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Monday, February 5, 2018

Ambassador Retreat - Rule Changes

Rules were made to be broken, no, what???

I attended the 2018 USAPA Ambassador Retreat in Port St. Lucie, Florida last week. The USAPA staff offered 9 seminars at the retreat. I wrote of one last week in the article Ambassador Retreat - Referee Certification Process

One of the more anticipated seminars was on the subject of the recently announced rule changes. This was validated by attendance at the seminar. The attendees were divided into 4 groups who were to rotate among 4 different seminars scheduled simultaneously. That means the rules seminar was scheduled for 4 different sessions. However, the room was full for each session while attendance at the other seminars was less than full. 

Before I start, let me add another note about the seminar structure. There was very little formal presentation. It consisted mostly of questions and answers. The following notes are only from the single session that I attended. Other sessions may have covered different topics. Christine Barksdale led the discussion and was assisted by Jim Hackenburg. Both were on the committee that wrote the rules.

Palm Up - Palm Down

Christine was chuckling as she called this "Byron's Rule" because the sole intent of the definition change was to validate the backhand serve as legal. This aligns with my post from January 19 - Rule Changes - Serve (Update). Despite its frequent use, the backhand serve has been a bone of contention because some believed it was not specifically allowed in the rules. The new definition stating that palm may be down while serving makes clear that the backhand serve is legal. In other words, the new definition changes nothing.

As a reminder, I highlighted Byron's backhand serve in Service Yips - a Novice Opinion.

Double Elimination vs Round Robin or Consolation Round

The USAPA has added the single elimination to a consolation round as well changed the options for a round robin structure. They did not eliminate the double elimination as an option for tournaments.

Am I in the Right Position?

The rule changes no longer allow referees to answer this question directly. Telling a player his position is considered to be coaching. When a player asks the question, the referee may only give the score. The score may be both teams' score, e.g., 7-5, or the team score for the player asking the question, e.g., "Your score is 5". It is expected that players should be able to determine their correct position based on their score.

Round Robin

The round robin format in tournaments was changed to allow a best 2 out of 3 games. This addition was made to provide the opportunity for more games to be played in very small brackets.

10 Second Rule

Once the referee has determined that the receiving player is ready (or should be ready), the referee calls the score. This starts the 10-second period in which the server must serve or a fault will be called. After the score is called, only 2 instances allow a stoppage of the 10-second count. The first is a legitimate hindrance such as a ball on the court. The second is a time out. However, a time out cannot be called after the service motion starts. No other scenario exists in which a receiver can be become not ready.

Wrong Score Called

If a referee calls an incorrect score, any player can stop play prior to the return of serve. If the ball was served and the called score is confirmed as incorrect, a re-serve will result. However, any stoppage after the serve has been made had better be the right call. A stoppage when the announced score was correct will result in a fault.

If a player is not 100% sure about the score, play the rally out. The score can be corrected after the rally ends.

Player Appeals to Line Judge

A player can appeal only to the referee. He may not appeal to a line judge. A referee can involve line judges in reviewing a call.

Netcord Serve Hits Player

If the serve touches the net and then hits a player on the receiving team, it is a point for the server. This rule was changed to provide consistency on balls hitting players.


Christine made a couple of other comments worth noting. She recognized that some wording still needed cleaned up and efforts will be made to do so. She also solicited ongoing comments and suggestions about rules from players. Any good ideas will be accepted and discussed by the rules committee. Rule changes will be issued annually in the future.

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