News circulated recently that the USA Pickleball committee has passed the rule that would eliminate the spin serve in pickleball starting in 2023. To my understanding, the rule change would still need to be approved by the USA Pickleball board. While the board has voted against rules passed by the committee in the past, they typically are in agreement with one another.
When I think of the spin serve, I think of APP great and fellow Midwesterner Zane Navratil. Zane has been known for his aggressive serve styles on the tour and can be credited for making the chainsaw “Zanesaw” serve popular (this style of serve has since been banned.) Zane has since adapted to the more traditional spin serve now that can be seen on the APP tour. (Note the PPA does not allow spin serves in their events.)
In the above video, you can watch Zane describe how he adapted from the chainsaw to the spin serve. He gives some great tips on how you are able to replicate the spin serve and why he chooses to use it. It’s funny that he alludes to the possibility that the spin serve may not be legal for long, hinting that he knew this was a possibility for the 2023 year.
To clarify the proposed rule change, the element that is banned is that you cannot spin the ball as you release it from your hand. If you do, it will be called a re-play and you will need to serve again. You can still hit the ball with topspin or slice as long as you follow the serve rules. The only new restriction is spinning it upon release.
Now let me start off by saying that I personally do not use a spin serve. I have tried it and it’s fun to mess around with, but I am way too inconsistent with it to use it as a weapon. But just because I don’t use it, doesn’t mean I am against it. I think it’s important for players to have their own unique style of play. Whether it’s a spin serve, lobs, banging, or the over-use of Ernes (Warkittens…) each player should play to their skillsets or to their opponents weakness.
The spin serve is a skilled shot. On the other hand, returning a spin serve is a skill as well. While I understand the serve was never intended to be a winning shot, it can certainly be used to set up a series of shots to your advantage, similar to a 3rd shot drop strategy.
I’ve seen sentiment that the spin serve was banned because “Only a limited number of players have mastered this, giving them an unfair advantage.” I hope this is not the case. I like to think of it in terms of a baseball pitcher. Pitchers need to have more than one pitch. They may have a go-to pitch or one they rely on more often, but they can’t be a one trick pony. They need to adapt to the hitter. Similar things can be said in pickleball. You can have a go-to serve, but it’s important to mix up the spin, speed, and position on your serves.
I’m sure everybody will adapt to the new rules and there will be a new “exploitation” that will fill the void of the spin serve, it will happen. I don’t like them eliminating some unique skilled shots to make the sport more “uniform.” Could we see some of the most beloved shots like the Erne eliminated next? Pulling off an Erne is a unique skill, but it’s also an exploitation of the rules and boundaries of the court. You must be able to time it perfectly from a physical and mental stand point. Some don’t have the physical characteristics or recognition skills to pull off the shot, but it still remains in the game. It’s one of the unique plays that makes pickleball great.
Will I lose sleep over the proposed rule change? No, but I think it’s important to talk about. I understand there are differing opinions and people prefer different styles of play, but the one thing I always preach in pickleball is to “Play Your Game, Make Them Adapt To You.”