Rally Scoring in Pickleball: Everything You Need to Know

As a pickleball enthusiast, I’ve had my fair share of experience with both traditional and rally scoring systems. And while many of the folks in my league do not like rally scoring, there are pros and cons.

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What Is Rally Scoring in Pickleball?Ā 

Rally scoring in pickleball is a point system where any team winning a rally is awarded a point, regardless of whether they served or not. This system aims to keep the game moving quickly and fairly, with every player having equal chances to score.


  1. Rally scoring speeds up the game, making it more exciting and ensuring a more consistent duration.
  2. It’s easier to keep track of the score.
  3. The serve-to-win rule keeps the game moving and ensures a winner and loser in each rally.


  1. Encourages players to take more risks, which can lead to more mistakes and points given away.
  2. Puts pressure on players to perform at a higher level, which can be difficult to sustain throughout the game.

Choosing between rally scoring and traditional scoring in pickleball is entirely up to personal preference. Rally scoring can speed up the game and make it more exciting, but it also encourages risk-taking and puts more pressure on players. No matter which scoring system you choose, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the game!

In one of my pickleball leagues, where we need to play four games in an hour, if time is running short, the organizer will force games to switch to rally scoring. I don’t mind rally scoring if that’s how the game starts. But switching mid-stream during a competitive match? UGH!

Pickleball Rally Scoring Variations

While rally scoring in pickleball is fairly straightforward, there are a few variations that can be found in different leagues, tournaments, or casual play settings. Here are some rally scoring variations in pickleball:

  1. Modified rally scoring to a specific number of points: The most common rally scoring system has games played to 11, 15 or 21 points. However, some leagues or casual settings may opt for shorter games, asking players to switch to rally scoring after a total combination of points
  2. Win by two or win by one: In the standard rally scoring system, a team must win by two points. Some variations might remove this requirement, allowing teams to win by just one point, leading to faster games with more sudden-death situations.
  3. Double point scoring opportunities: In some variations of rally scoring, specific situations or plays may award double points to the winning team. For example, if a team wins a rally on their first serve or after a long volley, they might be awarded two points instead of one. This adds an extra strategic element to the game and can create more dramatic comebacks or upsets.
  4. Bonus points for consecutive rallies won: Another variation awards bonus points to a team that wins multiple consecutive rallies. For example, if a team wins three rallies in a row, they may receive an additional bonus point, making it more rewarding for a team to maintain momentum.
  5. Combination of rally scoring and traditional scoring: Some leagues or tournaments may use a hybrid scoring system that combines elements of both rally and traditional scoring. For instance, only the serving team can score during the first part of the game, while rally scoring is used during the latter stages of the game. This combination can make the game more dynamic and strategically challenging.

These variations of rally scoring in pickleball can make the game more exciting, unpredictable, and enjoyable for both players and spectators. However, it’s essential to ensure that all participants are familiar with and agree on the specific scoring system being used before starting a game.

Rally Scoring in Pickleball

How to Adapt Your Play for Pickleball Rally Scoring

Adapting to rally scoring as a player can be a challenge, especially if you’re used to traditional scoring. Here are some tips to help you transition smoothly and excel in a rally-scoring environment:

  1. Embrace a more aggressive mindset: Rally scoring tends to favor aggressive pickleball play, as every rally won earns a point. Be prepared to take more risks and seize every opportunity to score. However, remember to balance aggression with calculated decision-making to avoid unnecessary errors.
  2. Focus on serve and return consistency: Since both teams can score points regardless of who serves, it’s crucial to have a consistent and effective serve and return game. Work on improving your serve placement, power, and spin to gain an advantage right from the start of each rally. Similarly, focus on returning serves effectively to put pressure on your opponents.
  3. Develop mental resilience: Rally scoring can create more pressure and momentum swings throughout the game. Cultivate mental resilience by staying positive, focused, and composed, even when the score is not in your favor. Learn to handle setbacks and adapt your strategy when necessary.
  4. Strengthen your stamina and conditioning: The faster pace of rally scoring games may require more physical endurance. Make sure to work on your fitness, agility, and conditioning to maintain a high level of performance throughout the game.
  5. Adjust your game strategy: In rally scoring, it’s essential to win points consistently, regardless of whether you’re serving or receiving. Analyze your current game strategy and make necessary adjustments to ensure you’re capitalizing on every opportunity to win points. This might involve being more aggressive at the net, improving your defensive skills, or incorporating more variety in your shots.
  6. Communication with your partner: In doubles play, effective communication and teamwork are even more critical in rally scoring. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page regarding strategy, shot selection, and positioning. Develop clear, concise communication cues to avoid misunderstandings during fast-paced rallies.
  7. Practice in rally scoring settings: The best way to adapt to rally scoring is by practicing in game situations that use this scoring system. Participate in leagues, tournaments, or casual games with friends that use rally scoring to gain experience and improve your skills in this format.
  8. Learn from experienced players: Watch and analyze games played by experienced rally scoring players to understand the strategies and techniques they use to succeed. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice or tips from more experienced players in your community.

By following these tips and maintaining a growth mindset, you’ll be better prepared to adapt to rally scoring and excel in this exciting and fast-paced version of pickleball.

With the USAPA and the IPF sometimes adopting rally scoring for tournaments, and the growth of pickleball as a spectator sport, we expect rally scoring to continue to grow in popularity.

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