Tournament Tips: Surf City Pickleball on Divisions and Multiple Courts

Diana Abruscato fell in love with the sport of tennis back in the 4th grade. After breaking her leg surfing, the former USTA-sponsored and rated tennis player was never able to cover the court like she used to. Looking to scratch the competitive itch she once felt, Diana found, and inevitably fell in love with, pickleball.

Immediately becoming an USAPA Ambassador, Diana naturally evolved into the role of Tournament Director. She was kind enough to share some tips with us on how to make your pickleball tournaments enjoyable for all within the community.

Diana Abruscato with Tournament Group

Diana, the Tournament Director, front and center for festivities!

What is the name of your tournament?
Surf City Pickleball Tournament

Was there a club hosting the tournament? Name of the club?
Surf City Pickleball is an all-volunteer, fully-functioning program facilitated by Les Taylor, Catherine Navetta and myself.

When was your tournament?
The 1st Annual Surf City Pickleball Tournament was held in August of 2016. We were so excited that we began preparing in November for our 2nd Annual Surf City Pickleball Tournament scheduled for August 4-6, 2017.

We chose this time of year because the tournament calendar was open to the pickleball tournament community at the time in Southern California. We also selected this schedule because during the summer, we are the coolest place to play!

Pickleball-playing statue

Where was your tournament?
Murdy Community Park
7000 Norma Drive
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

Surf City Pier
How many players registered for the tournament?
Our first year we had 276 players. It was the largest tournament in Orange, San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, including the Central Coast of California. In May of 2017, we had 218 players signed up thus far. We are on the way to meeting or exceeding our expectations. We are going to have some fun again this year!

Paul and Sean

Paul and Sean Leaf readying for some defense

How many courts were available for the tournament? Indoor court or outdoor courts?
We have 12 lighted, wind-screened, outdoor courts with room for inside seating and shaded tree areas. Towards the end of the day, dedicate 4 courts to host medal matches. That allows for spectators to watch with plenty of room inside the court area to enjoy a front row seat. We have room for 16 courts, however, players enjoy the roomier feel.

Richelle Danielle

Richelle Kulju (L) & (R) Carrie Dye in an intense pickleball battle!

What events/brackets did you offer? 
We offer a skill-based tournament. Our committee has agreed that this offering seems to really appeal to players in all skill levels and all ages. Our skill-based tournament by design, is very workable and true to original tournaments.

We like the idea that if a player feels up to the challenge of playing in that particular division/skill level, regardless of age, they can. It provides the younger folks the opportunity to embrace the maturity of the older players, and the older players have the opportunity to challenge themselves a bit by playing in an all-age category. It’s comprehensive and inclusive to meet the wider range of players coming into the pickleball tournament community. This format is tried and a true measure of success. We offer Men’s, Mixed and Women’s. Skill levels include 3.0 – 5.0+.

Diana and Catherine

Diana strikes a pose with IT Volunteer, Catherine Navetta

Did you have a team working with you? What were their delegated tasks/roles?
The Surf City Pickleball Tournament is hosted by an impeccable bunch of hand-picked talent of an all-volunteer Tournament Planning Committee.
They are:

  • Tournament Director: Diana Abruscato
  • Co-TD & Referee Manager: Craig Haas
  • IT: Catherine Navetta and James Chretien
  • Court Preparation/MVP: Les Taylor
  • Our Friendly Registration Committee: Tami Bearardi, Dorinda Jung, Elaine Metz, and Bunny Estrera
  • Concessions: Ruth Woldhuis
  • First-Aid Station: Bryan Tice, EMT.

The most important decision when selecting a committee is to make sure that fluidity and a good flow exists among personalities within the group. At times, we all have to make tough decisions. You have to make sure we are enjoying the conversation while arriving at a tough decision. Our Tournament Planning Team has this ability, and we have mastered the art of it, which makes for loads of fun!

Did you seek sponsors for your tournament? Who were the sponsors? What did the sponsor contribute?
Tournaments must rely on sponsorships, as this can determine the measurement of success of a tournament. When pursuing a sponsorship, the most important element is to make sure the agreement is mutually beneficial. We have pickleball industry sponsors and community-based sponsors. For our tournament, our sponsors have contributed company-branded products and services for distribution at the tournament.  Durafast 40 (featured below) is the tournament ball provided by Pickleball Central.

Did you offer refreshments? Or sell food/drink at the event?
We offer complimentary healthy snack options such as  fresh fruit, closed-package snack items, Gatorade. and water all three days of the tournament. Most players do not eat full meals while playing, and are looking for healthier bites to get them through the next match without weighing themselves down with a heavier meal.

At the end of the tournament day, everyone can enjoy an entertaining meal in our beautiful and historic downtown beach vacation venue at the pier. For 2017, the US Open of Surfing will be gracing our waves at the pier for all to enjoy!

Dura pickleball in the sun

Surf’s up with Dura Fast 40!

We do encourage players to bring sandwiches or take advantage of the grocery store option, Sprouts, within walking distance from the venue.

Did you charge a registration fee? How much?
We have to charge a registration fee and the price is determined by the cost to rent the facility, court rentals, required insurances, pickleballtournaments.com fees, transaction fees, truck rentals, food costs, t-shirt costs, and much more.

To encourage your city to invest in pickleball, renting a city facility is very costly. However, our committee prides ourselves on keeping the registration costs down. We know folks are traveling far and wide to join our fun-filled tournament. We want our folks to enjoy the rest of their stay here in Huntington Beach, California. We charge $50.00 a flat fee that includes playing in 2 divisions.

Anything special or unique about your tournament?
There are so many unique qualities about the Surf City Pickleball Tournament. A tidbit is that a Huntington Beach City Council Member, Jill Hardy, will be singing our National Anthem.

Our city photographer has been running the tournament video on our local HB Website and TV channel for the last year. We hope to have it USAPA Live Streamed for 2017. We are still working on that possibility.

Other than that, our hidden treasures are kept close to our hearts, as you will have to come out and see for yourself, and experience our generous spirit! The same weekend of our pickleball tournament the, US Open of Surfing Finals will be gracing our waves at the pier for all to enjoy!  Come out and see what it is all about. Go to http://www.pickleballtournaments.com to register.

Surf City pickleball medalists

What is your top tips for people putting on a tournament like yours?
Keep your divisions at a predetermined, limited number that corresponds to the amount of courts you have.

Payment = registered
No payment = not registered

On a side note, I would just like to share something with other USAPA Sanctioned Tournament Directors and Ambassadors. The sentiment among the USAPA Pickleball Tournament Director Community it that it is a professional courtesy to hold a USAPA Sanctioned Tournament 1 month apart from each other in the same region. If you are planning to a new USAPA Sanctioned Tournament, keep the 1 month apart timing in mind, and try not to hold tournaments on the same weekend as another one in your region. Please, be courteous to your neighboring cities.

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.

anne1

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.

Anne3

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+).

Anne6

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.

Anne5

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.

Anne4

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!  

mikemckaypicklballfriends

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.

wetfield

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 pickleballtournaments.com 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. Pickleballtournaments.com scheduled them in the 70+ bracket first thing in the morning to play each other. They got their medals. It was a great memory.

brackets

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 pickleballtournaments.com 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.

mikemckay

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. Pickleballtournaments.com 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 pickleballtournaments.com is great and is a very reasonable fee.

 

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 PickleballTournaments.com 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.

remax

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.