YOU’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME AND YOUR OPPONENT DOES SOMETHING YOU THINK IS ILLEGAL—BUT YOU’RE NOT SURE. WHAT DO YOU DO?
A: If you had time (of course, you won’t midmatch), you could check the USA Pickleball and IFP Official Rulebook, updated for 2022. But since we did have time, we turned to Mark Peifer, managing director of officiating for USA Pickleball, to learn about recent tweaks to on-court rules—and review a few unchanged rules that some players may never have heard of.
THESE SCENARIOS WILL GET YOU PREPPED
1. You are all decked out in a logoed baseball cap, earbuds, mismatched socks, and a neon-yellow shirt. Which of these (if any) is not allowed? Thanks to a rule instituted this year—one of 10 significant changes—earbuds are not allowed in games (so no player can be secretly coached). As for the hat and socks: USA Pickleball doesn’t care if you have a logo on your cap or one sock is purple and one is green. But if your neon-yellow shirt is the same color as the ball, we hope you brought a change of clothes in case your opponent objects and the tournament director agrees that it’s a distraction.
2. Your opponent hits the ball over the net and it’s obviously going out. You don’t want it to fly into your neighbors’ court, so you grab it midair. Legal? Polite, yes. Legal, no. “That would be a fault on you,” says Peifer. “In tournament play, you have to let my ball bounce.” However, in rec play, it’s not uncommon to stop balls from flying into adjacent courts—just make sure you agree with your opponents ahead of time to catch any obviously errant balls.
3. In the middle of a game, a ball in your shorts pocket falls onto the court. Your opponent calls a fault. Fair or not? Your opponent is right: According to a new rule, if a player accidentally drops a spare ball during a rally, it will result in a fault. (In an officiated match, a referee is responsible for ensuring before play that there are no extra balls on the court.)
4. I’ve noticed that my partner likes to serve sidearm, with the paddle head above his wrist. Should I correct him? Yes, you should. In a volley serve, the highest point of the paddle head cannot be above the place where the wrist joint bends. (In a drop serve, the paddle head can be above the wrist.)
5. When your opponent serves the ball, it grazes the net and lands in the correct court. Should he serve again, or should you play the ball? Play it! “This is probably the most controversial rule we put in place last year,” says Peifer. The reason for the change? Under the old rules, any player could call a let on a serve. “If I was the receiver and didn’t like a serve—say, my opponent aced me—I could just claim a let. I didn’t have to prove it touched the net,” says Peifer. This rule avoids the dilemma.
6. My opponent called the score, waited 15 seconds, then dropped the ball and let it bounce twice before serving it across the net. Was that all legal? Not quite all of it. The rules say players must serve within 10 seconds of calling the score. But that double bounce is fine: If a player is using a drop serve, a ball can bounce as many times as she likes (within 10 seconds) before it’s hit.
Read the 2022 rule book online (at usapickleball.org/what-is-pickleball/ifp-official-rules/), download a free copy, or pay $9.50 for a hard copy at shopusapickleball.com/collections/books.