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2021 Rule Clarification Update

Now that most people have gotten a chance to read through the rule updates, we wanted to clarify some of the topics around the updated SRA Rules to hopefully shed more light on how decisions were made and what we’re aiming to achieve.
 
What’s the difference between the SRA and USA Roundnet?
Until recently, the SRA, for all purposes, was the governing body of the sport of roundnet in the US (and some might argue internationally). That meant that the rules the SRA established were adopted pretty universally by players.
 
With the creation of the International Roundnet Federation and USA Roundnet that changed. A lot of the responsibilities that fell under SRA are now overseen by the IRF/USA Roundnet. Those organizations are still in infancy and will be providing their own updates. Check out their websites for more information.
 
Now, the SRA is only responsible for setting rules and formats that apply to Spikeball’s Series of events. There are no expectations that independent event organizers or anyone else follow the SRA 2021 rules. Our rules are simply what we think are best to grow our series and the sport in the long run.  
 
How are SRA rules decided?
Testing different rule and equipment modifications has been an ongoing, multi-year process. For a long time we’ve felt there are two major aspects holding us back. 1) Too few defensive opportunities 2) Too many subjective calls. Each year we try to improve upon the rules and address these issues.
 
This year with Covid, testing was a bit harder. Still, in June we were able to get a lot of great testing done at the SpikeHouse. That data helped inform the direction of a new prototype set that we’ll be testing throughout this year. From there, we worked with testing groups to gather more data on other rule modifications we thought had potential.
 
Based on that work and community feedback, the SRA board started discussing 2021 rule updates in September of 2020. We reviewed ideas, weighed pros and cons, and collected data. This data was by no means exhaustive but it was enough to show us trends and guide our decision making. By early December we had a draft of the updates. After a few meetings we had refined the language and voted on what made the cut.
 
Are these rules set in stone?
We’re continually testing to learn more and are always open to refining our ruleset in light of new learnings. We have an invitational tournament scheduled for late February and we’re also looking forward to seeing more data from the DCC.
 
We don’t pretend to have all of the answers and based on compelling data we’d certainly make changes. We also understand that these rules will take some getting used to and hope people can approach them with an open mind.  
 
From our perspective, it is necessary to take action against the disparity between offense and defense and reduce subjectivity wherever possible. We released these rules now so that players could have as much time as possible to adapt. More data may change the specifics, but we didn’t want to wait longer to let people know where we’re at.    
 
What about #bigballz2021?
There are a lot of people who are pumped about the idea of better equipment improving the pain points in the sport. So are we! That said, from our testing thus far, we still think that it will take a combination of modified rules and equipment to achieve what we’re after. We have a working prototype for our next generation competition level set and balls. Our current plans are to test this throughout 2021, with a goal 2022 implementation.
 
What divisions will the No-hit zone apply to?
The details are to be determined. In our February test tournament, we’re looking at some results and feedback from female players. There is also a working idea that the developments in the advanced division and the introduction of the no-hit zone warrant a new division. Top level advanced players could self-select into the “contender” division. This is an advanced division that plays with the no-hit zone. This division is where premier qualification would take place. Anyone who is lower to mid advanced or just more comfortable playing without the no-hit zone could opt into the standard advanced division.
 
Why not wait longer?
We’ve been at this for a long time. We started testing a no-hit zone in early 2018. From there, we tested raised rims and tractor tube barriers and a whole host of other things. From a bunch of experiments we found a simple truth that kept popping up - if the hitter is farther from the net, the defense has a greater opportunity. We’re not sure we’d ever have a 100% definitive answer without giving something a real try.