Connor Garnett, Professional Pickleball Player, Shares Insights on Minor League Pickleball and the DUPR Rating System.

Angelica Karlsson
January 23, 2024
"Having that scoring there puts a little more pressure, it got me hooked on pickleball.” -Connor Garnett

Connor Garnett, a Professional Pickleball Player, was introduced to pickleball through his first Minor League Pickleball event, which instantly sparked his passion for the sport. With a background in college tennis and investment banking, his competitive and fearless nature led him to pursue professional pickleball at the highest level in the country. During the interview, he discusses his experience in his initial Minor League event, his journey to the Major Leagues, and his personal views on the DUPR rating system.

 How did you first hear about Minor League Pickleball and what made you try it?

“I was still working full time at that point and just getting into pickleball and a couple of buddies were forming a team and they were like, “Do you want to come out this weekend to play this tournament?” It'll be a fun team event. Having come from college tennis, it instantly was appealing in that regard and it was awesome. I also didn't have to give up any work at that time. So it's kind of playing that balancing act where the regular tournament started Thursday. This was a perfect opportunity to get out there play a tournament and meet a ton of people with a few good buddies. So I was stoked to get out there and play with them.” 

 Any standout moments or experiences from your first time at Minor League?

"Having that scoring (MLPlay) there puts a little more pressure. It got me hooked a little bit more on pickleball coming from not really competing the last couple of years and just working in investment banking. I was able to get out there and have that Collegiate environment, which was a ton of fun. I remember us just battling it out. There was pool play which was also fun. You just got to see a lot of different teams and then you ended up with semis and finals which was a super cool way to do it.”

Do you think playing Minor League Pickleball prepared you to play Major League Pickleball? Was there a smooth transition? Any adjustments, both in your game and mentally?

"Yes. I think the level of errors goes down and so in Minor League, you get used to the format and the style of it, but you can still get away with a lot of stuff that's not going to work in Challenger (Major League Pickleball).  Each level has its challenges, but Minor League helped me build confidence and get used to the format. The jump was significant, especially in the first Challenger event. The pressure increased, and you have to fully trust your game. Facing top players in premier level MLP means every match is a battle out there, so it's just getting used to those levels and putting in the work on the reps so you can fully trust your game."

Who would you recommend Minor League for, and why?

"Minors is great for those entering the sport and wanting their first exposure, or just looking to have a good time. It got my foot in the door and got some buzz around my name but it's also fun for those players who are just looking to have a good time. The Minor League events are out there, and it's a cool way to make a little bit of money and play the sport that you love. Like the one I attended, it added a fun twist with team costumes where the winner of the contest received money. It's not just competitive;  it's also a place where you can go and hang out after the matches and just talk to everyone. It's a great stepping stone, but then you want to be focusing on the PPA tour stops to make that jump."

What are your thoughts on pickleball ratings and accuracy overall?

"DUPR does a good job of collecting more data, especially for lower levels. I know when I was first getting into the sport I had to call and ask about getting my ranking properly adjusted so I could play pro tournaments and it just wasn't picking up certain things and wasn't as Dynamic. I think DUPR has a great kind of functionality on capturing those earlier players and putting a ranking on them to at least help them make sure they're in an event but I think sandbagging is always gonna be prevalent. No matter how you slice it. It's just trying to mitigate it as much as possible."

How important is having an accurate rating for the sport, and should there be one standardized system?

"I don't look at ratings much but being able to accurately get that having one system out there that can just put a value on everyone. It is so important and I think that's just going to be crucial. The more systems you have the more confusing it gets so it's just the more you can standardize that the better it's gonna be."

Lastly, any feedback for DUPR 's improvement?

"I love the DUPR system. I think it's great for some of the waterfall events and just being able to have that flexibility in these different formats is awesome. I think the cool thing about DUPR is you have been constantly tinkering with the system, experimenting with it. I like that because it's a learning process, figuring out what makes sense from my perspective. I'm not as close to that stuff. I think, for the pro level, DUPR does a cool job showing probabilities."

Follow Connor's pickleball journey on Instagram.

View the full interview on our YouTube channel.

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