What Is a Rally In Pickleball?

There are a lot of terms floating around in pickleball. You will have to become quite familiar with the term ‘rally.’ This is because it will tie heavily into how points are scored in pickleball.

A rally in pickleball is just like a rally in any other racquet sport. The ball is hit between the two competitors (or two competing teams). A rally is a point from the time the ball is being served to the time that a fault occurs, i.e., the ball is hit out, hits the net, etc.

There are a few differences between the scoring system in pickleball and other similar sports. These changes are tied to the way that the rally works, so we figured we would take a bit of time to go into depth on everything here.

What Is a Rally In Pickleball?

What Is a Rally In Pickleball?

A pickleball rally is simply when the two competing players or teams hit the ball back and forth. There is no set number of hits for something to be a rally. Even a single-serve can be classed as a rally under the rules of pickleball. Of course, there is no maximum either. If you have good players, it isn’t uncommon for a rally to hit dozens and dozens of hits.

Read more here: How Long Does a Pickleball Game Last?

How Rally Serving Works

As you are about to discover, there are two ways in which pickleball is scored. You have the traditional pickleball scoring system and the rally scoring system. Before we discuss those, we want to talk a little about how the serving differs between each of them.

Serving Under a Traditional Pickleball Scoring System

If you have never played pickleball before, then the way in which the serving works can be somewhat confusing. However, we can assure you that it isn’t. When you actually play the game, you will quickly realize that serving is pretty easy. Here is how it works, assuming that you are playing doubles.

  • The serving team’s right player will serve the ball to the left-hand side of the court.
  • If the serving team scores a point, the serving players switch positions with their partners.
  • The original serving player continues to serve the ball to the opposite side of the court.
  • As long as the original serving player keeps scoring points, they will keep changing positions and serving.
  • When the original server starts a rally that leads to a fault for their team, the serving responsibilities switch to the second player on their team.
  • The same process will continue until the second player makes a fault.
  • Service will then switch to the opposite team.
  • When both players on a team have used up their serves, this is known as a side-out. 

This process is the same except for the first service of the game. In that case, a team will only be able to use one of their players for serving. This is to make the system a little bit fairer.

Serving Under a Rally Scoring System 

This system is much easier to understand at the completion of a rally, the player that serves switches.

How The Traditional Pickleball Scoring System Works 

As with the way in which serving works in traditional pickleball, the scoring system may seem confusing at first. However, it is quite simple.

Only the team that started the rally with a serve is able to score. They will score if their opponent makes a fault (i.e., misses the ball, hits it out, hits the net). As we said before, as long as the opposing team continues to make faults, the team will continue to serve.

The only way in which the non-serving team can start to score points is if they force a side-out. A side-out occurs when both of the servers on the opposite team have made a fault. This means that their service is up. 

When a side-out occurs, the service switches to the other team. This team will now have to win their rallies if they want to score points.

Because it can be quite tough to win points under the traditional pickleball scoring system, the score tends to go to 11. However, teams will normally have to win by at least 2 points before claiming victory. This means that a game between two evenly matched teams can often go on for a while. 

Read more here: How to Play Pickleball.

How Rally Scoring Works

As with the service part, rally scoring is dead simple.

A point has to be scored at the conclusion of every rally.

This means that the player or team that wins the rally will get the point. That team does not have to be the serving team!

Because both teams can score points during a rally, these games tend to go a little bit faster. Because of that, you will often find that games that use the rally scoring system tend to go up to 15-20 points per game.

There are no requirements for how many points a team must win by. However, most players just go with 2, like the traditional scoring system.

If you are playing a fun game of pickleball, then it may be worth using the rally scoring system instead. Players that are serious about their pickleball will often stick to the traditional pickleball scoring system. However, some people find that the game can be a bit bland like that, and, in some cases, a team may not even get the opportunity to score once.


A rally in pickleball is what the entire game is based around. It is the process of hitting the ball between the two opposing sides of the court.

If you use the traditional pickleball scoring system for a rally, then only the serving team can score points.

Suppose you use the rally scoring system when playing pickleball (the more casual scoring system). In that case, both teams can win points during a rally. The winner of the rally always picks up a point.

Do you know what pickleball paddles are made out of? Check this article: What are Pickleball Paddles Made Of?

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