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Confessions of a First-Time Pickleball Tournament Director

Last month I had the privilege to serve as the Pickleball Tournament Director for Eden Prairie Schooner Days. When a TCPC Board Member asked me last February to take on the role, I mentioned I’d never played in a pickleball tournament, let alone directed one. Full disclosure, I have watched roughly 2,500 (give or take) pickleball YouTube videos and read a boatload of pickleball articles and blogs.  Being a USA Pickleball Ambassador, PPR Certified Pickleball Coach, plus a Selkirk Advocate, I figured it couldn’t be that hard. All three of these organizations have vast resources for planning pickleball tournaments.  Plus, I had expertise running several national sales meetings in my former working days.  So, Mr. Make It Happen Dave rolled up his sleeves and was fired up.

Dialing back to my professional career in sales & marketing, I was laser focused on creating an enjoyable and fun experience for all the tournament participants and volunteers. I was obsessed with creating an atmosphere of fun and having everyone involved feel welcomed and appreciated.

All was going well until the weather forecast turned dismal for an outside pickleball tournament.  This is where the power of prayer came in very handy.  The weather was totally out of my control.  Ahh the things we take for granted.  We worked out 7-10 “what if” scenarios based on weather outcomes.  There were sleepless nights a few days before the tournament. We had every imaginable option on the table.  My head was spinning faster than a Franklin X-40 pickleball with incredible top spin!

Miraculously, the morning of the tournament the rain vanished.  The courts were slightly wet, but many of the players showed up early with leaf blowers in hand and quickly the courts were playable.  Talk about community!  This was impressive and heartwarming.  The show started about an hour late, but finished right on time.  

All that tournament preparation came to life.  Set-up and take-down volunteers put up tents, tables and signs, registration volunteers enthusiastically welcomed the participants, checked them in and handed them coupons donated from local retailers. A hearty “thank you” to Bachman’s, Fat Pants Brewery, Brick and Bourbon, Chick-fil-A, Monster Beverages and OSI Physical Therapy. Gift bags for TCPC Members filled with goodies were also handed out. I better do a shout out to my wife who graciously let me take over her home office which for 48 hours morphed into my envelope and bag stuffing headquarters for coupons and more. We had volunteers passing out refreshments including freshly cut up fruit. TCPC volunteers also walked the seating area to deliver more refreshments and fruit to spectators. This was nothing less than a 5-star effort from the refreshment team. Their efforts would make any A&W root beer car hop jealous. (You Millennials probably have no idea who A&W is!) The volunteer court monitors were now in place. Let the fun begin! The court monitors kicked things off by passing out Franklin X-40 pickleballs donated by Scheels Sporting Goods. Medals were awarded to winners by the President of TCPC for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, in each division including “Most Fun Player.”  

We got tons of kudos from the tournament participants… very happy campers.  They were appreciative of the overall experience and most thankful the tournament amazingly ended right on time.  We sent out emails the night before, stipulating the tournament would be an hour late. Bottom line, no waiting around at all. 

True confession, setting up the round robin and brackets was by far the most critical, make-or-break function of the tournament.  I did all the easy stuff.  The hard stuff fell on the shoulders of our bracketing expert as I don’t have the math or bracketing gene.  I’m very thankful we had Curt Goke, a TCPC Board Member, for his expertise.  Kudos go out to all the volunteers including a first aid professional standing by with an AED.  Everyone did an incredible job in making sure the 120 players and many volunteers had fun and enjoyed the experience.  Great TCPC Board Members + Great Volunteers + Great Tournament Participants + Great Weather = A Wonderful Tournament.  Thanks to all that made this a very special day! Congratulations to all the winners including the big winner, the Eden Prairie Lions Club which received a hefty donation on behalf of TCPC.  Totally awesome!

Who’s ready to step up to volunteer (and play) in 2025?

In closing,

  1. Stay safe

  2. Be fair & be kind

  3. Have fun!

Watch out for my next post in early September: “Top 10 traits of a great partner”

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