I had originally planned to write a post called ”Lambs to the Slaughter”, about playing in an event when you know ahead of time you have no chance of medaling. But something happened to me at the Grand Canyon State Games, that I just can’t let go. You may consider me a poor sport, or think what I did was wrong. If so, you are free to let me know.
My partner and I, both 4.0’s knew we were outmatched in this age event. Every other team in the 60-64 women’s event were two 5.0’s or 4.5/ 5.0 teams. So my attitude going in was do your best and try to learn something along the way. What I learned is that the USAPA is correct in attempting to certify referees. I say this having refereed many, many events. It is a tough job and there are times I have left the court wondering if I missed a foot fault or should have seen a disputed line call. But a situation occurred today, that was totally within the control of the referee.
Pickleball Rule 4: Legal Serve
I knew both of our competitors, having played and watched both of them many, many times. I had even discussed with other observers that I considered one of the player’s serve (Player A) to sometimes be illegal. According to Rule 4.A and 4.A.1 the paddle must be:
- below the player’s wrist,
- the ball must be struck below the belly button, and
- the paddle must be traveling in an upward direction. (EDITOR’S NOTE: a reader correctly pointed out that the rule states that the “arm” must be moving in an upward arc.)
In Player A’s case, the serve Is often legal, but about 30% of the time, it is traveling in a horizontal manner.
We lost the first game 11-8. We were down in the second game when I called a time-out. During the time-out, I asked the ref if he considered Player A’s serve to be legal. He said that it was often borderline and sometimes illegal, but commented that since her serve didn’t appear to be an offensive weapon that he didn’t see the need to call a fault. I thought that odd. If, for example, I hit an easy to return ball while foot-faulting at the non-volley zone, would he not call it? But what I found more odd, was his next move. He called everyone to the net and said he wanted to review the rules of a legal serve because someone had questioned Player A’s serve. Since I was the only person who had approached the referee during the break, it was rather obvious who “someone” was. Needless to say, the rest of the game was a little less friendly.
And that’s fine. We would have likely lost the match even if I had said nothing. That is not my point. My point is, had she been called for an illegal serve when it occurred, her team would have had fewer opportunities to score points. Many of us have had times in our lives when we couldn’t get our serves in. This happened to me, years ago, and it is the reason I now serve backhand. Losing one’s serve is a devastating occurrence, particularly when it occurs in a tournament. Why is it a fault if one serves under the rules and misses the service area, but it is not a fault when someone violates the rules but gets it in? When one suddenly loses their serve in mid-tournament perhaps they should appeal to the referee and suggest a do-over, since that isn’t the way they always serve.
Pickleball Rule: The Ref was Wrong
In my opinion, the ref got it wrong TWICE First, he had no right to decide to not call a fault because her serve was not an offensive weapon. And second, he had no right to provide instruction to the offending team on the rules. For example, a referee is not permitted to tell a player they are in the wrong court before serving.
The USAPA is in the process of certifying referees. I have yet to decide if I will become certified. (Of course many agree I am certifiable….but I am not referring to refereeing here.) But certified, or not, I can assure you….if I believe a server does not adhere to the service rules a fault will be called. And the next time I see it, in my opponent? Not sure about that.