When you serve or volley a ball in pickleball, you must do it from behind a line seven feet behind the net that extends from sideline to sideline. The sport refers to this area as the non-volley zone. It differs from tennis in this aspect because tennis encourages the player to serve from the far court but to run to the near court after serving.
You can’t do this in pickleball.
How the Kitchen, aka Non-Volley Zone, Got Its Name?
Originally developed by three dads to entertain their young children, the men made up the game using leftover sports equipment at their summer cottage on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. They used a badminton court on the property, hence the size of a pickleball court. Playing with a whiffle ball and table tennis paddles, they made up the rules as the children played, designing something ideal for their heights and abilities.
That’s why adults find pickleball so easy to play. It also explains how things in the sport got such goofy names. In 1965, on a home visit from his post in Washington, DC, Congressmen Joel Pritchard and his friends William Bell and Barney McCallum made up facetious names for the areas of the court and the equipment.
You paddled the pickle but couldn’t hit it from the kitchen. The pickle refers to the ball, the paddle refers to the racquet, and the kitchen refers to the non-volley zone. As the sport took hold and popularized, its more serious players named its key equipment and court areas in a manner closer to tennis and badminton.
You won’t need to measure out the distance of seven feet unless you decide to erect your own court in your yard.
Pickleball Courts Paint the Kitchen a Different Color
Most pickleball courts paint the kitchen or non-volley zone a different color than the serving and volley areas. This makes it easy to remember, since you must serve and volley from behind the non-volley line. Only volleying from seven feet back from the net adds a bit of challenge to the game.
It also made it easier for kids whose shorter legs couldn’t quite steam them up to the net quickly enough to play tennis effectively.
A Great Serve Proves Crucial to Scoring in Pickleball
You can only score in pickleball when you serve. A poor serve or a fault costs you a score. You incur a fault if any part of your body or equipment enters the non-volley zone while you serve.
If you can learn to serve in pickleball as you would in volleyball, you’ll serve your game well. That means you must keep both of your feet behind the serving line, also called the baseline. Once you’ve served, you can move forward, but not until then.
Serve on the Diagonal to the Opposite Non-Volley Zone
When serving in pickleball, you serve from behind the baseline, aiming the ball into the non-volley zone, also called the service court, of the opposing team. No matter how many times the opposition returns the ball, until you, the server, faults, you keep serving. This can result in lopsided scores but encourages each player to work on their serve and returns.
Practice on Either Side of the Court
Just as people tend to favor their right hand or left hand, players tend to serve better from one direction or the other. This can kill your game in pickleball. At each service, you must switch sides from the net, so practice serving from behind both non-volley zones.
This helps you train your serve. The non-volley zone can present a challenge for some individuals, since it seems second nature to move forward as you serve. Velocity can help a serve go further, but you must train yourself to stop just before the baseline to avoid faulting.
As soon as you fault, the opposition gets to serve; that presents their chance to score.
Setting Up Your Own Court
You can practice or play in your backyard. You’ll need to chalk, paint, or tape out the court lines. The measurements for the field of play, inclusive of lines, require an area of 20 feet in width, 44 feet deep, and 48.4 feet diagonal, meaning from corner to corner.
Mark off this area first, then set up the net in the center, or set up your net first, then mark the court around it, whichever you find easier. Once you center the net, measure from the net to the seven-foot mark and create a line running from sideline to sideline. Repeat this process on both sides of the net.
Finally, mark the center point of the volley area and lay a line that divides it into left and right boxes. Repeat that process on the other side and you’re ready to play.