By Tom Sove, Game Committee Chair
Rules are intended to ensure fair play and safety. The current glove rule, Rule 2.3.B Style states: The usual hitting surfaces of the glove must be light in color and made of a soft material or leather. The fingers may not be webbed, connected or removed. Any gloves which provide an unfair advantage are not allowed, and must be replaced at the referee’s direction. At the recent January, 2017 board meeting the USHA passed a change to the glove rule, adding the phrase “with wetness easily detected by visual inspection” to the end of the first sentence.
As we all know, the only reason we wear gloves is to keep the ball dry to prevent the ball from sliding during the rally. Obviously, a ball that slides can create an unfair advantage for one player and a disadvantage for the other. This wording is intended to augment the already existing wording that the glove material must be light in color. The USHA believes that fairness demands that a referee may be able to ascertain when a glove is wet enough to affect play before it happens. Hence the wording incorporated includes “light in color” and “wetness detected by visual inspection”. Without a quick visual inspection (at times, from about 20 feet away), if a referee can only determine wet gloves by rubbing a ball on the glove it is too late to prevent slides, which can certainly create an unnecessary delay in a match. Repeatedly needing to do this creates additional problems.
Recent trends in glove manufacturing have resulted in the introduction of some gloves that do not meet this criteria. They are neither light in color nor readily show wetness by visual inspection. We purposefully did not delineate either glove brands or glove material in the hope that these same providers/manufacturers will still pursue viable gloves that meet the parameters of the rule, and thereby offer more options to our players. In fact, the USHA was actively pursuing a new glove using a synthetic material. However, we were unconvinced the material would meet our own criteria and we halted our efforts.
This issue was brought to us by the WPH. Their valuable input underscored the need to amend the rule. According to David Fink, referees were having problems detecting wet gloves in their pro tournaments, resulting in unfortunate slides affecting outcomes of matches. Not only were officials having problems, even some players weren’t sure if their gloves were wet. Our final version of the rule change was shared with the WPH, and they enthusiastically endorsed and embraced it. Dave Vincent writes: “I support the article, wording and direction you are taking here.”
The application of the rule is simple. The referee may enforce the removal of an offending glove at any time during a match.
*This article will be published in the next issue of HANDBALL MAGAZINE.