Pickleball might sound like a game you play in a deli, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a game played in local parks all around the world. The gear is affordable, the courts are small, and the game is fun! The biggest struggle for newbies to the game is figuring out the rules and the scoring.
Fortunately, both are interconnected. So, once you understand the scoring, you should be able to understand the rules, too. We’ll break down the scoring to help you get a better understanding of this family-friendly game.
Before we begin, if you’re looking for a complete beginner’s guide check out: Pickleball Strategy: Complete Beginner’s Guide!
How Do You Win in Pickleball?
The confusion with the scoring comes from the game’s similarities to ping-pong and tennis. In tennis, the first person to get to six in set wins. In ping-pong, the first person to 11 is the winner. In both games, the winner must lead by two when they get to the top score. Tournament play often goes to 15 or 21, and the winner must lead by two points or more.
Pickleball scoring is more like ping-pong scoring than tennis, as players or teams have to get to 11 points and be up 2 points. For example, if the score is 10-11, the teams have to keep playing until someone is up by two points. The oddest part of pickleball scoring is like volleyball, where only the serving team can win points. Even the term “side out” is like volleyball.
How Do You Score Points?
Unlike tennis and ping-pong, only the serving team can score points. There are only two ways that the serving team can score.
- If the service is an ace
- If the receiving team commits a fault (makes a mistake)
If the serving team has a fault, no one gets any points, and they commit a side out. The consequence of a side-out is that the serve goes to the other team. Then, they can score points until they make a fault. The serving team continues to earn until there is a mistake.
It is essential to know the court’s parts, especially the kitchen, which is the lined area closest to the net.
Keep in mind that pickleball has other differences than tennis, and one is the way players serve the ball. Firstly, players do not get two serves. In tennis, players get to have a second serve if their first one is out. In pickleball, players only get one serve, and it cannot be in the kitchen or on the line.
Interestingly, if you are serving the ball and it lands on the short line in the kitchen, it is out. This is a rule that many players find themselves arguing about, and it can affect the scoring.
In tennis, players can be anywhere on the court when a volley is happening.
This is not the case in pickleball, as you cannot be in the kitchen during a volley. The only time a player can be in the kitchen is if the ball bounces in it. After returning it to the other side, players must leave the kitchen.
Players cannot hit a ball in the air while standing in the kitchen. Doing so gives the service team a point. If you are on the service team and do this, then the serve goes to the other team as a side out. You can hit a ball after it has bounced in the kitchen, but you cannot sit at the net and hit the ball before it bounces – as players can in tennis.
The kitchen is an essential factor in teams earning points or making side outs. For example, if a player hits a ball in the air and their follow-through brings them into the kitchen, the opposing team gets the point. Remember that only the serving team gets the points.
How Do You Score a Singles Pickleball Game?
If you are playing a singles game of pickleball, it means that only one person is standing on either side of the court. In a singles game, when the score is even, service is from the court’s right side. If the score is odd, service is from the left side of the court.
Before the serve, the receiving player accepts the serve from the court diagonal from the serving player. To keep score, the serving player should say the current score with his score first. So, if the score is 3-7, it means the serving player is in the left court and is behind by four points.
How Do You Score a Doubles Pickleball Game?
In a doubles pickleball game, four people are on the court, with two on each side. The same rules about serving apply to doubles games, so the player on the right side gets the first serve when the score ends with an even number. The player serves into the diagonal court.
If the serving team scores, they swap sides. So the player on the right moves to the left and serves from that spot. This series of points belong to one serving player. However, the receiving team does not switch, so one player receives the even serves, and the other receives the odd serves.
After the serving team has a side out, the other team gets the ball and time to serve. When it returns to the first team, the other player serves until they make another side out.
Before serving, the player calls out the score. But, they do it differently than a singles player calls. In a doubles match, the serving player calls three numbers. The first number is the score for the serving team. The second is the receiving score. And, the third number is the serving position.
A doubles score could be 3-7-2. This means the serving team has three points; the receiving team has seven. The two means that the second person is serving. The third number will be either a one or a two. The easiest way to remember how to call the score is to use the questions: Me? You? Who?
There is an exception for the team that serves first. The team that serves first only gets to serve once, and then the service switches to the other team with the first side out. Then, the second side serves once until there is a side out. Then, the sides get to have both players serve until there is a side out.
This exception only happens with the first time each team serves. When the first team serves, the third number becomes a two to designate that service switches at the next side out.
When Do You Switch Sides?
The answer depends on which sides you are asking about in the game. In both doubles and singles, each team stays on their side of the net for the entire game. But, in both doubles and singles, players do switch service sides throughout the game. If you need a refresher on the rule of pickleball, check out our guide Pickleball Rules.
Who Calls Faults and Side Outs?
Like ping-pong and tennis, the players are responsible for telling each other when the ball is out. It is their responsibility to call the plays correctly. It’s a gentleman’s game, so players do their best to play fairly with each other.
What Happens If You Lose Track of the Score?
There will be times when players lose track of the score. If you have a rally, players move around the court and forget where they began. This can make it difficult to keep track of the score.
The best way to figure out the score at any time in the game is to remember where you started on the court. Then, remember who was diagonal from you on the other side of the net.
If you were the first person to serve, then you can trust that the score will be even when you are on the right. If you are on the left, then the score will be odd. Zero is always an even number in pickleball.
The same goes for not knowing what side you are supposed to be on at each point. If you know you began the game on the right side, then you should always be on the right side when the score is even. The same goes for odd scoring, and if you began on the left side. Pickleball does not have a deuce or ad like tennis, so it’s easier to remember odd and even.
Some teams will use wristbands to help them remember when they served. The person who serves first wears a colorful wristband. To keep it all straight, many pickleball players put a red wristband in their gear bag.
Pickleball is a fun game for people of all ages. The smaller court makes it more accessible for people who might struggle with the large tennis court. The equipment is also affordable. Because the courts are at public parks, players do not need expensive memberships to tennis clubs.
The biggest issue with pickleball is that it is growing in popularity. If there aren’t enough courts in your area, you might struggle to find an available one as community pickleball leagues are popping up everywhere.
Looking for more? We have plenty of guides for you to choose from! We have guides that cover the best equipment, the history of pickleball, how to play pickleball, and more! Check them out, What is Pickleball?, Why Is It Called Pickleball?, How to Play Pickleball, Best Pickleball Paddle, and Best Pickleball Shoes!