Pickleball is a sport that keeps changing and growing, and so do its rules. Every year, USA Pickleball reviews and updates the Official Rulebook to make sure it reflects the current state of the game. That's why it's important to keep up with the latest rules changes, especially if you want to play in a tournament.
| 6 New Pickleball Rules You Need to Know for 2023
Img credit: Dropshot pickleball
For 2023, there are 6 major changes to the pickleball rules that you should be aware of. These are:
1. No More Spinning the Ball Before Serving
In 2021, there was a lot of debate about the serve, especially the so-called "chainsaw serve", where a player would use their other hand or their paddle to spin the ball before hitting it. This was banned in 2022, but some players still used their other hand (only their other hand) to spin the ball before serving. This was called the "one-handed spin serve".
The one-handed spin serve is now also banned under the 2023 pickleball rules. The rule says that "[t]he server shall not manipulate or spin the ball on the release of the ball immediately prior to the serve." This applies to both the regular serve and the drop serve. The reason for this change (according to the USA Pickleball Rules Committee) was that:
- - The serve was meant to start the play (not to give an advantage);
- - "Most players cannot master a truly effective spin serve, or return a good spin serve";
- - "Effective spin serves require more court space to allow a receiver to react";
- - "Only a limited number of players have mastered this, giving them an unfair advantage; and
- - The spin serve is "particularly devastating for amateur players."
So, forget about spinning the ball before serving. You can still spin the ball with your paddle when you hit it (that's still allowed under the 2023 rules). But you should focus more on your power and placement instead.
2. Replay for a Violation of the Serving Motion or Ball Release Rules
Before 2023, if you broke the rules of how to serve or how to release the ball (for example, hitting the ball above your waist), you would lose your serve. Starting in 2023, you might get a replay instead. If the referee is not sure whether you broke the rules, they can call a replay. They can also call a fault if they are sure that you broke the rules.
This new replay rule does not apply to foot faults, but it does apply to any spinning of the ball (see above about the ban of the spin serve). Also, this new replay rule can only be called by the referee, "except that the receiver may also call for a replay if the receiver cannot discern that an item on the hand contacted a visibly spun ball in a non-officiated match or if the release of the ball is not visible to the receiver. The replay must be called before the return of serve."
This new rule change might tempt some players to "test the limits"—both as servers and receivers—as servers can try to get away with breaking the rules, while receivers can call for a replay on hard serves. The USA Pickleball Rules Committee even warns that "[p]layers and referees may have to be watchful for players who attempt to ‘game the system’ by calling for repeated, inappropriate replays as a tactic to disrupt their opponent." But, they also say that "[t]he referee has the power to give verbal or technical warnings to stop this kind of bad behavior when needed." This rule will definitely be one to watch to see if it changes again in the future.
3. Wrong Score Called?
Speaking of a "change of mind," there is a reversal on one change from the previous year. In 2022, the pickleball rules were changed to stop a player from stopping play after the serve because of a wrong score being called. Now, starting in 2023, the pickleball rules will be changed back to the previous rule regarding wrong scores, which is that, if the server or referee calls the wrong score, then any player can stop play at any time before the return of serve to correct the score. However, if any player stops play after the return of serve (or if any player stops play and the score was actually correct), then that player would have made a fault. So, if the wrong score is called, correct it quickly, or wait until the end of the rally.
4. Beware of Your Clothing Color
The rules of pickleball now have two rules about the color of your clothing on the pickleball court. First, as a sportsmanship guideline, pickleball players should "avoid wearing clothing that closely matches the ball color." Also, if there are any close colors in a pickleball tournament, the tournament director can ask a player "to change apparel that are inappropriate, including that which approximates the color of the ball." So, watch those bright yellow and neon colors on the pickleball court!
5. Equipment Time-Outs Are In
This rule change is more relevant for tournament players. In the past, if you had an equipment problem, then you had to use a time-out or time between games to fix or replace your equipment. Now, a referee can give an equipment time-out to allow any necessary equipment adjustment or replacement, so players are not forced to use their valuable time-outs. In non-officiated play, players are encouraged to work together to provide a reasonable accommodation in these situations, too.
6. Other Revisions to Reduce Conflict Between Players and Referees
The Official Rulebook is usually revised to keep the sport fair and fun for years to come and in a way that is best for the players. The Official Rulebook is also usually revised to try to reduce the chance for conflict between referees and players on the pickleball court. For example, there are some revisions to clarify when line calls are to be made, what happens when a player is hit by the ball, what happens when a ball is "degraded," what questions players can ask of a referee (for instance, "Am I good?" is now enough when asking about correct server, receiver, and/or position), and more.
Now that you are updated with the newest and best rules for the sport of pickleball in 2023, it is time to continue to play and grow the fastest-growing sport in the country and make pickleball and the pickleball community better than ever.