The Rules are Changing ... from a player's perspectiveWayne Kerr
The 2021 Rule Changes from a Player’s Perspective
by Wayne Kerr
Pickleball is growing fast and becoming more competitive. Like most other sports rule changes are inevitable. As money and prestige transform sports there are those who are driven to win at any cost. We’re seeing some of this behavior in Pickleball, as well. Imagine you have just hit a hard serve deep into your opponent’s backhand corner causing an error, however, instead of conceding the point he or she calls a ‘Let’ forcing you to re-serve the ball. Unfortunately, there are players who do not need to imagine this scenario. Erasing a point or two can be the difference in a tightly contested match.
The ‘Let’ serve rule is one of the changes meant to help combat these types of situations. The definition (3.A.18) and section 4 (Service Lets) have been removed from the rules. Though it may be controversial to those who don’t like change, I believe this to be a very good modification. Some of the changes are merely clarifying existing rules, while others are to help improve the sport.
Almost everyone has heard about the Drop Serve, Rule 4.A.8 (a provisional change - meaning it is not necessarily a permanent change but will be given a try for most of 2021). Servers must release the ball from one of the server’s hands or dropped off the server’s paddle from any natural (un-aided) height and hit the ball after the ball bounces on the playing surface. The server’s release of the ball must be visible to the referee and the receiver. In matches without a
referee, the server’s release of the ball must be visible to the receiver. A replay shall be called before the return of serve if the release of the ball is not visible. The rules for feet placement (4.A.2 and 4.L) still apply. This rule was put into play primarily to make it easier for the physically impaired and beginners to serve. It will be interesting to see if it becomes a permanent rule.
Here are a few of the many rule changes that I found interesting.
Rule 2.E. 5.c You may write your name or hand draw a logo onto the playing surface of your paddle, as long as doing so does not penetrate the paddle surface or cause an enhancement to the spin capabilities. You cannot carve into or add material to the surface that could or would change the roughness of the surface. Adding a decal, for example, is not allowed. All markings must be in good taste.
Rule 3.A.2 Coaching. For clarification, the definition of ‘coaching’ has been changed. Communication of any information, including verbal, nonverbal, and electronic, from someone other than a player’s partner, that a player or team may act upon to gain an advantage or help them avoid a rules violation.
Rule 4.A.1 The entire score must be called before the ball is served. In tournament play, if the server serves the ball before the referee finishes calling the score a fault will be called against the server. However, if the server serves the ball before the referee begins calling the score, the ball is still dead from the previous rally and will be re-served by the server. I like this rule for recreation play. We often see players who serve while calling the score or correct the called score as the ball is in flight. This can be distracting for the return team.
There are many other rule changes, all of which are meant to enhance the sport or prevent the unscrupulous from gaining unfair advantage. I won’t go into all the changes since the Rule Change document is 84 pages long. I recommend reading all the rule changes. They can be found on the Pickleball Canada website: https://pickleballcanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Updated-2021-Change-Document-FINAL.pdf
Pickleball is a great game at both the recreational and competitive levels. I find it exciting that the pickleball rules are changing to improve our sport. Remember, pickleball is the most fun you can have on a court and the rule changes are intended to keep it that way.