Pickleball is more than just a fun and exciting sport that anyone can play. It’s also a professional sport that attracts some of the best athletes in the world, who compete for glory and money in various tournaments and events. But how much does a pickleball pro make? And what are the factors that influence their income?
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the earning potential of professional pickleball players in 2024, addressing these questions and more. Additionally, we’ll examine the challenges and opportunities associated with pursuing a pickleball career and provide insights on how you can become a professional pickleball player.
What is a Pickleball Pro?
A pickleball pro plays at a high level and earns money from it. There is no official definition or criteria for being a pickleball pro, but generally speaking, a pickleball pro is someone who:
- Has a high skill level and ranking in pickleball, usually above 5.0 or pro level according to the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) rating system.
- Participates in professional or sanctioned pickleball tournaments and events, such as the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour, the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) Tour, the USA Pickleball National Championships, or the Major League Pickleball (MLP).
- Receives income from playing pickleball, either from prize money, sponsorships, endorsements, coaching, clinics, exhibitions, or other sources.
How Much Does a Pickleball Pro Make in 2024?
The amount of money a pickleball pro makes in 2024 depends on several factors, such as their skill level, performance, popularity, sponsors, and expenses. There has yet to be official data on the average income of pickleball pros in 2024, but based on some estimates and reports, we can get a rough idea of the earnings range.
Prize money is the most apparent source of income for pickleball pros, as they compete for cash prizes in various tournaments and events. The amount of prize money varies depending on the tournament’s level, size, and prestige, as well as the number and caliber of the participants.
The PPA Tour, a leading professional pickleball circuit, presents a total prize pool of $1 million for the upcoming 2024 season. This includes $50,000 allocated for each of its 16 events and $150,000 for the Master’s event.
The distribution of prize money is categorized across divisions (men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles). Winners in each category receive $5,000, runners-up earn $2,500, and so forth, ensuring a fair distribution among the top finishers.
The APP Tour, another leading professional pickleball circuit, offers $800,000 in prize money for its 2024 season, $30,000 for each of its 20 events, and $120,000 for its Masters event. The prize money is also distributed among the top finishers in each division, with the winners taking home $3,600 each, the runners-up $1,800 each, and so on.
USA Pickleball National Championships
The USA Pickleball National Championships, which is the most prestigious pickleball event in the country, offers a total of $100,000 in prize money for its 2024 edition, with $12,500 for each of its eight divisions (men’s pro singles, women’s pro singles, men’s pro doubles, women’s pro doubles, mixed pro doubles, men’s senior pro singles, women’s senior pro singles, and mixed senior pro doubles). The prize money is also distributed among the top finishers in each division, with the winners taking home $2,500 each, the runners-up $1,250 each, and so on.
The MLP, a recently introduced team-based league in 2023, anticipates a total prize pool of $1.2 million across six events in 2024. The tour involves 96 players and has already conducted three events in 2023. A spokesperson for the tour informed CBS MoneyWatch that the top-earning player earned $150,000 in prize money from the initial three events of 2023.
Players in the league commit to contracts ensuring payment for participation, regardless of their performance in each event. In an optimal scenario, a player could potentially earn $360,000 annually, including appearance fees, contract minimums, and tournament winnings, as per MLP.
We can see that the prize money for pickleball pros ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per event, depending on the level and outcome of the competition. However, prize money is not guaranteed, as it depends on the performance and results of the players. Therefore, pickleball pros must be consistent and competitive to earn a decent amount of prize money.
Sponsorships and Endorsements
Major Pickleball Brand Sponsorships
Top pickleball pros, such as Ben Johns, Simone Jardim, Tyson McGuffin, and Lucy Kovalova, have sponsorships and endorsements from major pickleball brands, such as Selkirk, Franklin, Paddletek, and Engage. These brands provide them with free or discounted pickleball equipment, apparel, accessories, and financial compensation for wearing their logos, using their products, and appearing in their advertisements.
Beyond Pickleball Sponsors
Some pickleball pros also have sponsorships and endorsements from non-pickleball brands, such as health, fitness, nutrition, or lifestyle companies, interested in reaching the pickleball audience. These brands may offer them free or discounted products or services and financial compensation for endorsing their brands, featuring their products, or participating in their campaigns.
The Need for Marketability
While skill is important, marketability is critical for maximizing sponsor deals. Pros with big fan bases, likable personalities, and professionalism are highly desirable. Sponsors evaluate metrics like social media followers, branding fit, and conduct.
Securing strong corporate sponsorships can elevate top players to the highest income tiers. However, consistent performance and stewardship of brand image are required to maintain lucrative partnerships.
Coaching, Clinics, Exhibitions, and Other Sources
Private and Group Lessons
Providing private or small group lessons is a prevalent practice. The hourly charges for individual coaching by top professionals vary, ranging from $50 to $200+ per hour, contingent on their qualifications and the geographical location.
Conducting a clinic for twelve or more participants demands a fee of $100 to $500 per person. Lessons enable professionals to impart skills such as serving, dinking, shot mechanics, and strategy. Students acquire unique insights not available elsewhere, while professionals derive satisfaction from mentoring others and contributing to the sport’s growth.
Exhibitions and Entertainment
Pros are often hired to put on exhibitions at events, festivals, schools, etc. These flashy displays of high-level play entertain crowds and inspire new players. Typical appearance fees range from $500 to several thousand.
Some pros also perform tricks, such as behind-the-back shots. Audiences love the wow factor, while pros demonstrate their paddle mastery.
Many pros sell branded gear like t-shirts, hats, bags, and other accessories. E-commerce enables them to market merchandise to fans worldwide. Products showcase their brand and provide an additional revenue stream.
Pickleball pros utilize diverse content channels for instructional videos, vlogs, blogs, podcasts, and social media. YouTube ads and affiliate links to generate income. Quality content also expands their fanbase and marketability.
Highest Overall Earners in Pickleball
With the growth of pro pickleball tours, major tournaments, and endorsements, the sport’s elite players now earn sizable incomes. Top competitors like Ben Johns are banking life-changing money from pickleball winnings and sponsorships.
Ben Johns has won over $140,000 in prizes on the pro tours, plus endorsement deals with Selkirk, Franklin, and others that likely exceed $100k annually. His total earnings are estimated at $250k+ annually.
James “JW” Johnson has amassed career tournament winnings of over $100,000. A sponsorship with gear maker Yowbow adds to his income.
Tyson McGuffin has earned around $85,000 in prize money, supplemented by endorsements from Paddletek and Engage that provide additional income.
Riley Newman struck a big sponsorship deal with Selkirk after showing promise on the pro tours. His career earnings to date are $60,000.
Collin Johns has won over $50,000 in tournaments, getting gear and payments through a Franklin sponsorship.
Other revenue, like coaching sessions and clinics, potentially allows top pros to earn well into six figures. As pickleball’s popularity swells, high-performing pros will continue to enrich their bank accounts doing what they love.
What are the Challenges and Opportunities of Being a Pickleball Pro?
Being a pickleball pro is a rewarding but challenging career choice, as it involves many factors that can affect your income, performance, and satisfaction. Here are some of the common challenges and opportunities of being a pickleball pro:
Pickleball stands as an intensely competitive sport, with numerous players contending for coveted top positions and rewards. To sustain your ranking and reputation, it’s imperative to consistently engage in training, practice rigorously, and enhance your gameplay.
It would help if you also coped with the pressure and stress of competing, performing, winning, losing, traveling, managing, and balancing your personal and professional life. However, competition can also be a source of motivation, inspiration, and learning, as you can challenge yourself, learn from others, and grow as a player and a person.
Pickleball is an expensive sport, with many costs and fees involved. You must pay for your equipment, apparel, accessories, travel, accommodation, registration, membership, insurance, taxes, and other expenses. These expenses can easily exceed your income if you perform poorly or win enough prize money.
It would help if you also had a backup or retirement plan, as your career may end abruptly or prematurely due to injury, illness, or other reasons. However, expenses can also be a source of investment, support, and security, as you can invest in your career, receive support from your sponsors and endorsers, and secure your future with your savings and plans.
Pickleball is a risky sport, with many injuries and illnesses possible. You must take care of your health and fitness and prevent and treat any injuries or diseases that may affect your performance and career. You also need to be aware of the rules and regulations of the sport, as well as the ethical and legal implications of your actions.
It would help if you also were prepared for the uncertainties and changes in the sport, such as the emergence of new players, new technologies, new formats, or new opportunities. However, risk can also be a source of challenge, excitement, and innovation, as you can overcome obstacles, enjoy the thrill of the game, and adapt to the changing environment.
Pickleball presents a burgeoning realm for professional players, offering a plethora of opportunities. Engaging in diverse tournaments and events, whether on a national or international scale, allows you to secure prizes, recognition, and exposure.
Securing sponsorships and endorsements from diverse brands and companies is attainable, enhancing your overall income, backing, and visibility. Furthermore, offering coaching, clinics, exhibitions, and related services to fellow pickleball enthusiasts has the potential to generate income, satisfaction, and valuable feedback.
Furthermore, you can tap into alternative revenue streams, including selling merchandise, creating content, organizing events, or pursuing various pickleball-related fields. This diversified approach opens avenues for income, creativity, and a broader range of experiences.
In 2024, professional pickleball presents diverse income sources for players like Ben Johns, combining tournament prizes and lucrative sponsorships. Marketability is key for endorsements while coaching, exhibitions, and content creation diversify earnings. Despite challenges like competition and financial considerations, the sport’s rising popularity offers promising opportunities for players to make a living doing what they love.
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As a pickleball enthusiast and founder of MY Best Pickleball, I’m here to share insights, tips, and a vibrant community dedicated to elevating your pickleball experience. Join us on the court and explore the best of pickleball at mybestpickleball.com!