There are many new pickleball beginners in the area now. If you’re just getting interested in the sport, make sure you understand the two unique rule requirements in pickleball that give it its own DNA.
The genius of the sport is the two-bounce rule. By requiring the ball to hit on each side of the court (first the serve, and then the return of serve) before it can be volleyed in the air, it helps reduce dominance by the serving team at net.
Since points can only be won when serving in pickleball, the two-bounce rule cleverly changes the dynamics of the game, because it takes any advantage away from the serving team and awards it to the team returning serve. Interestingly, only the serving team can score, which moderates the returning team’s advantage.
As a result, the service return team is normally the first team to take control of the net and, depending on the depth of the return of serve, the serving team frequently can find themselves in the backcourt, trying to advance. The odds are against the success of a lob as a return, or a hard hit slam as well, so it puts special importance on the “Third Shot of Pickleball,” which I will discuss another time.
It is the “kitchen” rule that also gives pickleball its unique personality. Several years ago, the ruling body of pickleball smartly replaced the name “kitchen” with NVZ or “no volley zone.” The NVZ is defined by, and includes, on each side of the net, the line 7 feet from the net and that portion of the two side lines defining it. I still find better players confused by the kitchen rule, and even periodically stumble across individuals teaching it improperly.
Here’s the kitchen ice cream scoop: You can’t volley the ball from the “no volley zone” or from any portion of the lines that define the NVZ. You can step into the NVZ to hit a ball that is going to bounce. There is no rule that says you must wait behind the line for it to land, and if you think about it, such a rule would be impossible to enforce.
For example, if the other team hit a “Hail Mary” lob that was going to land in the NVZ, you can step inside and wait. However, as soon as you hit it, you need to quickly reset by moving back behind the service line that defines the NVZ. A smart player, if they see you lingering in the NVZ, will just hit the ball toward you, and there is nothing you can do, as you must let it pass.
Tennis players new to the sport often allow a portion of their shoe on their leading foot to touch the NVZ line. Others step into the NVZ after they volley. You need to call those infractions on yourself or your partner. Remember — your follow-through cannot take you into the NVZ. Once you get penalized a few times by losing hard-fought points, your brain will tell you to stay out of the “kitchen.”
Yesterday, my wife told me it was my turn to clear the dishes, and I told her I could not step into the kitchen. Ouch — I will be sure never to get my kitchens confused again.
Notes: Team Cardiac defeated Team Cancer by 25 to 20 team points last week in the Cardiac vs Cancer Survivors Team Competition co-sponsored by Coastal Communities Pickleball League and First State Pickleball Club. Since there no losers among survivors, both teams are expected to be making $1,000 donations to their respective charities because of the generosity of the entire pickleball community.
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point