How to keep score in pickleball

How to keep score in pickleball


Pickleball, a sport that blends elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, has surged in popularity, attracting enthusiasts of all ages with its dynamic, accessible play and friendly competition. However, for newcomers, one aspect that can seem particularly daunting is mastering the scoring system, specifically the traditional "side-out scoring." Unlike the more recent rally scoring method where points can be scored by the serving or receiving side, side-out scoring limits point-scoring to the serving team. In today's post, we'll demystify this classic scoring method, guiding you through the nuances of keeping score and helping you stay on top of the game during each match.

Understanding the Basics: First, let's break down the fundamentals. In pickleball, each game is typically played to 11 points, and a team must win by at least 2 points. Under the side-out scoring system, only the serving side can score points. If the serving team wins a rally, they score a point. If the receiving team wins the rally, the result is a "side out," and the serve shifts to the other team, but no points are awarded.

The Serve: Serving in pickleball has specific rules that influence scoring. The serve must be made underhand and diagonally across the court. In doubles, each team member serves until their team commits a fault, with the first serve of a new game only allowing one partner that opportunity. This sequence is crucial for maintaining accurate scoring.

Keeping Score: Now, let's delve into the actual scoring process:

Announcing the Score: It's customary (and helpful) in pickleball for the server to announce the score before each serve. The score announcement includes three numbers: the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and finally, if playing doubles, the server number (either "1" or "2," depending on whether they are the first or second server for their team).

Scoring Points: When your team serves, capitalize on the opportunity! Any rally that you win while serving translates into a point. After scoring, the server continues from the alternate side of their court, maintaining the same serving order in doubles.

Side-Out: If the receiving team wins the rally, they do not score a point. Instead, it's a "side-out," a term borrowed from volleyball, meaning the serving team loses the serve. In doubles, the serve switches to your partner if they haven’t served yet; otherwise, it goes to the opposing team, and you switch sides if necessary based on the score.

Winning the Game: Remember, games are generally played to 11 points, and you need to win by a margin of at least 2 points. This rule means that games can extend beyond 11 points if the competition is tight.

Strategies with Side-Out Scoring: Side-out scoring in pickleball introduces unique strategic elements. Serving is power, given it's your ticket to scoring. Teams need to play aggressively and intelligently while serving to maximize point opportunities and defensively while their opponents serve, aiming to regain the serve without giving away points.

Side-out scoring in pickleball, while initially complex to pickleball rookies, adds a layer of strategy and excitement to the game. By understanding and mastering the flow of side-out scoring, you not only keep the game running smoothly but also immerse yourself deeper into the strategic elements that make pickleball a beloved pastime for many. Whether you're playing competitively or for leisure, knowing how to keep score accurately is integral to the experience. So, grab your paddle, call your friends, and enjoy the game with your new understanding of side-out scoring!

Let's consider a doubles game, where Team A (Player A1 and Player A2) competes against Team B (Player B1 and Player B2). Each team must reach 11 points to win, with a 2-point lead necessary. Only the serving team can score, following the side-out scoring rules.

Gameplay and Scoring:

Starting the Game:

Player A1 starts as the first server for Team A. The score is 0-0, and Player A1 announces, "0-0, start" (or "0-0-1" indicating they are the first server), and serves the ball.

Team A wins the rally. They earn a point, making the score 1-0. Player A1 continues to serve, now from the left service court since they scored a point, changing sides.

Continuing Service:

The game continues, and Player A1 serves again, announcing "1-0-1."

This time, Team B wins the rally. This outcome doesn't earn them a point but causes a "side-out," and if this was the first server’s first fault, the second server from the same team, Player A2, now gets the opportunity to serve. The score remains 1-0.

Second Server's Turn:

Player A2 announces the score as "1-0-2," indicating they're the second server, and serves the ball.

Team A wins the rally, scoring another point. The score is now 2-0. Player A2 switches sides and serves from the left service court.

Side-Out Scenario:

Player A2 serves again with the score at 2-0. This time, Team B wins the rally, causing a "side-out," and the serve shifts to Team B as Team A has exhausted its serve turns (both players have served, and they lost the point).

No points are added to Team B's score for this. Player B1 is now up to serve, starting from the right service court, with the score still at "0-2-1."

Team B’s Service and Scoring:

Team B wins the rally, so they score a point. The score changes to 1-2.

Player B1, now serving from the left court, serves again. However, Team A wins the rally this time, causing a side-out. If Player B2 hasn’t served yet, they now get their chance, with the score at "1-2-2." If Player B2 loses their serve, the ball goes back to Team A.

Proceeding Towards Game Point:

The game continues with this back-and-forth until a team reaches a score of 10. At this juncture, suppose it's Team A's serve, and they are leading. The server must announce it as a potential game point by calling "10-7-1" (if they are the first server).

If Team A wins the rally, they score a point and win the game at 11-7. If Team B wins, it’s a side-out, and they have a chance to close the gap, one serve at a time.

Throughout the game, the key is only the serving team can score. Players must keep track of not only the score but also who served first in their team to maintain the correct serving order and position. This sequence continues until a team achieves victory by reaching at least 11 points with at least a 2-point lead over their opponents. Remember, games can exceed 11 points if the two-point margin is not met, demanding teams to strategically earn their points while they have the serving advantage.



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