News

Rules Rule! March 2024

by Dan Horner, National Rules Commissioner

Many of the national championships have taken place over the last six weeks.  In February, the USA Racquetball National Indoor Championships took place in Tempe, Arizona. Then the USA Racquetball National High School Championships in St Louis, Missouri, was held from February 28-March 3.  Finally, the USA Racquetball National Intercollegiate Championships occurred last week where the top singles players, top doubles teams, and top overall college teams were crowned. I am very proud to say that my son, Benjamin Horner, won the Boys Singles 2024 National Intercollegiate Championship! 

Still to come on the USA Racquetball national tournament docket is the Junior Nationals Championships in late June in Pleasanton, California. Stay tuned to USAR’s Facebook and YouTube pages (where all of these championships are livestreamed) and follow your favorite players.

And now onto player’s questions and answers.

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Q1. I’m reading the info on the service rules in the current newsletter and have a question.  A few years ago at Women’s Senior Masters a competitor set to serve, dropped the ball to hit, and the ball hit her foot before hitting the ground. No one had ever seen this happen, so we called it a fault serve and she then went to 2nd serve.

A1.  The answer is it should have been automatically side out.  See below.

Rule 3.10 Out Serve--

3.10(b) Missed Serve Attempt. During the service motion, any attempt to serve/strike the ball that results in a total miss or in the ball touching any part of the server's body, including the foot. Also, allowing the ball to bounce more than once for the serve.

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Q2. I am playing a guy who is ambidextrous and is wearing a glove on each hand. He has the racquet in his right hand and serves, and then plays the entire rally right-handed. 
After the rally is over and before the referee calls the score, he removes the wrist cord from his right hand and puts it on his left hand. The score is called and he plays the entire rally left-handed.

The referee calls the score.  The player now removes the wrist strap from his left wrist and places it on his right wrist and serves and plays the entire rally right-handed.  Are these scenarios legal or must the wrist strap remain on the original hand until a timeout is called what is the rule regarding a player who is ambidextrous, and wishes to change hands during a game.

A2. Yes, these scenarios are legal.  A player cannot switch which wrist the cord is attached to during the rally, but in-between rallies is fine.  Also, if the wrist cord is attached to a player's left wrist, he/she is permitted to hold it in either hand or both hands at the same time.  

See the rules below. I bolded the areas applicable to your question.

Rule 3.13(b) Legal Hits.  Only the head or throat of the racquet (not the handle or the hand) may be used at any time to return the ball. The racquet may be held in one or both hands. Removing the wrist cord to switch hands to hit a ball, touching the ball with any part of the body or uniform, or removing the wrist safety cord or losing one’s eye protection during a rally, results in a loss of the rally. Players may hold the racquet in either hand as long as the wrist cord remains securely attached and complies with the length restrictions of Rule 2.4(d) from the start of the service motion until the rally has ended.  

(d) Failure to Return. Any of the following constitutes a failure to make a legal return during a rally:

1. The ball bounces on the floor more than once or else “rolls out” before being hit.

2. The ball does not reach the front wall on the fly after being struck (skip ball), e.g., the ball touching the floor before reaching the front wall or becoming stuck in the racquet strings.

3. The ball is hit such that it goes, without first touching the floor, into the gallery or wall opening or else hits a surface above the normal playing area of the court that has been declared as out-of-play [See Rule 2.1(a)].

4. A ball that obviously does not have the speed or direction to reach the front wall “on the fly” strikes another player.

5. A ball struck by a player hits that player or that player's partner.

6. Committing a penalty hinder. See Rule 3.15.

7. Undoing the wrist cord to switch hands during a rally. Either or both hands may be used if the wrist cord remains secured.

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Q3. Is open considered a skill?  Is it in writing in the rulebook?  According to the scale 1 – 150 = Open, so it seems to be a skill as well as open to all.

A3. As you may know, many rookies have signed up for Open Division thinking it wasn't a skill level and was open to all.  They learned quickly that it is the best of the best amateur-level players.  So the answer is yes it is both. 

Here are the division types from the Rulebook:

C.3 Recognized Divisions  Title opportunities at national championships will be selected from the division lists that follow. Other combined Age + Skill divisions may also be offered to provide additional competitive opportunities for other than open level entrants. For ranking consistency, state organizations are encouraged to use these guidelines to form divisions when establishing competition in all sanctioned events.

(a) Open Division. Any eligible player, as defined in C.1.

(b) Adult Age Divisions. Eligibility is determined by the player’s age on the first day of the tournament that anyone begins playing in that division. The age designated divisions generally begin with 24 & Under, then next to 25 + and thereon are divided into 5-year age upward progressing increments, as needed.

(c) Junior Age Divisions. Eligibility is determined by the player’s age on January 1st of the current calendar year. The division, are generally divided into 2-year groupings beginning with the 8 & Under division and thereon divided into 2-year

upward progressing increments with the highest designated age being 21 & Under. Special Multi-bounce Rules are specified for age groupings of players 6 & Under and 8 & Under.

(d) Skill Divisions. Eligibility is probably best determined by the player’s national ranking.  (https://www.usaracquetballevents.com/rankings.asp). That ranking will place the player into one of the skill level groupings that the USAR has published ranges for at the USAR’s website (https://www.usaracquetball.com/rankings)  USAR has also published specific seeding criteria used for National events.  For other than National tournaments that use the USAR’s tournament management software, this same ranking data and rankings may be used as is or else modified as appropriate. It is further suggested that after entries are closed, the relative rankings of all entrants in every skill level division be examined to ensure that there are no players with badly outlying rankings allowed to play in an event. It is acceptable for a player to play in a skill event with a range that is higher than his own current ranking but allowing higher skilled players to play in a skill division with a range that is below their ranking should be avoided. Subjective decisions about players’ individual skills and what division they should play in will often be required where they do NOT have national ranking or if skill ranges are modified for the event.

(e) Age + Skill Divisions. Player eligibility is determined by the player's age on the first day of the tournament combined with their National ranking skill level or some other skill level certification or verification by a state association official.

Such combinations of age and skill level may be offered for players who do not fall into the "Open" or designated age. 


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