Who wants aches, pains or injuries to take them out of the game? Tennis shoes certainly work for pickleball, but pickleball-specific shoes, designed to better facilitate lateral movement, are becoming increasingly popular. Both provide cushioning and traction which are key to playing it safe.

Don’t wear baggy clothes 

Pickleball requires agility and quick reaction time. Don’t let your clothes get in the way. Wearing comfortable but streamlined athletic wear is the smart approach. You do not want to get tripped up by loose sweatpants or miss a volley because an oversized hoodie gets in the way of your swing. It can happen, trust me. Tennis clothes are suitable for pickleball, but newcomers needn’t invest in a new wardrobe to get out there and play. Leggings, track pants, zip-ups, tee shirts, athletic shorts and racerback tanks are just fine. Think lightweight layers rather than bulky outerwear when the weather is chilly. 

Man and woman playing doubles pickleball

Do consider protective eyewear

Sure, pickleballs are made of thin, hollow plastic, but a direct smash to the eye could be devastating. Rather than risk injury, more and more players are choosing to wear eye protection. And this applies to all levels. Advanced players should be able to aim carefully, but they are hitting the ball quite hard, so beware a slight miscalculation. Beginners and intermediates might not have the control necessary to avoid hitting their opponent (or partner!). Yup, it’s a jungle out there. Sunglasses do provide some protection. Even better,  many companies are selling pickleball-specific safety eyewear for those who want added peace of mind.

Don’t sacrifice your skin

‘One more game!’  Who hasn’t heard that cri de coeur on the pickleball court?  The game is both extremely fun and oddly challenging–no one wants to stop. People are literally playing for hours and hours at a stretch, mostly outdoors. This is all well and good, as long as players are mindful of how much sun exposure they are getting. Hats and visors are a must, with many pickleballers opting for larger, wide-brimmed hats that protect the back of the neck and more of the face than a simple baseball-type cap. Sun protective athletic shirts are another great option. Many are designed with strategically placed mesh cutouts that allow for maximum airflow and breathability. Thanks to such high-tech design and lightweight fabrics, you can be sun safe without overheating. So go ahead–serve ‘em up!

man and woman playing pickleball

Do pack a bag 

If you know you’re in for a marathon pickleball session, it makes sense to plan ahead. Once you’ve given into a full-on pickleball addiction (and you probably will), a dedicated pickleball bag packed with the necessities should be ready to go at all times. You’ll need space for an extra paddle, balls, grip lotion, sunscreen, water bottle(s), extra layers of clothing, eyewear, a towel, snacks and possibly a change of shoes for post-play. 

Don’t dress like a ball

It’s actually in the official USA Pickleball Handbook. While not a specific rule (yet), the ‘etiquette and general guidelines’ section of the handbook states that players should not wear any article of clothing that “approximates the color of the ball.” Translation: Don’t wear neon yellow or bright green because it could distract your opponent or interfere with their ability to track the ball. Seems fair. A pickleball court is small and the ball moves fast. Reaction time is minimal when all four players are near the kitchen. Who would want to gain an unfair advantage by camouflaging the ball? (Plus, acid yellow and green aren’t really flattering on many skin tones–just saying.)  While this guideline could actually be enforced at official tournaments, social and rec players should keep this in mind when dressing for court, just to be good sports.

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