Pickleball Journey

Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

S.C. Permanent Courts?

Thursday, October 6, 2022 (No Play)

First, let me say that after playing a bunch leading up to last Sunday’s tournament, the siren’s call of pickleball was very weak. I took Tuesday night off. Tonight is pipe band practice. I may play tomorrow, Friday morning.

Permanent Courts in Santa Cruz?

The City of Santa Cruz sent out an email. I don’t know if this went to just people on a tennis/pickleball interest list or everyone in their P&R system. (I managed a city league softball team for a number of years, so I’d be in their system from that.)

Dear Community Member,

I would like to invite you to two upcoming public meetings regarding proposed court modifications at 2300 Delaware Avenue (UCSC’s property) and Sgt. Derby Park. The Parks and Recreation Department is proposing for the City to enter into a License Agreement with the University of California, Santa Cruz to convert the two tennis courts to eight pickleball courts at 2300 Delaware Avenue and to appropriate funds to implement the project. Upon the project’s completion, the Parks and Recreation Department also plans to convert the existing shared-use courts (two tennis courts which are striped to allow for pickleball play) to only allow for tennis play at Sgt Derby Park. If approved and funded, pickleball play would be available on permanent courts at 2300 Delaware Avenue and only tennis would be played at the Sgt. Derby Park courts.Please see attached notice for more details.  

Thank you,
Noah Downing
Park Planner
Parks and Recreation
City of Santa Cruz

John P., on the Santa Cruz Pickleball Club board, called me about the proposal, but I was working and had to call him back. When I did, he explained that in order to keep the Parks & Recreation Commission in the best possible mood, the plan was to limit the number of speakers on our behalf to just five people. John asked if I would be willing to be in one of the five speakers. Of course, I said yes.

I don’t have a lot of experience with public speaking, but I did it a few years ago when there was a proposal on the table for the same commission to turn Derby Park into just pickleball and not tennis. At that meeting, I provided some hard data regarding sound pressure levels I had recorded in and around the courts. This was to balance out a neighbor who got up and, as expected, complained about pickleball noise. This time, John explained to me, the meeting would be virtual instead of in person. I would much rather have it in person, but it is what it is.

This proposal would alleviate a lot of issues, most of which are due to the popularity of pickleball. The proposed location would have eight permanent courts instead of just six temporary courts. It would also have a substantial amount of parking, which fixes the complaint about player parking is negatively impacting the neighborhood. Another issue that this would alleviate is the complaints about noise as the new location is not near any housing—it is in a much more commercial and industrial area. All in all, it’s a pretty great solution. It’s also only 2 to 3 minutes of driving away from the current location at Derby Park.


Friday, October 7, 2022 (Court Day #558)

The weather has changed substantially in the last few weeks. We have left summer and entered fall. As I was driving to Brommer Park, the temperature on my car was reading 56°. As I drove, I hoped that the cooler temperature and the periodically very lightly misting fog would keep people from coming as early and leave me a parking spot. Though at 9:20, I could see Art and another apparent player walking down the street toward the courts and there were two cars circling in the lot ahead of me in a futile search for spot. I ended up parking down the block on a side street.

Walking into the courts.

As with all organized club play, the first hour from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., is mixed skill play. I got into some disposable games with very short rallies. 10 o’clock rolled around and I saw the René, who in rolled her ankle a week go, out playing on one of the courts. I waited for her to finish up as there didn’t appear to be any appropriate games materializing. I could either try to weasel my way into a game with Dan and Dean which would probably meet resistance or I’d have to play with players that are signing up in red who I feel are really intermediate players.

Kiko

There was a very tall young-ish man there with blond dreadlocks who I didn’t know and have still never played with. Dave Debiasi explained that this fellow, Kiko, went to Oregon where he played linebacker for the Ducks football team and was later drafted into the NFL and played for Buffalo. Dave said he was very highly regarded and played well. I asked if Kiko got injured and Dave replied the Kiko had blown out his knee. I didn’t get a chance to play with Kiko but I imagine his wide reach would be very helpful for him. I later looked up Kiko online and it turns out he had a pretty long NFL career, playing with several teams over seven years:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiko_Alonso
In the article, it says Kiko went to Los Gatos High School, which is a mere 20 minutes north, between Santa Cruz and San Jose, so he probably has family in our area.

René

I got a few games in with René as my partner, which is good considering we have a tournament together in about two weeks. I felt in my play was overall subpar today. My dropshots were not super reliable . . . some were a little too low and some were too high—either way the rally was over in very short order. It’s a far cry from my appearance at a club-arranged workshop at Derby when I was nailing nearly all my dropshots.

Don’t Want to Win?

In one game with René, we were playing against Rick and Art. As we were about to start, René told me, “We want to hit to Art.” I said something about hitting to Rick too. She said, “You want to win, right?”
“No . . . [dramatic pause] . . . I want to get better.”
She thought for a second, then replied, “I understand. I’m in tournament mode.”
As I’ve mentioned before, in rec games, I want them difficult. Illegal serve? Fine. Hit to the stronger player? Fine. I can hit to easier players during mixed skill time.

Matt

I played two games with Matt, the taller, thin Canadian 4.0+ player. One game against him and one with him. He’s quick.

One proud moment was in the first game when Matt was directly in front of me. He was dinking crosscourt to René to my left. This went back and forth a few times. Matt did a speed up right at me off a crosscourt dink. But I knew it might be coming. I whipped the ball back down between their feet for a winner. Matt was very surprised and laughed, “You were ready for that one!” Yep. Expect the ball fast, at any time, off of any shot.

In the second game, it was Rick and René—she’s playing with him in a tournament in Las Vegas next month—against Matt and me. I felt bad for Matt. Rick and René were targeting me. Matt had to poach to get into the game more. It’s not a philosophy I agree with. As I mentioned, in rec play, hit to the better player to get better yourself. Years ago, early on in my pickleball journey, I got into a game with Karen Long against Terry Long and John Connor. All stronger players than me. Terry and John barely hit the ball to me. It was Karen, Karen, Karen. I was on an island. They knew they’d get a better game that way. That said, I believe I was better than they thought at that time since I was improving by leaps and bounds in that first year or two. (It was roughly around that time that Karen told me that I was “the most improved player”—that after Kevin and I beat her and Leslie and Kevin told me after that game that I had carried him.)

It was a little after noon. There were no advanced players available and I had work to get to. I called it a day.

Number of days on a court: 558
Number of total hours: 2,511.5

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

Bay Area Senior Games 2022

Sunday, October 2, 2022 (Court Day #557)

Still out with a rolled ankle, my original planned partner René was able to get a friend of hers to fill in, Kristin “Kris” Kuppe, who lives mere minutes from Mitchell Park in Palo Alto, the location of the 2022 Bay Area Senior Games.

I drove up and met Kris in her driveway at 10:47 a.m. (And I do mean “met”. We’d never seen or talked other than by text in the last 48 hours!) Kris was very pleasant and I loaded my backpack, extra shoes, and chair into the back of her car. Kris is fairly tall for a woman at about 5’7″. Play was scheduled to start at noon, so after parking, we had plenty of time to get situated and warm up.

The courts seem to have been redone since I was there 4-5 years ago. It seems much more pickleball friendly. I think there weren’t permanent pickleball courts previously.

René had said she’d come to watch and hang out and she indeed appeared.

View of the courts from the benches.

We found the registration tent to signed in. A very pleasant surprise, manning one of the computers, was none other than former Santa Cruz Pickleball Club webmaster and former site coordinator Dave Allenbaugh . . . wearing the exact same blue SCPC shirt as I was wearing! Dave got us signed in and arranged for us to get our free tournament T-shirts. Dave has been M.I.A. lately, he had a knee replaced and will be having the second one done in the not too distant future.

Dave also asked if I wanted to get update texts for the tournament. This was new to me. I said yes, and I gave him my mobile number.

Warm Ups

Kris and I found an empty court and did some dinking and drop shots and volleys. One never knows what to make of an unknown partner, but Kris did well, she’s a solid 3.5.

There was a team there that Kris knew, Miryam and David, and we did a warm up game with them. Kris and I took a quick and sizable lead. They started catching up. Since they were stacking, they got confused at one point and Miryam thought she was still serving though David had just served to Kris from that side. Given it was a warm up game, I wasn’t going to challenge her claim, as it made no difference to me. Though from then on, I knew the game wasn’t accurate or fair, so I took it even less seriously. They ended up “winning” the warm up game by a couple of points.

Waiting

We wandered back to the picnic tables where we had parked our chairs and waited for our first game. At 12:06 p.m., I got a text from the tournament system saying that our pool had started. Mike Hoxie called our category together near the registration tent and announced how things would work. By the time Kris and I realized it was happening and got there, we missed the start of it, but it was pretty routine. We’d all be playing to 15 in the round robin.

There was a question by one of the participants and Mike explained there was a last-minute partner change and that changed the number of teams in the age-group. I figured this might be us, but it took another minute to realize that Kris is in 55-59 bracket, not 50-54, so we were now playing in a different group than René and I would have originally played. Yep, it was us. There would be two pools, one with five teams and another with six.

It wasn’t until 12:47 did we get a text that it was time for our first game. I learned much later that Kris and I had the first bye, so that’s why we had waited so long.

Game 1

Our first game would be against Ginny and David Lee at Court #9. Kris confided that they are both new players. Kris and I took a quick and big lead. It was obvious that they were more in the 3.0 skill range.

About two-thirds through the game, I did something I shouldn’t do in a tournament, I hit a shot to David at the net crosscourt when Ginny was back and the obvious target. I was feeling bad for them. The shot was high enough for David to hit the ball at my partner’s feet and they got a point. After that, I was more “ruthless”. I reminded myself that you never know when a team will turn around and suddenly climb back into a game. We wrapped up the game 15-1.

After the game, I asked when they had started playing pickleball. Ginny said three months. I gave her some encouragement and let her know that I’ve been playing for years.

Between our first two games, a shot of the white TD tent .

Game 2

After a very brief wait, at 1:13, our next game came up. Mike asked, “I’m not making the games too quick, am I? You have enough of a break?” I shrugged it off, told him it was fine. I collected the score sheet clipboard from his table and Kris and I headed to Court #12. After waiting for a bit, I went to Mike and he made an announcement over the loudspeaker asking for our opponents. Debbie You and Peter Zepponi promptly appeared a few minutes later.

Peter is tall and Debbie is short. Peter has powerful drives, but after facing Matt Smith for a year now, I’m used to those. That and Peter hit a few of them into the net. With the height differential between our opponents, Debbie was our general target.

This was another 15-1 win though Debbie and Peter were a bit more challenging than our first game.

Game 3

The alert for our next game came at 1:45 p.m. We would face Ruby Cawley (of Manteca) and Daniel Aumack (of San Jose). Like the first games, we rocketed to a fast start and were up 5-0 in pretty short order. But things got harder. Both teams scored 4 more points, bringing the score to 9-4. It was about then that I noticed that Daniel was left-handed. When I pointed this out to Kris, she hadn’t noticed yet. Boy, that’s something that I keep trying to remember as a pre-game checklist!

At this point, errors started kicking in. Kris, who had earlier said her serves aren’t special but she gets them all in, missed several. Daniel got the best of me in a net battle. Kris returned a few serves long. In a massive momentum shift, they scored 11 additional points to our mere 1. We found ourselves at the losing side of a 10-15 final score. Ouch.

That was one we let slip away. We were now 2-1 overall.

Game 4

At 2:16 p.m., we were supposed to play at Court #11 , directly across the divider from our previous game, but one of our opponents, Linda, asked Mike if we could play on a permanent court instead. Personally, I’d never do that, I just figure the TD is too busy to bother, but Mike granted her request. Another text came at 2:22 saying our court had been reassigned to Court #5.

Our opponents would be Linda Severet (of Antioch) and Glenn DeQuiroz (of Discover Bay, CA).

Linda and Glenn are nice people. Unassuming but very capable. Kris and I got clobbered. There were two shots that were high enough to slam but I was forcing the shot—we were already very behind—and slammed those two balls into our side of the net. So frustrating! And to demonstrate how badly I must have been playing in this game, Linda started targeting me.

We took a 15-2 loss. After the game, I told them that their playing style matched up well against ours, whatever that was. Linda said they knew going into the game that they needed to win or they’d be eliminated from the playoffs. I wasn’t even considering that. I just was taking one game at a time and let things fall where they may.

Maybe it was just a one-off, but in that game, there was no question which was the better team.

Waiting

Initially, we were waiting to see when our next game would be. But we discovered that we were in the pool with five teams instead of six, so we were done.

Talking to Daniel, who had been part of the team that came back from down 5-0 to beat us, said they had gone an undefeated 4-0 and that our game was the toughest that they faced. Nice to hear.

We waited to see if we would be in the playoffs or not. I had just taken it game by game and not paid attention to what the standings were. I figured 2-2 would be a longshot. After about 30 minutes Mike got up and announced the playoffs. Kris and I were not called and then he went on and read off names that included ours saying that our day was done. Alas, but not a huge surprise with our record today.

Results

The gold went to Ruby and Daniel—the team that came back from down 4-9 and beat us. (I feel we could have beat them.) The silver went to Linda and Glenn. (I feel like we couldn’t have beat them . . . at least not today.) A surprise, the bronze went to Maryam and David. Kris felt that—and I have agree—had the pools been different, we could have been the bronze medal team, but we had the gold and silver teams in our pool. “Luck of the draw” as they say. Or “unluck”. We ended up in the top half of the bracket, with a positive point differential. Some consolation, at least. That and having the gold medal team down 9-4, we just couldn’t finish them off.

Kris dropped me off at my car and I was home about an hour later at about 5:30 p.m.

UTPR Update

After being a legacy 3.5 player and having to earn my way back up to official 3.5 status, I’m officially back to 3.5 for my “2 Digit Skill Rating”. It’s only updated four times each year and the last update for 2022 happened yesterday:

The tournament today was unsanctioned, so it’ll have no effect on my Mixed Skill Level rating one way or the other.

I was disappointed that we didn’t medal today, but overall, we didn’t do badly all things considered. Onward!

Number of days on a court: 557
Number of total hours: 2,509

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

ATP Body Shot

Friday, September 30, 2022 (Court Day #556)

I left my house I realize that I had forgotten to send an business email that needed to be sent yesterday. So I stopped by work and took care of that then continued on my way to Brommer Street County Park play and arrived at 9:10 a.m. I took one of the last three parking spots. As is typical, all the courts are completely full and a number of people are waiting.

Play Time

I went through a variety of games today although none of them were with top-tier opponents. Maybe that was good, since I was not playing my best. I started out with a reasonable amount of energy but after an hour or so I started feeling tired. Maybe it was a combination of playing last night and I didn’t eat breakfast either—though skipping breakfast is typical for me.

I hit some of my serves out, I hit a number of “out balls”, some of my drop shots landed in the net . . . it was just not on par.

Wai was playing pretty well today. He has a pretty deceptive delivery of the ball. At times he makes it look as if he’s going one direction and sends the ball a different direction—he is very slippery!

In a game against Wai and Joe C., Wai angled a dink shot tight crosscourt to my right. I sprinted to the net, barely got to the ball and had to take it around the post, which I did. And I hit the ball into Joe’s torso. Joe was pretty amused. I’d never hit a player in the torso with an ATP before.

12:17 p.m. and it was time to go.

Aches and Pains

My left hip has been bugging me the last week. A few days ago, reaching out with my left leg getting out of my car significantly hurt—as it did while really reaching for a shot today. The outside of my right knee was briefly flaring up too. And as I mentioned yesterday, the inside of my right wrist is sore.

Partner Disaster

René texted me at 6:10 p.m. with some bad news. She was out running and rolled her ankle! The PT was saying two weeks of rest . … not conducive to our tournament in less than 48 hours. René did say she has a friend named Kris Kuppe who might be able to take her place . . . but I’ve never met Kris. Tournaments are ruthless. It’s like blood in the water. If Kris is a weaker player, she will get attacked and I won’t see the ball much. (But, heck, if I have a bad day that could be me!)

Compliment

My wife Kristen, son Nicholas, and I opted to visit an art opening hosted by a friend, Paul, on the lower westside. While there, we bumped into my wife’s co-worker/friend Lisa and her husband Ethan. Kristen had mentioned to me recently that Ethan’s friend had bought him some pickleball gear. Of course, pickleball came up in tonight’s conversation. While I was chatting with Ethan about pickleball and his work, Marvin from the Skypark courts appeared. I hadn’t seen Marvin for a few months, but we immediately recognized each other and waved. A couple minutes later he came over and told Ethan, “Andrew is the best instructor, if you can get him him to teach you, do it!” Sounds like I made a good impression with Marvin with my informal tips when we played together in Scotts Valley.

Partner Disaster Revisited

René texted later and said Kris would be able to play. Then she texted again later and said she might recover well enough to play on Sunday . . . though I suspect that is a long shot. I emailed Mike Hoxie, the tournament director, and he said he’d need to know who my partner will be by 6 p.m. tomorrow at the latest.

Can Two 4.5 Players Take Down a Single Pro?

I thought this video was impressive. I remember a game of just me taking on two brand new players and I had to hold back to keep rallies from ending too quickly. That’s one thing. Taking on two advanced players while covering your side of the net by yourself is an entirely different thing! I’d expect the pro to unquestionably lose. Watch the video.


Saturday, October 1, 2022 (No Play)

René called me and said her ankle is still bad and the tournament is out. She said Kris would play—or not—play as my partner as needed. I opted to go ahead and play. The plan is to meet Kris at her house in Palo Alto and car pool the mile or two to the courts. It’s easier to meet someone you don’t know somewhere other than a venue with hundreds of random people!

Funny Local Video

Gary S. (Terry’s husband) made a video and asked Ted B. to share it and I was on Ted’s email list:

And someone shared this cartoon online today…

Given the paragraph I wrote above yesterday about aches and pains, too apropos!

Number of days on a court: 556
Number of total hours: 2,507

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

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