Tournament Tips: Directing the Grand Canyon State Games and Pacific Northwest Regional

Anne Reynolds has been playing pickleball for six years and is in her third year of tournament directing. Although there were some challenges along the way, her love for the sport and the help of her fellow pickleball fanatics got her through the rough patches. Here are some tips she wanted to share so you can avoid some of the bumps in the road.


What is the name of your tournament?
I run two tournaments. The Grand Canyon State Games in El Mirage Arizona and the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament in Bend, Oregon.

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?
The Grand Canyon State Games are hosted by Pueblo El Mirage Pickleball Club. The Regional tournament is  hosted by the Bend Pickleball Club.

When was your tournament?
The Grand Canyon State Games’ tournament was February 22-26th, 2017.  The Pacific Northwest Regional was August 12-14th, 2016. I’m going on my 3rd year as Tournament Director for the Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament and 2 years with the Grand Canyon State Games.

Where was your tournament?
The Grand Canyon State Games are held at Pueblo El Mirage RV Golf Resort in El Mirage, Arizona. The Pacific Northwest Regional is held at Pine Nursery Park in Bend, Oregon.


How many players registered for the tournament?
Grand Canyon State Games had 598 players. The Pacific Northwest Regional had 343. This year we have over 400 so far.

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?
Both facilities have 16 outdoor courts with permanent nets.

What events/brackets did you offer?
For the Grand Canyon State Games we offered:
Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles by Age 19+, 35+, 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+.
Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles by Skill groups 3.0-5.0 within age group 10-49, 50+.

Next year at Grand Canyon State Games, I will have the same age event as previous years, but will change the skill event to  a skill/age. Skill level 3.0-5.0 (19+, 35+, 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+).


For the Pacific Northwest Regional we offered: Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles and both Men’s & Women’s Singles. Skill only 3.0-5.0.

This year (2017) it will be a skill/age Event. Mixed Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles, and Singles. Skill level 3.0-4.5, (19+, 35+, 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+).

We are also hosting the Professional Pickleball Federation (PPF) in conduction with our tournament. All 5.0 players will be playing either a Senior Pro event (50+) or the pro event, and playing for prize money.


Did you have a team working with you? What were their delegated tasks/roles?
At the Grand Canyon State Games, I handle all registrations and sponsors/vendors. At both venues, we have leads for the various functions at the tournament. All leads are responsible for finding their volunteers, scheduling, and training. Lead duties include:

  • Registration (Their job is to greet players, check them in, and give them player bags. It is very important to have the most friendly people at that position as they are the first impression of a tournament).
  • Event Desk (Their duties are to print score sheets, enter scores, and keep the tournament running, and players on courts).
  • First Aid (We have persons with a medical background at the station).
  • Operations (They set up pop-ups, chairs, tables, banners, PA system, and tear it down. They also clean the courts, check heights of nets, place new balls each day, keep water containers full, and empty the trash).
  • Players’ Snacks (They purchase the players’ snacks. They cut fruits, and provide goodies).
  • Referees (Leaders of referees get commitments from players who agree to ref, and schedule them. Ref leaders check completed score sheets for accuracy, turns them into the Event Desk for posting, and handle rule questions).
  • Line Judges (They are in charge of training and scheduling line judge teams.  Having line judge teams already in place is a real plus, saving  you about an hour in the day’s schedule. We no longer have to beg spectators to line judge).

At the Pacific Northwest Regional, I have another person helping me with Registrations. I design and order medals & shirts (or whatever we have as a player’s give away) and  get commitments from sponsors/vendors. We have the same set up as far as leads as the Training and scheduling of line judge teams. Having line judge teams already in place  is a real plus, saving  you about an hour in the days schedule. No more begging of spectators to line judge.

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?
Yes, I contact all potential sponsors.

For Grand Canyon State Games:

  • PickleballCentral – Donated balls and player bags
  • Onix Sports – Donated $750 cash
  • Pickleball Bling – Donated paddles
  • Selkirk Sport- Donated paddles and $350 cash

For Pacific Northwest Regional:

  • Big Country RV (Last year’s title sponsor. They donated $5,000).
  • Pickleball Zone-Bend (This year’s title sponsor. They are donating $5,000).

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

Grand Canyon State Games (Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission) uses all the proceeds to fund sponsored youth sports here in Arizona.  Specifically, these sports include Native American track and field and Native American cross country, baton twirling, dodge ball, 2 diving events and golf. We raised approximately $25,000.

Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?
Yes. In addition to having water, we also have an electrolyte product (Sqwincher) in one of our 5 gallon water containers.  It has really cut down on cramping and dehydration. At both venues we have cut bananas, oranges,  power bars (bars are donated), and  pretzels. Both tournaments have food vendors with lunch for sale.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?
Grand Canyon State Games charges $50 registration fee plus $10 per event. Pacific Northwest Regional charges $50 registration fee plus $5 per event.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?
Grand Canyon State Games is one of the largest tournaments in the country and draws the best of the best!

Pacific Northwest Regional is located within a 159 acre sports park. There are 3 mountain ranges in full view when you are on the courts.  The town of Bend is a popular destination spot and is known for its river running through town, numerous lakes, top rated golf courses and a plethora of breweries.


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

  1. Get your volunteers early. They are the ones who make a tournament a success!
  2. During the tournament walk around, talk to the players and make them feel welcome.
  3. Make sure your event is tidy, picking up trash as needed. Check bathrooms and thank your volunteers throughout the day.
  4. Have training for your referees and line judges.
  5. When you have hiccups, don’t panic – relax and smile, because most times no one knows there’s a problem, only you.

Tournament Tips: The Happy Trails Classic and the Power of Committees

Mike McKay has directed two tournaments which involved over 20 committees of volunteers. Thanks to his strong sense of organization and the teams’ efforts, each competition has run smoothly. If you want to get an idea of what it takes to manage a big group of volunteers, Mike is your guy!  


Mike McKay (center) with his pickleball buddies.

What is the name of your tournament?

The Happy Trails Classic. This was the 14th year of the tournament. As for me, this the second one that I’ve directed. I’ve helped in different capacities in the past as more of a worker bee. 

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

The Happy Trails Pickleball Club in Surprise, Arizona. It’s a northwestern suburb of Phoenix.

When was your tournament?

January 16 through the 20th. Our tournament ran over five days. 

Where was your tournament?

Happy Trails RV Resort in Surprise, Arizona. 

How many players registered for the tournament?

455 players registered.

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

We had 10 pickleball courts. 4 were temporary courts. They were all outdoor. It’s a blessing in Arizona. There’s not too much indoor stuff because weather isn’t too bad. This year though, we had some weather to contend with. On Thursday, 10 in the morning, we had showers water down the courts, and had to suspend play. From Thursday to Friday, we had to dry the courts four different times.


The pickleball community gets together to dry off the courts.

We had to put beach towels on top of the court to help dry, and then wring out the towels. Across from our venue, we had to go the laundromat, and dump quarters into it. We had to go 4 times! Everyone is hunched over, dragging towels over, ruining our backs. It was quite a challenge, and the club stepped to it. It was really a great memory for me, and I think the community in total. 

What events/brackets did you offer?  

It was men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles. Our tournament was a culmination of skill and age. We had 50-59, 60-69, and 70 & up.

We hired to keep track of our brackets. We got a phone call from four guys in the area that were over 80 years young.They wanted to know if we would get them medals. We ended up making that work out. scheduled them in the 70+ bracket first thing in the morning to play each other. They got their medals. It was a great memory.


The Event Desk overseeing a successful tournament.

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

We had over 20 committees that performed a lot of different tasks. 210 to 215 volunteers over the course of fives days  with many people doing many jobs different days. We try to keep the shifts shorter about 4 hours max so it’s fun for the people and not so much quote-unquote work. If you make that work fun, everyone is going to have a much more enjoyable time.

  • Check-in
  • Runners (They keep the courts full. To be timely and efficient with your day, as soon as you get the results from the most distant court to the tournament event desk, the faster you’re putting the next match out.)
  • Run the Boards at the Event Desk (Get the announcements out to keep the courts full.)
  • Court Maintenance
  • Hospitality
  • Parking Shuttles (Players had to park 3/10 of a mile away. People are directed to the parking lot, and then a shuttle crew with golf carts would cart people back and forth from 6 in the morning until the end of the day.)
  • Photography
  • Seating
  • Managing Referee
  • Safety Committee 
  • Social Committee  (This included overseeing a dinner and dance.)
  • Vendors
  • Signage
  • Lunches 
  • Technical Support
  • Posting (This person gets the results from the Runner at the Event Desk. They would input the results into software. They would also update the brackets so friends and families of players can figure out which court their loved ones are playing on.)
  • Fruit Gatherers

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

We don’t really seek out sponsors. Our resort really doesn’t allow us to hang banners on the fencing. We did have PickleballCentral. They were great to us. They gave us 625 of their nice, bright orange drawstring bags that we used as player gifts. We’ve got 455 players, so we had a bag for each of them. We had all these items that we gathered and purchased for each player, typically a t-shirt and a bottle of water.

We stuffed about 500 of them. Here in our park, we strung out 40 tables to fill these bags. We’ve got groups of ladies and men that will play 1 to 3 on Thursday, and after they play they’d stuff these bags. So we put food items, water, notices for other tournaments, pens, and gifts. We even had toothbrushes.

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

It was a little bit of a fundraiser. We take the money for court improvements. We’ve benefited by benches, shade structures, and new nets for the resort.


Mike McKay and his wife after a hard-played game.

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

Here at our resort, we have a little restaurant. It’s all run by volunteers. We are fortunate to have this group of volunteers.  We had Waldorf salads. We had ciabatta sandwiches. Bratwurst was a big hit on the rainy day! We had chicken salad croissants. There were just so many great options. Each lunch consisted of  a menu item, chips, and a drink for $5.00. By doing all of this with volunteers, it keeps the food costs down.

We went through 12 jars of pickles! When you play this silly sport, people get leg cramps. Vinegar helps with the leg cramps. Players carry around packets of mustard for the same reason.

We also had 10 dozen donuts every morning to start.

We are huge on hospitality. Everything is free. I don’t care if you’re a player. If you’re playing, and your family or friends want something, they can help themselves. I don’t care if you’re a player or someone walking down the sidewalk.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?

It was $45.00 to register, and then $5.00 for each event. So if you played men’s doubles and mixed, it was $45 plus $10.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?

It’s a very welcoming tournament. It’s got a great reputation. And the demand has grown so fast. told us that our tournament was the first time women’s doubles filled before the men’s!

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

If somebody is putting a tournament together, include a lot of people. You’re going to need a lot of help. Start quite a bit early. You’re going to have a lot of challenges pop up. You’ll have to revert to “plan b” a lot of times.

Try to make it as fun as possible, especially for the volunteers. It’s just pickleball. Nobody’s making a living at this. It’s a very social game that brings people together. 

Start early enough. Don’t wait too long to start. I benefited from taking over from someone else. A lot of people have done it 12 years prior to me. I’m already talking over something that’s in place instead of starting anew.

Our tournament ended the January 20th. We have next January scheduled already. We have meetings and dates already set. All the committee chairs are established for next year as well.

I think there’s a tournament checklist on USAPA. I would recommend anyone new to this to check out the guidelines: Tournament director’s checklist. There’s a lot of food for thought on there that’s very helpful.

Running your event through is great and is a very reasonable fee.


Tournament Tips: The Delaware Senior Olympics, Finding the Right Resources

Sue Brooker helps run the Delaware Senior Olympics in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. With over 150 participants at each tournament, she relies on a group of volunteers to manage the busy event. We appreciate her taking the time to share her work with with us! 

Susan Brooker and Georgia Billger

What is the name of your tournament?

The Delaware Senior Olympics Pickleball Tournament. Every other year we have the opportunity to qualify for the National Senior Olympics.  In order to qualify, you must come in first through fourth in the Delaware Senior Olympics Pickleball Tournament. Our qualifiers are going to Birmingham, AL the first week of June to play in the Nationals which should see over 600 pickleball players from throughout the 50 states of US and Canada.

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

The Delaware Senior Olympics hosted the tournament. We are a not-for-profit, volunteer, sports and fitness organization with a 20+ member Board of Directors. Founded in 1991, the organization’s mission is to promote healthy lifestyles and fitness for senior adults through competitive and non-competitive athletic activities. 

 DE Senior Olympics 002

When was the tournament?

I’ve presided over two tournaments so far. One in September of 2015 and one in September of 2016. I’ll be managing another one this year on September 8th through the 10th. We’re going from two days to three days. Also, since this is a non-qualifying year, we are expanding the participation from just 50+ to 90+ age group  to 30+ year-olds to 90+ year-olds.

I also participate as a Sponsor for numerous small tournaments in Delaware and Maryland yearly as well, offering my expertise wherever I could. I was also instrumental in bringing the first pickleball pro, Sarah Ansboury, to the state last October to offer seminars to over 100 participates.

Where was your tournament?

The first tournament took place in 2015 at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. Last year and this year, our tournament will again take place at the Levy Court Kent County Recreational Center 1683 New Burton Road, Dover, DE  19904; 302-744-2495.

How many players registered for the tournament?

In 2015 we had 146 players. In 2016, we hit capacity at 175. We had to close registration three weeks early since we were full. That is another reason we are going to three days this year. We have players come from all over the United States. From California to Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, and Connecticut. And I’m only mentioning a few states. We have always had more out-of-state than in-state players. Our tournament is recognized as one of the best  tournaments in a five state surrounding area.

How many courts were available for the tournament?

There were twelve indoor courts. 

What events/brackets did you offer? 

Women’s and Men’s Doubles plus Mixed Doubles and Men’s and Women’s Singles. Age brackets play 30 to 39, 40 to 49 and 50 to 54 and every five years. Skill levels are asked so we can put top skilled players in byes as well as against one another. According to National Senior Games rules, you must play in your own age group, not by skill. 

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

I’ve always believed that you’re only as good as the volunteer staff around you. I have captains that oversee each area. They recruit others to help them and then report to me if any issues arise. These key captains are:

  • Referees
  • Fundraising
  • First Aid
  • Sign In
  • IT (since one of the first tasks was to bring our tournament from handwriting to computerizing through
  • Master of Ceremonies/ Announcer
  • Set up
  • Final Clean Up.  Each captain recruits others to help them and they report to me.

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

Most sponsors want their name out there! I have been very lucky to get sponsors that offer giveaways at no cost. They just want a place at the tournament to sell their products. All these sponsors are listed on our Website with We also post their banners at no cost in our facility during the tournament.
I continue to court my sponsors year long! Just ask PickleballCentral! Last year, they gave us sunglasses to give away and we posted picks after the tournament of players wearing the glasses. We took them to Oregon and Florida this past month, too.Thanks Again PickleballCentral!

Susan with fellow pickleballer, Diane.

Was the tournament a fundraising event? For what charity or cause? How much did you raise?
We at Delaware Senior Olympics have been involved with helping to raising money for YMCA and Toys for Tots.  We have fundraising tables at the tournament where we sell sponsor giveaways. We raised over $1,100 last year at the fundraising table.
Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?
We did in 2015. We had water containers and took sandwich orders. However, last year we found that the best way to go was with food trucks. We will do that again this year. Our facility has a number of water fountains that you can fill water containers with.
Did you charge a registration fee? Yes How much?
We charge $20 which is a membership to Delaware Senior Olympics. It is $11 per event entered.
Anything special or unique about your tournament?
We believe in having fun from the beginning to end. We make a big deal out of handing out medals. We take pictures of all winners and have it so that they can download them for free. We also have a great award ceremony that is decorated with our banner and our slogan for the year. Last year it was, “Pickleballers Don’t Quit!” The year before’s slogan was, “Past, Present, Future of Pickleball!”

Sue with pickleball partner, Patty Woodruff

What are your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?
Learn to be flexible and listen to your volunteers. They know how to do their jobs! Keep it light and fun. Play pickleball in the tournament. That makes you accessible to everyone. Walk around and see how things are going.
Make sure you have a first-aid table manned by nurses or CPR-trained professionals. We had 3 AEDs (automated external defibrillator) at our facility, and brought another one as well. It is surprising how few tournaments realize the importance of AEDs. We have also a cooler full of ice and first-aid kits.
Do a little planning everyday, and learn from others who are in the know!  Reach out to your local and surrounding states Ambassadors. They can help too.

Tournament Tips: Fundraising Tournaments, The Pink and Dink Tournament

Susie Brumfield is a tournament director for the Lake Wildwood Pickleball Club, located in Penn Valley, California. During her time as a tournament director, she learned a few key things about how to run a tournament for a local charity. She was kind enough to share some of that knowledge here.

What is the name of your tournament?

The last one we did was called the Pink and Dink Tournament, which was huge! We came up with the name for breast cancer/pink in October and dink shots in pickleball.

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

We’re the Lake Wildwood Pickleball Club. It was just a small group (when I started). We had about 12 people and two courts. Now we have 185 members! We’re a big pickleball family. Everyone’s friends. It’s fun to get out and play and have tournaments during the year.

Pickleball Gals at the Go Pink and Dink Tournament

When was your tournament?

The tournament took place on October 1, 2016.

Where was your tournament?

It took place at Lake Wildwood Commodore Park, Lake Wildwood, California.

How many players registered for the tournament?

We had lots of people. Over 55 teams entered which amounted to about 110 players.

What events/brackets did you offer?

We had a woman’s team, a men’s team and mixed doubles. And we did it all in one day!

Tournament action on the courts

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

Yes. We had 12 people. I had a wonderful team. Whenever you needed something, before you finished asking, it was done. The people were enthusiastic.

I had a to-do list for volunteers posted on the tournament day. So when the volunteers came in, they divvied it up. It just got done. Some of the tasks included:

  • Emcee – Make sure they have a timeline of events so they know what’s going on.
  • Publicity – Have someone in charge of brochures, social media, signs and contacting local businesses.
  • Gift Bagger – We had a gift bag and goodie stuffing party. We wrote thank you notes. We had someone making trophies. PickleballCentral was great. They gave us bags. “
  • Silent Auction/Raffle Coordinator – We solicited items for this. Independent people in your local area are more generous.
  • Scheduling – I had everything on an Excel sheet. Who was playing who and when.

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

We went around to the banks, grocery stores, and movie theaters. The local hamburger store SPD Market supplied all of our hamburgers, chips, foods, granola bars, bananas and coffee. The whole thing!

For the silent auction, some of the vineyards around here gave a private tasting for eight people. And some of the restaurants gave coupons. The movie theater gave a little package with popcorn and all that stuff.

Trophies for the Go Pink and Dink Tournament

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

The money went to the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation to support their fight against breast cancer. We raised $6,800. It was pretty  good for our first time. We were really pleased.

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

In the morning we provided coffee, juice, water, bananas, granola bars, and grapes. We also had goodie bags loaded with visors with Lake Wildwood logo, Chapstick, water, discount coupons for PickleballCentral and miscellaneous items donated by local businesses.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?

We charged $35 each or $60 if you played in two categories; i.e. men’s or women’s singles and mixed doubles. The fee included a choice of burger or veggie burger, chips, soda or water and a cookie. 100% of the proceeds went to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?

PickleballCentral gave us the All Heart Award!

Trophies were awarded and we also gave away several nice paddles that were provided by pickleball manufacturers. The trophies were hand-made and consisted of a fake pickle inside a mason jar with pickleballs on top. It was cute!

We did a “dinking game” at the beginning of each game during the tournament . The game ended at 5 points. It helped people remember to dink and gave them a little bit of practice as well. A trophy was awarded to the overall dinking game winners.

All In Good Fun!

We also had a “swear jar” where every time someone said a bad word on the court leading up to the tournament, they were charged $0.25. Nobody could keep track, so everybody pitched in $2 or so at the beginning of the tournament.

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

We had a lot of teams; doing it all in one day was too much. Something we would do in the future is to split the tournament into two days.

I would also have a point-of-contact person so people who know where to go after they finished playing their game. There should be a central place for them to figure out which court to go to next.

Any parting advice?

Just a reminder that “thank you’s” to sponsors go a long way. We made them a priority.

Tournament Tips: 300+ Competitors, Georgia Mountain Pickleball Fall Classic

Peggy Castorri is a tournament director for Georgia Mountain Pickleball, located in Hiawassee, Georgia. As the pickleball scene in her community continues to grow, so do their tournaments. Here are some tips from Peggy on how to direct a tournament with over 300 participants.

What is the name of your tournament?

The Georgia Mountain Pickleball Fall Classic which started in 2015 as a local tournament, which then grew to a nationally promoted tournament.

Was there a group hosting the tournament?

We are Georgia Mountain Pickleball.

When was your tournament?

The tournament took place Friday through Sunday the weekend of September 16, 2016. This upcoming year will be the same weekend September 15, 16, and 17

Where was your tournament?

The location for the tournament was our picturesque Towns County Pickleball Complex, Hiawassee, Georgia. This complex was formerly abandoned and dilapidated tennis courts, and just days before the first years’ tournament 2 years ago, the courts were transformed into 14 permanently dedicated pickleball courts.

Georgia Mountain Pickleball

How many players registered for the tournament?

We had more than 350 people from 11 states –  from Arizona and Colorado in the west;  from Canada down to South Florida and Texas.

What events/brackets did you offer?

We wanted to be as broad as possible, so we offered a variety of skills and age levels in Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. Age group 10+, 50+, 60+ and 70+. Skill levels 3.0-5.0.  All ages 5.0 players. This year we will add Singles to the mix.

Georgia Mountain Game

(Credit: Paul Aaron)

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

For scheduling purposes, we used and they basically ran the operations on the ground the days of the tournament.  PT handled all registration and scheduling, whatever we needed they took care of it quickly, accurately and efficiently.  

Since we offered referees for all 5.0 matches and Finals, we decided to have Marsha Fresno handle this responsibility during the tournament.

The support from our local players is what makes the tournament flow and be fun. These are suggested committees.

  • Sponsorships
  • Parking
  • First aid/health
  • Gatekeepers
  • Prep and Take down
  • Hospitality
  • Meet-and-greet

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

We solicited for sponsors. Months before the tournament,  I attended local rotary club meetings and business breakfasts to let the business community know what was coming up. There were various levels of sponsorships available. Hospitality tent, T-shirt,  court, coupon booklet, and those who paid to have a marketing item placed in the player bags. We had all types of sponsors and preferred to have non- competing sponsors for the large sponsor packages. In other words, only one real estate company was on the T-shirt, however another real estate company could have a different type of sponsor and signage.


We also had some on-site vendors including Real Time Pain Relief, a popular pain relief ointment for players. a local eye doctor who specializes in providing sports eyeglasses, and a local booster club hosted their fundraiser.

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

Our complimentary hydration tent was filled with water, fruits, nuts, and homemade banana bread.  The main on-site food vendor sold grilled burgers and dogs as well as hummus, candy bars, baked goods, drinks and chips and utilized the profits for their annual school fundraiser.

bob Levy

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?

We charged a registration fee of $35 plus $5 for additional events and the Meet And Greet was $10 which did not include alcohol.

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

Decide early the tone and theme of the tournament – Charity, National, Local, Regional, Doubles, Mixed, Round Robin, etc. Begin 6- 9 months in advance.

Share the workload and potential for proceeds with other community organizations.

Farm out professional help where your budget allows.

Make each player feel special – whether they win or lose.

Cemented: The Success Story of Seymour Rifkind

CEMENTED: The Success Story of Seymour Rifkind

“I will be the 1969 State All-Around Champion and State Parallel Champion.”

These are the words that 16-year-old Seymour Rifkind etched into wet cement on a hot summer night in 1967. This was the same cement that he used to anchor the parallel bars into the ground that he built in his backyard. “I had a lot of my teammates come over and practice on the bars,” the International Gymnastic Competitor Gold and Bronze medal winner fondly recalled.

“It was there for everyone to see. I shared that goal and dream with others. When I had injuries, when I was tired, burnt out, didn’t feel like working out, they would be the ones who would say, ‘Hey, remember you said you would be State Champion?’”

Two years later, Seymour Rifkind became the 1969 State All-Around Champion and State Parallel Champion.

Seymour Rifkind on the cover of The Modern Gymnast Magazine in 1969

Seymour Rifkind on the cover of The Modern Gymnast Magazine in 1969

“If you do everything you promise yourself, then your belief system is extremely powerful. In your mind the goal is already accomplished.” It’s this exact mantra that has propelled Rifkind from a High School standout in the field of gymnastics into an international superstar.

The Strength of Family

With a DIY mindset and drive to succeed, Rifkind has parlayed that success by creating his own marketing firm, becoming a best-selling author and founding the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA).

The need to succeed wasn’t something that Seymour Rifkind just woke up and decided one day. It was a gene he was born with. As the first-born son of a Holocaust survivor, Seymour understood the importance of family from an early age.

“There are many studies and books written on children of Holocaust survivors,” recalled the eldest Rifkind boy, “One trait is a strong motivating factor to be successful not just for themselves, but their parents.”

An estimated 11 million people died during the mass execution known as the Holocaust. This number includes many of the family members of Albert Rifkind. “My father lost his siblings. Two other brothers. He felt guilty for surviving. He felt his older brother was smarter. His younger brother was the kindest. My father was the troublemaker.”

Coping with the loss of losing his beloved family, Albert Rifkind was determined to provide the family he created with everything they could ever need. The guilt-ridden survivor emigrated to the United States without knowing a lick of English. He never passed the 10th grade, instead turning to the workforce to provide for his family.

Seymour Rifkind at the Ironman Triathlon

Seymour Rifkind at the Ironman Triathlon

This exhibition of work ethic and sacrifice paired with his father’s stories of survival resonated with a young Seymour.

“It became extremely important to me to make him happy, make him proud. I was the first born Rifkind son, and I took that as a major responsibility. The Rifkinds had survived another generation.”

Although the Rifkind brood had everything they needed thanks to the sweat of their father’s brow, there was little money to be had. The reality of their situation as a poor family in the 1960’s was that the young men in the Rifkind household wouldn’t be able to attend college. Therefore, they would have to enlist in the army. This was during the height of the Vietnam War. “I knew people that graduated, turned 18, went to Nam and in six months they were gone.”

As Seymour’s peers found themselves being drafted, the savvy teen needed a plan that would get him into college and away from the battle lines. Aware of how war ravaged his father’s family was, Seymour sought a path to freedom through extracurricular activities. It was during this formative time that the driven teenager discovered his ticket to higher education: gymnastics.

“In PE class I did the most pull-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups. I was a small guy with innately good strength in proportions of my body.” It was these characteristics that led him to become a standout on the parallel bars. As his aspirations to compete at the college level became clear to coaches, the Head Coach at Michigan State University said, “You’re a talented kid. A good parallel bar specialist, but to get a scholarship to college, you need to compete in all the events.”

That was all Seymour needed to hear.

Hard Work’s Reward

With two years to graduate, Seymour Rifkind began the intense training that has become his trademark. There were five events that he needed to excel in to become the well-rounded star athlete he dreamed of being. They were parallel bars, rings, high bar, floor exercise, pommel horse.

Seymour Rifkind's 21st Century Samurai book

Rif’s book on the path to success and fulfillment.

“Pommel horse would be my greatest challenge, so I borrowed one from the school. I took it home and set it up in the basement. A friend came over and I told him that I wasn’t quitting until I did two circles around the horse.” Saying it out loud makes it a reality. With blistered hands, Seymour refused to come up for dinner when his mom called. His friend went home.

Finally, his dad came home from work at 11:30 that night. He came downstairs and said to Seymour, “What is this? You’ve had enough! You’ve been doing it for 9 hours already. Enough is enough!” Before heading back upstairs, his father turned around one last time. “Ugh. You’re so damn stubborn.”

Stubborn indeed. At 2:30 AM, Seymour finally nailed the two circles.

It was during this time that Seymour built his parallel bars in the backyard. “I got pipes, found oars from a row boat, dug holes and poured cement.”

And it was in that cement, that he cemented his legacy. Two years after etching his goals and aspirations into the foundation, the soon-to-be graduate stamped his ticket to college. The rest is history.

Upon graduating college, Seymour Rifkind would go on to become an International Gymnastic Competitor Gold and Bronze medal winner. Acknowledging the example set by his father, the advice given by a college coach and the encouragement of his peers, Seymour realized that he didn’t accomplish his goals alone.

“It’s a mixture of success and luck. There’s a lot of people who work hard, but they’re not successful and don’t go the right way. You need to surround yourself with those who share your visions. Put forth the work ethic and sacrifice.” The ability to separate himself from the tunnel-vision athlete and step into the role of a leader who sees the big picture is what led him to become a coach. Rif competed in an Iron Man Triathlon, and using the wisdom that was passed onto him, he’s since coached over 25 All-Americans and worked with five Olympic gymnasts.

Following his successful sports career, Seymour Rifkind met athletic retirement with yet another journey. He started his own marketing firm. Through this endeavor he’s been able to share his visions and work ethic with like-minded people. Seymour’s success has bred the success of many others, and continues to do so with his book, 21st Century Samurai: The Secret Path to Success and Fulfillment.

Much like his father, Seymour prides himself in his ability to provide for his family. He wants his children to live an even better life than he did. Spending quality time with those he loves is something near and dear to his heart.

A New Dream for Pickleball

“I’ve always been a big sports nut and had season tickets to the Bears for 30 years. I had a goal. I wanted to visit all the different NFL stadiums, but only when they played the Bears.” He loved the opportunity to see new communities, meet different people, but most of all, allow for some quality time with his wife and two sons.


Rif in the orange shirt, lower right corner, competing at the 2016 US OPEN Pickleball Championship

It was during this time that fate met Seymour Rifkind yet again. After taking in a Chicago Bears vs. Carolina Panthers game, Seymour looked at his team’s schedule and saw they were going to be in Atlanta next week to take on the Falcons. Instead of flying back to Chicago, the Rifkind brood stayed local. He decided to visit some friends who lived at The Villages in Florida.

It was then that Seymour was introduced to pickleball. “15 minutes, I was hooked into the game.”

Upon heading back to Chicago, Seymour couldn’t keep his mind off the sport he knew so little about. He attempted to seek out other players in the community, and found a couple of park districts where he could play pick-up games. “All different levels of players. No real drilling. No instruction. Just go out and have fun.”

Having a tennis background, Seymour couldn’t help but pick up the fundamentals relatively quickly. However, it was that exact tennis background that made him realize there were a few bad habits he needed to drop. Driving the ball at other beginners, Seymour thought his tennis background was the secret to pickleball success. That was until he entered his first pickleball tournament.

“I got beat up real bad. I saw people doing shots I never attempted before.” And then he thought to himself, “There’s obviously a better way to play than what I am doing.” Like always, Seymour sought out like-minded people with more experience. He needed a better understanding of the fundamentals.

Organizing Excellence

“I recognized right away that this is a great sport, but there was no formal instruction taking place.” The same man who as a young boy wrote his dreams in cement now had a new goal in sight. He was going to set up a commission that would agree on the fundamentals of pickleball. Once everyone was on the same page, those people would train the teachers who will train the pickleball players of tomorrow. The long-term goal? To make pickleball an Olympic sport in the next 20 years.

“In the summer of 2015, I had a simple strategic plan. We need to do what’s best for the sport. We needed people more qualified than me to buy into this.” Seymour called a meeting between top players in November of 2015 at the Pickleball Nationals. He shared his vision. “They responded positively and quickly. A lot of other people saw the need to get this done.” Once the like-minded people were on board, the IPTPA was born.


One year later, IPTPA has certified over 100 instructors, with 235 in the system at various stages of training. They are doing it consistently. They are doing it the right way.

“A year ago when I first started thinking about this, if we could get 100 instructors, it’s an obtainable objective. And we did.” Now, the sky is the limit. Heading into 2017, one of the initiatives of the IPTPA is to spread into Europe and Asia. Seymour recently spoke to federations in India about getting IPTPA directors over there. They plan to assist these countries and give them better equipment.

“Some countries don’t have the funding needed to afford some of these things. If everyone in the pickleball community, manufacturers of paddles and balls, if we all get together, we can put together a program to help developing countries enjoy pickleball.

After all, you need competing countries if you are going to have an Olympic sport. With a DIY athlete with the mindset of Seymour Rifkind at the helm, this can become a reality. “The sum of all good helps. Being unselfish and loving the sport makes them share with each other.”

This is exactly why Seymour Rifkind’s legacy has been one of a success. It’s the same reason why his success story can help cement pickleball’s Olympic aspirations.

The Birth of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association

Pop! Pop! Pop!

The familiar sound of pickleballs ricocheting off paddles filled the pickleball courts at Palm Creek in Casa Grande, Arizona. The noise was a soundtrack to the hard-fought tournament in progress at the 2016 USAPA Nationals. The rapid back-and-forth of two teams competing their hearts out served as music to the ears of international gymnastic gold medalist-turned-pickleball aficionado, Seymour Rifkind.

“What a fantastic event,” exclaimed the author of 21st Century Samurai: The Secret Path to Success and Fulfillment. “The organization was outstanding, and the media coverage was instantaneous.”

With over 10,000 views and counting on YouTube, this year’s 2016 USAPA Nationals has been shared time and again. “The competition just keeps getting better… and younger,” Seymour says in a reflective tone.

USAPA Nationals

Image credit: Tom Gottfried

During the 2015 National Tournament, pickleball coaches and players including Rifkind discussed whether the time was right to organize a formal teacher certification program. All sports have training camps and clinics which are used to cultivate talent. Standards needed to be set and adhered to, and teachers needed to maintain high standards.

This led to the birth of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA). According to Rifkind the organization created “a curriculum of agreed-upon basic pickleball fundamentals [such as] identifying the correct strategies, shot selections and strokes for beginner through intermediate players.”

Five months later, on the heels of the US Open Pickleball Championships, the IPTPA was born. “We launched our website and formally started certifying IPTPA teaching professionals,” says Rifkind. Since its inception, the IPTPA has had over 200 people in various stages of the certification process, of which approximately 100 are IPTPA certified.

This isn’t simply a “sign up and get on the list” scenario. The IPTPA takes their certifications seriously to ensure the future of the sport is in good hands. No stranger to success, Rifkind and company challenge the applicants to be their best. “We have a failure rate of 7.5% identified as individuals who did not pass one or more of the three tests required and have been asked to retake the exam at a later date after completing more study, practice and/or teaching experience.”

It’s clear that Rifkind was feeling that passion that made him an Olympic-level gymnast. “One of the most important traits of a good coach is the recognition from the start that this is a selfless profession. It is not about me; it is about my students. You need to feel genuine satisfaction in helping your students achieve their goals.”

“All your planning, study and self-improvement should be directed to helping your students: How can I organize my lessons and clinics more effectively? What additional drills or suggestions can I learn to aid my students in learning the third shot drop? What are the most effective training tools other IPTPA members use while teaching? What can I do to motivate, recognize problem areas and, most importantly, correct the problems I identify with each of my students with each of my students?”

Seymour Rifkind

Seymour Rifkind

Prior to his involvement in pickleball, Seymour Rifkind traveled the world putting on peak performance workshops for major university athletic teams. He explained to coaches that peak performance was more than breaking down film. It was about reinforcing the basics, training harder and longer, and surrounding yourself with other coaching experts. At the highest level of competition, the mental aspects that each individual must train to develop is the critical factor to success and winning titles. Focus, commitment, and one’s belief system become paramount mental factors to success.”

In order to maintain member status as a certified teaching professional, it is required that each IPTPA member continue his or her education by earning 2 continuing education units (CEU) per year. This process will be emphasized and enforced in year two. IPTPA will offer extensive full-day workshops such as the one being offered on April 21 in Naples, Florida (which will fulfill the 2-CEU requirement) as well as monthly webinars and on-line video tutorials.




Members may also write articles, create videos and tip sheets for submission to IPTPA. If they are deemed worthy and published, members will earn CEU credit. In this way, a two-way level of communication is encouraged so that members and management are working together to fulfill their mission:

IPTPA will be the world’s leading organization of Certified Pickleball Teaching Professionals, viewed and highly respected as an organization of knowledgeable experts and industry innovators. IPTPA will deliver an ongoing program of workshops, seminars and other learning experiences to continually raise the quality of each of our members. Our intent is to raise the standards of pickleball excellence on a worldwide basis and to work in conjunction with the USAPA to help grow the sport of pickleball.

As Seymour Rifkind reminisces about all the progress made, he can’t help but look ahead to what the 2017 US Open Championships hold. He is excited to see which star athletes will become the next champions, breaking out of their molds to become superstars.

“In April 2017, we will be celebrating our first full year in operation. We will kick off our second year by introducing the first of many content-driven programs for our membership. The first IPTPA World Congress is scheduled as an all-day workshop to be held April 21, 2017, in Naples, Florida, in conjunction with the 2017 US Open Pickleball Championships.”

IPTPA members should visit their website and sign up for their inaugural IPTPA World Congress.

Prospective members may also be interested in checking the website as well, to learn more about the IPTPA such as requirements necessary for certification. Follow the IPTPA Facebook page for additional content and breaking updates.