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How to Become a Professional Pickleball Player

A professional pickleball player enjoying on a match.

Becoming a professional pickleball player is not an easy task, and the financial impacts and tournament lifestyle is not an easy journey either. Yet the pro life remains the dream of every serious pickleball player. To get there, you need skill, a good pickleball rating, and you need to be able to travel regularly to tournaments that will finance the life.

All of that is accomplished by being good at the game, which is what defines the professional athlete. Learn more about how to become a professional pickleball player here.

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The elusive pickleball rating needs to be high, and if you have this, you won’t have to worry about much else

An old person playing pickleball outdoor.

The formula to being a pro player is simple. Be good at the game, keep winning, and everything else falls into place. Easy right? It’s the biggest headache of every pro athlete in every sport ever. In pickleball, your talent is measured by your rating. You get the rating by tournament performance. You’ll need at least a 4.5 pickleball rating to be considered close to the pro level.

A good player will have a 3.5 rating or higher. A pickleball player with a 5.0 is going to be considered one of the best in the world. If you have a 4.5, you will be considered good enough to be headed towards the pro circuit, and your skills will be taken seriously.

Your pickleball rating is determined by your tournament performances, and the United Pickleball Tournament Rating (UTPR) scale. To achieve a good rating of 4.5 or higher, you want to have a mastery of every shot and serve, demonstrate a working knowledge of the rules of pickleball, and have a strategy with every game.

To achieve this rating and head towards the pro circuit, you want to be a player that others come to watch and study for their own pickleball journey. So to have this rating, you need to perform well at tournaments, and you need to play in the right tournaments as well. This will get you close to the pro game in pickleball.

Another way to increase and improve your pro rating is by learning how to become a pickleball instructor. This will give you some points, as will attending coaching camps and workshops.

Here are some tips that will help you to improve your skills level in pickleball and get you closer to the pickleball rating that you need to go pro

A young man playing volley on a pickleball paddle.

There are many ways that you can improve your game in pickleball, and that is a critical step towards going pro. You may be thinking about going pro because you know you are good and know that you can do it. However, there is more to being a professional pickleball player than that.

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You need to have the professional mindset. Becoming an instructor is a good way to improve your already existing talent, because it puts you in the mindset of teaching others how to improve their pickleball weaknesses. Being a professional pickleball player, or an aspiring pro, may mean you haven’t already examined those weaknesses of your own game.

But you should, because that is what will take you to the next level in this game. Instructing or coaching can help you here, but so can being instructed or coached at this level as well.

Find another player that has an equivalent rating or higher and get them to help point out some of these issues in your game. Then, hone them, and perfect them to a place where you want them to be. Watch pros play and see how they handle the weaknesses that you have.

Then, model them, mirror them, and work on those issues until you have them slammed into the ground the way you want them to be.

At the same time, learn your strengths. Master them into an even better position than they are in already. What are the skills that have gotten you the rating that you currently have? Perfect those. Make them better. Keep honing and fine-tuning that talent and you will be a pro pickleball player that everybody wants to watch.

In a nutshell, practice, practice, practice, and you are accomplishing step one of the journey towards becoming a professional pickleball player.

Socialize, network, become a member, attend workshops, coach pickleball, you’re getting the picture

A person coaching two pickleball players.

If you want to be a professional pickleball player, you need to live the lifestyle. Yes, tournaments are key. More on that in a minute. You need to be a pickleball professional. You’ll need to have a club and be active in it.

Coaching is always going to be a good way for you to get involved more professionally in pickleball. It’s a good way to make money, but it is also a good way to get more involved in the sport. If you are considering a pro lifestyle, then you are likely already a little bit talented.

Getting your pickleball instructor certification and coaching some players will not take long. The certification takes approximately 10-15 hours depending on where you learn how to become a pickleball instructor.

Become an active part of your local pickleball community through workshops and clinics as well. Part of being a pro pickleball player includes sponsorships, and that means you need to be known. Skill and talent will do that and set you apart from the crowd.

Being involved helps, and you will find is a natural part of being a professional pickleball player. This will also help you in the tournament circuit as well, which is the most critical component of becoming a professional pickleball player.

The tournament lifestyle is the professional pickleball player’s lifestyle and brings everything all into place

A professional pickleball player preparing to hit the ball on air.

The tournament lifestyle is where you become a true professional player. A professional athlete is defined as one that plays the sport, plays it well, and gets paid to do that. In pickleball, you can get paid through sponsorships, but you are almost exclusively going to get paid through tournament wins.

You have to show up and play in tournaments. Otherwise, you won’t be a pro, you’ll  just be a really good pickleball player.

Every pro is going to mention this tip when you want to become a professional. Pro player Catherine Parenteau says that, “as many tournaments as possible” was part of her strategy towards becoming a professional.

A financial plan is a critical component of the professional lifestyle in pickleball

A professional pickleball player holding paddle and ball.

Like any sport, the higher you go in pickleball, the more expensive life is going to get. In this sport, that does not mean the cost of your running shoes. Tournaments can get expensive when you start going to 5 or 6 or 10 a year so that you can get better in pickleball and become a professional.

Many professional pickleball players depend on wins at tournaments in order to help fund their professional careers. This is something you need to take into consideration when you are working on becoming a professional.

It is reasonable to consider that every pickleball tournament could cost you over $1000 upfront. This is taking in the cost of the tournament registration and fees, travel, lodging, food, and other costs associated with just attending the tournament.

Few tournaments will be held in your area to help you alleviate some of these costs. You need a financial plan if you want to become a professional pickleball player, and stay one. It is not uncommon for many pros to have two jobs to fund this career. One is pickleball and the other will pay for the rest of their life.

You can do well playing pickleball professionally, and you can do well financially. Have a plan that covers these costs before you begin to play pro because you will have much less stress and be able to focus on the game, and honing your talent, more if you do. Wins will help, but that is not always easy to do and should only be one component of your pickleball financial plan.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Becoming a Professional Pickleball Player

What are the actual costs involved in professional pickleball playing? Is it really that expensive?

If you attend more than 10 tournaments a year, you are going to spend several thousand in entry fees, several thousand in travel arrangements and lodging, and several thousand in food and beverage. Then you need to take care of yourself health wise, which may include a physical therapist.

Many professional pickleball players invest in health and wellness costs because it is expensive not to as well. If you have to bail on a tournament because of injury or illness, you lose money, and anyone you are working with loses money as well.

The costs are significant, but the wins can be too.

Does it matter what tournaments I play in or can I pick and choose where I play?

A professional pickleball player celebrating on the court.

You can play in whatever tournaments you want to play in, but the best ones will be Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) tournaments. These are the ones that put you on the national stage and will help you to play nationals with pickleball. These tournaments will also have bigger prizes and payouts and will pay for themselves if you win.

Is it easy to get a sponsor in pickleball if I am very good and have a high rating?

Tournament performance is going to be key to getting a pickleball sponsor as sponsors want to put their money on the winners. Winning helps. Having help from tournament directors and club directors to get a sponsor will help as well.

It is not easy to get a sponsor in pickleball, but it will mark you as a professional. Talk to other professionals about how they got their sponsors, and you will be on the way to the professional lifestyle. Keep practicing and honing that skill, as that will help you to keep the sponsors you get as well.