How Do You Score In Racquetball?
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Racquetball is an intriguing indoor sport. I see the courts every time I go into my gym and I find myself wanting to give it a try.
The only problem is, I honestly don’t know how it is played. What are the rules, or how do you score?
So, what are the basic rules of racquetball? Simply put, the point of the game is to outscore your opponent by getting to the decided upon score first. It is usually played in a three-game match, so generally the best of three wins the match. In competitions, games are usually scored to 15.
But that is not all there is to the game. There are more details on how to play, different types of racquetball you can play, lines on the court and even safety and equipment to consider.
The Basic Rules of Racquetball
Before you can begin playing, you need to decide with your opponent on a score that needs to be reached in order to win a game. Like I mentioned above, in most competitions the score is usually 15, but you and your opponent can change that to a higher or lower score depending on your needs.
Once you’ve decided on the score the basic rules are as follows:
- Decide who serves first.
- Player serves the ball and the game begins.
- Once served, the opposing player needs to hit the ball against the wall in front before it bounces twice.
a. The ball can be hit before or after it has bounced once.
b. The returning player can use the other walls and ceiling to get the ball to the front wall as long as the ball does NOT hit the floor before reaching the front wall.
- The serving player returns the ball in the same manner and this goes on between the two players until someone wins the rally.
- The rally is won when one person does not get to the ball before the second bounce or the returning ball hits the floor before it gets to the front wall.
- If the serving player wins the rally, they get a point. Only the serving player can win points.
- If the returning player wins the rally, they win the serve – so they serve to start the next rally.
- When a player reaches the decided score, the game is over.
- There are usually 3 games to a match – the best of three wins the match.
These are the general rules of the game but there are also rules about the different aspects of the sport, and there are some varying rules for different types of racquetball.
Read the complete guide about the rules of the game by clicking here!
Types of Racquetball
What I found as I tried to learn more about the sport, is that generally there are three different types of racquetball:
- Cut Throat
The basic rules apply to all of these ways to play, but they do have some distinct differences
Singles is a game of two people playing against each other, and it is the way the game if most often played.
Doubles is when there are four people playing, two players per team. This is also a popular way to play the sport.
Cut-throat has three players all playing against one another. The server pretty much plays against the two other players acting as one team trying to prevent the server from scoring.
Sometimes in a cut-throat match, the players try to get to 7 points to win instead of the normal 15 points.
While the basic rules apply to each of these methods, there are some more in-depth rules that also apply but may vary slightly.
More In-Depth Rules
There are more rules that apply to things you do in the game such as:
- Court Lines
Understanding these rules will also help you to not only play the game but to also not make a fool of yourself when playing.
Understanding what the lines on the court mean will help you with the other more in-depth rules. This site has a great image and explanation of the court. Here is a summary of those lines:
- Service Zone – consists of the following lines:
a. Service Line: This line is the one that is close to the front wall. In the next section, I will explain its importance
b. Short Line: This is the line behind the service line, it divides the court in half. It also plays an important role during serving.
- Service Boxes – An area by the side walls inside the service zone that is important when playing doubles.
- Receiving Line – This is the farthest line from the front wall. The returning player must not cross this line until:
a. The ball bounces after a successful serve
b. The ball crosses the receiving line before bouncing
c. If the receiving player does cross the line before those things the serving player gets a point.
Now that we know the lines, let’s look at what makes a successful serve.
Where to Stand
The serving player needs to be in the serving box that we discussed above. That means they need to be above the short line and behind the service line.
If they cross either of those lines, they lose the serve and their opponent then gets to serve the ball.
The receiving player needs to be behind the receiving line until the ball either hits the floor or passes the receiving line. If they move before then the serving player gets a point.
If you are playing doubles both teams need to have one player in the service box.
They cannot leave the service box until the ball has passed the short line or it’s a fault. They also need to be facing the back wall during the serve.
What Makes a Good Serve
In order to make a good serve, the serving player has to bounce the ball on the ground only once then strike it against the front wall with the racket.
Keep in mind that the ball has to stay in the service zone or that’s a fault.
If the ball bounces more than one time, it’s called a side out, I’ll explain what those are in a second.
The ball needs to hit the front wall first and go past the short line before it bounces in order for the serve to be valid.
The ball can also hit one side wall before it bounces and still be valid, but it does have to bounce between the short line and the back wall. If you hit it too hard and it hits the back wall before bouncing, it’s a fault.
In a game of doubles, if the serve hits a partner in the service box it’s a fault and the other team gets to serve.
There are a few types of serving faults the main ones are:
- Short Serve – when the ball bounces before passing the short line.
- Long Serve – when the ball hits the back wall before bouncing.
- Ceiling Serve – when the ball hits the front wall then hits the ceiling.
- Three Wall Serve – when the ball hits the front wall then hits both side walls before bouncing.
- Screen Serve – when the serve was successful but the ball flies so close to the server that the receiving player can’t have a clear view of the ball.
If you hit a faulty serve you get one more chance to serve, if the second serve is faulty then it becomes the other players turn to serve.
A side out is where you immediately lose your turn to serve and it goes to the other player. This happens when:
- You serve two faults in a row
- If the ball does not hit the front wall on the serve (non-front wall serve).
- If the ball hits the front wall, then hits the serving player or their gear.
- Illegal hit or serve – meaning the ball was hit with something other than the correct part of the racquet (handle, body part), or is hit more than once or carried by the racquet.
- Faking a serve – meaning you started the motion of the serve but stopped it and did not serve the ball.
In doubles, if the serving player hits their partner it is a fault not a side out.
Once you’ve mastered serving correctly, you’ll want to know how to score in the game.
Only the serving player or team has the ability to score points. They can either score a point if they are successful or lose the serve if they are not.
Meaning, if you served and the other player or team misses the ball or faults you will get a point.
If you miss the ball or fault you lose your turn to serve and it goes to the other player or team.
You’ll want to decide before the game starts how many points you want to play to (usually 15 in competitions), and how many points you have to win by (usually 1 but you can decide on more if you want).
There are usually three games in a match, and the player or team who wins the best of three games wins the match. Some tournaments do 5 game matches, so that is an option as well.
The third game in the match is played as the tiebreaker. So, if both players or teams have won a game each then you move on to the third game to determine the match winner.
There wouldn’t be a need for a third game if one player or team won both games previously.
The rules for the tiebreaker game are a little different. You determine who serves first by figuring out who scored more points between the two previous games.
Whoever scored the most gets to serve first. If both players scored the same, then I’d suggest flipping a coin to decide who gets to serve.
The tiebreaker game is normally played to 11 points and only needs to be won by one point.
Now that you know the rules, you might want to learn some helpful tips!
Helpful Racquetball Tips
Knowing the rules of a game is important, but it is also important to know some of the techniques too.
As I was researching the rules of racquetball, I also came across these helpful tips and techniques and I thought I would share them with you!
Gripping Your Racket
This one seems too simple, but what I found is a good grip is crucial to being able to direct the ball where you want it to go.
And for as seemingly simple as it is, it’s kind of hard to explain. This video (YouTube) does a great job explaining it.
Basically, for the forehand grip, you want all your fingers on the grip. And the man in the video describes it like you are shaking hands with the racquet.
The backhand grip is just a slight turn back from the forehand grip.
Swinging Your Racquet
There are lots of different types of swings, but I’m not going to go into too much detail about that. What I want to share is the basic foundation of a good swing.
The foundation to a good swing is in these steps I found at Racquetballworld.com:
- Hold your racquet up, not pointing toward the ground.
- Step into the swing as you go to hit the ball
- Lead with your elbow and follow with the rotation of your hips and lower body.
- Hit through the ball while swinging flat.
These steps will help you have accuracy and power as you hit the ball.
Using proper footwork will help you navigate the court, hit accurate shots and help you to not wear out too soon. Two important footwork skills are:
Shuffling will help you to be continuously ready for the ball and able to adjust to where it gets hit without spending a lot of energy or compromising the integrity of your stance.
It will also help you to be able to have more power in your shots because you won’t have to overextend.
Pivoting will help you to be able to track the ball without having to turn around, and to get out of the way without having to lose your position.
Both of these techniques will save you time and effort.
Just like with any other sport, you will want to make sure you have the right gear. The basics are:
- Court Shoes
Although this list looks simple, there are a few things to consider when looking for any of these items.
When looking for a racquet you’ll want to consider the weight, material, and how the grip feels in your hand. These things will directly impact how you play.
Wondering whether using a tennis racket is a good idea or not? Take a look on this article and get the answer.
A good pair of court shoes is essential for not only playing well but also avoiding injury.
The floors on a racquetball court can be slippery so you will want shoes with great traction that fit comfortably.
If you need to buy a pair of shoes and need some help, we have made a complete guide on how to choose the perfect shoes for racquetball.
This one doesn’t need much explaining or thought. Just make sure you are using a racquetball ball and you should be fine.
Last but not least is eyewear. Eyewear is a must! In racquetball, the ball can get moving upwards of 100 mph.
We have talked about the importance of wearing goggles in this post. Check it out if you want to know a bit more.
With speeds that fast you will want to make sure your eyes are protected with non-breakable plastic eyewear.
Now that you know the rules, some helpful tips and what kind of gear you need, you are ready to enjoy the fast-paced sport of racquetball!