If you are a tournament player, do you remember your thoughts after playing in your first pickleball tournament ever? If you are not a tournament player, are you curious what it would be like to play in a pickleball tournament? Well, we had the chance to sit down with relative newbie to the sport of pickleball, Ally Costa, after her very first pickleball tournament ever to try to answer these questions.
By way of background, Costa has been playing pickleball for less than a year. She mostly hits the pickleball courts after work on Tuesdays with her co-workers (with her dog roaming around the pickleball courts, chasing stray balls). However, that is where her pickleball career has stopped – with recreational play with friends on a weekday… until early December 2021.
In early December 2021, Costa decided to play in a pickleball tournament. As a former collegiate athlete, she wanted a little taste of competition, especially since her weekday play is more recreational. Costa decided to play with her father, Paul Costa, who had played pickleball just once in his entire lifetime before tournament day, but who was also a former collegiate athlete himself, so he could manage the basics.
While Ally knew the rules and was engrained in the sport as an avid Pickler follower and subscriber, Paul didn’t quite know every rule of pickleball. But, that didn’t matter. Ally and Paul were there to play pickleball together, as daughter and father. Playing together is something that Ally and Paul had never experienced, as Paul was Ally’s coach throughout her youth—whether it was for softball, hockey, or another sport. But, on the pickleball court, Paul and Ally were equals; they were partners, which Ally giggled while saying “being on the same level was certainly interesting.”
Plus, Ally and Paul had a plan, which was for Paul to keep it over the net, and for Ally to do the rest. The long story short – neither Ally nor Paul lived up to their plan.
Ally admitted that the level of play at a pickleball tournament—in their 2.5/3.0 skill level division—was better than she had expected. She noted that she typically plays with a small group with a certain style of play, and, in the pickleball tournament, she was thrown against very different styles of play with varying powers and spins and new shots or strokes she had not seen before. Plus, the pressure that arises in a tournament environment, as compared to the recreational environment, was more intense. There were more people around and to watch, there was the pressure of not wanting to let her partner—her dad—down, and there was a voice telling her if she doesn’t win, then she would be done playing pickleball for the day (which no one ever wants!).
At the end of the day, the Costas unfortunately went 0-2 on the day in their very first pickleball tournament, which was not the day that either of them were expecting. But, when walking off the pickleball court after their second loss and being knocked out of the tournament, the first words out of their mouths were, “When is the next pickleball tournament?”
Regardless of the outcome, Ally had so much fun playing with her dad, Paul. But, before the next pickleball tournament, she is resolved to do a few things. First, Ally will teach her dad the rules. Second, she and Paul will play against more people to get exposed to different styles of play and step outside of her comfort zone in order to improve. This means that Ally and Paul may go to different courts or push themselves to meet new people, which is what the sport of pickleball is all about—becoming a part of a community.
If you are thinking of playing in a pickleball tournament, Ally’s advice—after playing in her first one—is to go for it. You never know if you will like it until you try it. But, also learn from Ally’s experience and have a plan to handle the added pressure of a pickleball tournament, as well as some quality pickleball players with some shots or styles you may not be used to.