Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rules Clarification - When to Serve in a Refereed Match

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

My first experience refereeing a match was several weeks ago. I only had to make calls on 2 situations in the 4 matches I refereed. I wrote about one last week. This article discusses the second - serving before the score is called.

The situation arose twice with the same player in different matches. In both case, the player started to serve before I had completed my announcing of the score. The first time I sped up the announcement and did not call a fault. The second time I tried to do the same but the serve was struck well before I finished and I called the fault.

The rule is clear:
4.I. Readiness. Serves shall not be made until the receiver is ready and the score has been called. Serving before the score is called shall result in a fault, and loss of serve. The referee shall call the score when he or she determines that the players should be in position to resume play.

I have seen a lot of discussion in the pickleball community, especially among referees, about the point in the serving motion that constitutes "serving" in the second sentence. Some consider starting the motion prior to the score to be a fault. One certified referee's opinion was:
As a ref, in the introductory player meeting, we stress the importance of not starting their serve until we have completely called the score. So for consistency's sake, here is my question: "What determines the START of the serve?" 
I offer that the serve "starts" when you perform *any motion that is part of your normal serve routine. My only caveat would be if a player bounces the ball on the ground before serving. Other than that, I consider any normal/routine motion that the server employs to be the "start" of the serve
To those who share that opinion, the player in the above photo would be in violation if the complete score had not been announced.

Others have the opinion that the start of the serve is irrelevant since it is not included in the rule. But they are unclear about the point a fault should be called, at least up to actual contact.

Fortunately, a referee contacted Rules Chair Christine Barksdale who made clear the standard with this reply:
(I)t is not a fault to start the motion before the score has been called only a fault to strike the ball before the score has been called.
Therefore, a server may start his service motion at any point during the referee's score announcement as long as contact is not made until the score is complete. What does this mean to a referee? He must develop a uniform cadence to the announcement and stick with it throughout the match. The Referee Handbook references this situation:
Serving Before Score Called: Call “service fault” followed by “second server” or “side out”. No warning, but be sure to reference this rule in the pre-game briefing. [Rule 4.I] Keep in mind, however, that if you severely deviate from your normal cadence when calling the score, you may have contributed to the server violating the rule. In that case, announce "Referee Error" and have the player re-serve. 

But the server is taking a chance with this tactic. If the referee must stop the score such as the receiver signalling he is not ready or even if the referee sneezes and the server continues until contact, a service fault should be called.

1 comment:

  1. Please update this as the rule has changed since 2017!