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Hat Falls Off and Into the Pickleball Kitchen — You Make the Call!

This post has been updated in 2024 according to the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024).

Here’s the Scenario. You Make the Call.

You’re wearing a hat to play pickleball. The hat falls into your own Non-Volley Zone while you execute a groundstroke from behind the Non-Volley Line. What’s the call?

To keep the sun out of my eyes, I typically wear a visor when playing pickleball outdoors. Wearing a visor or hat can lead to “interesting” rule interpretations on the pickleball court — particularly for those not as familiar with the official rulebook. Some interpretations may be correct. Others are likely completely wrong.

Consider the following: Your opponent hits a drop shot and you scamper forward, making contact with the ball just shy of the non-volley line — barely reaching it before it bounces twice. During your scamper, however, your momentum carries you into the Non-Volley Zone — at which point your hat falls off because of your blazing speed. With your hat harmlessly resting in your own Non-Volley Zone, you continue playing out the rally, and, in fact, win the rally.

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You Won the Rally. Or Did You?

As you can see from Rule #11.H below from the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook, you did, indeed, win the rally — and if you or your partner was serving — the point.

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Some of you may be arguing, “Wait, the hat landed in your own Non-Volley Zone… therefore, the rally should have been won by your opponent.” In this case, the hat landing in the Non-Volley Zone was not a result of a volley.  The ball had already bounced once before it was struck. The hat did, however, become part of the court — and if your opponent had hit the ball and the ball landed on the hat, you would have had to play the ball off the hat.

We use the hat as an example for this rule. But it applies to anything the player is wearing or carrying — even your paddle. Shown below is the official ruling so you can make the proper pickleball rule interpretation next time this happens.

USA Pickleball Official Rulebook (2024)

Rule #11.H:

Items on the Court. If any item a player is/was wearing or carrying lands on their end of the court, unless the item lands in the non-volley zone as a result of a volley, the ball remains in play even if it hits the item.

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Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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  1. when you hit a volley and your opponent misses the ball and your momentum carries you in the kitchen when is the ball considered dead and the play over?

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