What is Tripleball?

The other night, due to a scheduling snafu, our pickleball group of six got bumped from our planned court time. Not to be put off from playing, we decided to create a  pickleball court on the empty tennis court nearby.

Without the right materials, our lines were looking pretty weak with huge gaps and a lot of head-scratching.  We decided to wait to see if a pickleball court would become available and to warm up our dinking game in the meantime. We lined up three players on each side across the entire tennis net since there was plenty of room using the full width of the court.

Within minutes, we all agreed the pace and energy of this 6-player format was pretty fun, and the idea for a new game version was born. We decided to call it Tripleball, (because, you know, three players per side) plus you can really use the extra player coverage when you only have a 36 foot wide tennis court available!

 Tripleball is simple to set up and easy to play: Just stripe the kitchen line on both sides of the net (the standard 7 feet from the net) and extend it to full length of the (doubles) tennis court width. The serving line becomes your Tripleball back line (just note that it shortens the court by 12 inches per side) and the doubles lines are your side lines. A tennis net is 36" tall, 2" taller than a pickleball net so plan to adjust your game technique just a bit!

 - In Tripleball the game is played like regular pickleball, except there are three people on each side instead of two.
  • The serving order is the same as in regular pickleball, the Center does not serve, just players 1 and 2.
  • The Center player stands behind the serving line during the serve with the other 2 players.
  • When receiving a serve, the Center and the regular receiver BOTH have the option of returning the serve (this is helpful to cover the extra width of the court and opens up some strategic options from both server and returner)
  • Serve rotation:  Player 1 starts the serve, with the Center staying in place while the 2 starter servers rotate through game play. After the serve goes to Player 2, the Center still remains in the center position as the 2 servers switch positions. The Center does not serve, just Players 1 and 2. Once the serve comes back to the side, the serve starts again with Player 1. After Player 1 loses their serve, the Center becomes Player 2 and takes the serve, and Player 1 then shifts to the Center position.
  • The first team to eleven points wins.

The Center can play anywhere on the court once the ball is in play, but we found that with the shorter court and higher net the game was more concentrated at the net and the center was a huge benefit in returning the majority of hits.
We had a friendly girls against guys battle and played 6 games of Tripleball  - the guys preferred to play the Center towards the baseline with the 2 side players covering the net, while girls played their Center at the net and created a wall across with the 2 side players backing up to cover longer drives. The final game tally was 3 to the girls and 3 to the guys, so just work with whatever technique feels right to you!
The bottom line is, if you're a group of 6 looking for a new pickleball challenge, give Tripleball a try. You might just find that three's a charm!