Learn to Play & Love Pickleball

What Do You Look for in a Pickleball Tournament?

by Stacie Townsend

What Do You Look for in a Pickleball Tournament?

Pickleball tournament players probably make up less than three percent of the overall pickleball population. For these pickleball tournament players, more and more pickleball tournaments are being played across the country, and even the world, each and every week. If you are one of these pickleball players that loves to put your court skills to the test and play in a pickleball tournament, or are trying to decide which pickleball tournament should be your first pickleball tournament, what do you look for? What determines which pickleball tournaments you will play in, and which pickleball tournaments you will pass on? We have come up with a list of factors, in no particular order, that you may consider when deciding which pickleball tournaments to participate in:

  1. Who Else Is Going? – One of the best parts of a pickleball tournament is mingling, making new friends, and cheering your friends on in between your matches. So, one important factor is who else is going to the pickleball tournament. This is also important in determining how strong the field of play is. A strong bracket—to really test your pickleball skills—is important to many competitive Picklers.
  2. How Fancy Are the Facilities? – There are various types of pickleball courts, which include, among others, dedicated pickleball courts with permanent nets, pickleball courts with temporary nets, and lined tennis courts with temporary nets. When traveling to a pickleball tournament, a nice perk as players is to play on beautiful dedicated pickleball courts. Other important considerations are whether the pickleball courts are indoors or outdoors, how nice are the bathrooms, and are there vendors, including food vendors.
  3. Is the Pickleball Tournament Sanctioned by the USAPA? – If a pickleball tournament is sanctioned by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), then, as a pickleball player, you will receive the following benefits: (a) each match will have 100% weighting for purposes of your official USAPA Tournament Player Rating (UTPR); (b) at a minimum, each medal match will have referees (which, in my humble opinion, adds a ton of value and can really affect or influence the match for the better, especially at the higher levels); and (c) requires the tournament director to use the official UTPR rating when creating the various tournament brackets (which solves one of the biggest complaints that I heard after attending the 2019 US Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida—players playing in brackets that were lower than their respective skill levels).
  4. What Type of Pickleball Will Be Used? – One of the great pickleball debates is what type of pickleball to play with on the pickleball courts. Every player has a preferred pickleball, so the type of pickleball used in pickleball tournaments could be factor to consider. However, it is worth noting, that this debate may change in the near future, as the owners of the Onix pickleball just recently acquired the Dura Fast 40 pickleball (these two pickleballs are commonly on opposite sides of the pickleball debate).
  5. How Efficient Is the Pickleball Tournament Run? – Pickleball tournaments can easily drag along depending on the number of participants and number of available pickleball courts, which can be a difficult ask for players having to wait long periods of time between matches. So, efficient tournament directors that keep matches moving are valued, especially if players are traveling home on the day of the tournament. I have seen the unfortunate circumstance of players having to forfeit in order to catch their flights home. In short, pickleball tournament directors that can be efficient will entice more participants.
  6. Are There Any Freebies for Participants? – Everyone loves free stuff—especially free pickleball stuff. Enough said.
  7. Where in the World Is the Pickleball Tournament? – Most pickleball players are not playing pickleball to pay the bills. So, when traveling to a pickleball tournament, most pickleball players are doing so for fun and as a vacation. With that said, pickleball tournaments that are easy to travel to or in a location that attracts tourists (e.g. South Florida, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Atlanta, etc.) will tend to attract more participants because the area has more to offer off of the pickleball courts.
  8. Does the Pickleball Tournament Offer Cash Prizes? – This factor is important in attracting the pickleball pros (which, in turn, attracts more participants because who doesn’t love watching the pickleball pros play?!). How much money can you win?! The more money involved, the more pickleball pros and the more overall participants.
  9. What Happens If It Rains? – One frustration if it rains during a pickleball tournament is cancelling the remainder of the pickleball tournament prematurely. Pickleball tournament directors that do everything in their power—including grabbing a squeegee and turning on the lights (if available)—get a thumbs up in my book!
  10. How Much Does the Pickleball Tournament Cost? – Cost of entry and cost of travel (e.g. flights, gas, hotels, etc.) can quickly add up. So, how much will the pickleball tournament cost is obviously a factor.
  11. How Fast Can You Type? – There are a handful of pickleball tournaments that are so popular and in such high demand (e.g. the USAPA Nationals and the US Open) that if you do not sign up within a few minutes of opening the tournament, then you will not be able to register. So, how fast can you type?!
  12. How Are the Brackets Created? – This factor goes a bit hand-in-hand with whether a pickleball tournament is sanctioned. However, one factor that could be important to you is how the brackets are created. First, are the brackets created based on UTPR ratings (again, if the pickleball tournament is sanctioned by the USAPA, then the answer is yes)? Second, are the brackets broken down or combined? In other words, are ages or skill levels combined, or will you be playing in your age bracket and at your skill level? Third, if you lose a match, are you able to come back around and win the gold, or is the best you can do now bronze?
  13. What Is the Overall Vibe of the Pickleball Tournament? – I believe that the goal of every tournament director should be to make every participant in their respective pickleball tournament walk away not knowing the score or outcome of their matches, but walk away knowing that they had a great time. Pickleball tournament players are playing to win and to compete, but they are also playing to have fun. So, pickleball tournaments that master the art of having a good time and having fun will move to the top of my list!

With so many pickleball tournaments popping up every week, pickleball players will vote with their feet in deciding which pickleball tournaments they will play in, and tournament directors need to stand out in order to draw participants and keep participants for years to come. So, which of these factors is most important to you? What else is important to you before deciding to enter into a pickleball tournament? Share with us in the comments below!




Stacie Townsend
Stacie Townsend

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