Pickleball Gameplay Keeping the Score - Is It Too Hard?

Pickleball McNasty Matt Manasse May 28, 2021
Keeping the Score - Is It Too Hard?

Every sport has their own unique way of keeping score. Tennis has words like "love" or "deuce" and numbers that don't quite make sense like 15:30:40. Football rewards different points for different types of scores. And Harry Potter can win the entire game of quidditch by capturing the Golden Snitch. Every scoring system seems foreign until you fully immerse yourself into the game. Although Pickleball is no different to the comparisons above, I do understand how some can find it difficult.

So is the scoring system in Pickleball too difficult to understand? In my opinion, no. But let's dive right into it. The first question or remark I always receive is, "Why are there 3 numbers being called? It makes no sense". I guess that's a fair assessment if you've never played the game. So what do the 3 numbers stand for?

  • First Number: Your Team Score
  • Second Number: Your Opponent Score
  • Third Number: Indicates the 1st or 2nd Server

In doubles Pickleball, both teammates get a chance to serve each rotation EXCEPT for the first rotation of the set.

I know what the newbies are thinking because they have just been totally thrown for a loop when they read the "Third Number". In doubles Pickleball, both teammates get a chance to serve each rotation EXCEPT for the first rotation of the set. When a game begins, the score will be 0-0-2 indicating a 0-0 scoreline with the 2nd server starting on the deuce side. When a point is lost on that persons serve, a side-out occurs and the ball is given to the other team to start serving. So let's pretend the serving team didn't win a point to start, the opposing team would serve now on a 0-0-1 scoreline (since you only score points on your own serve). Keep in mind that when a side-out occurs, the ball will always be served from the deuce or even side of the court. From 0-0-1, the 1st server will continue serving until they lose a point on their serve. The 2nd server will proceed to serve until they lose a point and thus another side-out.

Pickleball Score Basics To Remember

  • The first rotation of any game is the ONLY time a team is allowed only ONE of their players to serve (starting on the deuce/even side)
  • You only score an actual point when serving (like volleyball)
  • You only switch sides/halves of the court when you WIN a point on your OWN SERVE.
  • You always say your score before your opponents score followed by the number server
  • Once a team loses a point on the 2nd server's serve, the ball is given to the other team (called a side-out)

A match consists of 2 out of 3 games to 11 points. You switch sides after the 1st game. If a match goes to a deciding 3rd set, you will switch sides when one team gets 6 points.

"So how do I know if I am in the correct spot when serving or receiving?"

If you start on the deuce side or the even side of the court, you will always return or serve from that side of the court when your team has an even score—-meaning 0,2,4,6 etc. The same can be said for someone starting on the odd side with 1,3,5,7 etc. This keeps order in positioning and forces teams to be able to win points in various positions throughout the match.

I hope this article helped you get through the scoring dilemma as I do know it is difficult for those starting out. And if it didn't, well look for the Golden Snitch and I hope you win that way!