Why Rules Matter

Sept. 14, 2015, 1:06 a.m. (ET)

Why Rules Matter

Play by the Racquet Specification Rules

There is nothing more important to a sport than its rules.  Rules ensure that the sport played by one person is the same as that played by another.  This simple dynamic allows for fair play.

Nearly 50 years ago, USA Racquetball was formed, in part, for the very purposes of standardizing the rules and identifying national champions for the then young sport in accordance with those rules.  The most viewed content on the USA Racquetball website is the rules section.  People who want to know how to play racquetball look to the rules.

Over the ensuing half century, racquetball players have enjoyed the sport both recreationally and competitively by playing by the rules.  The key attributes -- that the served ball must pass the short line, the ball must be struck prior to its second bounce, and the struck ball must travel to the front wall without touching the floor are just a few of the many rules that define racquetball as the sport that it is.  Without standardized rules, what is racquetball, or any sport for that matter?

There have been many changes and innovations introduced to racquetball over the years -- from the addition of the safety line and the requirement for eye guards, to ceiling balls, the sport has evolved.  During this time, players felt that when they stepped onto a court in sanctioned competition or recreational play, they were on equal footing with their opponents and that the outcome of their match would be based on skill because they were playing by the same rules.

USA Racquetball takes its responsibility to manage and administer the Rules of Racquetball very seriously.  This is a responsibility that has developed and become more meaningful over the past five decades.  We know that the rules are important to players at all levels of play.  Because of this, we have an open and public rules modification process that includes input from individual players.  We also have a longstanding policy in place that requires an additional two-year waiting period for any changes to racquet specifications to come into effect.   Similar to many other sports, the delay is in place to help ensure that changes in racquet specifications are fair to manufacturers and players alike.

Recently, racquet frames that are longer than currently allowed by the rules were introduced into the marketplace.  USA Racquetball believes that the introduction of products made outside the specifications stated in the rules are counter to the best interests of the sport.  It is important to note that such racquets are not allowed for use in any USA Racquetball sanctioned events.  As has always been the case, we encourage players at all levels of this great sport to play by the rules to best promote fairness, which in turn leads to increased enjoyment and camaraderie.  To assist in this, USA Racquetball has recently added a List of Non-Conforming Racquets to its website. 

USA Racquetball appreciates the resources that equipment manufacturers bring to the sport and recognizes that most product innovations are within the rules.  Manufacturers do this out of respect for the integrity of the sport and the knowledge that an environment without racquet specifications would not only be damaging to the sport but could, in short order, lead to the inability to define what is and is not racquetball.

While it may be tempting to ask how much difference a half-inch here or inch there can make, the real question that must be asked is why not three inches longer, or perhaps five inches, or more?  What if manufacturers kept making racquets incrementally longer than their competitors?  The fact of the matter is that any racquet longer than 22 inches is currently outside the allowed limits and its use is, therefore, not racquetball as played by the rules.

Practically speaking, racquets in excess of 22 inches bring safety considerations into play and are likely to further speed up the sport.  Many would contend that increasing racquet length and speed may make the sport even more intimidating to beginners and especially women and children, segments that are important to the future of the sport. 

USA Racquetball stands firmly by its rules and rules modification processes.  We strongly believe it in the best interests of the sport and its players to play by the rules and the spirit of the rules.  Of course, as we always have, we intend to listen to racquetball players when it comes to what defines our sport.  We are, since day one, an association of players and strive every day to serve the interests of those who share our passion for racquetball – yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

View the USA Racquetball Rule Book

For rules related questions, contact Otto Dietrich, USA Racquetball National Rules Commissioner, at odietrich@usra.org.

Other inquiries or comments can be directed to Steve Czarnecki, Executive Director, at sczarnecki@usra.org.