What is an Erne in Pickleball?

In any sport, we play to win. As such, players are continually finding new ways to use the rules of the game to their advantage. This advantage usually involves getting maximum points or return for your ingenuity. 

In pickleball, players are limited to volleying the ball only 7ft from the net. However, a highly advantageous shot, called an erne, has been devised to allow a player volley a pickleball much closer to the net, while being outside the non volley zone. 

In this article, I’ll go through what an erne is in pickleball, who it was named after, how to execute and set up and erne, and why it is legal.

What is an Erne in Pickleball

An erne is a surprise, high reward volley in pickleball where a player strikes the ball extremely close to the net while being outside the non-volley zone, usually by either sideline of the court. 

This is done by either:

  • hitting the ball while out of bounds, by the sideline of the court, parallel to the kitchen or 
  • by jumping and hitting the pickleball mid-air and landing with both feet outside the non-volley zone on the left or right sideline.

Who was the Erne named after in Pickleball?

The erne shot in pickleball is named after Erne Perry after he used this technique to dominate a rally at the 2010 Nationals, who popularised the use of this shot in competitive pickleball play. 

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How to hit an Erne in Pickleball

There are 3 ways to hit an erne in pickleball: “roundabout” erne, “through the kitchen” erne and “jumping the kitchen” erne.

Roundabout Erne

This involves running around the NVZ, getting out of bounds of the court (parallel to the kitchen), and then striking the ball mid-air (volley). When executing the roundabout erne, you are never actually in the kitchen.

Through the Kitchen Erne

The “through the kitchen” Erne is similar to the roundabout erne but differs slightly in that your feet and body actually go through the non-volley zone before you get out of the court dimensions. Once completely out of bounds (with both feet planted outside the court), you can then strike the volley against your opponent.

NOTE: Both of your feet must be planted outside the kitchen before you strike the pickleball for a successful “through the kitchen” erne.

Jumping the Kitchen Erne

This is the flashiest version of the erne. It requires much more athletic ability than the two above. To perform this, you strike the pickleball while jumping over the kitchen. You can volley the ball midair before landing with both feet out of bounds.

NOTE: For the jumping kitchen erne, you can hit the ball before your feet are planted outside the NVZ because you were never in the kitchen. Your movement and volley began and ended outside the kitchen.

3 Ways to Hit an Erne in Pickleball

How to set up an Erne in Pickleball

An erne is a very advantageous shot. When well-executed, an erne has a high chance of winning you points. However, setting up an erne requires skill, timing, patience, anticipation, and precision.

To perfectly set up an erne,

  1. Entice your unsuspecting opponent to return the ball towards the nearest sideline to you.
  2. Disguise your intentions by waiting until the moment when your opponent hits the ball before moving.
  3. Run or jump over the kitchen to hit the ball against your opponent.
  4. Pro tip: Aim for the feet when volleying for maximum chance of success.

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Why is an Erne legal in Pickleball?

To a newbie pickleballer, hitting the ball so close to the net seems unfair, like it should be illegal. However, an erne is perfectly legal because you are actually hitting the ball while outside the kitchen (by the sideline of the court). 

Remember: Pickleball rules only prohibit volleying from within the non-volley zone

Here are the exact rules from the USA Pickleball 2022 Rulebook that permit an Erne

9.D. If a player has touched the non-volley zone for any reason, that player cannot volley a return until both feet have made contact with the playing surface completely outside the non-volley zone

Note: The white boundary lines of the non volley zone are also inside the kitchen.

9.E. A player may enter the non-volley zone at any time except when that player is volleying the ball

Legality of different types of erne’s in pickleball

According to the rules above, we can see that both the “roundabout” and “jumping the kitchen” erne are legal precisely because the player never technically enters the non-volley zone.

Regarding the “through the kitchen” erne, the player is allowed to enter the NVZ, but establishes both feet outside the kitchen, beside the sideline, before hitting the volley while outside the non volley zone. Thus, this erne is also legal.

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So there you have it! That’s all I’ve got on the erne in pickleball. It’s a high risk, high reward shot, but if you master how to execute and set it up, you’ll have a major advantage on the court. 

Try it out and see if you can add it to your pickleball arsenal. 

Cheers! And thanks for reading.

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