Pickleball Tournament Snack Ideas

By Brandi Givens, RD

Brandi Givens – Dietitian, Nutrition Writer and Pickleball Player

This week I celebrated summer solstice with a day of play at the Winney Family Ranch in Ravensdale, WA. It was a pickleball player’s dream, complete with the most beautiful venue, sunshine, friendship, food, and great play well into the evening.

Winney Ranch in Ravensdale, WA

While I was enjoying the atmosphere, I considered this blog post and took the opportunity to ask several friends about their favorite go-to pickleball snacks for long days of play. The answers I got were eclectic, ranging from fruit to electrolyte powders, and a surprising amount of candy.

With all the snack choices on the market, it’s hard to know what the best choices are. Keep in mind that it’s important to test any new snack or drink well before an important tournament day, to make sure it doesn’t cause digestive problems for you. Here are some ideas from a dietitian’s perspective.

Hydrating Snacks

Water is the most critical thing humans need to survive, second only to air. When we get even a little dehydrated, it can affect thinking and physical performance, which are both important for winning a pickleball match. Dehydration can cause muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue.

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When planning your snacks for a long day of play, you might consider packing a cooler with juicy fruits and vegetables that will contribute to hydration. Some ideas include:

  • Fruit like grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, oranges, mandarins, apples, pears, kiwi, peaches.
  • Vegetables like cucumbers, sweet peppers, and leafy greens like spinach and romaine lettuce.

Of course, you can’t come close to meeting your fluid needs with food alone, so be sure to drink plenty of water. Staying ahead of dehydration can help you feel and play your best.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are always a popular topic at any sporting event since these important minerals can be lost when we sweat. Unbalanced electrolytes can contribute to cramping, a sign that your body is in danger. Sodium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and calcium are needed for important basic body functions like:

  • blood pressure maintenance
  • muscle contractions (including the heartbeat)
  • water balance in the cells
  • brain function
  • feeding the cells
  • removing waste from cells

When we think of electrolytes, the first thing that comes to mind is often sports drinks. These drinks are a convenient way to hydrate, replenish minerals, and sometimes carbohydrates.

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When we snack smart, we can also stay on top of electrolyte losses with good food choices like:

  • Sodium and chloride: Salty foods like salted nuts and seeds
  • Potassium: bananas, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, potatoes with skin, chia seeds
  • Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, spinach, quinoa, chia seeds, peanuts
  • Calcium: Dairy foods, tofu, pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds, chia seeds

A Little Pro, A Little Carb

Most athletes find that it’s best to stay away from full, heavy meals during tournament play. But when you’ve been out there for hours, it’s important to keep energy on board. Light snacks that offer both carbohydrates and protein can provide the energy your body and brain need for peak performance, and can help maintain muscle mass.

Consider combination foods like:

  • Nut and granola bars
  • Fruit slices with nut butter packets and peanut butter
  • Trail mixes with fruit and nuts
  • Small turkey, chicken, nut butter, or egg sandwiches
  • Cottage cheese and pineapple
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Hummus and carrots
  • Plain Greek yogurt and fruit
  • Roasted chickpeas

High Carb for Quick Energy

Sometimes athletes are so intensely focused on their game strategy that they forget to eat. This should be avoided, because the lack of energy will eventually impair performance, causing a feeling of weakness or even shakiness.

It’s a good idea to keep some fast energy sources handy in case this happens to you. Then, as soon as possible, eat a hardier snack with both protein and carbohydrates like the ones suggested in the section above.

Quick carbohydrate ideas:

  • Fruit juice like orange or apple juice
  • A piece of hard candy or other candy
  • Dried fruit like raisins or cherries

It’s important to discuss low blood sugar symptoms with your doctor in case you may be developing an underlying health problem.

Do you have some great snack ideas? Please let me and other readers know about them in the comments below!

Resources:

Oria, Maria, Meghan Harrison, and Virginia A. Stallings. 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Elements, Food and Nutrition Board, National Academies. National Academies Press (US).

Belval, Luke N., Yuri Hosokawa, Douglas J. Casa, William M. Adams, Lawrence E. Armstrong, Lindsay B. Baker, Louise Burke, et al. 2019. “Practical Hydration Solutions for Sports.” Nutrients 11 (7). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11071550.

Clark, and Nancy. 2020. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Karpinski, Christine, Rosenbloom, Christine, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2017. Sports Nutrition : A Handbook for Professionals.

Ashley and Collin Cooke Travel to The Franklin NYC Open for the APPTour

Fruit Smash from New Belgium Brewery gave away an all-expenses-paid trip to the APP Tour NYC Open in April 2022. After thousands entered, Ashley and Collin Cooke were the lucky random winners. We sat down to ask about their trip, their pickleball story and more!

What is your pickleball story? How did you get into pickleball?

It’s kind of a funny story. Ashley’s mom started playing pickleball around 2015 and quickly became obsessed. We all made fun of her for playing a game with such an odd name. For Mother’s Day in 2017 all she wanted was for her kids and their spouses to play pickleball with her that afternoon. We all agreed to play her “dumb game” and ended up getting addicted ourselves!

Where are you located? Do you have a pickleball courts you frequent?

We live in Cleveland, TN and there is a large and wonderful group of players in our area. Our city just built six new outdoor courts a couple of years ago and the majority of the pickleball community plays together almost every day of the week. We’ve met some of the most amazing people through the pickleball community, many of whom we never would’ve met otherwise.  

What paddles do you play with and why?

We are both Diadem Warrior princesses! Collin called Ashley and her sister this when they both started playing with this paddle a couple of months ago. He just got his own and joined them. We love the Warrior because it has helped add power to our volleys and control for our dinking.  

You were the lucky winners for the Fruit Smash giveaway and went on a trip to the APP NYC tournament. How was your trip?

Our trip to the NYC Open was incredible. We flew out of our local airport on Tuesday morning and arrived at our hotel in Queens around 4:00pm. The hotel was beautiful and in a very convenient location to the subway which was one stop from the Billy Jean Tennis Center, and a few more stops into Manhattan.  

On our first night we rode the subway into Manhattan and ate at the Porch in Bryant Park, which was delicious! Wednesday morning we left for the tournament and were shown around and given an incredible bag full of gifts!  

We watched several hours of the tournament on Wednesday and had a photoshoot at the Fruit Smash tent, which was so much fun!  We spent some time in Central Park after that and then ate at Hummus Kitchen, which was an incredible Israeli restaurant with some of the best food we’ve ever had! Thursday morning we went back to watch as much pickleball as we could before leaving for the airport after lunch.

Have you played in tournaments? What advice do you have for those wanting to try? What do you enjoy about them?

We both love playing in tournaments! It’s so much fun to compete at your skill level and we enjoy the challenge of playing against new opponents. We’ve also met people at tournaments that we enjoy running into at other tournaments and enjoy encouraging each other. 

Ashley played in the Atlanta Open recently. She loved being able to watch the pros between matches and would encourage anyone to join tournaments where pros are playing! She felt like it was a really fun atmosphere to be a part of. For anyone who hasn’t played in a tournament and is interested in trying: Just get some help deciding what your skill level is and sign up for one you want to play!

We can’t thank New Belgium Fruit Smash enough for the incredible trip! This is our favorite game in the world!


Our thanks go out to Ashley and Collin for taking the time to share their experiences with us. We look forward to giving more fans opportunities to travel and enjoy tournaments in the future.

Why Play In A Pickleball Tournament

The past few years has brought many new players to the sport of pickleball. We love seeing the new players at our local courts and around the globe taking up the game! While many are perfectly content to come out on the weekend to play with friends, others enjoy competing in tournaments. If you’ve never played in a tournament and think that they are only for the pros, you might want to reconsider. Tournaments are a great way to further your enjoyment of pickleball, and bring many benefits to your pickleball game and social life.

Why you should sign up for your first pickleball tournament

Friendship & Community

One of the wonderful things about pickleball is the community. People often comment on how friendly and fun pickleball players tend to be and it’s true! Going to tournaments expands your pickleball community even further – you get to meet and play with other people from many different locations, which often develop into long term friendships and future partners at other tournaments.

Fun

In addition to the extra level of fun that competing in tournament matches brings, one of the most fun things about tournaments are the pick-up games that happen in the evenings after tournament matches conclude. People hang out on the courts and meet new friends as they play in matches with others of different skill levels from different regions. Often it’s a pickleball party atmosphere, with music playing, lots of happy people sharing in their love of the game, and of course opportunities for apres-pickleball outings. The tournament atmosphere is so much fun that some people go to tournaments just to spectate, watch the pros, cheer on their friends, and play in the evening rec games, even if they don’t sign up for tournament competition themselves.

Pickleball Tournaments are FUN!

For many people, playing in tournaments becomes a main focus of their recreational travel. Planning vacations around tournaments provides a fun way to select new places to visit. There are tournaments all over the country throughout the year, with many in appealing sunny locations such as AZ, FL and Hawaii, which make for a great winter vacation. Or how about a pickleball tournament vacation in Italy, France, Spain or Jamaica – all countries that have held tournaments or will be hosting them in 2022.

Range of Skills & Competition

Players who are newer to pickleball or who have not played other sports competitively might think that tournaments only for top level players. In fact, most tournaments offer events for all skill levels including beginner and intermediate, and many also offer events for different age levels combined with skill levels so that players of all ages/skills can find appropriate events. There are even some tournaments that are for beginners only, particularly among the smaller local tournaments. Also, some tournaments are structured as “Round Robin” format, which means you get to play matches against every other doubles team (or singles player) in your division.

Reasons to sign up for your first pickleball tournament
Test your skill level at a pickleball tournament

Improve Your Game

Another benefit of playing in tournaments is how much you can learn from playing with and watching other players. Tournament play exposes you to many different types of shots, strategies and teamwork that you won’t necessarily see from just playing with the same people at your home courts. Also, at tournaments you can learn from watching other players, especially higher level players and pros if you go to some of the bigger events where pros play. It’s educational and exciting to watch what they do on the court. You’re likely to see shots and moves you’ve never seen before, which is inspiring and motivating.

Setting Goals

Playing in tournaments also helps you improve your game by setting goals. If you know you have a tournament coming up you are likely to want to work on practicing with your partner, identifying areas you want to work on, and establishing some goals you hope to achieve. With each tournament come new goals, which provides a great way to stay motivated on continuing to improve your skills, technique and mental game.

How To Find Tournaments

PickleballTournaments.com is the best place to look for upcoming tournaments. If you go to
Future Tournaments” you can search on keywords, state, city, country, etc. to look for tournaments in a particular area. When looking through the list of options, you’ll then see a list of tournaments by location with the dates. From there you can click on “View Details” to explore each tournament and learn what skill levels are offered, registration dates, how many players are registered, costs, and more information.

How to find a pickleball tournament near you

If you’re just starting out with tournament play, looking for smaller tournaments could be a good place to start. But even the larger tournaments, such as those that are part of the PPA (Pro Pickleball Association) and APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) pro tours, offer events for beginners and intermediate players, so don’t rule those out just because they are also for pros. In fact the pro tour events can be a great way to gain competition experience at whatever level you are currently, while also getting to watch and follow the pros which adds a whole new level of excitement and interest to the sport.

Whether you play in tournaments or not, keep your paddle up and keep having fun!

Ben Johns on Tournament Prep & Recovery

Ben Johns Pickleball Pro

As the #1 pickleball player in the world, pro Ben Johns obviously spends many consecutive hours and days training and competing in tournaments. Even for younger athletes, all of those hours on the court can take a toll on the body; staying in top shape for peak performance match after match requires taking care of your body before, during and after competition. Ben recently talked with us about how he prepares for tournaments and what recovery looks like for him.

What do you do to prepare yourself before competition?

 I prepare beginning the week of competition; what I eat and drink that entire week matters to me. I stay away from sugary or fried foods, as well as sugary drinks. My meal the night before competition is particularly important – it’s usually a protein fish or meat like chicken or salmon, with rice and a vegetable or similar. The morning of competition I typically have eggs, yogurt, and fruit. Throughout the day of competition I like to eat fruit, nuts, and protein bars.

For hydration, I drink Jigsaw Health’s Pickleball Cocktail the night before and morning of competition. Throughout the week I make sure to drink a lot of water. During the day of competition I drink Jigsaw Electrolyte Supreme.

Pickleball Jigsaw Cocktail: Keep your body filled with all the nutrients you need to avoid injury.

I stretch most evenings, but the week of competition stretching is especially important to me. I focus on loosening the hips, quads, and back in particular.

It’s also important to me to have all of my equipment prepared and ready to go – paddles weighted, over-gripped, etc. Clothes for the day, massage gun, and foam roller should be in my bag, with everything else I need for game day ready by the night before.

My warm-up routine consists of mostly ROM movements, like arm circles, Frankenstein walks, and generally dynamically moving to loosen up. Then I do a solid thirty minutes of hitting.

Do you have any “superstitions” or rituals?

I don’t have superstitions so much as preparations. I need to have everything ready to go before the day of competition – all of my equipment, food, drinks, etc. I’m quite particular about the socks I wear, both bottom and top (I’m a double sock guy), so that’s as close as I get to superstitious.

What injury prevention products do you use or wear?

I will wear compression leggings when I’m playing in cold weather. The arm sleeves I wear are not compression but for the sun.

What do you do after matches or training to recover?

After playing, for injury prevention and for performing the next day, I make sure to static stretch, foam roll, and use Therabody’s Theragun Pro and Wave Air Compression Boots.

Ben Johns with the Wave Air Compression Recovery Boots

The Therabody Compression Recovery Boots are an easy-to-use, effective way to improve circulation, soothe achy legs, and may also help reduce fluid retention. Their internal chambers inflate sequentially from the foot towards the heart, which helps maximize circulation. The quiet technology allows you to relax peacefully while enjoying the components of the convenient touchpad control, including a timer and four pre-programmed modes for specific pulses and settings.

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After playing I’ll continue to hydrate, take magnesium supplements, and try to eat a similar dinner with lots of protein and some good carbs.

Lastly I make sure to get to bed on time, as quality sleep is very important to me!

2021 Final Pro Rankings from World Pickleball Rankings

Pickleball World Rankings 2021

Powered by PickleballTournaments.com and launched in 2021, the World Pickleball Rankings is pickleball’s most comprehensive ranking system for Pro and Senior Pro players. As the tournament management system used for all of the professional pickleball tours (PPA and APP), USA Pickleball tournaments, and all major independent tournaments including the US OPEN Pickleball Championships and Tournament of Champions, PickleballTournaments.com is uniquely positioned to provide player performance insights in the form of rankings. Endorsed by USA Pickleball, the APP tour and the US OPEN Pickleball Championships as their official rankings, the World Pickleball Rankings is the place to follow the pros throughout the year to see their progress and how they’re stacking up against each other.

World Pickleball Ratings

How It Works

Players earn points in pro tournaments for placement and wins. Results are updated at the conclusion of each tournament.

Titles are ranked for the following Pro events – Men and Women:

  • Singles
  • Doubles
  • Mixed Doubles
  • Senior Singles
  • Senior Doubles
  • Senior Mixed Doubles

Considerations:

  • Player points accumulate over a rolling 52-week window, with points awarded outside of that window expiring and being replaced by points awarded within that window.
  • A player’s Top 15 results are represented in the rankings.

Points are awarded based on the following model:

DesignationGoldSilverBronze4thNon-place Wins (Main Draw)Non-place Wins (Back Draw)
Grand Slam2000150010006007556
100010007505003003022
5005003752501501511
2502501881257586
From Pickleball Tournaments

The 2021 Pro World Pickleball Rankings

Ben Johns receives Pro Men’s Singles, Pro Men’s Doubles and Pro Men’s Mixed in the World Pickleball Rankings 2021 (Sponsored by Franklin)

Pro Men’s Singles: Ben Johns

Pro Men’s Doubles: Ben Johns

Pro Men’s Mixed: Ben Johns

Anna Leigh Waters receives Pro Women’s Singles in the World Pickleball Rankings 2021 (Sponsored by Paddletek)

Pro Women’s Singles: Anna Leigh Waters

Catherine Parenteau receives Pro Women’s Doubles in World Pickleball Rankings 2021 (Sponsored by Paddletek)

Pro Women’s Doubles: Catherine Parenteau

Simone Jardim receives Pro Women’s Mixed in World Pickleball Rankings 2021 (Sponsored by Prince Pickleball)

Pro Women’s Mixed: Simone Jardim

Paul Olin receives Sr Pro Men’s Singles in the World Pickleball Rankings 2021

Sr Pro Men’s Singles: Paul Olin

Dave (The Badger) Weinback receives Sr Pro Men’sDoubles and Sr Pro Men’s Mixed in the World Pickleball Rankings 2021 (Sponsored by Paddletek)

Sr Pro Men’s Doubles: Dave Weinbach

Sr Pro Men’s Mixed: Dave Weinbach

Julie Johnson receives Sr Pro Women’s Singles in the World Pickleball Rankings 2021

Sr Pro Women’s Singles: Julie Johnson

Eva Welsher receives Sr Pro Women’s Doubles and Sr Pro Women’s Mixed in the World Pickleball Rankings 2021 (Sponsored by Engage)

Sr Pro Women’s Doubles: Eva Welsher

Sr Pro Women’s Mixed: Eva Welsher

View all of the 2021 Pro World Pickleball Rankings here:

Full list of World Pickleball Rankings for 2021

PPA Tour Kicks Off with Mesa Grand Slam Qualifier: Features $500k Overall Payout, Top Destinations

This year players of all skill levels will get to enjoy new avenues for intense competition and fun in the form of tours. The first series leading the way is the Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) with their Mesa Grand Slam Qualifier at the Mesa Tennis Center in Arizona.

Starting today, the tournament will run through Sunday the 16th and host events for doubles and singles across gender, age and skill brackets.

 

The PPA is not USAPA-sanctioned, which will allow players to get a fresh start by accruing “PPA Points” to determine their ranking within the association’s system. The points will accumulate throughout the year based on players’ performances within each tournament and allow them to gain priority registration to the higher-paying grand slams. To see a breakdown of how these points are earned, click here.

The PPA Tour is taking its events seriously and drawing plenty of pro participation, as its name implies. Top players who will be competing include Ben Johns, Simone Jardim, Kyle Yates and Leigh Waters, among many others. Alongside the amateur brackets will be pro-only events that are sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

Another unique draw for the pros and those watching them is the Pro Player’s Cup, where hand-selected teams consisting of 2 men, 2 women and a senior of each gender will engage in a double elimination tournament. These events will be played on the Friday of each grand slam tournament (Masters, Showcase and PPA Championship) to add even more excitement to the competition!

PPA Logo

The PPA has made the effort to showcase itself as a family-friendly environment where picklers will not only be playing hard but making the most of their downtime with top court venues, entertainment, dining options and opportunities for interaction with the pros.

The impressive prize purses have been drawing deserved attention as well, with each qualifier offering $55k pools and the grand slams ranging from $100-150k. Players can also take part in raffles, games and other smaller (but no less enjoyable) ways to win. PickleballCentral is currently providing a pop-up store at the Mesa Qualifier as one of PPA’s sponsors, so if you’re taking part be sure to drop by and give us a wave!

If you weren’t able to make it to AZ but are still interested in getting in on all the fun, the next few PPA events are still accepting registrations. They are as follows:

Georgia Open at Life Time, March 26-29

Dallas Grand Slam Qualifier, April 2-5

The Masters Grand Slam (Phoenix), May 13-17

For a full list of upcoming events on the PPA Tour, visit their site here. Follow the latest happenings at the Mesa Qualifier at PPA’s Facebook page and check out some of the amazing pro matches while you’re at it.

Will you be making a stop at any of the PPA Tour’s locations? If so, we hope to see you there! Let us know what you’re most excited about in the comments.

Ring in the New Year with Top Tier Pickleball

Happy 2020 to all the pickleball players out there! We hope the new decade will bring joy, new friendships and improved skills to all.

While many of us likely spent the last days of 2019 with family, watching fireworks or making a toast, hundreds of picklers pushed themselves to end the year with a pop rather than a bang at the World Pickleball Championships in Punta Gorda.

The inaugural event made history despite delays brought on by the weather. Organizers were happy with the turnout and amenable to bringing it back next year. The championships took place in a location with its own impressive backstory: the Pickleplex.

The Pickleplex was entirely funded by private and company donations, opening in June of 2019. The 16-court complex was made to relieve others in the area which were already crowded, offering players more opportunity to join games without a wait. Now it’s had a “trial by fire” after being tested by some of the best players in the world, and the city is excited the Pickleplex is seeing such prominent use.

The World Pickleball Championships ran from Dec 27-30 and saw coverage on Fox News due to the revenue brought in for the county.

If you want to enjoy the event’s competitive energy from the comfort of your own home, you can see the finals matches in the video below. What better way to start off your New Year than watching and learning from the best? (Unless you already have some of your own games scheduled!)

We hope the picklers involved in the championships will carry their enthusiasm with them in the months to come and wish the same for everyone who couldn’t make it in person.

Do you have any pickleball-related or personal resolutions for 2020? Let us know in the comments!

6 Last Minute Pickleball Gifts Sure To Bring Joy

There are only a few days left before the holidays, but just because you don’t have time to spare for shipping doesn’t mean you can’t give a present to a pickleball lover.

The following all require zero time in transit so that you can provide them at the perfect moment. Better still, several of these options are experiential, so they’ll live forever in the recipient’s memories. Go ahead and choose a gift that will keep on giving!

1. Gift Certificates to PBC

Gift certificates get a bad rap as being uninspired and noncommittal, but many pickleball players are very selective about their gear and prefer freedom to find the right fit. Perhaps they mentioned a specific paddle they’re after, but unless you’re in close contact they may have already bought the item they wanted, so it’s safer to let them choose their own products. A gift card is always appreciated and lets the recipient select a present they’ll certainly use. Be sure to choose email delivery after adding the gift card to your cart so you won’t be waiting on snail mail.

2. Pickle Palooza – The Best Pickleball Festival of the Year

Pickle Palooza is an event that will run from Feb 21-23 (2020) in Phoenix, AZ. Hosted by senior pros Steve Dawson and Dave Pickle Palooza LogoFleming, it includes court exhibitions, paddle demos, pro interviews, skill instruction, open play and more. This is an ideal experience for a player you know who loves the sport but might not feel ready for competitive play, or even for a tournament-goer who’d enjoy downtime around the greats. Visitors have tons of opportunities to engage with the pickleball community at large in a fun, lively environment. The celebration takes place at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa, which offers plenty of its own entertainment with a spa, golf course, 5 pools and outstanding restaurants.

3. BOOST Pickleball Training Camps

Help take someone’s skills to the next level with an intensive BOOST training camp. Geared towards 3.0 – 4.0 rated players, these intermediate courses run for several days and are led by some of the world’s best pickleball players and instructors. The programs involve drills and clinics that improve technique and translate into fast improvement during competitive games. Participants spend over 12 hours with optional open play time working to strengthen their mechanics and strategies. The instructor to student ratio is 8 to 1 to allow for personal attention, and camps are offered in several locations throughout the U.S. including WA, CA, HI and AZ.

4. Buy a Brick at the Bainbridge Island Founders Courts

Pickleball originated on Bainbridge Island, WA when a group of families wanted to create a game to share with their kids. In honor of the threeBainbridge Island Pickleball founders’ contributions, six new courts are being built on the island at Battle Point Park. For $150 you can buy one of the bricks that will be used to build the walkways and areas between the courts and have the recipient’s name immortalized within the facility. It’s a great way to publicly show the giftee’s support and love for the sport. This is an especially meaningful gift for someone who inspired your pickleball journey—whether that’s the person who introduced you to the game or a club leader (larger bricks are available if you want to include a logo or other image in the design). Their contributions will be known to all in a soon-to-be historic location.

5. Make a Donation To a Pickleball-Related Cause

Similar to the suggestion above, there are other ways you can contribute to pickleball in honor of a friend or family member at your own price point. One organization is the PLS (Pickleball Legacy Scholarship) Foundation. This group uses funds to award scholarships to qualifying young athletes which can be used toward tuition at accredited educational institutes.

The USAPA (USA Pickleball Association) and Sid Williams Junior Pickleball Fund are both dedicated to increasing accessibility to the sport through the development of programs in schools, recreation centers and other locations (specifically focused on youth pickleball in the case of the Sid Williams Fund). Donations can easily be made online or by sending a check to the addresses listed via the link.

6. Sign Your Giftee Up as a Doubles Tournament Partner

Maybe you’re a pickleball player yourself and enjoy playing the game with your friend. If you know they enjoy competitive play and will have the time for a specific tournament date, you can take the initiative to sign them up (taking care of registration fees) as your doubles partner. Better still if you’re willing to cover their travel costs, especially if it’s to a dreamy destination like Kona at next year’s Hawaii Open (1/22 – 1/25). This event takes place directly after one of the aforementioned BOOST camps in Kona, so you can double down on the pickleball training for an extended stay.

Hawaii Open

Another great upcoming tournament for those who can’t travel quite so far is the IIPC, the International Indoor Pickleball Championships in Centralia, WA. It’s one of the largest indoor tournaments in the world and runs from 3/30 – 4/5, making it a great option for those who might enjoy a side trip to Portland or Seattle in the early spring.

Lastly, there are two exciting pickleball tours coming up with tournament locations spread widely across the country. If you haven’t seen a nearby state listed yet, take a look at the APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) and PPA (Professional Pickleball Association) lists to see if they’re hosting a competition in your neighborhood. These tournaments have strong prize money offerings and also lead to championship games with even greater stakes.

Texas Open Sees 28 Junior Participants, Wyatt Stone Helps Youth Find Pickleball

The 2nd annual Texas Open was held September 12-15, where stalwart players braved the heat to test their skills at the Open Wagon Wheel Tennis Center in Coppell. Of the 747 participants that took part, 28 were juniors ranging from 7-18 years old.

These young players are a growing demographic which has only recently gained legislation needed within USAPA-recognized events to fully take part. While many picklers have expressed enthusiasm for the newer generation getting involved in the sport, the reality is that the journey toward full integration hasn’t been as cut and dry as grabbing a paddle and showing up.

Texas Open junior players with Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright

Texas Open junior players with Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright

We recently spoke with Ashley Stone, mother to the winner of the Lone Star Award (Wyatt Stone). She was willing to illuminate some of the challenges the juniors have faced and overcome in addition to describing their experience at the Open:

“My son Wyatt has played in 12 tournaments and taken 18 medals since January 2019. When he first started playing, we had to ask tournament directors to lower the minimum age to allow him to play. He even pre-qualified for the American State Games, but they wouldn’t let him join due to their minimum age restriction last January.

“I have been adding junior events to the USAPA Junior Facebook page and website for a few months. In a short period of time (Jan-Sept, 9 months) we have seen the minimum age lower to include junior players in about 90% of all tournaments nationwide, excluding the senior tournaments. Pickleballtournaments.com just added a “junior” search feature to their toolbar this month as well. This is a huge milestone for the junior movement!

Texas Open juniors with Anna Leigh Waters and William Sobek

Texas Open juniors with Anna Leigh Waters and William Sobek

“In the first few tournaments, Wyatt would often be one of two or three juniors playing in the 19+ skill events. With each tournament we have seen more kids at each event. The Mansfield Summer Slam which was on September 7th had 6 junior players playing up in age 19+ by skill. The Texas Open is the only tournament in the mid-south to have enough kids to make junior brackets work.

“At the Texas Open, events were grouped by players 7-13 and 14-18 years old, a handful of which also played in 19+ age/skill events. The kids came from Texas and Oklahoma areas. Skill ranged from novice play to a 4.0 skill level. All of the kids have a family member who introduced them to the sport and are very passionate about it. They had a really good time and thought it was cool the mixed open events were happening on the same day as the junior events. The kids’ games were right next to pro players.

“One thing that was really great was the pro players (Joey Farrias, Lucy Kovalova & Matt Wright, Michella & Daniel DeLaRosa, to note a few) would stop to watch the kids and do a quick meet and greet. Some of the pro players even refereed junior games. Two I can think of were Gigi LeMasters and Anna Leigh Waters.

“There were also 2 junior pro players, Anna Leigh Waters & William Sobek, who competed at the pro open level.  All the juniors lined up to watch at least one of their games.”

Junior girls' doubles winners

Junior girls’ doubles winners (Gold: Sophia Irwin & Madi Warden, silver: Michaela McElroy & Caitlyn Chia, bronze: Natasha Cole & Katelyn Click)

Ashley mentioned something many junior players would like to see moving forward is divisions separated by skill rather than age.

“The Texas Open (and all other USAPA-sanctioned tournaments) divide juniors by age. We have not yet attended a junior tournament in the US that has enough kids to divide by age and then further divide by skill. What I have seen is that ability doesn’t discriminate by age. In an event with kids ages 7-13 or 13-18 in the Texas Open, we had novices competing with advanced players. All the kids and their families unanimously agreed they would have healthier competition if they played in events by skill.”

It’s also exciting to note that a junior was chosen as the recipient of the Lone Star Award at the Texas Open, a recognition given to someone who has used pickleball to help build up their community and improve people’s health. The winner this year was Wyatt Stone, Ashley’s son.

“Wyatt completed the IPTPA level II certification in less than a month with the desire to teach as many kids pickleball as he could reach. He went to Oklahoma twice to volunteer with youth camps, ran the Andy Roddick Pickleball Camp in Austin, hosted monthly kids’ camps over the summer and set up (with the parks department) a free weekly pickleball clinic for kids that he will teach.

Junior boys' doubles 1-12 (Gold: Ralph Chiu & Hollis Willson Silver: Aden Weimer & Zeus Andre Celedonio Bronze: Grant Wilton & Ryan Wilton) and Junior Boys Doubles 13-18 Gold: Isaiah McAllister & Joshua McAllister Silver: E Ramm & Drew Warren Bronze: Dayton Bartman & Wyatt McAllister

Junior boys’ doubles 1-12 (Gold: Ralph Chiu & Hollis Willson, silver: Aden Weimer & Zeus Andre Celedonio, bronze: Grant Wilton & Ryan Wilton) and Junior boys’ doubles 13-18 (Gold: Isaiah McAllister & Joshua McAllister, silver: E Ramm & Drew Warren, bronze: Dayton Bartman & Wyatt McAllister)

“The September classes have been booked up since last month. Wyatt volunteers working with his mentor May Laz at clinics, camps, challenges and tournaments on a weekly basis. He is also the USAPA Junior Pickleball Facebook editor and has more than organically tripled the followers since he took it over. He runs the Pickleball Facebook Junior forum and San Antonio IH35 to Austin Pickleball meetup where he organizes free competitive play.

“Wyatt is 14-years-old and had only been playing a a couple of weeks when he asked to go to the Texas Open as a spectator. After spending the weekend at the Texas Open, Wyatt wanted to learn how to play like the pros. Wyatt played in his first tournament in January, the Oklahoma State Games, and took 3 gold medals.

“He has been competing ever since, playing in 9 tournaments with 16 medals. He took a gold medal at the MT Regionals, earning a spot at Nationals which he will attend in November. He became IPTPA certified in June and added teaching to his rigorous training schedule.

Wyatt Stone receiving the Lone Star Award

Wyatt Stone receiving the Lone Star Award

“Wyatt did not have racket or paddle experience prior to playing pickleball and has come up through the ranks by working hard and earning his place training with local 5.0 players. He publishes a blog on his website with articles relevant to junior players and their families: WyattStonePickleballJunior.com

“Wyatt joined the Pickleball Rocks Team this past summer and accepted the nomination to lead the USAPA junior program as the USAPA National Junior Coordinator.

“He is thankful every day that he steps on the court and loves to see other kids getting involved in recreational and competitive pickleball.”

Unique Ideas for Pickleball Tournament Prizes

As pickleball’s popularity grows, more organizations have become willing to sponsor tournaments. This leads to the allure of prize money, which few players will turn down. While many groups would love to be able to offer similar rewards, what if you’re a smaller venue or want to do something different to draw in participants?

Aside from cash winnings, here are some prizes or trophies you can offer winners instead of run-of-the-mill medals.

Glasses, mugs or other drinking vessels

PNW Classic Medal

PNW Classic “Medals” – Photo by Kimberly Strong

At the recent Pacific Northwest Classic in Bend, OR winners were given glasses filled with colored paper to represent their placement (gold, silver or bronze). Aside from the interesting presentation, the glasses also had their medal color and tournament logo printed on the surface to commemorate the event.

This is a wonderful idea which allows players to show off their prowess while receiving a “medal” they can use in day-to-day life!

Refunded registration/free entry to a follow-up tournament

Sometimes the cost of entry to tournaments is not exactly cheap, especially when paired up with travel, lodging and food expenses. Returning a player’s registration fee is a great way to give them a financial break without actually having to spend money, or alternately you can offer free entry to another tournament if you’re planning more later on.

Gear or gift certificates

Soliciting businesses for cash outright can be a hard sell, especially if you’re setting up a smaller tournament or contest, but you may be able to acquire donations of a different sort. Manufacturers might donate paddles to award winners, or you can even contact local companies to see if they’ll offer gift certificates in exchange for advertising on promotional materials.

Popular options include general sports stores (for accessories and/or apparel), restaurants, specialty food shops, salons and movie theaters.

Gold and Silver PNW Classic Medals

Close-up of PNW glasses (Credit: Kimberly Strong)

Pickle-related goods

Pickleball does have an unusual name, and it can’t hurt to take advantage of it. Nalley Fine Foods was the game’s first official sponsor, after all, and they gave out jars of pickles at tournaments. Few people dislike this sour treat.

Aside from handing out the food itself, you can give away pickle ornaments, candy, mints, t-shirts or even a yodeling pickle!

There are plenty of other ideas you can explore that won’t break the bank such as tournament patches, water bottles, photos or volunteer hours. What are some of your favorite tournament awards or what would you like to see given away on the podium?