As pickleball continues to grow in the USA and the rest of the world, and more and more tournaments – and hence, matches – get organized, the requirement for pickleball match and tournament referees has grown equally quickly. If you are one of those who wants to try out your hand as a pickleball referee, here’s a brief lowdown on how to become one.
Why Become a Pickleball Referee?
While referee requirements in pickleball have grown over the years, it is necessary to understand what is in it for you if you were to become an umpire officiating a game or a tournament of pickleball.
Helps Understand All the Rules
Sure, the more you play the better you get at understanding all the pickleball rules but the most effective way to learn all those rules is to officiate games.
By studying to become a pickleball referee, one needs to know about every aspect of these pickleball rules and as a result when one then plays the game, one has no difficulties in getting through them.
Improves Pickleball Playing Skills
This might surprise a few because most might think the best way to improve your game of pickleball is to train for it and actually play it. Sure, that is an obvious one.
However, refereeing also goes a long way in helping players understand the game of pickleball at the kind of level one might not otherwise. It gives one a bird’s eye view of the action and things one might miss while training and playing can be caught on while officiating a match.
Giving Back to the Community
Pickleball is a very community-driven sport. It is still at very early stages of its development where it needs support from those playing it and one of the ways one can support pickleball is by dedicating some of one’s time refereeing some of its matches.
It’s a Paid Job!
Now wait a minute, not all pickleball refereeing pays but certified referees are paid an allowance and offered meal options by tournament organizers.
It’s still early days in the sport but over the years as the sport grows even further, rapidly at that too according to this report, the need for more and more certified referees could lead to better pay and perquisites for high-quality referees.
Certified referees are obviously the first choice at competitions which have paid jobs for them.
If you are a certified referee (see the section on Pickleball Referee Levels below), you could be in great demand to officiate pickleball events and as a result have the possibility of earning a living out of it.
Best Seats in the House
Needless to say, if you are a pickleball fan, becoming a match or tournament referee allows you the benefit of having the best seat in the house to watch the action. If you aren’t playing the game, that’s the next best thing to do to remain involved with pickleball!
Pickleball Referee Levels
The USA Pickleball Association – the official pickleball organization in the USA to take care of the organizing and functioning of the sport in the region – has been looking to grow the sport of pickleball in recent years. And it does that throughout the country, the requirement for pickleball referees is also fast growing.
In a bid to encourage more referees to become a part of the pickleball fraternity, USAPA offers training that helps enthusiasts get certified.
Yep you read that right. Certification!
While it’s a lot of fun in its own way (paid job for the best seats in the house!) it is also serious business. You cannot afford to slip up obviously as a referee and that’s why it is imperative to undergo this training and complete one’s certification.
According to the USAPA there are four levels to pickleball refereeing.
These can be explained below. You can also refer to the Referee and Line Judge Program provided by USAPA here to get more information on what’s the best referee level for you at the moment.
This is the level at which you might not know anything about refereeing a pickleball match but want to be a part of it. Here’s what you need to do to get to the next level:
- Become a USA Pickleball Member (you can do so at the official website here)
- Familiarize yourself with the official rulebook (here) & watch Referee Quick Start Video (here) to get going
- Take the official and fun player test here
- Search for a ‘Registered Referee Trainer’ or contact the ‘Referee Training Coordinator’ to get one in your area and enroll for the referee training class
- Following this training you could be allowed to referee in matches as stipulated by Tournament Directors
- After you display some refereeing proficiency, you could be allowed to referee on your own too
- Following this you should look to take that next step and become a ‘credentialed referee’.
Level 1 Referee
- It is necessary to keep brushing up your skills as a referee by studying the official rulebook and officiating handbook
- Download the sample scoresheets from the official site and use them while officiating at non-sanctioned tournaments and friendly matches
- Alternate between practicing refereeing and line judging in these matches
- Once you have had enough experience and grown in confidence, take the Referee Test, Line Judge Test and Player Test.
- Get your refereeing skills tested by your trainer or a certified referee
- Download the Tiered Referee Rating Form (TPP) and check if you meet those requirements
- This will allow you to referee in non-medal matches and slowly move to the next level
Level 2 Referee
- This level needs a far more rigorous training as the referees at Level 2 have the know-how and confidence to officiate medal matches
- Apart from knowing the rules and their application in match situations, a Level 2 referee also understands how to handle any issues arising on court
- Continue to remain up to date with your skills as a referee by studying the official rulebook
- More importantly also imbibe the best practices as a referee as mentioned in the officiating handbook
- Use the referee casebook (found here) to improve your skills as a referee as well
- Under the guidance of your trainer referee in as many matches and tournaments as possible and get yourself assessed by that trainer
- Much like the Tiered Referee Rating Form for Level 1, there’s one for Level 2 as well. Get yourself tested against those skills
- A Level 2 referee is a very important in the wheels of pickleball officiating and is allowed to referee in any tournament, sanctioned or unsanctioned
- This is the highest level of certification a referee can receive. And it is a big deal too!
- Because at the end of a highly rigorous process you will be allowed to wear the white shirt that signifies you have become a certified referee
- As a certified referee you can officiate in sanctioned tournaments, which includes those for professional players at the highest level of the sport
- To become a certified referee it’s important to garner experience officiating tournament games
- Following this, take the following steps to get yourself certified (and it will take some time for sure)
- Contact a Certified Referee Coordinator (CRC) to get yourself a mentor to help you prepare for certification
- Complete the Advanced Training Session (ATS)
- Complete an interview with your Certified Referee Coordinator
- Take the Online Referee Test and Line Judge Test and pass them both with 90% marks
- Apply for Referee Certification and provide the visual acuity documentation. Pay evaluation fee once the application is accepted
- Schedule an evaluation of your refereeing skills and rules knowledge at a sanctioned tournament
- At the end of this long and exhaustive process and even according to the USAPA, a difficult process, if all goes well, you will be deemed a certified referee and can wear that prestigious white shirt
Final Words on Becoming a Pickleball Referee
Becoming a pickleball referee who officiates games at the highest level is no mean feat but comes with its own benefits and perquisites. With the sport of pickleball growing at the speed at which it is at the moment, it should come as no surprise there’s a lot of requirement for referees in the game and this could be an optimum time to look at making a career out of becoming a pickleball referee.