If you love playing pickleball in your spare time, chances are you have dreamed of becoming a professional pickleball player at least once. However, not many people know what it takes or how to get to the professional level.
Take a look at this complete guide on how to become a professional pickleball player, including obstacles you might find, ways to improve your chances of going pro, how a pro pickleball player makes money, and even crucial advice from the current pickleball pros!
Barriers to Going Pro in Pickleball
- Barriers to Going Pro in Pickleball
- Elements to Improve Your Chances
- How Pickleball Rankings Work
- Making Money as a Professional Pickleball Player
- Advice From the Pros
- Bottom Line
One of the toughest barriers to overcome in getting to the professional level with pickleball is qualifying and playing in tournaments.
Playing games in local tournaments are great, typically easy to get into, and provide a good experience, but to go pro; you will have to play in larger tournaments on the regional and national levels.
Not only are regional and national tournaments harder to qualify for and have tougher competition, but there are logistical challenges with them as well. Since they are usually held away from your home base, even once you are able to play in them based on your skill level and qualifications, you have to get there, stay, and do well for them to propel you up the ladder.
Speaking of traveling for tournaments, it takes money! You’ll have to pay for your own stay, food, flights or gas, tournament fees, and more just to go participate in the higher-level tournaments.
This is in addition to anything you have to pay to play pickleball in the first place. Though it can be affordable to get started playing pickleball, in order to become professional, it will take money to have frequent (usually daily) access to a pickleball court, better equipment, coaching, and other resources.
You even have to consider the small things like the increased cost of following a professional athlete’s diet.
In addition to finding and playing in larger tournaments and the financials, you’ll also need to find and acquire certain resources to help you play pro pickleball.
Finding a coach close to home, a facility to practice in, someone or something for general fitness, and other resources you need can be a challenge not just financially, which we went over, but also just the time and effort it takes to build and acquire everything you need.
However, despite these challenges, it is possible to overcome them. Whether you raise money for the money aspects or you think outside the box to come up with a training program, with hard work, you can make it to the pickleball pro circuit.
Elements to Improve Your Chances
According to the pickleball community as a whole and key people like coaches and tournament directors, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of reaching your goal of being a professional pickleball player.
Health and Fitness
The best strategy for getting to the top of every professional sport is to start by focusing on your overall health and fitness. From the top tennis player to the best swimmer, every professional athlete is in peak health.
Follow their lead and focus on getting into the best physical shape you can and fuel your body with healthy, high-protein, and vitamin-rich foods.
You may consider getting a personal trainer and nutrition coach, or if you are on a budget, there are plenty of ways to research exercise science and nutrition online.
Regardless of which way you approach it, being physically in shape is a great foundation to start playing on a professional level since all professional sports are demanding of your body.
It takes more than just playing pickleball games with friends to compete on the pro circuit. Drills are a series of movements that enhance a specific skill.
For pickleball, this could be hand-eye coordination to discover the sweet spot on your paddle, working on weaknesses, avoiding the kitchen line, learning to hit the ball in different ways, and strategies for playing doubles with a partner or in a singles game, among others.
A good drill schedule can help you reach a high level of skill in pickleball and will be an advantage that will come in handy on the court. Being physically fit doesn’t matter if you don’t hone your pickleball skills, so drills are the next step in getting to compete in a professional pickleball tournament and going pro.
Coaching and Support
Though you can play pickleball and go on your journey to become a professional pickleball player all alone, having coaches and support can make the difference in winning or losing.
After all, someone who has dedicated their lives to the sport or has done what it takes to win before you always have vital information to offer someone who is just beginning.
Coaches can show you the drills you need, help design a strategy that is best for you, point out any weak points, help you learn more than just the basic rules, and overall just provide knowledge that will give you an edge to win.
Though tournaments can be a barrier, competing in as many tournaments as you can is a necessary element of going pro.
Not only will tournament results help you qualify for the next higher-level tournament, but tournaments also allow you to compete against opponents that challenge you and improve your skills. The more tournaments you play in and win, the more opportunities you’ll have to get to become professional.
Networking may not seem like it should be on your list of priorities, but engaging in the pickleball community can open up opportunities that you might not otherwise have had.
Talk to all of the coaches, players, directors, and people around the court that you can. You might just find a coach with a drill that helps you or a director who is looking for a player to fill a tournament spot.
Even participating in social media to gain fans can help your pickleball career because the attention draws resources. For instance, if you have a large social media following, you may get offered to play in a tournament to draw support that you might not have been chosen for if you didn’t have your following.
Though each of these elements will help your game, it is important to include them all equally or as much as you can because focusing on just one won’t get you to your goal.
How Pickleball Rankings Work
Professional pickleball players are considered professionals because of their pickleball ranking. These players are ranked the highest in the sport. It is essential to know how the pickleball ranking system works since, at the most basic level, to become a professional pickleball player, you have to develop the skill to earn the highest pickleball ranking.
Though in a local sense, when you are just playing at a local recreation center, pickleball rankings are more informal with categorizations like “beginner,” “intermediate,” and “advanced,” there are official ranking systems.
Without going into too much detail, in the United States, pickleball rankings are either two-digit or four-digit numbers. The two-digit rating is called a legacy rating and ranges from 1.0 to 5.5+. It is typically used in club and league pickleball games, and every level is based upon the player’s ability to hit different shots and understand strategy.
For tournaments, the USA Pickleball Tournament Player rating system is used, which is the four-digit number generated by the official software that the USA Pickleball Association uses. This rating system automatically updates based on your performance in the sanctioned tournaments that use it.
Your goal to become a professional pickleball player is to achieve a 5.5+ and the highest four-digit reading that you can, up to 6.999.
Making Money as a Professional Pickleball Player
Becoming a professional pickleball player isn’t always just about making money, but if you are looking to replace your day job and support yourself with pickleball, making an income as a professional player is another thing you’ll need to know how to do.
There are two main ways to make money as a professional pickleball player. The first is with tournament winnings. The other way is through sponsorships, where brands will pay to have you use their equipment or endorse their product or services.
However, since pickleball isn’t as big as some other sports like football, the majority of professional pickleball players earn their money through tournament prize winnings.
Keep in mind that even though there is a common thought that all professional sports players make hundreds of thousands or millions a year, professional pickleball players make only an average of $50,000 per year.
Even the most experienced, popular professional pickleball players are only making about $250,000 per year, so your expectations should reflect that. But don’t get down because you can still be a professional pickleball player with a day job!
Advice From the Pros
Tips from the people who are in the position that you want to be in are invaluable. Many of the top pickleball players agree on some of the same great tips.
For one, stay positive, don’t get discouraged, and have good sportsmanship. Though this seems like frivolous advice, the pros say this over and over because in reaching your goals, you will encounter challenges that will make you want to quit.
Additionally, in terms of good sportsmanship, if you are kind to your opponent, especially in singles, you’ll be more likely to be able to find a partner, and your opponents could even give you tips of their own.
The other biggest tips from the pros are to play as many tournaments as possible and do drills just as much as you play games. Tournaments are the key to increasing your ratings, and drills will make a tremendous difference in your skill and strategy.
You’ll notice that many pro pickleball players got their start in tennis because it is so similar to pickleball. This means that having a tennis background can aid a lot in reaching your goal.
However, even though almost all the top players in pickleball started by playing tennis, don’t let that discourage you if you didn’t begin on the tennis court because becoming a pro pickleball player is more than just being familiar with a racket.
How much does a professional pickleball player make?
There is a wide range of how much a professional pickleball player can make since it often depends on their winnings; however, professional pickleball players typically make between $50,000 and $250,000 per year.
What is a 5.0 pickleball player?
A 5.0 pickleball player is one at the top of their game and has mastered pickleball strategies.
The bottom line on how to become a professional pickleball player is to focus on the individual elements that will help you build your skill, overcome the obstacles that get thrown your way, and compete in as many tournaments as possible.
Whether you started playing pickleball one year ago or you have been playing for a decade, believe in yourself, keep playing, and train hard and you can reach your goal of being a pro pickleball player.