Pickleball has become a popular sport, but learning to play and figuring out the scoring system can be tricky. It’s usually played in doubles, and the scoring format confuses many people. It can be pretty daunting if you’re only just learning to play.
The first number of the score is the serving team’s score, the second is the receiving team’s score, and the third shows which player is serving. Knowing who the first server is can help you remember the score, as the first server is always on the right on even scores and the left on odd scores.
Pickleball is a blend of a few racket sports in one, and it has a unique scoring format. While the method of score-keeping can confuse you if you don’t understand why it’s used that way, it can also help you to keep track of the score and know where players should be. We’ve written a complete guide on how scoring in pickleball works and how to remember your score.
Pickleball is a mix of a few racket sports and has become popular in many countries. It has a unique score-keeping method that can be confusing if you don’t understand what it means. Doubles are played more commonly than singles in pickleball. Instead of two numbers representing the points for each team, there are three numbers in the score.
Before getting into the scoring method of pickleball, there are a couple of rules to understand first. In doubles, each team has two players, typically labeled players one and two. The player numbers are essential to help players keep score.
Pickleball is most commonly played to 11 points but can be played to 15 or 21 in some tournaments. The points are sequential, so each service point is worth 1. When the serving team gains points, the serving player and their partner switch places. Only the serving team can gain points, so the receiving team doesn’t gain points even if they win the round.
The serving player starts the game on the right-hand side and switches with their partner when a point is scored. A point is scored when the opponents fail to return the ball successfully, and there are a few ways to win a point. If the opponents hit the ball out of bounds or into the net, causing it to fail to bounce on your side, it is a fault, and you win the point.
Other ways of scoring are if your opponent lets the ball bounce more than once on their side of the court or volleys the ball in the kitchen. The kitchen is the seven-foot section on each side of the court closest to the net. It is a no-volley zone. This means that while inside the kitchen, you must let the ball bounce before hitting it. You may volley the ball as long as both your feet are outside the kitchen.
Scoring in pickleball can be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with the way it works. For example, in a doubles match, the score might be 2-5-1. You may be wondering what the third number is for. Well, the first two numbers – in this case, 2-5 – are the respective points for each team. The serving team’s score is always read first, regardless of the number of points they have.
As each player is labeled player one or two, the third number will reflect which one of them is meant to serve. For the score 2-5-1, it is the first server’s turn to serve.
To win a game of pickleball, a team must reach 11 points. However, sometimes 11 points aren’t enough to win the game. The rules state that a team must reach 11 points and win by 2 points. If both teams have 10 points, the winner must gain 2 points over their opponents.
Unless a team gains a 2-point lead over their opponents, the game can go on for any number of points. For example, if the score is 10-10-2, each team has 10 points, and it is the second server’s turn to serve. One of the teams must reach 12 points while the opponents are still at 10 points.
Serving works a little differently in pickleball than in other sports. Pickleball serves must be hit underarm and bounce in the opposite player’s block, diagonal to the server. Player one on a team will be the first to serve when it’s their team’s turn, and a team can continue to serve until they win the game as long as they do not lose 2 points to the opponents.
If the serving team loses a point on player one’s serve, it becomes player two’s turn to serve. If the serving team loses a point on player two’s serve, it’s known as a ‘side out,’ and the opponents get to serve.
It’s important to note that the serving team only has one chance to serve at the start of the match. If they lose a point, it becomes the opposing team’s turn to serve. This is done to not give the serving team an unfair advantage over the opposing team.
The score at the start of the match is called out as 0-0-2. The last number is two because, despite the first server being the one to serve, the serving team only has one ‘chance,’ and if they lose the point, it is the opponent’s turn to serve the ball.
We’ve already mentioned that each player on a team is given a number. The player on the right at the start of the game is player one, and the player on the left is player two. This applies to both teams. Player one on the serving team starts serving each time their opponents have a side out. It’s common practice for first servers to wear something that would mark them as the first server—for example, a red armband.
In pickleball, the rules state that the serving player must call out the score before each point is played. This is to remind each player of the score to avoid confusion later or ensure everyone is on the same page. Otherwise, it can cause confusion to think you have won a point and thus the game while the score totally is different.
When a player serves, the ball must bounce in the diagonal opponent’s block, but what if the ball hits the net before doing so? In pickleball, if a serve touches the net but is still successful, it must be retaken by the same server, and the point is restarted. If the serve touches the net and faults (is unsuccessful), however, the receiving team wins the round, and the server changes to the second player on the team.
If the second server on a team faults on the serve or their team unsuccessfully returns the ball during the rally, they lose the round. It becomes the opposition team’s first server’s turn to serve.
Remembering the score in a game of pickleball can be tricky. An intense rally or an exciting point can cause the score to fly out of players’ minds. You could be standing there, staring at each other, trying to remember it. Luckily there are a couple of ways you can figure out the score.
Recording the score after each point on a scorecard is handy for remembering, especially for beginners. It’s helpful if you haven’t gotten used to keeping the score in mind or gotten used to the scoring system. Writing the score down along with which player’s serve it is can save you and other players a lot of trouble between points trying to figure out the score.
Scorecards are used in many other sports so that players don’t have to remember the score, so why not do the same? You can check the score between points when you update the scorecard, and it lets you free up your mind to focus on the game. It also saves time because you’re not trying to remember or figure out the score every time someone scores a point.
As you know, the first server on each team starts the game on the right-hand side and swaps each time their team scores a point. This gives you another way of figuring out the score if you’ve forgotten.
The rule is that when the serving team’s score is even – for example, 0, 2, 4, 6 – the first server should always be on the right-hand side. When the serving team’s score is odd, the first server should always be on the left-hand side.
Using this rule, you can determine the score if you lost track somewhere. If the first server is on the right side, you will know that your score is even. That’s why it’s also a good idea for the first server to wear something to signify that they are the first server on their team. If you have forgotten the previous score, you can retrace the points based on the first servers’ positions.
The receiving team does not receive a point when they win a round, but it becomes the second server’s turn to serve. The receiving players’ positions remain the same, but the third number of the score will change to show that the second server is serving. For example, if the score is 5-7-1 and the serving team faults, the second server now serves and calls out the score as 5-7-2.
Because most pickleball games are played in doubles format, the rules primarily focus on doubles. However, the rules for singles are pretty similar. There are only two main differences between singles and doubles.
The first difference is that, unlike in doubles, there are no second servers or ‘chances’ in singles. If the serving player faults, it becomes the opponent’s turn to serve.
The second difference is that, instead of the complicated three-digit score in doubles, the score only has two numbers signifying the score for each player. The server’s score is still called out first to show who’s score is who’s, but there is no need for the third digit as there is only one player on each team.
Each time a player serves, the same rules apply as in doubles. When serving, the ball must bounce in the opposite diagonal block to be successful. The player must retake the serve if it touches the net before landing in the correct block.
Why are there three numbers in a pickleball score?
The first number is the serving team’s points, while the second is the receiving team’s score. The third number confuses many people, but it simply tells you which player is serving in doubles games.
Can your serve hit the net in pickleball?
If a serve hits the net, it’s called a ‘let,’ and the same player must retake the serve. Neither team scores a point when this happens, and the players stay in the same positions.
Can You Serve Sidearm In Pickleball?
There are three rules to follow for a serve to be legal. First, the paddle must move upward to hit the ball. Second, the paddle must be below your wrist when hitting the ball. Third, the paddle must also be below your waist.
Scoring in pickleball is unlike any other sport. The receiving team cannot gain points. The serving team may gain points and continue to serve as long as they keep winning rounds. The serving team also has a second ‘chance’, meaning if they lose a round, the second player on the team serves until the team loses another point. After that, the serve switches to the other team.
Pickleball is typically played to 11, and to win games, a team must win by 2 points. The score is read out as the serving team’s score, then the receiving team’s score, and finally, which player on a team is serving. Knowing which player is the first server on each team can help you remember the score and ensure that everyone is in the correct position.