Erne in Pickleball – Who, What, And How?

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What is an Erne in pickleball and how is it a legal shot?

yellow pickleball on a blue pickleball court.

Everyone knows the golden rule of Pickleball: you are not allowed to volley the ball while standing in the Kitchen.

And everyone knows that rule along with shouting “Kitchen!” in the middle of a point will elicit burning glares and words that shall not be typed here.

But what if I told you that you could volley a ball above or beside the kitchen? A shot that allows you to slam/smash the ball back onto your opponent’s side, without breaking the golden rule of Pickleball.

Well, have I got a shot for you, and when you make it prepare for those same burning glares and words that yada yada yada…

More Resources: 5 Essential Intermediate Pickleball Tips

What is An Erne?

In pickleball, the Erne is a shot that is made as you are above or beside the kitchen (outside the sideline), volleying the ball back onto your opponent’s side of the court, before the ball bounces.

Sounds complicated and “Hey, Erne is spelled wrong you say?”. Well, have I got a shot for you.

3 Ways To Erne

Roundabout Erne

The player runs around the kitchen to the side of the court to execute Erne. This variation takes a little more time.

Straight Through Erne

For this version, the player is going to run right through the kitchen. The most important aspect of this version is to make sure that BOTH your feet are planted outside the non-volley zone when you make contact for it to be legal.

Athletic Erne

This version not only looks the coolest, but it also brings in the element of surprise. To execute this shot you wait until the last second and you jump over the corner of the kitchen careful not to touch any part of it.

If you touch any part of the kitchen it is a fault since you will not be able to have both feet established at contact.

5 Rules For Hitting An Erne In Pickleball

  • Both feet must be outside of the non-volley line otherwise it is a foot fault.
  • The player must make contact with the ball BEFORE they pass the net post (Your follow-through can go past.)
  • At least one foot must be on the ground when you make contact.
  • The paddle cannot make contact with the net at any point during the erne.
  • You must establish your feet after hitting the shot. If you fall into the non-volley zone after you hit the shot, it is a fault.

Who is This Erne You Speak Of?

The Erne shot is the name’s sake of a famous Pickleball player named Erne Perry.

Erne is a legend in the sport, both as a player and for his work as the Director of Marketing for the then newly formed USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) in 2005.

Man standing with arms behind his back
Enre Perry

According to Erne himself, it was in the 2010 nationals, where he was playing doubles against a well-known opponent, who he knew loved to dink back and forth. Erne took it upon himself to pounce on a pop-up dink in the match to win a point.

It worked so well, that he actually performed that same shot 5 times during the match. And that is where the shot became famously known as “The Erne”.

Erne claims to have been making that type of shot since 1993 and admits that he wasn’t the first to hit it. He gives credit to one of his friends who had made that same shot, against him in previous matches.

Regardless, Mr. Perry is This means the player performing the Erne cannot step in the Non-volley zone or make contact with any of the lines. The first person credited with using the shot in mainstream competitive Pickleball.

Interested in learning more about Erne or the Erne shot, well you can hear it from Erne himself.

Wow, I’d love to Erne <Insert Name Here>!

As I write this, I can already tell you are thinking, man I’d love to Erne so and so. Really, just to jump on one of their floaters and slam it back for a point.

Well, let’s talk a little about this. I can’t speak to any anger management issues you may have, but ask that you seek the help of a professional if that is a problem affecting your game.

The Erne is a shot you have to practice and plan to make. It requires you to watch your opponents play, looking for patterns where they hit drives from the baseline, directly at the net person, or floating dinks that can be smashed back, unreturnable.

As stated earlier, the Erne is an advanced shot on the pickleball court that requires you to hit the ball either:

A.    In the air as you are jumping around or over the non-volley zone (Kitchen)

B.    After you run around or through the non-volley zone and reset your feet out of bounds, to the side of the Kitchen sideline

Picture yourself, calculating your setup shot, timing the return, running and jumping/stepping over the non-volley zone, and at the same time smacking the ball back for a winner.

There is a lot to put together there, and trying it in a game for the first time, without practice is highly discouraged.

There is nothing worse than getting tangled in the net, landing face down on the edge of the court as the ball dribbles by you (trust me, it is embarrassing). And actually, there are even worse possible scenarios, after an attempted Erne:

man-eating hit in the face with a pickleball.

Erne: The Strategy

Hitting a successful Erne can change the way your opponent approaches the game. Similar to poaching, it will make opponents think twice about hitting at or to the net person and in all likelihood make them hit shots away from any Erne possibility.

Once you make an Erne, it will stick with your opponents and give you one more weapon to beat them.

And don’t forget about Bert!!

Ask any kid who grew up watching Sesame Street on public access TV, there is no Erne without a Bert. A Bert is an Erne executed in front of your partner.

It occurs when your partner jumps over/through the kitchen and hits the ball out of the air in front of you, typically across your side of the court.  The Bert is a combination poach with the above-mentioned non-volley zone aerobatics of an Erne!

So, get out there, practice your Ernes and then give them a go in a game! And partners, you get on those Berts!

Erne – Enlighten Me Please

An Erne is an advanced volley in Pickleball, hit near the net by a player positioned outside the court or in the process of leaping, over the non-volley zone (Kitchen) to the outside of the court.

A legally executed Erne shot allows a player to hit the ball closer to the net without stepping in the non-volley zone

In basic terms an Erne is a volley that is hit with the player’s body in the air, traveling over the no volley zone and eventually landing outside of the court sidelines, not stepping in the kitchen. This means the player executing the Erne cannot come in contact with the non-volley zone or the sidelines. They must land or be standing outside the court.

 For more tips on adding Erne to your game, check out the links below:

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