The APP Tour and the PPA. Same letters. Different order. The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) and the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA)are recently-created professional pickleball tournament tours with cash prize payouts. Launched in 2020, both tours are ushering in, unquestionably, the most exciting era that the sport of pickleball has ever seen!
With the order of the letters being one difference, there are, indeed, additional differences between the two pickleball tours. Shown below are differences in the APP Tour and PPA pickleball with respect to USA Pickleball sanctioning, the use of referees, video-streaming, sponsors, the cost to play, total prize money payouts, player rankings and contracts and appearance fees.
USA Pickleball Sanctioning
The APP Tour is USA Pickleball sanctioned at the MMP (Medal Match Plus) level. Consequently, an active USA Pickleball membership is required to play in the APP tour events.
The PPA is not USA Pickleball sanctioned, and, consequently, a USA Pickleball membership is not required to participate.
Abiding by the 2021 Rule Changes?
The APP Tour is USA Pickleball sanctioned. Consequently, the APP (both pro and non-pro divisions) will be abiding by ALL of the 2021 rule changes that became effective on January 25, 2021.
The PPA Tour – a non-USA Pickleball sanctioned tour – announced on February 8, 2021, that they will not be adopting three of the more “controversial” 2021 rule changes at the professional and senior professional level.
The three 2021 rule changes not being adopted at the pro and senior pro level only are (1) the Drop Serve Rule, (2) the “paddle swipe” serve (the Zane Navratil “Chainsaw” serve), and (3) let serves.
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- Pro Matches: All APP Tour pro matches have a referee.
- Non-Pro Matches: Because the APP Tour is USA Pickleball sanctioned at the MMP level, all medal matches will have a referee. Additionally, the winner’s bracket final match will have a referee as will the match leading up to the bronze medal match in the consolation bracket.
- APP Tour Head Referee: Byron Freso
- Beginning with the APP $35,000 Cincinnati Open (May 14-16, 2021), the APP Tour will offer additional reimbursements to each USA Pickleball Referee, regardless of level, for travel and meal / lodging costs associated with working all APP Tour events. Referees working a minimum of 15 hours will each receive a $50 stipend to cover such costs occurred while working APP Tour stops. This stipend will be in addition to the current Referee / Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and covered lunches for the referees already taking place on APP Tour stops.
- Pro Matches: All PPA pro matches have a referee.
- Non-Pro Matches: Only PPA gold medal matches will have a referee in the non-pro division. Remember, the PPA is not USA Pickleball sanctioned.
- PPA Head Referee: Don Stanley
The APP Tour events are live-streamed to Facebook and YouTube via the APP Tour Facebook Page and APP Tour YouTube Channel. The broadcast team is anchored by Lauren McLaughlin, Dominic Catalano, and Dave Fleming.
In June 2020, the PPA announced an agreement with ESPN which results in all PPA tournaments being broadcast live on ESPN3. The broadcast agreement included the 2020 Showcase at Newport Beach, the 2020 Georgia Open, and the 2020 PPA Championships in Las Vegas – as well as all future PPA tournaments in 2021.
PPA events are also live-streamed to Facebook via their Official PPA Tour Facebook Page.
As of October 2020 (as listed on their website), APP Tour sponsors included USA Pickleball, PPR, Website Dev Co. LLC, Pickleball Central, Pickleball Magazine, Jigsaw Health, and Onix.
As of October 2020 (as listed on their website), PPA sponsors included Acrytech Sports Surfaces, Jigsaw Health, Selkirk, Foot Solutions, Paddletek, C&D Pickleball Nets, Onix, Sport Tutor, Vulcan, Lifetime, DuraFast 40, ProKennex, Pickleball Central, Creamies, Cate, 3rd Shot Sports, The Courts McKinney, Seal Beach Tennis Center, JW Marriott, and Mesa AZ.
Cost to Play
Costs to play in either the APP or PPA are quite high – even for those who are not pros. For the APP events, I am using the Hilton Head Open (October 22-25, 2020) as a reference point. For the PPA events, I am using the PPA Championships in Las Vegas, NV (October 22-25, 2020) as a reference point.
- Pro/Senior Pro Credentials: $65 registration + $115 event fee
- Non-Pro: $65 registration + $35 event fee
- Pro/Senior Pro Credentials: $65 registration (early bird) or $75 registration + $100 event fee (senior pro) or $110 event fee (pro)
- Non-Pro: $65 registration (early bird) or $75 registration + $20 event fee
Here’s where it’s getting exciting for the pros. Both tours offer pretty significant prize money.
Total prize money payout for each APP Tour event ranges from approximately $25,000 – $75,000.
Total prize money payout for each PPA event ranges from $30,000 – $150,000.
Player Rankings & Year-End Tournament
Both the APP Tour and PPA maintain their own player rankings (“standings”) where points are awarded for matches won. At the end of the year, each tour hosts its own season-ending tournament.
The year-end APP tournament is the APP Masters Championships and takes place in Punta Gorda, FL.
The year-end PPA tournament is the PPA Championships and takes place at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas, NV.
Contracts, Appearance Fees & Exclusivity
There is definitely a demand for the top pros at any-and-every tournament as it lends credibility, excitement and enhances registration numbers when the very best players in the world are competing. Let’s examine how each of the two pickleball tours handles contracts, appearance fees, and “exclusivity.”
The APP Tour does not currently appear to offer contracts or appearance fees for the top pros to play in their APP Tour events. However, CEO, Ken Herrmann, announced that the APP Tour will be implementing a new cumulative Standings List, beginning with The APP $35,000 Cincinnati Open May 13-16, 2021 that will reward pros and senior pros on their performances with a combined singles, doubles, and mixed doubles listing. The top (7) men and women on The Onix / Dura Standing’s List and the top (3) senior men and women on The Onix / Dura Standing’s List will each receive free entries for all APP events entered and a $250 stipend for travel expenses to any tour stops played provided they are in the top seven or three when the entry deadline closes for that particular event entered.
For 2021, the PPA tour is being very aggressive with respect to contracts and appearance fees as their organization is offering the top 20 professional players (for both men and women) “contracts” (appearance fees) to play in at least 12 of their tour events – with the stipulation that they compete in no more than four non-PPA events during the year.
Word on the street is that these appearance fees equate to $2,000/event for each of the top 4 men and women pros, $1,000/event each for the next 6 men and women pros, $500 each for the next 5 men and women pros and $100 each for the final 5 men and women pros. Prize money would be an extra incentive at each of these events.
Events in 2020, 2021 & Beyond
Both tours had to scrap their original tour dates and adapt their respective schedules for 2020 and 2021 on the fly because of COVID-19.
- 2020 – In 2020, the APP Tour hosted 3 pro exhibitions – dubbed the APP | Jigsaw Summer Bus Tour – in Grand Rapids, MI, Chicago, IL, and Atlanta, GA. Additionally, the APP tour hosted their “regular” tour events in Chicago, Las Vegas (independently owned), and Cincinnati. The final APP tour event for 2020 is slated for October 22-25, 2020 in Hilton Head, SC.
- 2021 – There are approximately 17 APP tour events tentatively scheduled for 2021 including a west coast series, a midwest series, and a southeast series. In 2021, the APP will be headed to Punta Gorda, FL, Los Angeles, CA, Del Ray Beach, CA, Encinitas, CA, Las Vegas, NV, Cincinnati, OH, Indianapolis, IN, Grand Rapids, MI, Bend, OR, Chicago, IL, Atlanta, GA, Prescott, AZ, Hilton Head, SC, Port St. Lucie, FL, Miami, FL and across the pond in England. APP Official 2021 Schedule.
- 2020 – In 2020, the PPA had events in Mesa, AZ (Mesa Grand Slam Qualifier), Newport Beach, CA (The Showcase Grand Slam), Peachtree Corners, GA (Georgia Open) and Rockwall, TX (Texas Open). The final PPA tour event for 2020 is slated for October 22-25, 2020 at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas, NV.
- 2021 – PPA tour events scheduled in 2021 include events in Mesa, AZ, Palm Springs, CA, Newport Beach, CA, Peachtree, GA, Toronto, Canada, Dallas, TX, Las Vegas, NV, San Antonio, TX and Oklahoma City, OK. PPA Official 2021 Schedule.
Both the APP Tour and PPA are great for the sport of pickleball. Time will tell if they can both be viable in the long term. In the meantime, however, there are exciting opportunities for both pros and non-pros alike to showcase their talents and addiction to the sport.
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See you on the courts!