Capital Area Pickleball Association
Serving Dane County Wisconsin

What is and is Not Allowed in the Kitchen

15 Feb 2024 5:36 PM | Abigail Darwin

Ah the kitchen … or if you’re fancy, the “Non-Volley Zone,” or if you’re really fancy, the "NVZ." It is that 7-foot-long by 20-foot-wide area right in front of the net on each side of the pickleball court that gives players so many fits. It has an aura of mystique surrounding it, particularly for many beginners. In this blog post, we will discuss what is and is not allowed in the kitchen.

I am aware that there are many myths swirling around out there about the kitchen, so I already know that some of you will read what I am about to write below and will doubt whether what I am saying is true. Because of this, I am going to cite to the actual rules in the USA Pickleball 2024 Official Rulebook to back up what I am saying.

What is Allowed in the Kitchen:

  • If a ball bounces in the kitchen, you can step inside the kitchen to return it back over the net. See Rule 9.F. This happens frequently when dinking, for example.
  • You can stand in the kitchen during a game and during a point for as long as you want. See Rule 9.G. It is not a good idea (for reasons we will discuss shortly), but if you are just captivated by the kitchen and have always wanted to venture in there, go ahead. See Rule 9.E. I promise that, as a general matter, with a few exceptions discussed below, simply going into the kitchen will not itself prove to be some sort of illegal violation. So, do it. Saunter into the kitchen, just because you have always wanted to walk in there during a point; you can even pose for a selfie while you are in there! (Just be sure to discuss with your partner in advance that you would like them to cover the entire court while you are doing your thing.)
  • A person can return a ball even while their partner is standing in the kitchen. See Rule 9.H.
  • Any shots, except a serve, can be hit into and land in the kitchen. See Section 1, Unique Features, and Rule 4.M.3. This means any volley, overhead, groundstroke, dink, drop, or drive – as long as it is not a serve – can be hit into the kitchen.

What is NOT Allowed in the Kitchen:

  • You cannot volley – that is, hit a ball in the air before it bounces -- while you are standing in the kitchen. See Section 1, Unique Features, and Rule 9.A. Even having one of your toes on the kitchen line constitutes a violation, because the kitchen line is considered to be part of the kitchen. (Since we are on the topic, the kitchen sidelines are also considered to be part of the kitchen, too -- just FYI.) See Rules 2.B.3 and 3.A.22.

-So, to recap, you cannot hit a volley while standing in the kitchen, on the kitchen line or on the kitchen sideline. See Rules 2.B.3 and 3.A.22. In addition, however, you also cannot hit a volley from OUTSIDE the kitchen and then FALL INTO the kitchen if your momentum from hitting the volley propels you in. See Rule 9.B.1. This whole “momentum making you fall in” thing constitutes a violation even if the ball has already bounced on the other side after you hit your volley and has come back over! Your momentum would even cause a violation if the point had already ended and the ball was dead! See Rules 8.E. and 9.C.1.

-If an item of clothing or anything on you, like a cap, sunglasses, or a handkerchief, falls into the kitchen while you are (or as a result of you) hitting a volley, that is considered a fault, and your team loses the point. See Rule 11.H.

-Note that if you linger in the kitchen – like if you stay in there to take a selfie – it is likely, dare I say probable, that your opponents will try to hit a shot right at you. In pickleball, if an opponent’s shot hits you before it bounces, it is the opponent’s point. See Rule 7.H. And, if you are standing in the kitchen, the only way you could hit a ball that is coming right at you would be to hit it in the air as a volley. That would be a fault, because you cannot hit a ball in the air while standing in the kitchen. See Section 1, Unique Features, and Rule 9.A.

  • A serve cannot land in the kitchen or on the kitchen line. See Rules 3.A.22., 2.B.3., 4.M.3. and 6.B. That serve would be considered “out.”

-Also, if a serve hits the net and lands in the kitchen, that serve is also considered “out.” See Rule 4.M.5.

You might be wondering who calls kitchen violations when they occur. The answer is that in regular, non-officiated play, anyone can call a fault on anyone, including themselves! See Rules 13.D.1.a., 13.D.1.b., and 13.D.1.c. And, because pickleball is such a friendly sport, self-policing is what usually happens in the case of kitchen mishaps. After all, you are the one most likely to realize that you stepped into the kitchen when you hit that volley!

Since knowledge is power, after reading this post, it is my hope that you will have less fear and a lot more confidence on the court! Happy pickling!

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