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June 14, 2023

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By Bob Unetich

I have noticed that most referees are now using a hand motion when they call the score, even refs with rather loud voices. Are players supposed to watch the ref and wait for this hand signal?

A: The hand motion you see referees doing was recommended by a referee committee to make it easier for hearing-impaired players to know when the score is being called. Rather than having to remember to use the hand motion for just that group of players, most referees have adopted its use in all matches. As a player, you would be wise to watch for the hand signal to be sure the score has been called, but referees do also call the score so if hearing is not an issue for you, the hand signal is of minimal value to you in that match.


Now that spinning the ball with any part of your body before you hit your serve is not permitted, I think I am seeing more serves with spin caused by intentional paddle movements that add spin to the ball. Is this legal and do you think this trend will be banned also?

A: It’s legal, and I do not expect to see it banned. Adding spin by striking the ball at an angle has always been part of the sport and the Rules Committee is always attempting to maintain “the integrity of the game.” As the sport evolves, and new players seek winning strategies, I think many will try adding spin to not only their serves but to many of their shots. Permitting this on the serve is like permitting a serve to touch the net and remain in play—it happens to many other shots, so why not for the serve? The spin imparted by paddles is here to stay.


I saw a ref call a fault on a player for “propelling” a ball upward before hitting a drop serve. Does this rule apply to the volley serve as well?

A. It does not! The difference in the limitation on ball movement stems from the fact that a dropped ball will not bounce very high unless it’s “propelled.” The volley serve already has a requirement that contact with the ball must not be made “above the waist,” so there’s no reason for a limitation on how it’s tossed.


If I am confused, what can I do to stop the serve when my team is receiving? Can I ask the ref for time to reposition ourselves after the score has been called, if we think it’s necessary?

A: You can! Normally, it’s too late for a receiver to become “not ready” after the score has been called, per Rule 4.C.2., but keep in mind that players are permitted to ask the ref about their position prior to the serve. So asking anytime, up to the moment it’s struck by the server, stops play. After players decide whether to reposition, the referee will call the score again.  •

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