April 2022 Rules Rule
by Dan Horner, National Rules Commissioner
In my last article, I discussed how a referee plays a big part in shortening the overall length of a match. Let’s continue by exploring how referees should prepare when they are first assigned a match. By preparing before the match begins, time can be saved during the match as well. The following rules can be found in the back of the USA Racquetball Official Rules of Racquetball (aka the Rulebook) in Section B – Officiating, pages 33-38.
Specifically I am going to address Rule B.5(a) that identifies the pre-match duties the referee is required to perform prior to each match:
- “Check on adequacy of preparation of court with respect to cleanliness, lighting, court hinders, and temperature.” While a referee may have little ability to do anything about the lighting or temperature, they do have the ability to clean the floor and walls or find someone who can if they are wet or dirty from the match before. While on the court, the referee should look the court over for potential court hinders that will need to be mentioned to the players.
- “Check on availability and suitability of materials to include balls, towels, scorecards, pencils, and timepiece necessary for the match.” The official needs to obtain the scorecard and pencil as well as bring either a phone or watch to the court with them to keep track of time between games, timeouts, etc. They should ask the tournament desk for two balls in case the first one breaks and obtain a towel to be used to wipe up moisture as needed during the match.
- “Check the readiness and qualifications of the line judges and scorekeeper if used. Review appeal procedures and instruct them of their duties, rules, and local regulations.” If these positions are not requested or assigned for the match, then the referee can skip past this step. However, line judges may be assigned to a match. In this case, it is the referee’s responsibility to verify that the individuals who have been selected understand their duties and how to comply. See Subsections B.6, B.7, and B.8 for the rules regarding line judges, appeals, and the outcome of appeals.
- “Go onto the court to make introductions; brief the players on court hinders (both designated and undesignated); identify any out-of-play areas [see rule 2.1(a)]; discuss local regulations and rule modifications for this tournament; and explain often-misinterpreted rules, such as screen serves and calling hinders.” Most of the details mentioned above are self-explanatory. After introducing themselves to the players on the court, the referee should explain any special rule differences unique to this tournament that may not be known. I recommend that the referee explain a screen before every match. A screen serve specifically should not be called unless all three following aspects are met: (a) the ball passed so closely to the server (or server’s partner in doubles) that it prevented the receiver from having a clear view of the ball; (b) the receiver was in the proper position to return the ball; and (c) the receiver was negatively impacted by the closeness. Aspects (a) and (b) may have been met, however the receiver has a set-up off the back wall from the serve. In these cases, the referee should not take that offensive opportunity away from the receiver. The referee should watch the reaction of the receiver and see if they are signaling that they were negatively impacted by the potential screen before calling one. Often, this is signaled by the receiver raising their off-hand while continuing to return the serve.
- “Inspect players’ equipment; identify the line judges; verify selection of a primary and alternate ball.” While still on the court, the referee should visually inspect players’ racquets and goggles, making sure they are within specifications and being used properly. The referee needs to introduce the line judges and indicate where they will be located outside of the court. Finally, the main ball and alternate ball should be presented.
- “Toss coin or use another equally random method and offer the winner the choice of serving or receiving in the first game.” Just before leaving the court, the official should flip a coin to determine who gets the choice to serve or receive in game one. As indicated in the rule, having one player pick a number written on the back of the scorecard, for instance, is an acceptable alternative method, as long as the referee shows the players after the choice has been made what the correct answer was.