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Your FIRST Tournament Trip: A Ten Step Guide

You have stumbled upon this article with an interest in tournaments. If you are newer to the tournament scene, you might be thinking about entering in your first pickleball tournament.

But it feels like a scary process and you don't know where to begin. So let's simplify it.

Rec games, social play, and your local groups are great fun, but tournaments are a whole new vibe. Tournaments can make for a truly amazing trip for you and your family and friends.

pickleball tournament

Tournaments can be an incredible pickleball experience.

Participating in a tournament is a great way to challenge yourself, meet new players, ones who are brought together from all over, who provide great buzz and energy, and you can experience the thrill of competition. You can also combine pickleball with travel.

But planning out a pickleball tournament can be daunting.

You're probably not sure where to begin.

Truthfully, there are a lot of things on the to-do list, and newer players might forget or overlook an item. That's no good! Playing pickleball is hard enough, planning to play should be made easy.

So this guide will provide you a checklist of what you need to plan and prepare before going into your first pickleball tournament. From registering for the event, to training, to being equipped, this covers all the essential steps to get you into and at a tournament.

To-do list for your first pickleball tournament:

Determine which tournament to enter

Research upcoming pickleball tournaments in your area or beyond, and decide which one you want to compete in. Consider the date, location, level of competition, and other factors that may be important to you.

You might find that you want to travel further and to somewhere new so you can see a different city, venue, and face unknown opponents. You may also want to play a smaller tournament and not enter a PPA or APP or other national-level event for your first one.

Maybe you don't want to fly cross-country for your first tournament, but you may also want to drive an hour or two out of town and play somewhere new and make a trip out of it.

Register for the tournament

Once you decide on a tournament to enter, visit the Pickleball Tournaments website.

You may need a USAP membership and associated number. You may also contact the organizers to register for the event. Many round robins and mixers aren't sanctioned, so it's more casual.

Be sure to read the tournament rules, entry fees, and registration deadlines before signing up. The PT website will tell you the structure and all details, even which ball will be used. Familiarize yourself with the scoring system, the schedule of play, and any other specific conditions. No surprises!

pickleball national championships

Book transportation

Make travel arrangements to get to the tournament location. This may include booking flights, renting a car, and planning a road trip. Consider the distance and any potential travel delays that may affect arrival time. Try to arrive a day early and scout the venue!

Book lodging

Find accommodations near the tournament venue. This may be a hotel, Airbnb, or someone's home. Consider proximity to the tournament venue when deciding where to stay.

The Facebook forums often have posts where people request free home-stays with pickleball players in a city. It's common practice to throw it out there. It's worth asking.

Prepare your gear

Make sure you have all the equipment you need for the tournament, including a pickleball paddle, some pickleballs, your trusty court shoes, and appropriate clothing. Check that your equipment is in good condition, and have spare gear for an emergency!

For tournaments, really try to have a spare paddle. Also, some spare balls for pregame practice. You may want to invest in a legitimate pickleball bag too if you don't have one!

Plan for meals

Find out what food options are available near the tournament venue and plan accordingly. This may include bringing snacks or packing a lunch to take with you. Some tourneys have food vendors on site, some don't. Find out ahead of time, don't go hungry!

Also arrange for being able to eat a balanced, nice meal the night before. You need to carb up and have nutrients for the day ahead!

Practice (cue Rocky montage)!

Start practicing well in advance of the tournament to improve your skills and stamina. Work on your serve, return, dinks, blocks, and practice playing games with your partner.

Expert tip: Figure out what time of day you play. You may want to practice in the mornings. Tournaments are not often played at night. View some practice tools here.

Arrive early

Arrive at the tournament venue early on the day of the event.

Sometimes parking is tight or the venue is large and you should find out how the courts are laid out and numbered. You will also need to check in and show an ID.

Then, warm up if you can find a vacant court. Get familiar with the surroundings. This will let your mind settle in and you can mentally prep for the tourney with no rush!

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water and fluids throughout the tournament to keep your body hydrated and to maintain your energy levels.

Generally, drink more often than you think is necessary. Here is the best hydration supplement for pickleball players.

Check out this guide with hydration tips, and consider investing in a hydro flask type water bottle so you don't have to keep refilling it or getting ice randomly throughout the day.

Have fun!

Hey, you're at the event! Stay focused throughout the tournament, both on and off the court. But have fun, stay positive, stay in the moment, and enjoy the experience. It should be fun.

By following this ten-step checklist, you will be well prepared for your first pickleball tournament and ready to compete at your best. Good luck and happy pickling!


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