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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Rule Changes - 10-Second Rule

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

Earlier this week, I wrote my notes from the USAPA Ambassador Retreat seminar on the 2018 rule changes. As with all rules, some players will always test the boundaries. It appears that has already started with regard to the 10-second rule, at least based on some anecdotes from Facebook. Before I get to that, let's review the notes from the retreat on the subject.

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.


Now let me copy the story of an incident from a tournament this week:

"At a sanctioned tournament today a certified referee made the following ruling. The receiver was ready, the server had the ball, and the score got called. 5 seconds after the score was called the server asks "am I the correct server"? The answer was no. This player on the serving team quickly tossed the ball to their partner and the correct server "quick served" the receiving team (to beat the 10 second clock) before the correct receiver had a chance to get into position. The referee called a point for the serving team because the receiver can't become unready after the score has been called. The head (Certified) referee agreed with this decision."

The ensuing discussion had 2 sides. One side said the rules were not technically violated and some even applauded the clever use of the loophole to gain an easy point. The other side said that such behavior is outside the intent of the rule and even unsportsmanlike behavior.

Regardless of one's opinion of the right answer, the rule is unclear enough to cause different referees to act differently. Since the goal of the USAPA is to promote greater consistency among its referees, the issue needed to be resolved quickly.


One referee contacted Christine Barksdale, the USAPA Chair for Rules, and received the following guidance:

"...assume good intentions if a serving team does this the first time; it could be a mistake. Call for a replay, let the receiving team reset and re-call the score. If it happens a second time or if you, as referee thinks it was done intentionally the first time, the referee should issue a Technical Warning under the provisions of 13.G.3.k."

FYI, Rule 13.G.3.k. is about technical warnings and states:
13.G.3. Actions or behavior that will result in a technical warning/technical foul:13.G.3.k. Any other actions that are considered unsportsmanlike behavior.
For the record, I was on the side of the action constituting unsportsmanlike behavior. As a referee, I would have replayed the point by calling a referee error for calling the score before the proper receiver was ready.

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