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Friday, March 16, 2018

Rally Scoring

Change the rules, change the game...

There seems to be a lot of chatter about rally scoring among some groups of pickleball players. I even heard that one of the rules sessions at the recent ambassador retreat featured an enthusiastic ambassador pushing to allow rally scoring. I did not hear what the USAPA response was but I would guess (and hope) that it was a big "NO".

So what is rally scoring, why do some want to see it implemented, and why do others want to see it die a fast death?

Rally scoring differs from regular scoring by awarding a point after every rally instead of only when the serving team wins the rally. In other words, the non-serving team can also score points. Proponents of the change like that the games are faster and more predictable as a result. Some think it will make the game more appealing to television audiences. They cite the 1999 change to rally scoring for volleyball as a success.

Opponents of the change base their opinion on the impact to the way the game is played. It is generally acknowledged that the receiving team has an advantage under current rules. The reason is the 2-bounce rule that requires the serving team to stay back in order to allow the service return to bounce. In almost all scenarios, the receiving team will get to the NVZ line first. If this advantage is also rewarded with a point, the serving team is put at an even greater disadvantage. 

The shift would certainly change the strategies of the game. But there also may be an unintended consequence - the lack of improvement of beginner and intermediate players. Chris Wolfe of Nspired Pickleball talks about that in his video JUST SAY NO!!!! Pickleball Rally Scoring.


  1. I find that Rally scoring serves a valid purpose when faster court turnaround is needed. If you belong to a club with a vast number of courts and you don't have large numbers of players sitting and waiting, then conventional scoring is fine. If you have large numbers waiting to play...Rally scoring gets the courts turning and that's the positive side. If it's managed right...there is room for both depending on the situation. I'm not a proponent of replacing the side out system but if court space is at a premium...The rally system can be helpful in spot situations.

    1. I have also seen rally scoring used in that situation. It is effective at shortening the game. But I do not like it because it changes the way the game is played. It is no longer pickleball but some derivative. If games need to be shorter, I would prefer to play to 7, 9, or some other number with a possible change to "win by one". At least the nature of play isn't impacted by the strategy change impact of rally scoring.

    2. Check out the essays on this topic by visiting the Pickleball OSC website. You can get to the site on Google by searching "Pickleball OSC". These Canadian pickleball players are experienced racquet and paddle players who have chosen to take a progressive approach to the game.

      The information on the Pickleball OSC website is both informative and well thought out. It's worth the time to read through the essays.

  2. We have a limited number of courts and more players. Rally scoring has made a big difference for daily play. Everyone gets to play a lot more and it has really been good. We still use the other scoring for tournament play. Don't understand what difference it makes if more people are having fun and playing more???

  3. Two very recent publications (October and November 2018) on rally point scoring seem to indicate the system is rapidly gaining in popularity:


    As well as this piece:

  4. We tried Rally Scoring for the first time yesterday since we had players waiting. It doesn't necessarily shorten the game since you can play to whatever total score you choose, but it does make the length of games much more consistent. We like it in Port Orford, Oregon.