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 tournaments also add an element of pressure and competition to the mix, which can be daunting for some people.
To play your best pickleball in your next tournament, be mindful of the following 11 tournament tips:
- Practice with Your Partner Beforehand – It is not always possible, but, before a pickleball tournament, try to play some practice games or recreational play with your partner before tournament day. Playing games with your partner beforehand will allow you to get any kinks out and feel more comfortable with each other. Of particular importance, you and your partner will hopefully improve your communication skills, which will benefit you when it comes to working together to strategize on the court. In a tournament setting, sometimes, the difference between a win and a loss is which team can figure out the “right” strategy first. So, the faster you and your partner can work together to adapt your strategy to accentuate your strengths and attack your opponents’ weaknesses, the more likely you will be successful in the pickleball tournament.
- Stay Hydrated – Pickleball tournaments can quickly lead to long days on the courts (and, as a result, maybe even some muscle cramps or lethargic feelings on the court). Make sure you stay hydrated, not only during the tournament, but also in the days/weeks leading up to the tournament.
- Pay Attention to Your Bracket and the Wait List – If you are late to your match on the day of the pickleball tournament, a tournament director can be strict and force you to forfeit. So, pay attention to your bracket and the wait list. Be mindful of when your next match is being called onto the courts and be prompt!
- Stay Warmed Up – Pickleball tournaments can be a lot of start and stop throughout the day. In other words, you could 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. You may even want to consider practicing this start-and-stop tempo prior to the day of the tournament.
- Play Practice Points Before the Match – Never let your first point in a pickleball tournament be one that counts. In other words, on the day of the tournament, play practice points to get the nerves out prior to your first 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 hit your serve until the referee calls the complete score (three numbers (e.g. 0-0-2) in doubles pickleball); and (b) you and your partner can ask the referee if you are in the correct position, if you are the correct server/receiver, and what is the score. Lastly, 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.
- Don’t Lose the Same Way the Entire Match – During a pickleball match, you should constantly be strategizing with your partner. You should constantly be trying to improve your strategy and reacting to any changes in strategy by your opponents. This is particularly true if you find yourself losing during a pickleball match. If you are losing, consider whether you have the wrong strategy and consider changing your strategy to try to turn the match around. If you are already losing, then there is nothing to lose to try something different. Don’t lose the same way the entire match. Do something different and change your strategy. And, if you need some tips on what strategies may work on the court, start here!
- 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.
- Go Watch the Pros Play! – Oftentimes, pickleball tournaments will include brackets of different skill levels—from 2.5/3.0 to the pro level. If your next pickleball tournament has a pro bracket (and you are not already playing at that level), be sure to set aside some time to watch the pro pickleball players live. You are guaranteed to have a new appreciation for pro pickleball after watching it live. Plus, you may learn something or be inspired to work on a new skill.
- Have Fun! – Most importantly, pickleball is meant to be fun, so make sure you enjoy your day on the courts! There is no such thing as a bad day out on the pickleball courts.