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Kitchen Rules: The Do’s and Don’ts of the NVZ

While pickleball is a great way to have fun and stay fit, there are some rules that have to be followed. Perhaps the most important rule to remember is to stay out of the kitchen.  No, we’re not talking about a literal kitchen; we’re talking about the kitchen. You know, the no-volley zone (NVZ). During a pickleball match, you’ve likely heard someone yell, “Stay out of the kitchen!” It’s in those moments that you get transported back to your childhood and can hear your mom yelling for you to do the same. It’s a phrase that keeps us pickleball players aware of where we are on the court and if we are, in fact, in the kitchen, to get the heck out of there. The kitchen is the small area of the pickleball court that’s located seven feet in front of the net. It’s marked off to keep players from getting too close and delivering a Shaquille O’Neal-style slam dunk shot at their opponent. The Pickleball Court with Dimensions

It’s a natural instinct to want to run towards the ball as it’s coming over the net.  You almost start to salivate thinking about the shot that you’ll deliver. You start to envision yourself running in slow motion with motivational music playing in the background as your paddle meets the ball and you score the winning point. It’s time to snap out of that daydream and while that level of tenacity is admirable, it can actually end up costing you a point if you’re not careful. Whether you’re new to pickleball or are looking to brush up on the ole rule book, we turned the mic over to our resident pickleball expert, Chuck Vietmeier to weigh in on the do’s and don’ts of the kitchen.

The Do's

  • Do get to the kitchen line as soon as possible. When you’re further back in the court, you will have to hit the ball higher and harder in order to get the pickleball back over the net. If your opponents are already at the net, two things are in their favor at this point in time. First, you’ll give them more court and more options for their returns. Secondly, you’ll be giving your opponents higher balls which are easier to put away. In short, stay close to the kitchen for more controlled, low, strategic shots.
  • Do split step as you reach the kitchen line. The split step provides balance and will enable you to move in any direction your opponent’s shot might go.
  • Do step into the kitchen to hit a ball that has bounced in the kitchen zone. This is the only time that you can actually hit a ball while in the kitchen. To complete this shot, you’ll have to step into the kitchen to reach any dink shot that your opponents hit back to you. Try your best to only take one step into the kitchen and reach for the ball in order to hit it back over the net.
  • Do use your crosscourt dink, as the middle of the net is the lowest point.
  • Do mix up your dink shots to keep your opponent on their toes.
  • Do try to keep shots that are hit in the kitchen as low as you can over the net. You’ll want all returns that you hit from the kitchen to be as low as possible. This gives your opponents less of chance to make the return. Avoid high, easy shots over the net. This type of return gives your opponents a better chance to strike and hit for the winning point.
Now that you have a better understanding of what you can do in the kitchen, let’s talk about what you can’t do! For starters, it’s important to note that all of the don’ts will cause a fault and your team’s loss of a point. So, read this carefully because you don’t want to be that partner who loses the point!

The Don'ts

  • Don’t step into the kitchen with both feet. If a ball is to come to you in that stance, you will find it harder to hit it a controlled shot back over the net.
  • Don’t let your follow through carry you into the kitchen after hitting a shot. Remain planted in this position to which you made contact with the pickleball.
  • Don’t step on the kitchen line while hitting a ball out of the air. During match play it’s always important to get your bearings and know where you are on the court at all times.
  • Don’t stay in the kitchen after hitting a ball that has bounced in the kitchen. After you’ve made your hit, retreat back to your starting position.
As a wise pickleballer once said, “If you don’t want a fault, stay out of the kitchen.”


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