If you’ve ever been around pickleball players, you’ve probably heard the term “kitchen” casually mentioned. While quite the odd name to describe one of the most important areas of the pickleball court, learning about the kitchen can make you a better player. But you still can’t help but wonder: what does a kitchen have to do with this sport, and how did it get its quirky name?
It’s called the “kitchen” in pickleball for a few theorized reasons. The first is that three dads invented the game, meaning quirky names were more likely. Or it might be a borrowed term from shuffleboard, an area on the board where players lose ten points if their puck lands in it.
If you’re interested in learning more about why it’s called the kitchen, theories on its origins, and more general information about this funny pickleball rule, you’re in the right place. You’ll be an expert on the pickleball “kitchen” by the time you’re done reading this article.
For a complete guide to the kitchen area in pickleball and the one rule you never knew was legal; click here.
The Kitchen: A Brief Overview
Pickleball players — beginners especially — tend to get confused when they hear other players talk about the kitchen. Let’s talk about where this bizarre term comes from.
Why Is It Called the Kitchen?
The kitchen seems like an odd name for something related to pickleball. And you're right. No one seems to know why the no volley zone earned such a quirky name, although some theories exist.
It could be because the three dads that invented the game just thought it was a silly name to use. That might explain why we have a game called pickleball in the first place!
However, the more plausible theory is that it comes from a term used in shuffleboard. This is much more likely because pickleball is a game of borrowed components, including tennis, badminton, and ping pong.
There’s an area behind the scoring zone in shuffleboard where players will lose ten points if they land their puck in it, called the kitchen. It’s also known as the "10-off" zone. Keep in mind that there’s no agreement on why it’s called the kitchen in shuffleboard either.
But we have a few other ideas where the pickleball kitchen found its name.
One possibility is that it originated from the phrase "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." Another theory suggests that it became colloquially known as the kitchen because no one wants to be in there.
However, take these theories with a grain of salt. While we may never know how the kitchen got its name, it’s exciting to speculate some of the reasons.
Do you have any theories of your own?
Why Do I Need To Know About the Kitchen?
You’re probably wondering why all of this is so important. Despite its silly name, the kitchen, also known as the no volley zone, is a fundamental and somewhat tricky rule in pickleball.
Here’s all you need to know about the kitchen in pickleball:
The Kitchen Rules
The kitchen is also known as the "no volley zone," implying that you cannot stand in or come into contact with the kitchen during a volley or initiate a volley from there. In pickleball, volleying is hitting the ball back and forth between teams without letting it bounce. The purpose of this area is to discourage players from standing in this zone for the duration of the game, avoiding spikes that are impossible to return.
Related Content: Click here for the 5 most common rules in pickleball.
A second rule — and a quirky one — is that a player cannot drop or throw anything into the kitchen that they’re wearing or holding, which can include your hat or sunglasses, and of course, your paddle. It can also include anything in your pockets, such as a wallet, keys, or chapstick.
You cannot land in the kitchen, even if you hit the ball from behind the line. Some players like to practice what’s called "toeing the line." That means they stand as close to the kitchen line as possible without going over.
Toeing the line is perfectly acceptable and isn’t against the official rules, but you risk jumping to hit the ball and then landing in the kitchen, which will result in a fault against you.
What Is Allowed in the Kitchen?
It seems like there are so many rules associated with the no volley zone! To clear up some beginner confusion, we’re going to review what you’re allowed to do in the kitchen.
There aren’t any rules against standing in the kitchen. However, while there are no rules against it, it’s a good idea not to get used to standing in this zone. Your opponents could easily take advantage of this strategy and trick you into forfeiting a point if you return a volley from your position in the kitchen.
Related Content: Need a no-volley zone strategy to improve your game? Click here for the one strategy that changed my game when dinking in the kitchen.
You’re also allowed to return a ball from the kitchen if it bounces first. If this happens, your best bet is to hop in the kitchen quickly to return the ball and then jump back out before your opponents return the ball. Be careful not to get tricked into returning or initiating a volley from the kitchen, as it’s an automatic fault for you and your team.
It’s also okay if your partner is in the kitchen while you volley (or vice versa), as long as the person outside of the kitchen is the player participating in the volley.
It’s best to think about the kitchen as if it were a pool of lava — avoid it at all costs. However, if you’re in a position where you have to go into the kitchen, think carefully and strategically about your next hit. Then, get out of the area as soon as possible!
How To Become a Pickleball Kitchen Expert
Being a great pickleball player means mastering the rules of the kitchen. After all, you cannot follow the rules if you don't understand them, so your priority should be to commit them to memory. Knowing and understanding the rules will make you a better player and teammate.
The second priority is to practice the game! Experienced pickleball players typically stand as close to the no volley zone as possible without going over it. While the risks of receiving a fault are slightly higher with this strategy, standing close to the line gives you more control and accuracy when hitting the ball to your opponent’s side of the court.
Toeing the line can be intimidating to beginners, as it’s a strategy that takes quite a bit of practice. However, you’ll quickly gain a keen sense of where you are on the court. Getting this acute sense of your location in relation to the no volley zone will come with time and practice.
One way to improve this skill is to practice running up to the line without going over during your matches. It’ll eventually become second nature when you have more skill and better control of your body on the court.
Related: Knowing where to be on the court is crucial. Click here for simple tips on the proper foot placement and where to stand.
Why Is It Called The Kitchen In Pickleball - My Final Thoughts
No matter your skill level, understanding important terms in pickleball will make you a more confident and well-rounded player. Further, knowing a bit about this great sport's history brings more integrity and increases your connection to the game.
We hope this article cleared up some of the confusion around the term “kitchen.” Even though no one quite agrees on why it's called the kitchen, there are a few exciting and plausible theories. Next time someone asks you about the origins of the term kitchen in pickleball, you’ll be able to share a few of the most common theories.