The name of the game, “pickleball,” sounds silly to start with, and the scoring isn’t easy when you’re first learning, but there’s a reason so many new players are becoming addicted to the game.
It’s fun, you can have some success the first time you take the court, and, with a bit of patience you’ll be an expert on the scoring, too. It’s not as tough as you think.
Ready? Here we go.
In pickleball, there is a series of three numbers the server must call out before every serve. Calling out the score isn’t an option, it’s necessary. Not only does it ensure everyone is on the same page in relation to the score, it is done to alert everyone the service is on the way.
The first number is the serving team’s score. The second number is the receiving team’s score. The third number is the number of the server – always a one or a two.
So, if the serving team has four points and the receiving team has eight points and the first server is getting ready to put the ball in play the score would be 4-8-1. That would be verbalized by, “Four-Eight-One,” loud enough for everyone to know and give the receiver an alert the serve is on the way.
So, how do we get to those numbers?
After the teams decide, by a flip of the coin, or some other local rule used at your gym or park, who is serving first, players take their position. Serving is really important, because in pickleball only the serving team can earn a point. Think of it like baseball. In baseball, only the team at bat can score runs. The team in the field can only get outs, it can’t score. In pickleball, the receiving team must make two “outs” before getting a chance to serve and earn points for their team.
The player on the right – the deuce position in tennis – becomes the first server and the score is called.
Because the team serving in the first rally of the game did not earn the serve, but instead was granted the serve, due to some local rule or a coin flip, the opening serve of the game starts with the receiving team only needing one “out.”
So, that means the scoring starts at 0 (serving team’s score) – 0 (receiving team’s score) – 2 (the number of the server).
If the serving team wins the opening rally of the game the score becomes 1-0-2 and the server now serves from the other side of the court – in this case, the left side. Every time the serving team scores a point, the server and his or her partner, switch sides of the court and the person serving continues to serve. When that first “out” is made, the second server serves from the side of the court he or she is on.
The receiving team does not switch sides ever.
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When the receiving team earns the ball back, it’s called a side-out and the person who is in the deuce box, or the right side, becomes the first server. Remember, if you are the first server of the game, it doesn’t mean you are the first server for the entire game.
If the receiving team wins the opening rally of the game, the receiving team earns a side-out and gets to serve the next rally. The score would be 0-0-1.
So, what’s the score if the serving team earns the first three points of the game and then the receiving team earns a side-out?
Well, the receiving team becomes the serving team and the new server would say, “0-3-1.”
Just keep in mind a few things and you’ll be ready to play:
1. Only the serving team can score points
2. The first server always starts on the right-hand side
3. A team must make two stops or “outs” to earn the serve back
4. When the serving team scores a point, the serving team switches sides of the court
Andrew Gilman is the pickleball teaching pro at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club
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