By Mark Peifer, USA Pickleball Certified Referee; Past Chairman, USA Pickleball Rules Committee
It’s December and for those who have followed USA Pickleball’s Rulebook cycle for the past three years, you know that means the new Official USA Pickleball Rulebook is just around the corner. The 2024 Rulebook cycle started in March when any USA Pickleball member could submit a rule suggestion. While submissions were restricted to USA Pickleball members, any player could comment on suggestions submitted. The comment window closed at the end of May. Since then, the rule suggestions have been vetted by and voted on by the USA Pickleball Rules Committee and the USAP Board of Directors.
Ninety-two (92) suggestions were submitted. Of those 92, a total of 27 were approved by the Board of Directors for the 2024 Rulebook. The vast majority of them were minor corrections to the wording of existing rules to make the rule clearer. Others were Referee Casebook cases that were more appropriate for the Rulebook.
With that as background, let’s take a look at the small number of rules that will be new or materially different than what exists in the 2023 Rulebook or Casebook:
- Arguably, the most significant rule change is the removal of the words ‘deliberately’ and ‘unintentional’ in Rules 7.L (the carry rule) and 11.A (the double hit rule), respectively. Why? It eliminates having the referee determine intent. The bottom line is that any carry is now a fault; there is no longer the need to determine whether the carry was deliberate or not. Please also note that double hits are still permitted. Players should make sure they understand the definitions of and the difference between a carry and a double hit. See Rules 3.A.1 and 3.A.8.
- For non-officiated play, if players feel their opponents are using an illegal paddle, they are now specifically authorized to ask the Head Referee or Tournament Director to determine the legality of their opponent’s paddle.
- Additional clarifying criteria have been added to Rule 11.E to cover ‘degraded’ and ‘soft’ balls, both of which can potentially result in an ‘out of round’ ball. The bottom line is for non-officiated play, a replay of a completed rally is only permitted if the ball is cracked or broken, and, in that case, all players must agree the cracked or broken ball affected the outcome of the completed rally. If the ball is merely ‘degraded’ or ‘soft’, there is no replay of the rally, but if all players agree, the ball can be replaced. The rule for officiated play is similar.
- Players may now use any remaining regular timeouts after a medical timeout. The 2023 rule implies that if a player cannot resume play after the 15-minute medical timeout, the player must retire. The rule change for 2024 allows a player to use any remaining regular timeouts after the medical timeout to extend the time to resume play.
- There is one new rule change that is still in a pending status; the decision regarding rally scoring. USA Pickleball Board of Directors has decided to collect data before making a final decision.