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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Moving at the Kitchen Line

We have already discussed the need for fast paddle reaction times at the kitchen line in the post The Ready Position at the Kitchen Line. But the need for quick reactions isn’t limited to just your hands. Foot movement along the line must also be quick due to the close proximity of your opponent. A complicating factor to foot movement is the potential for a kitchen line fault, especially if you have taken the proper position within 2-3 inches of the line (You. Must. Get. To. The. (NoVolley) Line).

The primary objective of moving to hit the ball when at the kitchen line is obviously to reach the ball. But simply reaching the ball is not enough if you are caught out of position for your opponent’s next return. Therefore, your movement must be efficient as well as effective.

If your opponent’s shot bounces, you can move anywhere on the court, including into the kitchen area. A step into the kitchen area should be taken with only one foot while leaving the trail foot in place behind the kitchen line. Then simply bring the forward foot back alongside the trail foot and into the ready position just behind the kitchen line. The pattern is step forward, hit, step back, ready position. Below is a photo showing the step.

Never step into the kitchen with both feet. If you step into the kitchen with both feet, it takes much more time and effort to get back to ready position behind the line. If your opponent is quick enough, the return can be made directly to you before you have left the kitchen, resulting in a fault. Efficient footwork when approaching the net reduces the time you are in this vulnerable position.

A video from Coach Mo called Footwork is below that illustrates this foot movement.

A return that requires movement to your right or left should be taken using a quick series of side (or slide) steps. Push off with the foot opposite the direction you want to move and step to the side with the non-push off foot. Move parallel to the kitchen line until you are positioned in front of the ball. A photo and Deb Harrison video titled Footwork at Non-Volley Zone are below.

If the side steps don’t get you to the ball, use a cross-step where your trail leg crosses your front leg to gain several feet of reach, as illustrated below.

After hitting the ball, return to the proper spot and into the ready position.

All movement at the kitchen line should be quick and efficient to position your body directly in front of the ball in an athletic position where you can get low for the return. Stretching for a ball or reaching down for a ball will result in a weaker and less consistent shot. An athletic position will also allow the quickest recovery to a balanced and ready position.

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