The Cost of Pursuing a Career as a Professional Pickleball Player


Have you ever dreamt of becoming a professional pickleball player? The allure of competing at the highest level, traveling to tournaments, and potentially earning a living from the sport is undoubtedly enticing. However, before diving headfirst into this pursuit, it’s crucial to understand the various challenges and costs associated with becoming a professional pickleball player. In this article, we will explore the financial implications, skill requirements, and the path to professionalism in the world of pickleball.

The Financial Cost

While the physical and mental demands of the game are undoubtedly challenging, the financial aspect of pursuing a career in professional pickleball is often overlooked. To shed light on this aspect, let’s delve into the insights shared by professional player Rob Nunnery, who has graciously documented the costs associated with participating in tournaments and professional events.

Entry Fees for Pickleball Tournaments

One of the primary expenses for professional players is the entry fees for tournaments. Rob Nunnery primarily competes in men’s doubles and mixed doubles events, and he reveals that the minimum entry fee for these divisions is $325. However, if he decides to participate in singles events as well, the cost increases to over $400. It’s important to note that if a player fails to achieve a podium finish, they cannot recoup these entry fees.

Transportation and Lodging Costs

In addition to entry fees, transportation and lodging costs are significant factors to consider. Rob estimates that domestic flights typically cost around $250, while rental cars add an additional $250 to the overall expenses. However, it’s worth mentioning that these costs may vary and have the potential to increase over time.

When it comes to lodging, Rob suggests budgeting approximately $85 to $100 per night for a duration of three to four nights. Additionally, an estimated $100 is allocated for food expenses during the tournament period.

Total Tournament Expenses

Taking into account the aforementioned costs, Rob conservatively estimates that the out-of-pocket expenses for a single tournament amount to approximately $1,000. However, this estimation assumes that players are sharing lodging and rental cars. If a player prefers the privacy of their own accommodations, the costs can significantly increase.

Annual Out-of-Pocket Costs

To gain a better understanding of the financial commitment required, let’s consider the scenario where a player enters 25 tournaments annually, using Rob’s estimates as a baseline. In this case, the minimum out-of-pocket amount for tournament participation alone would be $22,562. It’s important to note that this figure does not include the expenses associated with regularly replacing high-level pickleball gear, such as paddles, balls, and other necessities, which can add an additional $1,000 to $2,000 to the overall cost.

Sponsorship and Prize Money

Given the substantial financial burden outlined above, it’s natural to wonder how professional players manage to cover these expenses. Rob Nunnery estimates that only 15 to 20 players on the men’s side are able to offset the yearly tournament costs through sponsorship and prize money. However, it’s essential to recognize that most of these players also engage in coaching clinics or work full-time alongside their pickleball careers to make a living.

Skill Requirements for Professional Pickleball Players

Becoming a professional pickleball player requires more than just a passion for the game. It demands a high level of skill and expertise. To gain insight into the skill level required to compete amongst the top players, let’s examine the ratings of experienced professionals such as Rob Nunnery, Ben Johns, and Tyson McGuffin.

Pickleball Ratings

In the world of pickleball, various rating systems are used to assess a player’s skill level. One commonly used rating system is the DUPR rating, where most professional players have a rating between 6.9 and 7.13. Additionally, the USA Pickleball UTPR rating and official PPA tour rankings provide further benchmarks for evaluating player performance. Attaining a skill level that allows players to compete at the professional level is undoubtedly challenging but not impossible with dedication and practice.

How to Become a Professional Pickleball Player

If you aspire to become a professional pickleball player, it’s crucial to follow a strategic path towards achieving your goal. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Improve Your Skills: Focus on honing your skills by joining a pickleball club or ladder league. Playing against more experienced players will help elevate your game and prepare you for higher-level competition.
  2. Work with a Coach: Consider working one-on-one with a pickleball coach who can provide personalized guidance and help you refine your technique and strategy.
  3. Participate in Tournaments: Start by participating in USAPA-sanctioned tournaments. As you progress and demonstrate your abilities, you will havethe opportunity to compete against professional players in pickleball games.
  4. Build a Following: Utilize social media platforms to showcase your skills and attract a following. Engage with the pickleball community, share your journey, and connect with potential sponsors.
  5. Seek Sponsorship Opportunities: As your reputation grows and you establish yourself as a formidable player, sponsorship opportunities may arise. Companies and brands within the pickleball industry may be interested in supporting your career and providing financial assistance.
  6. Catch the Attention of Professional Associations: The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and other governing bodies in the sport may take notice of your exceptional performance and offer exclusive long-term contracts. This recognition can provide stability and financial support for your professional journey.


Becoming a professional pickleball player is a dream shared by many enthusiasts of the sport. However, it’s crucial to understand the financial implications, skill requirements, and the path to professionalism before embarking on this journey. The costs associated with tournament participation, the need for sponsorship and prize money, and the level of skill required all contribute to the challenges of pursuing a career in professional pickleball. With dedication, perseverance, and strategic planning, aspiring players can navigate these challenges and strive to compete amongst the best in the sport. Remember, becoming a professional pickleball player is not just about having exceptional skills; it’s about embracing the commitment and passion required to excel in this highly competitive field.


Q. How much does it cost to become a professional pickleball player?

Becoming a professional pickleball player comes with significant financial costs. Entry fees for professional tournaments alone can range from $325 to over $400 per division. Additionally, transportation, lodging, and other expenses can amount to approximately $1,000 per tournament. If a player participates in 25 tournaments annually, the minimum out-of-pocket cost can reach $22,562.

Q. How do professional pickleball players cover their expenses?

Professional pickleball players often rely on sponsorship and prize money to offset their tournament costs. However, it’s important to note that only a limited number of players, estimated to be around 15 to 20 on the men’s side, are able to cover their yearly expenses through these means. Many players also engage in coaching clinics or work full-time alongside their pickleball careers to make a living.

Q. What skill level is required to become a professional pickleball player?

To compete amongst the top players and go pro in pickleball, one would typically need to have a skill level higher than 5.0. Most professional pickleball players have ratings between 6.9 and 7.13 in the DUPR rating system. Achieving this level of skill requires dedication, practice, and continuous improvement.

Q. How can I become a professional pickleball player?

To become a professional pickleball player, it’s essential to focus on improving your skills by joining a pickleball club or ladder league. Playing against more experienced players, working with a coach, and participating in tournaments are crucial steps in the journey. Building a following on social media and seeking sponsorship opportunities can also help support your career aspirations.

Q. Are there professional associations for pickleball players?

Yes, there are professional associations for pickleball players, such as the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA). These associations organize tournaments, establish rankings, and provide opportunities for professional players to showcase their skills. Catching the attention of these associations through exceptional performance can lead to exclusive long-term contracts and further support for your professional pickleball career.

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Written by Billy Pickles

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