Pickleball Tournaments, Plan for Success

Some pickleball tournaments offer the option of playing both in age and skill divisions.  Which do you enter?  Do you enter both?  Do you have a plan to succeed in whichever division you enter?
pickleball tournaments
I realize for many players, age and skill divisions mean two very different things.  Many advanced players look at age as a warm up for the Open event.  Intermediate players may look at this as an opportunity to play with higher skill level players, who perhaps they don’t get a chance to play against during normal recreational play.  But this can be a daunting task!  I have played some teams who are so nervous that they are unable to play to their skill level.  On the other hand, some teams enter the event feeling they have nothing to lose and may actually play out of their minds!  If you want to make the most of every tournament experience, permit me to suggest a few things.
Pickleball Tournament Tip #1:  Set Goals

Some people believe you can only set quantitative goals: score 4 points in the first game. Having achieved that, they may raise the bar to 7 points in the second game.   If this works for you, fine.  But you can also set other, more qualitative goals.  This sort of goal might be:

  • I want to stay in the point longer, or
  • I want to attempt this strategy, or
  • I want to maintain my composure and remain positive, no matter what.

By setting  goals you are giving yourself something to work on and something you can focus on besides the overall match.

Pickleball Tournament Tip #2:  Make a Plan



Whether it be your attitude on the court, your commitment to have fun or a specific strategy you wish to employ; be aware of what you want to accomplish in each and every match.   If you loose sight of the purpose of being there,  you won’t benefit from the experience.  I have witnessed teams without a plan, simply going through the motions and, as a result, the only thing they get out of the event is a crushing loss.  Give yourself a chance to have a positive learning experience by creating a plan with your partner before every match.

Pickleball Tournament Tip #3:  Enjoy Yourself!

If you are the lower rated player, you have absolutely nothing to lose so you might as well have fun.   Frankly, you never know what could happen.  If you are out there having fun you most likely will play very well. You will be loose and relaxed and may even pickleball tournamentssurprise yourself at times.  I absolutely believe anyone can win a match on any given day.

Focus on these things and set yourself up for quality play.  Look at it as a great opportunity to practice.  Each experience can provide you new insights to help you in the future.

And permit me to offer a bit of advice for the higher level players entering pickleball tournaments. NO matter who is on the other side:  level, age, whether you know them or not…Respect your opponent.  Treat them as you would treat any other opponent.  Everyone on the court wants to play more and have fun while doing it, so why not have the best experience no matter who you are playing.

8 thoughts on “Pickleball Tournaments, Plan for Success

  1. Sarah, we did a facebook poll about a year ago, asking the question “would you rather play an Age tournament or a Skill Level tournament. The results were 95% would rather play their fellow players at their skill level where you might run into some younger same-rated players, rather than at their age level where you find everyone from beginners to 5.0’s. Good stuff. Keep it coming!

  2. Just my two cents…love playing age/skill level tournaments…yes, these do happen. You play your age and at your skill level. Sometimes, you have to play a higher (or lower) rated player BUT the skill level receives the medals according to their results. In other words, I recently played one team in one event and two teams in another event that were rated higher…they received their medals (gold and/or silver), we received ours at our skill level. Great fun and some exciting points. In another instance, my partner and I were the only 70’s team in the 4.0 category. We automatically won our gold BUT we had the opportunity to play several matches at the next LOWER age level, enjoying the competition and even had a few successes. Again, great fun. Hopefully, there will be more skill level/age tournaments in the future, as this great sport of ours continues to grow.

  3. I liked your thoughts for Plan for Success! I believe it can apply to recreational play every time you walk on the court. I am going to write down my goals and results. Thanks for these tips Sarah!

  4. Great food for thought. You have to have a plan or purpose for each time you hit the ball, where to, who to and where you go after making the shot (positioning), a very important but often over looked strategy.

  5. Hi Sarah
    Chuck from Pickleball camp Kelowna. Thanks for refreshing my memory with your wisdom on success in tournament play! Looking forward to playing my first tournament next week and having fun!

  6. Hi Sarah:
    I enjoy reading all your articles and watching your instructional videos on YouTube as well as the tournament matches on YouTube. Most of the time the quality on a large HD screen is impressive!
    I am a 65 year old female and tennis player who has won some small tournaments in pickleball in mixed doubles at 4.0 and more recently 4.5 level in skill/ age divisions. I am also involved in teaching at my local club of about 100 members . I am trying to be sure our more experienced players who are helping the beginners are setting good examples., particularly with the service motion. We have a few players who appear to have a quick high to low slicing motion in their serve which more often than not I feel is illegal. The problem is that the motion is so fast that they may be starting an upward arc so close to the point of impact that is very difficult to be sure. Their ending motion is upward but I believe it to be After impact. If their motion changes immediately before impact to low to high, then the serve would be legal. Personally, I have always thought that if the ball bounces in the service court with some crazy spin and jets off to the side sometimes creating an ace, that the motion must be illegal. i just don’t think it is possible to create that much backspin and side spin and still be legal. But, I have looked and have not found any definite statement about this published. I understand how all forms of spin are created and top spin with some side spin seems to be the only kinds that can be created with a legal service motion composed of the three requirements and ending in an upward arc. Can you comment on this? Personally, I hate getting aced in recreational games by a serve that is so angled and bounces away from me. Is there a simple video program or app available for cell phones or iPads that can create slow motion enough to identify the service motion and prove to these fast motion servers that their motion is illegal??
    I did find Mark Rennison’s video on YouTube which i thought was quite good showing several,different service motions and identifying which ones were legal or not. I sent that out to our members…

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