By Ray Cornell
Over the years, these articles have covered many aspects of the rules, from playing, refereeing and equipment, to court layout. So let’s test your recall. Can you separate fact from myth or local lore? See how well you can spot “fake rules … !”
Following are 10 commonly-held myths. First decide why you think it’s a myth, then read the corresponding fact to see if you’re right.
Myth #1: As long as my foot at least touches the short line during serve, my serve is legal.
Myth #2: I, or my doubles partner, can leave the service box right after I’ve hit my serve.
Myth #3: How the non-serving partner in doubles positions himself in the box during the serve doesn’t matter.
Myth #4: I’m a good player, so I don’t need safety goggles.
Myth #5: A penalty hinder is only when my opponent blocks my set shot to the front wall.
Myth #6: If the ball goes out of the court, the rally is replayed.
Myth #7: We just replay anytime someone happens to be in the way.
Myth #8: Any court hinder is replayed.
Myth #9: I’ve seen the pros do it, so it must be okay.
Myth #10: The referee’s primary responsibility is to keep score.
Now the facts … [all references are quoted from the USAR Official Rules of Racquetball] …
Fact #1: Both feet of the server must be fully within the service zone. That means that no part of the foot can be over the painted line in the safety zone during the serve motion – rules 3.2 and 3.9(a)(1).
Fact #2: The server, and the non-serving partner in doubles, cannot leave the service zone until the served ball has crossed the plane of the short line – rule 3.10(i). However, this rule is different in the IRT – rule 11.4.
Fact #3: The server’s partner shall stand erect with back facing the side wall and with both feet on the floor within the service box from the moment the server begins the service motion until the served ball passes the short line – rule 4.2(b).
Fact #4: Accidents happen, and you cannot control what other people do or when they do it. Safety is important in any sport, including racquetball. An eye is easily damaged by a ball hitting it a high velocity, or by a swinging racquet. Besides loss of eyesight, there are game and match penalties for failure to use proper eyewear – rules 2.5(a) and 3.17(a)(9).
Fact #5: This is only a partial myth in that blocking a straight-in shot is not the only definition of a penalty hinder. There are nine penalty hinders, including failure to move, stroke interference, and moving into the ball, any of which can negate an offensive player’s shot – rule 3.15. And don’t call it an avoidable hinder – that term was discontinued several years ago because intent to hinder is not part of the determination.
Fact #6: There are several things to consider before deciding if there is a replay or a loss of the rally when that happens. Considerations include: whether the ball bounced first (replay) or did it leave the court without bouncing (loss of rally); was a court hinder involved (replay) – rule 3.14(a)(1). Also determine if rules other than those for USA Racquetball being followed (generally, it’s a replay) – e.g., rule 11.8.
Fact #7: Because there are players who regularly agree to do this, it’s not a clear myth or fact determination of a rule. However, if the hinder is a penalty hinder, it can be a great disadvantage to someone if their opponent regularly takes away good offensive opportunities from them – rule 3.15. Replay hinders are just replayed.
Fact #8: In general, there is no court hinder unless it has been designated prior to the start of a match; otherwise, it is not fair to wait for the middle of a rally to call a court hinder that might be in your favor. However, the rule does call out specific cases where play should stop due to certain irregular bounces or a wet spot that affects the rally – rule 3.14(a)(1).
Fact #9: Not necessarily. There are multiple variations of the rules based on the governing body. While the core aspects of the rules are the same, there are many variations, several of which are covered in detail in the USA Racquetball rulebook. Variations by organization include: IRT, LPRT, CPRT, and NMRA. The IRF governs play among non-US countries. In addition, there are modifications for outdoor play, visually impaired players, deaf players, players using wheelchairs, and multi-bounce rules generally for very young players – rule sections 6-14.
Fact #10: The referee has a responsibility to keep score, but the primary responsibility is to manage the match, which involves a significant list of duties before and during the match, with authority over players and spectators. Managing the match includes: pre-match briefing; starting play; ensuring the pace of the match is maintained (i.e., 10-second rule, timeouts, breaks); rendering judgements on proper equipment, hinder calls, legal serves, and screens; keeping track of serve order; assessing technical warnings and fouls; and working with line judges if used – rule section B and references throughout the rules.
How did you do? I hope you did well, because that means these articles are worthwhile, that you are becoming an expert, and then encouraging and educating others as you enjoy this wonderful sport wherever you play!