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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Rules Clarification - Player Positioning

If confusion is the first step to knowledge, I must be a genius...

I wrote about my first experience refereeing a match on Monday. After giving it more thought, I remembered that there were situations where players either were confused or misapplied a rule. It might be helpful to clarify these. Today, we will start with proper player positioning after the teams switch sides in the middle of a game.

First, let's get an understanding of the situation. In a one-game match or the third game of a three game match, the teams will switch sides at the mid-game point - after point 6 in a game to 11, point 8 in a game to 15, or point 11 in a game to 21. The crossover to the opposite side of the net often creates confusion about where players should be positioned. It is vital that the players be properly aligned or they will lose the rally.
5.B.6. If the ball is served by the wrong team member or from the wrong court, the service is a fault.
5.B.8. The receiver is the only player who may return the ball. If the wrong player returns the ball, it is a point for the serving team.
Next, let's establish some terminology so the discussion can be based on a common understanding of the court.

The above image shows labels for each partner's side of the court. The player on the right (even) side to start the game will always 1) serve and 2) receive serve from the right (even) court when his team's score is an even number. He will 1) serve and 2) return serve from the left (odd) side when his team's score is an odd number. 

The opposite is true of his partner who starts on the left (odd) side. The partner will always 1) serve and 2) receive serve from his starting position (odd court) when his team's score is an even number. He will 1) serve and 2) return serve from the right side (even court) when his team's score is an odd number. 

The simple key is to remember that players will be positioned on their starting side when their score is an even number and positioned on their non-starting side when their score is an odd number.

We will next go through an example of a court changeover. Here is the starting position for the players at the first serve 0-0-2.

An Example - Score 5-5

Now, let's set up a scenario in a game to 11. The teams are to switch sides at the midpoint of the game, after point 6. The player positions are as follows.

Note that all 4 players are positioned on the opposite side than their starting position. This must be the case since both teams have odd-numbered scores.

Player 2 is serving at 5-5-1 and wins the point, thus getting the 6th point for their team. At this point in the game, the teams switch sides of the net. The proper positioning for the teams is shown below.

Players 1 and 2 have returned to the original sides in which they were positioned to start the game...because their score is now an even number (6). Player 2 served from the even (right) court on the prior rally, won the point, and will now serve from the odd (left) court. Players 3 and 4 remain on the same courts as the prior rally since their score did not change from 5.

Remembering court position by score and starting position is the best way to ensure proper positioning throughout the entire match. Changeovers are only one specific situation and there are  other situations, such as switching sides during a rally and stacking, in which knowing proper positioning can become confusing.

But there is a shortcut to know where to go on the changeover. The only complication is that the shortcut differs for the serving team and the receiving team because the score changes for the serving team.

The shortcut method for the serving team (Players 1 and 2) is to move straight across the court.

The shortcut method for the receiving team (Players 3 and 4) is to move diagonally across the court.

There you have it - 2 ways to know where to go on a changeover. There is a third way. Ask. If there is a referee, he may not volunteer the information, but will respond if asked. If there is no referee, ask the opponents. They cannot call for a fault if they agree on the positioning. Asking is not a challenge to one's masculinity. There is no problem with always ensuring the proper position. There will be a problem with improper positioning.
IFP Comments: 
- In tournament play, unless asked, the referee shall not correct player positions until a service sequence fault has occurred by a serving or receiving team.

***It should be noted that the above examples show traditional positions for all 4 players. The rules apply only to the server and receiver being on the proper side. The partners of the server and receiver can position themselves anywhere on their respective half of the court.

1 comment:

  1. "If there is no referee, ask the opponents. They cannot call for a fault if they agree on the positioning." where and what rulebook do you see this in?