Getting ready to host pickleball tournaments? As a tournament director there’s much to do – securing a facility and courts, recruiting an army of helpers/volunteers, marketing the tournament, procuring food, water, drinks, balls, awards and giveaways – and, of course, managing the tournament itself with registrations, payments, waivers, brackets, player check-ins, court-assignments and the recording of results. Whew! There’s a lot to do!
On December 28 & 29, with the intention of filling a pickleball tournament vacuum during the holidays, the team at PickleballMAX organized the WinterMAX Pickleball Tournament in southwest, Ohio. Last year we managed two similar tournaments – with each of the two tournaments having 70-80 players. Both tourneys were managed manually – with nothing more than Excel spreadsheets.
Exclusive Tournament Management Software for Sanctioned Pickleball Tournaments
This go-around, however, we wanted to see how the tournament management software by PickleballTournaments.com did in the management of the tournament. Because PickleballTournaments.com is the exclusive tournament management software for sanctioned pickleball tournaments, my expectations were high. This blog post is intended simply to share our impressions and first-hand experiences with the software. There is definitely some good, some bad and some ugly.
Scope – How My Team Used PickleballTournaments.com
We used their software for registrations, payments, waiver management, bracket creation, player check-ins, court assignments and the recording of results. We did not use the software for referee management (we had no referees except for the gold medal matches in this non-sanctioned event), volunteer management nor for printing and scanning the score sheets. The manual “printing” of the score sheets and the recording of results worked just fine – and, I could argue, worked even better as there was no need to purchase and configure a scanner and there was no anxiety about the printer jamming, running out of ink or otherwise creating headaches the day of the tournament.
Tournament Creation & Admin Access – Immediate Frustration
To begin the process of using PickleballTournaments.com for tournament management we had to step thru the process of creating our pickleball tournament and, then, create admin access for that tournament. Right out of the gate we had frustration. About 30 days prior to the tournament, I clicked on their “Create your Tournament” button – which, incidentally, looks like a 1997 version of a Microsoft FrontPage button. After populating general tournament and contact information, it had me create a username & password and subsequently pay the $20 “Create your Tournament” fee – which by the way, gets credited back to you after the tournament. I followed the steps.
Well, for some reason the tournament information that I spent 10-15 minutes creating was not saved, the username and password did not work – and PickleballTournaments.com did not have a record of my payment. I, of course, forwarded them a copy of the receipt. Still, I had to enter all the tournament parameters again – and, actually had to do it a third time. In fact, PickleballTournaments.com had to ultimately create the username and assign me a password.
My $20 Payment was Lost – Supposedly During a Server Switch-Over
The $20 payment that was “lost” came back to haunt me a couple of times. The first occurred the day before registration was set to begin. The tournament I had created was “removed” from the tournament page on PickleballTournaments.com. As such, nobody could find the tournament. Yikes! Fortunately, that was quickly fixed with a phone call and the tournament was again listed and made visible.
The second time occurred when I received the final invoice. The $20 credit was not shown and I, once again, had to forward a copy of the payment receipt. I was told that the “transaction was processed during a server switch-over and the payment didn’t make it into the new server.” None of this was a huge deal – other than to get off on the wrong foot with software that I had never before used.
Training & Customer Support
The training and customer support was “okay.” I own my own digital marketing business, so I am pretty adept when it comes to software/technology. PickleballTournaments.com gives their customers 1-hour of free support and offers additional time blocks for a fee. I was able to wade through the training videos – although some are old and no longer relevant – and write out my questions so that I could get most questions answered in the free 1-hour block. We used about 40 minutes of my free 1-hour. I emailed questions from time-to-time during the 3 weeks leading up to the tournament. Most were answered. Some were not. It was “okay.”
Setting up information about the various events (mixed doubles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles) was fairly straight-forward. It was annoying, however, not to have “clone” or “copy” functionality. Setup could have gone much faster (with fewer mistakes subsequently made) had that functionality been available.
From a tournament director perspective, the software handling of registration was very helpful. I populated my PayPal username in the “software” and we were ready to take registrations & payments. When registration began at 10AM, we quickly piled up registrations. Payments went directly to the PickleballMAX PayPal account with no issues. This was so much better than having participants call in with credit cards or paying by check.
Email Confirmations to Players – Not an Automatic Process… What?
One thing I did find odd was the fact that an email confirmation does not get automatically generated for the registrant the moment they register for the tournament. The only confirmation the registrant gets is the PayPal payment confirmation – or email confirmation if the tournament director decides to email the registrant manually. It would be much nicer if an automatic email would be generated. It seems necessary.
Pickleball Partner Management
The software did a good job of managing partners so that I didn’t have to manually keep track of who was partnering with whom. There was one issue, however, and it was this: When someone would sign up and list their partner with a different spelling/variation than the one that is already listed in the PickleballTournaments.com database, it would result in the “same” person being listed for the event twice. That was very annoying and created a bit of unnecessary work. I’m not sure how or if that problem can be solved.
Emailing Tournament Registrants – Don’t Copy & Paste
The software allowed administrators to select different classes of players (those registered, those signed up for mixed doubles, those who haven’t paid etc.) and email them “group” messages. However, I encountered great frustration when copying & pasting – even if copying from Notepad (where all formatting gets stripped). It did not allow me to successfully send emails if I had previously copied & pasted. I emailed customer support about this – and, unfortunately, never received a response. I just figured it out by trial-and-error. The email had to be hand-typed into their software (with absolutely no copying and pasting). This, of course, was wasted time for the tournament director – time that could have been much more wisely spent.
The news gets a bit better for PickleballTournaments.com on this one. I was able to create any type of bracket I wanted without too much hassle. Double elimination? Done. Round Robin? Done. The software also “called out” first-round conflicts when players from the same club were pitted against each other, for example.
Day Planner – Very Accurate Pickleball Planning Tool
The day planner was an invaluable tool for planning the brackets, courts, times and estimated duration of the events – all based on data PickleballTournaments.com has collected over the years. For the mixed doubles action on Friday evening, the day planner was accurate within approximately 10 minutes – using 10 courts at the venue over 5 hours. It was similarly accurate for the men’s and women’s events on Saturday. Two thumbs up for this functionality. It was great and helped plan the day accordingly.
Court Assignments & Recording of Results
This was pretty slick. It did what it said it would do. Results were entered in real-time and courts were assigned accordingly. As in countless other areas, court assignments and the recording of results could be vastly improved with updated technology. I would love to see software (or, perhaps an app) that allows the tournament director to swipe their fingers across their mobile device to assign courts, record scores and so much more – much like the functionality you see on the ESPN Tournament Challenge App during March Madness.
User [Un]Friendliness & Aesthetic [Un]Appeal of the Website/Software
On July 15, 2019, PickleballTournaments.com finally — after months and months of promises — rolled out an upgrade to the front-end of the website with added features and a mobile-responsive layout. On mobile phones, the website, indeed, looks much better for the players and general public. I’m not sure — from a tournament director’s perspective — if any of the behind-the-scenes functionality/layout changed with this upgrade, however. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
Two thumbs down on this one. I own my own digital marketing business and, from a user-friendliness and aesthetic appeal perspective, the site is sorely lacking. With the outdated buttons and table-looking format, the site looks like it was developed in the mid to late 1990’s. Furthermore, the navigation and process flow on the back-end of the site was certainly not intuitive.
With respect to hand-held devices, the site is unusable on mobile devices. Websites in this era of technology should look good on mobile devices without excessive “pinching and zooming.” When a website or blog is mobile-responsive, the layout and/or content responds or adapts based on the size of screen they are presented on. A responsive website automatically changes to fit the device you’re reading it on – whether it be the widescreen desktop monitor, the smaller desktop (or laptop), the tablet or the mobile phone. PickleballTournaments.com is definitely not a mobile-responsive website. It is unbelievably frustrating trying to navigate – both from a tournament director perspective and a player perspective.
As tournament director, I want to be walking around on the day of the tournament and updating as we go along with a phone or tablet – not glued to a desktop computer.
Because seemingly “everyone” uses pickleballtournaments.com for their tournament management, I definitely wanted to give this platform a try. Because our tournament was listed on their tournament page – and so many people go to this tournament page to search for upcoming tournaments – we generated greater regional interest than we would have otherwise. We had 111 participants in this tournament – with players coming from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas and Idaho.
Available technology is unparalleled in today’s age. Unfortunately, PickleballTournaments.com does not take advantage of this technology. As pickleball ambassadors – most of us are in an unofficial capacity, at least – we need a platform that makes the sport look more professional to outsiders. With a name like “pickleball,” it’s imperative that we generate credibility wherever we can.
While we are promised from the team at PickleballTournaments.com that the site will be upgraded soon – upgrades cannot happen quickly enough. It needs to be top priority. Transitioning the software/website from a mid-1990’s look to a current, 2019 look would be helpful to everyone in the pickleball community.
Now, however, as I move forward and manage additional pickleball tournaments, I am excited to try other vendors for pickleball tournament management as well – such as pickleballbrackets.com, globalpickleballnetworks.com, pickleballscores.com and r2sports.com to name a few.
The USAPA would be wise to look at all vendors in the management of sanctioned pickleball tournaments. Similarly, as tournament directors, we would be wise to try out different vendors for non-sanctioned tournaments. Competition breeds improvement. Competition will only help improve the product and, ultimately, help the sport grow and give it more credibility.
What say You?
If you have previously managed pickleball tournaments, I would love to hear your thoughts and impressions – what have you used to manage your pickleball tournaments and how has it worked?
See you on the courts!