Rally Scoring
By: Kyleen Dye | January 25, 2024 |

Pickleball Rally Scoring Quick Start Guide (Infographic)

Few topics can send a friendly game into a heated debate faster than the mention of pickleball rally scoring. It’s a subject that can split the court down the middle, with purists and progressives volleying arguments back and forth with the same intensity as a championship point.

Rally scoring, the method where points can be won by either side regardless of who served, is not just a casual suggestion—it’s a polarizing proposition that’s sparking discussions from local clubs to the highest echelons of the USA Pickleball board.

Even as pro tournaments like the MLP embrace this format for its TV-friendly tempo and facilities experiment with it to maximize their court usage, the pickleball populace stands divided.

Now, we’re not here to lob controversy (pun intended) or advocate for one particular scoring system over another; after all, at the heart of the game, whether it’s rally or traditional scoring, lies the sheer joy of play and getting your bowl of ice cream.

But in the spirit of sportsmanship and curiosity, we propose that you step onto the court with an open mind. Try rally scoring for yourself—because, just like a sneaky drop shot, you might find it unexpectedly delightful. To help you navigate this potential new frontier, we’ve put together a pickleball rally scoring quick start guide infographic to help you navigate the ins and outs of rally scoring in pickleball.

Pickleball Rally Scoring overview

Download a Free Rally Scoring Strategy Guide

Rally Scoring – In Detail

In traditional pickleball scoring, a point is only awarded if the Serve Team wins the rally.

Pickleball Rally Scoring Basics

In rally scoring, a point is awarded to whichever team wins the rally: Serve or Return.

Pickleball Rally Scoring who gets a point

In traditional scoring, the players on the Serve Team switch their position (left or right) whenever they score a point.

Pickleball Rally Scoring start the game

Would you like a downloadable rally scoring guide? Click here.


In rally scoring, the players do not move between rallies, they play the entire game from the same court position.

Pickleball Rally Scoring rally 1

In traditional scoring, the Serve Team gets two serves on each sideout. Hence, the third figure in the traditional score designates the first and second servers.

Pickleball Rally Scoring the score

In rally scoring, the Serve Team gets one serve on each sideout. There is no third figure in the score designating the first and second servers.

Pickleball Rally Scoring the score in rally scoring

In rally scoring, the player to serve is determined by the score. If the Serve Team score is even, the player on the right will serve. If the Serve Team score is odd, the player on the left will serve.

Pickleball Rally Scoring rally 2

In rally scoring, the Serve Team will serve again each time it wins the rally. If the Return Team wins the rally, then the serve switches over to the Return Team and the Return Team scores a point.

Pickleball Rally Scoring rally 3

A curious feature of rally scoring, and one that allows for a potential comeback, is the “freeze.” When a team gets to game point (20 in most cases), they are required to score the final point (to win) when they are on the Serve Team.

Pickleball Rally Scoring rally 4

Continuing the example, if the Return Team wins the rally when the Serve Team is frozen, it still scores a point. This is because the Return Team is not frozen.

Pickleball Rally Scoring rally 5

Once the score is tied, the teams are again “unfrozen” and can score a point regardless of what side they are playing.

Pickleball Rally Scoring rally 6

A last note on scoring: the game cannot finish with a Return Team score.

In such a case, the game will simply continue until the finishing point is scored by the Serve Team. Each time the game is tied, the teams are unfrozen and can score a point regardless of what side they are playing, but the game must be won by a 2-point margin.

Pickleball Rally Scoring rally 7


As we wrap up our exploration of rally scoring in pickleball, let’s consolidate the benefits of giving this scoring method a try:

  1. Accessibility: New players might find rally scoring simpler to understand and keep track of, which can enhance the accessibility of the game for newcomers.
  2. Increased Intensity: Every serve and every return has the potential to score a point, ratcheting up the intensity and focus required for each rally.
  3. Skill Refinement: The constant opportunity to score—or lose—a point in rally scoring means players are more likely to pinpoint areas of improvement in their game.
  4. Versatility: By understanding both scoring systems, players can enjoy a broader range of tournaments and playing experiences.
  5. Faster Games: Rally scoring tends to speed up the pace of play, which means more games in less time—a real bonus when court space is at a premium.
  6. Viewer Engagement: For spectators, rally scoring can make matches more thrilling to watch. This is key as pickleball grows in popularity and seeks to capture a larger television audience. Helpful to the growth of our sport.
  7. Community Feedback: Trying rally scoring allows you to contribute informed opinions to community discussions about the future of pickleball scoring.

Whether you’re a seasoned player or new to the court, experimenting with rally scoring can enrich your pickleball experience and perhaps even open up new dimensions of play. Remember, the ultimate goal is to find joy in the game, and who knows—rally scoring might just be your new sweet spot.

If you’d like to download the guide to take to the courts, click here

And there you have it—a snapshot of how to incorporate rally scoring into your pickleball experience. We’d love to hear your take on rally scoring. Have you tried it? Are you a fan, or do you favor the traditional way? Was this pickleball rally scoring quick start guide helpful? Bounce your thoughts, experiences, and insights back to us in the comments below.

Kyleen Dye

Hi pickleball friends, I'm Kyleen, a certified pickleball coach and a member of the Better Pickleball team. Prior to learning pickleball a few years ago, I had no racquet sport experience, so honing the mechanics of this amazing sport is a focus for me. I love how much the game of pickleball brings to my life, the experiences it allows me to have, and the people I get to meet.