Pickleball Scoring for New Pickleball Players

How to call the score and keep track of the score...

people remember stories, learning pickleball scoring

How to call the score and keep track of the score...

First, Which Team Serves First?

Each park, rec center, facility, etc. has a Serving Side for all courts at that location. So, just ask someone, "which side serves first?" They'll say something like: the north side, the side closest to the parking lot, etc.

Whichever team that's standing on the Starting/Serving Side will begin the game. The person who happens to be in the right/even side after each Side Out will serve first. BUT, since the starting serving team has an advantage with serving first (and possibly winning the game with that first server, although unlikely), they only get ONE serve instead of the normal two serves.

All Servers

The score must be called so that opponents can hear it. And, sportsmanship dictates that:

A. the server waits until the other three players are ready

B. the server loudly calls the entire score before beginning their service motion (and certainly before making contact with the ball below their waist).

All Receivers

Unfortunately, there are players that intentionally or inadvertently call the score quietly and/or make contact with the ball while calling the score (we call the second type "fast servers."). Do not hesitate to immediately bring this to their attention the first time and each time this happens as it's a sneaky way for that team to receive points.

The First or Starting Server

The only server before the very first Side Out will say zero-zero-two (0-0-2) before making contact with the ball. If the serving team wins the point, the players will switch sides laterally; in other words, the server will move to the left/odd side and their partner to the right/even side. Since the serving team scored a point, the server will then say one-zero-two (1-0-2) before the ball is served. And, their score will increase and they will switch sides laterally as they continue to win points.

A Side Out will occur once they fault (fail to mind the double-bounce rule, hit the ball out or in the net or accidentally fault in any manner). After the first Side Out occurs, each team will have two serve attempts (thus, "Server One" and "Server Two").

Do We Always State Three Numbers for the Score?

Yes! And, here's what the three scores mean:

  • the first number indicates the SERVING team's score

  • the second number indicates the RECEIVING team's score

  • the third number indicates if it's the SERVING team's first or second server.

To help you remember how to say the score, think of this: WE have (number), YOU have (number) and I'm the (first or second) server.

The Serving Sequence

After the first Side Out, both players on the serving doubles team have the opportunity to serve and score points until they commit a fault.

  • The first serve of each side out is made from the right/even court.

  • If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the server initiates the next serve from the left/odd court.

  • As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed, and the first server loses the serve.

  • When the first server loses the serve, the partner then serves from their correct side of the court (except for the first service sequence of the game*).

  • The second server continues serving until his or her team commits a fault and loses the serve to the opposing team.

  • Once the service goes to the opposition (at side out), the first serve is from the right/even court and both players on that team have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team commits two faults.

  • In singles, the server serves from the right/even court when his or her score is even and from the left/odd when the score is odd.

    • Remember, at the beginning of each new game, only one player on the serving team has the opportunity to serve before faulting, after which the service passes to the receiving team.

    Key Points re Scoring

    • Points are only earned by the serving team.

    • Games are normally played to 11 points, requiring a win by 2 points.

    • Tournament games may be to 15 or 21 points, requiring a win by 1 or 2 points.

    • It is very important to remember where you were standing at the very beginning of the game. When the team's score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc.), the player who was the very first server in the game for that team will be in the right/even court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc.), that player will be in the left/odd court when serving or receiving. And, of course, vice versa.

Calling the Score

Remember, before you serve, call the score loudly. This allows all four players to make sure the score is being kept properly. Knowing the score also helps to ensure that all players are in the right position at the beginning of each new point.

Again, if you cannot hear your opponents or if they are mumbling it and serving fast, do not hesitate to bring this to their attention. You can ask them to say the score more loudly. And, you can ask them to serve when both you and your partner are ready. (When you or your partner are not ready, hold your paddle above your head as you both get into position. When you lower it, that's their signal to call the score before serving.)

Have Patience and Ask for Help

It may take you a while to understand pickleball scoring. If you're unsure of the score, just ask your partner (and maybe your opponents). And, even if you're playing has been playing for a while, they, too, might have lost track of the score. That's pickleball!