RacquetWorld's Newsletter Racquetball Tip of the Month


Santa vs JGG – Tough Rule Calls

I’m going be very honest here. No matter what story line I thought of I just couldn’t do it. There was no feasible way I could let a big green vegetable eating giant beat Santa Clause in anything. I know vegetables are a magical food but they can’t compete with the magic of the man in red.

So in short, although the Jolly Green Giant (JGG) was much better prepared, ate right, slept well, drank plenty of water and stretched before the match, Santa won in two straight. We can however examine the incredible referee performance given by special guest Ruben Gonzalez and linesmen Rudolf and Mrs. Clause. (linesmen are pretty smart…they know at all the packed matches the crowd has to let them have a premier seat and not miss any of the action).

The big introductions are made and the score is called…0 serving 0.

On the very first point, the JGG miss hits his return and sends the ball out of the court. The good old “blast rule” comes into play and it’s a point for Santa. Three rallies later, the JGG hits an overhand while standing close to the front wall and the ball takes a high bounce off the floor and once again goes out. This time the correct call is a play over as the ball bounced out and was not hit out on the fly. This is a subtle difference that often leads to confusion but not a tough call for our professional ref.

Midway through the first game Santa hits the ball and it “clinks” on the door handle as it comes off the back wall. There was no apparent deviation in the flight of the ball’s path and the JGG setups and puts the ball away. Santa appeals that any contact with the door handle should be a court hinder…the crowd turns to see the refs call. This is a case where a non- local ref could be in trouble. Most courts have a couple local rules. The court hinder is one of them that should be decided before play even starts and be consistent throughout the club. In this case, there was no mention of the door handle being an automatic court hinder prior to the match and since the ball’s bounce was unaltered, Santa loses this one. Lesson to be learned: BEFORE you start to play make sure you agree on how local rules are handled, especially potential court hinders like door handles, grates and lights. If there’s any question, just ask the person you’re playing to avoid misunderstandings during the match.

The first few points of the second game bring us our biggest meltdown of the match. Santa hits the ball down the line and the JGG steps over from a little behind center court to cut off the down the line shot. Santa was initially moving forward to escape being in the way, however the JGG cut off that route and Santa was forced into the back corner of the court pinned in. The JGG doesn’t take the shot. Santa steps aside at the last second and the ball goes by both of them. Thank god we have a professional ref to get this call right. Before you read the long-winded answer…think about how you would make the call first and see if you’re right.

The ref calls point Santa...pandemonium breaks out on the court with the JGG glaring up and making his case…Santa grabs the ball and heads toward the service box. The JGG can’t believe it…how can that possibly be the call. I, myself, am eagerly awaiting the answer Ruben will give.

The JGG exclaims he wants a hinder and maybe even an avoidable hinder.

Ruben first explains that the JGG’s position allowed him to take the shot and he chose to hold up. That hold up could be for one of two reasons. Either you thought Santa’s safety was in danger and you held up for a safety hinder, or you knew if the ball hit Santa you would be awarded the point. In this case, since you did not raise your hand to signal you wanted a hinder call, I can only assume you were letting the ball go so it would hit Santa. When he ducked out of the way, you failed to retrieve the ball before it bounced for the second time...thus point Santa.

The JGG protested again.

Ruben went on. You can’t have it both ways. If you raised your hand looking for the safety hinder, you would have gotten that call. But once you allowed that hinder opportunity to pass in an attempt to win the point by having the ball hit your opponent you can’t go back in time and say you now want the hinder when you realize the ball missed him. The events happen in a specific order and even though it may seem almost instantaneous on the court they’re in a sequential order to the situation on the court... always.

As a few side notes. This is a very tough call. The ref has to put himself in the mind of the player holding up. If the JGG has raised his hand and the ball went on to hit Santa, the correct call would be a replay. Again there is an order sequence to the events and once the JGG asks for the hinder by raising his hand (or calling out) whatever happens after that is irrelevant.

The last situation to address here is what if Santa was not behind the JGG but was more beside him and actually blocking his shot. Well, that would most likely be an avoidable hinder. Now if the JGG holds up, an avoidable hinder occurred. Thus it’s the JGG’s point even if Santa ducks out of the way and the ball misses him. The avoidable hinder occurred and anything after that is irrelevant. Most of the time in this situation the JGG holds up and the ball hit Santa. Most players would say its JGG’s point because it hit Santa…and in most non-refereed games that’s the easy non-argumentative way to look at it. However, the correct way is that an avoidable hinder occurred and that’s why the point was won.

I’m glad we got through that one.

When the end was near and the big green guy was getting tired his follow through was getting wider and wider on his backhand. Hey, he’s a giant to start with and when he tried to rev up the power he was clearing six feet around him. The JGG was hitting winning backhands down the line and Santa was getting frustrated trying to dodge the huge follow through and get to the balls that were left up. Then it happened…bang – boom the JGG hit Santa with his racquet on the follow through. Santa took the welt in stride and pinched the Giant’s shot. The JGG wanted a replay saying it was a hinder. Point and match to Santa!

Ruben explains that once the ball leaves the Giant’s racquet, it’s Santa’s turn to hit the ball and thus make any hinder calls. You can’t call a hinder if it’s not your turn to hit. There is no hinder on getting hit with a follow through unless the player who got hit makes the call because he can’t continue to play the ball. There is no automatic call here. When this happens to caring players (unlike the JGG who was in the heat of the battle) many times play is stopped to make sure the hit player is all right…but the correct way to play is for both player to continue to play the point out and only the player who got hit should call the play stoppage right after he got hit by the racquet…not after he sees how good or bad his next shot was.

I’d like to thank our guest ref for making his appearance and I’d like to congratulate Santa for another well-deserved title. I have a feeling the JGG will be retiring to the age divisions after this season. He takes great care of himself and he should be a force to be reckoned with.

If you have further questions about any of the calls made in this match, I’m an e-mail away.

Happy New Year 2011 Everyone!

Questions or comment…Pat@Racquetworld.com

You can forward any rules questions to me at Pat@Racquetworld.com