Referee Guide

Sun City Grand Pickleball Referee Training


  • Referee is responsible
    • Score
    • Non-Volley Zone
    • Rules
    • Make sure that the right player is serving
    • Use the odd/even rule to ensure that players are on the correct side
  • USAPA rulebook is available on the web (  Numbers in parentheses are references to sections of the USAPA rules.
  • You are the authority that certifies the match:
    • Ideally, you are transparent and allow the match to proceed without intervention, and generally this is the case
    • Be objective.  Referees and Lines people are expected to make all calls without bias
    • Intervene when warranted: rules violations and resolve disputes
  • Control but do not hinder the match
    • Quickly record any scores and any notes
    • Call the score when the receiver is ready to signal play to continue
  • A player may question a rules interpretation but not a referee’s call
    • If a rule interpretation is questioned, get help: either the tournament director or manager of referees
  • When there is confusion, the referee is expected to resolve it
    • Like it or not, the players will turn to YOU for the decision
    • This is a tournament, not recreational play
      • There are only replays for: (8.C)
        • Referee error
        • Hindrance from a ball, player, or stray object
        • Cracked or broken ball where in the judgment of the referee play was affected
      • Do not let players talk you into a replay because of their indecision

Duties & Actions

  • Before entering the court
    • Get a score sheet, pencil and know the location of extra balls
    • Make sure you know the type of match, 2 out of  3 to 11 points, win by 2 points OR 1 game to 15 points, win by 2 points
    • Players and lines people (if required) are available
  • Upon entering the court, check on court readiness
    • Safety, cleanliness, lighting, height of net, and hazards
      • In the event of rain, you are the final authority to certify a court is ready for play.  Player safety is top priority.  Players can ask for a suspension of play if they deem the court to be dangerous, and the referee should suspend play immediately and report it to the Director
    • If a finals match, availability of lines people and their locations and their responsibilities
  • Instruct the players and set the ground rules
    • Inspect paddles for irregularities (2.D.2)
    • Instruct players to wait for referee to call the score before serving (14E).
  • Instruct players on scoring (2 out of 3 games to 11 points or 1 game to 15 points)
  • Instruct players on timeouts
    • 2 per game called by a player, 30 seconds (11.A)
    • Injury timeout, 15 minutes (11.B)
    • Equipment timeout, only callable by the referee and only if player safety is involved (11.C).  A rally cannot be stopped or affected by an equipment problem (12.G).
    • Between games timeouts, 2 minutes. (11.D)
  • Point out any court hindrances or other approved rule modifications
    • A stray ball or people entering the court during play (replay) (3.L)
    • No restriction on paddle color or shirt color
    • No restriction on communication between partners
      • Distracting an opponent about to hit the ball may be subject to a technical foul (12.H)
  • Instruct players on line calling duties:
    • Referee calls non-volley zone only
    • Players call all other lines including center line for serves
      • Players only call the lines on their side of the court (18. B)
      • Spectators should not be consulted (18.D)
      • No player should question another player’s call.  If the opponent’s opinion is requested, it should be accepted (18.F)  See the section on line call appeals to the referee.
      • All calls must be made instantly, before being hit by the opponent (18.H)
      • Any ball that cannot be called “out” is presumed to be “in”
        No replays because the ball was not seen. (18.I)
      • In doubles play, if the partners disagree, then doubt exists and the ball must be declared “in” (18.K)
      • Line calls should be promptly signaled by hand or voice, regardless of how obvious. (18.L) “No Call” means that the ball is still in play.  The referee duties are the non-volley zone.  During close doubles play it  is not uncommon for the referee to ask the result of play.
  • Any other instructions you deem appropriate.  In most cases, mentioning them will eliminate a discussion during the game
    • No arguing across the court
    • Bring issues to the referee without a full court discussion.  The mere act of questioning an opponent’s play can be used by a player to disrupt an opponent’s flow of play and should not be permitted


  • Initial Play
    • Determine initial service. Event director should have placed a 1 or 2 on the back of the score sheet for this purpose.  Ask one side for a number
      1 or 2, rather than flipping a coin
      .  Winner has a choice of either serving or side of court.

      • Recommend:  Marking initial player positions and serving position on the score sheet
        (during a match this can be used to resolve player positions)
    • When everything is ready, call out the score
  • Play
    • Quickly record the result of the previous play
    • Use everything to help you keep track of the game:
      • Stand on the serving side of the net
      • Use something (fingers) to keep track of service number (1 or 2) for doubles play
      • Flip clipboard when play switches sides
      • Mark when sides should be changed
        • In the last game of match (third or only), sides are changed to equalize wind and sun effects.  (11 point game at 6 points, 15 point game at 8 points)
        • Instruct players to move to their positions before switching sides
      • When timeouts are requested, instruct players to place their paddles on the ground at their positions so they know where to return to
      • Record timeouts
      • Record anything else significant
        • If play is suspended, record positions and other information
    • Call the score when ready:
      • This can be done as soon as you, the court, and the receiver of the ball are ready.  The receiver of the ball is responsible for his partner: the referee does not know the team’s tactics and where they wish to position themselves
      • The receiver of the ball can signal not-readiness by holding up their non-paddle hand above the head or having their back turned.
      • Service should be made within 10 seconds after the score is called by the referee (use reasonable judgment.  You can tell when people are purposefully delaying)
        • If the server serves the ball while the receiver is signaling “not ready”, the ball will be re-served without penalty and the server warned.  If the server continues to serve without checking the receiver, a technical foul may be called (4.J.2)
        • After the score is called, the server looks at the receiver and the receiver is not signaling “not ready”, the server may then serve. The receiver cannot signal “not ready” after the serve is made (4.J.3)
  • Faults
    • Hitting the ball into the net
    • Hitting the ball out of bounds
    • Failure to hit the ball before it bounces twice on the player’s side of the court
    • Violation of a service rule (4)
      • Underhand serve striking the ball above the waist
      • Server foot faults
      • Service made in the non-volley zone or on the non-volley zone line
      • Double bounce rule
        • The serve and the service return must be allowed to bounce before striking the ball
    • A player, clothing, or paddle touching the net during play
    • Ball striking walls or other objects that are not part of the court
    • Violation of the non-volley zone
      • In the act of volleying, a player, article of clothing, or paddle violates the non-volley zone while the ball is in play (9.B & 9.C)
      • Violates the intent of the non-volley zone.  You cannot jump from the non-volley zone, hit the ball and land outside the zone. (9.D)
      • If after a volley, your momentum carries you into the non-volley zone before the ball becomes dead, it is a fault
    • Other rules:
      • Paddle hand hitting the ball below the wrist is not a fault.
      • Carries and double hits are not faults if the ball is hit with one continuous motion.
      • Net and Net Posts (12.J)
        • Striking a net post is out of bounds
        • A ball can be hit around the post but not between the post and net
        • If a ball bounces back over the net without being struck by a player
        • Ball bouncing into the net
      • Distracting the opponent when the opponent is about to play the ball
  • After Play
    • Mark the winning players on the score sheet
    • Make sure your name is on the score sheet as referee
    • Return the score sheet to the Program Director’s desk

Line Call Appeals to the Referee

  • If a player disagrees with an opponent’s line call, he may appeal to the referee by simply saying the word “appeal” or otherwise indicating that he is asking for an overrule.
  • If the referee clearly sees the ball in, the referee may overrule the out call with the following caveats.

o       The referee’s primary visual attention should be the no-volley line when there is a possibility of a foot fault.  The referee might not be looking at the ball.

o       The referee should not overrule unless it is clearly seen by the referee.

o       The sideline closest to the referee is the only line in which the referee is likely to have a better view than the player.  The referee should be cautious about overruling a call on the opposite sideline.  It should not be overruled unless it is obvious that the player did not have a good view of the ball and/or has made an obvious error.  The same is true to a lesser extent about overrules on the baseline.

o       It is okay for the referee to say that he did not see the play or that it is too close to overrule from his vantage point.

Technical Warnings and Fouls

  • The referee is empowered to call technical fouls.  When a technical foul is called, one (1) point shall be added to the score of the abusing player’s opponents.  If play is not immediately resumed, then the referee is empowered to forfeit the match in favor of the abusing player’s opponents.  If a player or team receives two (2) technical fouls in a match or during the tournament, then that match shall automatically result in forfeiture and that play or team shall be expelled from the tournament. (14.M) Actions, which may result in technical fouls are:
    • Profanity
    • Excessive arguing
    • Threats to any player or the referee
    • Purposely breaking the ball or striking of the ball between rallies
    • Throwing the paddle.  If this results in striking a player, spectator, or damage to the court of facility, the technical foul is automatic
    • Delay of game:
      • Taking too much time during time-outs and between games
      • Excessive questioning of the referee
      • Excessive or unnecessary appeals
    • Any other actions that are considered unsportsmanlike behavior
  • If a player’s behavior is not severe enough to warrant a technical foul, a technical warning may be issued.  In most situations, the referee should give a technical warning before issuing a technical foul. (14.N)
  • A technical foul or warning shall have no effect on service change or side out

Removal of a Referee

  • A referee can only be removed if both sides agree that the referee assigned is doing a poor job, or at the discretion of the Tournament Director (14.L)
  • If only one side requests the removal, it is up to the Tournament Director (Commish) to accept or reject the request. (14.L)