What is the NVZ (Non-Volley Zone)? Exploring Rules and Importance

The Non-Volley Zone (NVZ), commonly referred to as the “kitchen,” is a crucial area on the pickleball court that significantly influences the game’s strategy and play. This guide will help you understand the NVZ’s dimensions, rules, and importance.

Non Volley Zone in Pickleball

Dimensions of the Non-Volley Zone, commonly known as “The Kitchen”

The NVZ spans 14 feet across the center of the court, extending 7 feet on either side of the net. It forms a 7 ft by 20 ft area on each side of the court.

Rules of the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ)

  1. Volleying in the NVZ:
    • As the name suggest, players are not allowed to volley (that is, hit the ball in the air before it bounces) while standing in the NVZ.
    • This includes the line that defines the NVZ; if any part of a player’s body is touching the NVZ or its lines, they cannot volley the ball.
  2. Entering the NVZ:
    • Players can enter the NVZ at any time, but they cannot volley the ball while inside it.
    • Players often enter the NVZ to play balls that have bounced first (e.g., dinks).
  3. Foot Faults:
    • A fault is committed if a player volleys the ball and their momentum causes them to touch the NVZ or its lines.
    • Even if a player hits a volley and their momentum carries them into the NVZ after the hit, it is still a fault.
  4. Line Rules:
    • The NVZ line is part of the NVZ itself. Therefore, stepping on the NVZ line while volleying is a fault.
    • If your paddle touches the NVZ after you hit a volley, it’s considered a fault.
  5. NVZ and Serve:
    • During the serve, the ball must clear the NVZ and land in the opponent’s service court. If the ball lands in the NVZ or on its lines, it is a fault.
  6. Double Bounce Rule:
    • The double bounce rule (the ball must bounce once on each side of the net after the serve) does not change the rules of the NVZ. Players must still avoid volleying in the NVZ after the two bounces.
  7. Momentum violation:
    • When hitting a volley, your momentum must not carry you or anything on you (i.e. paddle) into the kitchen, as per pickleball rules.

Want to learn other pickleball rules, check out our 2024 pickleball rules post.

Why is there a NVZ?

Before we became avid pickleball players and built Pickleland, we must admit we were confused about why there was an NVZ. Here are a few reasons there’a Kitchen in pickleball:

  • Given the small size of a pickleball court, standing right at the net without a Kitchen would give players an overwhelming advantage. This proximity would allow players to hit powerful volleys, ending rallies quickly and reducing the strategic depth of the game.
  • The NVZ ensures that players can’t serve and immediately volley; they must let the ball bounce on their side of the court once after the serve. This rule creates longer rallies, adds strategic elements to the game, and levels the playing field, making pickleball enjoyable for players of all skill levels.
  • Moreover, the NVZ encourages a variety of shots and strategies, such as dinks and drop shots, which are integral to the finesse and tactical play of pickleball. This zone helps to balance power and precision, requiring players to develop a more well-rounded skill set.
  • In addition, the NVZ enhances safety by preventing overly aggressive net play, which can lead to collisions and injuries. By keeping players a safe distance from the net during volleys, the NVZ promotes a more controlled and enjoyable game for everyone.

Origins of the “Kitchen” Name in the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ)

The Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) is often called the “kitchen,” and there are a few theories about how this name came to be. One popular theory suggests that the term “kitchen” was borrowed from shuffleboard, where the “kitchen” is a penalty area behind the scoring zone. In both sports, being in the kitchen restricts players’ actions, which may explain the crossover in terminology.

Another theory is that the founders of pickleball, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, coined the term to add a bit of humor and informality to the game. The casual, homey term fits well with the social and friendly nature of pickleball.

While you can use NVZ or “the kitchen” interchangeably, most players prefer using the term “the kitchen” because it’s simpler to pronounce and adds a unique, playful element to the game. This nickname helps to maintain the lighthearted and community-oriented spirit that makes pickleball so enjoyable.

Strategies for the NVZ

Dinking Strategy

Dinking is an important part of getting around in the NVZ and carefully challenging other players. This controlled, soft shot close to the net lets players take advantage of weak defenses and make mistakes without breaking NVZ rules.

Lobbing Tactics

When you’re up against aggressive dinkers, lobs and high-arcing shots over your opponents’ heads work well. When lobs are hit in the right place, they make opponents move away from the net, which opens the court for attacking drives and smart court positioning.

Volleys Beyond the Non-Volley Zone

allowed volleys outside kitchen

The only area where volleys are prohibited is the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ). Players can execute volleys at the baseline, between the NVZ line and baseline, or anywhere else on the court outside the NVZ.

Players may also hit volleys above the NVZ, clearing its line without contact, to maintain play without fault.

Importance of NVZ Avoidance

While players can stand in the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) without volleying, it’s not recommended. Players should avoid entering the NVZ before or after the ball bounces, or while their partner volleys, as opponents may target NVZ players, risking a violation.

Proper Re-Establishment Outside the NVZ

To legally volley after touching the NVZ, players must re-establish both feet outside it. Merely jumping out of the NVZ is insufficient and may result in a fault.

Clarifying NVZ Jumping Misconceptions

Jumping to volley from inside the NVZ and landing outside doesn’t exempt players from fault. Re-establishing both feet outside the NVZ before volleying is essential. However, jumping over the NVZ without contact is permitted for a specific shot known as an Erne.

Understanding the Erne Shot

The Erne, named after Erne Perry, involves hitting the ball while jumping around the NVZ or after running around the Kitchen and re-establishing outside the NVZ.

Executing the Erne Shot

  1. Plan ahead to lure opponents into hitting toward your desired sideline.
  2. Move to the area outside the NVZ on the sideline as your opponent strikes the ball.
  3. Execute the shot while ensuring both feet are established (or will land) outside the NVZ.

Remember, any contact with the NVZ during a volley is a fault, so all volleys, including Ernes, must be executed outside the NVZ.

Momentum Rule in the NVZ

Understanding Momentum and Volleys:

  • Hitting a volley while inside the NVZ is prohibited. Additionally, momentum from a volley cannot lead a player into the NVZ.

Potential Faults Due to Momentum:

  • Situations where players hit a volley from the NVZ edge, causing forward momentum, may result in faults if they touch the NVZ. Items like paddles, hats, or sunglasses should also avoid NVZ contact during volleys to prevent faults.

Exiting the NVZ Before Volleys:

  • Players must fully exit the NVZ before executing a volley. This rule prohibits hitting volleys while backing out of the NVZ or jumping backward from within it. Both feet must touch the ground outside the NVZ after exiting for a legal volley shot.


The NVZ, or kitchen, plays a critical role in pickleball, affecting how players strategize and execute shots. Understanding and adhering to NVZ rules enhances gameplay and ensures a fair and enjoyable experience.

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