Rally scoring in pickleball means either team can score off every rally point. In traditional scoring, only the serving team can score points. Rally scoring is a faster, simpler version of the game and can be great for new players, but it misses some tactical nuances that traditional pickleball scoring allows.
What is Pickleball Rally Scoring?
Rally scoring in pickleball is a scoring system that’s designed to speed up play on the pickleball court.
As opposed to side-out scoring (the traditional pickleball scoring system), every rally is worth one point in rally scoring.
Rally scoring works like this:
- The serving team chooses their first server (Player A), who serves from the right side of the court.
- They win the first point, making the score 1-0.
- The other member of the team (Player B) serves from the left side of the court. If they win the point, the process repeats, switching back to the right service court. (Note: Players will never alternate what side of the court they are on; service will simply swap from side to side between the players.)
- If they lose the first point, the opposing team earns the point and they begin serving from the left side of their court, as the score is now odd (1-0).
- Which player serves will depend on the score. If your score is even, then the player on the right-hand side of your court will serve. If your score is odd, then the player on the left-hand side of your court will serve.
- The final point may only be won when serving.
Pros of Rally Scoring in Pickleball
- Speed: Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, which means the demand for pickleball court space is high. Crowded courts can put people off the game. Rally scoring makes the whole game much faster, leading to less stress on the courts.
- Simplicity: The traditional pickleball scoring system can be hard to get your head around, especially if you grew up playing badminton, tennis, or ping pong. This is especially true when calling the score, with the confusing addition of the third server number at the end. A simpler system can help new players understand the game faster.
- Accessibility: Many pickleball players fall into the over 50s or above category. For older players, longer games can lead to fatigue and potential injury. Shorter games are more accessible for those with mobility issues.
Cons of Rally Scoring in Pickleball
- More Rushed: Ironically, the big plus of rally scoring is also one of its negatives. Many people head to their weekly pickleball game looking to relax and unwind. Making the game faster and more hectic means it’s over faster and might feel more rushed.
- Less Tactical: One of the great aspects of traditional pickleball scoring is how different the game plays when you are on the serving team as opposed to the receiving team. Serving teams are on the offensive, while receiving teams are on the defensive. Equally, in rally scoring, you only have to serve from one side of the court rather than develop your skills from both the odd and even sides.
- Less Reward for Endurance: A traditional scoring game rewards players with more grit and endurance. The longer the game goes on, the more these attributes come into play. Rally scoring, due to its faster turnaround, removes the need for this skill from the game.
Differences Between Traditional Scoring and Rally Scoring
In traditional scoring, a team accumulates points only when it serves the ball. Its ability to score points ends when a fault is made.
Faults might include:
- A failure to adhere to the one-bounce rule (i.e, the ball bouncing twice on one side of the court)
- A pickleball player hitting the ball into the net with the pickleball paddle
- A player violating non-volley zone rules
The big difference between traditional scoring and rally scoring is when you can win points.
In traditional scoring, only the serving side can win points. If you are on the receiving team, winning a rally only gives you the chance to serve.
The other key difference is who takes the serve. In traditional pickleball scoring, one player serves until they lose a point. The serve then switches to the second server, and only when they lose a point does it move to the opposing team.
In rally scoring, the serving team alternates between their players on every point, and they only have to lose a single rally before the serve switches over.
Is Pickleball Rally Scoring Better Than Traditional Scoring?
Whether rally scoring is better than traditional scoring entirely depends on what you want to get out of the game.
USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) rules still lean towards traditional pickleball scoring, although rally scoring is under consideration to be added as an option for tournament directors.
Pickleball organizers see traditional scoring as promoting more skill, endurance, and better tactical play.
However, if you are playing with new players or are looking for a simpler, faster version of pickleball, rally scoring offers a fast-paced, enjoyable alternative.
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