Sunday, March 26, 2017 (Court Day #8)

I got a text last night from my friend John: “Derby Sunday?”
Me: “Recovering still from a pulled butt muscle, but you bet! 9AM!”
John: “You wild man!”

Oh, the indignities. Right glute. But injuries are expected.

I arrived at Derby Park about 9:05 a.m. after a forced 10-day layoff to cloudy skies and cool temperatures in the 50s and a one court already in play with two additional guys getting ready. One of which was John, bright and early. (No sailing events today.) Janet, a teacher who is the wife of Bruce—the fellow I know through work—arrived shortly after and we started the day warming up against each other.

As far as a day at Derby, it was pretty routine. I rotated through various games. I played a game with John. For a guy a little closer to 60 than 50, he moves very fast! After our game, me moved on to play with Dave (my former neighbor) since the two of them would be playing as partners at the Senior Games in about six weeks and need to get time playing together. Bruce (wife of teacher Janet) and I played against John and Dave. Bruce and I initially led the game, but John and Dave came back and beat us by a comfortable margin.

I went into the day with a mental directive of picking a target for every shot. I failed. I did it more than I do normally, but some volleys were so quick, I didn’t pick a target.

Later in the day, I played with and against a player I’d never met, Alan, who sports what resembles an English accent. He is a better player than I am. Low and fast serves, low drives over the net,  solid dinking, good shot selection, driving shots off the court to the left and the right. It’s good to play with those who are better than you, it’s how you improve. It shows me how much more I need to learn. Playing with Alan, we beat the other team 11-0.

On one court, Alan, a woman named Robin, and a woman named Paule (“Paul”) and I swapped players. I had Paule as a partner once, Robin once. Paule is a solid player, though I didn’t see her crack a smile in either game. But congenial, just serious. Me? I smile all the time. I love playing pickleball! With Robin as my partner—admittedly, she was tired—we lost 11-4. That’s not to say it was her fault we lost. I was probably 60% my fault, and 40% hers.

There were at least half a dozen or more shots during the day that ended up in the net. Mostly bad dinks. That’s my weakest area not enough pop on some dinks and some drop shots. There were also a few long return of serves and a couple slams that also went long. I also let myself get out of doubles position once, failing to track properly. (Sometimes, there are just great shots by your opponent. There isn’t much you can do about those. They will happen.)

I brought our old GoPro camera today with the idea of videoing some of my games for analysis. What should have done is keep it in my pocket ready to hang on the fence. As it was, I had it in my backpack and with passing through other courts (an interruption) it would have been inconsiderate to hold up the waiting players while I stopped and retrieved the camera. Maybe next time.

The session wrapped up at about 12:20. Of the two last games, mine wrapped up first. In the last game I started applying topspin to my serves and trying to hit them a bit harder. I got them all in. Oh, I did miss on serve on the day. Overcompensating for the wind, about a foot out from the centerline. Oops. But at least it was only one.

Dave Allenbaugh, the apparent head of the SCPC, greeted me by name today. He also told me, “Andrew, you aren’t a newbie anymore.” That was in reference to my email to him two days ago signed “Andrew (the newbie)”. I guess that after almost two months, I’ve been promoted!

I asked Dave who was the person who brought pickleball to Santa Cruz. He said it was Jerry Louis (not the actor/comedian Jerry Lewis) who set up a court down at the Louden Nelson Community Center and it grew in popularity from there.

So, take aways from today. Continue to develop topspin serve. Continue work on—as John says—”pushing” the dinks over the net. Work on keeping slams in the court 100% of the time. Keeping the ball low instead of allowing easy smashes for the other team.

Wish list. A side spin serve. Spin shots, including backspin like I did back in tennis. 100% reliable shot placement.

John suggested that we get our wives together for a pickleball night. He has enough paddles (I’m still using one of his) and a net. His wife Diane played at least once. My wife Kristen used to play tennis but gave it up because of her knees didn’t like the pivots and turns. Pickleball may be a similar problem, but she said she’d be willing to try it once.

Next pickleball day will be Wednesday morning. I hope I can go.