One of the more intimidating concepts for the new pickleball player is the pressure of keeping score. While games are generally played to 11 points (win by 2 points) there are nevertheless scoring nuances in pickleball. Although pickleball scoring is pretty straight-forward in singles, it can be particularly confusing when playing doubles.
Score Only on the ServeThe first thing to understand about pickleball scoring is that points are scored only on the serve. The receiving team cannot score. This applies to both singles and doubles. Obviously, while the serving team wants to win the rally to score points, the objective of the receiving team is to win the rally(s) and induce a “side-out” so they can serve and, ultimately, add to their score.
The Player on the Right Always Serves First to Start the GameTo negate the inherent advantage that the serving team has when serving first to start the game, only one player – the player on the right side of the court – gets to serve during the first service turn of the game. After this initial service turn, each subsequent service turn is comprised of serves by both players on the serving team – beginning with the player on the right side of the court.
You Won a Point – Now Rotate with your Partner!If the serving team wins the rally (thereby, scoring a point) – the server rotates sides (from right-to-left or left-to-right) with his/her partner and serves to the receiver in the opposite court. Each time a point is scored, the partners on the serving side alternate sides. The receiving side never alternates sides.
What Happens When the Serving Team Loses a Rally?When a rally is lost when the first server is serving (with the exception of the first service turn of the game), the serve goes to the partner. When a rally is lost when the second server is serving, the serve reverts to the other team.
Announcing the Score with 3 Numbers — Huh?Pickleball doubles scores – as opposed to singles scores – are always comprised of three numbers, called out in the following order: (1) server’s score, (2) receiver’s score and (3) the server number (either 1 for the first server or 2 for the second server). For example if the serving team has tallied 5 points, the receiving team 4 points and the second of the two servers is serving, the score would be announced as “5-4-2.”
The Player Number is Announced as “2” During the First Service Turn of the GameIt may be extraordinarily confusing at first, but it’s important to note that the player number is typically announced as “2” in the very first service turn of the game – even though he/she is the first server! Remember, only one player – the player that started on the right side of the court – gets a service turn on the first service turn of the game. Prior to the very first rally of the game – before any points have been played – the score would be announced as “0-0-2.”
For Those Prone to Forget (Like Me) – Use Colorful Wristbands!After playing a long point – or simply because of the age demographics associated with pickleball – it can be easy to forget who is serving, to whom and to which court. To minimize confusion it is generally effective to simply remember which player served first for each side – and have that person wear a colorful wristband. If the rotation is executed correctly, a team’s score will always be even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10) when that player (the one with the colorful wristband) is on the right side of the court and odd (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) when that player is on the left side of the court.
Keeping score seems intimidating – but, luckily, after playing several times it will become second-nature. See you on the courts!
Synopsis: If You Start Out Serving, The Score Will Always Be Even When You Are on the Right Side of the Court
February 4, 2016 By Prem Carnot
Ever heard your partner or opponent say, “The score must be even because you were over there before and now you’re over here…”?
You’re not the only one who’s heard such a proclamation and just moves obediently in the direction they’re pointing while wondering, “WHICH number is even? What does that even mean? And how they heck does that tell you anything anyway?”
If you’ve found yourself in that confusing situation, then this article is for you.
This article is NOT about the basic rules of pickleball scoring (click here for those). Instead, it will walk you through the logic and patterns that arise from the basic pickleball rules so that you can use them to figure out the score in those inevitable circumstances (which seem to be unique to pickleball) when no one on the court remembers what the score is.
In this article, you’ll learn:
By “side of the court,” I mean, when you are FACING the net, whether you are on the right-hand side of the court (in tennis, “the deuce court”, where your partner is on your left), or whether you are on the left-hand side of the court (in tennis, “the ad court”), which means your partner’s on your right.
So here’s the secret: At the beginning of every game, make a point to note which player on each team is starting on the right side of the court.
Easy enough? Great! That’s why we started simpler. Maybe you already do that, maybe not, but keep reading for the more advanced tips.
But before we get into Secrets #2 and #3, let me remind you about two pickleball rules that are particularly relevant to figuring out the score and whose turn to serve it is.
The Relevant RulesRelevant Rule #1
As you (hopefully) know, the rule in pickleball is that the player whoever is on the right side of the court serves FIRST at the beginning of the game (and each time your team receives the ball).
We’ll often say that you will “serve first” because you will serve your team’s first serve of the game, but thanks to Rule #2 listed below, this does NOT necessarily mean that you will ALWAYS be the first server each time your team gets the ball back.
Relevant Rule #2
Each time a team scores a point, the players switch sides of the court. i.e. the player on the left moves to the right side of the court and the player on the right moves to the left side of the court.
Secret #2: If You Start Out Serving, The Score Will Always Be Even When You Are on the Right Side of the CourtTogether, the two rules above mean that if you start out serving on the right, then every time your team’s score is EVEN, you’ll be on the RIGHT side of the court. (And, therefore, that every time your team’s score is ODD, you’ll be on the LEFT side of the court.)
(Since the “deuce” and “ad” tennis terms don’t directly apply to pickleball, it’s more common to call the right-hand side of the court the “even” side and the left hand the “odd” side. Again, this is because when we track the FIRST server, the score will always be EVEN when they are on the RIGHT (deuce) side of the court and ODD when they are on the LEFT (ad) side of the court.)
In practice, we’ll sometimes say, “You’re the EVEN server”. Also FYI, this is one of the few situations where it is socially acceptable to call your partner ODD.
Need a little example to understand exactly WHY this is true?
You’re not the only one.
Here ya go…
So: Let’s say your name is Chris and your partner’s name is Pat.
Let’s follow the tournament tradition, where we’ll mark you, the first server, with red to keep track of your position throughout the game. In a tournament, it would be a red bracelet but for our purposes we’ll show your paddle red.
Since you’re the first server, Relevant Rule #1 means that you’ll start the game on the RIGHT side of the court. Your partner Pat will start on the--Yes, you guessed it!—LEFT side of the court.
Okay, so, it’s the first serve of the game…
The score is 0-0-2 or, as some some groups say, 0-0-Start.
(Quick Sidebar: The USAPA has recently ruled that 0-0-Start is not valid for official matches. Although 0-0-2 can be confusing for beginners, if you consider the last number in the score as an indicator of whether it is your team’s FIRST (Score is 1) or LAST (Score is 2) chance to serve, it makes more sense that the beginning score is 0-0-2 because it’s your LAST chance to serve before the other team gets the ball. Okay, let’s be frank, it still doesn’t actually make sense but hopefully that gives you a better way to explain it to newbies.)
Now back to our first set of the game, when the score is 0-0-2.
If we can fudge and call “0” an EVEN number, our logic holds: You are on the RIGHT, and the score is EVEN.
January 3, 2015 By Prem Carnot 9 Comments
Maybe you’ve learned the value of the dink, or you’re beginning to consider it at least…
If you’re like one woman who wrote to me this past month, maybe you have a group of people with whom you regularly play the dink game, and you’ve gotten pretty good at it…
But then you go to another venue, or you play at a different time, and you’re facing off against the “less enlightened” players who are still just smacking the heck out of every shot…
You know that you should be able to beat them (in theory at least) but every time you try to return one of their shots, the ball whizzes up and off your paddle, landing way out of bounds – or down in the net – or up and into their wheelhouse – and it ain’t pretty.
My Top 5 Strategies to Play Against BangersSo how DO you return those hard shots–let alone even take back control of the point and force them to play YOUR game?
Most of the tips and strategies I’ll offer in this post are covered in one place or another in my book, Smart Pickleball: The Pickleball Guru’s Guide, but in this post I’ll compile them all in one place for you and offer a little bit more perspective…
#1 – Keep Your Paddle UpYou have no chance of returning those fast balls if your paddle is below the net, or, worse, down by your knees. Bring your paddle up (at least as high as your sternum) after EVERY shot you hit.
#2 – Learn to Anticipate the SlamWatch for when your opponent pulls their paddle way back behind them for the wind-up before the slam. This is your cue that they are gonna hit the ball hard, which can give you those extra milliseconds to get yourself ready and in position.
#3 – Modify Your Ready PositionIn general, I am not an advocate for one ready position being the “right” way. I always like to say that if you take 10 of the top players in the country, you’ll see a number of different ready positions based on their sporting background. My stance is usually, “Do what works for you.”
But, when it comes to playing against slammers, one way does seem to work better for most people, so if what you’re doing DOESN’T seem to work for you, then try holding your paddle parallel to the net in the backhand position, aimed slightly downward.
(Remember, no matter what position you prefer in general, as soon as you see the person winding up to hit their shot, you can switch to this modified ready position.)
If you are holding your paddle perpendicular to the net, like the tennis ready position, when the ball comes, chances are you’re rotating your elbow out to hit a forehand but you’ll hit the ball while your paddle face is still pointing about 45 degrees from the net, which is what causes the ball to go out of bounds.
#4 – Loosen Your GripLoosen your grip on your paddle. This is my first tip for how to absorb the momentum of the ball, but it is one that may seem counter-intuitive. Often, the second you know you’re playing against a slammer your body tightens up, you white knuckle your paddle a little bit, and put yourself on guard. But all THAT does is mess up your shot and give your opponent a rock-hard backboard to take aim at. When you loosen your grip you are, firstly, reminding yourself to relax and loosen up in general. Even more importantly, you can “aikido” or “judo” the shot (apologies to any black-belts reading this). When the ball hits your paddle, the vibration and momentum will be deadened upon impact, so you can absorb most of the energy of your opponent’s shot, then use what’s left to direct the ball where you want it to go.
#5 – Retract Your Paddle Slightly at the Moment of ImpactBack when I used to play cricket (and I imagine it’s similar in baseball), we were always taught not to catch the ball out at arm’s length but to reach all the way out and then bring the ball in toward our body as we caught it. This is the same principle.
It’s subtle, and maybe suited only for the more advanced players, but if you can manage to pull your paddle toward you an inch or two at the moment of impact, you’ll go a long way toward deadening the ball.
If you watch any of the videos from the national level tournaments, you’ll be able to see how many of the top players use these strategies when they play against slammers, and it’s what allows them to return every smash shot with a dink (when they want to, of course).
So please, post in the comments below what new insights this article has given you and keep me posted as to how it changes your game next time you go out to play against those slammers.
I have watched a lot of movies in my time. I can honestly say that my favorite movie line is Clint Eastwood's "A man's got to know his limitations" from a Dirty Harry movie. Nothing could more accurately describe the first strategy recommendation from Noel Whites' pickleball study mentioned in my post on Pickleball Statistical Analysis. The first conclusion listed by Noel was:
70% of the time winning teams have less unforced errors (many times significantly less) than the losing teams.
What does this tell us? It says that the team with fewer unforced errors will win 7 out of 10 games on average. That means players should give up the hero aspiration that creates attempts to hit risky winners. Instead, players should make greater efforts to keep the ball in play while waiting for opponents to err.
Now, let's dive further into the analysis to see how it makes sense.
First, let's define "unforced error". In Pickleball Terminology, I defined unforced error as "A player missing a shot that should normally be made". Noel's definition is similar: "any ball that is hit right to the individual and he/she has an easy opportunity to do anything they choose to in the return hit because they do not have to move much, lean, reach, etc. to hit the return AND the individual hits the ball into the net or hits it out". He also notes that unforced errors change with the level of play. In other words, "unforced errors at the 4.0+ level of play may be considered a forced error at a lower level of play".
The study also notes that "most players, maybe 85%, seem to have little idea how much real impact unforced errors have on who wins and who loses". I assume that is one reason why he undertook the study. That certainly is the reason I chose to include it here. From the study:
"The average total number of UE’s (unforced errors) per game is 16. That averages 4 UE’s per player but typically one or two players of the four has a high majority of the UE’s. Considering there are 180 hits per game (on the average) for games at the 4.0+ level, 16 UE’s translates to about 9% of the total hits in the game. 9% seems like no big deal but this 9% of hits ends up being a powerful determiner of winning and losing because…….the average number points earned per game that come from UE’s is 6. Given that most games usually have only 15 to 21 total points scored before one team wins means that anywhere from 28% to 40% of the actual points scored in a given game come off of Unforced Errors."
Noel surmises (and I agree) that lower level matches - at the 3.0 and 3.5 levels - would show an increasing percentage of points lost due to unforced errors. While he did not complete a full analysis of play at the lower levels, he did have statistics comparing the number of shots per game. In comparison to the 180 hits in 4.0+ games, the numbers declined to 140 hits and 128 hits at the 3.5 and 3.0 levels, respectively. Assuming that lower levels of play equate to more inconsistency, it seems reasonable to also assume that more unforced errors occur at these levels. Combine the increased number of unforced errors with the reduced number of total hits, the percentage of rallies ending with unforced error grows significantly. As Noel states, "you can easily speculate that Unforced Errors play an even bigger role in the winning and losing of games at the 3.0 and 3.5 levels".
Okay, that's a lot of numbers that probably cause many heads to spin. So, what is the bottom line of this analysis? I will make three recommendations:
Like shot selection and shot execution, footwork is very important. Read your opponents paddle, and get into position early, and bend your knees. Make a smooth swing and strike the ball in front of you.
Remember the three “P”s.
Preparation … anticipate where the ball will land, get into position early with a smooth swing.
Placement … hit the ball above the net, and in-bounds.
Pace..keep the ball in play at all times.
These are three things beginners and experts alike try to implement every time they step on the court.
Your brain will try to help you hit your target, and you can be as general or specific as you want. Here is an example we use all the time - “Aim small, miss small” means to have as tiny a target as your skill allows.
Positive intention will help with all of your shots. Before serving try this. Walk yourself through HOW your serving it going to go and WHERE it’s going to go like this - “the serve goes over the net by one to three feet, and lands near the baseline and toward my opponent’s backhand.” Your brain has been told the instructions and now you body is ready to execute. Give it a shot, no pun intended!
The return and groundstrokes have pretty much the same intention. Learn and practice the basics on all of your shots, briefly walk yourself through the process mentally and soon you will be playing better. The more you do this, placement and control will become high priorities for you, and will lead to shots that eliminate unforced errors, keeping the ball in play, and allowing your opponent to make the mistakes.
Synopsis: Aging was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense.
The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles -
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS MARCH 23, 2017
The toll that aging takes on a body extends all the way down to the cellular level. But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe, because they do not regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigor and number.
A study published this month in Cell Metabolism, however, suggests that certain sorts of workouts may undo some of what the years can do to our mitochondria.
Exercise is good for people, as everyone knows. But scientists have surprisingly little understanding of its cellular impacts and how those might vary by activity and the age of the exerciser.
So researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., recently conducted an experiment on the cells of 72 healthy but sedentary men and women who were 30 or younger or older than 64. After baseline measures were established for their aerobic fitness, their blood-sugar levels and the gene activity and mitochondrial health in their muscle cells, the volunteers were randomly assigned to a particular exercise regimen.
Some of them did vigorous weight training several times a week; some did brief interval training three times a week on stationary bicycles (pedaling hard for four minutes, resting for three and then repeating that sequence three more times); some rode stationary bikes at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a few times a week and lifted weights lightly on other days. A fourth group, the control, did not exercise.
After 12 weeks, the lab tests were repeated. In general, everyone experienced improvements in fitness and an ability to regulate blood sugar.
There were some unsurprising differences: The gains in muscle mass and strength were greater for those who exercised only with weights, while interval training had the strongest influence on endurance.
But more unexpected results were found in the biopsied muscle cells. Among the younger subjects who went through interval training, the activity levels had changed in 274 genes, compared with 170 genes for those who exercised more moderately and 74 for the weight lifters. Among the older cohort, almost 400 geneswere working differently now, compared with 33 for the weight lifters and only 19 for the moderate exercisers.
Many of these affected genes, especially in the cells of the interval trainers, are believed to influence the ability of mitochondria to produce energy for muscle cells; the subjects who did the interval workouts showed increases in the number and health of their mitochondria — an impact that was particularly pronounced among the older cyclists.
It seems as if the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense, says Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, a professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s senior author. In fact, older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did — suggesting, he says, that it is never too late to benefit from exercise
Art has been playing pickleball since Nov 2017. He enjoys playing this active, low physical impact game of skill and strategy. And finds that it can be played at all levels competitively while being a wonderful way to make new friends.