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The “kitchen” is one of the most important parts of the pickleball court. Activity in the kitchen is subject to strict rules.
It’s the existence of the kitchen that causes most pickleball matches to be played toward the back of the court.
Can you step into the kitchen in pickleball? You don’t have to tiptoe around the zone.
But certain moves are illegal if you’re standing in the kitchen.
Similarly, you can’t step into the kitchen if you’re being carried forward by momentum from certain moves.
So, can you step into the kitchen in pickleball?
This is a complicated question, and to answer it, we’ll have to explore exactly what the kitchen is and what rules surround it.
What you need to know about the kitchen in pickleball
When you go through the official rulebook, you’ll find that none of the guidelines actually refer to a “kitchen.”
But pickleball players use this term to describe the Non-Volley Zone.
Non-Volley Zone is the technical term used in the regulations, but the majority of players use “kitchen” as shorthand.
The non-volley zone encompasses the seven feet of court closest to the net.
Each side has a non-volley zone.
When you’re in this zone, you can’t volley the ball, which means you have to let the ball bounce before you can strike it.
When deciding whether a boundary has been breached, you have to understand the difference between a groundstroke and a volley.
With a groundstroke, you strike the ball after it’s bounced.
With a volley, the ball hasn’t bounced yet.
You can volley the ball if you’re outside the kitchen. But you can’t volley it inside the kitchen.
Since the ball usually bounces close to the edge of the kitchen anyway, this rule causes most of the game play to happen in the further areas of the courts.
Although you’ll probably play most of your game outside the kitchen, it’s not illegal to step into it.
Important kitchen rules
So with all of that said, now it’s time to get into the minutiae of what you can and cannot do in the kitchen.
When is it illegal to step inside?
With an airborne pickleball, the following rules apply:
- You can’t volley the ball if you’re standing in the kitchen.
- You can’t volley the ball if you have a foot standing on the kitchen line, even if the rest of you is outside the line.
- You can’t have a hat or article of clothing fall into the kitchen as you’re executing a volley.
- You can go into the kitchen whenever you want, as long as no volley is being hit.
- It’s not strategically wise, but you can stand in the kitchen while your partner serves.
- After being inside the kitchen, you cannot hit a volley until you establish that both of your feet are now outside the kitchen.
These are all fairly easy to follow.
But there are also rules about your momentum.
These are some of the times when stepping into the kitchen might cause a fault.
Some momentum-related regulations are:
- Your volley momentum can’t carry you into the kitchen, so you can’t enter the kitchen or touch the boundary lines after hitting the ball.
- Even if the ball has bounced twice on the opposition’s side, you still can’t enter the kitchen with your volley momentum.
- Your partner can physically hold you back or grab you to keep you from stepping into the kitchen with your momentum, but the partner must stay outside the kitchen while doing so.
You can see how these make it impossible to step into the kitchen when you’re engaged in a very specific move.
The final regulations have to do with groundstrokes:
- You can hit a shot from the kitchen as long as the ball has bounced first. It’s rare for a ball to bounce and remain in the kitchen, but it is possible.
- You can step into the kitchen with your momentum if you hit a groundstroke instead of a volley.
So it’s illegal to step into the kitchen while you’re making a volley, but you can step into the kitchen while you’re making a groundstroke.
The biggest thing to remember is that you can’t volley in the kitchen, and just stepping a foot on the boundaries counts as a fault.
Potential faults regarding the kitchen
Even though “don’t volley” is a relatively simple rule, there are a lot of intricate ways that you can suffer a kitchen-related fault.
These are the main ways that you can be faulted:
- You make a volley while running into or standing in the kitchen.
- You step a foot into the kitchen or onto the boundary line when hitting a volley.
- Your paddle touches the kitchen floor when you volley, even though your feet are outside.
- An article of clothing or your paddle drops into the kitchen during the volley.
- Your partner’s paddle is accidentally hit into the kitchen during your volley.
- You touch a partner in the kitchen while hitting a volley.
- You use your non-racket hand to stay balanced and touch the kitchen while volleying.
- Your momentum carries you into the kitchen after hitting a volley.
- You attempt to make a volley while in the kitchen, even if your actual paddle contact happens outside the kitchen.
Permissible actions in the kitchen
In addition to simply existing in the kitchen, these actions do not incur a fault:
- You’re carried into the kitchen after hitting a return, but the ball bounced first.
- Your partner held you back or grabbed you to keep you from accidentally entering the kitchen due to your momentum.
- You stepped over the corner of the kitchen but never actually touched the kitchen or its boundaries.
- You stepped through the kitchen and didn’t attempt a volley until after you had cleared the space.
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