What do You Know about Organized Pickleball Play Options?

(The standards in organized play are Round Robins, Shootouts or Ladder Play, and Challenge Court play. We say that because most pickleball clubs are doing some version of some or all of these. However, we know that many of  you have developed interesting and unique organized play options. Sometimes you’ve done this for a particular reason, sometimes because it just seems like fun. Whatever  your reason for developing these, we encourage you to submit them for inclusion on this page – so that others can experience your wonderfulness!)

The following two organized play options, Team Pickleball and Speed Pickleball, were submitted by Dave and Linda Scott, USAPA Ambassadors for Chesterfield County, VA. We ourselves have not experienced either one of these two as Dave and Linda do them, but as we read through them they made perfect sense to us – we don’t see any reason they wouldn’t work well. In fact, either one of the two may give us a structure that we may experiment with in our Bend evening play sessions, oriented towards younger working adults, (assuming our Court Utilization Group agrees it’s worth a try). Give ’em a try and come back and give some feedback.

TEAM  PICKLEBALL

There are many variations of how this format can be worked out.     In our Richmond,VA pickleball group, we have an early evening group and a later evening group of 16 players participating each group.      Hence, 4 teams of 4 players each are formed, with the 4 strongest players of each group designated as team captains.     While the other players are warming up, the team captains meet to conduct the “draft” of the players for their teams.     Captains draw cards to determine the order of their draft picks.     The captain drawing the # 1 pick would have the following draft pick order…….1, 8, 9 & 16.     The # 2 pick’s draft order would be 2, 7 10 & 15.   The # 3 pick’s draft order would be 3, 6,11 & 14    Finally, the # 4 pick’s draft order would be 4, 5, 12 & 13.      Then each team captain determines his/her # 1 doubles duo (strongest players) and # 2 doubles duo (weaker players) for the first round of play.     In round one…….the # 1 duo of each team plays each of the other # 1 duos of the other teams in a round robin format……for a total of 3 games played for each duo.     Likewise for the # 2 duos for each team playing each other.     Wins and Losses are recorded on the scoreboards (dry erase boards hung on the outer fence) for each team.      Then for the second round of play……team captains determine new line-ups by matching a # 1 player with a # 2 player on each team and slots them into the # 1 position or # 2 position.      Then, the same format is used for the second round of play with the # 1 position teams playing among themselves and the number # 2 position teams playing the other # 2 position teams.Again, the results are posted on the scoreboards.      The overall won-loss records are tallied to determine the team champion for the evening.In summary, players play a total of 6 games for the session of 11-point games (win by 2), which is enough games for everybody in addition to their warm-up times.

SPEED PICKLEBALL

Again for our group, we have 16 players playing in two separate time shifts. For each shift, the 16 players are split into two groups of 8 players each based upon ability levels. These 8 players in each pickleball group will play a total of 7 games timed to 10 minutes in each game (or first team to reach 15 points……whichever comes first). Or, as an alternative, they could play 8-minute timed games (or first team to reach 11 points…..whichever comes first). They play with each of the other players in their group once as their partner and against each of the other players twice as their opponents. The match-ups are determined as follows, with each player given a number based upon alphabetical order of their names in each group:
     Round 1  –  1 & 8  vs.  2 & 6           3 & 4  vs.  5 & 7
     Round 2  –  4 & 5  vs.  1 & 6           2 & 8  vs.  3 & 7
     Round 3  –  3 & 8  vs.  1 & 4           5 & 6  vs.  2 & 7
     Round 4  –  6 & 7  vs.  1 & 3           4 & 8  vs.  2 & 5
     Round 5  –  5 & 8  vs.  3 & 6           1 & 7  vs.  2 & 4
     Round 6  –  1 & 2  vs.  3 & 5           6 & 8  vs.  4 & 7
     Round 7  –  7 & 8  vs.  1 & 5           2 & 3  vs.  4 & 6
Play begins when the horn or whistle is blown by the time-keeper, and play ends when the horn or whistle sounds again.     If a point is in progress when the time expires, that point can be played out to conclusion.     If the game is tied when time expires, the teams continue playing into “sudden death overtime” until a team scores a point to break the tie.     Wins and losses are recorded on the scoreboards (dry erase boards set up on the outer fence) after each game, and players take a 4 or 5 minute break for water and to check the schedule board for the next round of play.     At the end of the play of all 7 rounds, the wins and losses are tallied for each player to determine the overall winners for the evening.       Players get to play a lot of games with this format and mixed up with all the other players in their respective groups.

6 Comments

  • Karen McMillin
    May 21, 2019

    Do you have a 20 player – 4 court set up?

    • Jim
      February 20, 2020

      Hi Karen, did you ever get a 20 person setup? i also have 20 players on 4 courts and have yet to be able to come up with pairing where there are no dupe pairings and no dupe matches.

      • Us
        February 24, 2020

        Hey, Karen and Jim, did you ever find round-robin setups for pairs? We’d like to have some we could share with our readers, if you did. Thanks!

  • Alan
    November 2, 2017

    Was introduced to a new p’ball game, “Mllie”, in which 1 or 2 extra players play behind the baseline of 1 or 2 teams and play missed shots by either player on her team. When either of the designated players misses a shot, the Millie player switches w/ the player that made the error. This rotation continues throughout the game to completion. This alteration works particularly well when you have 5 or 7 players, 1 or 2 of which would normally sit out until the next game. It was suprisingly a lot of fun. If anyone knows more about this, I would like to know. I had never heard of or played it. Complements 3 person Canadian/Cut-throat.

  • Dan
    February 2, 2017

    I live in a 55+ community with an active Pickleball club. On any given day we have 20-25 players on 4 courts. We are struggling to find a system that works for us. We have tried “winners stay and split”, two consecutive game limits, and other formats. There are problems with each. We play from noon to 5; people come and go throughout this period.
    Any suggestions?

    • Us
      September 7, 2017

      At some point, to get better, more cohesive play at different skill levels, you will have to add skill-based Round Robins into the mix. Skill-based Round Robins are awesome for giving people competitive play in a non-stressful environment AND keeping them playing for six consecutive games. You might have a two-court RR for 8-11 players, or two of them at different skill levels, like 3.0=3.5 for one and 4.0+ for the other. Same sex on alternate days if enough players, otherwise all mixed. Check out our page on round robins. Note the associated materials on the next page, giving RR structures for each group, will not be working again until early October, 17 due to the need to migrate their provision over to a new platform. Check out the “17 player” version to see how it will look on more courts then.

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