Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, dozens of pickleball tournaments were held each and every weekend across the country, and even the world, with hundreds of participants and spectators at each event. COVID-19 has caused recent pickleball tournaments to be postponed or cancelled, and some postponements and cancellations of certain pickleball tournaments extend as far out as the fourth quarter of 2020 (as an aside, some pickleball leagues, like the Palm Beach County Pickleball League in South Florida, has cancelled all events for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year). The USA Pickleball Association has even suspended sanctioning of tournaments through June 2, 2020 (which could even be extended based on the circumstances at that time).
With that said, pickleball tournaments are starting to be scheduled (or re-scheduled) for late 2020 and early 2021, and the 2020 USA Pickleball National Championships are still currently scheduled in late October / early November. Will these scheduled (or re-scheduled) events go on? When will the next pickleball tournament actually be held?
Similar to other sports, the answer to when the next pickleball tournament will be held is uncertain. This is largely because pickleball tournaments include large groups or gatherings making social distancing difficult. This is not only true of pickleball tournaments, but is also true of recreational pickleball. Recreational pickleball is generally very social, with lots of players mixing or socializing on the pickleball courts. As a result, USA Pickleball (and various municipalities) has encouraged players to only play singles and avoid playing doubles. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has echoed the same message in connection with tennis. However, some pickleball hubs, like East Naples Community Park, home to the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida, have allowed doubles play assuming that social distancing rules are abided by (which would seem to mean that players are only allowed to partner with other players that they are quarantined in the same household with; otherwise, social distancing seems impossible in doubles pickleball). Further, pickleball tournaments have the additional challenge in that, unlike some sporting events, pickleball tournaments are largely participatory, so removing fans is not a resolution, as most fans are tournament participants themselves.
On the day pickleball tournaments are resurrected, how will COVID-19 and social distancing affect these pickleball tournaments? Some examples of questions to be addressed when this day comes include:
- Will pickleball tournaments be limited in the number of participants to comply with limits on large gatherings?
- Will cities/municipalities and/or facilities be willing to take the risks associated with hosting a large tournament in this environment?
- Will less pickleball players travel, leaving the pickleball tournament to be made up of mostly local players?
- Will pickleball players need to have their temperatures checked prior to play?
- Will pickleball players have to sign COVID-19 waivers to participate?
- Will pickleball players be required to wear masks between matches?
- Will there be sanitation checkpoints?
- Will pickleball players be permitted to congregate or socialize, assuming social distancing is maintained? Or, will players be required to wait for their respective match in isolation (for example, in their cars)?
- Will the social aspect of pickleball tournaments be removed?
- Will the pickleball community be interested in watching more pickleball matches through livestream? Or, will the pickleball community be more interested in first-hand participation?
When it comes to the future of pickleball tournaments, there are a lot of questions and unknowns to address. Nevertheless, we, like the rest of the pickleball community, are looking forward to the return of pickleball tournaments when safe to do so.
When do you think the next pickleball tournament will be held? What other thoughts do you have when it comes to the future of pickleball tournaments? Share with us in the comments below!