How to Manage the Pressure of Your First Pickleball Tournament

how to manage the pressure of your first pickleball tournament

Deciding to compete in your first pickleball tournament can be equally exciting as it is intimidating. 

And the pressure that comes with it can be overwhelming at times. 

Learning how to manage the pressure of your first pickleball tournament is a key aspect of not only doing well, but making sure you have some fun too!  I mean that is part of the reason why we compete right??

In this blog post, I will share some key tips on how to effectively manage the pressure of competing in your first pickleball tournament.  These tips can make a significant difference in how your day goes and also help improve your performance on tournament day.

So, if you ready to take the next step and enter your first pickleball tournament, read on so you can relax more, have fun and play better!

How To Manage the Pressure of Your First Pickleball Tournament

1. Preparation is Key

practice pickleball

Practice Regularly: I would assume at this point you are playing a lot.  If you have decided to enter a tournament, you must.  But it is important to make sure you get some actual PRACTICE in too.  Practice some shots, practice your serve, practice dinks etc.  Practicing when not in a game situation can be super helpful for when you actually compete. Consistent practice will help you build confidence in your skills. Focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

Understand the Rules: This is super important. Make sure you are familiar with the tournament rules and regulations. You don’t want to have any issues, not understand a rule or call or get a DQ because you did something wrong. This can help prevent unnecessary stress during the matches. Here is a link to the USAPA official rule book.

Simulate Tournament Conditions: If your tournament is indoors, make sure you are practicing indoors to help you prepare, or vice versa.  Outdoor play is a lot different than indoor play so make sure you are ready for what’s to come.  Especially if you are playing at night under the lights!  This can take some time to get used to. 

2. Mental Preparation

plan pack prepare

Mental preparation for pickleball is just as important as physical preparation. This game is a mental challenge!  So we need to prepare mentally.  Here are some tips to improve your mental preparation for your first pickleball tournament.

Set Realistic Goals: I’ve been told the biggest source of frustration is unmet expectations.  This is where we need to be real. Set the goal of doing your best.  Have fun.  Hit certain shots etc. Yes it is ok to set a goal to win too!  Just be realistic with yourself!  Setting achievable goals can reduce anxiety and keep you motivated.

Visualization Techniques: I am a big believer in this and truly think it helps. Visualize yourself playing well and having fun out there.  Visualize hitting your cross court dinks.  Visualize your warm up. Visualize handling different situations successfully. This mental rehearsal can definitely enhance your performance.

Stay Positive: No matter what, stay positive.  The mental game is so important and it is easy to fall down a negative trap.  Focus on positive thoughts and give yourself positive affirmations. If you make a mistake, it’s ok.  The important thing is to not dwell on it and move on! Get it back on the next point! 

3. Physical Preparation

pickleball preparation

Warm-Up Properly: Do not skip this. Arrive with plenty of time to warm up. Get some good stretches in, do some jogging, and warm up hitting on the court.  Warm up enought to actually warm up!  Get a little sweat going.  Don’t forget to stretch!! If you need some ideas, check out our warm up exercises for pickleball

Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Drink plenty of water and eat healthy balanced meals leading up to and especially on the day of the tournament. Avoid heavy or unfamiliar foods that might upset your stomach.  We have a great list of snacks for pickleball you can check out for ideas! 

Rest Well: We all know the importance of sleep.  Make sure you get in a consistent sleep schedule the week of the tournament.  This will be important because often times the night before the tournament it is hard to fall asleep with the excitement, nerves and anticipation. 

4. During the Tournament

minto us open pickleball championships

Stay Focused on Your Game: Play your game!  Stay the course. Concentrate on your own game rather than worrying about your opponents game or style. Take it one point at a time.

Manage Your Breathing: You’re gonna be nervous and the adrenaline will be pumping.  It is so important to take a deep breathe and try to relax.  Through out the game, focus on deep, controlled breathing to help reduce the tension and keep you relaxed. I always find when I am relaxed I play better.  Way harder to do in a tournament!  

Use Timeouts Wisely: You can’t take them with you so you might want to use them!  If you are in a slump, tired, need a moment to regroup, take the time out!  If you are on a roll and winning point after point, definitely don’t!  Just don’t be afraid to take it when you need it.  And if you’re thinking you might need to take one you probably do.  Just do it.  

5. Post-Match Reflection

Minto US Open Pickleball Championships

Analyze Your Performance: You may have heard of the saying “Monday morning quarterback”  Take the time to reflect on how the match went…Win or lose. List what went well and list areas that you could work on.  Look for consistencies, themes, and patterns. This will help next time out on the court.  Don’t be afraid to write these down. 

 Learn from the Experience: You either win or you learn?  Well, I always think you learn, no matter what…as long as you are open to learning!  Use every tournament as a learning opportunity and use it for your next time out. 

Celebrate Your Effort: Regardless of the outcome, celebrate your effort and participation. You took a HUGE step by  just getting our there and competing!  That’s an achievement in itself!!  Be proud.


Your first pickleball tournament is an exciting milestone on your pickleball journey. If it is something you have been thinking about doing, I encourage you to do it.  If you have already made the leap and signed up for your tournament, follow these tips to help you position yourself for success!

Remember this…we pretty much all got into this sport for the fun of it!  Don’t forget that!  Get out. Compete.  Do your best.  AND HAVE FUN! 

Good Luck!

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