Week 341-345 - Pickleball Tournaments 101 - 03-24-2013



Okay, we know that those of you who look forward to weekly travelogues have missed us.  Others are saying, oh yeah, we know the Mattsons, didn't they just write last week?  Well no, we have not written for five weeks. Why not? Because we are boring!  We spent the last two months at Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort playing Pickleball.  Not much to write about.  Yes, we are stuck on Pickleball and played 10 tournaments this season.  We have taught quite a few friends back home how to play Pickleball at the PB court at our house.  And now for those in North SLO County, there is Pickleball at Centennial Park in Paso Robles. As of this writing, they play on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00am to 11:00am or whenever everybody goes home.

Perhaps someday, one of you might want to play in a tournament.  This week we explain all aspects of finding, registering for and playing a tournament.

First, you need to find out when and where there is a tournament.  Point your browser to usapa.org and on the home page you will find TOURNAMENTS, click on Schedule.

Scroll through the schedule looking for your area. The schedule covers the entire USA.  Here we found the Fun in the Sun tournament in Sun City West, Arizona, just 90 miles from us.  Click on the information links.  At a minimum you will have a Calendar View link that tells you the days of the tournament.  Or you might see a More Information link that will tell you what days each event is played, the times, cost, if lunch is provided or available and much more.  And finally at some time, weeks before the tournament you will have a paper or online form to complete to register.  Most tournaments cost from $25 to $50 dollars per player for one or more events.  Events are divided into Mens, Womens and Mixed Doubles. These groups will be separated by age groups and/or skill levels.  Today's tournaments are usually for skill levels 3.5, 4.0,4.5 and 5.0. Some larger tournaments might include skill level 3.0. Start at the lowest level available for your first tournament.

Once registered, you just need to show up on your day and enjoy the sport.  The Fun in the Sun tournament was Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  It included a meal ticket for lunch on one day and a ticket for the "Meet and Greet". This social event was on Sunday evening after a organized practice session. The food was good and it was a great time to meet new people and get reacquainted with old friends.

Sun City West allowed RV travelers to dry camp in the parking lot.  We stayed for three nights with just a two minute walk to the courts.  Compare that to some of our Palm Creek friends who had to drive 90 miles each day each way to play.  Surprisingly we were the only motorhome at the tournament.  Oh well, they'll learn some day.

Okay, it's Monday and time for Women's Doubles.  Ellen played with her friend Geri.  The event starts at 8:00am. So 1) leave the Mothership at 7:28am and get to the Check In station by 7:30am and let them know you are there. Then 2) pick a nice "home base" for the day. Grass and some shade is nice.  Finally 3) Get to your court and practice.  Good luck!

Here is the starting bracket for the Women's 4.0 event.  Ellen and Geri first play Donna and Robin.  In the winner's bracket you must win 2 out of 3 games to 11 points.  If you win a match, you play again 2 out of 3.  Keep winning matches and you will get to the Gold Medal match.  But, if you lose a 2/3 match, then you drop down to the loser's bracket. The losers play just one game to 15 points.  Win and go on; lose and go to lunch, you're done.  If you keep winning, you can get all the way to the Bronze Medal match. If you win the Bronze (having beaten all the losers), you get to advance to the Gold Medal match to play the team who has never lost a match.  Okay you're doing great and this time you beat the winners 2 out of 3. Fabulous!  But now you lost one match that put you into the loser's bracket.  You just beat the winners and handed them their first loss.  So both you and they have lost only one match.  Enter the playoff, one more game to 15 points.  Whoever wins gets Gold, the loser gets Silver.  That's your path victory.

Enough of looking forward to Gold; you haven't played your first game yet, just practiced on your court. 1) The Head Referee is ready and sends a referee to your court. He or she explains the tournament's rules and answers any questions.  The referee is there to help you. You can ask any questions before or during the games.  The ref will pick one player to call 1 or 2.  The winner can pick to serve first, receive first or choose the side to start on.  You will switch sides for your second game and on the third game you will switch sides when the first team earns 6 points.  Side is important to keep the sun out of your eyes or have the wind behind your back (best). Okay, the ref is ready and will allow the players a few minutes of practice before the first game.

1) Ellen serves the ball to Donna.  2) Geri tries to "put the ball away" against Robin.  By the end of three games, sadly Robin and Donna won two to stay in the winner's bracket.

Ellen and Geri continued in the loser's bracket playing one game to 15 against Boomer and Jo. Jo is 77 years old and has won over 100 medals in Pickleball.  Last week Ellen had the privilege to play with Jo. This week Ellen played against Jo in the last game of her decades-long PB career as Jo is retiring from the tournaments.

A tournament requires a lot of planning and preparation; it is not just a bunch of people hitting the ball.  1) A dozen Pickleball vendors came to Fun in the Sun to sell PB paddles and other related items.  2) The host PB club also set up a First Aid tent. Remember, these are senior (50+) tournaments and this day was 85+ degrees.  More that one senior spent some time in the First Aid tent recovering from heat exhaustion.  In addition the Sun City West Fire Department had personnel on site.

1) Oranges, bananas and sometimes other healthy snacks are made available to the players and refs.  2) Cold water is plentiful and the announcer constantly reminds the players to hydrate.

So how long will you play?  Most games take 15 to 20 minutes.  If you lose every game, you still will play for an hour.  If you continue to win all day, you might start at 8:00am and end up playing under the lights in the evening. Event brackets can have as few as three teams and we have seen one bracket with 38 teams.  Ellen's bracket had 16 teams.  Win every game and still have to play 10 games to win Gold.  Take 3 games to win 2 and you play 15 games.  Drop to the loser's bracket and you might play as many as 20 games to win Gold.  20 games at 15 minutes is 5 hours of playing and perhaps a few more hours of waiting for your next match. Long day.  Do that on a sunny day at 85+ degrees and you are one hot and tired puppy!

1) Bring your umbrella; even watching can be hot.  2) A water misting fan was a nice touch.  This is becoming more common.

1) Most tournaments have a food vendor providing burgers, chicken and at Fun in the Sun, BBQ ribs. 2) Ice Cream bars were a nice treat here also.

So you're doing well winning or you lost two matches and you are out. Either way you have time to watch other teams playing matches and perhaps seeing the Gold Medal battle for other skill levels.

Speaking of puppies, Mandy is a little less than thrilled with Pickleball tournaments.

While at Palm Creek Pete's sister, Donnalee, visited twice and we had fun playing PB, dinner on Donnalee and fellowship.  It was a real treat to have our oldest son John fly down for a visit.  John also got into Pickleball and did quite well for having played so little.

Okay, for us winter is over and we will get back to traveling. While we will be in areas that we have covered before, hopefully we can bring you something a little more interesting than Pickleball.

With love, Pete, Ellen and Mandy

Photos from Mar 2013

The Full Time Motorhome Living Guide

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