What is a Foot Fault?
During play we foot fault if we:
- step into the non-volley zone, which includes the NVZ line, in the course of hitting a volley (a ball that has not yet bounced); or
- if our paddle or any part thing we are wearing touches the NVZ.
Keep in mind the rulebook states: “The act of volleying the ball includes the swing, the follow-through, and the momentum from the action.”
During Refereed Matches
It is great when we have referees to call foot faults in a tournament. I realize this is a very hard job, and even the best referee will miss some foot faults from time to time. I played a big match that was very close at a large tournament recently. When I walked off the court after losing, several spectators suggested that foot faults had been missed. I went back and reviewed the video and found at least five times it wasn’t called. That could have been the difference between winning and losing.
Actually, I was more frustrated with myself than the referee. I should have seen them myself! I can feel when my opponent is too close…but that day my brain wasn’t as focused as usual.
A big mistake we make is not seeing the whole court. We move our head too much and it makes it difficult to see your partner and all the players on the other team. Follow the ball with your eyes. As a teacher, it is something that I have to do every day. It is important for me to be able to see what the person across from me is doing with their entire body…so perhaps I get more practice at this than many players.
Calling Foot Faults during Rec Play
Many people foot fault because they move too much. You can see that all that excess motion causes them to lose control.
Last week I was playing with a local group and in the middle of the point I asked, “Do we call foot faults on each other?” I didn’t know these people very well and didn’t want to be perceived as rude if that was not their custom. When I was first learning how to play, the group I played with always called foot faults on themselves, their partner or opponent. There wasn’t anything mean or rude about it…we viewed this as helping the other player so they would do well in tournament play.
What is most important to me is to develop the right habits, so I can carry them into tournament play.
I recently played with a group that foot faulted so often and so flagrantly that it became a safety issue. I was hit in the face by a guy that was at least one foot inside the NVZ. During indoor play recently, some people were so close to the net they nearly hit their opponent with their paddles.
I suggest you talk with the people you play with regularly about calling foot faults on one another. If this is shunned, at the end of the point freeze wherever you are and look at your feet. Are you in the right spot? Get into the habit of calling yourself on things like foot faults. You will be creating a safer environment and developing better habits.