Rules Rule! April 2023
by Dan Horner, National Rules Commissioner
National Rules Commissioner Dan Horner welcomes questions from members and will respond timely along with occasionally featuring a few each month in USAR’s Serving Up the News. Write to Dan at email@example.com, and you may see your questions in a future issue of this newsletter!
This article is a little different than most of mine in the past. I want to talk about juniors and getting them introduced and involved in the game we all love so much. It is so true that juniors are the players of the future. Without us passing our knowledge and passion down to the next generation, the future of our sport is dire. What can we all do to move the ball in the right direction?
- Bring our children, grandchildren, nephews/nieces to the club and show them how to play the game.
- Show an interest when local juniors are practicing and ask if we can assist.
- Become a certified instructor to teach juniors.
- Pay attention and when we notice juniors who are new to the game go onto a court, stop and ask if they know the rules and offer to educate them.
- Donate our old racquets, goggles, and racquetballs to juniors in need.
- Sponsor a junior to attend Junior Nationals or a camp/clinic.
- If you are a tournament director, offer junior divisions at a discounted rate even if you think there are no juniors in your area.
The 2023 Junior Nationals Championships are coming up in late June in Pleasanton, California. USAR is hoping to get a large showing of kids from age 6-21, from all over the country. Registration is open now at https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=40456. This tournament is for all skill levels from juniors competing to qualify for Junior Team USA to beginners in their first tournament who are seeking experience, fun, and friendships.
The Junior Nationals format is different from most racquetball tournaments in that the brackets are not single elimination or consolation. Rather it is designed in Olympic Format where everyone starts in the gold division and should they lose, they drop to blue, red, or white divisions. The benefits to this is that eventually each player will be in a bracket with other players of their caliber and each player is guaranteed three matches or more.
Junior Multi-Bounce Divisions
Juniors play by the same rules as adults except for the youngest age groups. For the littlest ones just getting started, USAR offers multi-bounce rules modifications for the age groups 6 & Under as well as 8 & Under. Kids 10 & Under have the option of playing 2-bounce. The rules for 2-bounce are the same as standard racquetball, however the offensive player gets an extra bounce every time for the return of serve and for the rally.
A group of 2-Bounce juniors posing in front of their round robin draw sheet.
The rules for multi-bounce are significantly different and, to be honest, more complicated. However, this is for good purpose. The rules are designed to slow the game down so juniors can learn to take shots with good form, wait for the ball to come off the back wall, and take kill shots.
The multi-bounce rules can be found on page 21 in the current USAR Rulebook in Section 5. For convenience, I have pasted these at the end of this article*. I’ll explain the two key differences:
First, there are lines added to the front wall to incentivize aiming for the kill shot or pass shot specified in Rule 5.3. If the player successfully hits a shot under the one-foot line, then their opponent only gets one bounce to return it. If they successfully hit a shot between the two lines, then their opponent gets two bounces to return the shot. All other shots allow their opponent to take more than two bounces to return it.
Second, the junior only gets one swing, but they can wait until the ball is at just the right height to hit it as long as they do so before the ball crosses the short line after coming off the back wall.
Multi-bounce juniors trying to keep the tournament director on task
A tip: Parents can be helpful in running/supervising junior multi-bounce divisions. They tend to understand the rules modifications better than just about anyone else!
* USAR Rulebook -- Section 5 Multi-Bounce
In general, the USAR's standard rules governing racquetball play will be followed except for the modifications that follow.
Rule 5.1 Basic Return Rule
In general, the ball remains in play if it is bouncing. However, the player may swing only once at the ball and the ball is considered dead at the point it stops bouncing and begins to roll. Also, anytime the ball rebounds off the back wall, it must be struck before it crosses the short line on the way to the front wall, except as explained in Rule 5.2.
Note: Sometimes, multi-bounce for youths may be played following the basic standard rules with the only exception being the number of bounces allowed, such as either two or three, with the decision being left to the Tournament Director.
Rule 5.2 Blast Rule
If the ball caroms from the front wall to the back wall on the fly, the player may hit the ball from any place on the court-including past the short line--so long as the ball is still bouncing.
Rule 5.3 Front Wall Lines
Two parallel lines (use of blue painter’s tape is advised) should be placed across the front wall such that the bottom edge of one line is 3-feet above the floor and the bottom edge of the other line is 1 foot above the floor. During the rally, any ball that hits the front wall (i) below the 3-foot line and (ii) either on or above the 1-foot line must be returned before it bounces a third time. However, if the ball hits below the 1-foot line, it must be returned before it bounces twice. If the ball hits on or above the 3-foot line, the ball must be returned as described in the basic multi-bounce return rule.
Rule 5.4 Games and Matches
All games are played to 11 points and the first side to win two games wins the match.
Example--Front wall lines
USA Racquetball’s Official Rules of Racquetball in their entirety can be found using this link: https://www.teamusa.org/usa-racquetball/rules