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To Seak, Or Not To Seek, An Unfair Advantage

Tasked with identifying behaviors of good sportsmanship in a succinct document, the USAP Sportsmanship Committee was constrained from citing every pet-peeve scenario underlying the guidelines in its "USA Pickleball Sportsmanship Guide." Fortunately, vour faithful Pickleball Curmudgeon (a committee member) faces no such constraint.

Facebook's "Pickleball Forum" is a great place to discover which of the committee's behavioral guidelines require further elaboration. Take the following post and selected comments (which have been edited for brevity or clarity). The scenario it describes inspired over 45 comments in the first hour after posting and was the primary impetus behind the inclusion of this guideline: "Claim a replay only if a hinder affects your team's ability to play the ball." To wit:

Post: "A ball rolled on the court AFTER our opponent hit a lob. His partner immediately called *Ball on. and then the lobbed ball landed OUT. I say it's our point. His partner says. 'Replay. Who's right?"

Comments: "Obvious replay." "The call was made before lob landed out." "If Ball on court' is called before play ends, nothing that happens thereafter is relevant." "Saved by the bell."

These players (and the dozens of others who posted similar comments) are under the misconception that the duty to exhibit good sportsmanship ends the moment someone hollers, "Ball on!" Under Rule 8.C. the partner's "ball on" call (which he was perfectly entitled to make) constituted a hinder, and the ball became dead at the moment of the call. Whether a replay was in order, however, depends on whether the hinder was "valid."

Under Rule 3.A.15 a hinder is valid only if it "impacted the player's ability to make a play on the ball." Since both rules anticipate a referee determining the validity of the hinder, in rec play we must rely on the integrity of our opponents to honestly say whether the hinder impacted them.

It was up to the lobber in this case (not his partner) to either claim a replay, or to concede the point by saying something like, "That ball didn't affect me." Since he did neither, and since his opponents obviously believed he was not impacted, they should have asked if he was- and his answer should have settled the matter without further discussion.

Comments: "I would simply ask the lobber if he saw the ball on court prior to his shot, and if so, whether it bothered him.* "If I had hit the lob before the distraction and it went out, I would not claim a replay. I lost the rally. It's simply fair." "Poor sportsmanship if it didn't affect the point." Bravo! These folks (and the few others who posted similar comments) grasp the sportsmanship aspect of the situation, i.e., that claiming a replay for an invalid hinder equates to seeking an unfair advantage.

Comment: "I once claimed a replay during an intense tournament match when a player hit a beautiful smash, and, before it bounced twice, a ball entered our court. Not the most ethical call by any means, but karma always catches up. Not a proud moment."

Tell it, brother! Practicing good sportsmanship is not always easy in the heat of the moment. but the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Give it a try-and remember, good behavior is in your court.