Master the Art of Scoring in Pickleball – A Beginner’s Guide

Mastering the art of scoring in pickleball can feel daunting, but ensuring a fair, competitive, and enjoyable game is essential. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the intricacies of pickleball scoring rules and help you become a force to be reckoned with on the court. From understanding the basics to advanced strategies, you’ll soon be an expert on scoring in both singles and doubles.

Short Summary

  • Grasp the importance of serving, aiming for a score of 11 points with at least two points lead to win and calling out the score before each serve.

  • Understand server responsibility in doubles pickleball & use advanced strategies such as stacking & positioning to gain an edge over opponents.

  • Utilize even/odd scoring rules when playing singles pickleball and call out scores before each serve for accuracy & etiquette.

Understanding the Basics of Pickleball Scoring

two players on a pickleball court

Pickleball scoring might initially seem complex, but it becomes second nature once you grasp the fundamentals. At the heart of the game lies the importance of serving, as only the serving team can score points. The serving team’s score is crucial in pickleball, as it determines the side of the court they serve and their position in the game.

The goal is to get 11 points with a two-point lead to win the game. Reaching this target first will secure victory for the team. To avoid confusion, it’s essential to follow pickleball scoring rules and call out the score before each serve.

Calling Out the Score

Four players on a pickleball court, two serving and two receiving and keeping track of the score

Calling out the score is an essential aspect of pickleball to avoid confusion and maintain proper etiquette. As per USA Pickleball’s official regulations (4.A.1), calling out the score before serving is mandatory. Announcing the score helps ensure an accurate record of the score and prevents misunderstandings during gameplay.

In doubles, the score is always called with three numbers. The first number denotes the server’s score, the serving team’s score, while the second represents the receiving team’s score, which is also the receiver’s score. The third number indicates the server number, specifying whether the server is the first or second server.

So, “0-0-2” would mean:

  1. The serving team has zero points (“0”).

  2. The receiving team has zero points (the second “0”).

  3. The second server on the serving team is serving (“2”).

This situation usually occurs at the very beginning of the game. At the start of a game, only one player from the serving team gets the opportunity to serve before the serve passes to the other team. Hence, the score starts at 0-0-2. You may also call 0-0-Start to signify the start of the game.

If the serving team scores a point, the score becomes 1-0-2, and the same server continues to serve. If they lose the point, the score remains 0-0-2 and the serve passes to the other team.

The Role of the Server

The server plays an essential role in pickleball scoring, as points can only be earned when the serving team wins a rally. In pickleball doubles, the player on the right side of the court is responsible for initiating the serve. Each participant on a team is assigned one turn at serve.

If the serving team wins the rally against the opposing team, the first server moves to the left side of the court, their partner moves to the right, and they announce the new score. If the serving team loses, the opposing team gains the opportunity to serve and score points. This continuous movement ensures a fair and balanced game, where both team members have an equal opportunity to serve and score points.

Scoring in Doubles Pickleball

one player on a pickleball court

In doubles, only the serving team can score points, and each team has two servers. The first server serves until they lose a point, after which the second server serves. When the second server loses a point, it’s a side out and the other team gets to serve.

The first serve of a new game is an exception; only one partner on the serving team gets to serve before the serve passes to the other team.

First Server Exception Rule

At the start of a new game, only one partner on the serving team is allowed to serve before the serve is turned over to the opposing team. This is in contrast to the usual rule that both players on a team get a chance to serve before the serve is handed over to the other team (unless they commit a fault on the service).

So, the first serving team starts the game with “0-0-2” as the score. The “2” signifies that this server is considered the “second” server, even though their partner did not serve first. This rule effectively makes the beginning of the game the “second half” of the serving team’s opportunity.

After the first side out (when the first serving team loses the point), both members of each team will serve in turn before side outs, as per the usual rules. This exception rule is only for the start of the game.

Player Positioning and Movement

Proper player positioning and movement are imperative for successful doubles play and scoring. When the team’s score is even, the first server should be on the right side of their court, and whenever their team’s score is odd, they server will be on the left side of the court. This rule assists players in remembering which side to serve from during play should they lose track.

Mastering player positioning and movement will not only optimize your performance but also ensure a smooth and fair doubles pickleball game.

Scoring in Singles Pickleball

Scoring in singles pickleball shares similarities with doubles scoring but with key differences in serving position and rotation. The player’s score determines the serving position and rotation in singles pickleball.

Like in doubles play, the server must announce their score before each serve, but the score is represented by two numbers instead of three.

Serving Position and Rotation

In singles pickleball, if the server’s score is an even number, they must serve from the right-hand side of the court; conversely, if the server’s score is odd, they must serve from the left side of the court. By adhering to these serving positions based on the server’s score, players can maintain a fair, balanced, and enjoyable singles pickleball game.

Moreover, it helps players remember their serving position should they lose track of the score during the game.

Handling Score Discrepancies

Handling score discrepancies in pickleball requires clear communication, adherence to the rules, and a spirit of sportsmanship. Here are some steps to follow when there’s a disagreement about the score:

  1. Pause the Game: If there’s a disagreement about the score, the game should be paused immediately to address the issue. It’s important to resolve score discrepancies as soon as they arise to avoid further confusion.

  2. Discuss Amongst Players: The players should discuss the score amongst themselves first. Each player should state what they believe the score to be. Players should try to recall the previous points and outcomes to help determine the correct score. This discussion should be conducted in a respectful and sportsmanlike manner.

  3. Agree on a Score: The players should agree on a score based on the discussion. If all players can’t agree, they should settle on the lowest score that any player recalls. This ensures fairness, as it would be unfair to award more points than certain players recall being scored.

  4. Use a Scorekeeper: If the game has a referee or scorekeeper, they should be consulted to provide the official score. If there is no referee or scorekeeper, and the players can’t agree on the score, the players should replay the point with the lowest agreed-upon score.

  5. Continuous Score Calling: The server should loudly and clearly announce the score before each serve, per the official rules, to prevent future discrepancies. This helps all players keep track of the game score and server sequence.

  6. Respect the Rules: It’s important to remember that the goal of the game is to have fun and compete in a friendly environment. Players should respect the rules and each other and handle score discrepancies in a fair and sportsmanlike manner.

Tips for Keeping Track of the Score

Two players on a pickleball court

Keeping track of the score in pickleball can be a bit tricky, especially because the score includes the serving team’s score, the receiving team’s score, and which server is serving (first or second). Here are some tips to help you keep track:

  1. Announce the Score Loudly and Clearly: Before each serve, the server should announce the score. This is a requirement in the official rules and helps everyone keep track of the score.

  2. Repeat the Score: As a receiver, it can be helpful to repeat the score to yourself or your partner after the server announces it. This can help reinforce it in your memory.

  3. Visualize the Score: Some people find it helpful to visualize the score. This could mean picturing the numbers in your head or using your fingers or a physical scoreboard to help you remember.

  4. Use a Scoreboard: If available, use a physical or electronic scoreboard. This can be especially useful in casual games where there may not be an official keeping score.

  5. Keep Track of Servers: Remember that in pickleball, each team has two servers, and the serving team can only score points. Keep track of who is the first and second server on each team. Some players find it helpful to associate the first server with the start of a game when the score is even.

  6. Remember Positioning: In pickleball, the person on the right side of the court serves when the team’s score is even, and the person on the left serves when the team’s score is odd. This can help you remember the score.

  7. Practice: Like any other aspect of the game, keeping score gets easier with practice. The more you play and the more familiar you become with the rules and the rhythm of the game, the easier it will be to keep track of the score.

Remember, it’s important to keep the score accurately to maintain the fairness and integrity of the game.

Even and Odd Scores

Even and odd scores play a significant role in determining player positioning in pickleball. When a server’s score is even, they will serve from the right side of the court, and when their score is odd, they will serve from the left side.

By familiarizing yourself with the significance of even and odd scores, you can avoid serving from the wrong position, which could result in sanctions or disputes during the game.


Mastering the art of scoring in pickleball ensures a fair, competitive, and enjoyable game for all players. This comprehensive guide has covered the basics of pickleball scoring. By understanding and applying these concepts, you’ll be well on the way to becoming a formidable force on the pickleball court.

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge and tips to excel in pickleball scoring, it’s time to put these skills into practice. Remember to call out the score before each serve, maintain proper etiquette, and strive for fair play. With dedication and practice, you’ll soon become a pickleball scoring expert, ready to take on any challenge that comes your way.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you score in pickleball?

In pickleball, points can only be scored when a team is serving or by receiving a technical foul from the opposing side. To score a point, the serving team must win the rally.

What is traditional scoring in pickleball?

Traditional scoring in pickleball requires one side to reach 11 points, with a two-point margin of victory. The serving team wins a point due to their opponents faulting. The first side to earn 11 points in this way is declared the winner.

How do you keep score in singles pickleball?

Singles pickleball scoring is simple and straight forward. When playing singles, each player starts at 0-0 and adds a point every time they win a rally. The first player to 11 points wins the game but must win by two clear points.

Doubles follows a similar format but with three different numbers, like 0-0-2.

What does 002 mean in pickleball?

The first number is the serving team’s score, the second number is the receiving team’s score, and the third number indicates which server is serving — either the first server (1) or the second server (2).

What is the significance of serving in pickleball scoring?

Serving in pickleball is important as it is the only way to increase one’s score. Furthermore, good serving skills are necessary for any player to be competitive in the sport.

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