Do you have a pickleball tournament coming up soon? Pickleball tournaments can be a fun way to test your skills on the court. Pickleball tournaments are a blast because they include a full day or full weekend on the pickleball courts with some of your closest friends (and if the competitors are not your friends at the beginning of the tournament, they certainly will be your friends by the end of the tournament). However, pickleball tournament also add an element of pressure and competition to the mix, which can be daunting for some people.
To play your best pickleball in a tournament, be mindful of the following tournament tips:
Stay Hydrated – Pickleball tournaments can quickly lead to long days on the courts. Make sure you stay hydrated, not only during your tournament, but also leading up to your tournament.
Pay Attention to Your Bracket and the Wait List – If you are late to your match on the day of the tournament, a tournament director can be strict and force you to forfeit. So, pay attention to your bracket and the wait list for your tournament. Be mindful of when your next match is being called onto the courts.
Stay Warmed Up – Pickleball tournaments can be a lot of start and stop throughout the day. In other words, you play a match, then sit for a while waiting for your next match. Then, jump back on the courts, and then wait again, and so on. It is important to stay limber and warmed up, and avoid stiffening up during your waiting periods.
Play Practice Points Before the Match – Never let your first point be one that counts. In other words, play practice points to get the nerves out prior to your match. You can do this by playing skinny singles with your partner, or by finding another duo to jump onto the courts with.
Stay Mentally Tough – As alluded to above, pickleball tournaments can be long, physically exhausting days. To push through and be the best team requires mental toughness. When your body tires, your mind needs to get tougher and carry you through. Stay mentally tough!
Know the Rules, Especially with Referees – Each pickleball tournament can have its own rules. For instance, maybe you are playing a round robin, where each match is one game to 21. If that is the case, your strategy may be very different than a match with best two out of three games to 11. Also, be aware that you may have a referee in tournament play. When you are playing with a referee, there are a few specific rules that you should be aware of, which include (a) do not start your serve until the referee calls the complete score (three numbers (e.g. 0-0-2)); and (b) you and your partner can only ask the referee two questions—(i) what is the score? and (ii) am I the correct server? You must be able to determine if you are in the correct positioning on the court based upon these two questions. Also, be aware that a referee can alter the tempo of a game from what you are used to. Stay in your zone and keep your rhythm in between serves and returns of serve.
Use Your Time Outs – You and your partner will generally have two timeouts per game. If you do not use your timeouts, you do not get to keep them or take them home with you, so do not be afraid to use them. Timeouts can be one of the easiest ways to break or change the momentum of a pickleball game. A good rule of thumb is to call a timeout if your opponents have scored three points in a row. A timeout will give you and your partner the opportunity to think and refocus. Also, consider strategizing with your support team during timeouts. Your support team could add a fresh perspective to your strategy if you need it.
Have Fun! – Above all, pickleball is meant to be fun, so make sure you enjoy your day on the courts!
To play your best pickleball in a tournament:
Pay attention to your bracket and the wait list;
Stay warmed up;
Play practice points before your match;
Stay mentally tough;
Know the rules, especially in connection with referees;
Use your time outs; and
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Since returning to professional pickleball this year, after taking a long COVID hiatus, Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters have been traveling the country for pickleball tournaments. But, one thing that that they have not done in a really long time is take a family vacation... until now. Learn about Team Waters' trip to Costa Rica from Leigh herself, which included as much, or more, pickleball than at home in Florida, monkey spectators, family bonding, surfing, and a lot of new friends made on the Costa Rican pickleball courts, which reminded them how much fun the great sport of pickleball really is.