4 Rule Changes in 2021 that Tournament Players Need to Know

Four Rule Changes in 2021 that Tournament Players Need to Know

The 2021 Rule Change document is out, and there is a lot (81 pages to be exact)! So we’ve read through it and found four rule changes that tournament players need to know.

Here’s a quick list of the rule changes we will be taking  look at:

      1. Technical fouls will be penalized differently.
      2. You can ask the ref more questions about correct player or position.
      3. You can challenge the score until a different time.
      4. Coaching is allowed on end changes.

Disclaimer! the 2021 Rules Change Document is a long and dry document. There is a possibility that we went insane while reading it. Due to the circumstances, we recommend that you check the rule changes yourself to be 100% certain of the rules.

Also, check out our previous blog post that details the Five Rule Changes that will impact everyone.

1. Technical Fouls

What's New?

The resulting penalty of technical fouls have changed. Here’s the official wording of the rule change:

New: Technical Foul – A referee’s assessment of a rule or behavioral violation that results in one point being removed from the score of the offending team unless their score is zero, in which case a point shall be added to the score of the opposing side. A technical foul shall be issued if one technical warning has already been given and a second technical warning is warranted; or when warranted by a player’s or team’s action, based on the referee’s judgement.

What does this mean for us?

If you commit a technical foul during a tournament, you now will be docked a point. The 2020 rule on technical fouls gave a point to the opposing team, now the offending team will be docked a point unless they have zero points, in which case the opposing team will receive a point. A bonus, profanity has been defined as word, phrases, or gestures that would normally be inappropriate in polite company or around children.

Why the change?

Now the burden of changing positions based on the penalty is on the offending team instead of the innocent team. A technical foul is also not going to be the cause of a team losing a match be awarding the winning point to the opposing team. 

How will this impact tournament play?

Now you can lose that rally close to the end of your gold medal match and let loose your favorite curse, smack the ground with your paddle, or however you want to get your frustration out, and you won’t lose the match because of it. There’s a bit of relief knowing that if you slip up with your temperament that you won’t lose the match because of it. Hopefully tournament players will take the high road and not act ugly just because they wouldn’t lose when the other team is serving at 10-9-2.

2. Ask the Ref Anything

What's New?

What you can ask the ref and what the ref can answer has changed. Here’s the new rules:

Rule 4.B.9 

New: Before the serve occurs, the serving team may ask the referee for the score, correct server, correct position, and may challenge/confirm the called score. Any player on the serving team may ask any one or more of these questions.

Rule 4.B.10 

New: Before the serve occurs, the receiving team may ask the referee for the score, correct receiver, correct position, and may challenge/confirm the called score. Any player on the receiving team may ask any one or more of these questions. 

What does this mean for us?

Now we can ask the ref if we are the correct server AND if we are in the correct position, or we can ask if we are the correct receiver AND if we are in the correct position. Before we were not allowed to ask if we were in the correct position.

Why the change?

The inability to ask about correct position was a previous rule that was removed in a prior year. This rule change reinstates the old rule that players can ask about correct position. The goal is to reduce conflict between referees and players about court position.

How will this impact tournament play?

Now there is no excuse to be in the wrong position. Just ask. Also, any player has the ability to ask BEFORE the ball is struck. If a player asks for correct player or position before the ball is struck on the serve, the referee will call timeout to confirm and the ball will be re-served. There is some gamesmanship that can occur here with effectively icing the server at no penalty. Again, hopefully good sportsmanship prevails. 

3. Challenge the Score Up Until the Third Shot

What's New?

The timing of when you can challenge the if you think it’s incorrect has changed. Here’s the rule:

Rule 4.K.

New: Wrong Score Called. If the server or referee calls the wrong score, any player may stop play before the “Third Shot” occurs to ask for a correction 

What does this mean for us?

Under previous rules, the receiving team had to challenge the score before they hit the return, now they get until the third shot to challenge an incorrect score.

Why the change?

Because USA Pickleball is tying all time related events to contact of the ball on the serve, there may be times when a team is quick served and doesn’t have time to realize the score was called wrong before they hit the return.

How will this impact tournament play?

Knowing you have extra time to react to the serve and hit your return before realizing the score was wrong is kind of nice. Be sure to challenge an incorrect score before the third shot is struck.

4. Coaching Allowed on End Changes

What's New?

Coaching is now allowed in the one minute end change during a game. Here’s the rule:

Rule 5.B.6 

New: End Change Time-Out. A maximum of one minute is allowed to switch ends during a game. Rule 10.A.5 procedures will be followed to continue play. 

What does this mean for us?

Coaching was previously only allowed during time outs and between games. Now players can receive coaching during the one minute end change that might occur at the halfway point of a game.

Why the change?

USA Pickleball says that coaching during the end change is difficult to detect seeing that both teams are moving ends and allowed to talk to their teammate. 

How will this impact tournament play?

Not a huge change, but it is a good chance to get a competitive edge. If you have a coach and end up in a game three scenario, you have one more opportunity for that third party insight into what’s happening on the court.

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4 Rule Changes in 2021 that Tournament Players Need to Know