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Round-Robin, Luck-of-the-Draw Pickleball Challenge — Mixing it Up!

As I have mentioned previously, I am the “Pickleball Specialist” at our local community center. I manage the pickleball program for approximately 100-150 pickleball “addicts” — most of whom are trying to maximize their picklebility.  During most days we have approximately 30-35 players – all at similar skill levels – playing on six designated courts. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are designated “beginner” or “lower-level intermediate” days while Tuesdays and Thursdays are designated as “higher-level intermediates” or “Advanced” days. Most days are just typical days – write your name on the dry-erase board, rotate-in-and-out and just play and have fun.

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Attempting to Mix Things Up — More Difficult than you may Imagine

On special occasions, however, we have been trying to “mix things up.” Next Friday, for example, we will be doing a “Round-Robin, Luck-of-the-Draw” challenge for our beginners and low-level intermediate players. Typically these two groups don’t interact with each other a whole lot – with the beginners on three courts in Gym A and the low-level intermediates on three courts in Gym B – separated by a curtain. One of the goals – in addition to just mixing it up a bit – is to enhance the interactions amongst all the players.

I tried doing this once on the spur-of-the-moment and, as you may guess, it didn’t go over too well with the members because I didn’t provide enough “warning.” Ha! Since then I learned an important lesson – don’t mess with how things are currently done without ample warning. So this afternoon, I will be emailing the details to each of our members so they have ample time to mentally prepare for this change. 🙂

What is a Round-Robin, “Luck-of-the-Draw” Pickleball Challenge?

Ah. You noticed. “Challenge.”  I didn’t say “tournament.” The Round-Robin, Luck-of-the-Draw Challenge is simply a fun, “competitive” format where everybody will play one game with and against somebody different (random drawings).  Each “game” will be played and timed for 8 minutes.  The number of points you and your partner score will be individually recorded and tallied.  After each game, players will redraw and will once again have a different partner and opponent. The person who has the most points at the end of the session will be the “winner” and will have “bragging rights” for the next week!

On Which Court do I Play?  Who’s My Partner?  Who Do We Play Against?

Each of the six pickleball courts is numbered (1 thru 6). A standard deck of playing cards is then used to determine to which court each person is assigned – or if they are assigned a bye for the game. Each person randomly draws a playing card. If an Ace is drawn, you will play on court #1. If you draw a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 you will then play on that corresponding court number. The suit is then used to determine your partner (and opponents). Hearts and Diamonds (the red suits) will be partners. Clubs and Spades (the black suits) will be partners. The red suit is the team that will always serve first in the game – just to keep things simple.

Who Sits Out if we Have More Players than Courts?

If any card is drawn other than the Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 then that person(s) will have a bye and will sit out the game. For the next game, however, the people sitting out are guaranteed to draw the Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 so that they do not sit out more than 1 game in a row.

Games are Timed and Points are Capped at 15

We have found 8 to 9 minutes to be the optimal amount of time. You may want to experiment with different time intervals. After the last challenge, we had one team tally 20+ points during the 8-minute interval. That skewed the final standings. To address this issue, we implemented a cap of 15 on the total points per game that can be added to the scoresheet. The team may score more, but 15 will be all that will be counted towards the final standings.

It’s Fun!  Give it a Try!

This really is a fun format. I almost got hoarse, however, from reminding people to remember what card they drew so that they go to the appropriate court! Chances are when you start, you’ll end up with 5 people on one court and 3 on another – simply because someone forgot which card they drew. And remembering the score is an altogether different matter!  Oh well.  Let me know what you do at your club or community center in the comments below.  See you on the courts!

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Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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  1. Hey,

    How about a future challenge using “Ralley” scoring? More scoring in less time and it rewards skill on either side of the net.

    Of course it would be a challenge to explain. Just a thought.

    1. Hi Jerry, I appreciate that suggestion. That’s a pretty good idea as it, theoretically, would mean all 6 courts finish at about the same time. Some of the brand new players, however, have a hard time knowing how to keep score the correct way. I fear that would confuse them going forward even more. Nevertheless, we just may try something like that in the future. Thanks!

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