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Pickleball Tournaments – What you need to know

Published: 2022-07-13
Pickleball Tournaments – What you need to know
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Playing in a pickleball tournament can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience, especially if you're playing your first tournament. Proper preparation is key to success on the court, and there are several things to consider. Here are some tips to help you get more comfortable preparing for a pickleball tournament.


What is a pickleball tournament?

A pickleball tournament is a competitive event where players of all levels come together to compete in the game of pickleball. Tournaments can range from local events held at community centers or recreation facilities to larger regional or national competitions. Players are typically divided into categories based on their skill level, and matches are played in a bracket-style format, with winners advancing to the next round. Some tournaments offer cash prizes or other incentives for top finishers. Overall, pickleball tournaments provide a fun and challenging environment for players to test their skills and compete against others who share their passion for the game.


Step 1: Get your USA Pickleball Number

Before you sign up for a tournament you need to get your personal USA pickleball number from the www.USApickleball.org  site. USA pickleball is the governing body for pickleball and a current membership is required to play in most tournaments. On the membership registration, you will need to self-rate your skill level. The site offers a description of each level. You don’t need to be exact in your rating however, I would suggest not to highly overrate your level. Tournaments carry added stress on players so what you can do in recreational play may not generalize to tournament play. Tournament skill levels generally start at a 3.0 level in tournaments.



Pick the Right Tournament

Choose a tournament that aligns with your skill level, goals, and preferences. Consider factors such as location, level of play, tournament format, and rules. Research the tournament beforehand and familiarize yourself with the playing environment and the balls that will be used.

Next, create a profile on www.pickleballtournaments.com . This is the site that will post tournaments around the nation and keep a record of each tournament you play as well as the teams and scores for each match you play. Once you enter your USApickleball # it will be a part of your records, and you will not need to enter it for each tournament.

At this point in time, pickleballtournaments.com is the one location you return to enter tournaments. You can locate tournaments by state or by date. They have calendar options (open registration/ closing and date of tournament) to view so you can plan. You can enter tournaments without a partner as each tournament will have a tab called “partners needing partners,” and you can look at names, ages, and events they need a partner for. Once you find a potential partner, you will have access to their email to write and connect. Don’t wait until the last minute to connect, as the tournaments have deadlines. If the bracket fills before you find a partner, you may be put on the waiting list for that event. In order to be considered holding a spot in that bracket, you have to pay once you register. You can usually add an event after you have formally registered as long as the bracket is still open. Make sure you know the deadlines and each tournament's instructions. All this information is on the cover sheet of each tournament, and you can access it prior to registration.


Learn the Rules

Make sure you're familiar with the rules of pickleball. Be prepared to have a referee who will create your rules. Common mistakes that players make include not knowing the entire score before starting their service motion. Knowing the rules will help you avoid making avoidable mistakes and keep your focus on the game. Each pickleball tournament has its own rules, so take the time to learn them beforehand. Understand the tournament format, scoring, and other rules that may apply. Pay attention to notifications about when and where you'll be playing on the day of the event. The tournament will want you to check in at least 30 minutes prior to your assigned time to play. I always come at least 60 minutes ahead to check in and find a location to sit and warm up with my partner. Check the tournament website first thing in the morning, as they can change your time of play. You have to be proactive in checking the website constantly for updates and changes. When you register, you will know what day you play but not the time. Check back a week prior and then constantly because changes happen often, and you may not be emailed with those changes. Many of the tournaments will notify you of which court you’ll be playing on via text, so make sure that your text number is on your profile page.


Pick the Right Partner

If you're playing doubles, finding the right partner is crucial. Look for someone who has a similar skill level, goals, and expectations as you do. Make sure you're in sync with your partner both skill-wise and strategy-wise, as this will be helpful in competitive play. Effective communication and performing well together can make all the difference.


Pack Your Bag

Proper packing is essential for a successful tournament. Make sure you have your pickleball paddle, extra balls that are the same kind that will be used at the tournament, pickleball shoes, towel, chair, shade, water bottle with electrolytes, and personal items such as your ID, phone, and credit card. Bring pickleball eyewear, or if you wear glasses, take them. Don't forget to pack a backup paddle, extra shirts, extra socks, deodorant, and a first aid kit. Make sure your paddle is USAPA approved. It will be printed on your paddle down by the handle. If it’s not printed, you can find a list on www.USApickleball.org . It is your responsibility to make sure it is approved. If it’s not, find one that is, as you won’t be able to play with a non-approved paddle. I suggest having two paddles in your bag. You never know when one will break or feel dead in the sweet spot. 


Prepare Your Body

Pickleball tournaments can be physically demanding, so it's important to take care of your body before, during, and after the tournament. Make sure you eat nutritious food, stay hydrated, and warm up before your matches. Snacks, water, and electrolytes are essential to keep you energized and hydrated during the tournament. You're playing an entire draw on the same day, so be prepared to play all day long. Make sure you have an area to rest and relax in between your matches to prevent cramping and fatigue.



Warming up before a tournament is crucial for avoiding injury and getting your body ready for a long day of play. You want to get your heart rate up, and your muscles warmed up before you start playing. A good warm-up routine should include some light jogging, stretching, and some pickleball-specific drills to get you ready for the court. Make sure to focus on all areas of the body that will be used during play, including the legs, arms, shoulders, and core. It's also a good idea to take some practice swings to get your timing and feel for the ball. Remember, warming up is not just physical but mental, too. Take a few moments to calm your nerves and get in the right headspace for your matches. A good warm-up will help you feel more confident and ready to play your best at the tournament.


Work on your mindset

Another key factor to keep in mind is to stay focused and maintain a positive attitude throughout the tournament. It's easy to get nervous or frustrated when things don't go as planned, but maintaining a positive mindset can help you stay motivated and play your best. Playing in a tournament is different from casual play, and it's important to be mentally prepared. You may encounter players with more experience, but don't let this discourage you. Instead, focus on doing your best and setting achievable goals with your partner. Manifest positivity to ensure a fulfilling experience. Most importantly, have fun! Participating in tournaments is a great way to meet new players and improve your game, so enjoy the experience and make the most out of it.


Utilize Time-Outs

Time-outs are important to help you reset your strategy and regain your momentum during a game. You have two timeouts per game, and they can be one minute long in between games. Use them to communicate with a coach or partner and talk about your match. You're not allowed to coach with your opponents while changing sides, so use the time to focus on your strategy and mental focus.



In conclusion, preparing for your first pickleball tournament is all about being well-prepared, both mentally and physically. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the rules, warm up properly, and stay hydrated and nourished throughout the day. Utilize time-outs to your advantage and stay focused on your strategy and momentum. Remember, your first tournament is a learning experience, and even if you don't come out on top, the experience will help you become a better player in the long run. So go out there and have fun, meet new players, and enjoy the competitive spirit of the game! With these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to making the most of your first tournament and taking your game to the next level.