Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Month: May 2017 (Page 2 of 4)

Good Player

Saturday, May 27, 2017 (Court Day #30)

I got out to Skypark at about 9:20 a.m. Looking through the fence pasted the tennis players, the pickleball courts were empty. “Is there no pickleball today for some reason?” I walked on regardless and was rewarded with spotting a court in use. 20 minutes late and just one game going? Weird. Walking around the far end to the entrance, I found Sheryl warming up with a woman I’d never seen before, Judy. I learned later that Judy was 82. Kudos to her for being out getting exercise. She didn’t move much or fast, but won some points on the morning. I asked Sheryl about playing and she said there was a signin sheet and an envelope by the gate nearest the parking lot. I had a $5 bill and not four $1 bills, so that’s what I stuffed into the envelope. (Honor system.) The signin sheet had a column for “punch card”. I’ll have to ask about that next time.

Four things of note.

1) Jerry Louis got three of his future students together for a game. Students taking his class next month. Eric, John P., and me. Jerry wanted to observe and taylor the class to his students’ needs. Jerry and I took on the others. We beat them pretty solidly, something like 11-6. I played a good game. Only missing one to two shots to being just lame. Jerry plays exceptionally well, making diffulct shots reliably and consistently.

Jerry shared that I’m being “lazy” and not getting up to the net fast enough. He also had made notes about “social play – strong/weak”. He said when playing a social game, take advantage of the opportunity of a very strong player and get them into the game so you can learn. Don’t always hit to the weaker player unless it’s a tournament. I told him that in our earlier game of Sheryl and me versus he and 82-year-old Judy, it wasn’t so much a matter of me thinking of “not hitting it to Jerry” but of Judy opening up herself for the natural winner shot that you take automatically. Sheryl and I made a specific effort later in the game to intentionally hit it to Jerry at every opportunity and I confirmed his suspicion of that.

2) Later, Terri and I played Jerry and Mara. Right before we started, I overheard Jerry saying to Mara, “…and they are both good players.” Yes, Jerry Louis said I am a good player! Great!

3) No matter how many times you try hitting backspin on a high arcing deep shot, it is almost guaranteed to sail long. It doesn’t gain you enough advantage, don’t try it. I learned the hard way!

4) By the time the last game rolled around, finishing at 12:15, I was beat. BEAT. As in willing myself to finish the game. It was warm and today was my third day playing in four days.

Oh, and I’ve been working harder on making every serve in. I think I missed just one all morning. I didn’t get any aces—made a few harder—but hitting it into the net or outside the service court is a wasted opportunity.

And, one more thing. The last game was Larry and me versus visor Geoff and Terri. In the game, Geoff turned to Terri, smiled in frustration and said, “I just made the best serve I can do and he still returned it. What’s the point?” It was the hardest return I had to make all day—he puts some good spin on the ball. Not as hard as one last night against Terry and his wife Laura, that was the hardest of all time that I actually managed to get back over the net. I have to admit, I shocked myself on that one last night. Geoff’s was one tier down, but still tricky.

The courts there did fill up over the morning, I think there were five going at one point. Also at one point John and I were looking for partners for a game and eight women were over at the bench with two courts open! Let’s play, people! (We did get two to join us!)

Ok. Back out tomorrow morning. I’m a glutton for punishment!

Number of days on a court: 30
Number of total hours: 86

For a Good Time Call…


It was evening.

She was a bit sweaty.

I was a bit sweaty.

We were both a little out of breath from the exertion.

Then I heard something every man likes to hear from a woman.

“Andrew, you are amazing!”

Yes, I returned a ball over the net no one had expect me to. Laura exclaimed, “I had already relaxed!” (Thinking she had hit a winner.) I got a few of those back over tonight.

Thursday, May 25, 2017. (Court Day #29)

My sister asked me to pick up my niece and nephew from a class that ended at 6:30, the time when pickleball started at Skypark in Scotts Valley. So, I got to the courts a few minutes before 7 p.m. Maree was there, she smiled and said, “You’re late!” I gave my explanation on my way to park my backpack along the fence with the others near the bench. I was the odd man out, so I have to wait about five minutes before I could join a game. (Deja vu.)

I played my first game with Ted against Bruce and his wife Janet. It was a fairly even game.


I played a number of games with Laura, her husband Terry—I had no idea they were married—and their daughter Jenny, whom I’d never seen. Jenny was wearing a T-shirt bearing a phone number: 867-5309. Now, anyone familiar with ’80s pop music will recognize that number as the title of a very popular song by Tommy Tutone, “867-5309/Jenny”:

Jenny I’ve got your number

I need to make you mine

Jenny don’t change your number

Eight six seven five three oh nine

I like Jenny already. I remember decades ago, hearing that a family in the San Jose area had that phone number and got so sick of people calling up and asking for “Jenny” that they changed their number!

Anyway, Jenny is not a bad player. Not as good as her mom, but with more playing time could become a force.

Tick tick, tick. Silence.

The last game of the night was Eric and me against Laura and her husband Terry. Eric and I had been comfortably leading but Laura had a serving run like I had earlier in the game. They went up 10-9. I was on the left, Eric on the right. Laura hit a shot as I approached the net. Time stopped. “Just get it over the net. Don’t try to drop it close. Be safe.” I hit the ball back about 2 to 3 feet past the kitchen line. The ball was over. The point could continue.

I’m going to draw from a seemingly unrelated experience. Bagpipe competition. Competing pipers are graded by their regional association, usually 4, 3, 2, 1, Professional. (Sometimes, you’ll see a grade 5 competition, but those are not very common.) Most competing pipers, maybe as many as three-quarters, at any given time are grade 4 pipers. Most competing pipers never make it out of grade 4. I made it to grade 3 before “overuse syndrome” with my hands forced me to stop competing and drop out of my pipe band. Back to my point. (Yes, it’ll make sense in a second.) Unlike higher grades, in grade 4 competition, in most smaller competitions and even some larger ones, it’s not about perfect expression or tuning. It’s about simply hitting all the right notes and playing them cleanly. (The musical fingering for bagpipes is more complex than a casual observer might think. Pipers have to squeeze in a lot of quick embellishment notes. A test performed in the U.K. found pipers to have the quickest fingers of any musician group—faster than pianists, flautists, any number of others.) The grade 4 winning piper is often the one who makes the least mistakes. And why do I mention this? The same applies for most typical pickleball games. The team/player who makes the least amount of mistakes wins.

Back to the game. I hit the ball 2 to 3 feet past the kitchen line when I could have hit it into the net like so many times before. What happened? Laura hit it into the net instead and we won the point. I didn’t need to hit a winner. I just didn’t need to hit a loser.

My great shots are still all too often accompanied by embarrassing shots. But at least there are some great shots that amaze people. That’s at least promising.

Oh, and Eric and I did pull out a win. Despite our errors. We just made less of them!

Play wrapped up and I was in my car at 9:07 to head home for a late dinner!
Number of days on a court: 29
Number of total hours: 83

[Click on “1st Post” above to start at the beginning!] 

Game with Terry

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 (Court Day #28)

i arrived at Derby Park also the precisely at 9 a.m. It was overcast and cool. Turnout was lighter. The sixth net didn’t get set up until halfway through the morning.

There was nothing of very significant note today; it felt like a little step backward from Sunday.

Eric and I played against Terry Long and Marianne, which made us fairly balanced. Terry is a 5.0 doubles player and Eric and I are both better skilled than Marianne. When Terry was about to serve me for the first time, I suggested, “Put some spin on the ball.” If I was going to play with very strong player, I wanted to take advantage of it. I didn’t want him to play down to our level. “Ok,” said Terry, “I’ll challenge you.” Boy, he could get some speed on the ball! And spin on serves. I was able to return most of his serves, I think I might have missed one, maybe two. It seemed Eric had a bit harder time, but we were both having off days. I did get Terry with one of my outside short serves where the ball didn’t get back over the net. I earned a “nice serve” from him for that one. Eric and I lost by a couple points. Terry was great in taking advantage of every point opportunity that we gave him.

Lauren and I took on Daniel (whom I hadn’t seen in while) and Eric. After Terry, Daniel wasn’t so intimidating. Plus a month more of experience makes the ball “slow down”. Daniel may have been rusty, though. He put at least a couple of shot shots into the net—no one’s perfect.

Speaking of into the net, I inexcusably hit a couple of relatively easy returns into the net today. The same thing Stuart had instructed me about. “Give yourself time to get up to the net.” You don’t have to hit it hard back. A deep soft return is just fine. I played a game against Mike this morning. He stopped me after and kindly shared, “You don’t always have to hit it hard.” It’s the old “It’s placement, not power.” Or maybe more accurately, “Placement over power.” You can use both sometimes, but placement always trumps power. You can hit a ball at 2000 miles per hour, but if it doesn’t land in your opponent’s court, it’s useless. Mike’s point was angles and drops are your friend. Hit the ball for a winner where your opponents are not, if they let you.

Overall, again, my play didn’t feel like a step forward. But each time out should help improve it.

I wrapped up the day at 12:10 and headed home to shower then on to work.

Number of days on a court: 28
Number of total hours: 81


« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2024 Pickleball Journey

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Pickleball Journey