Pickleball is a fast-paced sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. The game has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in the United States, but there’s a lot about the game that most people don’t know.
Pickleball is played using paddles and a net. Players hit the ball back and forth across the net to try and score points. Pickleball courts are small, only around 1/3 the size of a tennis court.
While it can be played as singles, pickleball is most often played in doubles, with two people on each team. With such a cramped court and a small paddle, you’ll need to be quick on your feet and have solid hand-eye coordination.
Pickleball is a great exercise and a lot of fun, relying on quick reflexes and good communication.
It also helps players develop their upper body strength and endurance. But if you’re unfamiliar with the sport, you might be wondering: how do you score in pickleball?
Luckily, we’ve got all the answers you need right here!
What Is Pickleball?
First of all, let’s break down exactly what pickleball is and how it’s played.
Pickleball is a fast-growing sport that, as mentioned previously, is a combination of ping-pong, tennis, and badminton. Players use a small wooden racket (a little larger than a ping-pong paddle) to hit a perforated ball across a net.
This ball is similar to a wiffle ball, with anywhere from 25-40 holes in its hollow plastic shell.
Players have to hit the ball back and forth over the net, trying to score points.
This is similar to tennis, where the ball is allowed to bounce once and must stay within the confines of the court. Despite the small court and ping-pong-style paddles, either player on a team is able to hit the ball back during doubles (unlike in ping-pong).
However, the light ball makes playing feel more similar to badminton or squash, where players stay mostly in a small radius and rely on reflexes to send the ball back into the opponent’s side.
Games of pickleball typically play up until one of three point goals: 11, 15, or 21 points. In addition to achieving the winning score, the winning team also needs to be ahead by a minimum of 2 points.
Matches can last anywhere from 15-20 minutes to over an hour depending on the points needed and how many rounds are played.
So How Do You Score?
Scoring a point in pickleball is similar to scoring in the sports it resembles. You want to hit the ball into the opponent’s side of the court, without them being able to hit it back.
This could be because it bounces more than once on their side, it bounces at least once before leaving the court, or if they hit a foul ball. Only the serving side can score a point, and if the serving side loses or commits a fault, serving switches to the other team.
The first step for scoring any point is to make sure you’re not hitting the ball out of bounds. If you do so, you won’t get credit for the point.
Next, you need to determine which part of the court you’re going to hit the ball. There are three areas on each side of the court: left, right, and forwards. Each area has different rules regarding where you can hit the ball.
For example, you have to serve from a certain point – at least one foot must be behind the baseline (the backline of the court) while making the serve, and the ball must clear the ‘no-volley’ zone at the front of the opponent’s side.
You also can’t volley in the no-volley zone (surprisingly enough), but you can step into the box to return a ball if it’s already bounced. Breaking these rules will result in a fault.
Can You Lose Points In Pickleball?
While scoring a point in pickleball is simple enough (hit the ball into the opponent’s side of the court without them hitting it back), you’re actually able to lose points as well. Points are deducted from a team if they break a rule, more commonly referred to as committing a fault.
There are several ways you can commit a fault, and these will lead to the loss of points.
Some ways of committing a fault and losing points include:
- Touching the net with the paddle or any part of your body
- Hitting the ball out of the court
- Volleying in the no-volley zone (which is also known as the ‘kitchen’)
- Serving past the baseline
- Not serving diagonally to the opponent’s service court
- Letting the ball bounce more than once
While it might seem easy to lose points in pickleball, these faults are easy to avoid with practice and focus.
It’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily have to play perfectly to win, and with pickleball’s fast-paced gameplay it’s likely for the score to shift in either direction, particularly in longer matches.
Singles vs Doubles
As mentioned earlier, pickleball can be played either in teams of two (known as doubles) or 1-on-1 (known as singles). Because of the different team sizes, you might think that there are some drastic changes to scoring.
However, there are only minimal alterations to scoring rules between doubles and singles, which mostly apply to serving the ball.
In terms of scoring points, there aren’t really any differences.
For both types of play, you can only score if you’re serving, and the serving team switches once the current server commits a fault. For doubles, however, the serving team is allowed two faults (one for each person).
There are also some position differences for doubles; when the game starts, the player on the right side of the court serves, and if the point is scored then the left player serves.
Additionally, the non-serving player of the team is allowed to be in front of the baseline before the ball is served, unlike in singles where this isn’t possible.
The main differences between the two formats come in the serving rules. As mentioned before, players in doubles alternate the side of the court they serve on after every point.
In singles, the side is based on your score – if your score is odd, you serve from the left side, and the opposite for even scores. On top of that, where a doubles team is allowed two faults before conceding their serve, a singles player is only allowed one.
With its combination of three different sports, it’s natural for pickleball’s rules to be a bit confusing. Thankfully, the basics of scoring are simple to get the hang of, while faults can be avoided with practice and by paying attention.
Pickleball is becoming more popular every day. With how simple it is to set up (along with how fun it is to play!), pickleball is a great game to pick up.
Whether you’re playing casually or competitively, pickleball is the perfect combination of fun, simplicity, and great exercise.
So now that you know the rules, all you need to do is find someone to play with. Have fun!