What To Pack For Your Next Pickleball Tournament

Pack Your Bags it’s Tourney Time!

It’s easy to get caught up in the adrenaline of an amped-up “Come on!” when you crush the ball down the line past a quick-handed opponent, the unstoppable feeling when you hit the flow state and every ball is in, and that quiet knowing that a medal is just a few points away on your path paved with errorless play.  But when it comes to tourney time, packing your bag is just as essential as these elements falling into place on the road to gold. 

The Game is in the Bag

For starters, it’s all about the bag.  Like a saddlebag-laden mule to a gold prospector in “them thar hills”, your bag must be able to handle the gear, apparel, essentials, fuel, and other accouterments of a champion.

Even though this unsung hero will spend most of its time on the sidelines, in some desolate corner of the courts, beneath the feet of a herd of pickleball enthusiasts, or hanging from some MacGyver-inspired contraption from the fence, it still has to wield the tools you need so that you can focus on the game. 

To ensure your bag is up to the challenge, look for the one equipped with comfy straps (trust me, when trucking your bag from court to court you’ll appreciate the padded wonders saving your shoulders from agony and indentations), an abundance of pockets (to keep everything organized and easy to reach), and bonus features (ventilated shoe compartments or those of the insulated food/drink variety, anyone?).  Enter the Selkirk Tour Backpack! Guaranteed to get you through the long haul, this bag has everything you need to carry you to Championship Courts on the pickleball world tour!

For those of us lucky enough to have a cheering squad along for the ride, willing to participate as noble Sherpas in the challenge of hefting your trusty gear to any heights while guiding you to success, you may be able to downsize without sacrificing comfort, utility or your game day must-haves (see Selkirk Team Backpack or Selkirk Day Backpack).  Whichever bag you choose, make sure it is up to the job so you can take care of the one on the court!

Champion’s Choice 

When it comes down to it, there’s no replacement for packing your bag for success. While any article can provide a checklist of things to keep in your bag, like gear, apparel, essentials, and accessories for a long day or multiple days on the courts, there are a few atypical items that might give you that champion’s edge:

  • Nutrition – no matter what you eat normally, we can all take a page out the endurance athlete’s (distance runners, cyclists, etc.) book, and especially their cookbooks, when it comes to staying hydrated and satiated for long days on the court.  Taking the time to make a protein-packed and energizing snack ahead of time (bite/bar/cookie/muffin) is an excellent way to fuel and treat your body, without weighing it down.  In combination with plenty of water, gels/goos (available at most running/cycling shops) and electrolytes (in the form of capsules, tablets, or beverages) taken throughout the day (typically every 2 hours or to suit your body’s needs) can help to ensure that you are replacing what you sweat out. And if muscle cramps are a concern, mustard packets can be just the ticket to recover quickly. 

It's rumored Tyson ate a granola bar right before this point...

But seriously, taking care of your body throughout the day through food and hydration is one of the easiest ways to ensure you are able to perform your best on the court!

  • Body Care – although not always so tender, your body needs loving care when you subject it to long hours on the courts (trust me, your muscles and medical care team will thank you!).  Choosing to carry a lacrosse/tennis/massage ball or roller/stick, as part of your toolkit can be a game-changer between sets or during long breaks to keep your body loose and pinpoint tight muscle groups.  When coupled with some stretches and yoga you can ensure that your body is ready game after game and enjoy the benefits of fewer injuries. 
  • Pickleball notebook and pen – I love keeping a pickleball notebook!  Whether it’s tools, tricks, and tips from the pros, clinics or personal observations of matches/tactics, this has helped immensely when it comes to adding depth to my game.  It can also help to take the time to record what worked well, your mental/physical state, and what challenges or goals you want to overcome/achieve so you can review and repeat excellence or establish game day routines.  Not to mention it’s a great place to record suggestions or contact information from all of the amazing people you meet!
  • Music – we all know that a game-time playlist can get you hyped up and ready for competition, and that a feel good playlist can make you loose and happy, but what about a playlist full of songs with rhythm that you listen to while training and play prior to your first match to get that muscle memory going?  I find that using a certain song while I’m practicing serves or dinking during solo training, and playing it before a tournament can set me up for success and ease the nerves and pressure when it comes time on the court. 
  • Custom paddle covers or fun key chains - they are out there folks, and whether you are sentimental, have a sense of humor, love a particular image, or just like to express your individual style, these affordable items can bring a smile to your face and remind you of what’s important beyond the courts. We can all agree that something personal can make you feel happy, positive, and at ease going into the game. 

Regardless of what you throw in or on your bag or what gets you through the ups and downs of the tournament circuit and everyday games, everyone can prepare to play like a champion!

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