Footfault!

As the paddle culture starts to change, you have to be ready to adjust. As Alex Bancila stated in his editorial piece on this site, 2011 – 2012 The Home Stretch, the norms that applied ten years ago, no longer apply.

Welcome the reemergence of the Footfault. As new players enter the sport, we are starting to see the footfault called more often in match play. In the past 20 years, footfaults have rarely been called on opposing players. I’m not sure why this is the case… You know all the guys in your league that footfault…every time – it’s actually part of their serve, but in the past you never called it. Why?

I’m not sure. Maybe because we aren’t competitive enough to call it. Maybe because it is just the social norm of paddle not to. Maybe in some matches we really don’t have a way to remedy it without calling for a line judge (if one’s even available). Maybe you don’t want to create tension on the court. Who knows? Who cares? If you have not called them in the past that is on you, not the server. I’m certainly not advocating for everyone to start calling footfaults, but it is important to establish where the player’s responsibility lies in order to play your best.

If you are going to call a legitimate footfault, how do you do it? It has been suggested to me that one possibility is to wait until after the service game is over. Then when changing sides or before you serve, mention to the previous server that you thought they were footfaulting. That gives him/her time to digest what you have said without causing an immediate emotional reaction that the server would have to tend to on the very next serve. This will give the server in question time to come up with a new strategy to assure that they are not faulting.

On the other hand, when working with my clients, I often talk about breaking the word “Responsibility” into two words, “Response” and “Ability.” Once you have taken responsibility for our actions, you then have the ability to respond how ever you want.

If you legitimately footfault, you must take responsibility for it. You either stepped over the line, or you didn’t. Having played paddle for 20 years, if someone actually calls you on it, you probably did (but that’s a personal opinion). If you feel that you didn’t, you must get a line judge to watch ALL servers during the match.

But for the purposes of this article, let’s say you did. Here is the official definition of a footfault as per the APTA rulebook:

RULE 11. Footfault

The server shall, throughout delivery of the service, up to the moment of impact of paddle and ball (a) not change position by walking or running; (b) not touch, with either foot, any area other than that behind the baseline within the imaginary extension of the center mark and the sideline.

Note: The server shall not by the following movements of his/her feet be deemed to “change position by walking or running”: (a) slight movements of the feet that do not materially affect the location originally taken by the server; (b) an unrestricted movement of one foot, so long as the other foot maintains continuously its original contact with the deck; (c) leaving the deck with both feet.

In a match not being officiated, the server’s opponents may call foot faults. The first call of a foot fault on each server shall be a let. After this grace fault, it is loss of point. Under tournament conditions, if there is an umpire or linesmen, they assume the responsibility for calling all foot faults. At any time in any round of a tournament match, any player is entitled to request a foot fault judge and/or linesmen.

As a mental coach, I’m not really interested in whether or not you footfaulted, I’m interested in helping players with how they REACT to being called for one. Remember: You have the ability to respond however you want.

It’s possible that the other team could be calling the footfault as a strategy to get in your head. Don’t let it. Plato likened our emotions to the horses of a chariot. If left alone, they will run wild. But he also believed that we can utilize our conscious mind as the reins of the chariot. If you feel that someone calling a footfault has activated your emotions, stop. And think. Control your emotions and react how YOU want. Don’t let your immediate reactions get the best of you. You can’t control what others do. We can only influence them. However, we CAN control our thoughts and behaviors. Be prepared for it, stay focused and competitive, and play to win.

By Christian Buck

The author, Chris Buck, after 11 years on the American Stock Exchange, trading and brokering equity dirivatives, left “The Floor” and earned his Masters in Exercise and Sport Psychology. He is a provisionally Certified Consultant and member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). To learn more about Coach Buck visit getitdoneconsulting.net.