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Pickleball Tournaments: How To Plan & Organize a Successful Event

how to plan pickleball tournament

Are you thinking of organizing a local pickleball tournament and feeling discouraged, coming to the realization that there’s a lot work ahead or maybe your not even sure where to start? Organizing this kind of event takes a lot of work but don’t worry – we’ve prepared a shortlist of tips for you, to help make this process as easy as possible and help you pull off a successful tourney.

Top 10 tips to successfully planning and running a pickleball tournament:

Start planning early!

This procedure could be very long and several unexpected problems and complications could arise so it is best to be safe than sorry! Sit down and make a list of all of the tasks regarding the tournament organizing. Calculate how much time you would need for completing all of them and then add 2 weeks!

From experience, even small local tournaments take longer than you would expect, especially if it’s the first one at that venue.  Annual events at the same of course get easier – especially if you keep organized records of from year to year (all contact names- also write down a record of all the people involved and their contact details for future reference).

If you finish everything on time and all goes smoothly, you will be happy you left yourself some time to rest and prepare for the tournament so that you can have fun with the rest of the participants.

Decide on the date early on:

In order for you to calculate how much time you’ll need for the process, it would be best to decide on the date of the tournament first and communicate the time frame with other people included in the process.

Also, if the date is defined early on, it makes it easier to deal with any delays or changes without any serious consequences for the contestants and other people included.  It is best to set the date 2-3 months in advance so that you have enough time to promote the event and leave enough buffer for unexpected problems.

Select a tournament commissioner:

A commissioner (or a tournament director) is a person responsible for advertising and promoting the tournament. It’s best to select the person for the role at least 2-3 month prior to the event. The bigger the tournament you’re organizing- the more time you should leave for the commissioner to advertise it. This person is also responsible for receiving registrations and setting up the ladders a week prior to the tournament.

Tournament Brackets / Ladders

You might find the following link helpful, it’s a FREE resource to Print Your Tournament Brackets.  If you are planning a larger tournament, consider using a software program to organize the event. You can use the USAPA tournament software.  The program can be used to seed teams (doubles) and players (singles). You can create double-elimination tournament brackets based on age or skill level.

If you are running a large tournament (100+ participants) you’ll want to take a look at Pickleballtournaments.com Software which allows you to set up and manage the entire tournament, gives participants the option to sign-up online and post the draw sheets to the USAPA site.  You can also advertise your tourney on their site to increase exposure to your event.

Decide on a venue for your pickleball tournament

You can look over the USAPA rules to check for the minimum court size needed for your tournament. On average, matches take between 40 and 60 minutes. They can be shorter in the beginning of the tournament and longer towards the end. These are all of the things you will need to take into account when considering the size of the venue and duration of venue reservation.

Select the type of your tournament

If this is your first tournament, it would be best to make it a promotional one. Since you are still learning and getting to know the process, it might be good if there are no consequences to how successful the tournament is- the contestants don’t receive Tournament Points. Once you learn how to best organize the tournaments, you can change the type to “sanctioned” and there will be a number of requirements you will have to fulfill.

Calculate the overall cost of the tournament

This step is the most important one since this is where you make most of the decisions that will define the final result- your pickleball tournament. Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself and your staff is:

  • Will you serve food and drinks for free or set up stands where people could buy them?
  • Will you hire the staff or seek volunteers?
  • Will you charge for tournament participation or give participants an option to donate?
  • Will there be cash prizes, medals, participant T-shirts?
  • Do you have enough pickleball nets for all the courts? If not you may need to rent or contact sponsors to supply them.

Once you decide on these questions you can calculate your incomes and expenses. If you conclude that your incomes are not enough to cover the expenses you can find sponsors for your pickleball tournament. Pickleball equipment brands might be interested in sponsoring the tournament in return for advertising their merchandise and setting up stands where they could sell their products.

Plan some fun activities aside from the pickleball tournament

While participating in the tournament is the main reason people will visit your event, it would be a more enjoyable experience for everyone if you planned a few fun activities for people to meet and socialize. Participants might be motivated to visit your future tournaments if they have a pleasant experience and make new friendships.

If there will be kids, remember to set up something that will keep them occupied since they may eventually get bored with the hours of tournament play- you could organize a film screening or marshmallow roasting or have volunteers organize kiddy races, competitions, etc. Or better yet, some up a junior pickleball clinic or fun drills to learn how to play.

Create a website or at least a dedicated Facebook page for the tournament

Pickleball Portal on Facebook

Setting up a website might be beneficial for different reasons.

It is easier to promote your pickleball tournament if you have a website with all the relevant information. Share the link of your website to different social media platforms.

If you provide a place for relevant information about your tournament you will reduce the chance of misinformation among the participants.

By creating a registration form and putting it on the website you are making the process much more simple and easy. You can add the option of paying for the participation fee online and not worry about the staff handling the money or losing it.

Hire a photographer

An important part of promoting your tournament is documenting the event and sharing the photos and videos after. If participants like the photographs taken at the tournament, they are more likely to share them and give your tournament a free promotion as a result.

You may be thinking it’s not really necessary since now everyone has cell phones and lots of photos will be taken and shared anyway but from experience, I would say that having a dedicated, professional photographer really does add to the tournament and quality photos make a big difference. You can use them to promote future tournaments, build a social media following and create great memories for participants.  ​

Many budding professional photographers would be happy to spend half a day shooting action shots for their portfolio for a fair fee so it can be a win-win. ​

Don’t forget about the prizes for the winners!

A nice way to make sure participants remember the tournament is to give them an award.  You can check out these pickleball medals made by Crown Awards, a company with a long history of supplying awards for business and youth sports since 1978 in the U.S. I think they are the best pickleball medals out there if you are looking for a generic medal, unless you need a custom made medal with your logo, tournament name, etc.

For smaller local tournaments, some clubs give away less formal prizes, such as a pickleball t-shirt, a book on pickleball or a pickleball themed gift.​

There you have it! 10 tips for organizing a pickleball tournament successfully. Good luck!

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About Dan Langston

With experience in the ecotourism industry and time well spent as a fly fishing guide in the remote absaroka mountain range for 6 years, Dan brings a unique perspective on customer service to the digital world. As the operator, Dan is now committed to revitalizing Pickleball Portal and plans to build a support system for content creators and provide helpful information for the pickleball community. dan@pickleballportal.com

13 thoughts on “Pickleball Tournaments: How To Plan & Organize a Successful Event”

  1. Hello my name is Mac Moody with Pickleball Global in Naples FL. We offer a FREE Pickleball Tournament Software. Have you heard of us and our League and Tournament Software? Are you already using a pickleball software? Please check out our website http://www.Pickleball.Global. Players participating in League and Tournament play through Pickleball Global are able to earn a combined yearly ranking. Please let me know if you have any questions.

  2. HI: I would like to have a pickleball fundraiser tournament to fight cancer. I have the venue and the date. My problem is 1. I have never run a tournament before and 2. I am computer challenged. Could you help? Jan Fredericks

    • Hi Jan, You might want to start by contacting a USAPA Ambassador in your area to see if they can help you with the planning/logistics.
      “Ambassadors are volunteers who have pledged to promote the sport of pickleball and the USAPA in the local area they have applied to represent”.

  3. How many dedicated Pickleball Courts would you suggest to have available in order to run a tournament of 100 to 150 people?

    • Hi Glenn, I have never held a tournament before so I could not say for certain, but I would take into consideration that each match will take approximately 50 min, and that you may also want to have a few practice courts available.

    • Hey Max, good question. Pickleball is still establishing itself, but I think most people in the community use the USAPA 1.0-6.0+ ranking system.

    • Hey Winchell, good question, On average, matches take between 40 and 60 minutes, so depending on what type of tournament you are planning to host, the amount of courts needed could vary. We have an article tournament planning that you may want to check out.


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