How to Prepare for a Pickleball Tournament: An Ultimate Guide with Checklist

Written by Adam (HV)

April 7, 2022

pickleball tournament, pickleball tournaments
how to prepare for a pickleball tournament, pickleball tournament checklist

Free Checklist: How to Prepare for a Pickleball Tournament

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Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the world because it’s easy to play, it’s a great way to make new friends, and you can be as competitive or recreational as you want. But when you move from pick up games to tournaments, it raises the stakes, the level of competition, and the intimidation factor can go up.

Today we’re going to look at how to prepare for tournaments from tip to tail by breaking it down into stages, so you can easily take it step by step.

It’s my hope that with this video you’ll learn what to expect from tournaments, how to enjoy them and how to compete at a higher level with confidence.

If you’d like to watch the video, you can do that here.

Today we’re covering how to prepare for a tournament. We’re breaking it down into 4 stages, what I like to call the 4 p’s – partnering, practicing, packing, and performing. Tournaments sometimes can be a source of controversy with things like people who play down in skill level to win, players who intentionally make bad calls, and many other things. We’re not covering that today because you can’t control sandbaggers or your opponent’s calls. Instead we’re focusing on the things you can control – like the 4 p’s.

Pickleball Tournament Tactic #1 – Partnering

If you want to compete in a doubles tournament, you need a partner. 

In order to find a good partner, you first must BE a good partner.

You may not always have the luxury of knowing your partner before a tournament, but on the occasion that you do, there are a few qualities you want to look for. Here are my top 5 I seek out and try to demonstrate for doubles.

  • Communication – Does your partner communicate and listen in all forms of communication? This means call out balls, call your shots, and talk if you see a strategy. A good partner also understands nonverbal communication. This means, don’t roll your eyes or let out a big sigh when your partner makes a mistake. After all, 70-90% of all communication is nonverbal. 
  • Positivity – Is your partner positive or optimistic? A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing. This means that you’re encouraging your partner when you’re down.
  • Consistent – Is your partner consistent on and off the court? Do you walk the talk?
  • Strategic – Does your partner understand the value of strategy and how to stick to a game plan?
  • Kind – Can you hang with your partner for a day and still have fun? This is what I like to call the good hang rule. Tournaments are long and if you can’t see yourself spending a day and hanging out with your potential partner, then there’s a good chance they’re not a good fit.
  • A few other qualities to look for include: accountability, complimentary, grit, accountability, and calmness.

Pickleball Tournament Tactic #2 – Practicing

Many tournaments are planned months in advance so it’s a good idea to register and begin practicing with your partner as much as possible. Here are my top 5 tips for practicing before a tournament.

  • Consider drilling together. Every hour of drilling will be worth around 3 hours of recreation games because you get more reps, so take advantage of the time you have. Drill your dinks, 3rd shot drops, and resets in the transition zone. Also, be sure to debrief and communicate after each drill session to understand what you’re learning.
  • Practice the in-game adjustments you will use in tournaments. Consider things like stacking when you’re down in points, calling shots, crafting a strategy, and isolating players.
  • This may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll want to seek out and play teams who are better than you to uncover any glaring weaknesses you may have. The better the team, the quicker they will illuminate your opportunities to improve.
  • Practice with your tournament settings. For example, use the same brand of ball as the tournament to get a feel for it. Is the tournament indoor or outdoor? Are they games to 15 or 11? Knowing these things can help you practice like you will play on game day. Also, know the rules and practice by them. This will help you for game day.
  • Lastly, one creative way to practice tournament mode and simulate a high-stakes competition, is to try a round-robin tournament with friends. Here’s how it works:

    • Create a bracket or download the free brackets from the checklist
    • Each person or team draws a number from a hat
    • After each round, write down the wins and losses. The team or person with the most wins gets bragging rights. You can also be creative about how you can raise the stakes here.

Pickleball Tournament Tactic #3 – Packing

Tournaments can last all day so you’ll want to be prepared for anything and everything, and to pack accordingly.

Here are my top items I have in my bag for every tournament. I’ll include links to a few of these if you’d like to get them for your next tournament.

Pickleball Tournament Tactic #4 – Performing

As competitive pickleball players, we all want to make it to the podium at the end of the day, but what’s most important is walking away from a performance you can be proud of. 

Here are a few things to consider for doing just that:

  • Rest – Consider resting on the day before a tournament to give your legs a chance to recharge but ultimately get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is critical to your decision making and mental endurance.
  • Arrive early. If possible, get there at least a few hours early to play on the courts ahead of time to see the court surface, the lighting, and the weather if it’s outdoors.
  • Play a real game before your tournament starts if at all possible. You do not want to start cold with your first match. I say this because warming up isn’t always sufficient – a real game can help you get into a rhythm.
  • Pickleball tournament game tips.
    • When game time comes, you’ll want to remember a few things for every match:
    • Be patient: many players will be nervous, which can lead to unforced errors. If you can play consistently and wait for your opponent to make the first mistake, then you will likely gain some points this way.
    • Stay calm – Regardless if this is your first tournament or your 50th, nerves are a factor for everyone and whoever can remain calm will have an upper hand in matches. For example, if you make an error and get frustrated, stay calm and talk to your partner. Don’t show your emotion. Any extra data outside of your performance like your emotions or how you’re feeling physically can be used against you. 
    • Identify your opponent’s weaknesses quickly in the match. If one player is significantly weaker, isolate that person. The sooner you can do this, the sooner you can craft a better strategy.
    • Use timeouts – Momentum plays a significant part in tournament games. The moment that you get down in points or the momentum shifts, call a timeout and pivot your strategy.


What pickleball tournament tactic was most helpful for you?

What pickleball tournament strategies do you use? Let me know in the comments. 

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