[In this series of Getting Started articles, we share several beginner pickleball tips to help you get started on the right foot. These tips will help you whether you have played a racket/paddle sport in the past or not. When CJ and I started playing pickleball, we were given lots of advice. Some of it was good. But plenty of it was not. Throughout these articles, we will warn you about contrary advice that you may hear. We will mark it with a ** Wrong Advice Warning **. This incorrect advice can damage your game – avoid it at all costs. Make sure you check out our other articles for new players. They will each give you specific information to help you confidently take the court.]
Which begs the question, when can you be in the kitchen?
The Non-Volley Zone Rule
This article focuses on THE most important pickleball rule: the Non-Volley Zone. The NVZ (Non-Volley Zone) rule is the defining rule of pickleball. It gives us the court we play on and also dictates the majority of our strategies in a game.
The Non-Volley Zone (aka the Pickleball Kitchen) is the area between the net and the line nearest the net (7 feet away, to be exact). The line is referred to as the Non-Volley Zone Line and is considered part of the NVZ.
For those of you who have never played a racquet sport previously, let’s define the term volley. A volley is striking the ball from the air before the ball has bounced.
The pickleball kitchen rule is, in actuality, relatively simple: you cannot be in the Non-Volley Zone during a volley. This includes before, during, and after the volley. As long as it is part of the volley motion, before or after (e.g., pushing off the Non-Volley Zone line to jump backward or stepping into the Non-Volley Zone after the volley is hit), it is part of the volley.
If you volley from inside the Non-Volley Zone (including the before and after parts), you commit a fault.
Simple as that. That’s the rule. The entire rule.
** Wrong Advice Warning **
Here are some examples of what players “interpret” that kitchen rule to mean:
- You must wait for the ball to bounce before you can step into the Non-Volley Zone.
- If you step into the Non-Volley Zone after you hit the ball (no matter what sort of shot you hit), you have committed a fault.
- If the ball bounces outside of the Non-Volley Zone, then you can’t ever step into the Non-Volley Zone as part of the shot (I know this one sounds out there, but there have been arguments over this “interpretation”).
None of these are correct.
If you have not already done so, you will also want to get a copy of our Complete Pickleball Beginner’s Guide, as well as access to our 21-Video Getting,Started Course, specifically designed for beginner pickleball players.
There is no cost for either of these resources. With them – and this series of articles – you can get started playing on the right foot.
The easiest way to understand when you can be in the kitchen is to ask yourself these questions.
- Did I (or the player) volley the ball?
If the answer is “no,” there is nothing else to ask. There is no rule violation, and you move on with life. There has to be a volley for there to be a fault. No volley = no fault.
If the answer is “yes,” then the inquiry continues:
2. Were you (or the player) in the Non-Volley Zone during the volley (including the before and after parts, as explained above)?
“No?” then you are done and can move on. If “yes,” then it is a fault. Simple as that.
Focusing on the timing of the ball bouncing or other side inquiries is a recipe for disaster.
So instead, just ask “volley?” and if yes, “in the Non-Volley Zone?” This approach keeps it clean and easy.
The Non-Volley Zone Strategy
Now that you are clear on the Non-Volley Zone rule, we can shift gears and talk about proper Non-Volley Zone strategy.
To start, pickleball is a game that is most often won from the Non-Volley Zone Line. One of the aspects of pickleball to keep in mind is the optimal court position when you play pickleball is to be up at the Non-Volley Zone Line during the rally. As stated in the negative, you are less likely to win if you play from anywhere other than up at the Non-Volley Line (including playing from the baseline – the line farthest from the net).
Once you understand the above statement, then pickleball will make more sense.
You will understand why one player (the non-returner on the return team) stands up at the Non-Volley Line at the beginning of each point. There is no rule requiring this placement. The reason the player stands here is that it is the optimal strategy.
If the Non-Volley Zone Line is the best place to be, then you want to be there when you are playing … right?
BUT … you cannot always just be there.
Getting to the Non-Volley Zone Line when on the Return Side
Let’s start on the easier side for you to get there: the return side. When you are the non-returner, you will simply stand up there. Mission accomplished with no effort.
When you are the returner, you will want to get up to the Non-Volley Line after you hit the return of serve. Thanks to the Two Bounce Rule, you can move forward without much trouble. Return high and deep, and you will have the time you need to move up. When you are the returner, you immediately move up to the Non-Volley Line after you have hit the return.
This strategy is one of the few non-negotiables in pickleball. Trying to play pickleball from anywhere but the Non-Volley Line when you are on the return side will lead to suboptimal play and can be a bad habit that you will later need to break. Get started on the right foot by being used to moving up to the Non-Volley Line immediately after each return of serve you hit.
Getting to the Non-Volley Line when on the Serve Side
Let’s switch over to the serve side now. Before diving into the movement here, you need to remember that the serve side and return side of pickleball are different games, each requiring its own strategy. Pickleball is designed to create different challenges for the serve side team than for the return side team. Every rally is framed so that the serve side team is at a significant disadvantage at the start of the rally.
When you are on the serve side, you still want to be at the Non-Volley Line. Playing from up at the Non-Volley Line, being the optimal strategy, remains the same no matter what side you are on. What is different is how you get to the Non-Volley Line.
The same double bounce rule that helps you when you are the returner now holds you back when you are on the serve side. Specifically, the serve side must let the returned ball bounce before hitting it. This means you and your partner will be back near the baseline, but your opponents will, if they know what they are doing, be up at their Non-Volley Line at the time you are hitting the third shot (we are not focused on the type of shot here, just the number of the shot).
** Wrong Advice Warning **
Many (actually most) players will tell you to just run up to the Non-Volley Line, even on the serve side. They expect that as they hit their third shot, you will simply run forward up to your Non-Volley Line.
Often, this is a recipe for disaster – for your team but mainly for you.
Most players do not consistently hit good third shots (assuming they are being intentional with their shot in the first place). As a result, the ball that the players send over on their third shot is usually subject to being attacked by the other team: the ball can be slammed back.
This means that you, the player blindly charging toward the NVZ when they hit the third shot, will often get pegged with that smashed ball.
So, unless you enjoy getting hit with the pickleball, we recommend that you adopt a wait-and-see approach instead of just rushing forward at the moment the third shot is being hit.
If the shot hit by your partner is good, you can then move forward. If it is not, then you stay in a safer zone (farther back) and wait for a better shot to move forward on.
By adopting this wait-and-see approach at the time of the third shot, a few things will happen:
- You will be less likely to get pegged with a smashed fourth shot
- You will make it harder for your opponents to end the rally with their fourth shot
- You will be able to learn better serve-side movement patterns
- You will get some push back by players you are partnered with (more on this below)
The wait-and-see approach is contrary to what you will be told to do. And, if you use it (which we strongly recommend), you will get some pushback. Below are some tools to deal with that. Remember that you need to do what is suitable for you and your game. The wait-and-see approach will get you off on the right foot when you are playing on the serve side of the game and will make it easier for you to improve in the future.
Dealing with the Push Back
As I mentioned above, if you utilize the strategies you learn from us, there will be times when a player will try to explain a different approach to you, or you will otherwise meet resistance. Our advice is to stick with our instructions. We are professionals who know what we are doing.
If it will help you defuse someone who insists that you are doing it wrong (or that their way is better), you are free to name-drop us. Tell the insistent “instructor” that you are working with CJ and Tony (by implementing the teachings in this article, you are) and that our guidance is [fill in the blank].
If they continue to insist, then send them our way. Tell them that CJ and I are always open to being exposed to different approaches to pickleball and to please email me (Tony@WeArePickleball.com) with their ideas. Happy to read their thoughts on the game.
As you play the game, try to pay particular attention to the Non-Volley Zone. It is a key to our sport and to optimal play as you continue to get better.
You want to understand the Non-Volley Zone Rule fully. And you also want to go beyond that to understanding how the Non-Volley Zone impacts your play and the strategies you adopt to play pickleball.
When you are ready for more tips and strategies, come back.
We’ll be here.
When can you go in kitchen in pickleball? ›
You can go into the kitchen at any point during a game. You can even hit from the kitchen, so long as the ball hits the ground first. You can also be in the kitchen while your partner volleys outside of the kitchen. The only time you cannot be in the kitchen is during the act of volleying the ball.How long can you stay in the kitchen in pickleball? ›
The answer is simple: anytime the volley is not being hit. If you choose to strike a groundstroke, you can very well do that from the kitchen. It is only volleying that is not allowed from the kitchen zone. You can choose to enter and stay for as long as you want in the kitchen if you do not volley.Can you step in the kitchen before it bounces? ›
The kitchen is the area within seven feet from each side of the net. In this area, you're not allowed to hit a volley (striking the ball before it bounces). The kitchen only extends the width of the court, so you're allowed to stand on the side of the non-volley zone, although it's best not to in most situations.What is considered the kitchen in pickleball? ›
In pickleball, the kitchen is a colloquial term for the non-volley zone. This is a section of the court that is 7 feet away from both sides of the net and extends to each sideline.Can a pickleball serve go in the kitchen? ›
Your serve must land in the proper service box and must clear the kitchen. You must play serves that touch the net and land in the proper service court; there are no lets. You cannot volley in the kitchen.When can you call out in pickleball? ›
Players should call “out” balls promptly, which means that the “out” call should be before the opponent(s) hit the pickleball or the ball becomes dead. Players cannot wait until the end of a point or after a shot to make the appropriate call – the line call must be prompt.What is the 10 second rule in pickleball? ›
#6 10 second rule
One of the most forgotten rules of pickleball is the 10 second rule. Once the score has been called, the server has 10 seconds to make their serve. If over that time limit then he/she is called for a fault and lose their serve. Rather simple and it keeps the game moving.
The kitchen measures 7-feet on each side of the net and extends to the side lines. The kitchen is an area where return volleys are not permitted, even if your momentum carries you into it. The process of returning a pickleball must remain outside of the kitchen entirely or it results in a fault.What is the #1 mistake beginner pickleball players make? ›
1. Scooting up after the serve. The most common mistake I see is that after serving, they scoot up a bit. The problem with this is that the return server is going to hit the ball as deep as possible, and if you've scooted up following your shot, you'll have to run back or will have a very hard time returning the shot.Do you have to let the ball bounce before you serve in pickleball? ›
Service Bounce Rule
H) The serve and the service return must be allowed to bounce before striking the ball. That is, each side must play a groundstoke on the first shot following the serve. After the initial groundstrokes have been made, play may include volleys.
Who can call kitchen fault in pickleball? ›
Opponents can call Kitchen and service foot faults but if there is any disagreement among the players as to whether the fault occurred the point gets replayed. Here is an interesting scenario on Kitchen faults. I was playing with a very good player who called a Kitchen fault on himself.Can you bounce the ball before serving in pickleball? ›
Pickleball Drop Serve
The drop serve is when a player drops the ball from any height (no jumping or throwing of the ball allowed). This allows the ball to bounce before the serve is taken. The ball can bounce more than once, and the player can hit the ball in any way they like, disregarding rules 1, 2, and 3 below.
For a pickleball serve to be legal, 3 basics need to be followed. First, you can't touch the baseline. Second, you have to hit the ball following volley serve or drop serve conditions. Finally, the ball has to hit the quadrant diagonal from you and can never land in the non-volley zone.Why is it called the kitchen? ›
of coquinus "of cooks," from coquus "cook," from coquere "to cook" (from PIE root *pekw- "to cook, ripen"). The Old English word might be directly from Vulgar Latin.
Essentially the five rules of pickleball are that the ball must stay inbounds, there should be one bounce per side, serving must be done at the baseline, the service can't land in the no-volley zone, and the game ends at 11, 15, or 21 points.Can momentum carry you into the kitchen? ›
Finally, be aware that your momentum cannot carry you into the kitchen. Even if you successfully volley the ball to your opponent, you must stay out of the kitchen to avoid a fault. You can even fault on dead balls.Can u Smash in pickleball? ›
The overhead smash is the most aggressive offensive shot in pickleball. The smash is a forceful hit executed as high in the air as the player can reach and directed downward at a sharp angle into your opponent's court. A well-executed smash is almost impossible to defend.Can you yell in pickleball? ›
NEVER yell at, swear at, or say a hostile or sarcastic word to your partner or your opponent in anger. We repeat, NEVER! Trash-talking, which is teasing your opponents in a fun and lighthearted way, is part of pickleball.Can you call a ball out in pickleball before it hits the ground? ›
If a player calls out before the ball hits the ground, it is not out. That is considered cross-talk between players. A ball cannot be out until it hits the ground outside of the lines. If there is a disagreement between two people about whether a ball was out or not, it is considered good.Can you toss a pickleball serve up? ›
The ball can be dropped from any height but cannot be thrown, tossed, or otherwise released with any added force to bounce it. Serve to the diagonally opposite service court from behind the baseline and on or within the imaginary extension of the sidelines and centerline.
What is rule 6 d 7 in pickleball? ›
6. D. 7. Players shall not call a ball “out” unless they can clearly see a space between the line and the ball as it hits the ground.What is Rule 9 in pickleball? ›
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.What are 5 common mistakes that a beginner pickleball players often make? ›
- Rush When Serving. The fast fire nature of pickleball keeps us moving through points smoothly and with few breaks. ...
- Take Their Eyes Off The Ball. ...
- Wear The Wrong Shoes. ...
- Don't Move Their Feet. ...
- Panic. ...
- Wrapping Up: Add In Some Practice Time.
At the time the ball is struck, the server's feet may not touch the court or outside the imaginary extension of the sideline or centerline and at least one foot must be behind the baseline on the playing surface or the ground behind the baseline.When can you enter the non volley zone in pickleball? ›
It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried by momentum into or touches the non- volley zone, even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens. 5. A player may legally be in the non-volley zone any time other than when volleying a ball.What is chainsaw serve in pickleball? ›
Spinning the ball on a serve.
In 2021, many players experimented with the so-called “chainsaw” serve. In this move, the server rolls the ball against the paddle, sometimes even including the grip, as the ball is being tossed. Then the player hits the fast-spinning ball to finish the serve.
A Nasty Nelson is a shot on the pickleball courts where the server serves the pickleball to intentionally hit the opposing player nearest to the pickleball net (in other words, the opposing player that is not receiving the serve).What is the most important skill in pickleball? ›
Dinking. Dinking is essential to any pickleball strategy. This is a move that isn't just an important part of your arsenal but should be your primary skill. Anyone that's been to a pickleball training camp will tell you the same.What is sandbagging in pickleball? ›
A: The practice of sandbagging—athletes competing in tournaments below their actual skill level to increase their chances of winning—has invaded pickleball, partly due to the game's surging popularity.Are you allowed to bounce the ball before serving in pickleball? ›
Answer: Yes, you can let the ball bounce as many times as you want before hitting the serve. The serve simply has to be hit within 10 seconds of the score being called.
Can you drop the ball before serving in pickleball? ›
RULES UPDATE (1/25/2021) - A new provisional rule allows for a "drop serve." The server has the option of dropping the ball and hitting it after the bounce. The ball can be dropped from any height but cannot be thrown, tossed, or otherwise released with any added force to bounce it.Can you serve above the waist in pickleball? ›
Standard Pickleball Serve Rules
No hitting from above, or from the side. The point where the paddle makes contact with the ball must be below your waistline, specifically below the level of your navel.