Open play, or drop-in play, is the cornerstone of the sport of pickleball. The fact that you can show up at any public pickleball court and immediately find a game and make friends is a beautiful part of the culture of pickleball. However, sometimes, players may want to find a game at their specific skill level and/or with players that they especially enjoy being on the pickleball court with. Organized pickleball games can maximize the number of games that you can play in a specific period of time, as well as maximize the value of every rally by gathering a group of equally skilled players.
Organizing a pickleball game can be tricky. How do you find pickleball players at your skill level? How do you make sure you have the right numbers, as you need at least 4 people to play doubles pickleball, but do not want a strange number (like 7 players) where there is a lot of standing around? How do you coordinate schedules and make sure everyone shows up on time? This pickleball blog will provide some tips for organizing a pickleball game, which apply to players of any skill level.
Tips If You Are Organizing a Pickleball Game
The first step to organizing a pickleball game with players at your skill level or with players that you enjoy playing with is to create your rolodex or database of pickleball players. To do this, you need to start with the cornerstone of pickleball – open play at public pickleball courts. Another good option is to join a pickleball club to meet other pickleball players. Then, play pickleball with as many people as possible. When you find someone that is at your skill level and/or you enjoy playing with them, grab their phone number after you finish playing your pickleball game and ask them if they would want to play in an organized pickleball game from time to time.
Now that you have your database of pickleball players that you enjoy playing with, you have the ability to organize a few players for an organized pickleball game. When organizing a pickleball game:
- Identify one player in the group as the “organizer.” If another player is helping organize, always report to the “organizer,” as organizing a pickleball game is all about getting the numbers right, so it is important that one person take ownership of that responsibility.
- Consider how many pickleball courts you have to play on. Again, the number is key when organizing a pickleball game. If you only have one pickleball court, then 4 or 5 pickleball players should be your goal for organized play. This way, at most, only one person is sitting at any given time. If you have more than 4 or 5 pickleball players, too many will be sidelined and waiting around to play. And, if you have less than 4 pickleball players, then you will not have enough for a proper doubles pickleball game. If you have 2 pickleball courts, then consider having 8 or 9 pickleball players. If you have 10 pickleball players or more, or even 6 or 7 pickleball players, too many will be waiting around to play a proper game of doubles pickleball. However, if the group of pickleball players enjoys playing singles pickleball as much as doubles pickleball, then 6 or 7 pickleball players could work with 2 pickleball courts, as you could have a doubles court and singles court going.
- Start texting and sending “feelers” out for who is available and wants to play in the organized pickleball game at a specific time and place. Start to gather commitments and continue until you have your preferred number of pickleball players. It is important not to over-invite (so invite one-by-one or a small group at a time, rather than a mass text, so that you can control the numbers), as well as not under-invite. Consider inviting one additional person in case of any last-minute cancellations—for instance, invite 5 pickleball players, so if any one player backs out, you still have enough for a doubles game with 4 players.
- Consider sending a confirmatory text to the group of committed pickleball players. Also, consider sending a reminder text, so that the organized play date/time does not slip anyone’s mind or get lost in any busy schedules.
Tips If You Are Being Organized for a Pickleball Game
If you are on the receiving end of texts or other communications to organize a pickleball game, then there are some things that you can do to help the organizer out, and make sure that you continue to get invited to organized pickleball games in the future.
- Respond promptly to any text that you receive. Do not ghost any organizer. Remember that the organizer is trying to reach a specific number of players.
- If you commit play, then show up and show up on time. Try not to cancel or be late. And, especially do not cancel because you were invited to a better game. If you are late for any reason, communicate that promptly.
- If others have invited you to play, or another player asks to play with you, report to the organizer and ask if additional players can join. Remember, organizing a pickleball game is all about finding the right number of players, so that everyone has a good time and does not do too much sitting around. As a result, it is important to ask the organizer if additional players can join.
Tips If You Do Not Have an Organized Pickleball Game
If you are not organizing, or being organized for, a pickleball game, then the best way to meet pickleball players is to join open play at a public pickleball court or perhaps even join a pickleball club. Again, this will help you build your network of pickleball friends. If you are not sure where the open play may be, or where a pickleball club may be, consider reaching out to your USA Pickleball ambassador in your area (to find your USA Pickleball ambassador, click here) or look up places to play using USA Pickleball’s Places2Play website here. These resources can be powerful in your home area or when you are traveling and looking for a pickleball game. There are also a few additional pickleball apps that can help with finding places to play or finding players to play with.
When in an open play setting, be personable and put yourself out there. This can be scary, but most pickleball players will welcome you with open arms and most pickleball players will abide by the USA Pickleball Sportsmanship Guide (which includes being considerate when playing up and/or playing down).
Also, to find your skill level in open play, consider starting with players that are a level below you. Then, slowly work your way up through the skill levels with each consecutive game. If you find you are losing games by a lot (for instance 11-1), and you are hitting most of the shots, then you may be playing in a skill level above yours. While it is great to mix in, play up and down, and meet everyone, it is also fun to find a game with players with a comparable skill level to yours (for instance, it is no fun to always be the player targeted, or always be the player that never sees the pickleball, and then have a score that is skewed greatly in favor of one team over another).
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your crew and hit the pickleball courts for an organized pickleball game! And, don’t forget to mix it up and drop in for some open play to continue to expand your pickleball community!
Big shoutout to Steve Rose for the inspiration behind, and tips in, this article. And, big thanks to Steve Rose for always organizing a game in South Florida!