Pickleball Tournaments. For many, it may be your first time in a very long time of competing, perhaps since your “glory years” of high school when you were on the basketball, football, softball or debate teams. Perhaps you didn’t play sports prior to pickleball — and this is your initial foray into “real” competition. Maybe you’re not in it for the competition — but simply to meet other people who love pickleball like you do.
Regardless of your motivation, if you’re a pickleball tournament newbie it’s important to understand that tournament play is a different animal than that of rec play. Excitement, nerves and anxiety are exacerbated by the “pressure” of the moment in tourney action. It’s, therefore, imperative to be properly prepared.
Top 10 List of Pickleball Tournament Preparations
The following list represents 10 critical preparations the pickleball tournament player should take before stepping on the court for their first-round tournament match.
1. Once you have found a pickleball partner that complements your game and has similar tournament goals and expectations, find a tournament and register as a team. You may find that your local YMCA or Community Center hosts pickleball tournaments from time-to-time. If it’s a USAPA-sanctioned tournament, the tournament will be listed on PickleballTournaments.com. Pay special attention to the registration date and register at that date/time as some tournaments fill up quickly.
2. Research which ball is being used at the tournament and get plenty of practice with it beforehand. As you undoubtedly know, there are significant differences amongst pickleballs — and even bigger differences between indoor and outdoor balls. Don’t be practicing indoors with a JUGS indoor ball if your tournament is going to be outdoors and played with a Dura Fast 40 ball.
3. Participate in the Social(s) and/or pre-tournament clinic. Perhaps your local pickleball club — or the pickleball club hosting the tournament — has a get-together with food and drinks the day or evening before the tournament officially begins. Such a get-together is a great way to socialize and meet some of the other competitors.
For some of the larger tournaments, clinics are frequently hosted at the tournament venue a few days before the tourney begins. Take advantage of the great instruction — sometimes even given by the pros!
4. Before the tournament begins, comb through the rules — especially if you plan to be a referee. It’s also important to know the rules inside-and-out so that you don’t needlessly give away points because of uncertainty.
5. Shoes & Socks — Bring a pair of comfortable court shoes (maybe 2 pairs) and plenty of socks.
You may also want to bring a pair of sandals with you so your feet can be a bit more comfortable between matches. Pack the evening or day before.
6. If the tournament is to be played outdoors, be prepared for the sun, heat and humidity. Bring sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and a hat or visor. Bring several moisture-wicking shirts, shorts and a towel to dry off. And make sure you stay hydrated with water and electrolytes before, during and after your matches.
7. Familiarize yourself with the tournament format beforehand. Are matches two-out-of-three games to 11? Are they round-robin? You don’t want to be surprised as you enter the courts for your first match. You’ve got other things to worry about. 😉
8. Arrive at the tournament courts early to check-in, get your court assignment and warm up. Make sure you stretch, practice your dinks, volleys, drives and serves and get your heart-rate elevated — perhaps with a game of skinny singles with your partner. You’ll likely only get a 5-minute warm-up once your match is called.
9. Review any notes you may have previously jotted down about your opponents and their tendencies, the venue or your own previous tournament experiences and how you handled the pressure.
10. If you’re able, volunteer.
Your tournament director will greatly appreciate any and all effort.
If you’re a pickleball tournament newbie, these suggestions will surely help make your first tournament a success. Tournaments are tons of fun. It does require preparation, however.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What are some of the things you do to prepare for pickleball tournaments? See you on the courts.