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Pickleball Rules Changes for 2023

Published: 2023-01-08
Pickleball Rules Changes for 2023
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During exponential growth periods like the one pickleball is currently experiencing, change is inevitable as is evidenced by the participation proliferation itself.

One of the fundamental changes that occurs during growth is governance, that is to say, the rules of the sport.  The governing body of most pickleball, and certainly pickleball played in the United States, is USA Pickleball. 

A USA Pickleball rules committee and its board of directors approved changes to its 2023 assemblage of rules of play.  The chapter and verse of the USA Pickleball 2023 Rules Changes are downloadable, as is the full approved 2023 USA Pickleball Rulebook.

Several of the 78 rule adjustments proposed by players to the committee were incorporated in the approved changes, which are now in effect.

Some of the more significant rules changes for 2023 include:


Serve Changes to Pickleball Rules

Eliminating spin on a serve was a big change, a change to elongate points. A spinning serve was deemed too effective, ending points prematurely and erasing pickleball’s establishing context of rallying points with several exchanges.  The spinning serve also effectively makes the receiving side spatially constricted. So, Rule $4.A.6.b was adjusted to read, “The ball shall not be propelled downward or tossed or hit upward with the paddle.  The ball may not be spun during its release.”

The rules adjustments to the volley serve require servers to use only one hand to release the ball during a serve.  If a referee or receiver in un-refereed games is seen to have been spun during the serve, the point is replayed.  A list of varying potential instances where drop, lob, and power serves were not affected by the rule change.


Clothing Color Pickleball Rules Changes

While not sitting in judgment to fashion the color of clothing that matches the color of the ball in play can result in a visual disadvantage for opponents.  During tournaments, a director can request an athlete to make an apparel change.  These adjustments are found on the first page of the Players Section.  While there is no penalty ascribed to the issue, it becomes an instance of courtesy when selecting clothing for play.


Equipment Time-Out Changes to Pickleball Rules

The board and rules committee voted unanimously to update Rule # 10.D to read, “If the referee determines that an equipment change or adjustment is necessary for fair and safe continuation of the match, the referee may award an equipment time-out of a reasonable duration.” Originally a two-minute time limit was assigned, but it was removed from the rule. For non-officiated matches, players can agree on what to do in the case of malfunctioning equipment.


Balls Hitting Players Pickleball Rules Change

Rule # 7. H and 7.I was amended putting the responsibility on the player who is hit by the ball or who stops the ball in play.  Once served the ball should not have contact with anything but the player’s paddle.  The ball can’t touch a player’s body, hair, clothing, shoes, etc.  

“If the player is in the process of changing hands with both hands on the paddle or is attempting a two-handed stroke and either hand is hit below the wrist, as long as the player’s hand(s) are in contact with the paddle, the ball is still in play,” adding, “The fault is on the player who was hit by the ball,” the change reads.

The rule goes on to say if a live ball is stopped by a player before it becomes dead, such as someone catching it in mid-flight, it will be the fault of the player who stopped the ball. 


Questioning an Opponent’s Call in Pickleball

Though controversial to some, Rule # 6.D.5 was approved to edit. It says a player should not question or comment about an opponent’s call. It does allow them to appeal to the referee but they must do so before the next serve.  There is no penalty, though a behavioral outline is noted.


More 2023 Pickleball Rules Change Highlights

Foot fault wording on services was adjusted and time outs for clothing changes and clarification of round-robin tie-breakers were updated as was the rule for when a wrong score is called.

In another serving adjustment Rule, # 4.B.8 now allows referees to stop play when a player correctly identifies a player who is out of position or when they notice an incorrect service order. Instead of this being a fault it now allows players to replay the point. 

Another rule adjustment addressed the replacement of a defective or broken ball can be made when both sides agree between points when no referee is involved.  When one is, any player may seek a judgment.  If, during live play, a ball appears defective, play continues until the end of the rally.