Selkirk Sport - We Are Pickleball


First Pickleball Tournament? What To Expect And How To Prepare

By Stephen Bass

on Aug 11, 2022

Hey Rookie! Are you playing in your first pickleball tournament?

In this article you will find information on what to expect and how to prepare for your first pickleball tournament as a rookie player. 

First Tournament … Are you ready?

I wish I had read this before my first pickleball tournament, but at least I can fill you in on my experience.

After joining my first pickleball club in Winnipeg, I found my level of play was getting better due to my tennis/badminton background. Then I heard fellow players talking about a fun tournament for new players that was coming up very soon. It was a local tournament in my home town and was for only new players that wanted the experience of tournament play with umpires and line judges and medals etc. All you had to do was sign up and pay your nominal entry fee and they would select a partner for you. I was in, and chose mixed doubles as my game of choice.

I had no idea what to expect and went in unprepared. I showed up with a shopping bag with a bottle of water and the runners on my feet and my trusty tear drop paddle. There were people there in all kinds of cool sports gear, Pickleball shirts, gym bags, matching runners and quite a few Selkirk paddles.

Fortunately the Tournament committee helped everyone out with water stations and snack bars. There were large scoreboards with running totals of team wins and losses and I recognized a few names! My partner and I worked together and won most of our games. Once our round robin was over, we qualified for the playoffs and won our event!!   However, it would have been a better experience if I was more prepared!

Preparation for Pickleball Tournaments! 

Find a tournament that sounds interesting to you and go online and research the dates, the levels of play, the age groups and cost. If you are considering playing in a Rookie 3.0 fun tournament and have a partner with the same interests and skill level…sign up!

Playing in a tournament is like running a marathon or going on a long hike…prepare for everything!

-Carb up the day before in your pre-tournament meals. Hydrate with water the night before. Avoid alcohol (until after the event!)

-Pack an emergency first aid kit with bandages, tissues, medical tape, chap stick and some pain killers for any pain and injuries!

-Clean your runners and change laces if required. Make sure your insoles are in good condition and replace if necessary.

-Make sure your under garments are comfortable and ready to wear. Sport underwear is ideal for a long day on the courts!

-Have one pair of clean soft socks ready to wear and a spare in case you need a change.

-Choose your shirt carefully. A dry wick polyester blend keeps you cooler as you sweat! Cotton tends to stay wet and gets bulky. Comfort is key. But most important, have a second shirt in your bag of a different color. If your shirt color is too similar to the color of the game balls, the other team can complain to a referee or tournament director about the color distraction. Always keep a second neutral color shirt in your bag just in case.

-Bring a hat or head band if there are lighting or temperature issues. A towel is great for mopping up that extra sweat as well.

-Prepare your paddle for battle. Clean the surface with a glass cleaner or warm water and soap. If the grip is too worn or loose…repair or replace.

-Pack a big enough bag with your gear and try and fit everything in it! Selkirk Sports Pickleball bags are excellent for carrying all your gear and more! I also pack a small bag of snacks in case I get hungry or need a sugar fix. Granola bars, jelly beans and gummy bears hit the spot! Or some fresh fruit and nuts.

-Most tournaments will provide bottled water or water refill stations. A good vacuum sealed water bottle is great for keeping liquids cold for hours. Try the Selkirk Premium water bottle series and refreshment is always a sip away! Don’t forget to pack that water bottle! 

-Don't forget to bring a chair. Most tournament days are packed with people ready to hit the courts, but there often isn't enough places to sit in between matches. Slip a collapsible court chair in your bag so you're comfortable in between matches. 

The day of the event…

-Once everything is packed and ready, it time to get there early. Check in at the registration desk, grab your goodie bag, check your times and court locations for your first game.

-Check out the lighting, the court surface and find a place to store your bag. Find your partner and find a space to start your warm up!

 -A good pregame warm up can take up to 10 minutes or more. Practice your dinks, drops, volleys and speed of pace for the ball. Both you and your partner should be comfortable with most of your shots and be ready to play.

-At the same time or after your warm up, try to watch your competition and size them up so you know what to expect.

-Play your game and have some fun! You might find yourself playing against some very good players and sometimes they key in on the weaker player on your team. Don’t take it personally…its part of the tournament experience. Most players will try that and you might have to return the favor!

Enjoy the experience and good luck!  


The author, Ken Wasiuta is an avid Pickleball player, instructor, referee and promoter of Selkirk Sports and Pickleball in North America.

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