What Is A Rally In Pickleball?

Pickleball is essentially a cross between badminton, tennis, and table tennis.

The court is the size of a badminton court, the net is a tennis net, and the paddle used is most similar to the paddles used in table tennis. While this amalgam of different sports might sound confusing if you’re not familiar with pickleball, it’s actually a very easy sport to get into.

But in order to start playing any sport, you first need to know all of the basics, and it’s no different for pickleball. One of the terms you need to be familiar with is the pickleball rally.

While at its most basic this is just the same as any other sport of its kind- a continuous play between both sides- there is also rally scoring to consider, which is a little more complicated.

The following article will break down rally scoring in detail, as well as everything else you might need to know about the basics of pickleball.

Pickleball: Basic Terms

As well as the rally, the following are all of the basic terms you’ll want to know before playing pickleball (although you’re bound to pick it all up during your first few games).

A rally, just like in tennis or badminton, is a continuous play between both sides. Every time a shot is returned to the other side without a fault, this continues the rally. If you’re playing with rally scoring there’s a lot more to say, but we’ll get into that shortly.

An ace is when you serve a legal shot and your opponent fails to return it.

The kitchen is the non-volley zone, which extends exactly seven feet from sideline to sideline, and from both sides of the net.

A dink is a soft shot that clears the net before dropping into the kitchen, or non-volley zone.

A volley is when you hit the ball when it’s in the air before it’s had time to hit the ground.

Finally, a let is when you make a serve and the ball hits the cord of the net before landing in the service court.

Rally Scoring Explained

Rally scoring is a subject of debate amongst the pickleball community. Some believe that it’s a solid alternative to the traditional scoring method, while others argue that it ruins the integrity of pickleball.

But how does rally scoring actually differ from normal scoring? When players are going by the traditional scoring rules, a team is only awarded a point for winning a rally if they were the team that served.

If the team that didn’t serve wins the rally, then the other player on the serving side will serve.

If that rally is won by the side that didn’t serve, then that side will be awarded the next serve. They won’t win a point, though, until they win a rally with their own serve.

When rally scoring is in play, though, a point is awarded to the team that wins the rally regardless of who served. So, if your side wins a rally, they’ll get a point even if your side didn’t serve.

The score required to win a game tends to be longer when rally scoring is in play; 15 points instead of the traditional 11.

This is to lengthen rally scoring games because they’d be quite a bit shorter than traditional games if the maximum score was still 11, considering points are earned so much more frequently.

What Are The Advantages Of Using Rally Scoring?

What Are The Advantages Of Using Rally Scoring

There are a couple of reasons why rally scoring is the preferred format for a lot of pickleball players.

It’s most beneficial if you’re playing on crowded courts because some of them will be waiting on the sidelines between games.

If the games are shorter (or at least, shorter than they would be with traditional scoring), it means there will be less time sitting on the sidelines and waiting to play.

Rally scoring also tends to lead to more consistency when it comes to the duration of games.

In comparison, the average length of a game with traditional scoring can range from as little as five minutes, to as long as 20 minutes. Because points are only won by the serving side, the length of games can really vary.

Games with rally scoring, on the other hand, will almost always end after a minimum of 15 rallies, or a maximum of 29 rallies. At that stage, 15 points will have been won, because you only need to win by one point in pickleball.

Rally Scoring In Practice

So, aside from the difference in scoring, how does rally scoring actually affect gameplay?

The main difference is that you’re effectively playing closer to the rules for singles pickleball, rather than traditional doubles pickleball.

You only switch court positions with your teammate when a point is won on your serve, which is the same when you’re playing with traditional scoring.

When you’re serving, though, you serve from the right of the court (meaning, the player on the right of the court) if your team’s score is an even number, and from the left of the court (the player on the left of the court) if your team’s score is an odd number.

That’s the part that’s similar to singles serving. When playing one-on-one, you serve from the right of the court if your score is an even number, and the left if your score is an odd number.

Conclusion: What Is A Rally In Pickleball?

A rally in pickleball is just the same as a rally in other sports of its kind, like tennis; a continuous play until either side has a fault.

Rally scoring, on the other hand, is a whole different scoring system. Unlike traditional pickleball scoring, a point is awarded to your team when you win a rally, regardless of whether you served or not.

There is much debate surrounding rally scoring and its impact on the fundamental nature of the game, but because the sport is played mostly for fun and for the community aspect, there’s really nothing wrong with playing in this way.


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