Pickleball rally scoring
By: CJ Johnson | November 16, 2018 |

Pickleball Rally Scoring-A Complete How to Guide

Does pickleball need to change to rally scoring? Not sure what it is, or perhaps you’ve never tried it? Here’s a complete guide to rally scoring.


With the explosive growth of pickleball and newfound interest from television (ESPN 3 televised the 2019 USAPA Nationals LIVE), there’s been a spirited discussion regarding traditional scoring versus rally scoring.

Every few months, a member of the Facebook Pickleball Forum, usually a newbie innocently asks a “rally scoring question.” I had to laugh when the first comment on the most recent post warned the poster, “prepare to take shelter.”

Reading the sheer number of passionate and, at times, over the top comments is enough to make your head spin! Here are rally scoring’s most often cited pros and cons.

Proponents of pickleball rally scoring claim these positives:

  • Games would end more quickly, allowing for faster rotations on crowded courts.
  • Increased television marketability due to more predictable match times.
  • Scoring would be easier for new players and television viewers to understand.
  • It forces you to be more focused on every shot and makes consistency even more of a premium.
  • To be potentially considered for the Olympics, it’s likely scoring would need to change.

Detractors of rally scoring point out these drawbacks:

  • It changes the fundamental nature of the game. The two bounce rule gives a slight advantage to the receiving team, making it more difficult to score.
  • It’s harder to track whether a player is a correct server or receiver.
  • The sport will never have a mass market. Meaning the people who watch televised events are already pickleball players and understand the scoring.
  • If courts are crowded, shorten the game by decreasing the number of points needed to win a game or utilizing a timer.
  • It shrinks the possibility of a comeback win, making the game less fun.
  • It cuts down on socialization between games, the main attraction for many players. 

Recently, I was listening to Chris Allen from the Pickleball Show, and Steve Paranto discuss pickleball rally scoring in depth. Chris made an excellent point by saying, if you’ve never played a game utilizing rally scoring, try it before you weigh in on it. 

In addition to understanding it from a playing perspective, there are a few other reasons to give pickleball rally, scoring a whirl.

There are a lot of clubs that have decided to use rally scoring to alleviate crowded courts, and you may find yourself visiting one.

Some smaller non-sanctioned tournaments are using rally scoring. Recently, a local tournament with a limited number of courts used rally scoring in singles and traditional scoring in doubles.

You don’t want to be one of those old fuddy-duddies. Remember when you used to laugh at them? You know, the ones who resisted all change and were utterly unwilling to give something new a try?

>>>>>Click this link if you need help understanding TRADITIONAL pickleball scoring>>>>>>

What is pickleball rally scoring, and how do you do it?


1.  Each rally in a game is worth a point.

2.  Forget server one and server two. Each side will have only one person serve until that team loses a rally (point), and it’s the other teams’ turn to serve (side out).

3.  Throughout the game, both players will serve.

4. It’s important to remember the right side is the EVEN side.

5.  The left side of the court is the ODD side.

6.  Serving is like pickleball singles. When a team’s score is even service is made from the even side of the court.

7. When a team’s score is odd, the service is made from the odd side of the court.

The Start of a Game Using Pickleball Rally Scoring

A game begins at 0-0, with one team serving from the EVEN side of the court. 

The serving team wins the point. This is the only time a team switches sides.

The server moves from the even to the odd side and serves again. The score is 1-0.

The receiving team wins the next rally, which means they get the point and the serve. Since the score is now 1-1, the person standing on the O.D.D. side serves.

Rinse and Repeat until the game ends.

A couple of points to keep in mind

Players do not switch to the alternate service court unless they are the serving team, and they have won a point.

The serving team’s score determines the side from which the ball is served.

Since the game is completed faster, the ending score may be extended to 15 or 21. Decide beforehand if it’s win by 1 or 2.


You may or may not like it, but as Chris mentioned in his podcast, why not give it a try before you make a decision?

Since a point is available during every rally, it’s going to change some strategies. Are you going to go after that big, maybe not so reliable serve if you know that the other team is going to score a point if you miss it?

If you’ve experienced pickleball rally scoring, let everybody know in the comments below. Did you like it and what strategies you found most valuable to change?


CJ Johnson

Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)