One of the more intimidating concepts for the new pickleball player when playing doubles is the pressure of keeping score. While games are generally played to 11 points (win by 2 points) there are nevertheless scoring nuances in pickleball. Although pickleball scoring is pretty straightforward in singles, it can be particularly confusing when playing doubles.
Pickleball Doubles Scoring – A Summary
- Points can only be scored by the serving team – the receiving team cannot score.
- Both players (server #1 and server #2) on the serving team will get a chance to serve and score points for their team before relinquishing the serve to the other team. The one exception to this occurs during the very first serving rotation of the game in which case only one player from the serving team (server #2) will get to serve before the other team earns the side-out.
- At the start of the game – and after any subsequent side-out – the player positioned on the right side of the court (even side) serves first.
- If the serving team wins the rally, a point is scored. The server then rotates with his/her partner and serves to the receiver in the opposite court.
- This same server keeps serving (and rotating with his/her partner) until the receiving team wins a rally – at which time the server’s partner will serve.
- If both players on the serving team have served – or if it’s after the first serving rotation of the game, then it’s a “side-out” and the team receiving serve will now become the serving team.
- After every side-out, the server number “resets,” with the person positioned on the right (even court) becoming server #1 and his/her partner who is positioned on the left becoming server #2. (Note: In the course of the game, a player can be server #1 or #2 – it simply depends on where her/she is positioned [given the score] at the side-out).
- Score is announced as 3 numbers.
5 Helpful Pickleball Scoring Tips When Playing Doubles
The following scoring tips will help you accurately keep score when playing doubles. By remembering these scoring tips, you will, no doubt, feel much more comfortable and confident on the pickleball court.
The first thing to understand about pickleball scoring is that points are scored only on the serve. The receiving team cannot score. This applies to both singles and doubles. Obviously, while the serving team wants to win the rally to score points, the objective of the receiving team is to win the rally(s) and induce a “side-out” so they can serve and, ultimately, add to their score.
Rally scoring – while not widely popular – is the exception. In rally scoring, a point is scored on every rally, regardless of who has served. To the delight of most, rally scoring is not widely adopted and the pickleball community has overwhelmingly voiced their preference for traditional scoring over rally scoring!
To negate the inherent advantage that the serving team has when serving first to start the game, only one player – the player on the right side of the court – gets to serve during the first service turn of the game. After this initial service turn, each subsequent service turn is comprised of serves by both players on the serving team – beginning with the player on the right side of the court.
If the serving team wins the rally (thereby, scoring a point) – the server rotates sides (from right-to-left or left-to-right) with his/her partner and serves to the receiver in the opposite court. Each time a point is scored, the partners on the serving side alternate sides. The receiving side never alternates sides.
When a rally is lost when the first server is serving (with the exception of the first service turn of the game), the serve goes to the partner. When a rally is lost when the second server is serving, the serve reverts to the other team. When the serve reverts to the other team it’s called a “side-out.”
Pickleball doubles scores – as opposed to singles scores – are always comprised of three numbers, called out in the following order: (1) server’s score, (2) receiver’s score, and (3) the server number (either 1 for the first server or 2 for the second server). For example, if the serving team has tallied 5 points, the receiving team 4 points and the second of the two servers is serving, the score would be announced as “5-4-2.”
0-0-2 starts the game! It may be extraordinarily confusing at first, but it’s important to note that the player number (the 3rd number) is typically announced as “2” in the very first service turn of the game – even though he/she is the first server! Remember, only one player – the player that started on the right side of the court – gets a service turn on the first service turn of the game. Prior to the very first rally of the game – before any points have been played – the score would be announced as “0-0-2.”
Although not “official,” many will call the score as 0-0-START to begin the game.
How Do You Remember Your Score in Pickleball?
After playing a long point – or simply because of the age demographics associated with pickleball 😉 – it can be easy to forget who is serving, to whom, and to which court. To minimize confusion it is generally effective to simply remember which player served first to begin the game for each side – and have that person wear a colorful wristband (or first-server band).
If the rotation is executed correctly, a team’s score will always be even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10) when that player (the one with the colorful wristband or first server band) is on the right side of the court and odd (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) when that player is on the left side of the court.
Keeping score seems intimidating – but, luckily, after playing several times it will become second nature. See you on the courts!
>>READ NEXT: Top 10 Pickleball Doubles Strategies to Up Your Game<<
Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.