At 18 years old, Maddie Toren is the youngest USA Pickleball certified pickleball referee and line judge. What started as a family-time game quickly turned into a deep passion for the sport of pickleball, leading Toren to learn everything she could about the game she loves.
Toren was first introduced to pickleball in early 2021 when her family decided to pick up the game together. She very quickly realized that she wanted to take her game to the next level and started competing in local and national tournaments in women’s doubles with her mom, Crystal, and in mixed doubles with her dad, Adam.
By the summer of 2021, Maddie was competing in APP and National Pickleball tournaments, and shortly after that, she was introduced to the idea of refereeing. At this point, Toren realized that she loved not only the sport, but also the incredible pickleball community. She saw refereeing as the perfect opportunity to get even more involved, and the process of being certified also helped her build more confidence on and off the court.
“Prior to this, I’ve struggled with self-confidence and public speaking. So while going through the refereeing credential and certification process, I was being pushed way out of my comfort zone,” said Toren. “There were times I wanted to give up, but I’m so grateful for my family, friends, and mentors that helped me along the way. Now I’m proud to say that refereeing has helped me with so much more than my pickleball game.”
The process of becoming a pickleball referee is rigorous and challenging, but because of the four levels of certification, prospective refs can take the training at their own pace. USA Pickleball has four classifications of referees: Line Judges, Level 1 Referee, Level 2 Referee, and Certified Referee.
“You must meet certain requirements when it comes down to being assessed and evaluated,” explained Toren. “My advice to young aspiring referees is to find a mentor that jives well with you, be open to learning the ins and outs of the sport, and enjoy the process! It’s such a great skill to have in the pickleball world.”
Maddie’s referee training journey took about a year, and on October 30th, 2022, she became the youngest fully certified referee. Her first official event was at a PPA Tuesday Night Pickleball event, where she reffed with the PPA Tour’s Head Referee, Don Stanley.
Toren now referees at some of the biggest pro pickleball events in the world. Recently, she was able to take the leading referee role for several matches at the PPA Desert Ridge Open, including the men’s doubles bronze match!
Reffing at the highest level comes with a lot of pressure, and managing your emotions as a referee is critical to ensuring the best possible outcome for the match at hand. Toren believes that approaching high-stakes scenarios with a level head is the best way for her to make the best calls possible while also enjoying the experience of witnessing the game being played at the pro level.
“What goes through my head when refereeing at major tournaments is “stay focused and alert, be assertive, and just enjoy the experience”, because what more could you ask for? For high energy matches, especially on center court, you have to get into a different state of mind where it’s just you, the second ref, and the players. Just call the score, watch for faults, and assess different situations that may arise.”
While Maddie enjoys being able to participate in the game through the lens of a referee, the responsibility does come with some disadvantages. As a referee, you’re responsible for how the game unfolds, calling points, declaring penalties, and more, all of which directly influence the outcome of the game.
Sometimes you’ll be presented with a rules call that a player might disagree with, and they might come at you during the heat of the moment. Toren has run into several challenging moments with players in the short time she’s been reffing, mentioning that some even question her ability because of her age.
“The most challenging thing that I’ve faced as a referee has been when some players, usually older players in the amateur brackets, make remarks about my age and underestimate my refereeing abilities,” said Toren. “Overcoming this is somewhat easy for me as I don’t let it bother me, but this is something that I believe all players need to get used to as the sport continues to attract younger players, young referees are on their way.”
Toren thinks that the benefits far outweigh the difficulties presented by the job of refereeing, stating, “Refereeing has definitely benefited my game, and the knowledge that comes with it makes you a stronger player.” Knowing all of the game’s rules in detail will allow you to better understand the strategies that top players utilize while on the court.
Toren plans on continuing to advance her pickleball game both as a player and referee, and hopes that she can be an inspiration to younger athletes looking to get more involved with the pickleball community. Off the court, Maddie uses her social media platforms to share her experiences with new players by offering tips, expressing her thoughts on the game, and covering pro tournaments.
“The thing about pickleball that keeps me coming back is the inclusiveness from the community,” said Toren. “No matter if you come from a tennis background, medal in a ton of tournaments, or whatever your age is, you’ll find groups and leagues that will include you which is not always common in other sports.”
Check out Maddie Toren’s website and social media accounts to stay up to date with her pickleball journey!
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?