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Pickleball Rules, or not — 14 Comments

  1. Based upon your comments regarding this situation, I would agree that the Referee was incorrect, though I am unsure if the USAPA certification plan will eliminate this problem, Officiating at any level of any sports is a demanding task. One that requires knowledge of the rules, their proper application, and the Courage to make the call. While the first 2 can be learned by most, the last is a matter of character and personality. My opinion is that those who officiate any sport need to form a sacred pact with the rules committee to enforce the rules of the game to the best of their ability. That means making the hard or controversial call when required.

  2. I believe the rules of the game, make the game what it is.
    The referees aren’t judges, they are the score keepers and policemen of the court. If you commit a crime (fault) the policemen need to make the arrest (call the fault) only. It’s not their job to interpret the law, but to enforce it.

  3. You make good points about the officiating of the pickleball rules. I understand completely what you are saying. However, there is value for an official that makes decisions based on the intent of the rule, which I believe was what this official was trying to do. It seems that the way officials have been told to handle this situation when the legality of a serve is being questioned is for the official to warn the offending server that he will be watching for future violations.

  4. HI Nancy, just read your facebook on the ref’s reaction for the illegal serve. I so very much agree with you 1,000 percent. Too often I see players who serve illegally. As I ref, I ALWAYS give them a warning. If the opponent asks me to check out the serve, I do and will tell them the serve is illegal. The ref you had did not have the right to “call everyone in” and discuss this item. Shame on them….A rule is a rule and the fact that SEVERAL refs NEVER call illegal serves is a shame. What a shame about the ref. I hope you told the tournament director. Although I’m sure it would have sounded like sour grapes.

    Nancy Kraus

  5. I agree with your position on the serve and how the referee handled the situation, but I referee a lot of games and to be honest it is hard sometimes to tell if the serve is illegal if it’s borderline. Pat Kane serve comes to mind, his serve is so close they video taped his and although to someone refereeing looks illegal is in fact legal.

    John Grasso

    • John, I agree there are many serves that are difficult to call. My rule of thumb is the same as line calls, if I am not 100% I don’t call it. And often times, a borderline serve is sometimes legal and other times not.

  6. Illegal serves are so often overlooked. Some people start with a “slightly illegal serve” and then when it’s not called they gravitate to a more illegal serve. It needs to be nipped in the bud with everyone being taught correctly AND then being called out before they start to think it must be OK. It’s almost too late after that as they are winning points with it, regularly, and questioning it can look like sour grapes. Really smart players will wait until they need a point desperately to throw in that illegal serve. Referee training should cover this aspect of the game, thoroughly and with practice the Ref will feel confident in calling them. Once faults for illegal serves begin to be called in tournaments, on a regular basis, only then will players start taking it seriously. Until then, that serve rule is often ignored.

  7. Lots of illegal serves in all tournaments.
    Almost impossible to catch unless slow motion camera are used on all matches
    (Another impossible requirement).
    Will this turn out like Sports Instant Replay, slowing games up?

    The best and simple solution is Steve Paranto’s “Drop Serve” recommendation.
    So simple and easy to judge.
    Look up “Steve Paranto Utube” to fully understand it.

  8. The first USAPA rule book,produced by Sid Williams in 1984,(Sid originated the USAPA )had this rule on serving:
    “The serve must be made with an underhand stroke and contact with the ball is made below the waist”
    This rule remained in the 1985 and 1987 USAPA rule books ( I helped write the 1987 Rule Book).

    The USAPA changed the serving rules, making the serve impossible to judge without the aid of a slow motion video camera.

    The basic rule of ” below the belly button” instead of the waist encourages violations , in my opinion..

  9. Should the original statement of service rules said that the paddle must be traveling upward? My rulebook says “The arm must be moving
    in an upward arc”. Arm, not paddle. If the arm is swinging in the upward arc, but the head of the paddle is descending due to some pivoting or twisting of the wrist, I would say the serve would nonetheless be legal.

    Only if the original poster means that some corner of the paddle head is above the wrist when contact with the ball is made, I cannot agree with fault calls simply because the paddle moves a certain way.

    My opinion would possibly change if the assertion that forearm is moving downward & that it is that action, rather than twisting of wrist is what causes the padde to move down – but this just muddies the waters. Bottom line – serving rules say nothing about the paddle’s movement. In future posts I recommend not summarizing the rules – quote them precisely instead. Actually the original poster’s phrase of “According to Rule 4.A and 4.A.1 the paddle must be …” would correctly be “According to Rule 4.A.1 the ARM …”.

    • You are correct and I will attempt to be more careful in the future. I have updated the post based upon your comment. However, my point in writing the post was that all pickleball rules should be applied according to the Rule Book rather than the opinion of the referee. She was striking the ball, at times, above her waist and with a horizontal motion. Had a fault been called, she would have lost her serve and thus the opportunity to earn a point. The great news is that the day after the incident the player and I had a lovely conversation about it! Her willingness to talk about it was one of the greatest shows of sportsmanship I have personally experienced!