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jojo+lo's 10 Steps to Hosting A Successful Pickleball Tournament

JoJo and I just hosted our first jojo+lo Pickleball Tournament! Thanks to planning ahead, and advice from friends who had previously hosted pickleball tournaments…our event was a big success. Our participants had a wonderful time and told us afterwards how much they enjoyed our tournament. We heard from a few people that it was their favorite tournament ever! If you are considering hosting a pickleball tournament, here are some things we would like to share to help you prepare. 


Step #1:  Select a Venue

Choose a venue where you play locally, and where you have a relationship with the staff. Ask your contact at the club or park for all available dates for your tournament. It was important to us that we hold our tournament at a facility that had fencing between the courts, to prevent interrupted play from errant balls. We love our local club for recreational play, but we chose to host our tournament at a place called the Picklebowl in Lake Odessa, Michigan which is about 45 minutes from our club in East Lansing. We knew that our friends in surrounding communities loved playing at the Picklebowl and many had already participated in tournaments there. Venue fees are based on the number of days and number of courts utilized.


 Aerial view of Lake Odessa Picklebowl. Photo credit: Webby/Eddie and Webby Pickleball


Step #2:  Choose a Date

Allow at least 6 months to plan your event. Make sure the weekend you choose  has good odds of having nice weather, then decide how many days you want your tournament to last. Search pickleball tournament sites to see if there are any competing pickleball tournaments nearby that could affect turnout at your tournament. Also, check the calendar for any other holidays, festivals, fairs etc. that are happening in your area that could compete with your event. Since we are in Michigan, we chose the weekend in May after Mother’s Day and decided on a two-day event.


Step #3:  Set a Budget

Determine the estimated income and the expenses for your tournament to make sure your event will be profitable. It takes months of work to host a tournament so you should make sure the net income is worth your time. Research what the going registration fee is for a tournament at your venue or similar local venues.  Approximate the number of total participants you will likely have register based on tournaments similar in size. From this, you can estimate the revenue from registrations. If you are able to secure some sponsors for your tournament this can also add to your income.

Next, identify all of your expenses which includes the venue fee, tournament director fees, online tournament website fees, complimentary shirts or hats for registrants, prizes, and food and beverages. We chose to have our tournament listed on Pickleball Brackets which charges service fees and event fees. The Tournament Directors handled setting up the tournament website, all logistics of the brackets, registration prior to the tournament, and handled all events for the 2 days and charged a tournament fee that was well worth it.

Since we are an apparel business it was a priority for us to provide our participants with high quality shirts and a variety of styles, which was an additional expense. It was also important for us to set-up our pop-up shop, so our participants would have the opportunity to buy our jojo+lo Pickleball apparel and accessories. Sales from our shop also added significantly to our revenue. We conservatively estimated that we would have 150 participants play in our 2 day tournament since our venue only had 8 courts. We were pleasantly surprised that our registration filled-up quickly and we ended up being able to accommodate 185 participants, and all 8 courts were full from 8am - 8pm both days.


Step #4: Logo, Signage and Promotions

One of the first things that you want to do is create your tournament logo so that it can be added to the tournament website. Begin promoting your tournament on social media and post signs at local clubs. JoJo is a perfectionist when it comes to logos so this was a process. We knew that we wanted a pickleball sun and lake waves since Lake Odessa is a lake town. It was also important for us to incorporate our business logo. After lots of revisions, JoJo nailed it! This logo was also the backdrop for our medal stand, and was the image front and center on all of the complimentary participant t-shirts.

2024 jojo+lo Pickleball Open Tournament Logo


We also posted our tournament logo and all of the event details twice on about 20 social media pickleball group sites throughout Michigan to spread the word and gather registrations. To reach more people you can send out a media release a week prior to your event requesting your local news station to cover your event and draw more spectators. We are very fortunate that pickleball blogger Webby, from the Eddie & Webby Pickleball Podcast, signed up to play in our tournament with his daughter Addison. We asked him to consider featuring our tournament in their podcast and he agreed! He did a really fun interview with us with amazing video and even some incredible drone footage! Check out Eddie & Webby’s Podcast here.


Step #5: Hire a Tournament Director

If you have participated in local tournaments that ran smoothly, reach out to those tournament directors. JoJo and I had participated in numerous well-run tournaments where we met our Tournament Directors, Jenna and Ryan. Your Tournament Directors will be helpful in determining the format for your event based on the number of participants and the number of courts. Jenna and Ryan also helped us coordinate a special event at our tournament just for families to play together, so that parents or grandparents could play with their children or grandchildren. It was so much fun! JoJo played with her dad and her husband Peter played with their daughter Ella, and they all medaled! We even had a great grandmother who medaled with her great grandson! Our Tournament Directors recommended a round-robin format, so there would be little down-time or delays. Jenna and Ryan ran our event flawlessly, so the two-day tournament was stress-free for me and JoJo, and all of our participants were really impressed.


 3.0 family division silver medalists Patti and her son Christian, gold medalists Maggie and her dad Curt, and bronze medalists JoJo's husband Peter and their daughter Ella.


 3.5 family division silver medalists JoJo and her dad Ken, gold medalists Nancy and her dad Dave, and bronze medalists Webby and his daughter Addy.


Step #6: Seek Sponsorships

The first year that you host a tournament, finding sponsors can be a challenge because your sponsors will want evidence that your event will be a success before investing in it. We were fortunate that a friend of ours who owns a business called Elders Helpers loves pickleball and sponsors a lot of pickleball tournaments, so she approached us about sponsoring our tournament which was a huge financial boost to us! You may decide that you want a few different levels of sponsorships. Your top sponsor will probably expect to receive…a 10 x 10 space to promote their business or conduct sales, a banner prominently placed in a high traffic area, announcements of recognition at the event, their logo on the tournament website, and promotional giveaways or brochures in participant swag bags. If you have a major sponsor you may want to add their logo to the tournament t-shirt.  


Step #7:  Select Food and Beverages

Make sure you have plenty of water for your participants. This can be bottled water, thermal jugs of water, or maybe there are running water stations at your venue. You might also want to provide a complimentary snack, electrolyte drinks, or other food. We decided to have thermal water jugs, complimentary granola bars at registration, and since our venue was outside we brought in a specialty pizza food truck so participants and spectators would have the option of purchasing food.


Step #8: Choose Tournament Shirt, Hat or Other Giveaway

Most tournaments will provide their participants with a complimentary token gift to thank them for participating, and it will also help to promote your tournament when others see it worn by pickleball players. Some tournaments offer a towel or hat with their tournament logo. Since we are an apparel business it was very important that we give every participant a high quality shirt that they would love to wear, and not end up in the bottom of their drawer. We love our tournament shirt and so did our participants!

2024 jojo+lo Pickleball Open Tournament Shirts


Step #9:  Gather Volunteers

Based on how big your tournament is, you’ll want to line up plenty of volunteers to help everything run smoothly. We had 2 shifts of volunteers, 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon for both days of the tournament. Two volunteers helped with handing out the correct style and size of t-shirt to participants, and one volunteer helped us in our shop each day. Friends also lent a hand with hanging banners, handing out medals, taking photos, setting-up and taking-down, and also helped us in our shop. Be sure to re-confirm all volunteers the week before the event. We also prepared swag bags for every volunteer with a bottle of water, snacks and a Dink Like a Girl hat.


Step #10: Select Prizes for Winners

Winners at your tournament will be thrilled to win a prize and stand on the medal stand! These medal ceremonies are also a great way to promote your tournament on social media since many participants will share these posts with their social media friends. It will also help to increase exposure for your tournament, and increase your social media followers. Allow at least 6 weeks to order your tournament prize. Also do the math…we had 20 brackets and every bracket was a doubles event, since we opted not to have any singles events. We had 6 winners in every bracket (gold, silver and bronze) so we had to order 120 medals. At first we wanted to give winners a cap with our tournament logo emblem on the front for our prize, but we found out that the patches would take too long to produce. Then we thought about giving winners a shirt that said CHAMP on it, but realized we might not have time to make 120 shirts since we were also making 185 participant shirts the week before the tournament. With only 4 weeks left before the tournament, we settled on medals with our tournament logo on them for all 6 winners in each of the 20 brackets. Everyone loved them! To add a little extra fun to the medal stand and event photos, we made pickleball crowns for the gold medalists to wear.


3.5 mixed doubles champions Elizabeth Dinh and Joe Vella.


When you follow jojo+lo’s 10 Steps to Hosting A Successful Pickleball Tournament you’re sure to have a successful event! JoJo and I also recommend having everything completed and cars loaded with all event supplies one day early. This will give you a much needed day of rest in advance of all of the activity! You’ll be very busy at the tournament…meeting people, making announcements, handing out medals, taking photos, and hopefully playing in the tournament too. Most importantly, make sure you and your participants have a blast so they will want to play in your tournament again next year!

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