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APA: Scratching Pickleball’s Competitive Itch

Emerging Amateur Pickleball League Serving-up Great Fun On-&-Off the Court

October 05 2023
Winning isn’t everything – APA tournaments are all about community, connection & competition. PHOTO CRED: TheTUNDRA

When Amateur Pickleball Association Founder & CEO Tom Davidson launched APA’s first tournaments in 2021, the former college baseball player was already immersed in the world of amateur sports, running a youth baseball league, applying not only his love of the game but the inspiration he derives from the passion of players at all levels of sports to creating opportunities for “weekend warriors” to compete in non-pro leagues.

By 2022, APA was running 30 tournaments across the U.S., with an average of 40 players per event. In 2023, APA tournaments have increased to 60 events averaging approximately 200 players per game – mirroring pickleball’s exponential expansion from coast-to-coast.

“APA is an amateur league built for players scratching the competitive itch,” said Matt Hale, APA’s Chief Content Officer and Director of Marketing. ”We’re serving the love of the game for players who want to compete but don’t necessarily want to become a pro athlete, while connecting with others who have normal nine-to-five, as well.  Everyone’s looking for activities to entertain them. And if we can provide an outlet that’s entertaining and fun, then it’s a win.”

APA’s innovative locations makes pickleball that much more fun – LA’s Warner Pickleball Center hosted APA’s SoCAL GOLD CUP September 2023. PHOTO CRED: TheTUNDRA

APA’s two-day tournaments are based on a player-first format, guaranteeing a minimum of five matches per tournament. “What differentiates us from other tournament hosts is that our players aren’t standing around for hours on end waiting to play a match,” Hale added. “APA’s events are in a round robin format, so players’ matches are consecutive -- one after another right then and there – optimizing players’ time is APA’s competitive differentiator.”

Increased five-match on-court play time isn’t APA’s only competitive differentiator: unlike other amateur tournaments that exist as a steppingstone for semi-pros to the pro-leagues, APA’s North Star is serving the “Weekend Warrior” who APA believes merits the same respect as the pro athlete, yet most tournaments tend to treat as secondary to pickleball competitors at the pro level.

Amateurs are treated like Pros at APA tournaments, resulting in demonstrated growth. PHOTO CRED: TheTUNDRA

“There’s a general perception among amateurs that many of the non-pro leagues don’t invest the time and money into the amateur player,” Hale noted, “which is why APA puts so much consideration into our players’ experience – we want them to feel like pros. We’re investing heavily in creating tournaments that aren’t just about on-court competition but connecting players and spectators alike off-the-court throughout the weekend, starting Friday night before the tournament with mix-and-mingle receptions featuring entertainment, food trucks, gear demos, contests, and giveaways.”

Playtime is more than court time at APA, which is launching pre-event mix & mingle receptions where players meet-up prior to game time. PHOTO CRED: TheTUNDRA

From Cape Cod and Miami to Atlanta and San Diego, with multiple locations in between, APA has 10 remaining tournaments in 2023 – after traversing 44 tournaments nationwide before this weekend’s Gold Cup tournament in Cape Cod.

“The real reason as to why we're doing this is to provide more value to our players – to create experiences that help amateur players connect, network and get to know each other authentically, ideally on and off the court,” Hale continued. “Not only are we attracting pickleball players, but we're also attracting aspiring pickleball players, who are thinking about how they might start playing pickleball as a way to meet more people in their local areas - it makes the entire experience a little bit cooler.”

 APA plans on hosting an estimated 55 tournaments across the U.S. in 2024. PHOTO CRED: TheTUNDRA





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