December 8, 2022
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By Bob Unetich
2023 Rule Changes
The USA Pickleball Rules Committee considered a collection of suggestions for rule changes in 2022 and, as happened last year, several rule changes were approved and sent to the USA Pickleball Board of Directors for final approval.
The Rules Committee considered 78 suggestions from USA Pickleball members this year. I’ve highlighted the key rule changes that the committee and USA Pickleball board approved below. Not included are a small number of editorial changes. There was one rule change passed by the Rules Committee that the USA Pickleball board did not approve. In a repeat vote from last year, the one that did not pass related to how players determine if a ball is “out.” As a result, the wording of Rule 6.D.7 remains unchanged.
One change makes it clear that a tournament director can require a clothing change when a player wears clothing that is close to the color of the ball. In a related decision, Rule 2.G.4 was amended to permit apparel changes to happen as a non-chargeable time-out.
The issue of having the wrong score called, and the actions required by players, caused controversy in 2022. For 2023, the rules basically return to the 2021 wording, which permitted play to be stopped by anyone before the return of serve. I applaud this change to Rule 4.K.
During 2022, a player asking basic questions such as “Are we good?” caused some confusion about what a referee could say if the player was not the correct server or receiver, or not in the correct position. Under the new versions of 4.B.8 and 4.B.9, a referee, or even an opponent in non-officiated play, can identify any or all of the faults. This is another rule change that I applaud.
The spin serve resulting from an intentional hand toss that causes spin becomes illegal in 2023, and that also applies to the Drop Serve under Rule 4.A.6.b. Eliminating intentional hand-induced spins will change some service motions in 2023, but I think it makes the game more fair since not every player could perform an effective hand spin serve.
As a ref, I can tell you that enforcing the service motion rules is not easy. The reality is that service motion faults are rare in tournaments, although many refs see serves that are marginal. In 2023, referees will be able to call for a re-serve if a serve is marginal.
The method of using tiebreakers to decide round-robin winners in sanctioned tournaments was modified to make it easier to decide which team has won.
If a cracked ball has been discovered, the rules have long provided a means of deciding what action can be taken. In 2023, a “degraded” ball can also be replaced if both teams agree.
Finally, it has been decided that an equipment time-out can be taken without a player needing to use a regular time-out, and the time permitted can be of “a reasonable duration.” This is another welcome change to this ref. •
I’d like to thank Certified Referee Ken Schoonover of the Rules Committee and Certified Referee Mark Peifer, who chairs the Rules Committee, for helping me understand the rule changes just as soon as they are approved. While I am at it, my thanks to the entire Rules Committee for once again improving the rules while preserving the essence of this great game.