Even if you haven’t stepped on a pickleball court or picked up a pickleball paddle, you’ve probably heard of the kitchen. Well, we’re here to discuss pickleball kitchen rules because they are unique to pickleball.
The pickleball kitchen rules are easily the most infamous rules that pickleball has. There’s nothing greater than seeing someone step in the kitchen before the ball bounces and hearing an entire court yell, “KITCHEN!” In pickleball tournament play, the referee will yell out “FAULT!” instead.
Pickleball Kitchen / Non-Volley Zone
What is the pickleball kitchen? It’s the area that extends seven feet on both sides of the net. It’s vital to know that it’s the flat, physical space on the ground, not the air above it. (for court dimensions, please refer to this article)
Th kitchen isn’t the technical term used in the USAPA & IFP Official Rulebook. The actual word for the kitchen is the “Non-Volley Zone.”
The kitchen/Non-Volley Zone means you cannot step inside the kitchen AT ALL to volley. The ball must bounce first before you cross into the kitchen.
However, it is more involved than just that, so keep on reading.
The main rule of the kitchen is: you cannot be standing in or otherwise make contact with the kitchen zone or kitchen line while volleying a ball. This includes the initiation of a volley.
The International Federation of Pickleball’s (IFP) official tournament rulebook says: “9.B. A fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, a player or anything the player is wearing or carrying touches the non-volley zone or touches any non-volley line.”
Nothing that is a part of you can touch or pass into the kitchen. When they say nothing, they mean nothing. Even your momentum after hitting a volley is considered a fault. Even dropping your pickleball paddle into the kitchen during or after the rally is a fault.
As the IFP rulebook states: “9.C. A fault will be declared if, in the act of volleying the ball, the player’s momentum causes the player or anything the player is wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley zone or any non-volley zone. It is a fault if the player’s momentum causes the player to touch anything touching the non-volley zone, including the player’s partner. It is a fault even if the ball is declared dead before the play touches the non-volley zone.”
Don’t step in the kitchen after you hit the ball. Even when the ball is dead, do not step into the kitchen. Don’t fall into the kitchen. Stay away from the kitchen.
Remember, all these rules are for balls that have not bounced yet.
There’s one more rule that complicates things a bit and is often forgotten: “9.D. A fault will be declared if the player violates the intent of the non-volley zone rule. All volleys must be initiated outside of the non-volley zone. A maneuver such as standing within the non-volley zone is prohibited. If a player has touched the non-volley zone for any reason, that player cannot volley the return until both feet have contacted the playing surface completely outside the non-volley zone.”
Basically, you can’t stand in the kitchen, jump up to volley and then land outside of the kitchen. This goes back to where the initiation of your volley is also part of the rule.
You might be thinking: what can I do in the kitchen? Pretty much anything you want as long as it’s not a volley. Let the ball bounce first, and you can step in the kitchen without penalty. Don’t camp out in the non-volley zone; it’s easy to reach for a reflex volley while so close to the net.
Knowing these different facets of the kitchen rule can help you understand what to do and what not to do on the pickleball court. The non-volley zone can be challenging to navigate at first, but with these rules in mind, you’ll be able to steer clear of it to avoid turning a point over to your opponents.