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First Pro Tournament Experience

Author: Andrew Gilman | May 15, 2024

If you’re here, dear reader, there’s a real good chance you were – or are – in the same position as the pro players once were.

It’s that “first tournament” feeling and it’s unsettling. 

Not exactly knowing what to expect, or if you belong – no matter what the skill, age or competitive level. It has tthat familiar feeling of sitting down to that high school math test where you knew you didn’t study quite enough. Sure, there’s a chance things can break your way, but you’re gonna have to be really fortunate. 

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Everyone has been there. 

“I played my first tournament with mom at Pickleplex in Punta Gorda, Florida,” said Dylan Frazier. “I didn’t have any expectations going in. The goal was to just have fun and play against some of the top players. I think we may have gone 2-2. I consider it a success!”

That’s quite the mature outlook on things. Most of us don’t have the ability to create the atmosphere of “just having fun,” but that may be good advice. 

Of course, most of us don’t have the chance to just play alongside a family member, either. When you’re constantly worried and concerned about if you’re letting your partner down, things can be difficult. Playing with mom? Well, that might make things a bit more comfortable.

New to the game? Well, so is the PPA’s Meghan Dizon. Her first pro tournament was last March and her feeling going in was probably similar to yours. Now, of course, she’s at the pro level and we’re not, but what she says about her first pro experience sure sounds familiar.

“I was just throwing myself in there,” she said.. “I didn’t even believe I was going to win. “I didn’t think I was going to win because I hadn’t played at that level. I saw so many shots I had never seen before. It was really tough. I just had to change my mindset. I decided to throw myself in there and I learned so much.”

For A.J. Koller, he didn’t have the security of playing with a family member. He didn’t have expectations of winning, either. He said something we’ve all probably said, and if we haven’t said it, we’ve certainly thought it.

“I wanted to win a match,” he said. “I wanted people to notice my game and hopefully ask me to play at future tournaments. Neither happened! I didn’t win a match the first three or four pro tournaments i played.”

Ouch. We’ve all been there. It might have been at the 3.5 level, or somewhere else on the pickleball spectrum, but very few of us in the game had immediate success. However, Koller had the right mindset and, while he didn’t offer it as advice, what he said about his thought process is a great way to look at things when you’re first getting started.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” Koller admitted. “I didn’t know what pro-level pickleball looked like, but I knew i would make it to that level eventually.”

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