The Complete Guide to Pickleball Scoring | Single and Doubles (Tips)
Want to know more about Pickleball Score?
The concept of keeping score for the game has some people, especially beginners, intimidated. In general, a match is usually played until one side reaches 11 points in a win-by-two fashion.
Points are only scored by the side that served the ball, so the receiving side can’t score a point (this is for singles and doubles). This is why the receiving side wants to force a side-out during a rally so they can gain control.
There are, however, other scoring rules that differ from doubles play to singles. Those differences make singles scoring more straight-forward than doubles.
This complete guide to pickleball scoring can help you sort things out so you understand how to score your next match.
Since doubles matches are more common in pickleball than singles and since it is more complicated when it comes to scoring, it’s best to start here. As mentioned earlier, there are some similarities—especially regarding general gameplay—so you’ll notice some general concepts that work for any match.
First, as in most games, the server has to start off on the right-hand side of their court and switch sides with their teammate once a point is scored. The teammates do NOT switch unless a point is scored. After every serve, each team has to let the ball bounce once on their side of the court before they can return the ball. The return can be done with a groundstroke or a volley, but the ball can only bounce once on the court for a groundstroke.
The serving team will continue to serve and hopefully score points until they commit a fault. When that happens, as mentioned earlier, the server on the team will switch sides. This also happens when the serving team scores a point. A team can only score one point on every serve. If the serving team loses a rally and the first server was serving, the second server gets a turn at serving before losing possession.The game plays on in this fashion until one team scores 11 points or more winning by two points. For example, if one team has 11, but the other has 10, the game is played on until either team has two more points than the other.
The scoring is pretty straight-forward as points are scored in the same manner as other games. The difference comes into play with teammates having to alternate sides after scoring a point. Once you get the hang of that, you should have no problem scoring your next doubles match.
This is pretty simple. It’s using the same scoring procedure as a doubles-match only you don’t have to worry about a second server or switching sides. In a singles pickleball match, you always serve from the right side of the court when your score is an even number and from the left when the score is odd. Remember, the server’s score determines their position, not the receiver’s score. For example, if you have five points and your opponent has six, and you’re serving, you’ll be serving from the left side since you have five points. Since there is only one serve, once you lose the point, you become the receiver.
Calling the Score
Part of a pickleball match is calling out the score. This is different for doubles and singles. Generally, in a doubles match, you’ll call out the server score followed by the receiver score and then the server number (one or two). In a singles match, you’ll do the same only omitting the server number since there is only one server.
In a doubles match, your starting score will be called out as “zero-zero-two.” This is because the opening server is referred to as the second server since their serve will go to the opposition when they lose their serve. This rule is referred to as the First Server Exception.
That being said, the server number only refers to the current serve. The first server is the player who is on the right side when their team gets the serve again. So no single teammate is the designated first or second server; it’s purely position based. A lot of beginners forget this rule and muddle the scoring because of it.
Using the Score Sheet
There are score sheets that referees use when they score a tournament game. These are widely available, and you can use them on your own if you’d like to. There are different ones available, but the USAPA Score Sheet is used a lot. You can also make your score sheet if you’d like to use one.
There are other score sheets available that different organizations other than the USAPA use. However, most score sheets are designed in the same fashion, and there is little difference between them.
The most trouble people face with score sheets is keeping track of you is the first and second server. To avoid this, you can try using a clip marked with a “1” or a “2” and use them on the score sheet to indicate the server. Writing “even” and “odd” on top of the sheet for the two teams can also help. If you’re a referee, you’ll likely have the names of the players filled in for you on your score sheet. You may want to take things a step further by writing down an identifying marker for each player to keep track of things easier.
Scoring Tips & Tricks
While keeping score in pickleball isn’t that hard, there are plenty of people who lose track of the score or just have a hard time keeping up with the score or positioning. If you’re one of those people there are a few tricks that you can use to help you along the way.
One trick is to commit your starting position to memory. When you remember what side of the pickleball court you started the game on, you can figure out the score no matter how long you’ve been playing. This goes back to the odd and even rule that was mentioned earlier. If you begin serving, your score will be an even number whenever you’re on the right side of the court, and you’ll be on the left side when the score is odd. Some players use phrases like “even server” and “odd server” thanks to this. This logic holds true throughout the whole game because you only switch sides when you score a point.
You can also reverse this logic and use the score to determine where you should be on the court. For example, if you’ve had a long rally that had you running all over the court, you might have lost track as to what side of the court you’re on. However, if someone on the court knows the score, you can figure out where you’re supposed to be.
There is another trick that can help you figure out if it is the first or second serve in doubles. This is important because you’ll need to know whether or not you have another chance to serve or if you’re heading to a side out (when the serve goes from one team to the opposition). The trick here is that if your team’s score is even when you get possession after a side out you’re the first server. However, if the score is odd when you get possession, you’ll be the second server during the next service round.
Another trick that you can try on your own is to use different colored wristbands to help you. You can have the player who served first for your team wears a specific colored wristband. When proper positioning continues during a game, the player with this colorful band will always be on the right-hand side of the court when the score is even.
These tricks might sound a little confusing, and they are partially dependent on someone in the game remembering the score, but they can help. Of course, if you’re playing for recreation you might not care, and you’ll trust the people you’re playing with and go along with what they say regarding score, positioning, and serving number.
Yes, pickleball scoring, especially for doubles matches, does sound confusing and a little convoluted but the more you play and keep track of your game, the easier it’ll get for you. Hopefully, though, you learned something from this complete guide to pickleball scoring and have a better understanding (even if it’s only a little bit) of how to keep score during a pickleball match. If you see that you’re losing track of things during a match or are just having a hard time getting the hang of scoring and positioning, try out some of the tricks that were discussed here. They might prove to be helpful to you as you continue to gain experience on the court.