Certification: Part I

As an avid fan of all racquet sports, I watched the 2011 US Open tennis championship marveling at the number of calls that are made correctly.  Granted, they have several line judges, a chair umpire, and a “spot shot” instant replay system to decide appeals.  The chair umpires are confident and knowledgeable as indicated by the disputed hindrance call against Serena in the women’s finals.  Despite the pressure of the moment, the chair umpire made a correct call on a rarely enforced rule that parallels a penalty hinder call in racquetball.  Not only was Serena unacquainted with the rule, the long-time tennis commentators were unfamiliar, relying instead on confirmation from the head official.

Given that racquetball matches are typically officiated by only one individual, this incident begs the question, “How well do racquetball players know the rules?”

Most tournament players believe they are well versed in the rules of the game. Yet, not every call is as simple as “skip” or “point”. Let’s explore a few scenarios to see how you would make a call if you were officiating. Questions may offer more than one correct answer; the correct answers are provided at the end of the article.

1. In the middle of the first game of a match, a player requests that the game ball be exchanged for another ball. No express reason is given for the request.  What is the correct course of action?

a.       Since the match has already been initiated, no change of ball is allowed unless broken.
b.      The ball change should only be authorized if both players consent.
c.       The ball can be changed with one player’s request, but only if the official approves.
d.      The referee may exchange the ball at the request of the one player.

2. A few points into the first game, the receiver notifies the official that the server is wearing illegal eyewear. Upon inquiry, the server explains to the official that the frames are typical prescription, but that the lenses are plastic. Upon consultation, the referee deems the eyewear illegal. What is the correct call (or calls)?

a.       The official should give the server a warning about the risk associated of playing with illegal eyewear and notify the tournament director of the warning.
b.      The official should assess a timeout and require the server to obtain legal eyewear.
c.       The official should assess a technical warning and require the server to obtain legal eyewear.
d.      The official should assess a technical foul, deduct a point, and require the server to obtain legal eyewear.

3.       During a match using line judges, the server hits what appears to be a splat rollout, but called a “skip” by the referee.  The offensive player appeals the call and both line judges extend a “thumbs down” signal.  What is the correct call?

a.       The referee should award a sideout since both line judges extended a “thumbs down” signal.
b.      The referee should replay the point since all officials do not agree on the call.
c.       The referee should reverse the call and award a point to the server since the shot was irretrievable.
d.      The official should replay the point since both line judges disagree with his call.

The questions above highlight some of the random situations that arise during tournaments. So how did you do on the rules quiz? How do you think your next referee did on the quiz?  Would you tend to show more respect to the referee’s calls if they were certified to be knowledgeable of the rules? Would you support a program that develops referee competency?

Many have already responded with a resounding “yes”.  Based on this feedback from CRA members, the board has implemented a Referee Certification Program designed to increase knowledge of the rules and improve officiating. The goal of the program is to increase player confidence in officiating matches and provide reassurance to players that referees are well qualified.

The Referee Certification Program developed for Colorado players closely mirrors the National Certification Program.  This program will ensure players are well qualified to referee matches by meeting the following standards:

1.       Attending a formal rules clinic.
2.       Passing a written test.
3.       Refereeing 10 matches, both singles and doubles.
4.       Passing match assessments by a qualified assessor.

The referee certification will be good for 3 years with an abbreviated renewal process.  Certification will provide the confidence necessary to competently referee a match. Additionally, the certification will carry added benefits at various tournaments.  Discussions are still pending on how to reward those who take the initiative to obtain certification.

The CRA would like to hear your ideas on possible incentives to obtain certification.  Please forward any ideas you may have to Dave@ColoradoRacquetball.com or Rballcoach@gmail.com.  The CRA board expects to start the incentives at the State Doubles Championships in November.

Referee certification is primarily aimed at improving tournament matches, but will also have a positive effect on recreational play. The CRA encourages all players to pursue certification, especially those who are sponsored or competing in tournaments.  Rules clinics will be held at most tournaments and at selected venues throughout the year.  League Directors are encouraged to promote certification with their players by scheduling a clinic during league play – please e-mail Dave@coloradoracquetball.com  to schedule.

Remember – players should not criticize officials without demonstrating that they Know the Rules!


1.       “d” – The referee may exchange the ball at the request of the one player.  [rule 2.3(a)]
2.       Both “b” and “d” – The official should assess a timeout and require the server to obtain legal eyewear AND the official should assess technical foul, deduct a point, and require the server to obtain legal eyewear. [rule 3.17(a) 9]
3.       “c” – The official should reverse the call and award a point to the server since the shot was not retrievable. [rules B.6(g) & B.8(a)]

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