Pickleball Journey

Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

Last-Minute Tournament Prep

Friday, September 9, 2022 (Court Day #545)

I had pipe band practice last night. Being that it has been so hot this week—California issued heat warnings—the start time got changed from 6:30 to 7 p.m. and we didn’t finish up practice until about 8:45 p.m. There was no way I was going to drive to Scotts Valley for just 30 minutes of playing, so no pickleball for me last night.

My big debate for today was to play pickleball or not and, if so, for how long in preparation for my tournament with Jason tomorrow. I don’t want to wear myself out, but practice is nearly always good.

Brommer Park

I arrived in Brommer at 9:15 a.m. and took the very last parking place. The courts were completely full and people were already waiting to get on to play.

I played a couple games during the mixed skill time. When the skill levels took affect a 10 o’clock, I ended up in a game with Matt (who I’d never met before, but is a very good player) and Hugh against Dave Cox and me. We did a rematch. Dave and I partnered over and over again.

Those were some good challenging games. I was going to leave at 11:30 a.m. then got talked into another game, and then I was going to leave again but then got talked into yet another game. Alan Cable changed out for Hugh in those last two games. I finally left shortly after 12:30 p.m.

LOTS of advice

For good or bad, Dave is always quick with advice—and plenty of it—for his partners. Today, that was obviously me. Dave and I have some differing opinions on certain strategies such as court positioning . . . such as, where we stand when receiving serves—Dave wants me to stand very much to the middle of the court. (As a receiver, I’d hate my partner to do that, it limits where I can return a shot.) Dave’s claim is that it puts pressure on the opponent. If I’m at the net, I typically shift AFTER our return has been made and move to either cover the sideline or cover the middle depending on where the ball is returned to. Dave has taken some workshops, so I always at least listen.

Funny

While at the net, I had a hard shot come to me and I popped it back up crosscourt in front of Alan. Dave saw what he thought was coming and turned his back and ducked to the impending slam. (Dave also did this in a tournament once as my partner and I wasn’t super happy about him doing that, but I was the one who popped it up.) The thing was, Alan slammed the ball into the top of the net and the ball dropped near our kitchen line. Dave could easily have returned the ball had he simply been facing the net. Each to his own.

Serves

I believe only missed one serve the entire session but my serves were not lollipops either. I was serving fairly fast and later I was focusing a bit more on getting my service very deep as opposed to overly speedy. It’s always nice when you make a serve and their return is back into the net or sails out wide or too deep—that happened a few times.

Tomorrow is coming

As long as I’m not too sore tomorrow, today was a good warm-up. I’ve got to keep my shots low, be patient, and just overall smart when playing.

Tomorrow’s tournament should be a lot of fun, I’m very much looking forward to it.

Party

Tonight is Texas Mike’s going away party in Scotts Valley. It should be an enjoyable event.

USA Pickleball

I got an bulk email blast from Lance Cowart, and the new Managing Director of Field Operations, and USA Pickleball is looking to hire four salaried “Sector Leaders” to cover four regions of the United States: Western, Southern, Northern, and Eastern. The salary wasn’t given, just that it’s based on experience.

Pickleball in the Media

The New Yorker magazine came with some cartoons about Pickleball Gangs of New York:
https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/the-pickleball-gangs-of-new-york

I think I laughed at one of the cartoons, the rest were ”eh”. But still, pickleball is the “It” sport right now. Lots of publicity.

Goodbye to Mike Ballard

There were a number of pickleball people at Bruno’s to say goodbye to Mike and and his wife . . . Colleen, Binh, Jon Barlow and his wife, Tim F. and his wife, Jason and his wife, Matt Smith and his wife Carolyn, Debbie Bratby, maybe a couple of others. It was a good turnout. I’ll miss Mike. Good guy, good player.


Number of days on a court: 545
Number of total hours: 2,471

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

Tristan Sighting!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 (Court Day #544)

I left work about 6:30 p.m. and when I got to Skypark 10 minutes later, strangely the parking lot was full but not all the courts were set up. Firefighter Rob A. got there just before me, so the two of us warmed up across the net from each other on an empty court.

First Game

Soon, I got into a good game with Larry against Rob and Casey. I played very well in that game making only a few errors the entire time. A bit of a shock, Larry and I won by a decent margin. For Casey and Rob, and well, me too, it was our first game.

Psyched Out?

After that, I got partnered with Rob against Casey and Tim. Some people get the yips when serving. I think I sometimes have a mental block when I feel that I’m inferior and I want make a good showing. Tonight, when I partnered with Rob, I was speeding up shots that I should not have sped up and I made a bunch of other errors. Rob and I played two games against Casey and Tim and we lost both of them. For every mistake that Rob made, I probably made three or four. My play was disappointing and frustrating.

Newbie Dan

Eric, who is Ann‘s husband, brought a friend named Dan. Dan said he played many years ago and is getting back into it. He’s extremely rusty and he’s not too far off from being a beginner. I volunteered to partner with him and we lost both games we played in a lopsided fashion. Those results were expected and inevitable—unless our opponents were to unexpectedly implode! (Which they didn’t.)

The Return of Tristan

Tristan, whom I had not seen for a quite a long time, came tonight. I was able to partner with him for two games against Casey and Rob. That’s a pretty high powered combination against us. Tristan and I lost both games… well, more like I lost those games. Tristan is an excellent player which is pretty amazing considering he’s only 18-years-old. I was a bit dejected after two losses.

The Boys

Paul and his friend Matt were looking for a game but we need a fourth. Retired firefighter Matt Smith said that he and Tim just got clobbered by Matt and Paul. I talked Matt Smith into playing as my partner. This time, I was playing well and we went up pretty fast, leading 6-0. Matt S. started making more errors and I even made a couple myself, so Matt and Paul climbed back into the game and tied it up 8-8. Matt S. and I did go on the win, and that made Matt a happy guy—he said he could leave for the evening on a high note.

I played another game this time with Aaron as my partner against Matt and Paul. This was quite a battle. Aaron has come along way and is doing much better. While it was close, Aaron and I could not pull off a win. The game ended at 9:24 p.m., a few minutes before the lights clicked off at 9:30. I end up hanging out with them and talking for 30-45 minutes.

Lost Wallet

I left the courts and drove to Safeway in Scotts Valley to pick up 2% milk as my wife had requested. When I parked in their parking lot, I realized that I couldn’t find my wallet, so I texted Matt and Paul asking them if they could look. Then I drove back to the courts. I couldn’t find it on the courts or on the ground. It turned out that I had dropped it into the part of my backpack where I keep my paddles. I never do that. But it was unusual that I had walked onto the courts to warm up with Rob with my phone and my wallet still in my shorts’ pocket which I never do either. Lesson: take the time to put things were you normally keep them!


Thursday, September 8, 2022 (No Play)

It’s not uncommon for people to ask online how to know what skill rating they are. Others will respond with the USA Pickleball guidelines or the PDF created by “The Pickleball Guru“. I’ll often jump in sharing how inaccurate those are and how it often misleads to players into thinking they are a higher rating. Instead, tournaments—or indirectly, tournament players—tell you what you really are.

As far as a written guide, I believe one of the better ones is published by the IPTPA:

What’s typically not shared is the USA Pickleball skill checklists, which have a similar vibe to the IPTPA assessments:
https://usapickleball.org/tournaments/tournament-player-ratings/player-skill-rating-definitions/

Of course, in tournaments, the problem isn’t players assuming they are better than they are, it’s them sandbagging and signing up for a lower skill group so they can win and collect medals. Or so is the claim. I’ve never experienced that myself. Or it was never obvious to me.

Pipe band practice tonight, but I should be able to play tomorrow morning.


Number of days on a court: 544
Number of total hours: 2,468

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

Melting in Private Group

Monday, September 5, 2022. Labor Day. (Court Day #543)

Today was in the high 90s. It was a miserably hot day. I had originally arranged to meet with Binh, Charles, and Jason at 3 p.m., but Binh suggested that 4 or 5 p.m. might be better. The group settled on 4:30 p.m. which is the latest time I said I’d want to start.

After having trouble locating my portable net—my wife had moved it to a new place in the garage—I was five minutes late to Derby for our arranged time. My net was not needed, since we were the only ones there. (That would change, a large family showed up around 5 p.m. and took two courts.) It was still pretty warm, but the temperature was dropping. The nice thing about Santa Cruz is that it always cools down in the evening.

Jason and I paired up for the entire time.

I recorded our games, here’s the first game:

Jason shared that wanted to leave at 6 p.m. since he had to get up for work very early the next day, but we convinced him to stay for one more game.

Right before I left, I took the five “SCPC” balls that I’d slowly been accumulating over the past few months and put them in one of the two club bins. (I never use them for personal play, people just find them at the courts give them to me.)

Four courts in use when we left.

It was good for us to get out and play. Jason and I have that tournament coming up this Saturday.


Number of days on a court: 543
Number of total hours: 2,465

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

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