Never Played in a Pickleball Tournament? You Don't Know What You're Missing!

By Paul Porch


Why play in a tournament? 

It’s a party with a theme!  See old friends, make new friends, watch some great pickleball, learn some new strategy and have fun.

How to find out about tournaments and register?

When looking for an out-of-town tournament, check out the Tournament Schedule on page XX. Consider playing as many events as possible (gender doubles, mixed doubles and even singles!) since you’ll already be at the tournament and additional events come at a modest additional cost after the first event.

What about a partner?   

Pick a partner that’s close to your skill level.  It might be a friend, relative or someone you enjoy playing with.  If he or she is not available or you don’t know anyone to ask, there are always players looking for partners.  When a players register for a tournament without a partner, they’re automatically listed as “players looking for partners.” Register without a partner, but don’t wait for someone to find you.  Instead look at the list.  Perhaps you’ll see someone you know.  Pick one of the players on the list that is playing your level and event and contact him or her. I’ve played with numerous partners I didn’t meet until the tournament and medaled!

What level should I play?  

Ask a player who has played a few tournaments at what level you should play.  Also go on the USAPA website, read the descriptions of the skill levels and self-rate.  It’s not fun to play in a level above your skill (and lose all your matches) and it shouldn’t be very satisfying to play at a level below your skill level (and win without having to play your best).  The most exciting matches are going to be the competitive ones.

What should I take to the tournament? 

First, arrive early. Leave your valuables at home or in the hotel safe.  Bring some nutritional food, snacks and fluids.  Also consider bringing a comfortable chair, cooler, extra paddle, socks, and perhaps extra shoes.  If it’s an outdoor tournament, remember the sunscreen, sunglasses, hat and extra fluids.  Once you arrive at the site, find a comfortable place as your home base.  It might be a quiet corner, near your partner and friends or close to the tournament desk where the next match is announced and the referee assigned.  

What should my partner and I do before a match?  

Know where to find each other between matches if necessary.  Warm up on an empty court when available.  There can be considerable time waiting when playing in a tournament.  Much of this waiting is because of the players!  Listen for your match and court number to be called.  Be ready and prepared.  Some tournaments require matches to start 10 minutes after they are announced.  Once on the court, warm up quickly with your partner and briefly discuss the court conditions (wind, sun, etc.) and your strategy.  If you have first choice, consider choosing the worst side of the court to start, so you finish on the “better side”—or as a second choice, choose to receive!

What should we do during the match? 

Watch and call the lines when your partner is hitting.  Talk to your partner about strategy and complement him or her on the good shots and avoid negativity.  At the beginning of a game, make an extra effort to minimize errors by playing a little conservative until you and your partner are warmed up.  If your opponents get on a run, call a time out, regroup, possibly change strategy and perhaps get your opponents out of rhythm.  When play is going well don’t change strategy, continue playing consistently. 

What should I do after a tournament?   

Tell everyone about the great time you had, share your photos, keep in touch with your new friends, write down a few ideas to practice and start planning for the next tournament.


Paul Porch is a 5.0 legacy player, a PPR certified instructor, and is on the USAPA ratings committee.

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  • The site was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information about pickleball tournament. Thank you for sharing!

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