Do you want to run a Pickleball Tournament? Here are some suggestions.
The two things that are necessary as you start:
A commissioner for the event must be named and willing to put in a fair amount of effort. The commissioner (and selected volunteers) should expect to:
Advertise, promote and organize the tournament beginning at least 2-3 months prior to the event. More time should be allowed for regional and national tournaments.
Receive all the registrations and set up the ladders (or round robins) about a week prior to the event. You may go to usapa.org to set up the ladders. Under “Tournaments” click Brackets & Software and follow instructions to create a new tournament in the software.
Run the tournament and address any and all questions that come up during the event. One of the most important responsibilities will be to keep all the available courts consistently occupied with matches.
A venue with courts that meet minimum standards and enough courts to handle the expected matches.
USAPA rules include minimum court standard size, net requirements and space around the court.
Generally, each match will take an average of between 40 to 60 minutes. The first matches may be shorter, but as the tournament progresses, the matches are expected to run longer. In the example below, we will use a 50-minute average match time for all matches played with best 2 of 3 games to 11 points and a 20 min average match time for all matches played with 1 game to 15 points.
An event with 8 teams will require approximately 9 hours of court time. There will be 9 matches played with best 2 of 3 games to 11 points at an average time per match of 50 minutes. This will account for 7.5 hours of court time.
There will be 5 matches played with 1 game to 15 in the lower bracket at an average time per match of 20 min. This will account for 1.5 hours of court time.
With 4 courts, it will take approximately 5 hours to complete just one 8 team event.
With a tournament commissioner and a venue, you are on your way to a tournament. Following are some details that should be helpful in running a tournament.
Select the type of USAPA tournament that you want to have.
We suggest that your first tournament be a “promotional” tournament. With this tournament, the USAPA Tournament Committee can help you with the event but participants will not receive Tournament Points within the USAPA Tournament Points System. Once you have the experience of running a successful tournament, you can apply to have a tournament “sanctioned” by USAPA. A “sanctioned” tournament has a number of requirements and these are attached.
Advertising the tournament.
Word of mouth and talking up the tournament at pickleball events is necessary to get players in the spirit of competing in a tournament. Remember to tell all that participation is for the fun of it and that it is the best way to hone skills and learn how other people play the game.
A colorful flyer with all tournament information and an attached registration form is a must to get the word of the tournament out and get registrations in the hands of potential participants. Be sure to require submission of all registrations by a date about 5 days before the tournament. This will give you time to set up the matches which is often a late night job. A sample registration form is attached.
List the tournament on Websites such as your club’s website & USAPA.org.
Food for the tournament.
It is beneficial to have some food for participants. A food table will keep the participants near the venue making it easier to locate those who are up for the next match. Select volunteers (with one head volunteer in charge) to prepare and maintain a food table. The type of food you serve can include:
Can be as simple as fruit (sliced oranges, bananas, apples), or
Sandwich makings: sliced meat, selections of bread, lettuce, tomatoes, and all the spreads
Hot dogs and all the trimmings
A hot dish of fried rice or noodles
Bottled water and/or large containers for juice (5 gallon containers with a spout)
Plenty of napkins, paper plates, plastic utensils, etc.
Be sure to post a large sign over the food table: FOOD FOR PICKLEBALL PARTICIPANTS ONLY.
Protect the floor with tarps or other appropriate means.
A budget of 3 to 4 dollars/participant is suggested.
Charging for tournament participation. There are costs in setting up a tournament even when run by volunteers.
The largest cost is for the facility. This cost can run into the hundreds of dollars and should be negotiated with the venue manager. About $4-$5 dollars from each participant is a guideline. If possible get the venue for no cost. It will save you money and it is a great advertisement for the facility owner that is trying to promote pickleball.
Don’t forget the budget for food.
It is traditional to give prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for each event. You can order medals (suggestion: CrownAwards.com) which should be done about two months before the tournament. You may also award trophies, plaques, or creative awards such as seasonal food items or chocolates. The prizes will cost you about $3-$4 dollars per participant.
The tournament commissioner will have to provide the nets and balls for the tournament unless the venue will provide them. The balls alone may cost about $1-$2 per participant.
There are always administrative costs such as copying, paper, clips, etc. This may add another dollar per participant.
When all is totaled the cost per participant is about $12 to $15 per participant. To cover these costs and other unexpected costs we suggest charging at least $20 per participant. You can charge say $15 for the first event and $5 for each additional event i.e. singles, men’s or women’s doubles, mixed doubles. If costs are higher, charge $20 for the first event.
Setting up the matches.
You want to set up the matches about a week to 3 days prior to the tournament. This must be done after the due date for registrations.
You may want to have two categories or more of players. Open players are generally the most experienced. The 4.5 players are the next level and you may have additional skill levels of 4.0, 3.5 etc. Or you may want to set up age categories, i.e. over 50, 5 or 10-year age brackets and juniors.
If you have enough players to set up ladders, this can be done. Use the USAPA.org website as described in the first paragraphs of this write up. Each match is generally played with a best of 3 game format with each game to 11 win by two. The winner advances in the winners bracket, the loser drops to the losers bracket. This results in elimination of teams with 2 losses.
You may also want to consider round-robin matches if there are not enough players for a ladder. All players will play each other. The player or team winning the most matches is declared the winner. Alternatively, the player or team winning the most points may be declared the winner.
When preparing the ladders and round robins it is suggested that score sheets for each predicted match be prepared. An example score sheet is attached. With the ladder format, only the first score sheets can be filled out and the later ones will have to filled out as the tournament progresses.
In setting up the matches, it is advisable to match the best players against the weakest players to avoid having strong players eliminated in the first round. If you know the players, this is possible. Otherwise, drawing them out of a hat can set up matches.
Once the ladders and round robins are set (draws), these can be posted on the internet or hard copies can be placed at the venue. The commissioner should have a set of these so that s/he can answer requests for information.
All draws should be on large pieces of paper that can be placed on the wall at the tournament so all can follow the progress of the tournament.
Day before the tournament
It is advisable that the commissioner visit the venue for the tournament the day before the event to see that all is in order. Courts taped with a 7 foot fault line, nets up, tables for registration and food set, etc.
The ladders and round-robin charts should be taped on a wall where they can be seen by participants and kept current as the tournament progresses.
It is advisable that simple signs be set up to direct participants to the courts (if they are within a large facility), restroom directional signs, numbers for the courts, etc.
Day of the tournament
Have a registration table set up where all participants check in.
This table should have a volunteer throughout the day.
All registration fees should be paid before a participant is allowed to play.
All participants must sign the waiver before they are allowed on a court.
You should have a table for USAPA registrations.
Once they join USAPA, their tournament registration fee can be reduced by say $5.
For more information on setting up a USAPA table, contact the USAPA Director of Tournaments. Email
Start the tournament on time. Begin the tournament by calling all participants together to:
Welcome them to the tournament.
Inform them that the rules will be those of the USAPA and that the referees will be closely watching for fault line violations.
Announce that all participants should be willing to referee some matches. For first time referees, an experienced referee will counsel the new referee throughout a game.
Give any specific rules that the commissioner wants to highlight.
Give thanks to the volunteers who worked on food, registrations, etc.
Wish good luck to all participants.
Get all available courts active with games and keep them busy with games throughout the tournament.
It is advisable to limit warm up time to 2-3 minutes.
Let participants who are “on deck” (going to play on the next available court) know and be ready to get on the court.
Provide a time to award medals to the winners of each event.
Make sure that the food table is kept maintained and clean.
After the tournament
Clean up the facility. You will want to be invited back to hold another tournament.
Pay all invoices for the facility, food, etc. This is appreciated by all and is good groundwork for the next tournament.
Get the results (who medaled in each event) to USAPA within 2 days so the results can be posted. There is an attached chart for the results. Make sure that you thank all volunteers. They can make or break your tournament and must be treated with appreciation and respect.