The process of maintaining score in pickleball is similar to keeping score in other racket sports; however, there are a few major changes. The serving player calls the score before each point, and the scoring system can be confusing for beginner players. Even experienced players sometimes mess up, so don't worry!
Here are some basic pointers to help you keep score when playing pickleball:
In pickleball, a point can only be earned by the serving side. The receiving side cannot score until a side-out occurs and it is their turn to serve. Points are scored during a rally is when the server hits an ace, when the ball is struck out of bounds by the receiving team, when the ball is hit into the net, or when the receiving team makes an error.
When playing doubles pickleball, each team member has the opportunity to serve, except for the first service team at the very beginning of the game.
Service starts on the right side of the court (and the northwest corner). At the start of a new game, this server gets in position and calls the score as "0-0-2." Sometimes, they will say "0-0-Start" to indicate it is the first serve of the game. This player then serves diagonally into the opposite team's service area. If the service team wins the point, the same server switches sides with their teammate and serves again from the left side.
This sequence continues until the service team loses a point. On the first outing of the game, this initial server is the team's only server. For the rest of the game, it will alternate with both teammates getting a chance to serve before a side-out. This is to balance the fairness of getting the first service outing.
After the first side-out, the play switches to the opposing team. They become the service team and call the score indicating this server is the first server. On this side, both team members get to serve, switching corners on their side of the court until the point is lost. It's important you do not switch sides if the point is lost. Keep this in mind: If the score is even (0, 2, 4, etc.) then the player who started on the right should be on the right side of the court. If the score is odd (1, 3, 5, etc.) then the player who started on the right side should be on the left. Remembering this (and keeping track of where you started the game) can help you maintain proper service position, as well as ensure both team members have the opportunity to serve!
Pickleball scoring for doubles pickleball requires three numbers called at the start of the serve.
"3-8-2" or "10-11-1" -- What do these mean??
The first number is the serving team's score, the second number is the opponent's score, and the third number is which serve it is for the serving team.
For example, 4-5-1 would mean the serving team has 4 points, the receiving team has 5 points, and it is the first server on that side.
Winning the Game
The winner of a game of pickleball is determined by which team is the first to reach 11 points. Games of pickleball are most often played to 11, win by two.
Usually, the team that wins must do so by a margin of at least two points; hence, if the score is tied at 11-10, play will continue until one side has a lead of two points. This may be different if you are playing in specific tournaments or leagues.
There are some more complex rules, like what happens if a ball hits a line or a person is hit by a ball? These rules can be briefed in our Pickleball Glossary.
If you follow these pointers, you'll be able to accurately keep score while also having a great time playing pickleball. Happy playing!