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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?

Basics

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.

Conclusion

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?

 

12 Comments

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

    CJ,
    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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

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

          Totally agree!!

  2. 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…..

    • 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. 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. 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.

    • 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. 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.

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

      Do you prefer rally or traditional scoring Clark?

  6. 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

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