It wasn’t that long ago (less than 5 years) that playing in a pickleball tournament went like this:

1) Find out online or through a friend that a tournament was going to be held.
2) Check the dates to make sure they fit into your busy schedule.
3) Find the REGISTRATION OPENS date and mark it on your calendar. 
Notice that I didn’t say you found the exact time that registration would open.
4) Once registration opened, you registered pretty much at your convenience.
5) You received a confirmation that you had registered, were in the tournament and now could start your planning for it.
6) You played the tournament, had fun, and maybe took home a medal.


The growth rate of pickleball changed!

And with that growth rate,


Five years ago pickleball changed forever.  Yes, pickleball had been growing like crazy before that, but five years ago the sport’s growth absolutely blew up and with it the number of players wanting to play in tournaments.

For some of you newer players, you wouldn’t remember the good old days when you could register at your convenience because there was no danger of your bracket filling up.

To the newer tournament players coming into the sport of pickleball, normal is waiting feverishly with your phone or laptop at midnight on a weekday to hit that magic “REGISTER HERE” button in an attempt to guarantee yourself a spot in a tournament that is still 6 months away.

The tension grows as you type as fast as you can and navigate your way through the registration and payment process.  Because remember, you aren’t really registered unless you’ve payed too.

But alas, for many this drill ends up with the dreaded message, “YOU’VE BEEN PLACED ON THE WAITLIST”.  YES, welcome to the world’s largest pickleball club, TEAM WAITLIST.

So what really happens when you join the infamous Team Waitlist?

Well, it is not an exact science as each tournament director has control over how many people make it into their tournaments and ultimately who makes it.  And each tournament director can choose to work through creating their final brackets any way they want.

But the basics go like this:

Before registration opens for a tournament, the TD has pre-determined the maximum number of players they believe they can handle in the time they’ve allotted to hold the tournament. So let’s pretend for the sake of example that we are going to hold a tournament with 200 players.

Our sample tournament will have 5 mens doubles brackets and 5 womens doubles brackets and each bracket will have a maximum of ten teams in it.  Ten teams of two players means you have 20 players in each of the 10 total brackets (200 total players).  So this is all set up before registration opens.

Now registration opens and players come flooding in.  Pretty soon one of the mens doubles brackets (lets pretend it is the 3.5 mens doubles bracket) now has 15 teams registered to play.  That means the first ten teams are in the tournament because it was predetermined that we would accept up to ten teams in each bracket. 


This may seem like a mystery, but it is simply a matter of how many matches can be played in the allotted time you have for the tournament.  If you add more courts, you can have more matches and so you can allow more players into the tournament.

If you decide to extend each day of the tournament a little bit, you can allow more players into the tournament.  If you change to a shorter playing format, you can allow more players into the tournament.  If you allow less warmup time before each match, you can allow more players into the tournament.  If you have referees for each match to police the timeouts and changeovers and delivering of the scorecards back to the tournament desk, you can allow more players into the tournament.

So if you can allow more players into the tournament, you take them from the waitlist.  Most tournament directors will take them in a “whoever went on the waitlist first” order.  But only one team per bracket at a time.  In other words, if there are ladies waiting on the waitlist for both 3.0 doubles and 3.5 doubles, the TD will add a team to the 3.0 doubles, then add a team to the 3.5 doubles, then go back to add another to the 3.0 doubles and then another team to 3.5 until they are all in the tournament or they have determined they can’t handle any more teams.  Those teams remaining are simply out of luck unless a team drops out.

So is it going to get better????  In my opinion, not for awhile because the amount of new players flooding into the sport of pickleball is simply overwhelming the current resources at both the recreational level and the tournament level. 

We need more courts or more hours in the day.  So let’s work on getting those courts!  That will solve a lot of our challenges plus slow down the growth of the world’s largest pickleball club, TEAM WAITLIST.

To purchase a Team Waitlist Club shirt, click on the shirts pictured above.

Kudos to Team Waitlist creators, Joe Gilmore and Betsy Moore.