Pickleball Points: New rules for 2022 — no chainsaw serves, no earbuds and watch your mouth!

·7 min read

It’s a new year, and that means new pickleball rules. Every January, USA Pickleball issues an updated rulebook. If you cuss during your games, wear headphones, carry more than one ball, or have been using a chainsaw serve, get ready to adjust your play this year. Here are some key things to know about how the game is changing in 2022.

No headphones or earbuds during competition play. These devices have been banned because they could allow players to receive coaching during the match. Another reason for the rule? Player safety — earbuds can be dropped on the court and cause an injury hazard. Also, USA Pickleball says such devices can prevent players from hearing calls or the score, thereby causing potential delays to explain or repeat calls that were not heard. Note: Hearing aids are still allowed.

Spinning the ball on a serve. In 2021, many players experimented with the so-called “chainsaw” serve. In this move, the server rolls the ball against the paddle, sometimes even including the grip, as the ball is being tossed. Then the player hits the fast-spinning ball to finish the serve. The intense spin on the ball can make it kick left, right, up or down.

In 2022, this move has been banned. But you can still put “finger spin” on a serve. The new rules say server can use only one hand to release the ball to perform the serve. If the ball is visibly spun by the server during the release, the part(s) of the hand contacting the ball must be bare (no gloves, band-aids, etc.).

Moreover, the receiver (and referee, if there is one) must be able to see the server’s release of the ball.

  • Example: A server is wearing a glove on her hand that releases the ball, but she has removed the glove material allowing the thumb and first two fingers (that touch the ball) to be exposed and add spin to the ball. The referee lets this glove be used.

Extra balls. In officiated matches, you’re not allowed to carry an extra ball on the court. However, in social play, USA Pickleball says you may carry a spare ball. However, the balls are not to be visible to your opponent during play. And if one of your extra balls falls on the playing surface during play, that’s considered a fault.

  • Example: A player is carrying an extra ball in his pocket. During a rally, the ball falls out of his pocket but lands out of bounds. The opponents claim a distraction fault, but the player who dropped the ball contends that because the ball landed out of bounds and not on the actual court, it is not a fault. The player who dropped the ball is wrong; the opponents are correct that a distraction fault has occurred.

Professional player Catherine Parenteau returns the ball while playing mixed doubles during the Pro Pickleball Association Masters tournament at the La Quinta Resort and Club, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in La Quinta, Calif.
Professional player Catherine Parenteau returns the ball while playing mixed doubles during the Pro Pickleball Association Masters tournament at the La Quinta Resort and Club, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in La Quinta, Calif.

Multiple bounces before a serve. USA Pickleball is clarifying this year that on a serve, there is no restriction how many times the ball can bounce nor where it can bounce on the playing surface before the server hits it.

The intent of this rule is to let the ball bounce as many times as the server chooses before he strikes the ball to perform the serve, as long as the serve is made within 10 seconds after the score is called. The rule also clarifies that the ball may bounce anywhere on the playing surface before it is hit to perform the serve.

Swearing. There are a number of new rules about how and when referees can issue warnings for foul language.

Previously, a referee was allowed to issue one “global warning” per match for use of profanity. When the warning was issued, it was made generally to all players — not just the potty mouths. Now, a referee may give each team a single verbal warning per match. Refs can also give technical warnings and fouls for bad language, which can cost you a point. Refs are not supposed to stop play to issue warnings or fouls, but they are to mete them out once a rally has ended. Check out these examples:

  • Team A receives a verbal warning for uttering an expletive. Later in the match, a player on Team B says the same word. The referee may give a verbal warning to Team B regardless of the prior verbal warning issued to Team A.

  • The referee calls a non-volley zone fault on a player who enters the kitchen when he was not permitted to. After the rally is over, the faulted player walks by the referee and without looking directly at the referee says, “That was a bull---- call.” The referee may issue a verbal warning for unsportsmanlike conduct.

  • Team A gets a verbal warning for a specific profanity. A player on Team B later says the same word, but more loudly. The referee gives a technical warning to Team B. Team B asks why they did not receive a verbal warning the same as Team A. The referee may explain that their volume was greater and verbal and technical warnings are based on referee discretion.

  • A player utters a profanity, and the referee issues a technical warning. The player protests and says the ref should have issued a verbal warning first. The referee reminds the player that there is no requirement that a verbal warning always be issued before a technical warning or technical foul.

  • While players are warming up before the referee’s pre-match briefing, one player loudly calls an opponent an “[expletive] cheater.” The referee issues a technical foul for extreme profanity and issues a point to the opponents before the match has started.

Easy way to avoid all these warnings and fouls? Don’t swear during games! If you are looking for ways to re-train your mouth, consider during drills or practice play deducting points for each bon mot uttered. Or, keep a “swear jar” and a roll of coins on the sidelines; deposit a fee for each infraction and your opponent keeps the money. Finally, if you have an Apple Watch or similar device, you can keep track of how many bad words were blurted out during the game by keeping a running tally with Siri.

To see the full list of new pickleball rules, visit https://tinyurl.com/2af8d7tv. For a complete set of rules, visit https://usapickleball.org/docs/ifp/USA-Pickleball-Rulebook.pdf

Coach Mary’s tip of the week

How do I add topspin to my game?

Recently, I have had several students ask for a lesson that includes adding topspin and slice to their short game and also to their groundstrokes. Here are a few ways to learn and to practice putting topspin on a shot:

  • Start with your paddle low, pointing down.

  • As you bring your paddle forward to strike the ball, you will brush over it, low to high, and follow through low to high. Use a strong follow-through.

  • When you create topspin, the ball can be hit harder, but it will dive down and land inside the court. The ball spins forward, which makes it drop down at your opponents’ feet.

  • The stroke occurs in front of you — remember, paddle in front! Use your lower body and your follow-through to generate more topspin.

  • When the ball is on your side of the net, and it is traveling below the level of the net, this is a good time to hit topspin, low to high, so that your shot carries over the net, and not into it.

Drills to practice topspin: See this link to Jordan Briones' instructional video at https://tinyurl.com/4n46mecm — doing the drop and hit is a great drill! You get immediate feedback when you are practicing because you can see the ball spinning forward and dropping down if you are creating topspin.

Topspin can be incorporated into your dinks, your third ball shots, and your groundstrokes. One especially effective use of topspin is on the deep lob serve with topspin.

Remember: Low to high, big follow-through, use your lower body. Now get out there and drill!

We will cover the slice next time.

Have a question or comment? Email pickleball@desertsun.com.

Pickleball columnist Mary Barsaleau in Palm Springs, Calif., on September 29, 2021.
Pickleball columnist Mary Barsaleau in Palm Springs, Calif., on September 29, 2021.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: New pickleball rules for 2022: No chainsaw serves, no earbuds

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