One of the things that often confuses newcomers to pickleball is the so-called “let serve.” When someone served, and the ball hit the net but landed on the proper service court, it was called a let, and the person could serve again. Since pickleball is still a young and evolving sport, its rules constantly change as the sport adapts. So let’s see how many lets are allowed in pickleball.
Before 2021, a pickleball player was allowed a theoretically unlimited number of lets. The rule changed in 2021, and lets will no longer be allowed. If a serve bounces off the net and is playable, it should be played. This change was made to protect the integrity and transparency of the game.
The change confused many people, and there are still some informal leagues that allow lets, especially in schools and colleges. Some college websites still include the let serve as a legal component of pickleball. So why exactly did the league organizers make this change? Why is a let no longer allowed? Let’s look at the nature of a let in order to answer this question correctly.
What Is A Let?
Before 2021, the rules of pickleball allowed you to re-serve if you served and the ball hit the net, bouncing into the service court. If the ball bounced into the no-volley zone (the area closest to the net, also known as the “kitchen,”) the ball would be out of play, a fault called, and the serve would be lost. You do not play in the no volley zone. The ball can only be played from the service court.
As such, a nearly unlimited number of lets were allowed. This mainly applied to young amateur players since professional pickleball players would only occasionally serve a let. However, the rules did change, and it is now that if the server does strike the net and the ball lands playable in the service court, it must be played just like any other serve.
Since 2021, the rules have changed, and lets are no longer allowed in a formal, competitive, or tournament game of pickleball.
Why Was The Let Removed?
The Rules Committee’s consideration for the removal of the “let serve” was mainly because of all the controversy that it brought on to the court. The game is competitive and played in formal international tournaments these days. Still, it is first and foremost there for your enjoyment, and the Rules Committee wants to protect this aspect of the game above all others.
The motivation for the removal of the let serve happened during a match in 2020. A player called a let serve while it was deemed invalid since the ball could still easily be played. The referee called a fault on the player, which led to many arguments on and off the court. This was the foundation for the removal of the let serve.
The removal of the let will also help with the enjoyment of the sport since it will remove the arguments between the referees and players. It also helps the sport keep the high energy levels and fast-paced action that made it so popular in the first place. The formal reasons for the removal of the let serve are:
- The rules of a let serve changed because it preserves the transparency and integrity of pickleball. We need to remember that pickleball was established to be fun and a sport with good sportsmanship that anyone can play.
- It was removed to prevent the receiving teams from calling out phantom let calls on serves.
- It was removed to reduce the conflict that could occur between the players, or between the referees and the players, over a let call.
- Referees often perform a technique that could be distracting to some players. Some referees would hold on to the net to detect if the ball touches it, and then they would step out of bounds after the serve. This was a critical distraction to some players.
How Does The New Rule Work?
The rule now is, if you do hit the net with your serve and it goes into the service court, then you play it. A good serve can be played, so why don’t we play a let serve? It is still a good serve, and it is definitely playable. The problem is that, whether out of habit or ignorance, some referees or players may still call a let serve.
What Happens If You Call A Let Serve?
You may, out of habit, call a let serve. If this happens and either you or the referee calls out a let serve, the rule is to just keep on playing. Do not stop the play because of this. If you do happen to call a let serve and you do not play the ball, it will be a serving fault, which is easily avoidable if you just play the serve and do not call it a let serve.
What Are The Best Serving Techniques To Avoid A Let?
To be clear, the formal rules are unnecessary while playing pickleball at home and just for fun, as long as all the players agree on which rules apply and abide by them. But if you are playing in formal competitive tournaments, it is crucial to keep by the rules. Here’s how you can serve properly while avoiding hitting the net and the possible accidental let calls that come from it:
- The serve should be played with an upward movement, playing the ball in an upward arc. This is called an “underhand serve.”
- The ball must not be played from above your waist; it is ideal if it can be played below the navel level. This will ensure a proper upward trajectory of the ball, effectively avoiding the net.
- Neither foot may make contact with the baseline or the court. Only after the ball is struck do you play inside the court. This means that you must apply adequate force to the ball while serving to clear the court, the net, and the kitchen.
- The serve is always played diagonally, and the ball must land within the opposite diagonal of the court.
- There are no second chances when you serve in pickleball. You only have one serve attempt per server. A “let serve” or fault results in a lost serve, and it’s now the next server’s turn.
Not abiding by any of these serving rules in pickleball can lead to a fault. As with any fault in pickleball, you will lose the serve if the fault is noticed and you get called out.
With pickleball still being a fairly new sport, there will still be many rule changes in the future. The sport is developing into a huge international sport, and to protect the game’s integrity, some of the rules must to be adjusted. So the let serve had to be evaluated, and it was removed from the Official Rulebook to preserve the game’s integrity and to avoid any further arguments in tournaments.