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Understanding ‘The Kitchen’ In Pickleball

The kitchen in a pickleball court

If you’ve ever played or watched a game of pickleball, you may have heard the term ‘the kitchen’ being used quite frequently. Despite its quaint-sounding name, the kitchen is a vital area on the pickleball court. If you’re new to the game or just curious about the origins of this peculiar term, you’re in the right place!

Our Pickleball gurus here at Simply Pickleball will delve into the fascinating history behind why it’s called ‘the kitchen’ in pickleball and its significance in the gameplay. It is also commonly referred to as the non-volley zone or NVZ. 

Let’s get the mini answer first before we get started.

Table of Contents

What is The Kitchen?

The kitchen is a seven-foot-wide area on both sides of the net, extending seven feet back. Players cannot hit the ball out of the air with their feet inside it or touching the line. If you go into the kitchen, the ball must first bounce before you can hit it. This zone plays a significant role in dictating the gameplay and strategy in pickleball.

The name ‘kitchen’ can be traced back to the sport’s early days. Joan Pritchard, one of the co-inventors of pickleball, claimed that the non-volley zone reminded her of her kitchen in her Bainbridge Island, Washington, home. She and her friends used to enforce a strict rule that they couldn’t hit the ball until it bounced to avoid getting too close to the net and being at a disadvantage.

Thus, they humorously referred to the zone as ‘the kitchen,’ and the name stuck throughout the years.

The Basics of Pickleball

Before we dive into the kitchen, let’s briefly review the basics of pickleball.

Created in the mid-1960s, pickleball is a fast-growing sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong.

It is typically played on a court with a net and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels.

The game involves using a paddle to hit a perforated ball over the net, aiming to score points while adhering to specific rules and court boundaries.

The Significance of the Kitchen

With over 36 million participants in Pickleball according to recent reports, it’s not surprising that many of us want to understand its significance during the game.

In pickleball, as we’ve found out, the kitchen is a no-volley zone. This means players are not allowed to hit the ball out of the air without it bouncing first (volley) when they are inside this area.

The non-volley rule aims to prevent players from hovering near the net and smashing the ball down aggressively. This could potentially lead to less dynamic rallies and make the game less enjoyable for everyone.

This restriction adds an extra layer of strategy to the game. Players must find creative ways to maneuver and approach the net without violating the non-volley rule.

It encourages players to use a combination of dinks and lobs, leading to more strategic gameplay and longer, more engaging rallies.

Mastering the Kitchen

For beginners, staying out of the kitchen might seem like an easy task. But as you progress in pickleball, you’ll find that this zone requires precise footwork and anticipation.

As a new player, focus on developing your groundstrokes and lobs to maintain control of the game from the backcourt.

As you gain more experience, you can experiment with court positioning.  Better players will approach the kitchen after a well-placed drop shot and execute well-timed volleys.

Strategies for Navigating the Kitchen

The kitchen can be a daunting area for new pickleball players, but with practice and the right approach, you can turn it into a significant advantage.

To become a skilled kitchen player, consider these strategies:

  • Master the Groundstroke: Being proficient in groundstrokes allows you to stay in control of the game from the backcourt. Develop your forehand and backhand groundstrokes to hit accurate shots that keep your opponents on their toes.
  • Work on Lobs: Lobs are high-arching shots that can push your opponents back and create space near the kitchen. A well-executed lob can give you time to move closer to the net while forcing your opponents to hit the ball from a more challenging position.
  • Use the Third Shot Drop: The third shot drop is a crucial strategy in pickleball, especially when approaching the kitchen. After the serve and return, aim to hit a soft, controlled shot that lands in your opponent’s kitchen, forcing them to hit from a defensive position.
  • Practice Dinking: Dinking involves hitting soft shots close to the net, making it difficult for your opponents to attack. Mastering dinking techniques will enable you to engage in dynamic kitchen rallies while staying in control.
  • Improve Footwork: Footwork is vital in pickleball, especially around the kitchen. Work on your agility and quick movements to approach the net efficiently and respond to shots effectively.
  • Stay Patient: The kitchen can be a high-pressure zone, but it’s essential to remain patient and wait for the right opportunity to attack. Avoid rushing and focus on setting up the point for a well-timed volley or overhead smash.

Kitchen Etiquette

Respecting the kitchen’s boundaries and adhering to the non-volley rule is crucial in pickleball. As is Pickleball etiquette in general!

Here are some of our best etiquette tips for the kitchen:

Stay Behind the Line

Remember, your feet cannot enter the kitchen until the ball bounces.

Always check your positioning to avoid unintentional foot faults.

Give Your Partner Space

Be mindful of your partner when you’re at the net.

Avoid crowding the kitchen; give your partner ample room to make their shots.

Celebrate Responsibly

Celebrating after a great rally is natural, but avoid stepping into the kitchen while the point is still in play. 

Save the celebrations for when you are outside the non-volley zone and the point is over. 

The Benefits of Mastering 'The Kitchen'

Embracing the kitchen brings numerous benefits to your pickleball game:

  • Improved Strategy: Navigating the kitchen effectively requires a blend of skill and strategy. You’ll become a more strategic and versatile player by mastering this area.
  • Longer, Engaging Rallies: The non-volley rule encourages you to engage in longer rallies from the backcourt, promoting exciting and challenging gameplay.
  • Enhanced Footwork and Reflexes: The kitchen demands quick footwork and reflexes, which can help improve your overall agility and athleticism on the court.
  • Sportsmanship and Fair Play: Adhering to the non-volley rule showcases good sportsmanship and respect for the rules, creating a more enjoyable playing environment for everyone.

Why Is It Called ‘The Kitchen’ In Pickleball?

The kitchen, or the non-volley zone, is a defining element of pickleball that adds an extra dimension of strategy and skill to the game.

Its quirky name stems from the sport’s early days and is an essential part of pickleball’s identity.

Embrace the challenge of the kitchen, improve your skills, and enjoy the delightful sport of pickleball to the fullest!

Whether you’re a seasoned player or a curious newcomer, now you know why it’s called ‘the kitchen’ in pickleball. It’s time to hit the court and have a great time with this fun and inclusive sport!

Before you go don’t forget to check back to our regularly updated blog. You’ll find reviews from our Pickleball experts, along with lots of great advice and hacks to help you master the game like a pro!

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