Junior Tournaments Picks Up Speed
Updated: Feb 9
Though COVID impacted our lives in a myriad of ways last year, it actually was good for junior pickleball. High school and collegiate tennis play was cancelled and some of these players found their way to pickleball courts. We can see the mounting interest of junior players mirrored in how many kids showed up to PPA Championship hosted by Pro Pickleball Association in October 2020 in Las Vegas.
Pictured above, junior boys doubles PPA Championship winners from left to right: Noah Taylor, Ford Owen, Hardy Owen, Caden Hasler, Wyatt Stone, Porter Barr. The 4 boys starting from the left are case in point of tennis athletes getting the pickleball bug and dominating in pickleball tournaments.
The junior events were pulled together two weeks prior to the tournament and had more juniors attend than 2019 USA Pickleball Nationals Championship (2020 was cancelled). This tournament broke records with the number of participants (adult + junior) in a first time tournament.
The PPA junior players were featured a majority of the day on the championship courts. How cool is that? PPA has since committed to hosting junior events at all of their tournaments with the support of Utah Junior Pickleball Organization who will be in charge of managing the junior events. Juniors competing in the tournaments will have free access to the grounds for all days of the tournament and will receive t-shirts included in their registration fees. The JPO team will be happy to help your junior find a partner for Mixed or Same Gender Doubles at each of our events. For more information, contact Laurie Lambert at email@example.com or call 435-655-5590
I predict that PPA tournaments will be ones that juniors and their families will want to attend moving forward. Players are noticing that the PPA venues and tournament vibes are top notch providing an superior experience to juniors, amateurs and pros alike. The 2020 PPA Championship was held at Darling Tennis Center, pictured above.
What are a few of the things I like best about the PPA tour? The events are held at some of the best tennis facilities nationwide. There are a good portion of dedicated courts for each tournament. For example, the championship courts at the PPA Championship are prime center of the venue with covered stadium seating. The stadium court was converted to 3 pickleball courts with one side being the featured championship court. Viewers are able to come and go watching pro matches for free each day during the tournament. Each tennis court surrounding the stadium was converted to quads of pickleball courts. The two larger courts directly behind the stadium had 8 dedicated pickleball courts; all the other courts were lined for pickleball over the tennis courts. Spectating any match in the venue had unobstructed views and many had bleachers. None of the courts felt crammed together or had hindrance of players needing to walk through your match to get to their court for their match.
It is easy to tell who is PPA staff because they all have color coordinated matching shirts.
There is lots of opportunity for juniors to meet the pro players. Tyler Loong from Utah has volunteered his time supporting junior growth teaching in his area.
Junior players can play in junior events, 19+ events and pro events in the PPA tour as long as the events do not overlap in the same day. In 2021, this is a big "dill" as all USA pickelball sanctioned tournaments, including regional and qualifing tournaments for Nationals, have implemented new quidelines prohibiting this. This means that in their tournaments junior players have to choose to play in either adult or junior events but not both.
Pro matches are professionally live streamed on social media.
Plus, PPA is officially contracted with ESPN and February 7th, at 8pm EST, ESPN2 will broadcast the finals from PPA Championship. This is a historic moment for pickleball!
Pro tours like PPA know that juniors are the future of the sport and it looks like they are taking measures to keep them engaged and coming to their tournaments.