Pickleball Selection Rules: Serve, Receive, and Switch Ends

Est. Reading: 3 minutes

There are many great things about pickleball, and being fair to all players on the court is just one of them. With that, specific rules exist for choosing the server and receiver and switching places after every game.

These rules are covered in Section 5 of the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook. To make them easier to understand, we will discuss them as a question and answer. So, make sure you read them carefully and follow them religiously.

Who Will Serve at the Start of the Game?

The decision as to who shall serve at the start of a match is through any fair method, such as a coin toss. The winning player or team can choose to serve or receive or the starting end. If the winner chooses to serve or receive first, the loser will select the starting end. But if the winner decides the starting end, the loser chooses to serve or receive. Note that the selection is final and cannot be changed.

In Doubles, Can Teams Change the Starting Server Between Games?

Yes, they can. According to Section 5.A.2, teams in doubles can change the starting server between games, provided that they will inform the referee. In non-officiated matches, the team should inform their opponents. There is no fault or penalty if no notification was made. However, previously, failure to give notification would result in a fault once the serve had been made.

Moreover, the starting server for the game should wear a visible form of identification, which can be a wristband or a bracelet determined by the Tournament Director (TD). According to Section 13.C.4.e, the referee should check if the starting servers wear the required identification. The match will be forfeited if the starting server refuses to obey.

When Should Teams Switch Ends?

Pickleball tournament teams Since external factors exist, such as wind and sunlight, this rule promotes fairness since all players can play on both sides of the court. Below are the conditions where players should switch or change ends:

  • Teams should switch ends and the starting server after every game. They are given one minute for every end change. Since it’s considered a time-out, coaches are allowed to provide advice to players during this time.
  • Every end of the game for matches with two out of three games to 11 points
    • If there is a third game, teams should change ends once a player or team reaches 6 points.
    • According to the 2024 Rules Changes and Updates, the teams will not switch ends on game three if the first game of that match was forfeited due to the late arrival of players.
  • Every end of the game for matches with three out of five games to 11 points
    • If there is a fifth game, teams should switch ends once a player or team reaches a score of 6.
  • Once a team reaches a score of 8 in a one-game match to 15 points
  • Once a team reaches a score of 11 in a one-game match to 21 points


  1. If the teams fail to switch ends when required, it is not a fault and does not impact the score. 
  2. The player or team holding the serve will still serve for all the conditions.
  3. If the referee calls a technical foul after scoring the end change point and leads to a point loss to the serving team, it won't affect the completion of the end change.
  4. The referee should announce if there are only 15 seconds left on the end change time-out. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, these pickleball rules are simple and easy to follow. But to help you not forget them, consider your opponents your friends and treat them fairly. If the sun blinds them or the wind hinders their shots, share the consequences with them. After all, you would also like them to be fair to you.

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