Pros and Cons of Pickleball Clubs

There are both decided negatives and significant positives surrounding the establishment of a pickleball club. If you aren’t yet decided, let’s examine both cons and the pros, starting with the dark side.

Cons:

  1. As opposed to just getting out there and trying to do something, no matter how poorly the effort is organized, it takes extra time to form and run a pickleball club. We’re not talking here about the time you already spend, say, organizing pickleball play days. You continue to do that without the club, naturally. We’re talking about the extra time necessary to prepare for and hold an organizational meeting with your group. Extra time to research your state’s requirements for not-for-profit sports-club organization. Time to make decisions if you have choices of tax structure (501c3? 501c7? Other?). Time to do proper reporting. Time to decide who does what on the board (we believe in functionally-written bylaws). To start a bank account. To research and write appropriate bylaws. To hold regular club board and membership meetings and elections. To take notes. To post those notes in a public place. Blah, blah, blah…you get the picture. You’ve thought of much of this already. 
  2. Serving as a board member is at least a full-year and often a two-(or-even-four-)year commitment. (FOUR years? Sure! Remember, the President then become Past President – still a board member, albeit perhaps non-voting, and it’s another term.) Attending board meetings in addition to general club meetings means you spend even more time on pickleball, to the detriment of other stuff in your life….like playing pickleball.
  3. Deciding certain things within a club is “interesting”, “interesting” being a non-word that usually defines as “painful”. For instance, deciding on a dues structure is always great fun. (We recommend you make your dues structure as complicated and expensive as possible because that guarantees that you as a board member will get to meet EVERY ONE of your club members or potential club members personally!) 
  4. Collecting the dues is…..well, not everybody’s cup of Kamchatka. Or maybe it is; you can decide. Ongoing, if you like being the pickleball police, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to tell somebody they can’t play in an organized event because they are four months late paying their annual dues. 
  5. Communicating with members, (previously, your fellow players and friends), stops being a privilege and something fun to do and starts being an obligation. Plus, if you are president of your club, communication is especially problematic unless you are really, really good at delegating….this because many of the members feel they are paying for the right to be in your face about anything they don’t like, many of the members of a typical pickleball club being seniors and all (and we know how we are, don’t we?)
  6. The pay for being a board member typically sucks. We believe that almost every pickleball club board member winds up in the negative financially. This is probably logical given the starting pay is always zero and we’re too lazy to submit for expense reimbursements for little things, not to mention mileage to and from meetings and so on….always on your nickel.

Pros:

As awful as the above sounds, there are even more positives for forming a pickleball club. Here are a few:

  1. Organized as a club, you often become the “pickleball voice” of your community. You have positional authority as a board member. This makes it easier for you to work with everyone from a Park and Recreation District to the City to the local newspaper and it makes it much easier for you to establish an affiliate relationship with the USAPA (USA Pickleball Association), which is invaluable in many respects.
  2. In our opinion, being formally organized as a club helps both in the short-term as you are working to build your community and will be nearly a necessity if, as a group, you decide to begin a fund-raising project to build courts, for instance.
  3. You can direct yourself, as a group, towards one goal or a couple of major goals more easily. For instance, if your goal is to grow pickleball in your community, you can assign functional responsibilities oriented towards that growth to the board members.
  4. Defining the functional responsibilities will help in the future as you transition from one set of board members to another. People know when they run for the board what their responsibilities will be, as opposed to generally not knowing when they just become part of a group. (All assuming you communicate about those responsibilities, of course!)
  5. The year (or season) can be organized ahead of time. Planning gets done typically far in advance of what would happen if the group was more informally structured. 
  6. Over not too much time, most clubs start to run like machines. Repetitive functional responsibilities are addressed and shared when appropriate without a lot of discussion. In the Bend Pickleball Club, for instance, if we on the board NEVER talked as a group with Karen or Christie, our respective tournament directors of our two summer tournaments, it probably wouldn’t matter. They both knew exactly what to do, what they wanted from us as a board, and would tell us when they need us to be doing something ! (While in our organization the tournament directors are not on the board per se, they each head up a tournament committee that does “report” to a board person, just in case.) This all insures that much more gets done with far less effort. 
  7. If the club is sued because, for instance, somebody is injured on the court, God forbid (in either instance, suit or injury), the club can (and should) arrange liability insurance that will help provide legal insulation to the board members and club members. (We are not lawyers but we in Bend did see fit to go out and arrange exactly that kind of liability insurance….this is different, btw, than Board of Directors insurance. Consult your own attorney for more on this complex matter. And buy a personal, individual liability policy of your own in addition, would you please? We’re still not lawyers; we’re just sayin’……)

(Note: Insurance, by the way, is often required if you are holding a pickleball tournament on any kind of public courts. Good luck getting it if you aren’t organized as a club. It can be done but it  ain’t for the faint of heart. )

  1. We can’t prove this, but we believe that repetitive and ongoing events and activities can be held, learned from and repeated with more ease the following day, month or season from within a club structure. Logicaly it could also be accomplished within a non-club structure if the functional responsibilities are equally clearly defined, of course. But arranging for things necessary to repetitive events like club-paid-for storage units for the many, many things one needs to run a training program, tournaments, clinics, demonstrations, or to clean and maintain courts is SO much easier if you have an understanding the club WILL pay for it even if you as an individual need to go out and get one. 

There is more to be said on either side of this equation but the above will get you thinking about the pros and cons.

There are both decided negatives and significant positives surrounding the establishment of a pickleball club. If you aren’t yet decided, let’s examine both cons and the pros, starting with the dark side.

Cons:

  1. As opposed to just getting out there and trying to do something, no matter how poorly the effort is organized, it takes extra time to form and run a pickleball club. We’re not talking here about the time you already spend, say, organizing pickleball play days. You continue to do that without the club, naturally. We’re talking about the extra time necessary to prepare for and hold an organizational meeting with your group. Extra time to research your state’s requirements for not-for-profit sports-club organization. Time to make decisions if you have choices of tax structure (501c3? 501c7? Other?). Time to do proper reporting. Time to decide who does what on the board (we believe in functionally-written bylaws). To start a bank account. To research and write appropriate bylaws. To hold regular club board and membership meetings and elections. To take notes. To post those notes in a public place. Blah, blah, blah…you get the picture. You’ve thought of much of this already. 
  2. Serving as a board member is at least a full-year and often a two-(or-even-four-)year commitment. (FOUR years? Sure! Remember, the President then become Past President – still a board member, albeit perhaps non-voting, and it’s another term.) Attending board meetings in addition to general club meetings means you spend even more time on pickleball, to the detriment of other stuff in your life….like playing pickleball.
  3. Deciding certain things within a club is “interesting”, “interesting” being a non-word that usually defines as “painful”. For instance, deciding on a dues structure is always great fun. (We recommend you make your dues structure as complicated and expensive as possible because that guarantees that you as a board member will get to meet EVERY ONE of your club members or potential club members personally!) 
  4. Collecting the dues is…..well, not everybody’s cup of Kamchatka. Or maybe it is; you can decide. Ongoing, if you like being the pickleball police, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to tell somebody they can’t play in an organized event because they are four months late paying their annual dues. 
  5. Communicating with members, (previously, your fellow players and friends), stops being a privilege and something fun to do and starts being an obligation. Plus, if you are president of your club, communication is especially problematic unless you are really, really good at delegating….this because many of the members feel they are paying for the right to be in your face about anything they don’t like, many of the members of a typical pickleball club being seniors and all (and we know how we are, don’t we?)
  6. The pay for being a board member typically sucks. We believe that almost every pickleball club board member winds up in the negative financially. This is probably logical given the starting pay is always zero and we’re too lazy to submit for expense reimbursements for little things, not to mention mileage to and from meetings and so on….always on your nickel.

Pros:

As awful as the above sounds, there are even more positives for forming a pickleball club. Here are a few:

  1. Organized as a club, you often become the “pickleball voice” of your community. You have positional authority as a board member. This makes it easier for you to work with everyone from a Park and Recreation District to the City to the local newspaper and it makes it much easier for you to establish an affiliate relationship with the USAPA (USA Pickleball Association), which is invaluable in many respects.
  2. In our opinion, being formally organized as a club helps both in the short-term as you are working to build your community and will be nearly a necessity if, as a group, you decide to begin a fund-raising project to build courts, for instance.
  3. You can direct yourself, as a group, towards one goal or a couple of major goals more easily. For instance, if your goal is to grow pickleball in your community, you can assign functional responsibilities oriented towards that growth to the board members.
  4. Defining the functional responsibilities will help in the future as you transition from one set of board members to another. People know when they run for the board what their responsibilities will be, as opposed to generally not knowing when they just become part of a group. (All assuming you communicate about those responsibilities, of course!)
  5. The year (or season) can be organized ahead of time. Planning gets done typically far in advance of what would happen if the group was more informally structured. 
  6. Over not too much time, most clubs start to run like machines. Repetitive functional responsibilities are addressed and shared when appropriate without a lot of discussion. In the Bend Pickleball Club, for instance, if we on the board NEVER talked as a group with Karen or Christie, our respective tournament directors of our two summer tournaments, it probably wouldn’t matter. They both knew exactly what to do, what they wanted from us as a board, and would tell us when they need us to be doing something ! (While in our organization the tournament directors are not on the board per se, they each head up a tournament committee that does “report” to a board person, just in case.) This all insures that much more gets done with far less effort. 
  7. If the club is sued because, for instance, somebody is injured on the court, God forbid (in either instance, suit or injury), the club can (and should) arrange liability insurance that will help provide legal insulation to the board members and club members. (We are not lawyers but we in Bend did see fit to go out and arrange exactly that kind of liability insurance….this is different, btw, than Board of Directors insurance. Consult your own attorney for more on this complex matter. And buy a personal, individual liability policy of your own in addition, would you please? We’re still not lawyers; we’re just sayin’……)

(Note: Insurance, by the way, is often required if you are holding a pickleball tournament on any kind of public courts. Good luck getting it if you aren’t organized as a club. It can be done but it  ain’t for the faint of heart. )

  1. We can’t prove this, but we believe that repetitive and ongoing events and activities can be held, learned from and repeated with more ease the following day, month or season from within a club structure. Logicaly it could also be accomplished within a non-club structure if the functional responsibilities are equally clearly defined, of course. But arranging for things necessary to repetitive events like club-paid-for storage units for the many, many things one needs to run a training program, tournaments, clinics, demonstrations, or to clean and maintain courts is SO much easier if you have an understanding the club WILL pay for it even if you as an individual need to go out and get one. 

There is more to be said on either side of this equation but the above will get you thinking about the pros and cons.

3 Comments

  • pickleball club, Pros and Cons of Pickleball Clubs, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz
    Jon Canter
    February 4, 2018

    I continue to learn from you all. I have several questions:

    1) What is the cost of liability insurance?
    2) If you don’t count Tournaments (where non-club members might play), aren’t you covered by the WAIVER they sign as adults as a mere club member?
    3) If you play in city/county government courts as part of programs they hold (e.g. courts for rent/use), don’t they cover citizens who play (club/not club?)
    4) when you file as s 501 (c) 7 non-profit social club, do you have to include proof of insurance (e.g. Certificate of Liability)?

    Thanks for your time, I know you are busy….

    • pickleball club, Pros and Cons of Pickleball Clubs, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz
      Us
      February 11, 2018

      Liability insurance is a variable expense depending on number of people covered. We usually budget about $1000 annually.
      2. You may or may not be covered by a waiver. Personally we wouldn’t take the risk.
      3. Re city or county … usually only they are covered meaning you aren’t. Be careful!
      501c3 – don’t believe you need insurance to set up a 501c3 but for all events or play you would.

  • pickleball club, Pros and Cons of Pickleball Clubs, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz
    April 27, 2015

    Love this! This past year, as the District Ambassador for Western Florida, I have attended five communities starting up pickleball and I point out the pros and cons for forming a club. What is written here is just want I’m looking for. I have a community meeting tomorrow and this will add something for them to consider. This club, like so many others, are faced with the “tennis factor”, which is allowing them time to present pickleball to the community. The “tennis factor” is always there in the beginning, but, with good “political skills” and smiles, this will be overcome – hopefully in the short run.

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