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.

Meet the Pro: Dayne Gingrich

Meet family man, coach and pickleball pro Dayne Gingrich. A sponsored player by Electrum Pickleball, Dayne has gained major success in the senior pro circuit. He is a strategist and positive thinking wizard who manages to make every shot look effortless. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dayne to find out more about him, and we can confidently say that this guy has something special. Here’s what he had to say. Enjoy!

Dayne Gingrich sponsored by Electrum Pickleball

Notable Wins:

2021 PPA Mesa – Gold Men’s Senior Pro 

2021 Red Rock PPA – Gold Men’s and Mixed Senior Pro

2021 PPA Newport Shootout – Gold Men’s Senior Pro 

2021 APP SoCal Classic – Gold Men’s and Mixed Senior Pro 

2021 PPA OC Cup – Gold Men’s and Mixed Senior Pro 

Dayne Gingrich plays with the Electrum Pro Graphite Pickleball Paddle

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

My stepdad brought me to a 4.5 open play weekend four years ago. I played the entire day without any breaks. I loved it but couldn’t walk for two weeks. Life got in the way and didn’t allow me to touch a paddle again for another year and half after my initial introduction. When I returned to the game, because of my tennis background, I was lucky to be playing 5.0 immediately, and the rest is history. 

What paddle do you use and why?

I currently use the Electrum Pro. It feels as close to a tennis racquet as there is on the market. It has a tremendous amount of spin and power while still allowing me the necessary control needed. The first day I demoed it, I instantly knew it was going to be a complete game changer. 

The Electrum Pro Graphite Pickleball Paddle from Electrum is a premium paddle made with cutting-edge materials to ensure excellent durability and balanced construction. The face of the paddle is made with Toray T-700 carbon fiber, which is resistant to deformation and provides a strong surface for returning shots. This carbon fiber also provides a textured feel, which imparts spin onto pickleballs and makes it easier to control your shots.

We see you sharing strategy tips on your page, can you share with us some of your top tips?

The biggest “Pro Tip” I’ve been sharing lately with my students is the mandatory need for more controlled aggression in their game. With the evolution in paddle technology the game is speeding up, but there’s still a need to find control due to the added spin. If players don’t look for more opportunities to attack, they’ll GET attacked, and sooner than they may expect. The initiator in today’s game has the advantage, unlike in past years, again, due to the power of the latest paddles. As aggressors we can obtain information (who we’re attacking, when, where, and our opponents’ response), which gives us a mathematical edge in the long term. The defenders will always be reacting and guessing. Of course, there are a couple players currently on tour who have faster counterattacking hand speed than the initiator’s attacks, but they are a tiny minority. Learn to attack from below the net, out of the air, off the bounce, and on both your FH and BH. 

Another tip I focus on is transition play. This area, unless given a high and slow meatball, is for resetting. As aggressive as the game is becoming, the court is still small, which means there isn’t enough room to power through players from the transition area (during doubles play). Make a habit of slowing down, keeping your feet still, low and wide while executing resets. The paddle also needs to be quiet, with a light grip pressure, absorbing the ball into the body, while maintaining a mental vision of a “baby arc” that softly brushes a penny off the top of the net. 

What are your favorite drills?

My favorite drills are anything straight ahead with an opponent. I also like adding a ball machine feeding crosscourt dinks so I can work on the 1-2 attack/finish part of my game. All the fast action happens straight against the player in front of us and through the middle of that player, so learning how to improve this part of our game is a necessity for long-term growth. I rarely practice crosscourt dinks anymore, as I’ve found straight ahead dinks have improved my crosscourt dinks 100x. 

What does your Mental Performance Coaching help pickleball players with?

Mental Performance is every player’s secret sauce. Unfortunately, only a small percentage understand or want to commit to this part of their game. Those that do, however, create a massive amount of improvement, which leads to a disproportionate level of confidence against their competition. The first thing we establish together (as coach and student) is their long-term vision. Micro day-to-day goals are irrelevant without first establishing a detailed, emotionally connected vision they’ll eventually begin working towards. Once this vision has been declared, written down and visualized, we start our work. Everyone comes with unique gifts, motivations and triggers, so there isn’t a stock program, but the majority of athletes I work with have to create a new, heightened state of belief. I want them to design an inner confidence that doesn’t give in to difficulty, pain, frustration or self doubt. While everyone’s path is different, patience and self belief will always play a fundamental role in their blueprint. 

What do you think is the most important shot in pickleball?

There are so many important shots in pickleball and I think the level of each player will determine which one is the most important for them. For the beginner, I believe that learning soft hands, feel and touch should be a staple in their process. Once we shift into intermediate and advanced, where most players can make the majority of their 3rds, it’s a tie between the transition reset and the aggressive kitchen attack. The reason I call it a tie is because it doesn’t matter how good your resets are if you don’t have an offensive game once you make it to the line. But it also doesn’t matter how good your kitchen attacks are if you can’t get to the kitchen to show them off. Once we move into a regular advanced level of play, the ability to seamlessly shift from a fast kitchen fire fight right into a reset that neutralizes that fight may be the single most difficult shot in all of pickleball. 

What are some of your short term and long term pickleball goals?

My goal as a player is to never get out-worked by another player, pro or senior pro. The results after I control my daily work ethic and commitment to continuously improve aren’t in my control. I have huge long-term goals I’ve set for myself, but they will only come to life if I focus on my preparation and recovery, mentally, physically and emotionally. As a coach, I’m currently working on a ginormous project that can’t yet be announced, but when it becomes a reality, it will change the landscape of how pickleball is taught and learned. I’m also FINALLY starting to write my book. This has been in the works for too long, but I believe will be worth the wait. In the meantime, while these projects are being put together, I will continue giving away a ridiculous amount of free content online with the singular focus of adding value to as many players as possible. 

What are you doing when you are not playing pickleball?

When I’m not playing pickleball, I’m constantly falling head-over-heels in love with my wife every day. She’s my angel and the miracle that makes it all possible for us, as a family. Without her push to always be better and think bigger, while simultaneously, keeping me humble and grounded, our family’s long term vision wouldn’t be what it is. I’m also a girl-dad, through and through. My poor daughter is probably so sick of me telling her much she’s loved, appreciated, and how proud her mom and dad are of her. Being a great player is important, evolving as a coach is important, but nothing is bigger or has more meaning than my family. 


If you’d like to read more from Dayne and stay tuned for his future projects, be sure to check out his website. To check out his paddle of choice take a look at the Electrum Pro and see if it might be a fit for you.

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!