How to actually know when you've become a pro pickleball player.
Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive.
The true joy of life is the trip.
Robert Hastings said that. And damn is it good.
I want to become a pickleball pro. That’s my goal. And before we go any further, that quote is a reminder (for you and for me), the goal you set in life is a not a finish line to be crossed, but rather a journey to be embraced.
Now, a few weeks ago, my mom asked me three smart questions.
What does it truly mean to go pro?
How does the ranking system work?
How will I define success in this journey?
And today, I’ll unpack the answers to those three questions.
It seems crazy I’m this far in and don’t have a clear definition of what “going pro” even means. So when my mom asked and I didn’t have a good answer, I did what anyone would do.
I went to google.
Surprisingly, there was no helpful information.
So, I went to Instagram and direct messaged 9 of the top 20 pickleball players in the world asking their perspective on the topic.
4 responded (and I’ll keep them anonymous). Here’s what they said:
Four different pro players. Four slightly different answers?
While helpful to hear their perspective, it still left it a bit up in the air for when to actually know if you’re a pro or not.
But the gist is, be on a tour, get paid, and beat other pros. And then you’re a pro.
Now, the strange thing about pickleball is, just because you enter a pro tournament doesn’t really mean you’re a pro. It just means you have a high enough “ranking” in the rating system to be eligible to sign up and pay the fee to play the tournament.
Speaking of the rating system, let’s talk about it.
Players can be rated as low as 1.0 which could be defined as…
to a …
to a 5.5+ (or some say 6) which would be the top players in the world. AKA, The Pro’s.
Here’s my current UTPR rating…
These ratings take into account the rating of your opponent(s), your rating, and the type of tournament being played.
One pro coach I spoke with said, “some of these rating systems are so out of whack.” And there’s multiple rating systems across the sport. Honestly, it gets confusing even for me.
The gist is…
it’s a gamified way to know your skill level and it gives players common language across the sport. But by no means is it perfect system - a 5.0 player in Atlanta may be way better than a 5.0 player in Phoenix.
Now back to the original question. How do I actually know when I’m a pro?
It’s a bit subjective when I will officially become a “pro pickleball player.” The sport is growing rapidly and the term, “pro” is a loose one everyone has an opinion about.
So for now, I’ll create my own metric, until I find a better answer.
Here it is:
Step 1 - Get to the 5.0 level and win tournaments there.
Step 2 - Enter at the pro level and get crushed a couple times.
Step 3 - Win 1 match in a pro tournament.
Step 4 - Win prize money from a pro tournament (often 1st - 3rd win money).
Step 5 - Win 1st place in a pro tournament.
Step 6 - Change my Instagram handle to “professional pickleball player.”
Step 7 - Tell my mom I’m a pro so she loves me.
I’m KIDDING. I’m not going to change my handle until my second tournament win. 😂
And now to answer the final question.
How will I define success?
The short answer is, I’m successful right now. I chose to take a leap and do this thing. I’ve chosen to stick with it and put all my effort into it - consistently. And I’m pumped about the journey I’m on.
Of course, I want to win. And of course, one metric of success will be me (1) entering a pro tournament for the first time and then (2) winning a pro tournament.
Eventually, I’d love to be on the Pro Tour traveling to play, and getting paid appearance fees to show up at those tournaments.
And while all this was awesome to think through and hopefully insightful for you to read, I’m going to keep working on the things I can control.
My attitude and actions — one day at a time.
And over time, I’ll improve. And eventually — look back at this post smiling because I know…
my mom finally loves me.
PS: I’m kidding. Shoutout to both of my parents who’ve been extremely supportive of this whole journey! I know they love me no matter what.
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