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Rule Submission TitleChange Rule 4.A.7.c for Proper Volley Serve From Waist to Hip Joint
USAP Board VoteFailure Confirmed
USAP Rules Committee VoteFailed
USAP Rules Committee Vote ReasonMoving the point to the hip joint may only be slightly easier to determine, if at all. The number of clearly illegal serves is minimal and the referee now has the ability to call for a replay if they are uncertain whether the motion was legal.
Existing Rule #4.A.7.c.
Proposed Rule Change

4.A.7.c. Contact with the ball must not be made above the hip jointwaist. The hip joint is defined as the point at which the leg bends at the hip.

Original Rule Text

4.A.7.c. Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist.

Reasoning Behind Suggested Change

Advanced players continue to push the legal limits of the volley serve in order to achieve a more powerful, advantageous serve. As the athleticism and speed of the serve continues to increase, it has become more difficult for referees to assess the legality of many of these serves. It has reached the point where a valid assessment of many marginal serves cannot be made without the assistance of slow-motion video.

The general observation is that marginally legal/illegal serves which are problematic and might create an unfair advantage can be attributed to the 3rd element required for a legal volley serve (4.A.7.c.), as noted below.

  • Rule 4.A.7. A proper volley serve includes the following elements:
    • 4.A.7.a. The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc at the time the ball is struck with the paddle.
    • 4.A.7.b. The highest point of the paddle head must not be above the highest part of the wrist (where the wrist joint bends) when the paddle strikes the ball.
    • 4.A.7.c. Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist.

The problem with the 3rd element is that the waist is not defined in the rulebook. In previous versions of the Rulebook the waist was defined as the navel, which is obscured by clothing anyway, but that definition has since been removed. The typical anatomical definition of the waist is the following: “The waist is the part of the abdomen between the rib cage and hips.” I’m sure the Rules Committee will agree that the waist is not a precise a location, is obscured by clothing, subject to individual interpretation, and is inherently a poor reference point for determining the legality of a serve.

The 2023 Officiating Handbook provided an option for referees to invoke a “Re-serve” in the event of a questionable service motion. Many players have opined that the "Re-serve" option is not a good solution to the problem. This has helped referees somewhat, but is not the preferred solution since it brings to mind the previous issue that occurred when replying to line call appeals with the phrase “Not enough to overrule,” which elicited the question “Well then, how much is enough?” The same can be said for trying to judge marginal volley serves particularly with respect to the 3rd element: “How high is too high?”

The remedy proposed here is to change the defining element of 4.A.7.c. to a lower point on the body that is clearly defined and easier to observe than the “waist”. Lowering the strike point several inches below the “waist” at the hip joint should eliminate most if not all controversy and contention regarding borderline high serves and bring the service motion more in line with Figures 4-1 and 4-3 as shown in the Rulebook. Arguably this is not a perfect solution since the hip joint is still an obscured body part, but it is a precise location on the body and will be easier to judge than the waist because one can see where the leg bends at the hip. Even if servers were to push the boundary by serving slightly above the hip joint, it will still be well below the perceived “waist.” The included pictures show that it is relatively easy to identify the approximate location of the hip joint.)

Scenarios In Which the Rules Applies

The Volley Serve.

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Rule Book Year2024
Rule Change ID1053
Date CreatedApril 18, 2023
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