While you're not allowed to have on-court coaching during your tennis matches, the USTA's Rules of Tennis allow you to look at notes on court. That's pretty clear. But can you look at notes on court in the middle of a game, between points? Can you put your notes in your pocket and then pull them out to review right before you serve? What's the rule on this? And what's the best way to make use of notes on the tennis court? In this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, we're once again looking at the rules of tennis. You can read the edited transcript below and you can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above.
SHOW NOTES AND EDITED TRANSCRIPT:
I recently got a question from a Tennis Quick Tips listener asking me what I thought about the way they used their notes on court. And you know I love to talk about tennis rules.
You may remember back in Episode 29 of Tennis Quick Tips, I talked about how I used a “on-court cheat sheet” before and sometimes during my matches. As I pointed out in that episode, Rule 30 addresses the issue of coaching and, in general, does not allow for it. There are exceptions to this but I’m not going to go into all of those because if you are really concerned about getting or giving on-court coaching, you need to look at the rules very carefully. Instead, what I pointed out in that episode was USTA Comment 30.1 of the rule which states that, “A player may bring to the court written notes that were prepared before the start of the match and may read these notes during the match.”
I then went on to explain how I how a little note card I keep in my bag, my tennis “cheat sheet,” with all kinds of notes that I usually look at before my matches and sometimes between sets. This type of on-court coaching is perfectly legal and you often see it with junior-level players.
Well, as I said, I got a question about using notes on court from a Tennis Quick Tips listener. Here's the question:
Hi Kim! I am listening to your podcast and love it. I have a great cheat sheet in my bag however wondered whether the rule: “USTA Comment 30.1: A player may bring to the court written notes” extends to notes in your pocket (or is that beyond “bringing to the court”)? I have a few notes that I refer to when going to get a ball from the corner etc. but am not sure if it [is] legal.
First, I want to thank the listener who sent this in. I'm always asking you guys to send me your questions and when someone does, well, I get very excited. This listener didn't give me a name or otherwise I'd be very happy to give him or her a shout-out. So, while I wish I could do that, I can't. But just know, if you send me a question that I answer here on Tennis Quick Tips, I'll be happy to mention you in the episode.
Second, I want to clarify is that this “rule” on using notes is actually found in a USTA comment. I usually quote from the USTA comments very freely. But, I know many of you are listening in from countries outside of the United States so I think its important to point out that, for players outside the U.S., the comments may not be binding. The rules of tennis are determined by the ITF, the International Tennis Federation. And these rules apply in almost all countries where tennis is played and certainly in countries which are part of the ITF. While the USTA is a member of the ITF, the USTA does not have the power to change the rules of tennis all by itself. The comments that are included in the USTA's publication of the rules of tennis that I refer to, which is called Friend at Court, tell us that these comments are not part of the ITF Rules of Tennis but “they are considered binding authority and, therefore, enforceable in USTA sanctioned tournaments.” So, if you're playing in the U.S., the comments can be considered binding, just like the rules. But if you're playing outside the United States, you need to consult the rules put out by your own tennis governing authority as they may or may not allow for the use of on-court notes.
Finally, I want you to know that I've been thinking about this question and researching it quite a bit. Because, while I've never seen anyone do this on court, I can certainly imagine it happening. Specifically, I was trying to figure out what would I do if I was working as an official at a USTA tournament and someone complained to me that a player was looking over notes on court between points.
So here's what I think.
The provision of the rules that allows you to bring notes to court is found in Rule 30 which is the rule on coaching. This rule tells us that “Coaching is considered to be communication, advice or instruction of any kind and by any means to a player.” Sounds like notes would qualify as coaching, right? But then Comment 30.1 says: “A player may bring to the court written notes that were prepared before the start of the match and may read these notes during the match.” So obviously this type of “coaching” is allowed. And in fact, as the rule states, there are some limited situations where on-court coaching is allowed, in non-USTA team events for example. So it's not that the USTA has absolutely prohibited on-court coaching. All of which is to say that I think it would be find to have notes in your pocket and pull them out to look at on court, in the middle of a game.
However, I can see a problem if, in doing this, you end of violating the time rules. You may remember that back in Episode 49 of Tennis Quick Tips, which was called “How Much Time Is Too Much Time On The Tennis Court?”, we talked about just how much time the rules of tennis allow you to do various things on court. These time limits are set out in Rule 29, the rule on continuous play, which states:
As a principle, play should be continuous, from the time the match starts (when the first service of the match is put into play) until the match finishes.
a. Between points, a maximum of twenty (20) seconds is allowed. When the players change at the end of a game, a maximum of ninety (90) seconds are allowed. However, after the first game of each set and during a tie-break game, play shall be continuous and the players shall change ends without a rest.
At the end of each set there shall be a set break of a maximum of one hundred and twenty (120) seconds.
The maximum time starts from the moment that one point finishes until the first service is struck for the next point.
So, according to Rule 29, you get 20 seconds between points, 90 seconds to change ends of court between games, and two minutes between sets.
And, of course, we can't forget Rule 21, on when to serve and receive, which states:
The server shall not serve until the receiver is ready. However, the receive shall play to the reasonable pace of the server and shall be ready to receive within a reasonable time of the server being ready.
So the server has to wait for the receiver to be ready but the receiver can't wait around all day to get ready as he or she needs to play to the “reasonable pace” of the server.
I bring these time rules up because the one thing I know you can't do is slow down the match. As Rule 29 says, as a principle, play should be continuous.
So, to address the situation raised in the listener's question, I believe you can look at notes on court, even between points and during a game. However, if you are constantly pulling out notes to look over during a game and that slows down the match at all, I would think you could get in trouble for violating Rule 29. And I think you'd be surprised how very little time you have between points. You may think 20 seconds is plenty of time but, if you're serving, you really need several seconds to calm yourself and go through your service ritual. (For more on this, be sure and check out Episode 4 of Tennis Quick Tips – Improve Your Tennis Serve Consistency with a Service Ritual.) And if you're returning, you need time to get in position and come up with your plan on return.
If you were doing this during a USTA tournament and caused a delay between points, according to the USTA's Point Penalty System, found in Regulation IV.D. Table 15, you would receive a warning for your first offense and then a one point penalty for every offense after that. If you were doing this just during a regular unofficiated league match, while you could certainly get away with it, you probably wouldn't be perceived as being the most fun person to play tennis with and you might see some drop in the number of times you're invited to play matches.
Ultimately, while all of this rules talk is very interesting, in my opinion it is anyway, here's what I think is the real problem with pulling notes out on court. It's not that it's illegal on-court coaching. It's not that you might violate the time rules by doing it. Rather, it just gives your brain too much to think about.
While we all have things we hope to accomplish when we're playing a match or that we want to remember, looking at notes between points, as opposed to on changeovers or set breaks, might have a tendency to overload your brain. I think when you're out on court between points, there might be one, maybe two things, you can try to remind yourself about. But more than that and I think you end up taking your focus away from what is happening on court right now and what is happening with the specific opponent you're playing. You really want to play “in the moment” and I believe looking at notes might take you out of that.
But I do have a suggestion for something you could try and it's something that I do. I have a little sticker inside the throat of my racquet. It says “Calm Aggression” and it looks like this:
I didn't come up with this very brilliant idea all by myself. I first saw it in a post on one of my favorite blogs, The Road To 4.5 Tennis. It was in a post called Racquet Tattoos: My Secret Weapon and was such a great idea that I immediately put it into use.
I've gone through a variety of messages and reminders on my racquet stickers, but for now, this “Calm Aggression” idea is the one simple thing I try to remind myself about in every match I play and on every point. I have a tendency to get very excited and bounce around a lot when I play tennis. So I need to constantly remember to play calmly. But not passively. I use the words “Calm Aggression” to remind me of the style of play that I'm trying to use in my matches and the type that is usually most successful for me.
The thing I like about this little sticker is that it gives me one very simple thing to think about on court. And, because it's small and stuck on my racquet, it's always easy for me to see and is very unobtrusive. No one is going to accuse me of violating any time rules by looking at this little sticker since most of my opponents won't even know it's there.
Okay, so let me sum up my answer to the listener's question on looking at notes between points. First, I do believe Rule 30 allows you to have notes in your pocket and pull them out between points, on court. Second, I would, however, caution anyone doing this to be careful of violating the time rules. Twenty seconds between points may sound like a lot of time but it's often less time than you think. And third, instead, I recommend putting a little sticker inside the throat of your racquet to remind you, between points, of the one and only one thing you want to accomplish or remember out on court.
So what are your thoughts on this? I'd really be interested to hear what any of you think. Especially if you're a tennis official or a coach or have some kind of experience with this. Maybe among junior players? Let me know by leaving a comment at the show notes for this episode which you can find at http://tennisfixation.com/quicktips51.
And don't forget – all during the month of August, we're doing quick bodyweight exercises that are fast, easy and perfect for increasing your tennis fitness. You can find a calendar with each day's exercises by clicking on this link: Quick and Easy Summer Tennis Fitness. You can follow along with these summer Tennis Fitness exercises on my Tennis Fixation Facebook page and on my Tennis Fixation Instagram where I'm using the hashtags #tennisfitness and #summertennis.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
Tennis Quick Tips Episode 29 – Using An On-Court “Cheat Sheet”
Tennis Quick Tips Episode 49 – How Much Time Is Too Much Time On The Tennis Court?
Tennis Quick Tips Episode 4 – Improve Your Tennis Serve Consistency with a Service Ritual
Racquet Tattoos: My Secret Weapon
Quick and Easy Summer Tennis Fitness calendar for August 2014
Tennis Fixation Facebook page
Tennis Fixation on Instagram
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