Dear Luminaries,

First, I’d like to reiterate my support for all the work everyone is doing to infuse new energy into the sport we love. Since we’re in what I feel is a new phase, inevitable questions have been raised, specifically having to do with rules and what truly makes and defines our game. Fair questions all. As such I’d like to offer a proposal and possible solution that may be OK with most of us.

As we all know, our sport has a couple of accepted variations, bucket and no bucket. More recently, some of us have chosen to play some sets with new rules (lets on serve, receivers’ option, fences, overhead serves etc.). The big question I’ve been hearing from everyone is, what rules are we going to adopt as the ‘official rules of Pop Tennis?’. I believe we’re asking the wrong question. I will digress for a minute.

Picture an English dictionary. A dictionary does not dictate the words we MUST use when we speak English. A dictionary simply REFLECTS the language that the people use. It changes, fluctuates, updates and refreshes itself constantly. It reflects the reality that already exists. And the reality of Pop Tennis is that people like different styles of play- some people like to play bucket, some people prefer no bucket, fences, lets, receivers switching sides, and overhead serves, and many variations thereof. If you disagree with this you haven’t been paying attention. We as a Pop Tennis community should embrace not discredit new ideas, options, and ways to have fun. Pop Tennis should be vibrant, dynamic, young, urban, hip and fun – just like its mecca – Venice Beach.

And as such, I would love to see our pop Tennis Rule Book (I prefer the term ‘Guidelines’), reflecting this reality. I recently, saw a group of very good players from Pepperdine who wanted to play with racketball rackets and a nerf sponge ball. They were having the time of their lives. Who was I to tell them, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t play like that, you need to play with paddles and a deflated tennis ball’? I don’t think even the most fundamentalist among us would think twice about not letting them have their fun. Heck, maybe their crazy game was more fun – their points sure were lasting longer than ours do.

So all I ask is that our Pop Tennis Guidelines, list the ‘traditional rules’ by which most of us play (scoring, lines, etc.) and at the end include a clause that says that there are a number of variations that players may include or opt for, and that players can adopt their own rules if all players agree. I know the inevitable question is – so what do we do about tournaments? Of course, the tournament committee or the sponsor can set the official tournament rules, but wouldn’t it be fantastic (again reflecting the reality of our sport) if the tournament allowed the 4 players in each matchup to play whatever style they wanted? Clearly, if players don’t agree on what style to play, they must play the default setting – the one decided on by the tournament committee. And to those who say, “It’s confusing to the spectators.” Honestly, so what? They’ll catch on.

Thanks for reading. I don’t have all the answers, but I think that honest and open discussion during this new chapter in our sport can’t hurt.

 Roberto Donati