How To Keep Score in Pickleball
Pickleball scoring is one of the most tricky aspects of playing pickleball.
In this guide, I explain how to keep score in pickleball and how not to lose track again.
Often during a game, I’ll see that all players on the court are looking at each other with an uncertain expression that says, hmmm, what’s the score? I thought it was this and someone else thinks it’s something else. This is not uncommon.
Wouldn’t it be a smoother game if all players could remember the correct score?
Keep reading and then share these tips with your pickleball friends.
Do you want to learn how to score correctly and remember how not to lose track again?
IN THIS GUIDE
9 Must-Know Pickleball Scoring Basics
- Scoring is done sequentially (1,2,3,4 etc)
- The score goes to 11 points (in some tournaments, the score goes to 15 or 21)
- The winning team must win by at least 2 points. So, if the score is 10 – 10, the winning team must get at least 2 more points to win or in this case, at least 12 points
- Only the team that is currently serving can score points
- Each team gets to serve at least twice, once per player. Except for the very first serve of the game who only gets one serve
- You score a point when your opponent doesn’t successfully return the ball
- When you score a point, you switch sides with your partner and serve again
- You continue to serve and score points until your team misses a shot
- The server must always say the score before serving
Serving In Pickleball: Serving Basics to Help You Better Understand How Scoring Works
Understanding how serving works in pickleball is extremely important in helping you understand how to score in pickleball.
Here’s an explanation that hopefully makes it simple to understand how to serve. I’ve included some examples below.
For the purpose of explaining how serving and scoring works, we will have 2 teams, each with 2 players.
- Team A with Player 1A and Player 2A, and
- Team B with Player 1B and Player 2B
Here’s how it works:
- When it’s a team’s turn to serve, the player on the right always serves first.***This is very important to remember***
- When Player 1A serves and wins a point, Player 1A and Player 2A switch sides.
- Player 1A continues to serve (and switch sides with Player 2A) each time after winning a point until their team (Team A) makes a fault or the score gets to 11 points and is 2 points ahead of the other team.
- When Team A makes a fault, the second player (Player 2A) serves.
- Player 2A continues to serve (and switch sides with Player 1A) each time after winning a point until their team (Team A) makes a fault or the score gets to 11 points and is 2 points ahead of the other team.
- Player 2A continues to serve until their team (Team A) makes a fault, then Team A no longer gets to serve and that’s called ‘side out’. The other team (Team B) now gets to serve.
Winning Team Must Win By 2
To win a game in pickleball, you must win by at least 2 points.
Most games are played to 11, sometimes to 9 points.
If you are playing your game to 11 points and the current score is 10-10, then one team must win by 2 points – which means one team must get 12 points in order to win.
But if each team continues to win 1 point, the game continues until one team is ahead by 2 points. This means that a game can go on and on for quite some time until a 2 point-point spread is achieved.
Here’s a great video that explains how to score in pickleball.
Pickleball Scoring And Why There Are 3 Numbers In the Score
Scoring in pickleball is different than other racquet sports which causes a lot of confusion particularly among newer players and recreational players.
I’ve included some examples below that will help clarify how to score in pickleball and clarify why there are 3 numbers to call out when announcing the score.
The 3 numbers represent each player’s score and then the 3rd number represents whether the player who is serving is the 1st or 2nd player to serve in that rally. I go into details with examples below.
The score will look and sound like this:
0 – 0 – 1 (neither team has a point, and the 1st player on a team is scoring – the last number)
1 – 0 – 1 (the serving team has 1 point, the receiving team has 0 points, and the 1st player on a team is scoring)
1 – 1 – 2 (the score is tied and the 2nd player on the serving team is now serving)
How to Score In Pickleball – Examples
These scoring examples use Team A (Player 1A or 2A) and Team B (Player 1B or 2B).
EXAMPLE 1 – New Game, 1st Serve of the Game
In this example, let’s assume this is a new game and Team A is getting ready to make their 1st serve of the game.
STEP 1 – Team A, Player 1A stands on the right side of the court because that’s where the 1st server always stands on the 1st serve of a new game.
STEP 2 – Team A, Player 1A calls the score, 0 – 0 – 2 or 0 – 0 – start
- Notice that the server says 2 or start, NOT 1
Remember, the 1st server of the game only gets one serve so the server calls their spot as if they were the 2nd server
- Team B successfully returns the ball but Team A misses the return ball
- The end result: Team A is now ‘side out’ because as the starting team, only 1 player (the starter player) gets to serve. And since they have now made a fault (missed the ball), Team B gets to serve
EXAMPLE 2 – In-play game until a fault is made
In this example, let’s assume:
- The game is in-play and the score is 5 – 3 – 1 for Team A (Team A has 5 points)
- Team A, Player 1A successfully serves the ball and Team B (the opponent) misses the ball
Here’s What Happens:
- Team A gets 1 point
- Team A, player 1A, will switch sides with their partner (Player 2A)
- Team A, player 1A, calls the new score, 6 – 3 – 1 (it was 5 – 3 – 1 previously)
- Team A, player 1A serves the ball
- Rinse and repeat until Team A makes a fault or gets 11 points and 2 more points than Team B
- When Team A makes a fault, Player 2A serves and they continue playing, serving, and scoring until Team A makes another fault or gets 11 points
- When Team A makes a fault, they ‘side out’ and Team B Player 1B serves
How To Keep Track of The Score
Okay, so now that you know how to score, the big question is, how do you remember what the score actually is?
This is tricky, particularly for beginner players because when you are so focused on the other aspects of playing a game it can be difficult to keep track of the score.
One important rule in pickleball is that the server must call out the score before serving.
It’s a rule but it’s also important to do this so that everyone knows where you are in the game and to be sure that everyone agrees on what the score is.
And remember that learning more about the strategy of pickleball along with the rules, will help your overall game performance.
But how do you remember the score?
By remembering which side of the court you are on when you start playing the game.
If you are the first server, the score will always be even when you are on the right side of the court. And when you are on the left side of the court, the score will always be an odd number.
Some people like to wear a colored wrist band to help them remember that they were the first server and therefore, the score will always be even when they are on the right side and odd when on the left side.
Here’s an example to help demonstrate this strategy.
I’ll use Team A, Player 1A and Player 2A and Team B, Player 1B and Player 2B again in this example.
How To Keep Track Of The Score Playing Singles
Scoring in singles is very much the same as scoring in doubles.
You use the same strategies for serving and keeping score except that when a ‘side out’ is called which means the player loses their serve, the ball goes to the opponent.
When keeping score playing singles, if the opponent’s score is even, the player serves from the right side. If their score is odd, they serve from the left side of the court.
The player serving still needs to say the score before serving but it’s a series of 2 numbers, not 3 numbers. Let’s assume the serving team has 5 points and the opposing team has 8 points. The server will say 5 – 8.
Summary – How To Score In Pickleball
There is so much to remember when you initially begin playing and scoring is just one more thing. But don’t worry, it get’s much easier as you progress your pickleball game.
Learn more about the official pickleball scoring rules.