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What Is A Rally? Ways To Keep Score In Pickleball

what is a rally in pickleball

Pickleball, once made popular in retirement communities around the country, is now taking the world by storm. It is no longer a recreational game reserved for your later years but, instead, is being played by elite athletes, pushing the sport to become faster and stronger. No longer is pickleball a game of dinks at the kitchen line. Counters, big swings, and offensive prowess mean pickleball is now a fast-paced, hard-hitting game that is more exciting than ever. And with that comes some of the longest rallies and new ways to keep score. Below, the Paddle Experts at JustPaddles outline everything you need to know about what is rally is and how to do rally scoring at your next game. 

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What is a rally in pickleball? 

With more fast-paced rallies than ever before, it’s important to understand exactly what a “rally” is. A rally in pickleball is the continuous back and forth that occurs after the service of the ball but before a fault. In layman's terms, a rally is what happens on the court after the serve. As these rallies become more intense, games can often last much longer. Traditional pickleball scoring, where a team can only earn a point while they control the serv, can make a competitive game last a long time. For example, if both teams are evenly matched it may be a while before a team is able to actually score, meaning there can be multiple rallies before any one team scores a point. 

What is rally scoring, and how does it work? 

As the game of pickleball continues to evolve, so do the rules. Some games (but not all) are moving to Rally Scoring. What is Rally Scoring? In a rally scoring system, a point would be scored by the team that wins the rally, regardless of if they are the serving team or the receiving team. With rally scoring, games will move much quicker because every missed shot counts! It forces you to take a safer play on shots and if you have multiple games going on (King or Queen of the Court format), games will finish at a more similar time to one another, which means more time playing and less watching and waiting!

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Rally scoring vs. "Traditional" scoring

Everyone isn’t on board with Rally Scoring, and as of now, pickleball as a whole is sticking with “Traditional Scoring” or ‘Side Out Scoring.’ ‘Traditional Scoring’ remains the official scoring system of pickleball, but recently, there has been a buzz in the pickleball world about ‘Rally Scoring,’ and even some events, Major League Pickleball in particular, have used it in some competitions.

Below is a breakdown of the Pros and Cons of Rally Scoring. These are opinion based, but if you have any other pros or cons, please let us know! 

Pros of rally scoring:

  • Faster games due to points scored each rally.
  • Allows ‘defense’ to score, not just offense.
  • Predictable game times.
  • Simpler to understand for new players.

Cons of rally scoring:

  • Again… allows ‘defense’ to score, not just offense. Depending on the kind of sport you’re looking for, this could be a negative.
  • Eliminates Server 1 and Server 2.
  • Changes the game completely! 
  • Comebacks are slim
  • Less long runs of one team scoring
  • Back and Forth Scoring

Becoming a student of pickleball will allow you to better understand the game and will make you a better player. If you are on top of the trends, rules, and players, the game slows down, and it’s easier to get to the top court. Rally Scoring is just the beginning. To learn more, check out our extensive pickleball glossary. And whether it’s rally scoring, court positioning, rule changes, or the latest and best pickleball paddles on the market, the team at JustPaddles has got you covered.


Looking for the perfect pickleball paddle? There are hundreds of paddles on the market, which is why we have an entire page dedicated to Pickleball Paddle Reviews! If you need more information, give us a call at 1-866-382-3465, email us at, or utilize our live chat to speak with a Paddle Expert today. We’re JustPaddles, and we’re with you from Click to Court!

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