Understanding the Non Volley Zone.

Late last year I started writing a couple of informational/educational blogs to help beginners at Sylvania Pickleball Club. I revised them and thought that I would re-post.  Here’s the first one.

The Non Volley Zone or Kitchen rule 

A majority of the questions I’m asked by newer players have to do with the non volley zone or kitchen, as most of us call it. You can find the exact rules online in the International Federation of Pickleball Official Rule book, Section 9 – Non Volley Zone rules. http://ipickleball.org/rules/pbrules-ifp.pdf.

First of all, let’s be sure that you understand what a VOLLEY is. A volley is a ball that is struck without having first bounced on the ground. Therefore simply put, the non volley zone is an area of the court where you must let the ball bounce before striking it.
The non volley zone is the area bordered by the net, the side lines, and a line 7’ from and parallel to the net. The side lines and the kitchen line itself are considered IN the non volley zone.
Here is what you can and cannot do: 
Remember, a volley is a ball you hit without letting it bounce first.
– You may NOT step on the kitchen line or into the kitchen while 1) in the act of volleying the ball, 2) during your follow through, or 3) as a result of your momentum.
For example, you will have committed a kitchen fault if:
– you run into the kitchen to hit the ball before it bounces
– you step forward and touch or cross the kitchen line as you swing at the ball
– your momentum causes you to cross the kitchen line after striking the ball
– No part of your equipment can touch the kitchen surface during a volley.

For example, you will have committed a kitchen fault if:
– you reach for a low ball and your paddle scrapes the court surface (before or after you strike the ball)
– your hat or other personal item falls off when hitting a volley and lands in the kitchen
– A kitchen fault can still be called, even if the ball is declared dead.
For example, you will have committed a kitchen fault if:
– you hit a hard volley at your opponent and he then hits his shot into the net, but you have not been able to reestablish your balance/footing (both feet) and fall into the kitchen from your momentum of the last shot. (There’s nothing to stop your partner from grabbing you by the back of the shirt to keep you from falling into the kitchen as long as he is completely out of the kitchen!)

Where can I legally stand on the court? 

I’ve had several people tell me after playing for months that they didn’t think they were allowed to go into the kitchen ever! That is INCORRECT. You can be in the kitchen any time you want. I’m not sure what your strategy would be for standing in the kitchen, but it’s not forbidden! You can stand wherever you want on the court as long as you don’t break a rule, such as the non volley zone rule.

When I was playing in a tournament Amsterdam in 2016, I began my serve motion and my opponent (not the one receiving my serve) jumped over into the service court I was aiming at. My partner and I continued play and won the point, but I argued that he could not do that because he was blocking the court I was hitting to! Afterwards, I found out I was wrong. He could stand wherever he wanted. If I had hit him while serving, it would have been my point. However, due to the suddenness of his action, an experienced referee might have called an unsportsmanlike distraction, but it would have been a judgement call. I messaged the player an apology for my error when I got home.

In summary, as long as you let the ball bounce, you are welcome to step into the non volley zone to hit it. However, for those times when you have to really reach for a ball in the kitchen, remember that you must get completely out with both feet down before you are considered out of the kitchen. If your opponent hits the ball back at you before you get both feet down behind the line, you will have committed a fault.

Pickleball is a game of integrity 

Lastly, all players should know that pickleball is a game of honesty and integrity. All faults are “self calls,” meaning that when you violate a rule, or you see your partner commit a fault, it is YOUR responsibility to immediately stop play and call the fault. Pickleball is not like other sports where if you don’t get caught, you get away with it. When you call your own faults you become more aware of your court position, and you’ll find that you won’t make as many faults!

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