How to Run a Pickleball Tournament: Rules, Schedule and Brackets
With the increasing popularity of pickleball spreading quickly across the globe, which includes a staggering 3.8 million pickleball players in the US alone, pickleball tournaments have been growing in size and scope. Whether your team is considering joining a local pickleball tourney, or you’re organizing a large pickleball event, here are some pointers for running a pickleball tournament.
Pickleball is a fun and fast-paced sport played on a small court with a net. It’s a bit like combining tennis, badminton, and ping pong.
What are the rules of pickleball?
Regarding scoring, games are usually played until a player scores 11 points, although you have to win by at least 2 points. In some cases, you might play to 15 or 21 points.
Serving must be done diagonally. It has to clear the net and land in the opposite service box. You only get one try, unlike tennis where you have two serves.
Pickleball is often played as doubles. Each team has two players and they take turns serving.
What is the non-volley zone? The non-volley zone is a seven-foot area on both sides of the net often referred to as the “kitchen” or the “non-volley zone.” You can’t volley (hit the ball without letting it bounce) while you’re standing in this area, but you can step in after the ball has bounced.
Double Bounce Rule: The ball must bounce once on each side before players can start volleying.
Common faults include hitting the ball out of bounds, not clearing the net, stepping into the non-volley zone and volleying, or not letting the ball bounce before hitting it.
Serve Rotation: The serving team must rotate sides when they lose a point. The receiving team doesn’t rotate.
Remember, pickleball is all about having fun and staying active. Follow these simple rules and enjoy the game!
Get a more in-depth look at the official rule sheet for pickleball here.
How to Score in Pickleball
In pickleball tournaments, scoring rules generally follow the official rules of pickleball, with some variations based on the tournament format and level of play. Here’s an overview of how scoring typically works in pickleball tournaments:
- Games: Tournament matches are usually played as best-of-three games, where each game is played to a certain number of points. The standard is 11 points, but variations can occur.
- Scoring: The serving team is the only team that can score points. If the serving team wins a rally, they score a point and continue serving. If the receiving team wins a rally, they earn the serve and have the opportunity to score points.
- Serving Rotation: In doubles, the serving team’s score dictates which player serves. If the serving team’s score is even, the player on the right side serves, and if the score is odd, the player on the left serves. The serving team must switch sides when their score changes from even to odd or vice versa.
- Side Switch: After each game, teams typically switch sides of the court. If a third game is played, teams might also switch sides when the first team reaches six points.
- Win by Two: When the score reaches 10-10 in a game, a “win by two” rule is often applied. A team must win by a margin of two points to win the game. For example, the game continues until a team wins with a score of 12-10 or higher.
- Game Point: The team that wins a game earns one point in the match. The team that first wins two out of three games wins the match.
- Match Tiebreaker: In some tournaments, if a match reaches a third game, a match tiebreaker is played instead of a full game. This tiebreaker is played to 15 points, and teams switch sides when the first team reaches eight points.
Depending on your tournament structure, we have easy to print pickleball brackets from both single-elimination and double-elimination rounds so you can keep track of your teams matches.
In the single elimination bracket, players or teams compete against each other, and the loser of each match is eliminated from the tournament. Winners progress to the next round until the ultimate champion emerges. This format is straightforward and efficient, but it provides less room for mistakes, as a single loss results in elimination.
This format provides participants with a second chance. Players or teams have to lose twice to be eliminated from the tournament. Winners and losers are separated into different brackets, and the tournament continues until the final rounds determine the winners from both brackets. Double-elimination brackets often result in more matches and a longer tournament duration, but they can lead to more equitable outcomes.
How to seed your bracket
Seeding is the process of ranking players or teams based on their skill level or previous tournament performance. In most cases, higher-seeded players or teams are placed apart in the early rounds to prevent top contenders from facing each other too soon. A fair draw ensures that the tournament progresses with balanced matches, maintaining both excitement and competition.
Official Pickleball Tournaments 2023
You can download the updated pickleball tournament calendar here