If you’ve been playing pickleball for fun, there might be a good chance you’ve also become good at it. Pickleball is easy to learn, yet exhilarating. If you want to take it to another level by joining a tournament, you must prepare to be at your best in time for the competition. You need to take some steps to ensure you’re physically and mentally prepared for it.
- Choose A Pickleball Tournament
Many pickleball tournaments are happening worldwide, and one might be near you. But to help you determine which tournament to play in, here are some factors you can consider:
- You might want to choose a tournament where your friends are competing or where there is a bracket of players who you believe can help you improve your skills.
- Choose a tournament that will consider your USA Pickleball Tournament Player Rating (UTPR) to ensure that you’ll be playing at a specific competition fit for your skill level.
- You may want to consider a tournament sanctioned by the USA Pickleball Association (USA Pickleball), which governs the sport nationwide. USA Pickleball tournaments have standardized rules and mechanics, so you won’t have to keep adjusting to any variance or nuances in the regulations of unsanctioned games. There are two types of sanctioning:
- Standard Sanctioning: Every match must have a referee.
- No-Referee Sanctioning: Tournaments with less than 300 players must have an on-site USA Pickleball–certified referee, who must be present at the venue to address on-court issues and answer player questions.
- Players must use the type of pickleball that the tournament or any governing body sanctions (e.g., Franklin X-40, Dura Fast 40, and Onix Pure). So, you may have to either familiarize yourself with the feel of the type of pickleball used in a tournament or find a tournament that uses the kind of pickleball you’re already used to. You can take the same approach regarding the other necessary equipment, such as graphite pickleball paddles.
- Consider the location, whether the tournament is within a favorable distance.
Players have varying reasons to join and compete, but it’s most important to play for fun.
- Prepare Your Paraphernalia
Since a tournament will be more intense than a casual game, it’s crucial to have the appropriate gear and protection.
Look into good-quality lightweight pickleball paddles you can practice with to help you improve your game or one you’ll be using in the tournament. Lightweight paddles offer less strain and fatigue in your arms as they weigh 7.5 ounces and less. More factors are involved in choosing a paddle, such as grip circumference and core composition.
Grip: Getting the right grip for your paddle is important to avoid tennis elbow pain. The right grip circumference could depend on your height:
- Below 5′3″: 4″ circumference
- 5’3” to 5′8″: 4.25″ circumference
- Above 5′8″: 4.5″ circumference
You can also do the pickleball grip test. It can be the length beginning from the tip of the paddle-handing finger to the paddle-hand palm’s middle crease. If you are in between sizes, choose the smaller grip size.
Core: Graphite, carbon fiber, fiberglass, and wood are common paddle materials. The material you choose can help you have more control or gain more power when you play.
It’s recommended to bring extra paddles and balls during the competition. Typical wear and tear occur in paddles which can be accelerated by frequent use. Aggressive play may break the paddle in the middle of the game.
- Towels And Dry Clothes
Pack large towels and extra clothes into a spacious bag. It’s essential to change into dry clothing between competitions to stay comfortable while playing.
- Shoes And Socks
Choosing appropriate shoes for the competition can make a difference. There are shoes for an indoor game and another type for an outdoor game. Shoes for outdoor games should be durable enough for the surface of the court. They typically have a modified herringbone pattern that optimizes the combination of give and grip. Indoor shoes have softer, thinner, lighter outsoles; so they’re best for hardwood surfaces.
So you need to decide which type of court you’ll be playing on before picking a pair of shoes. Bring extra socks to keep your feet rejuvenated and prevent blisters and foot injuries.
Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 and above when playing on an outdoor court. SPF 50 sunscreen offers the best protection against UVB rays (responsible for the burning, darkening, and thickening of skin layers). Still, it’s important to seek sunscreen that protects against UVA rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and cause premature aging.
- Pick The Right Partner for The Doubles Competition
When the time comes to pick a partner for the double’s competition, you’ll need to find one you can be in sync with in terms of strategy and skills. Since the doubles competition requires teamwork, your partner’s goals and yours must be aligned, and you must be able to communicate well. If possible, pick a partner with the same skill rating as you and with the exact expectations.
- Research The Ball
As hinted earlier, it’s essential to find the kind of pickleball used during the competition. You need to familiarize yourself with it to maximize your performance.
There are indoor and outdoor balls. The outdoor version is thicker and heavier, and it has smaller holes. It is harder and faster compared to an indoor ball. Having smaller holes makes them less resistant to the wind. They are also more durable because of their material thickness.
- Consider The Environmental Factors
Be mindful of the possible conditions that can affect your playing. If you’ve chosen an outdoor game, know that the wind can affect the ball’s trajectory, among other things. Glare from sunlight can make you lose sight of the ball. Playing indoors can also be tricky, with lower ceilings and on-court noise that can make you lose focus.
Doing so will help boost your confidence and minimize the nervousness that you might feel during the actual game.
- Get Accustomed to Both Indoor and Outdoor Courts
It’s a good strategy to alternate between indoor and outdoor courts so that you won’t develop a weakness in any type of environment. Players inclined to indoor playing will find that the wind in an outdoor court can affect their aptitude. Outdoor players might have to adjust their muscle memory to stay in control of the ball or their body during an indoor game.
Since tournaments are for serious players, you need to prepare properly for them. Look into the kind of tournament you can join, prepare the right gear for practice and competition, play with the right doubles partner, research the ball and other necessary equipment, and alternate between courts.
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