Regardless of your skill level, positioning yourself at the kitchen line is a must-adhere-to strategy to play winning pickleball. Whether you are a beginner, an advanced player – or anything in between – you and your partner will want to traverse to this most strategic position on the court at your first opportunity. It’s at the kitchen line, after all, where the overwhelming majority of points are typically won.
But what is the kitchen? And where is it? As a beginner you have, no doubt, heard other will-intentioned players declare, “stay out of the kitchen.” But why? And when?
- Definitions for “Kitchen,” “Volley” and “Groundstroke”
- The Official Non-Volley Zone Rules According to USA Pickleball
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Closing Thoughts on Pickleball Kitchen Rules
Definitions for “Kitchen,” “Volley” and “Groundstroke”
In order to have a firm grasp of the pickleball kitchen rules, it is necessary to first define several terms, including “kitchen,” “volley” and “groundstroke.”
What is the Kitchen in Pickleball?
The kitchen in pickleball is simply another name – albeit, an unofficial one – for non-volley zone. The kitchen, or non-volley zone, is a two-dimensional “area” that extends 7 feet from the net on each side and is bound by the two sidelines.” It is within this area that a player is not allowed to strike the ball before it bounces.
To better grasp the concept, it may make more sense to refer to the kitchen area strictly as the non-volley zone as the word, non-volley zone, “defines” you what you are not allowed to do. It’s a zone in which you cannot volley.
What is a Volley?
So if, by definition, the kitchen is an area in which you cannot execute a volley, we must, therefore, define the term, “volley.”
A volley refers to the act of striking the ball out of the air before it bounces.
What is a Groundstroke?
A groundstroke in pickleball refers to a shot that is executed after the ball has bounced.
The Official Non-Volley Zone Rules According to USA Pickleball
Now that we have defined kitchen, volley, and groundstroke, let’s take a look at the official non-volley zone (kitchen) rules according to the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook.
Section 9 of the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook details the rules as it relates to the non-volley zone. In it, it is clearly stated that all volleys must be hit from outside of the non-volley zone (which includes the non-volley zone line).
The act of volleying includes the swing, the follow-through, and the momentum from the volley.
It is also important to stress that the kitchen, or non-volley zone, is NOT a non-come-in-here zone. In fact, you are allowed in the kitchen (non-volley zone) whenever you want. You simply cannot hit a volley when in there.
Frequently Asked Questions
As is frequently the case in any sport or discipline, skimming through the rulebook creates additional questions. The following FAQ’s attempt to answer any unanswered kitchen rules questions as it relates to the airborne pickleball, momentum from the act of volleying, and a ball that actually bounces first.
FAQ’s – Kitchen Rules and the Airborne Pickleball
Can I hit a volley with just one of my feet touching the Non-Volley Line?
No, if a player touches any part of the kitchen line during the act of volleying, it will be considered a foot fault.
What if a player executes the volley, but his cap falls into the Kitchen?
This would be considered a fault. Something the player is wearing cannot touch the Non-Volley Zone or any Non-Volley Line during the volley.
What if – in the act of executing a low volley (or any volley, for that matter) – the pickleball paddle touches the Non-Volley Line?
A fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, a player (any part of your body) or anything the player is wearing or carrying touches the non-volley zone or touches any non-volley line.
When can you Step in the Kitchen?
You can enter the Non-Volley Zone at any time as long as you don’t hit a volley while in there.
Can I stand in the Non-Volley Zone while my partner serves or hits a shot?
While not recommended from a strategic perspective, you can nevertheless enter and stay in the Non-Volley Zone at any time as long as you don’t hit a volley while in there.
If I am in the Kitchen, when can I once again hit a volley?
You must establish both feet outside the Non-Volley Zone before you can once again volley the ball.
FAQ’s – Kitchen Rules and Momentum
Can the momentum from your volley carry you into the Kitchen subsequent to the ball bouncing twice on your opponent’s side?
Your momentum cannot carry you into the Non-Volley Zone even after it’s a dead ball (or in this case, bounced twice). There is no time-limit to the momentum rule.
When volleying, can your partner hold you back so that your momentum from the volley doesn’t take you into the Kitchen?
Yes. That is permitted. Your partner can, indeed, hold you back so that your momentum doesn’t take you into the Non-Volley Zone as long as your partner is not in the Non-Volley Zone either.
FAQ’s – Kitchen Rules and a Bouncing Ball
You hit a groundstroke but your momentum from the shot carries you into the non-volley zone. Is this a fault?
Regardless of where the ball bounces on the side of the court — as long as it bounces first — your momentum from hitting your groundstroke can, indeed, carry you into the Non-Volley Zone without penalty. Click here to see confirmation from our friends at the USAPA. Just don’t hit a volley on your next shot while in the kitchen! 😉
Closing Thoughts on Pickleball Kitchen Rules
There’s no doubt that the rules of the kitchen can be confusing. As a new player, in particular, the kitchen rules are the most challenging to fully understand. It’ll make more sense the more you play. It will also help immensely to begin calling the kitchen the non-volley zone as the pickleball non-volley zone actually states what you cannot do in the word itself.
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See you on the courts!