According to Youtuber Shea Underwood, the new rule regarding volley serves in 2022 will state that “no foreign substances, material, apparatus, or additional body parts can be applied to the hand or aid the hand that releases the pickleball.” Underwood says this means that players cannot wear a band-aid on the hand that releases the ball.
The rule could also be interpreted to ban gloves, wedding rings, or even the use of soap or lotion–foreign substances–to wash or moisturize one’s hands.
USA Pickleball referee Ron Ponder initially viewed such interpretations as absurd. In a now-deleted Facebook comment, Ponder stated that of course band-aids and gloves won’t be banned.
Not so fast Ron!
Mark Peifer, the chairman of USA Pickleball’s Rule Committee, sees the matter differently. He stated:
“The intent of any similar words is to prevent someone from using something ’extra’ on their hands or fingers to impart extra spin. There’s a video in production right now where the producer recommends wearing a bandaid precisely for that reason. If the rule doesn’t prevent such actions, I can’t think of anything that will stop this serve dead in its tracks quicker than this kind of stuff. So, wedding rings are ok as long as they don’t end up on the fingers that impart the spin as part of the snap. The ring finger isn’t typically used. But gloves and bandaids on the hand imparting spin are problematic. Players can either abide by the spirit of the rule or we can ban the serve altogether. It will be an interesting rulebook launch.“
The troublesome “producer” who is getting attention from Peifer is none other than Youtuber Shea Underwood. Here’s the video in which Underwood recommends using a band-aid to boost spin:
Peifer later elaborated:
“if someone is wearing a bandaid because of a cut, then they are welcome to perform a volley serve without a finger snap, until which time they don’t need the bandaid for the cut. That’s an easy solution. With regard to gloves to keep their hands warm, that’s a sacrifice/decision they will have to make; do I want to play in this tournament bad enough that I will have to do so without gloves for warmth? That’s also an easy solution. Neither of those options (that’s what they are, personal preference options) should require a rule to preserve them.”
In short if you are going to be doing a one-handed spin serve, Peifer says the “spirit of the rules” imply that you should leave your band-aid and glove at home.
For what it’s worth, we at Dinkheads have tried using a band-aid while practicing the Underwood serve. We did so not to boost performance but to protect our index finger, which had been cut while practicing the serve. We don’t think the band-aid provides any extra spin. We will discard it as soon as our cut is healed.