There are different levels of pickleball tournaments and the larger they are, the more complex they become. This link takes you to the USAPA’s guide to running a tournament and this guide has advantages. For a small tournament it’ll get you thinking the right way. It’s reasonably short and is pretty simply written, too, which are both good things. If this is your first tournament we recommend you read this version first.
However, once your pickleball tournaments grows a bit a lot more issues can come into focus (or can cause you to lose focus, you decide!). Below, you’ll find introduction to (and, later, the whole of a much extensive tournament guide, which may help you organize and run your tournament. The guide is written specifically for the 2 tournaments that are put on each year by the Palm Creek Pickleball Club at Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ. The two pickleball tournaments are the Annual Residents’ Tournament, a non-sanctioned event open only to the residents of Palm Creek, and The Duel in The Desert, as of this writing the largest single-venue Tier Two pickleball tournament run by one club. Although we also recommend the USAPA’s stuff linked above for a first tournament, some of the information below could assist you as a tournament director in running your own pickleball tournament if you are doing it for the first time.
This guide was compiled by Bob VanderLinden, Palm Creek Pickleball Club Tournament Director, with help from each of the team leads on the various tournament sub-committees. NOTE!!! While the remainder of this page is only a SUMMARY of the introduction, the entire document can be downloaded here. It’s an extensive document, no question, but it’s well-organized and indexed, and we thank Bob VanderLinden BIG TIME for having shared this with us – and we thank Palm Creek for allowing him to do so, as well.
Summary of the Introduction. (See this for the whole document and we’d recommend you at least read the whole summary unabridged if you are wondering if running a bigger tournament is for you!)
Running a tournament is a lot of work, but it can be challenging, fun and you meet a lot of new friends from around North America. If you take time to plan and organize it will turn out fine.
Start Planning Early for pickleball tournaments
This cannot be emphasized enough. Early and thorough planning reduces the “emergencies” you will face during pickleball tournaments play days when time is critical. A tournament is a significant event and the last thing you want to do is have a significant SNAFU. You can expect to have many smaller issues, but want to reduce the number that involves your players and spectators. There are quite a few decisions you need to make as early as possible. The tasks will vary significantly based on community facilities, community events, club participation, liability insurance, food service, parking and many other factors.
Coordinate With Your Club
Get buyoff from your club or pickleball group. You will need a lot of help so make sure you have some people you can depend on to help with planning and execution. I have found that there are many people that are willing to volunteer for tasks (just tell me when to show up and what to do), but far fewer that want to do the planning work.
Gather A Good Team
It is a huge task for a single individual, so if you can get a Tournament Committee together to help with planning and coordination you will be way ahead. In addition, I would recommend that you have you have Task Team Leads for the major tasks associated with the pickleball tournaments.
Coordinate With Your Community
Coordinate use of community facilities early to avoid conflicts. Your community may have other activities going on that make running a tournament more difficult.
Set Pickleball Tournament Dates
Pickleball tournaments are getting very popular and if you want a good turnout you need to schedule your tournament in an open slot in your area. Players are starting to schedule their tournament play well in advance. Please be considerate of other tournaments and don’t schedule one over the top of an existing tournament. Check www.pickleballtournaments.com and USAPA.org to find out what tournaments are being run in your area. Go back a year or 2 to be sure that you catch tournaments that just haven’t been listed yet for the year. Tournament Directors will be glad to talk with you, so if you are close to another tournament, call and check it out. Submit your tournament to both pickleballtournaments.com (cost for listing and for using software) and USAPA.org (free). Get your slot as early as you can to prevent conflicts.
Pickleball Tournament Software
Pickleball tournaments software for registration and brackets is essential. Our club uses pickleballtournaments.com software although USAPA also has software that can be used. There is a charge for pickleballtournaments.com but they provide support for setting up, registration, brackets and running the tournament using their software. As an aside, they will also run the tournament for you for a fee. Both usually ask for a registration form that shows tournament dates, brackets, costs and schedule to help with setup and listing. Pickleballtournaments.com provides online registration, payment, bracket development and desk operations.
Online Desk Operations
Determine if you will be using the PBT.com online Desk Operations. There is a learning curve associated with this and would recommend attending a tournament where it is being used and getting experience before trying. If you have not used this before I would not try it at your first tournament.
Volunteer at a pickleball tournaments to get experience
Finding a tournament or 2 and volunteering to train and assist is a good way to learn before your own tournament. They will appreciate the help and you will get a lot of invaluable training.
If you are not using the PBT tournament software, you will need to have “desk brackets” in addition to the Bracket Board brackets. These are your master copies and help you run the tournament and keep matches moving. When using the PBT software, you may be able to get by without the desk brackets but it requires monitoring the brackets closely to ensure you are on track with all matches. This requires a little more skillful operator.
Establish dates, fees and events you will be playing. Refer to USAPA sanctioning guidelines to ensure you are in compliance. You do have a broad latitude of what you offer. You will also want to identify the days and times of the different events.
Develop Registration Form and Flyer
You can download a pickleball tournament’s registration form to use as a guide. The flyer is important to market your tournament. You can send it to tournament directors and ask them to put it out or have it available. Again, you can use an existing flyer as a guide.
You do not have to sanction your tournament through USAPA.org but if you do tournament players will get tournament points based on the sanctioning level and USAPA will provide supplemental insurance. Since January 1, 2016 all players in sanctioned tournaments have had to be USAPA Members. (Sanctioning fees are reasonable.) There are some sanctioning requirements that are communicated with the sanctioning letter. (Reporting results within 1 week, Referees for all matches, use IFP regs, Sell USAPA Memberships, etc.)
Make sure your tournament is fun and memorable and players will return and be your best advocates. Do things that make both the player and spectator experience enjoyable.
Tournament Items to Consider
– Court location
– Brackets: Age, skill, etc
– Type of balls
– Food service
– Water/sports drink
– Sponsors and vendors
– Player snacks
– Player gifts such as T-shorts, inexpensive backpacks, etc
– Tents (easy-up style), chairs, tables
– Players bring camp chairs
– Morning Refreshments: Coffee, Danish 7:30-10 AM
The entire document can be downloaded here.