Mastering Pickleball Scoring

by Kristina Tamas on November 07, 2023

Let's talk pickleball, a game that's captured the hearts of both young and old, blending the finesse of tennis, the quick reflexes of ping pong, and the joy of spending time with friends. While the game itself is a breeze to pick up, understanding how the scoring works can be a bit like trying to decipher a secret code. In this article, we're going to demystify the world of pickleball scoring for you. Whether you're a newcomer who's curious or a seasoned player looking for a quick refresher, we've got your back.

Men playing pickleball

How Do You Score in Pickleball?

Alright, so let's dive into the basics of scoring in pickleball. The game typically goes up to 11, 15, or 21 points, and you need to have a two-point lead to win. However, scoring works a bit differently between singles and doubles.

Singles Scoring

In singles, both the serving side and receiving side can rack up points. When someone serves, their score goes first. If they win the rally, they score a point. But if the other player wins, they have a shot at scoring too.

So basically, the serving player's score is called out first, and they serve from the right-hand side to begin. Points can be scored by the serving player or the receiving player, and each successful rally can potentially result in a point for either player. The server retains the serve until they commit a fault or lose a point, at which point the serve switches to the other player. This rotation continues throughout the game until a player reaches the winning score, typically 11, 15, or 21 points, with a two-point lead required to secure victory.

Doubles Scoring

Doubles can throw a bit of a curveball at you. The serving team scores points only when they serve, but the receiving side can win points regardless of whether they're serving or not. This dynamic adds a layer of strategy to the game, making it essential to know how to maximize your scoring opportunities.

In doubles play, there are specific positions for serving and receiving teams. The serving team always begins on the right side of the court. Points can only be scored by the serving team while they have the serve. The receiving team can win points by forcing errors, capitalizing on mistakes, or by securing the serve for themselves. The rotation of serve among players on the serving team can occur after each point is won, allowing both team members to have a chance to serve. The game continues until a team reaches the agreed-upon winning score, typically 11, 15, or 21 points, with a two-point lead needed for victory.

Three Ways to Score in Pickleball

To score points in pickleball, there are three main avenues:

  • Winning the Rally: This one's a no-brainer. If you win a rally, whether the ball goes out, hits the net, or the other team fumbles the return, you pocket a point.

  • Side Out Scoring: In doubles, when the serving side loses a rally, they don't get any points. Instead, the other team gets a chance to serve and score.

  • Calling the Score: Keeping track of the score is essential. Players often call out the score before each serve to ensure everyone's on the same page and to avoid any disputes.

Rally Scoring: A Fast-Paced Thrill

In most pickleball games, you'll play with what's called "rally scoring." It means that every serve offers an opportunity to score. So whether you're on the serving side or receiving side, each rally presents a chance to earn points. This keeps the game fast and exhilarating.

Couple playing pickleball

The Rules of the Scoring Game

Understanding the rules of pickleball scoring is crucial for a fair and enjoyable game. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Before serving, you must announce the server number.
  • The serve should go diagonally cross-court.
  • The serving side gets to serve until they lose a rally.
  • Points are only scored by the serving side.
  • When the serving side wins a rally, they bag a point.
  • In doubles, side out scoring kicks in when the serving side loses a rally.
  • Traditional games are usually played to 15 or 21 points, with a two-point lead needed to win.

Strategies for Pickleball Scoring

To master pickleball scoring, you've got to do more than just know the rules. You need to develop some savvy strategies to maximize your points.

Picking the Right Spot to Serve

The server's position can be a game-changer. A skilled server can take charge by serving strategically. Learn to place the ball where the receiving side is the weakest, forcing them into making mistakes.

Finding the Sweet Spot on the Court

Knowing your way around the pickleball court is a must. When serving, the left side is often favored since it gives you the best angle to clear the net and land the ball in the opposite service court.

Teamwork and Communication

In doubles, teamwork and communication are keys to effective scoring. Work with your partner to coordinate and ensure both of you know when to seize the net and when to back off.

Odd or Even?

In traditional games that go up to 15 or 21 points, it's essential to keep track of whether you're on the odd or even side. The sides change when the total score is even, keeping the game balanced.

Learning from the Pros

For those looking to up their game, watching professional matches in major league pickleball is a great idea. Observing how experts handle various scoring situations can provide valuable insights.

In Conclusion

Pickleball scoring, although it might initially appear as a labyrinth of rules and regulations, soon becomes as familiar as your own heartbeat with practice. Whether you find yourself in a singles showdown, or part of a dynamic doubles team, there's a unique sense of exhilaration that comes with each point earned in pickleball. As you get deeper into the game, the intricacies of scoring become part of your pickleball DNA. You start to anticipate opportunities, strategize your serves, and relish every well-placed shot that gets you closer to that winning score.

So, grab your paddle, gather your friends, head to the pickleball court, and start having a blast scoring those points!