Legal Equipment

Ray Cornell

We often focus on the rules of play, so let’s take a look at rules governing approved equipment. Heading into a new season is a great time to review what’s required or allowed, specifications, and how equipment is validated within the rules of play. Three items of personal equipment have quantifiable specifications – the ball, the racquet, and safety eyewear. There are also rules for non-eyewear apparel that we’ll review within the USAR Rulebook sections cited below.

BALL specifications are listed in section 2.2, none of which can be validated by the everyday player or at a typical tournament because they require the use of several technical measuring devices. So, for casual play, use a ball commercially produced by manufacturers like Penn, Ektelon, Gearbox or Wilson. For sanctioned tournaments, you’ll normally be supplied with approved balls for match play.

The rules for legal RACQUETS are in section 2.4. The racquet frame can be made of “any material judged safe,” but must not be longer than 22 inches, including the handle; so don’t use anything with an extended frame or that is termed any type of “longbody.” Using a frame that exceeds 22 inches will result in forfeiture of the game in which the illegal racquet was used. Using a grip extender that exceeds the 22-inch limit during a game will result in a technical foul and a charged timeout to correct it. A second violation will result in loss of the game in progress.

The frame must include a safety cord “securely attached to the player’s wrist,” not longer than 18 inches end-to-end, and cannot stretch to more than 24 inches. There are several types of string that are allowed on the racquet, but they must not mark or deface the ball.

In section 2.5, safety EYEWEAR must meet or exceed the ASTM F803 standard, and is required to be worn during play and match warmup – no exceptions, including for those who normally wear corrective lenses. [Editor’s Note: Seriously. Impact-resistant lenses fitted into fashion wire frames do NOT conform to this standard, under any circumstances, and cannot be worn for sanctioned tournament match play. Ever.] Penalties for failing to use proper eyewear include possible forfeiture of the match. Rule 2.5 lists specific markings or other identification that denote approved eyewear. In addition, a 2013 list of approved eyewear is available for download.

There is a fair amount of flexibility in clothing that can be worn, but it cannot be too wet, too loose, distracting, or with designs, writing, or insignia that’s in poor taste. Shoes must be worn, and cannot damage or mark court floors. Audio devices are allowed only when needed to amplify a player’s hearing.

In addition, during on-court warmup, protective eyewear must be worn, and the safety cord must be securely attached at both ends. Failure to do so will result in a technical warning, and a technical foul if not corrected after the warning. In rule 2.4(d), if a non-compliant wrist cord is discovered during play, a timeout will be charged in order to correct the problem; or a technical foul will be assessed if no timeouts remain for the offending player.

During play, rule 3.15(i) generally states that “If a player loses any apparel, equipment, or other article, play shall be immediately stopped and that player shall be called for a penalty hinder.” This applies to eyewear, hats, jewelry, hair accessories, or other items not specific to racquetball; however, there are some exceptions in certain situations.

Also during play, rule 3.17(a)(9) states that “Failure to wear lensed eyewear designed for racquet sports [rule 2.5(a)] is an automatic technical foul on the first infraction, plus a mandatory timeout to acquire the proper eyewear. A second infraction by that player during the match will result in automatic forfeiture of the match.”

The most stringent equipment rules pertain to having a legal racquet and approved safety eyewear. Failure in either of those areas can result in losing the game or match; whereas, other equipment infractions result in technical warnings or fouls, and/or loss of a timeout, or a penalty hinder.

If you make sure to keep your equipment within legal specifications, under your control, and properly used at all times on the court, everyone can stay safe and enjoy the game!

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