The kitchen, or non-volley zone, is the heart of the pickleball court. Most of the game's most exciting plays are made by players moving within inches of the kitchen, bobbing and weaving to keep the ball in play. The non-volley zone plays an important role in how pickleball is played and understanding it can give players strategic advantages.
History of the Pickleball Non-Volley Zone
Ever since pickleball was created in 1965, the non-volley zone has been a vital part of the game. The non-volley area itself consists of seven feet from the net on both sides of the court, accounting for the middle 14 feet of the entire court. Within this area of the court, players cannot perform volleys, meaning that the ball must bounce once in order to be hit from within the kitchen.
The non-volley zone was created to prevent players from coming too close to the net and repeatedly performing smashes. Without this rule, the gameplay of pickleball would grow far more chaotic, as players could strike the ball out of the air from directly next to the net in any direction.
The non-volley zone is frequently referred to as the kitchen. While it isn’t known exactly where the name comes from, there are a couple theories as to why it might’ve been chosen.
Non-Volley Zone Rules
Pickleball kitchen rules according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) rulebook are the following:
- The non-volley zone, or kitchen, is the area of the court within seven feet of the net on both sides of the court.
- A player cannot volley the ball under any circumstance when in the non-volley zone. The act of volleying is when a player hits the ball in the air before it bounces.
- A fault is declared when a player steps on the non-volley zone when volleying a ball. This includes if the player’s momentum causes them or anything they’re wearing or carrying into the non-volley zone and its lines. For example, if a player’s pickleball paddle touches the non-volley zone line after the player performs a volley from behind the line, it is still a fault.
- A fault is declared if a player causes a non-volley zone infraction even if the ball is declared dead before the penalty occurs. A dead ball doesn’t necessarily mean a dead play.
- It is legal for players to be in the non-volley zone any other time during a game except when volleying the ball.
- If a serve hits the non-volley zone line, it is considered a fault.
If you run into the kitchen to hit a short lob that’s bounced on your side of the court, get out of there as soon as you can!
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to accidentally volleying the ball from within the kitchen, so you’ll want to get used to being just slightly behind the non-volley zone line.
Pickleball veterans are highly self-aware of where their feet are in relation to the kitchen at any given time, and it’s this ability of keen positioning that gives pickleball players the edge over their opponents.
When Are You Allowed to Go into The Kitchen?
You are allowed to be in the kitchen as long as you don’t make a volley shot. It’s really as simple as that! You can still make shots from within the kitchen as long as the ball first hits the ground once on your side of the court.
In order to legally begin another volley after being within the kitchen, you need to firmly place both feet outside of the non-volley zone again. You can move in and out of the non-volley zone freely to better position yourself for a hit, but you just want to make sure you are outside of the kitchen when performing any sort of volley strike.
The best rule of thumb when it comes to the non-volley zone is to just stay out of it. Standing in the kitchen makes you an easy target for the opposing team to simply smash hit a ball directly at you. Since you’ll likely either get hit by the ball or accidentally return it, this will lead to a non-volley zone violation.
Using the Non-Volley Zone to Your Advantage
Being able to navigate around the non-volley zone will make or break your success on the pickleball court. What are some maneuvers that can give you the edge during a pickleball game? Fortunately, there are two incredibly effective and fun shots that use the kitchen in your favor!
The Dink Shot
Dink shots are one of the most effective shots for catching your opponent off guard and potentially forcing them to commit a non-volley zone fault or overexert and hit the ball out of bounds.
A dink shot is a short drop shot that starts from behind the kitchen line and goes across into the opponent’s kitchen area. Crosscourt dinks are particularly effective, as they extend the range at which your shot can travel and force your opponent to move around.
The goal for a dink is to neutralize an opponent who is used to playing hard shots and draw them closer to the non-volley zone. Low and slow is the game plan for the short game with dinks. All high-level pickleball players who have mastered the dink know that a patient player will endure over a player looking for a quick smash.
The Erne Shot
The Erne is a famous shot first created by professional pickleball player Erne Perry. An Erne allows a player to return a shot while jumping diagonally over the kitchen and sideline into a position at the sides of the net. Leaping across the kitchen by performing an Erne is a fantastic way to surprise your opponent with an unexpected smash hit close to the kitchen.
When hitting an Erne, both patience and awareness are key. Ernes are most effective when you’re in the middle of short gameplay with an opponent, returning dink shot after dink shot back and forth.
In the middle of such a rally, a bounding Erne can catch your opponent off-guard and you’ll be able to quickly take the advantage in the match. Because Erne shots occur so close to the kitchen, it’s important to always be aware of your footing to make sure you don’t cause a rule violation.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?