If you want to become a pro pickleball player, you'll have a lot of competition. You can increase your odds by getting rated, joining a pickleball club, attending a coaching clinic, participating in a tournament, getting a coach, and practicing regularly.
In order to play in Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) events and similar pro tournaments, you have to get rated.
Here’s how it works:
- An evaluation is conducted in order to determine a pickleball player’s level of proficiency, which ranges from 1.0 to 6.
- Top pickleball players have a rating of at least 4.5.
The UTPR, also known as the USA Pickleball Tournament Rating, is the official rating for players. The UTPR rating is solely determined by a player’s performance in a tournament. If you wish to receive a UTPR rating, you have to participate in an event and play against some of your area’s best players.
Join a Pickleball Club
Joining a pickleball club gives you the opportunity to play with other experienced players and learn from them. The club will provide you with the necessary skills to become a professional by helping you achieve the following:
- Surrounding yourself with a pickleball community
- Learning from others
- Having regular pickleball partners
- Allowing you to play in pickleball ladders within your club, so you can match up against people who are at your skill level
Attend a Pickleball Camp or Clinic
As pickleball popularity increases, more camps and clinics are opening, particularly in North America. Here’s how attending a coaching clinic helps you on your path to becoming a pro pickleball player:
- You can improve your game under the guidance of an expert coach during long sessions at pickleball camps.
- The level of your game will improve dramatically after a few courses with a coach who has the necessary skills and knowledge to assist you.
- The purpose of pickleball clinics is to provide you with the opportunity to interact with and learn from professional pickleball players. Generally, pickleball clinics are less costly than pickleball camps.
- There are some pickleball camps you can travel to for expert guidance. Directed by the legendary player and instructor Sarah Ansboury, the Nike Pickleball Camp is an excellent choice.
Participate In a Tournament
In order to become a professional pickleball player, you have to compete in competitions. Don’t wait until you feel like your skills are at an advanced level before joining tournaments. There are pickleball tournaments available for players of all skill levels.
The best thing to do is to participate in a sanctioned tournament, as you will receive an official rating and have the opportunity to play against better players. There are two types of sanctioning offered by USAPA:
- Standard Sanctioned Tournament
- Medal Match Plus (MMP) Sanctioning
The best way to get started is to work your way up the tournament ladder, starting with small-stakes local tournaments and working your way up to bigger tournaments.
Watch What the Pros Do
If you want to go pro, you need to fall in love with the way the pros play. Watch them at tournaments and on TV. Study how professionals play, and start to emulate them in your own matches.
Watching pro games gives you a chance to see how professionals use strategies like pickleball stacking to gain an advantage. You’ll also gain a better understanding of shot selection and the various playing styles used by professionals under varying conditions. Pickleball is more about control, ball placement, and strategy than anything else. Pros are good at this, and you should learn from them.
Participate in Pickleball Ladder Leagues
In pickleball ladder leagues, you can determine your proficiency level compared to other players and rate yourself.
Here’s how ladder leagues work:
- Players with similar skill levels or ratings compete against one another.
- You move up the ladder as you continue to win.
- If your league has multiple ladders, you’ll eventually be promoted o the next ladder and get a chance to compete with players at higher levels of skill.
Playing in ladder leagues lets you see how far your skills have progressed as well as where you stand in comparison to others.
Get a Coach
Once you’ve learned the basics and been to clinics, it’s time to get yourself a coach. Pick someone who can help you accomplish your goal of going pro.
If you aspire to become a pickleball pro like Anna Leigh, Ben Johns or Tyson McGuffin, then you really have to commit. A coach can help you identify your weakness and work rigorously to improve every aspect of your game.
Practice (Playing Recreationally Isn’t Enough)
Many people started playing pickleball for fun. However, if you intend to make a career out of pickleball, playing for fun isn’t enough. Casual play reinforces existing habits, rather than allowing you to laser-target weak elements of your game and improve them.
That’s what practice sessions are for. You’ve got to spend more time on the court intentionally doing drills to improve your game. Drills like pickleball wall drills, serve repeats, and cross-court dink drills can help you improve your muscle memory and perform better during games and tournaments.
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