The Pickleball Kitchen and How It Works: Beginner’s Guide

The Pickleball court, although similar to a badminton court in size, is a bit different in its divisions. The main boundaries are the typical baselines at each court’s ends and the centerline that splits the court down the middle.

However, on each side of the net is a 7-foot wide area considered a non-volley zone. Its more common name is “the kitchen.” The kitchen and its rules are some of the unique aspects of Pickleball as a sport.

Get To Know the Pickleball Kitchen

As we said, each side of the court has a 7-foot wide space right behind each side of the net. Pickleball players commonly call this area the Pickleball kitchen. The kitchen’s main rule is that it is a non-volley area.

An essential rule in Pickleball is that as a non-volley zone, no players are allowed to step into the kitchen to hit a volley. A volley, to be specific, is when a player hits a ball before it bounces. So if a player does step into the kitchen, they commit a fault.

This rule is tricky because volleys are a good move in Pickleball. If the ball comes at you at quite a height, volleys are often the way to go. Balls hit by volleys usually end up returning with high speeds, challenging your opponent and giving you an upper hand if you do it well.

On the other hand, you can also perform a groundstroke, which is the shorthand name for striking the ball once it hits the ground in a bounce. Groundstrokes will give you long passes instead of quick bursts. They’re great for aiming the ball all over your opponent’s court to give them that run around.

Now that we’ve defined what volleys and groundstrokes are, let’s take a look at how the kitchen rules affect your use.

The Rules of the Pickleball Kitchen

Now that we’ve established what the kitchen is, as well as the general return types you can perform, let’s go over what you can and can’t do while you’re in the kitchen.

No Volleys allowed

We repeat: the Pickleball kitchen is primarily a non-volley area. You cannot hit a ball within that zone unless it has bounced first. Otherwise, you will have committed a fault.

In line with this, you can only hit a volley outside the kitchen, which is 7 feet or more away from each side of the net. That entire space is available for volleys.

Keep Away from the Line

Let’s be clear: the non-volley zone of the kitchen includes the kitchen line. If you even step on the line or allow your show toe to touch it while you volley, that can be considered a fault. Any clothing article attached to the player, and most especially any body part of theirs that crosses the line, will commit a fault.

That is important to remember because players often like to use forward momentum in their volleys and hits. That kind of technique usually involves the player lunging forward, and it’s easy to forget where your foot will land while you do that.

Remember always to be wary when you’re near the kitchen line; even if you do end up hitting that volley, it may turn out to become a fault if you’re not careful.

Partners May Help

An interesting and slightly amusing thing that you can do to avoid stepping into the kitchen is by getting your partner to pull you back from the momentum. Or, if you see that your partner may cost your team a fault, you can prevent that by holding them.

However, you have to be conscious of whatever you’re wearing that may cross the kitchen line too. A shoe, or a hat that falls off your head and lands in the kitchen, can also cause a fault.

What is Allowed in the Kitchen

Although it’s a non-volley zone, other hits or moves can be performed within the kitchen. We defined volleys and groundstrokes earlier because while volleys aren’t allowed in the kitchen, groundstrokes very well are. Just remember that for a groundstroke to be valid, the ball has to bounce once first.

Moving out of the kitchen, however, also needs some care in mind. If you’re in the kitchen and getting ready to do a volley, make sure that none of your feet are still within the zone. Where forward momentum could get you a kitchen fault, ensure you have backward momentum while exiting the kitchen.

Origins of the Kitchen’s Name

So with all these rules, you may still be wondering why it is called “the kitchen”? There are a few stories that you may believe, especially since Pickleball was begun by a bunch of dads trying to entertain their families, but most would agree that “the kitchen” came from that other game shuffleboard.

If you haven’t heard of shuffleboard, its kitchen is an area on the board that deducts points when players end up in that space. It sounds familiar because that’s precisely the kitchen’s job in Pickleball too.

Still, we think it’s interesting that the Pickleball kitchen has some conditions for whether or not a point will get deducted. Are you doing a volley or just a groundstroke? It’s also one of the rules that make the game fun too. Game spectators have fun yelling “kitchen!” when they see a fault.

 It’s also a unique contrast of Pickleball to tennis, where players usually move towards the net to do a volley instead of avoiding volleys near the net.

The Bottomline

Pickleball is generally a fun game for people of all ages. People either engage in Pickleball as a competitive sport or only for leisure with friends and family. However you play it, it’s always important to play by the rules of the game. You don’t want to keep violating the game rules just because you don’t know them.

We hope our quick guide on the kitchen rules helped you get even more familiar with the game. Familiarity with the court, the game, and most importantly the kitchen, will bring you far in your Pickleball game and technique. Just be careful, have fun, and keep your feet away from the kitchen line!


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