Christine Barksdale: Keeping Pickleball Tournaments Fair and Fun

I first met Christine Barksdale 15 years ago when we were both playing tennis.  She is a fine player and I have enjoyed playing with and against her in many tennis and pickleball tournaments.
pickleball tournaments
I began by asking Christine abut her job with the USAPA.
As you know, the USAPA only has three staff members … so we all wear a lot of hats. I am the Managing Director of Competition. I am responsible for direction and growth of the following programs – Rules, Equipment Evaluation and Approval, Referees Programs, and Sanctioned Tournaments.
What is the difference between a sanctioned and non-sanctioned tournament?
A Sanctioned Tournament must meet specific tournament requirements as laid out by the USAPA-IFP rules and adhere to the sanctioning guidelines established by the USAPA. The goal is to provide a consistent and fair playing environment for the players participating in the event. Sanctioned events are covered under the USAPA insurance program and all players and referees participating in a sanctioned tournament have secondary insurance under the USAPA policy. A non-sanctioned pickleball tournament, may follow the same guidelines or may stray from the guidelines for any reason including not having referees or using a less formal match format/game format for the event. Additonally, since non-sanctioned tournaments are not required to follow established equipment guidelines, players may use non-approved paddles potentially giving players an unfair advantage.

Why is it important we have more sanctioned events?  

We believe sanctioned pickleball tournaments offer the optimal competitve environment as they have referees, pickleball tournamentsa consistent format, and offer player insurance. As we look to 2018 with the addition of the USAPA Player Rating system, we will see increased reliability in players rankings and event seeding. This will increase the liklihood that each participant is grouped with players of a similar skill set making the tournament more fun for everyone involved. With that, however, I do believe that both sanctioned and non-sanctioned tournaments are great for growth of the sport and player development. Each player must decide what works best for them personally.
What kind of help does the USAPA give new tournaments?
The USAPA provides a tournament director checklist to aid in organizing the many moving parts involved in running a tournament. This creates a consistent infrastracture and helps to ensure that Tournament Directors’ dot I’s and cross T’s when it comes to putting the tournament “puzzle” together. Sanctioning includes event/venue insurance that can be quite costly for tournaments to obtain on their own.  In 2018, we are planning to step up support for Tournament Directors’ in Tournament Operations by adding Shirt/Medal Discounts, Referee Desk Assistance, and a comprehensive Tournament Director Manual.
We all know that there have been challenges related to tournament registration and there are all kinds of rumors about changes on the horizon.  Are sanctioned pickleball tournaments eventually going to be a requirement to play in a tournament like Nationals?
We will be releasing details about that in the coming weeks. We would like Nationals to be the best of the best not only in the Open divisions but at each skill level. Having qualifiers for Nationals will aid in bringing that goal to fruition.
Why do you think it is important to support the USAPA?
Support of the national governing body is important to have a stable and strong sport. A solid infrastructure and foundation of rules is needed so that everyone is on the same page with how to play the game whether they are playing recreationally or professionally. Membership dollars also help to cover programs to grow and spread the word of pickleball across the country.
Thanks Christine.  I have been a USAPA member since I took up the sport.  I think it is important to support the governing organization of any sport I compete in.  But this is especially true of the USAPA which relies so heavily on volunteers to run pickleball tournaments, work with local communities to build more courts, and to introduce the game to new players.  If you aren’t already a USAPA member, I would encourage you to become one today.