Pickleball scoring can sometimes be confusing for beginners.
And it can be difficult to remember the score (especially in doubles) for even seasoned players.
What’s the score?
Am I the first or second server?
These questions are commonly asked at every pickleball game at any given moment at any court around the world.
What is the starting score of a pickleball game?
According to rules of the USPA, the first person to serve at the very beginning of a new game should say:
I know a lot of people still say “Start” but the USPA officially changed it to “2” in 2020.
It is “2” to indicate it is the second server so when the point is lost by the serving team, it becomes a side out and the other team now serves.
After the first side out, the serving team begins with 0-0-1.
But I never correct anyone that wants to say, “Start”.
Whether it’s 0-02 or 0-0-Start, everyone knows that it is the start of a game.
How to Keep Score in Pickleball
Doubles Pickleball Scoring:
- The score is called a series of three numbers: 5-7-2.
- The first number represents the serving team’s points.
- The second number is the receiving team’s points.
- The last number is the serving position. If the first player is serving, it would be called “1”. If the second player is serving, it would be called “2”.
- When starting a match, the score will be zero-zero-two or 0-0-2.
Clear as mud?
Don’t worry. Even after years of playing, many of us still get confused and forget the score.
But usually out of 4 people on the court, there’s at least one of us who will know the score.
even and on the left side of the court when the score is odd.
Vice versa for the second server.
Single Pickleball Scoring
- Every rule in singles scoring is similar to doubles except for the absence of a second server.
- When serving from the right side of the court, the score will be even, and odd from the left side.
- The score is called server score first, then receiver score, i.e., 2-1.
Regular vs Rally Scoring
Points are only earned when your team is serving, unless you play a game with rally scoring, such as in some MLB (Major League Pickleball) tournaments, where a point is earned every time regardless of which team is serving.
My friends and I will occasionally use rally scoring for playing the ever popular “just one more game” when short on time and/or muscle aches are nearing the pain threshold 😉 since rally scoring makes a game to 11 much quicker than regular scoring.
How to know where you should (even or odd court) be based on the score
Pickleball Rule 4.B.6.B:
When the team’s score is even (0,2,4 etc.)The team’s starting servers, correct position, is on the right/even side of the court. When the team scores odd (1,3,5 etc.), the starting servers correct position is on the left or the odd side of the court.USA Pickleball
This is why the starting server wears a bracelet during tournaments with referees.
Based on the rule above, the ref will automatically know if someone is the correct server and in the correct position (more on this later).
When playing rec games, it’s good practice for everyone to make a note of who served first from the beginning of the game (who’s in the even court when starting) because it helps later when there is any confusion about the score.
Tournaments with Referees Keeping the Score
Did you know that you can ask a referee if you are the correct server or correct receiver?
In fact the pros will often ask their referee if they are the correct server/receiver and if they are in the correct position since this can be confusing, even for pros, especially when they are stacking.
Because if you serve or receive a serve from the wrong position or are the incorrect server or receiver, it’s a fault and you lose the point.
Though they are considering a change to this rule where it won’t be a fault if you are in the wrong position or the wrong server.
That is why often in tournaments with referees, a wristband will be worn by the first server so the ref can keep track of who should be serving and from which side of the court.
The first server will always be on the right side of the court when serving or receiving when the score is
Pickleball Scoring Final Thoughts…
Don’t be scared to go to a drop-in session because you’re still a little confused about scoring…
Someone will help you out!
But also don’t show up completely clueless about how to keep score.
Other players will appreciate if you at least know the general gist of scoring and help you from there.
By reading this guide, at least you have a head start.
And remember, many of us can’t remember. 🙂
So no worries!