What is the Kitchen in Pickleball? Everything You Need to Know
As a beginner, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll hear from any experienced pickleball player is, “Stay out of the kitchen!” But what is the kitchen, and why is it such an essential part of the game?
Put simply, the kitchen is the area of a pickleball court where volleying is not permitted.
Understanding the rules of the kitchen is a critical part of becoming a more complete pickleball player and getting the most out of your experience on court.
Below we take a closer look at the kitchen and everything that’s cooking in it. Let’s dive right in!
What is a Volley?
To properly understand the kitchen, we first need to go over what is considered a volley in pickleball.
In pickleball, a volley is when a player strikes the ball without it first bouncing on the court. A player may volley in any part of the court besides the kitchen.
What is the Kitchen?
The kitchen is the informal term commonly used by players to refer to the non-volley zone, the part of a pickleball court where players are not allowed to volley.
On a pickleball court, the kitchen is located in the “area that extends 7 feet from the net on each side” of the court. This area is designated by the non-volley zone line between the two sidelines. The non-volley zone line is also considered a part of the kitchen, so volleys are not allowed when touching this line either.
Why Is It Called the Kitchen?
Although there isn’t a definitive answer, there are several theories that the non-volley zone got the “kitchen” nickname from shuffleboard.
In shuffleboard, the area behind the scoring zone labeled “10-off” is commonly referred to as the kitchen. Landing in this zone deducts 10 points from the total score. This term was likely adopted in pickleball because, just like the 10-off zone, the no-volley zone is a section that players try their best to avoid.
Fun fact: The term “kitchen” is not mentioned once in the Official USA Pickleball Rulebook!
The Kitchen Rules
The USA Pickleball Official Rulebook states:
9.A. All volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone.
9.B. It is a fault if the volleying player or anything that has contact with the volleying player while in the act of volleying touches the non-volley zone.
The Rulebook goes on to outline several other kitchen rules. Below we’ve boiled it down to the most essential elements.
Key parts of the rules to keep in mind:
- You can’t stand in the kitchen or make any contact with the kitchen area or non-volley line while hitting a volley
- Anything a player is wearing, carrying, or holding cannot contact the kitchen or non-volley zone line while in the act of volleying. This includes headbands, wallets, paddles, and other personal items. If any of these items drop in the kitchen while in the act of volleying, a fault will be declared.
- If you enter the kitchen because of the momentum from volleying, it is a fault.
- If a player entered the kitchen, they can’t legally volley again until both feet are planted outside of the kitchen
- Outside of the kitchen, a volley is permitted anywhere else on the court
- The kitchen can be entered at any time as long as the player does not volley while in it
- A player can stay inside the kitchen while returning balls that are bouncing on the court
We’ve also covered the most important rules in our Pickleball 101 article! Feel free to check it out!
What Makes the Kitchen Important and Unique?
While racket sports share many things in common, the kitchen and its rules are exclusive to pickleball. This makes the kitchen a special and unique part of the game.
The beauty of the kitchen is it adds a different element to the game and encourages smart strategy and touch which keeps points interesting. Players can’t just hover over the net and dominate using power, athletic ability, or their height alone. Rather, it is often more favorable to construct points strategically while waiting for opportunities to attack.
With that, you’re well on your way to becoming a pickleball whiz!
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