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  • Writer's pictureBen Lacy

Serve Distractions - and more!

Hi Ben, I have a question about a rule. During the serve, the server's paddle hit her own leg and then the ball, then the ball landed and touched the receiver's partner body. The server had been making loud noise the whole time that distracted the opponents. Who's point? Thanks in advance!



Wow! You have a lot of things going on here...serving, a dead ball, possible distractions...a smorgasbord of possible rules issues...I LOVE IT!!!!

First, if we were talking face-to-face, I would ask if this game was being officiated or not. It matters where distractions come into play because the referee has the final say on what is a distraction.

As a referee, we are challenged to pay attention to the ORDER in which events occur. They determine which rules are applicable and when the ball becomes dead. After the ball is dead, no other rules violations can occur (except NVZ foot faults).

Per rule 3.A.6., a distraction is : Physical actions by a player that are ‘not common to the game’ that, in the judgment of the referee, may interfere with the opponent’s ability or concentration to hit the ball.


Per rule 11.J. Distractions. Players may not distract an opponent when the opponent is about to play the ball. If in the judgment of the referee a distraction has occurred, the referee shall immediately call a fault on the offending team.

The "loud noise" you are referring to may or may not be "common to the game." Partners yelling communications and encouraging each other loudly are common to the game. Yelling invectives at anyone (partner, opponent, the audience, etc.) is not and can be sternly dealt with.

Per SECTION 7 (Fault Rules), A fault (and resulting dead ball) will be declared for the following: and then Rule 7.H. After the serve, the ball contacts a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying, except the paddle or the player’s hand(s) in contact with the paddle and below the wrist.

If this game was officiated AND the referee saw the ball hit the receiver or the receiver's partner (not below the wrist) it would be an immediate fault and a dead ball.

Then there's READINESS. It is the server's responsibility to ensure all players are ready (or should be ready) before the score is called.

Per Rule 4.D. Calling the Score - The score shall be called after the server and receiver are (or should be) in position and all players are (or should be) ready to play.

If the receivers were not ready before the score was called, they should have indicated so (paddle raised above their head, back turned toward the server). If they did not, then the server is well within their rights to serve the ball after the entire score was called.

And finally, there's the rule that governs fault calling.

Per Rule 13.D.1.d. For non-officiated matches, if a player believes an opponent has committed any type of fault other than a service or non-volley zone foot fault as noted in Section 7 – Fault Rules, they may mention the specific fault to the opponent(s) but they have no authority to enforce the fault. The final decision on fault resolution belongs to the player that allegedly committed the fault.

In other words, in an un-officiated game, if you think the ball hit the opponents somewhere above the wrist, all you can so is suggest they might have committed a fault. Conversely, if the receiving team in your scenario believes the servers committed a distraction fault, the receiver, per 13.D.1.d. may only suggest it. The final say goes to the team/player the may have committed the fault.

I know that was a lot, but it was worth breaking your situation down to its component parts.


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