While increasing members participation and engagement with your club can also be improved through
social venues, special events, clinics, other club training and tournaments, probably the greatest way to improve participation is to “simply” provide more organized opportunities for members to play, both recreationally and competitively. Thus providing more and varied opportunities for organized play can be very important to your club.
What kinds of organized play are there? Truly there are many, but here are a few we like.
1. Round-Robins (RRs) are the backbone of most clubs, taking sometimes more than 50% of the time slots available. They give players a chance to play against many others in a predictable time frame. One typical variation is played across six games in a two-hour block. To start, each player is assigned a number and a posted sheet then assigns the player, each game, to a different court, a particular side and a partner. Over six games you will play with and against (typically) 12-15 different players. Benefits to this are near-constant play, opportunities to play against/with many different folks, and predictability of knowing you will have a solid two-hour block of play at a designated time. RRs are often segmented by skill levels, either separated by gender or mixed, and can be competitive (club or USAPA ratings required) or more recreational (self-rated). Another great use of a RR is to ensure that newly trained players have an appropriate venue to play and hook up with other newer players. We often provide mentors at those RRs to help the new kids learn the game quickly and focus on fundamentals. RRs can also be used, with varying success, as “feeds” into your rating system...e.g. In the Bend Pickleball Club, on specific competitive RRs, scores are kept and those who have point tallies that are at 92% of points available across multiple RRs over time are offered the opportunity to play at the club’s next highest level.
2. Shootouts and Ladder Play are competitive in design. A Shootout is a form of RR (see above) in which points are tracked during the event, people are assigned to a court based on past performance, people play against each other on a given court over three games, and afterwards the three the players shift up a court or down a court. Scores are tracked and each event players may shift up or down. Ladder Play is designed to have people play against each other within a skill group, rankings are kept and the objective is to win matches and move up the ladder if possible.
3. Team Pickleball and Speed Pickleball (Thanks to Dave and Linda Scott, USAPA Ambassadors for Chesterfield County, VA, for their detailed explanation!) These variations are what their names imply...ways to organize and run team play and also a venue for rapid play against lots of folks in a controlled block of time.
4. Challenge-Court Play is designed to allow people to self-select who they are going to play against next. Often a team format, two people will pick a court that has a likely game where they could compete, challenge in, and play the winners. Rules are established dictating how long winners can stay on a court; during busy times perhaps they come off after two games but this varies. This is often one of the most popular venues for those looking to increase their skills.
There are certainly many other forms of organized play, and they all have lots of upside. What are the downsides? The organization time needed to schedule and provide all of these venues, the volunteers necessary to host (captain) the various events, and so on. All of these are different subjects and will be covered later. Good luck and Play On!