SUGGESTED USA PICKLEBALL RULE CHANGES FOR 2025

Rule change submissions will close on May 15th, 2024, at 11:59 PM. Comments on the existing rule change submissions will remain open until May 31st, 2024, at 11:59 PM.

Rule Submission TitleCoaching
Existing Rule #10.C, 11.P, 13.G, 13.G.1, 13.G.1.j
Proposed Rule Change

10.C. Continuous Play. Play should be continuous, although players are permitted to quickly take a drink, towel off, or receive coaching in between rallies as long as, in the judgment of the referee, the flow of the game is not adversely impacted. The referee shall call the score when play should be resumed.

11.P.Electronic Equipment. Players shall not wear or use any form of headphones or earbuds during competition play. Exception: Prescribed or necessary hearing aids are permitted.

13.G. Verbal Warnings, Technical Warnings and Technical Fouls.

13.G.1. Verbal Warning and Technical Warnings. The referee is empowered to issue a single verbal warning to each player/team or call technical warnings. Actions or behavior that shall result in a verbal or technical warning:

13.G.1.j. Except during time-outs and in-between games, receiving coaching from anyone other than a partner. Receiving coaching from anyone other than a partner while the ball is live.

 

Original Rule Text

10.C. Continuous Play. Play should be continuous, although players are permitted to quickly take a drink or towel off in between rallies as long as, in the judgment of the referee, the flow of the game is not adversely impacted. The referee shall call the score when play should be resumed.

11.P. Electronic Equipment. Players shall not wear or use any form of headphones or earbuds during competition play. Exception: Prescribed or necessary hearing aids are permitted.

13.G. Verbal Warnings, Technical Warnings and Technical Fouls.

13.G.1. Verbal Warning and Technical Warnings. The referee is empowered to issue a single verbal warning to each player/team or call technical warnings. Actions or behavior that shall result in a verbal or technical warning:

13.G.1.j. Except during time-outs and in-between games, receiving coaching from anyone other than a partner.

Reasoning Behind Suggested Change

The current coaching rule is virtually impossible to effectively enforce as referees are not always able to discern what spectators are saying or transmitting to players during times when coaching is prohibited, especially if they are speaking a foreign language. The referee has no control over spectators who blurt out coaching advice –  unknowingly, inadvertently, or intentionally. If a referee is fully focused on the action on the court, they may not see or hear coaching signals that are being given to players outside of a time-out. Many times the players are even oblivious to unsolicited coaching, which makes the coaching ineffective since it has to be perceived and acted upon by the player to be beneficial. Plus should players be penalized for the actions of spectators who they may not even know or who are offering coaching advice to purposely to get a penalty assessed against a team they are rooting against? In addition, to be alert to improper coaching, the referee must divert some of their attention from the court action.

Even if the referee becomes aware of coaching outside of time-outs, is it worth the effort when some of the rules seem to circumvent the idea of spectators unfairly coaching players? For instance, Rule 6.C.4 states spectators are not to be consulted on any line call. However, players are allowed to consult with spectators during time-outs and possibly be coached into appealing a rally-ending line call before the next serve occurs after the time-out, in accordance with rule 13.F.3.

As pickleball becomes more popular, the number of spectators is increasing. Team events bring an added level of excitement with more cheering and encouragement by coaches and spectators. Coaching outside of time-outs has become more prevalent with players wanting to use every advantage to win bigger prize money and defeat tougher competition.

This rule suggestion is a variation of suggested rule changes 1393 and 1599. However, this suggested rule change allows players to be coached by spectators anytime except during rallies, as long as the flow of play is not delayed. In other words, players can be quickly coached during dead ball times. The timeframe would be similar to the time it takes for a player to take a sip of water or to towel off. If a player allows a delay longer than reasonable to get a quick coaching tip, the player would be subject to penalty per rule 13.G.1.e for taking time between rallies in a way that unnecessarily disrupts the flow of play. However, the referee’s first warning would be to call the score when sufficient time has been allowed.

Coaching during a rally has not been problematic. However, to address such a situation should it arise, the referee would generally warn spectators on the first occurrence of improper coaching as they may not be aware of the rule. If subsequent coaching during a rally occurs during the match, the referee would request the offending spectator to leave the court area. If the spectator refuses to leave, the referee would call for the Head Referee or Tournament Director to have the spectator removed from the area or premises.

Scenarios In Which the Rules Applies
  1. Players can quickly consult coaches between rallies while the ball is being retrieved by the opponent.
  2. Spectators can offer coaching tips to players after the ball is dead and before the score is called to start the next rally. The referee does not have to be concerned about this interaction since spectators can converse with players during this time.
  3. Players can look at their watches between rallies without the referee being concerned that illegal coaching is taking place.
  4. If a player spends more than about 5 seconds talking to a spectator between rallies while the other players are ready to play, the referee shall either call the score or issue the player a verbal or technical warning for delaying the game by taking too much time between rallies in a way that disrupted the flow of play.
Rule Book Year2025
Rule Change ID1797
Date CreatedMay 14, 2024
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