Pickleball Rule Changes 2022 | 360° Turnover in Pickleball

Whether tax policies change yearly or not, the constant change for every year is the USAPA rule revision. Each year, the board of USAPA alters and brings new rules that fire up controversies between pickleball communities. Pickleball rule changes 2022 is no different. In fact, this year stormed up the internet into the biggest war of words. 

Pickleball Rule Changes 2022

2022 has been a game-changing year for pickleball players–especially the spinners. The changes occur everywhere though, but this year, they got a little strict, banning chainsaw serve and earphones. It didn’t stop on that. There were serious 19 rule changes by USAPA this year that everyone should know–otherwise, the heavy penalties and annoying faults will gladly await you in the courts. 

Pickleball Rule Changes 2022: 

During the month of June 2022, the NRD received 72 public suggestions through its open window. 19 of which got approved by the IFP and Rule Revisions Committee of USA Pickleball. Whilst, the official Pickleball Rule Changes 2022 revision calls for 18 amendments that include. 

  1. Carrying of extra balls
  2. Edits to Rule 5
  3. Editorial Changes
  4. Calling the wrong score
  5. Keep Drop Serve as-is. Remove Provisional status
  6. Ball coming back to the other side of the net
  7. Serving team may also reposition during a rally
  8. No headphones or earbuds
  9. Spins on serves
  10. Referee-called Medical timeout
  11. Timing for VW/TW/TF
  12. Remove COVID/carry serve
  13. Fouls occurring during an end change.
  14. Combine rules about player questions (4.B.8, 4.B.9)
  15. Rulebook TOC and Index
  16. Time In Procedures
  17. Allow a verbal warning to be used for things other than profanity.
  18. Retirement match scoring

Some of these rules are easier and more natural than others, while some drastically affect the game. Plus, reading them directly from the rulebooks makes it difficult to understand for most of the players. Because they’re in the rule language, grasping them takes a lot to any ordinary person with a sports background. 

So, let me brief you on the essential1rules change for Pickleball in 2022.

5 Important Pickleball Rule Changes 2022

Although every rule change in pickleball carries equal importance, some get the spotlight for the intensity they bring to the game. Among the 18 rules, what I found the most challenging for the ongoing year is; 

No headphones, earbuds, or jamming

Initially, this was the rule I was so angry about. Music and Pickleball used to be my vibe, but of course, there are several reasons why something gets altered. Per its explanation, this new rule added in the Pickleball Rulebook 2022 is for the betterment and promotion of fairness and sportsmanship in the game.

No earphones in pickleball

The original idea behind this rule change is that the players don’t cheat by having online or electronic coaching during the tournament. Also, for the players to stay attentive when the scores are called, of course, you can’t hear the referee when your headphones or earbuds are on. In addition to that, there should also be no jamming in the court. 

So far, it’s actually a great initiative that took place in pickleball. Headphones and earbuds are already not allowed in other sports. However, you can have them in a friendly match or when you’re practicing drills, or with the machine

Ban on Chainsaw Spin Serves

If there’s something that took the 2022 Rule changes of Pickleball into the fires of controversies, it’s this rule. The committee had made the spin serve illegal, which involves your paddle, paddle hand, and the non-paddle hand. It means you can’t make a 100% advantage of the serve by spinning it to your opponent, which, on the one hand, makes the game fair on both sides, while on the other, it takes away your edge for being the serving player or team. 

Ban on Chainsaw Spin Serves

However, we all must look into Pickleball’s spirit. It’s not the game about serves but rallies. So, by making this change, this reverts pickleball to its roots and also equalizes the game because the chainsaw serve makes the return weak and impossible, with which the serving team gets points out of their opponents’ faults. 

But hey, the spin isn’t ended entirely. You can still use your non-paddle hand to make the ball spin and throw it in your intended direction. In 2023, however, there are rumors that the spin serve will be banned completely. However, make sure your ball is visible to the referee (if present) and the opponent when you release the ball.

Otherwise, you’ve to reserve it. And there’s also an exception. The rule allows the players who can’t (for any reason) use their non-paddle hand, can use the paddle hand to spin the ball and release it. So, I guess it’s not that strict, but I can certainly predict there will be considerable changes to the spin in the following year. 

Calling the wrong score

In 2022, your game can’t stop on the wrong score, or simply you can’t claim the error in the score after the serve or return of the serve. You’d have committed a fault if you called the scoring error during the rally. However, at the end of the rally, if there was really a fault, you can reconcile with the referee, but during the game is in play, don’t speak or listen to anything regarding the scoring faults. It’s more of a trap in 2022, so beware. 

Calling the wrong score

Previously, there was room for challenging the score before the third shot. This was to make the game fair and simple. However, some players have benefitted negatively from this rule and use it to challenge the score most often, which leads to a replay of the serve. Now, no one can claim if the serve or return of it had a fault or if the serving team failed at their third shot. Plus, the extra time it takes remains another drawback. Besides these complexities, the rule was unclear too. So I’d personally appreciate the change because now the game is more about playing than unethical manipulation. 

Timing for VW/TW/TF

The timing for VW/TW/TF takes the referee’s power to stop the rally for technical fouls or warnings. This means the game will be in a play-on, even if there’s a foul or warning of any kind. The benefit of this rule is that you’ll have an uninterrupted rally, while the warnings and fouls will get adjusted after the rally ends. Though it may be concerning to the referees, of course, this rule has a long-term benefit, and the players can actually focus on the game with a steady rhythm. A constant stop in an ongoing rally not only ruins the tempo but also distracts the players too. 

Allow a verbal warning to be used for things other than profanity.

To maintain the decorum, the new changes for the current year (2022), empowered the referee to give Verbal warnings for anything he (may) thinks leads to quarrels and arguments. Previously, the referee could only warn the players about profanity (swearing). Now, you’ve to be ethical and watch your mouth in a tournament game because now the referee has all the power to charge you with TW and TF, if your behaviors aren’t up to the mark. 

verbal warning

In addition, the referee won’t announce the Verbal Warning for all the players, despite the abusers. Now, only the team at fault will receive the VW, and it’s for one time only, for both the teams, after which the wicked behavior would be considered a technical warning and then foul. 

6 Most Productive Pickleball Rule changes in 2022: 

Other than the controversial changes, the 2022 amendments also had some productive changes that benefit the player on all sides. 

Retirement match scoring

This is perhaps another change that brought fairness to the game. It means if a player gets retired, for any reason, i.e., injury, ban, and so forth, he/she can retain the points made in the game. This way, players or teams can use these points to maintain their rankings or levels in tournaments. It simply means, for any reason, you’ll have an option to keep your scoring despite the retirement. 

Carrying extra balls

Carrying extra balls was a much-needed change since the balls weren’t that durable, and players had to stop the game. However, taking them in your spare hand isn’t justifiable to your opponent. Imagine you’re against the team that throws you a ball while you are focused on the ball that’s still in their spare hand. You’ll hate it, trust me. 

Carrying extra balls

So, there are conditions to follow in that rule change, and that is: your ball shouldn’t be visible to your opponents. It means your ball can’t be in your second hand, and if you’ve got the balls in your pocket, and it falls on the court when the match is going on, you’ll be charged with a penalty. So, when you bring the extra ball with you, make sure they’re well placed in your pocket or rest in your bag so that when the rally is going on, they don’t come distracting your opponent. 

Removal of Provisional status from Drop Serve

Drop Serve

The drop serve was introduced in 2021 as a temporary serving option. This serve has been officially officialized and isn’t going away soon. This has been the tremendous change of 2022. However, that doesn’t mean any changes to the traditional serve. It makes it easier for the serving team to go with the traditional method or drop the ball to serve it.

Ball coming back to the other side of the net

Ball coming back to the other side

This rule is for the clarity of the existing 11.I.1 Rule. There’s only a change of wording from “back over” to the “other side of,” which clarifies that you can cross the plane of the net without the ball traveling over it if the backspin or wind really asks for it. Considering all the related odds of Rule 11.I.1, the 22 makes things easier by just changing 2 words with 3. 

Referee-called Medical timeout

Referee-called Medical timeout

In pickleball, there are two pickleball medical timeouts. Most often, the players don’t call the medical TO because they get charged against it. However, with this rule, the referee, after analyzing the situation, can call the medical TO on his behalf, and this will not be a player’s TO. Instead, it’s a referee time-out. Besides, the medical timeouts are generally authentic, so there’s no practical drawback, plus the player would still have his TOs left. 

Time In Procedures

The time in procedures is a rule revision for Rule 10.A.5, which as a whole, makes pickleball less strict. Previously, when the referee called the time-out for 15 seconds, there’d be just 10 seconds, and if the server fails to serve after the time’s up, you’ll be committed a fault. While in the revision, it’s suggested that the player should be on the court and be ready to play when the score is called, and the server is given 10 seconds. 

Miscellaneous changes:

As I said, some rules have little to no effect on the gameplay, but it’s worth being aware of them, so you’re not missing out on anything. I consider these miscellaneous rules and include: 

Edits to Rule 5

Edits to Rule 5 are just the change of wordings from teams to players, which involves a change of Ends Between Games and during the games. Previously, it was stated that the teams switch ends, which confuses that it does not apply to the single players. However, this little change clears up the rule explanation. 

Plus, it further connects Rule 5 to Rule 10 for smoother gameplay. This change has no such noteworthy effect on the game. Rather, it serves as a more precise explanation of Rule 5. 

Editorial Changes

There are specific changes in the Rulebook regarding the wording. These changes don’t alter the law or its meaning. They’re for clarity. For example, switching “sides” to switching “ends”. I’m not going into depth because of its technical waste of time here. Instead, the more important thing you need to focus on is…

Serving team may also reposition during a rally

reposition during a rally

Although it seems like the serving team also got the opportunity to switch positions, it’s not like that in actual games. Even before the clearance of this rule, the serving team changes position after the serve. This rule just makes it clear and legalizes it with the wording. Besides that, everything is similar as before regarding repositioning and stacking. 

Combine rules about player questions (4.B.8, 4.B.9)

Rule 4.B.8 and 4.B.9 are two exaggerated rules for the same things. The 4.B.8 states rules for the serving team, while 4.B.9 has the exact wording, except the serving team is replaced by the receiving team. Apparently, these are duplicate rules suggested to be one by replacing “serving and receiving terms” with the “players”. It’s one of the editorial changes to make the rules precise and does not affect the course of the game. 

Fouls occur during an end change

Fouls occur during an end change

There’s also an editing error in the 5.B.7 Rule. The wording uses the past tense, which affects the credibility of whether or not it’ll be foul. Changing “has occurred” to “has started” clears up the fallacy due to the sentence structure. 

Remove COVID/carry serve

There’s also the change of wording. During the Covid, the 7.N and 11.A, have a change of wording. It says “after a serve,” but since Covid is no more intense or severe, the rules changed to their original wording. 

Rulebook TOC and Index

As the name suggests, the Rulebook TOC and Index call for making a Table of Content and Indexing their links to the original content in the Rulebook, so the user can quickly jump to the rule they’ve been looking for. 

What’s the process of rule changing in Pickleball? 

The rule-changing process is one of my favorite aspects of pickleball. It truly depicts that pickleball is a people’s game. The people make the changes, in simple words. The board of USAPA opens a window with the name “Public Input Opportunity” every year from the year’s start to June 10 or 15, and everyone can comment with their suggestion for the game. 

You’ll be given a tracking number for your submission of suggestions, so you’ll know where your suggestion leads, and honestly, it’s the best thing. There are many forums I know that ask for public opinion, and then in the process, it vanishes as if nothing happened. Till the 15th of June, the window will take your submissions, while public comments on your suggestions will be open till the 30th of June. 

What’s the process of rule changing in Pickleball

Now comes the voting period, for which the committee takes the entire month of July. All the suggestions and Public Comments will be compiled, and then the IFP ruling committee and USAPA ruling committee hold meetings to review the rules. They either approve, reject, or edit the wording, which becomes the new rules. 

Once the Ruling Committee of USAPA and IFT pass the rules and the voting results come out on Aug 1st. Then the rules get published on the NRD (New Rules Database). The NRD is more likely a draft, and it’s not official. But, this is the final list that goes official on the Rulebook. 

Now, for the month of Aug, the committee members examine the approved rules and edit them per the format of the rules language. The editing and writing get done by 15 September, after which the finalized rules, with their titles and tracking numbers, are published on the Rules of Pickleball website. 

Now, the dice come to the Board of Directors, who verify and approve/reject the rules passed by the Ruling committee. This process gets done before 31st October. Most often, the BoD finalizes the approved rules list in early October. From November, the BoD further proofreads and edits the rules, and finally, on the first of December, the official Rulebook is updated for the people. The USAPA gives the players and coaches one month to get familiar with these rules, so when they get effective, they’re in practice. And, it goes without saying that the rule gets effective on Jan 1st every year. 

For this entire process, what I appreciate the most is transparency. From June to Dec, the member of the Rules Committee keeps everything posted on the official site of NRD. You simply can’t miss a single thing, even when the processes are complex, i.e., editing, voting, and proofreading. 

Impact of rule changes in the game:

The impact of rule changes in pickleball has always been positive because it’s the players themselves that propose the changes. However, some people still got things to bash about. It’s the same as how democracy works. If something gets imposed by the 51% majority, the rest 49%, will always be complaining, yet the ordinance still lies in the public’s hand.  

Impact of rule changes in the game

Luckily, there are no such big changes in the game since 1965 that would get the players go protest–yet. There are simple changes that everyone gets used to in no time, which doesn’t affect the game either. However, this year, some attentive changes have taken place, which, technically, is for the betterment of the game, but those whose winning formula is dependent on that, will suffer. 

Again, I’d stay in my stance that the change is for the betterment, and if you observe the amendments closely, you won’t find anything wrong with not using your earbuds and serving a chainsaw. 

Rejected rule of 2022

Not all rules passed by the Ruling committee get approved by the USAPA. Even after the IFP and ruling committee of the USA Pickleball Association passes the shortlisted rules and finds no technical error, the board of directors holds the right and rejects rules. In 2022, 19 rules were submitted by the ruling committee, and the board disapproved of only one rule that states the removal of calling out balls. 

The rule has a tracking ID ‘83” and is entitled “Edit 6.D.7 (Calling out balls)”. While the suggestion is for complete removal of the 6.D.7, the board declines it, saying, “Players shall not call a ball out unless they are certain the ball is out”. This is still the confusing rule of USAPA, but to keep transparency and fairness, the game must have the law. Maybe in the future, they’ll come up with better changes. Until then, the players have to follow the existing law.  

Pickleball Rule changes 2022–Summary:

If you think all of it was a bit too much, count me in. I know how you feel when your favorite serve gets banned, or you can’t use your earbuds because that’s what I usually had in my game. However, with time, the new changes start to feel natural, and you’ll be fine with these new rules, too. Or maybe you’d love them even more than the previous ones. Despite their good or bad effect on your personalized style, the rules are supposed to bring positive change, and the more you focus on that, the better your techniques and performance get. 

If you’ve any queries, suggestions, or want to share your views on any rule(s)–know that I’m all ears. I’d love to have a fruitful discussion, debate, or get your confusion solved. See ya!

Robby Anderson

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