A pristine pickleball court in a backyard looking over the lake
The Turner backyard pickleball court Tom Turner

Staging a DIY pickleball tournament in your neighborhood

DALLAS, TX – One of life’s greatest gifts is having a friend with their own backyard pickleball court.

With the national court shortage, you simply cannot beat having unlimited court access like that. Unfortunately, a lot of us either don’t have a backyard or don't have enough space for a full-size court. And in this business, it’s about who you know. So, befriending people with courts is truly a blessing.

On a recent trip home, my parents shared the delightful news that their friends, the Turners, who live just a few houses down, built a pickleball court in their sprawling backyard.

Luckily, I was in town for the historic ribbon-cutting and the first annual “Turner Cup” – the family's spin on a PPA tournament. 

It was a big pickleball party. Everyone came in their pickleball best dressed, the grill was hot, and the drinks were cold. All of it with the backdrop of a picture-perfect lake reflecting the Florida sunset. Truly a setting that rivals Pickleball Getaways

The conditions couldn’t have been more favorable for a neighborhood event. 

Green pickleball court overlooking a pristine lake
Backyard pickleball court Tom Turner

We divided up into mixed doubles teams via a random draw, so it was pure luck who you got paired up with. There were some serious players out there with JOOLA paddles and competitive DUPR scores who played 4.5 at Pictona. Then there were the “just for fun” players who showed up with Target pickleball paddles and a serve that may or may not make it over the net. 

I didn't participate because I was the commentator, a role I was happy to fulfill with my expertise and endless hours of listening to pro matches at tournaments and on PickleballTV. I took a less serious spin on my esteemed role, however. My commentary was more akin to the Golden Bachelor Pickleball Tournament coverage, including a lot of silliness and some blameless bias, but a whole lot of joy.

The way we broke down the tournament was that each team was matched up against another team via a random draw. They played a single game to 11 – all or nothing. If you lose, you’re out. If you win, you continue up the bracket. 

This didn’t take long because there were only four teams, and the competition was secondary to simply spending some quality time together and having fun.  

The two winning teams went head-to-head in the Turner Cup Championship, and things ultimately ended up getting a little fierce. 

Mixed doubles game at a backyard court
Tournament Cup Tom Turner

As the commentator, I witnessed first-hand the rec play reality of targeting weak players, powerful serves, heartbreaking net shots, and some lovers' quarrels when a wife was convinced that her husband on the opposite team was intentionally hitting the ball too aggressively towards her (that fact was neither confirmed nor denied). 

But goodness was it fun. Pure delight. That is until the mosquitoes obliterated our plans for a trophy ceremony. The trophy was just going to be first dibs at the banana pudding dessert, anyway.

Tips for a DIY Pickleball Tournament

If you'd like to make your own neighborhood pickleball tournament, you can take it as seriously or informally as you want. You could use DUPR and pair up the strongest player with the weakest. Play a round of singles. Come up with funny pickleball team names and develop your own bracket system. 

Utilize the friend who always has the best playlist and award them the coveted DJ position. Make signs or banners. Serve a “sponsored beverage” or snack, and lean into the fun of it all. Rename your tournament “The Turner Cup powered by Deep Eddy Vodka,” to really mimic a PPA tournament.

If more people want to play, make it a Grand Slam. Make team shirts or color coordinate with your teammate. Invite friends and family and set up beach chairs to form a crowd. 

Take it up a notch and elect another friend to be the official tournament referee, or a line ref if "Diabolical Dave" is always calling a ball out when everyone in the crowd swore it was in. 

Get creative for the trophies or medals. If you’ve got some innovative friends, build your own trophy that rivals Anna Leigh Waters’s big 100th title win trophy. Instead of medals, make DIY pickleball necklaces from cracked pickleballs. Or, sub in something else entirely like a Champagne tower. The world is your pickleball court and you can do whatever you want to celebrate the winners. 

But like with any tournament, wear your sunscreen, eye protection, and hydrate. Even though this tournament may have been “just friendly competition,” I think we all can’t help but get a little competitive anytime we step out on court. 

So, this is your sign to throw your own pickleball tournament. I highly recommend it!


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