Pickleball Drills for Beginners to Pros

The beauty of pickleball is that people can start playing at any skill level. However, the specifics of the games are nuanced.

This is what creates the need for different skill levels in pickleball tournaments. With the right mindset and enough dedication to your practice, the sky is the limit in terms of realizing your full potential.

One of the keys to becoming a great pickleball athlete is practice. While nothing rivals on-the-court experience against another player, it’s important to take some time on your own to hone the fundamentals you’ve already learned. The best way to do this is through pickleball drills.

Drills are a great way to figure out what your weaknesses are on the court and work out those kinks accordingly. Through repetition, drills drill (who would have thought?) consistently good habits into your repertoire.

If you’re looking to step up your game, here’s a list of some of the best instructors to follow and some insights on what they have to offer.

Sarah Ansboury

With a 2015 National Open Doubles Championship along with a 2016 Open Doubles and Mixed Championships under her belt, Sarah Ansboury knows the ins and outs when it comes to the sport of pickleball.

In the drill below, Sarah addresses one of the most important moves on the pickleball court—the dink:

What’s so useful about this video is that Sarah doesn’t only explain how to dink, but illustrates where you might be going wrong. This video is ideal for beginners, but also valuable for those looking to hone such a significant skill.

Joe Baker

While pros have firsthand knowledge of the intricacies of a sport, sometimes spectators can offer a fresh viewpoint. After all, with an objective point of view and a keen eye for detail, spectators can become great teachers in turn. Case in point, Joe Baker, who specializes not only in pickleball strategies, but golf and ballroom dancing.

In the video below, Joe shares backboard wall drills for pickleball:

What’s so convenient about backboard wall drills is that they allow you 7 to 10 times more opportunity to hit the pickleball than you would have in a typical doubles game. The only way to get better at pickleball is to hit the pickleball more. Participating in backboard wall drills will help you find your form, create consistency and give you valuable court-time experience.

CJ Johnson

When you’re looking to better yourself on the pickleball court, look no further than a website called Betterpickleball.com. Run by CJ Johnson, as the name suggests, they strive to make you better at pickleball!

As CJ explains in the video below, “If you step onto a pickleball court, you know that being a little bit faster you will have a bit of an advantage of the other team.” The drill in the video will help you with hand-eye coordination and improve your reaction time:

What’s interesting about this video is that this drill doesn’t happen only the court. It begins with a simple eye test using a magazine. This is an effective drill for strengthening your focus. From there, CJ takes you onto the court to apply what you learned. This video is a fun way to break up the monotony of typical drills.

Primetime Pickleball

Ready for the Primetime? Primetime Pickleball was founded by two 5.0 rated IPTPA certified pickleball coaches, Nicole Havlicek and Jordan Briones. With such high placements, it’s obvious that these two have honed their skills.

In the video below, the twosome work with U.S. Open and National Champion, Marcin Rozpedski in helping you find your sweet spot on the pickleball court:

This is a unique drill as Marcin holds the paddle like a pencil while using the round edge of the paddle bottom to hit the pickleball. Doing this will help your eyes get used to tracking the ball. Creating such pinpoint precision on a small surface will lead into the follow-up with a much larger target zone of a properly held paddle. There you will find your sweet spot!

Deb Harrison

Deb Harrison, or Picklepong Deb, was awarded Pickleball Athlete of the Decade, having won 15 gold medals over a 10 year period at the Florida State Senior Games. With a decade’s worth of experience, Picklepong Deb has been kind of enough to share her knowledge with pickleball enthusiasts via her YouTube videos.

In the one below, Picklepong Deb teaches about footwork and walks you through a drill that involves simulating play. It’s fun because it allows you to use your imagination and let loose a little:

What makes this drill so effective is that Deb breaks down the art of footwork and offers real insight into the steps. It’s also an intense workout that can help you get some cardio in. Lastly, since you’re not really playing, you don’t need to be on the court to practice!

These drills will give you plenty of new concepts and techniques to work with so that you can improve your play outside of games. Are there any videos that have been of use to you in the past? Share them with us!

A Complete Breakdown of IFP Ratings

Ratings are a staple in sports because they allow for players of similar ability to be paired up against one another. That makes for a more competitive game and pushes the inner athlete in all of us to be our very best.

Pickleball ratings are currently somewhat subjective. They’re not intended to put anyone in a box, hurt their feelings or limit potential. If anything, ratings should serve as benchmarks to reach when you’re attempting to crush your pickleball goals.

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Ratings and Rated Events

The primary reason ratings are important is because they serve as the basis for how most tournaments are seeded. These sorts of tournaments are called rated events.

Events at bigger pickleball tournaments are regulated by rating. When you sign up for an event, your rating will determine the brackets of players you play against such as in “Men’s 3.0 Doubles” or “Women’s 4.5 Singles.” These numbers reference the player rating of those competing.

The instances where a rating is necessary are outlined on the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) website. As they explain:

  1. IFP ratings are not currently required to enter USAPA or PCO sanctioned tournaments.
  2. IFP rated players are required to enter events that are rated no lower than their current rating, although they may enter higher-rated events if they choose.
  3. Tournament directors have the final decision on what rating level unrated players will play.
  4. Rated players must be allowed to play at their rating level although they may always choose to play in a higher rating group. Exceptions may occur when rated events have to be combined because of lack of entries.

How to Get an IFP Rating

There are three ways to obtain a rating. You can call it the SAT Method:

S elf – A non-rated player rates themselves

A ppealed – A player disagrees with their rating and appeals

T ournament – A player’s rating is calculated by tournament wins and losses

Starting off with the S, this is for first-time tournament entrants. If you have never been rated before, you can give yourself your inaugural rating. The only caveat is that the Tournament Director must approve of the rating you give yourself. Based on the results of the tournament, if you do not exhibit the potential of the rating you saddled yourself with, a new rating will be appointed to reflect the proper skill level.

Next up, we will skip to the T. Tournament performances affect ratings. However, this is yet another subjective practice. Ratings following tournaments are determined by:

  • Outcome of the Current Tournament
  • Other Tournament Performances
  • Recommendations by Tournament Directors
  • Other Players’ Trusted Opinion

If you have registered for a tournament in the past, you can find out your rating by checking out the USAPA Ratings Page.

If you do not agree with the rating you are classified by, then the A process kicks in. You have the right to appeal and state your case to the IFP.

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Appeals can be done to move yourself up and down the ladder. Each situation is unique but appeals ending in a ranking that is favorable to the player typically fall into the categories of:

  • Permanent or Long-Term Injury
  • Severe Change in Physical Health
  • Declining Skill Level
  • Improved Skill Level

Appealing to go down a skill level to play with a particular partner in a lower level for a rated doubles event is not permitted.

If you feel you have a legitimate claim to a different rating, you can file an appeal on the USAPA Ratings Page. From there, click the Ratings Committee link. Once you are redirected, you can start the appeal process by writing a formal e-mail to the board requesting that they change your rating. Be sure to finish the e-mail with the reasons why you want to move up or down in ratings.

How to Know What Your Rating Means

It helps to know just what these numbers mean when trying to decide where in the spectrum you fit.

The ratings breakdown is as follows:

1.0: Limited knowledge of the game

1.5: Has minimal skills, played a few games

2.0: Holds short rallies and has doubles play courting down

2.5: Making most volleys, some backhands, but has weak court coverage

3.0: Consistent serve, returning medium-paced balls, but lacks directional control, trying dinks

3.5: Demonstrating aggressive net play, beginning to anticipate opponent’s shots

4.0: Using 3rd shot strategies but loses rallies due to impatience, fully knows game rules

4.5: Keeping ball in play, solid footwork, beginning to master 3rd shots

5.0: Master, ready for highest competition

For a more in-depth explanation of each rating, please visit the IFP Pickleball Rating Descriptions Page.

You and Ratings

Have you registered for a tournament? What was the rating you gave yourself? Did it match up to your skill set? What is your rating now? We would love to hear more about your experiences with IFP ratings at tournaments!

How Pickleball Can Change an Inmate’s Life

“Sadly, most inmates in correctional institutions come from very difficult backgrounds. For much of their lives positive guidance has been limited. One of the many benefits of pickleball is that the game can be used as a metaphor for teaching ‘life skills’ such as being a good teammate, following the rules and thinking about consequences.”

These are the words of a man spending time with people most of us hope we do not encounter. Driven by his love of the game and his willingness to help others, Roger BelAir went into an environment few will ever experience: Chicago’s Cook County Jail.

Why? To teach the game of pickleball to dozens of inmates.

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Bit by the Pickleball Bug

Roger began playing pickleball about six years ago. He took to the sport quickly and realized that just about anyone can play the game. It’s easy to learn, low impact on the joints, social and—most importantly—fun. Since then, he plays practically daily and frequently competes in tournaments.

Roger’s love for pickleball resulted in sharing his passion with others. With a background in professional speaking, he started conducting clinics at local recreation facilities. From there he expanded to teaching at corporate retreats and destination health spas like Rancho La Puerta.

Eventually, a chance episode of CBS’ 60 Minutes opened up a new avenue.

An Idea is Born

One Sunday evening, Roger watched an episode of 60 Minutes profiling the Sheriff of Chicago’s Cook County Jail, Tom Dart. It appeared from the piece that inmates spent much of their time eating, sleeping, watching TV or playing cards.

Roger thought, “If the inmates played pickleball, they’d get exercise, interact with others from different backgrounds and would learn ‘life skills’ in a positive setting.”

Following the airing of 60 Minutes, Roger contacted Sheriff Dart. He encouraged him and his staff to consider pickleball for the many benefits it offers.

A Safer Alternative

One of the aspects Roger brought to the attention of Sheriff Dart and his staff was the safety of pickleball. When exercise in correctional settings does take place, it’s often basketball.

“The game can be aggressive and is usually dominated by big and strong men,” says Roger. “As you’d expect, anger and frustration can boil over onto the court.”

In fact, injuries are such a problem that many correctional facilities are cutting back on basketball as a form of recreation.

A major difference between pickleball and basketball lies in the equipment. Little damage can be done to players by a portable net, plastic ball and paddles. Additionally, there is no physical contact between the players as in basketball.

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The leadership at Cook County Jail was open to allowing pickleball into their facility. Before he knew it, Roger was on a flight to Chicago where he would spend a week working with inmates and staff on the basics of pickleball.

Welcome to Chicago

As Roger put into perspective, “Today in the United States there are over two million people incarcerated. 98% of them will eventually be released back into society. They’ll be in our shopping malls, driving on our freeways and in our parks where children are playing. I’m not a bleeding heart. I’m a realist. If we can help these individuals become better people while they’re on the inside, it will be safer for all of us when they are released to the outside.”

Chicago, in particular, has a challenge with crime. This past year there were more homicides in Chicago than in New York and Los Angeles combined. Each year, approximately 70,000 men and women are admitted to Cook County Jail to await their day in court.

For one week, Cook County Jail was where Roger BelAir got in his daily workout of pickleball.

“For my own safety, I worked with the ‘best of the worst.’ I was scared only once. It happened in the maximum security unit Division 10 when the officer left to go to the restroom. Suddenly I realized I was alone with 24 inmates, many charged with murder. Everything turned out fine, of course!”

Pickleball in Chicago

Roger has taught hundreds of people to play pickleball, but teaching in Chicago was a different experience. Initially he felt the inmates’ apprehension.

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As soon as he walked in, they were aloof and distant.

“You could tell by their body language. Many had their arms crossed or wouldn’t make eye contact with me.”

After a few minutes, their walls began to fall down. By the end of the clinic, their demeanor was the opposite extreme. There were big smiles, excitement and lots of laughter.

“By the end I compared it to watching a group of 5-year-olds enjoying the novelty of a special experience, like Christmas. I’m certain getting exercise was part of the reason,” says Roger. “Perhaps more important was the mental aspect. Once they stepped onto the court—just like the rest of us—they forgot their problems and focused only on hitting a plastic ball over the net. They were living in the moment.”

With recreation times limited to 90 minutes, Roger had to improvise in order to get all 24 inmates at a time playing on the three courts available.

As Roger admits, “The rules weren’t followed to the letter, but it didn’t matter because everyone had so much fun.”

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After the first game ended he shouted, “ ‘Okay, everybody! Group hug!’ You could tell the prisoners thought I had lost my mind. They were likely thinking, ‘Who is this guy and I ain’t givin’ nobody a hug.’ But slowly they came forward and joined me at the center of the court. I raised my paddle over the center court, they raised theirs and we did the traditional high five with our paddles touching.”

Smiles from the inmates and undoubtedly a sense of relief. An awkward moment turned into a touching one. After subsequent games one of the players would always yell, “Group hug, everybody!” They’d meet at the center of the court and tap their paddles.

Afterwards, many of the men lined up to thank Roger and shake his hand. Some said, “God bless you, Roger.” It’s an experience he’ll never forget.

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“I’m impressed with the leadership and staff at Chicago’s Cook County Jail. They do an exceptional job in a challenging environment. The head of a maximum security unit even played pickleball with the inmates. What a terrific role model he is for the rest of the staff. This is the type of behavior that builds bridges and opens lines of communication; much better than the mindset of, ‘Us against them.’ ”

The Future of Pickleball in Jails

While Roger hopes the experience touched the lives of some, it has impacted him greatly. So much so that he’s continuing this program in other facilities. He has reached out to the Washington State Department of Corrections which operates fifteen facilities throughout the state.

So far, the process is going smoothly. The program coordinator for the Washington State Department of Corrections is supportive of including pickleball in their recreational program.

“Pickleball is a simple game and easy to teach, as long as you’re passionate about it,” Roger says. “Skill level and teaching experience really don’t matter. All you need is a willingness to share your passion.”

His hope is that other players will decide to teach the game in their communities.

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He adds, “It would be wonderful if others contacted their local correctional facility, Senior Center, or Boys and Girls Club and said, ‘Let me tell you about a terrific sport called pickleball!’ ”

The Pickleball Haven at Camp West Fork

If you are looking for a pickleball getaway, look no further than Camp West Fork in Montana. Situated a mere 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park and 7 miles from the sky runs of Big Sky, Camp West Fork is an ideal vacation spot for pickleball fanatics.

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Not only do you get to bask in the majestic beauty of the surrounding mountainside, but temperatures are the perfect conditions for pickleball. This is especially true during the months of summer where daytime temperatures reach upwards of the 70’s. During the summer season, the sun illuminates the sky until 9:30 at night, when the temperatures drop to a high of the 50’s. That makes almost any time of the day the perfect time to play pickleball.

Camp West Fork has everything a pickleball lover would desire – a beautiful backdrop, ideal temperatures, and of course…a court! Although the first two have everything to do with Mother Nature, the second is thanks to a couple who fell in love with pickleball, Barry and Zoe Silverman.

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From Courtship to Pickleball Court

The couple first bonded over their love of fly-fishing. Taken away by the beauty that is Montana, the twosome decided to do more of what they love. They purchased a 26 foot Jayco bumper pull bunk house trailer. They attached the rig to a pickup truck, and a lifetime of adventure began.

Five years into their adventure, the two purchased a co-op in Orange County, California called Laguna Woods. They did this as a way to keep their dogs away from Montana’s “mud season.”

While spending time at Laguna Woods, Barry and Zoe stumbled upon some people playing pickleball. With the encouragement of the pickleball players, the Silvermans picked up a paddle and never looked back.

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What drew Barry to the sport was its correlation to ping pong. His father, George Silverman, served the United States Army during World War II. During his time of service, Mr. Silverman became quite the accomplished ping pong player.

As Barry fondly remembered, “He drilled me on the proper strokes and strategies for tournament level play.  I maintain that ping pong is THE closest game of all to pickleball and strategies and shots translate very well.”

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Barry with his father, George

From Passion to Pet Project

Following a great mud season in Laguna, the Silvermans headed back to Big Sky, where they brought along their newfound passion. Barry remembered coming back to the resort and meeting with the parks department.

He suggested, “That one of the four public tennis courts be lined as a dual purpose venue to accommodate both tennis and pickleball.  They were quite receptive and we soon had two pickleball courts on which we put USAPA’s temporary nets.  They gave us a grant which helped purchase the nets.”

Located on the west fork of the Gallatin River, Camp West Fork was born.

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Barry’s passion led him down a path of DIY extremes. Taking the bull by the horns, the Silvermans held this project close to their hearts. They jumped right on the renovations.

As Barry recalled, “I acted as the general contractor on the project and brought my concrete from Belgrade, my court painter and fencer from Polson and ordered equipment from Tennis Court Supply.” The pickleball fanatic beamed with pride. “Scott Moore, National champion and all around great guy, called ours ‘the prettiest courts I have ever played on.’”

The evolution of the pickleball courts continued.

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As Barry explained, “A few years later, we decided to put two courts on our property. We wanted dedicated courts and felt that our 14 acre property was a perfect venue for pickleball courts and the social aspect they provide.”

From Idea to Reality

With courts in place, now all Camp West Fork needed was people to play on them.

Barry and his wife discussed how to go about this endeavor. “After much thought, my wife and I decided that the best avenue for growth of pickleball in our community of 2,500 permanent residents would be by forming a club and charging a token annual fee for membership.”

With an official pickleball league in place, the twosome decided to turn Camp West Fork into the ultimate pickleball destination by offering pickleball boot camps.

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The concept of holding a pickleball camp was first sparked from a conversation with aforementioned pickleball player, Scott Moore.

Barry spoke about the conversation:

“We began talking to Scott Moore about ordering PaddleTek paddles and showed him pictures of the property while sharing our vision of hosting pickleball training camps.  I hold downhill skiing boot camps for my good friends, as I am a certified PSIA instructor.  I found the total immersion they received was so helpful for their skiing that it seemed only natural to offer it to pickleball players as well.  Scott immediately jumped on the concept and we put the first camp together.”

As Barry put it, pickleball boot camp is a total immersion in pickleball covering theory, strategy, stroke analysis, shot selection… just about every facet of the game.  We begin each morning with stretching and warm up.  We work on paddle skills, hand eye coordination and then focus on a single skill each day.

“We hold two planned pickleball sessions daily with the morning being the most focused and intense.  We incorporate training aids, some of which we have developed here exclusively for our campers.  We have a Simon ball machine, which campers can sign up for to practice specific shots.  Afternoons are geared towards open play and utilizing their newly acquired skills.

“We also video tape every camper in a competitive game and analyze their performance with them.  Our final day, we bring in local players from our club to hold a round robin tournament on the two courts.  We can always find players of just the right level to push our campers and test their new skills and strategies in a real live situation.”

Guests usually participate in two sessions a day.  The morning session runs from 8-11 and the afternoon from 3-5.

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If you would like to learn more about Camp West Fork Pickleball, including rates for accommodations, please visit their official website.

Pickleball Ken Shows How to Build a Community around Pickleball

“Pickleball has totally changed my life.”

Those are the words of Ken Marquardt, or Pickleball Ken, as he is affectionately known to friends and fellow players alike.

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Pickleball Ken has taken his life-changing passion and turned it into fodder to transform the pickleball scene of the metro Denver area.

When we last left off with Pickleball Ken it was December of 2015. As the holiday season rolled along, we presented Ken with our Pickleball Central “All Heart” Award alongside the APEX Parks and Recreation District for organizing a Pickleball for Heroes event.

Since then, Pickleball Ken has kept himself pretty busy. Around the same time Pickleball for Heroes was coming to fruition, Pickleball Ken had another iron in the fire. He was going to find a way to get the Denver area outside and playing pickleball!

Fueled by his passion, Pickleball Ken jumped head first into a project that saw the creation of 8 pickleball courts turn into 16 before finally turning into 24! Follow along as we uncover how one person’s dedication can influence a whole community.

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“I have overcome so many challenges in my life.”

As a cancer survivor who also endured two shoulder replacements and two knee replacements, Ken Marquardt has had his share of setbacks. Always an athlete, Ken was crushed to learn that he would no longer to play the sports he loved, such as tennis.

Ken spoke about how he could no longer play tennis to a classmate who travels around in her RV. She informed Ken that they don’t stop at any RV park that doesn’t have pickleball. When Ken informed her that he had never heard of the sport before, his classmate urged that he give it a try.

With his interest piqued, Ken Googled local pickleball courts and came up with one in the Denver area. Ken made the trek and played his first game.

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It was on that day that Ken Marquardt became Pickleball Ken.

“When I started playing, it changed my life. And then I saw other people with sadness in their lives, how they just forgot about that (sadness) when playing pickleball. It’s good for them mentally and physically. I want to share that with everyone. “

Traveling from the north-end of Denver to the sole pickleball court in the area, Ken and a few other local pickleball players agreed that they needed a court closer to where they lived. That’s when Pickleball Ken turned a dream into a community project.

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“The director of APEX  (Park and Recreation District) Mike Mills and I, talked about our community needs outdoor courts. Mike had 10 acres off of 82 and Sims that were free.”

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Mike Mills of APEX

With a place in mind, the project now needed funding. Ken and Mike Mills took their plans to Jefferson County Open Space.  Funds received from Jefferson County Open Space are derived from lottery money, making it tax free dollars.

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The first time Jefferson County Open Space was approached was back in November of 2013. Following a presentation by Pickleball Ken and company, the project was allotted $255,000. This was enough money for the first eight courts to be created.

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From there, the vision grew and funding was approved for eight more courts that were completed in the following year. Now, the project is in its final stages. To the tune of 1.7 million dollars, this 24 court park is going to be completed, and fully operational for all to enjoy.

Looking back at Ken’s initial charitable endeavor with Pickleball for Heroes, this new 24-court facility also pays homage to those who have sacrificed for their community. Ken stated,

“We want to honor all veterans. Whether, firefighters or policemen, and especially the military. And that is why the park is named Community Heroes Park. ”

 

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Not just in name alone, the park also pays homage through a symbolic eagle.

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Although its beauty is undeniable, Ken didn’t feel that displaying an eagle was enough to give thanks to our servicemen and women. That is why he organized the aforementioned Pickeball for Heroes event where proceeds went to veterans with traumatic brain injury.

Using pickleball for charitable efforts didn’t end there. As the park has grown, so has its community outreach. Pickleball Ken and the Denver pickleball community started putting on clinics for autistic and disabled children. As Ken fondly recalled,

“I had a mother come up to me and their son was 17 years old and never stood up in his life. And she had tears in her eyes and she said, ‘Thank you, Ken.’ And it just totally changes my life and other people’s lives. And so, I wanted to share that with everybody.”

With his passion and dedication, Pickleball Ken has blown the door open for pickleball in the Denver area. Seeing firsthand how pickleball transformed his life, he is now sharing that gift in a park made by the community, for the community. Who knows what Pickleball Ken will be up to the next time we check in with him?

 

 

 

Tournament Tips: Arizona’s Sun City Festival Pickleball Club on Brackets and Delegation

For Ann Purvis, pickleball is a community affair. Seven years ago, her husband bought her a paddle and they embarked on their pickleball journey together. The two of them began taking lessons together. As they honed their skills, Ann and her husband began teaching the rest of their family the joys of the sport. Now, Ann enjoys playing with her children and grandchildren when they all get together.

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Ann Purvis at an archaeological dig in Mesa Verde.

 

Ann became fully immersed in Buckeye, Arizona’s Sun City Festival Pickleball Club. Four years after she first picked up a paddle, Ann found herself with a unique opportunity. The President of the Club needed volunteers to learn how to put on a tournament. Six members volunteered. One of them was Ann. With three years of experience under her belt, she was kind enough to share some advice with PickleballCentral.

What is the name of your tournament?

The Sun City Festival In House Pickleball Tournament.

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?

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The Sun City Festival Pickleball Club. Our club currently has a little over 500 members.

When was your tournament?

It was this past year. March 20 through 23, with a scheduled rain day on March 24.

Where was your tournament?

Sun City Festival Pickleball Courts located in Buckeye, Arizona.

How many players registered for the tournament?

We had 162 registrants.

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?

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Eight outdoor courts. Hence the need for a rain day!

What events/brackets did you offer? 

Since we are a retirement community, we broke the brackets into skill levels. We wanted new members to have the tournament experience and created round robin brackets just for them. They were able to have a tournament experience while playing with people they play with every day.

Did you have a team working with you? What were their delegated tasks/roles?

Absolutely! The more people who are involved, the better the tournament and the learning experience. We had lots of committees so people did not have to spend their entire lives on the tournament. Committees were:

Set Up and Clean Up
Vendors
Volunteers
Photography
Referees
Food/Snacks/Hydration
Raffle
First Aid/Safety
Registration
We also did a lot of cross-training and mentoring.

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?

We did have sponsors. Most of them run small businesses in the community and people who participated in the tournament knew them. We charged $25 and a banner. We displayed the banners prominently.

We also had vendors who set up tables and sold their wares. Some of these were from the community and some were national. We offered them a choice of days since there was another tournament going on at the same time. Most came for two days.  The fee was $25. We provided the tables.

Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?

We did have a Food/Snacks/Hydration table where we offered players and volunteers oranges, bananas, cookies, pretzels, water and Gatorade. That was to support the players. We also had a food vendor who sold breakfast, lunch and drinks at the event.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?

This was an in-house tournament fee of $20.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?

Our club hosted the USAPA Nationals for the first six years the tournament was held. It is important to know that this tournament was started in order to teach our members how to put on a tournament and how to participate in a real tournament.

What are your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?

Choose your team carefully. Everyone on the team must be a self-starter and must be willing to take on other jobs to make sure the tournament works. The goal is to have the players enjoy their play and to make sure only the team knows when things go wrong.

Having mentors on the team was very helpful. They knew several tournament jobs and were able to help others learn and fill in when there was a problem. Also, having people on the team and in the community who knew how to operate pickleballtournaments.com was a great help.

Develop a checklist and a budget for your tournament.

Most importantly, having a supportive community and club are keys to success.

Tournament Tips: State Games of Mississippi on the Importance of Volunteerism

“I believe that volunteerism is an important contributor to the quality of life in all of  our communities and believe that we should all pitch in as we are able.”

Those are the words of Ron Eaton, tournament director for the State Games of Mississippi. Being a former racquetball, cyclist, and tennis player, Ron picked up his first pickleball paddle 20 months ago. The physicality and mental challenges of pickleball is what initially hooked Ron. However, it was the great social circle that got him to stay.

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Ron Eaton (L) with Men’s Doubles Partner, Jason David (R)

When USAPA Ambassadors in his area, Tom and Deonne Linenberger, approached Ron about taking the lead of the tournament, he couldn’t turn them down. After all, they worked tirelessly to build pickleball in his community. Ron noted, they took the pickleball community from “a very small base of people into robust program that has improved the quality of life for many people.” So when the Linenbergers asked for a helping hand, Ron Eaton was more than happy to step up. 

What is the name of your tournament?

State Games of Mississippi. We are 1 of 35 members of the National Congress of State Games.

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Mississippi State Games Medalist showing off his award.

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?

We are the Mississippi Gulf Coast Pickleball.

When was your tournament? 

May 5 & 6, 2017.

Where was your tournament? 

A. J. Holloway Sports Complex in Biloxi, Mississippi

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Sportsmanship brings the community together.

How many players registered for the tournament?

97 players registered.

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?

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We used up to 8 outdoor courts, as needed.

What events/brackets did you offer?  

Round Robin format, USAPA rules, unrated players/brackets.

We offered juniors 17 and under, 18+

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One of the main reasons Ron joined the tournament was its inclusion of all ages

35+, 50+, 55+, 60+, 65+,  70+,  75+

We also had Men and Women’s open doubles for advanced players.

Did you have a team working with you?  What were their delegated tasks/roles? 

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Ron handing out medals to gold winners in Men’s Doubles 75+, George Hults (C) and Whitner Church (R)

Yes, the tournament committee consisted of 5 people and myself. We had shared tasks and roles. They included:

  • Strategic planning and marketing
  • Administrative
  • Rules and tournament design
  • Volunteer sourcing

Tasks that fell under any and all of the roles above included:

  • Establishment of tournament priorities
    • In our case:
      1. Hospitality
      2. Inclusion of all ages (Really wanted to get youth involved)
      3. “Noon to noon” tournament
      4. Deliver most competitive fields possible
  • Establish marketing outreach
  • Confirm outdoor facility as well as indoor rain venue
  • Ensure tournament medical response protocol is established
  • Figure out registration and fee collection processes
  • Partner matching
  • Handle all pre-tournament inquiries

We also had volunteers who performed half-day assignments. Their duties included tasks such as:

  • Court set up
  • Reception center
  • Registration packet delivery
  • Running the tournament desk, including real-time bracket posting
  • Award confirmations
  • Award presentations
  • Tournament announcements
  • Runners to assist players to correct courts
  • Runners to bring back score cards to tournament desks
  • Score keeping and refereeing
  • Hydration planning- bottled water and PowerAde in several locations

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?

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State Games of Mississippi

Yes.  PickleballCentral  was very supportive in providing tournament balls, registration bags, and banners.  McAlister’s Deli graciously provided the box lunches.

Was the tournament a fund-raising event? For what charity or cause? How much did you raise?

The State Games of Mississippi is a privately-sponsored, non-profit organization that promotes amateur athletics and healthy lifestyles for residents of all ages and abilities.  Pickleball was added as a new game to the SGM venue of 38 sponsored sports on its 25th Anniversary.

Playing pickleball at the MS State Games

Did you offer refreshments?

Yes.  Bottled Water, PowerAde, bananas, apples, Nature Valley Power Bar Products, and 1 McAlister’s Box lunch for registrants and volunteers.  Nothing was sold at the tournament.

Did you charge a registration fee?  How much?  

Yes. $30.  Registration packet included a T Shirt, hand towel, first serve bracelet, and several miscellaneous items.

Officers Brian Acuna (L) and Deputy Tyrus Mack (R) sporting gold medals

Officers Brian Acuna (L) and Deputy Tyrus Mack (R) sporting gold medals

Anything special or unique about your tournament?  

It was the first all age tournament of  its type in Mississippi.  It was also the first sponsored tournament hosted by Mississippi Gulf Coast Pickleball.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Pickleball

What is your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?  

A tournament, particularly a first tournament, is much like a first impression in that you only get one chance to make it. An event that registrants and volunteers alike enjoy, feel included, feel challenged, and look forward to the next one is a goal to strive for.

It's all about the future of pickleball.

It’s all about the future of pickleball.

Our committee, with no pickleball tournament experience until this year, attended, observed, and learned from other tournaments. We held “mini” practice tournaments that built our experience and confidence.  A committee with varied skill sets, respect for one another, attention to detail, and a willingness to “real time” manage the tournament from announcement to breakdown will be appreciated by all.