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Q&A – Where’s the Waist?

Rules Refresh Mark Peifer 01-31-2024

By Mark Peifer, USA Pickleball Certified Referee; Past Chairman, USA Pickleball Rules Committee

QUESTION: The Official Rulebook for pickleball requires the serve to be hit below your navel (in other words, your belly button) at the point of contact. Where do you find that the definition of waistline is below the navel? How can I demonstrate to others that the pickleball rule is navel and not hip for the definition of waist?

ANSWER: The last time the navel was listed in the Rulebook as the reference point for the waist was 2020. It was removed because the navel didn’t provide much of an advantage in determining a volley serve legality than just using the waist itself. The hip has never been used as a ‘waist’ reference point in the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook.  

The rule that applies here is associated with the volley serve and is 4.A.7.c; at the point of contact, the ball must not be struck above the waist. The location of the waist is, admittedly, difficult to determine with a consistent degree of accuracy from person to person, especially when ‘hidden’ by loose-fitting clothing. That is why opponents can’t call illegal serves on servers and why referees are taught to call illegal volley serves that are ‘above the waist’ only if it is obvious; i.e. the referee is certain. There is no good, repeatable or consistent way to determine where someone else’s waist is, but every person knows where their waist is.

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