11 Tournament Tips to Get You Ready for Pickleball Gold
1. Plan Your Day
You need to know your start time and how early you need to be at the tournament site. Next, you need to find out if there are warm-up courts available or if you need to find other courts to warm up prior. I feel like I don’t hit my peak performance until I have been playing for an hour, but this will give you a good feel on when you hit your peak performance and if you need to warm up longer.
I get amped the night before a tournament and have trouble sleeping. I read a good book and clear my mind the night before. Figure out how to clear your mind and sleep well because this is crucial.
3. Eat Right
You should test out which food will be right for you before tournaments. Eat a big meal the night before if you are playing in the morning. I will just graze on granola, fruit, and beef jerky throughout the playing time. I do not do well eating a big breakfast before playing.
4. Know Your Game plan
Talk with your partner and go in with a set plan. Are you stacking or only stacking on the serve? Make sure you know what you are going to do before you show up.
Need a place to start? Mark Renneson gives us 5 Pickleball Strategies you can discuss and practice before the big day:
5. Pick a Good Partner
Find the right partner for you, not just someone who is good. Selecting the right partner can be difficult and sometimes it won’t work out, but don’t get frustrated it is part of the process. Think about what type of players you have played well with. Do you like an aggressive partner? Do you like a partner that is a mix of aggressive and patient? Do you know someone that fits that description and is around your skill level? Go ask them! The worst they say is no and you can go ask more people! If you have seen the person, get angry in rec do not ask them to play in a tournament. It is a serious competitive setting, but you should also be having fun, or it isn’t worth your time.
And of course, make sure YOU are a partner others want to play with. Read more on what makes a great doubles partner here: How to be a doubles partner others want to play with.
Check out these other preparation tips from Selkirk Pro John Sperling.
Game Time Tips
Imagine a scenario where you just lost 3 points in a row off long rallies. You are tired and the other team has the momentum. What are you going to do? Are you going to keep playing and hoping the momentum swings? Or are you going to call a timeout?! Yeah, call those timeouts because a reset is crucial when your opponents go on runs.
2. Don’t Hit Everything
Nerves can make you hit more out balls than usual. You might feel like you want nothing to get past you but often people will come out swinging hard to start tournaments, so don’t be afraid to let one go to get a feel for how much topspin they really have. Think about batting in baseball sometimes you want to watch one pitch to get a feel for what they have that day.
Some people like myself have a bad habit of hitting out balls wether of not nerves are involved. Use this drill from Tyson McGuffin to work on leaving those out balls:
3. Forget Your Errors
Don’t worry about your errors. You can focus on your mistakes during a timeout or after the game. During the game, you need to focus on the next point. Worrying about your errors will just cause you to make more. Have a next-point mindset.
4. Go to Your Best Shots
What are your best shots? When trouble strikes, go to your best shots. Do you hit amazing drives? Start driving more and get your partner to shake and bake. Is your soft game smoother than butter? Start dinking and setting up your counterattacks. Don’t play into your opponent’s game. Play to your strengths.
5. Keep the Ball in Play
Ok, this sounds obvious but keeping the ball in play at first is a great way to get those nerves calmed down. Keeping the ball in play and making your opponent move around will get you far. Leave those third drops a little higher at first, don’t ruin your momentum by hitting drops into the net. It won’t take you to the pro level but will keep you competitive.
6. Get the Ball to the Middle
Get the ball in the middle, especially if your opponents are being aggressive. Dink middle, drive middle, and third shot drop middle. I’m not saying do this all the time but do it more than you were thinking. It will reduce your opponents’