How To Keep Score in Pickleball
Do you want to learn how to score correctly and remember how not to lose track again?
Maybe you can help your pickleball friends figure it out too so that you all keep track of the correct score?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 that this is a new game and Team A is getting ready to make their 1st serve of the game.
Here’s What happens:
Team A, Player 1A stands on the right side of the court because that is where the 1st server always stands on the 1st serve of a new game
Team A, Player 1A calls the score, 0 – 0 – 2 or 0 – 0 – start
Notice that the server says 2, not 1
Remember, the 1st team 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 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.
See how the score changes from an odd number to an even number when the player moves from the right side (even #) to the left side (odd )
The game is just getting started
Team A Player 1A is on the right side and Team B Player 1B is on the left side and Team A Player 2A is on the right side. Team B Player 2B is on the left side
The score is 0 – 0 – 2 (with the assumption that 0 is an even number)
Team A Player 1A serves
Team B misses the ball. The score is now 1 – 0 – 2
Team A Player 1A and Team A Player 1B switch sides which means:
Team A Player 1A is now on the left side (odd side) and their score is 1 which is an odd number
Team A Player 1A serves again
Team B misses the ball. The score is now 2 – 0 – 2
Team A Player 1A and Team A Player 1B switch sides which means:
Team A Player 1A is now back on the right side (even side) and their score is 2 which is an even number
See how the even number in the score follows the player who served first so that when they return to the right side of the court, the score for their team is always an even number.
This method of tracking the score should help you remember the score and stay on track. But it’s key to remember who served first.
Sometimes it’s difficult to remember who served first. Some people put a wristband on to help them remember when they are the first player to serve.
If you are first to serve in a game, put a wristband on your right wrist. If you aren’t first to serve, then move the wristband to the left wrist.
How to keep track of the score so you don’t lose track – 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.
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.
Hopefully you have learned how to keep score and never lose track again. Keeping score correctly and not losing track is difficult for many players, particularly those who are beginner players.
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.