May 30, 2023
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By Bob Unetich
Q: There is a rumor that rally scoring will soon become an approved format for USA Pickleball sanctioned tournaments. Is that likely to happen?
A: USA Pickleball is always evaluating potential changes to the rules, if they help promote the sport and meet the test of the three priorities listed in the Appendix of the Rulebook: “preserving the integrity of the sport,” “do what is collectively best for the players” and “what’s best for officiating—to make it less likely conflicts will occur.” Rally scoring is increasingly popular, so it’s difficult to predict how or if it will be an approved scoring format. I don’t see any current move, however, to replace the traditional side-out scoring we all learned and appreciate.
Q: I have noticed that there are new paddles on the market that have holes and are USA Pickleball approved for tournament play and there are also some models on the market with holes that are not “approved.” How can a paddle with holes be approved when the rules clearly say that “the paddle’s hitting surface shall not contain delamination, cracks, or indentations that break the paddle skin or surface”?
A: I’m pleased that you are accurately quoting Rule 2.E.2. The answer lies in the phrase “hitting surface” used in the wording of the rule. USA Pickleball recognizes the outer edge of the paddle and the area near the handle as not being part of the “hitting surface,” so holes or name tags or edge tape can be present as long as there is nothing inside of the space more than one-half inch from the outside edge or one inch from the handle. This is also why some paddles with a “yoke” connecting the handle to the paddle playing area have been USA Pickleball approved for tournament play.
Paddles that have holes inside of the playing area cannot be USA Pickleball approved for tournament play but it is worth noting that holes anywhere on the face of the paddle do reduce the sound level produced by the paddle when it strikes a ball. At least two firms have sold paddles that incorporate this feature. Communities with pickleball sound issues could consider this as one means of reducing the sound level produced by pickleball play.
Q: I played in a match against a fellow who felt the ball we were using was not bouncing as high as he expected, and he requested a ball change. If my opponent wants to change the ball because he thinks it is “degraded,” but I like the ball in use, can I prevent the referee from changing the ball?
A: When players ask a ref for a new ball, the ref will need to decide if the ball genuinely appears to be “degraded.” Obvious cracks and shape changes can easily be recognized but bounce height can be a more difficult judgment call by the ref, especially if the two teams disagree. That is the decision process a referee should follow. In your example, it would be reasonable for you to state an opinion that the bounce seemed OK to you, assuming that this was your actual opinion. If you agree that the bounce was unusual, good sportsmanship will oblige you to agree that the ball was “degraded” and should be replaced (even if you liked how it was bouncing). •