Pickleball Rule Changes 2023 | 360° rotation in pickleball

Whether tax policy changes annually or not, the constant change for each year is the revision of the USAPA rules. Every year, the USAPA board changes and introduces new rules that fuel controversy among the pickleball communities. The 2023 pickleball rule changes are no different. In fact, this year the Internet has entered its biggest war of words.

2023 has been a game-changer for pickleball players, especially spinners. Changes are happening everywhere, but this year they have become a little stricter, banning chainsaws and headphones. It didn’t stop there. This year, USAPA made 19 major rule changes that everyone should be aware of, otherwise heavy fines and embarrassing mistakes will happily await you in the courts.

Pickleball Rule Changes in 2023:

During June 2023, NRD received 72 public submissions through its open window. 19 of these have been approved by the IFP and the US Pickleball Rules Review Committee. Despite this, the official version of Pickleball Rule Changes 2023 provides for the introduction of 18 amendments, including.

    1. Carrying extra balls
    2. Changes to Rule 5
    3. Editorial changes
    4. Calling the wrong account
    5. Leave Drop Serve as is. Remove temporary status
    6. The ball returns to the other side of the net
    7. The maintenance team can also change position during the rally
    8. No headphones or earbuds
    9. Rotations on serves
    10. Referee time-out due to medical time
    11. Timing for VW/TW/TF
    12. Remove COVID/carry serving
    13. Fouls occurring during the final substitution.
    14. Combined Player Question Rules (4.B.8, 4.B.9)
    15. Code of Practice, Table of Contents and Index
    16. Time in procedures
    17. Allow the use of a verbal warning for things other than profanity.
    18. Scoring in relegation matches

    Some of these rules are simpler and more natural than others, while some have drastic effects on the game. Additionally, reading them directly from the rulebooks makes them difficult to understand for most players. Since they are written in the language of rules, understanding them requires a lot of effort for any ordinary person with a sports background.

    So, let me update you on the major changes to the rules of pickleball in Year 1.

    5 Important Changes to Pickleball Rules in 2023

    While every rule change in pickleball has equal significance, some of them draw attention to the intensity they bring to the game. Among the 18 rules, the one that I found most difficult this year is;

    No headphones, earbuds or jamming

    This was originally the rule that made me so angry. Music and pickleball used to be my vibe, but of course there are a few reasons why things are changing. According to his explanation, this new rule added to the 2023 Pickleball Rulebook is intended to improve and promote fairness and sportsmanship in the game.

    Нет наушников в пиклболе

    The original idea behind this rule change is to prevent players from cheating by doing online training or e-training during a tournament. In addition to ensuring players remain attentive when calling scores, of course you cannot hear the referee when your headphones or earbuds are on. In addition, there should also be no jamming in court.

    This is actually a great initiative that has taken place in pickleball so far. Headphones and earbuds are already banned in other sports. However, you can use them in a friendly match, or when you are training, or with a car.

    Prohibition on spinning a chainsaw

    If there’s one thing that has the 2023 pickleball rule changed in the fire of controversy, it’s this rule. The committee has made it illegal to spin, which involves your paddle, your paddle hand, and your non-paddle hand. This means that you cannot gain 100% service advantage by giving it to your opponent, which on the one hand makes the game fair on both sides, but on the other hand, takes away the advantage from you for being the serving player or team.

    Запрет на отжим бензопилы

    However, we should all look into the spirit of pickleball. It’s not about the serves, it’s about the plays. So by making this change, it takes pickleball back to its roots and also evens out the game because the chainsaw serve makes the return weak and impossible, by which the serving team gets points for their opponents’ mistakes.

    But hey, the spin isn’t completely over. You can still use your non-paddle hand to make the ball spin and throw it in the intended direction. However, in 2023, some rumors spin serving will be completely banned. However, make sure your ball is visible to the umpire (if present) and the opponent when you release the ball.

    Otherwise, you will have to reserve it. And there is an exception. The rule allows players who cannot (for whatever reason) use their non-paddle hand to use their racquet hand to spin the ball and release it. So I guess it’s not that strict, but I can certainly predict that there will be significant changes in rotation next year.

    Calling the wrong account

    In 2023, your game cannot stop on an incorrect score, or you simply cannot claim a score error after serving or returning service. You would be making a mistake if you called a scoring error during a hand. However, at the end of the rally, if there really was an error, you can make up with the referee, but during the game do not say or listen to anything regarding scoring errors. This is more of a trap in 2023, so be careful.

    Вызов неправильного счета

    Previously, there was room to challenge the score before the third shot. This was done to make the game fair and simple. However, some players have benefited negatively from this rule and most often use it to challenge a score, resulting in a replay of the serve. Now no one can say whether there was an error in service or return or if the serving team failed on the third strike. Moreover, the additional time required remains another disadvantage. In addition to these complications, the rule was also unclear. So I personally would appreciate the change because now the game is more about the game and less about unethical manipulation.

    Timing for VW/TW/TF

    The timing for VW/TW/TF is up to the referee to stop the rally for technical fouls or warnings. This means that the game will be play-on even if there is a foul or warning of any kind. The advantage of this rule is that you will have a continuous rally, and warnings and fouls will be adjusted after the rally ends. While this may be down to the referees, there is of course a long-term benefit to this rule and players can really focus on playing with a steady rhythm. Constantly stopping an ongoing rally not only ruins the pace, but also distracts players.

    Allow the use of a verbal warning for things other than profanity

    To maintain the decorum, the new changes for the current year (2023), empowered the referee to give Verbal warnings for anything he (may) think leads to quarrels and arguments. Previously, the referee could only warn the players about profanity (swearing). Now, you’ve to be ethical and watch your mouth in a tournament game because now the referee has all the power to charge you with TW and TF if your behaviors aren’t up to the mark. 

    verbal warning

    In addition, the referee won’t announce a Verbal Warning for all the players, despite the abusers. Now, only the team at fault will receive the VW, and it’s for one time only, for both the teams, after which the wicked behavior would be considered a technical warning and then a foul. 

    6 of the most productive changes in the Piclbola Rules in 2023:

    In addition to controversial changes, the amendments of 2023 also had some productive changes that benefit the player from all sides.

    Counting points in matches for departure

    Perhaps this is another change that introduced justice to the game. This means that if the player leaves the game for any reason, for example, due to injury, disqualification, etc., he can keep the points scored in the game. Thus, players or teams can use these points to maintain their rating or level in tournaments. This simply means that for any reason you will have the opportunity to save your account, despite retirement.

    Carriage of additional balls

    Wearing additional balls was such a necessary change, since the balls were not so strong, and the players had to stop the game. However, taking them in a free hand is not justified by the enemy. Imagine that you are against the team that throws you the ball, while you are focused on the ball that is still in their free hand. You will hate it, believe me.

    Переноска дополнительных мячей

    Thus, there are conditions that need to be followed in this change in the rules, namely: your ball should not be visible to your opponents. This means that your ball cannot be in your second hand, and if you have balls in your pocket, and it falls on the court during the match, you will be charged with a fine. Therefore, when you take an extra ball with you, make sure that it is well placed in your pocket or lies in a bag so that when the draw is going, it does not distract your enemy.

    Deleting temporary status from Drop Serve

    Drop Serve

    The drop serve was introduced in 2021 as a temporary serving option. This serve has been officially officialized and isn’t going away soon. This has been the tremendous change of 2022. However, that doesn’t mean any changes to the traditional serve. It makes it easier for the serving team to go with the traditional method or drop the ball to serve it.

    Ball coming back to the other side of the net

    Ball coming back to the other side

    This rule is for the clarity of the existing 11.I.1 Rule. There’s only a change of wording from “back over” to the “other side of,” which clarifies that you can cross the plane of the net without the ball traveling over it if the backspin or wind really asks for it. Considering all the related odds of Rule 11.I.1, the 22 makes things easier by just changing 2 words with 3. 

    Referee-called Medical timeout

    Referee-called Medical timeout

    In pickleball, there are two pickleball medical timeouts. Most often, the players don’t call the medical TO because they get charged against it. However, with this rule, the referee, after analyzing the situation, can call the medical TO on his behalf, and this will not be a player’s TO. Instead, it’s a referee time-out. Besides, the medical timeouts are generally authentic, so there’s no practical drawback, plus the player would still have his TOs left. 

    Time In Procedures

    The time in procedures is a rule revision for Rule 10.A.5, which as a whole, makes pickleball less strict. Previously, when the referee called the time-out for 15 seconds, there’d be just 10 seconds, and if the server fails to serve after the time’s up, you’ll be committed a fault. While in the revision, it’s suggested that the player should be on the court and be ready to play when the score is called, and the server is given 10 seconds. 

    Miscellaneous changes:

    As I said, some rules have little to no effect on the gameplay, but it’s worth being aware of them, so you’re not missing out on anything. I consider these miscellaneous rules and include: 

    Edits to Rule 5

    Edits to Rule 5 are just the change of wordings from teams to players, which involves a change of Ends Between Games and during the games. Previously, it was stated that the teams switch ends, which confuses that it does not apply to the single players. However, this little change clears up the rule explanation. 

    Plus, it further connects Rule 5 to Rule 10 for smoother gameplay. This change has no such noteworthy effect on the game. Rather, it serves as a more precise explanation of Rule 5. 

    Editorial Changes

    There are specific changes in the Rulebook regarding the wording. These changes don’t alter the law or its meaning. They’re for clarity. For example, switching “sides” to switching “ends”. I’m not going into depth because of its technical waste of time here. Instead, the more important thing you need to focus on is…

    Serving team may also reposition during a rally

    reposition during a rally

    Although it seems like the serving team also got the opportunity to switch positions, it’s not like that in actual games. Even before the clearance of this rule, the serving team changes position after the serve. This rule just makes it clear and legalizes it with the wording. Besides that, everything is similar as before regarding repositioning and stacking. 

    Combine rules about player questions (4.B.8, 4.B.9)

    Rule 4.B.8 and 4.B.9 are two exaggerated rules for the same things. The 4.B.8 states rules for the serving team, while 4.B.9 has the exact wording, except the serving team is replaced by the receiving team. Apparently, these are duplicate rules suggested to be one by replacing “serving and receiving terms” with the “players”. It’s one of the editorial changes to make the rules precise and does not affect the course of the game. 

    Fouls occur during an end change

    Fouls occur during an end change

    There’s also an editing error in the 5.B.7 Rule. The wording uses the past tense, which affects the credibility of whether or not it’ll be foul. Changing “has occurred” to “has started” clears up the fallacy due to the sentence structure. 

    Remove COVID/carry serve

    There’s also the change of wording. During the Covid, the 7.N and 11.A, have a change of wording. It says “after a serve,” but since Covid is no more intense or severe, the rules changed to their original wording. 

    Rulebook TOC and Index

    As the name suggests, the Rulebook TOC and Index call for making a Table of Content and Indexing their links to the original content in the Rulebook, so the user can quickly jump to the rule they’ve been looking for. 

    What’s the process of rule changing in Pickleball? 

    The rule-changing process is one of my favorite aspects of pickleball. It truly depicts that pickleball is a people’s game. The people make the changes, in simple words. The board of USAPA opens a window with the name “Public Input Opportunity” every year from the year’s start to June 10 or 15, and everyone can comment with their suggestion for the game. 

    You’ll be given a tracking number for your submission of suggestions, so you’ll know where your suggestion leads, and honestly, it’s the best thing. There are many forums I know that ask for public opinion, and then in the process, it vanishes as if nothing happened. Till the 15th of June, the window will take your submissions, while public comments on your suggestions will be open till the 30th of June. 

    What’s the process of rule changing in Pickleball

    Now comes the voting period, for which the committee takes the entire month of July. All the suggestions and Public Comments will be compiled, and then the IFP ruling committee and USAPA ruling committee hold meetings to review the rules. They either approve, reject, or edit the wording, which becomes the new rules. 

    Once the Ruling Committee of USAPA and IFT pass the rules and the voting results come out on Aug 1st. Then the rules get published on the NRD (New Rules Database). The NRD is more likely a draft, and it’s not official. But, this is the final list that goes official on the Rulebook. 

    Now, for the month of Aug, the committee members examine the approved rules and edit them per the format of the rules language. The editing and writing get done by 15 September, after which the finalized rules, with their titles and tracking numbers, are published on the Rules of Pickleball website. 

    Now, the dice come to the Board of Directors, who verify and approve/reject the rules passed by the Ruling committee. This process gets done before 31st October. Most often, the BoD finalizes the approved rules list in early October. From November, the BoD further proofreads and edits the rules, and finally, on the first of December, the official Rulebook is updated for the people. The USAPA gives the players and coaches one month to get familiar with these rules, so when they get effective, they’re in practice. And, it goes without saying that the rule gets effective on Jan 1st every year. 

    For this entire process, what I appreciate the most is transparency. From June to Dec, the member of the Rules Committee keeps everything posted on the official site of NRD. You simply can’t miss a single thing, even when the processes are complex, i.e., editing, voting, and proofreading. 

    Impact of rule changes in the game:

    The impact of rule changes in pickleball has always been positive because it’s the players themselves that propose the changes. However, some people still got things to bash about. It’s the same as how democracy works. If something gets imposed by the 51% majority, the rest 49%, will always be complaining, yet the ordinance still lies in the public’s hand.  


    Impact of rule changes in the game


    Luckily, there are no such big changes in the game since 1965 that would get the players go protest–yet. There are simple changes that everyone gets used to in no time, which doesn’t affect the game either. However, this year, some attentive changes have taken place, which, technically, is for the betterment of the game, but those whose winning formula is dependent on that, will suffer. 

    Again, I’d stay in my stance that the change is for the betterment, and if you observe the amendments closely, you won’t find anything wrong with not using your earbuds and serving a chainsaw. 

    Rejected rule of 2023

    Not all rules passed by the Ruling committee get approved by the USAPA. Even after the IFP and ruling committee of the USA Pickleball Association passes the shortlisted rules and finds no technical error, the board of directors holds the right and rejects rules. In 2022, 19 rules were submitted by the ruling committee, and the board disapproved of only one rule that states the removal of calling out balls. 

    The rule has a tracking ID ‘83” and is entitled “Edit 6.D.7 (Calling out balls)”. While the suggestion is for complete removal of the 6.D.7, the board declines it, saying, “Players shall not call a ball out unless they are certain the ball is out”. This is still the confusing rule of USAPA, but to keep transparency and fairness, the game must have the law. Maybe in the future, they’ll come up with better changes. Until then, the players have to follow the existing law.  

    Pickleball Rule changes 2023–Summary:

    If you think all of it was a bit too much, count me in. I know how you feel when your favorite serve gets banned, or you can’t use your earbuds because that’s what I usually had in my game. However, with time, the new changes start to feel natural, and you’ll be fine with these new rules, too. Or maybe you’d love them even more than the previous ones. Despite their good or bad effect on your personalized style, the rules are supposed to bring positive change, and the more you focus on that, the better your techniques and performance get. 

    If you’ve any queries, suggestions, or want to share your views on any rule(s)–know that I’m all ears. I’d love to have a fruitful discussion, debate, or get your confusion solved. See ya!

    Robby Anderson

    Leave a Comment