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CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

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)


  1. Avatar photo Terry Dody on November 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Just recently used rally scoring in some league tournament play and I have to say that I liked it better than traditional scoring. In the tournament we played to 15 instead of the normal 11. The game not only moved faster but the occasional question of “am I a one or a two” was eliminated: keeping score just seamed to be a little easier all around. The only thing that I’ve noticed, and it may not be correct, is that in rally scoring, it seems that when you get more than 3 or 4 points behind, it is harder to make a come back. But, I’ve not played with rally scoring enough to know if that observation is correct.

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on November 18, 2018 at 5:38 pm

      Terry, I would agree with you that once you get behind it can be difficult to come back and win.

      • Avatar photo Donald Hurman on November 20, 2018 at 10:00 pm

        In my experience of playing rally point scoring for over a year now, you are never totally too far behind to not make a comeback. Since either team can make points regardless of which team is serving creates the opportunity to make a comeback. I have been involved in many games where my team is down 10 – 3 and have comeback to win because if the opposing team makes mistakes your team gets a point and in turn, when your team makes a fantastic play you also get the point, regardless of who is serving.

        • Avatar photo Kevin Huff on May 11, 2022 at 1:43 am

          Totally agree!!

  2. Avatar photo ann orourke on November 17, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    I lhave been playing for two years and love rally scoring!! I never played any racquet sport. Game is faster plus I get to make points when the other side misses the ball. We play to 15.
    I play it whenever I can, but some of the “traditional” people here (have been playing for 3 years) shudder when they hear
    about it. They have never played rally scoring, of course…..

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on November 18, 2018 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks for your comments Ann. I agree with you that a lot of people who dislike rally scoring have never tried it. It’s ok to dislike it and want to use traditional scoring but at least give it a try first.

  3. Avatar photo Jimmy on November 17, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    When ever we have a large number of players waiting, rally is implemented..a few of the old timers doesn’t like it, but they are coming along..

  4. Avatar photo Mike on November 17, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    I got a little confused watching your video and description of rally scoring. It seems that you are saying the left side of the court, as I stand on the south side is the even side. I understood that to be the odd side.

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on November 18, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      Mike the left side of the court is the odd side. I’m capable of thinking one thing and saying another. LOL! Using the time code can you tell me where it is in the video?

  5. Avatar photo Clark Swartz on November 17, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    We use rally scoring when we are doing round robins and I have 2 quarts left to play just to speed up so not everybody is just waiting for them to finish. It works pretty good.

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on November 18, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      Do you prefer rally or traditional scoring Clark?

  6. Avatar photo Pickleball OSC on November 23, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Hi CJ,

    Your presentation on rally point scoring was well done. There is no doubt that those pickleball players interested in learning the system will be well equipped to do it by spending a few minutes watching your video.

    It is interesting to see the rally point scoring system getting exposure from the traditional pickleball community after so many years of its being ignored by the sport.

    Perhaps, in a subsequent video, it might be worth investigating the factors that are driving this movement toward rally point scoring at this point in time. Could it be that the sport of pickleball is being taken up by a changing demographic? If the demographic is changing, it would be interesting to know its characteristics (age, previous racquet-sport experience etc).

    At two of our pickleball clubs (just south of Calgary, Alberta, Canada), more than 100 athletes have been using the rally point scoring system since the beginning of 2017. It is also worth noting that this area of Canada is a hot spot for competitive badminton and it is likely that this was a contributing factor in the early and eager adoption of the rally point system by a large number of local pickleball players.

    Whatever the case, the rally point scoring system was adopted at our pickleball club for many reasons. Having said that, it might be easiest to explain the reason for the transition this way: there are 200 million badminton players on the planet. They transitioned away from side-out scoring (pickleball scoring) many years ago. How could those 200 million people be wrong?

    Pickleball OSC
    Okotoks, Alberta

    • Avatar photo Rick on April 1, 2023 at 9:05 am

      Rally scoring in badminton was changed to accommodate tv commercials in Asia. It certainly is more predictable in terms of time. It is significantly more difficult to come from behind when you are down unless you use the must serve to win option for the last two or three points.

  7. Avatar photo Ching on August 5, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    For some reason the rally scoring I’m seeing now is where the two players alternate serving instead of the same player moving from side to side until they lose their serve. Is there an official way to do it?

    • Avatar photo CJ Johnson on August 6, 2022 at 1:01 pm

      Hi Ching, I’ve never seen that form of rally scoring.

      • Avatar photo Ann on August 7, 2022 at 1:11 pm

        I just watched Major League Pickleball matches and they are changing service every point consequently players never change sides throughout the match. I would like to introduce rally scoring where I play but need agreed rules and I’m not sure where to look.

        • Avatar photo CJ Johnson on August 9, 2022 at 2:24 pm

          Hi Ann, since Rally Scoring is not something currently sanctioned by USA Pickleball there isn’t anything official. What you are seeing in MLP is a format they devised for play.

  8. Avatar photo Terry on August 10, 2022 at 1:38 am

    I have played about 50 games of Rally a point scoring. Once you get the scoring and who serves down and a little understanding of strategy both ways equally fun. The only time that I would use rally points scoring is if somebody else was waiting to play, in my experience most rally point scoring takes about six minutes to play so someone is waiting less time to play

  9. Avatar photo Bill on September 11, 2022 at 12:16 pm

    I’m came to pickleball from volleyball, which switched to rally scoring around 2000. I’ve been frustrated with standard pickleball scoring. How can there be no score change over and over as the server loses serve? As a receiver, I can make a great shot and get no point. I feel like pickleball games drag on and on with regular scoring. I read that badminton now uses rally scoring. I think the trend is clear – rally scoring should be the future of pickleball.

  10. Avatar photo Bill on September 11, 2022 at 12:26 pm

    A couple of things about this page could be adjusted for better clarity. 1) When you make pickleball videos, do it at a dedicated pickleball court. That video made at on old tennis court with colors and lines that have nothing to do with pickleball make it confusing. 2) Start the video with the near-right player scoring, in other words from the perspective of the viewer of the video if they were the first server of the game. 3) The drawings on the page are from the viewpoint of someone watching the game. Turn the figures 90 degrees so they are from a player’s point of view. Thanks for creating these great web pages!

    • Avatar photo CJ Johnson on September 12, 2022 at 3:06 am

      Hey Bill, thanks for the suggestions. Whenever we can shoot on dedicated courts we do but just like many of the people who will watch videos sometimes the only courts available are mixed use.

  11. Avatar photo Rayjoe on October 10, 2022 at 3:21 am

    We just tried rally scoring. Since we did not know how the serve was rotated we just had each player serve once. We rotated the serve clockwise one player at a time after every rally. It worked really well and the game ended in half the time.


  12. Avatar photo Bill Royal on December 14, 2022 at 11:02 pm

    I’ve been playing pickleball for about 12 years now, in a club of 300+ players on 5 courts. I am a 3.5 rated player.

    I have played rally scoring many times and i have to say I am not a fan. I get the shortened time for games, so in extreme crowded court situations I can see it, though I’d prefer to just play to 9 or 7 if that’s the case.

    Rally scoring definitely influences strategy and for me that’s the rub. It changes the game in a fundamental way. I just don’t enjoy the game as much using rally scoring.

    • Avatar photo CJ Johnson on December 17, 2022 at 1:02 pm

      Hi Bill, I agree with your assessment.

      • Avatar photo Steve on December 18, 2022 at 6:22 am

        I’m not a fan of rally scoring. I have courts in my community of 300 homes. There is an organized game on Monday through Friday mornings. The game sponsor on Wednesday does rally scoring. No particularly good reason to do rally scoring. We have 4 courts and seldom fill all of them. Even if we do, we don’t have more than one foursome waiting to rotate in.

        I feel like rally scoring fundamentally changes the game’s strategy…and not for the better. So, on Wednesdays I drive 25 miles to play on public public courts rather than play in the rally scored game that’s only one mile from my house. That’s how much I dislike rally scoring.

  13. Avatar photo patty schlesinger on December 26, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    I’ve been playing pb about 10 years. We used to use rally scoring but it was considered “not correct”, I guess. Just recently saw it on the tennis channel at a team pb tournament.
    I prefer rally scoring, mainly because it seems I do not get many points on my serve. I may be a better defensive player than offensive. Also, I play a lot of tennis, so I’m used to scoring a point every rally. You did not mention, at the score 14, the serving team had to serve to get that winning point.
    I like that too.

    • Avatar photo CJ Johnson on December 27, 2022 at 9:19 am

      Hey Patty, there are several different versions of rally scoring and going to traditional scoring at 14 is just one of them. Have fun

      • Avatar photo Amy on April 1, 2023 at 5:56 am

        Hey can we also eliminate the kitchen to accomodate the players who don’t like it and find it more fun to run in and smash. That would also likely make the game go faster so it doesn’t drag on. And also be less confusing for new players and spectators.
        I’ve played both ways btw.

  14. Avatar photo Gene Simmons on February 11, 2023 at 5:44 pm

    I read one small detail about rally scoring that hasn’t been mentioned.
    Does, in fact, the FINAL Point have to be made by the Serving Team only?
    It’s really not stressed. So are you saying if the group is playing using Rally
    Scoring to 15 and one team reaches 14 then they can only score and win by serving?
    Please emphasize……if that is so.

    • Avatar photo CJ Johnson on February 12, 2023 at 10:47 am

      Hi Gene rally scoring is just a play format which isn’t covered by the basic rules of pickleball. Just as you could change what most players think of as a traditional game (play to 11 win by 2) to play to 15 win by 1 you can make any adjustments you’d like to rally scoring.

  15. Avatar photo J G Warnick on April 3, 2023 at 8:18 am

    Our informal group of players used a modified rally scoring [we still had two serves per team to get a side out, but points always went to the winners of the rally] to play outdoors all year when Covid struck. Yes, we did need snowblowers to clear the courts a couple of times, but we’re Canadian – business as usual!
    Everyone loved the rally scoring and were lamenting that Badminton and Volleyball had seen the light many years ago. Try it, you’ll like it!

  16. Avatar photo Gaston on April 30, 2023 at 10:21 am

    In regard to rally scoring, suggest additions to make it more fair playing doubles and singles. Who ever starts the match serving (server 1) will serve once to the right side. After a point is won by either the serving team or receiving team the serve will go to the receiver. They, now the serving team will serve twice starting on the left side then right, note the server still gets one serve per side. After those two points are scored by either the serving team or receiver the serve goes back to the team who started serving, this time the partner (server 2) serve twice, first to the left side then the right. After those two rally points the serve goes back to the opponents for two serve, first left then right where server 2 is serving. In other words, the server alternates just as is done in tennis. Also, the server has the option to serve and volley as long as the volley happens behind the non-volley zone. The game is played to 21 and sides are switched when one team first reaches 6 points. After that the next side switch is when one team first reaches 12 points, followed by 18 points reached first by a team. If both teams are ties at 21, the game is won by winning two points. However, if both teams are tied at 24, switch one more time and based on the serving sequence, the serving team has one more serve to the right side. Next point wins the game 25-24. The match is won by the team or player first winning three game, in other words, best of five games to win three games for the match. For a championship match would be best of seven (win four games). The reasons for switching sides are because most pickleball professional matches are played outdoors. Switching sides will not give one team an advantage or disadvantage due to the outdoor elements such as sun, wind, or more cracks or uneven surfaces one side of the court. Adding these into rally points in pickleball will enhance the game for both players and fans alike, and be more accepted for international sport and possibly be accepted into the Olympics.

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