Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Month: August 2017 (Page 1 of 4)

Climbing Up

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 (Court Day #62)

First, a comment on something I’ve been thinking about since my last post. There have been a number of instances where a ball hit down the middle between my partner on my right and me on the left should have been taken by me with my forehand, but I held off leaving it for my partner to get—only they couldn’t and didn’t. Why do I do that? Well, it’s not necessarily a lack of aggression, per se, that is, I pouch and slam given the clear opportunity.

BUT, coming into this sport, I was the weak link. Where a ball was in reach of both of us, my (more skilled) partner would take it. Often, my partner would place himself or herself where he or she could cover balls hit in my direction—maybe by dangerously positioning themselves closer to the center of the court.

Now, it’s seven months later. I have over 175 hours playing pickleball. I’m not a newbie. I don’t need someone to hedge into my responsibility (court space) . . . and I don’t think people are. (I’ll comment on this “trust issue” more in a minute.) But, my brain has been trained to submissive in terms of balls flying between my partner and me. It’s a habit I need to break. I need to be more aggressive/dominant on those between shots—mostly when it’s my forehand and when I’m not 100% sure my partner has a a shot and that shot is a confident one.

Back to trust. There was a game recently where I almost turned to my partner between points and told him, “Trust me. Trust me to cover my side.” He had come too deep over to my side, taken my easy backhand shot and left his side of the court wide open—which our opponents took full advantage of! As partners—a team—we need to trust our partners to do their job. (Obviously, there will be times when we are joined with a weaker player—like games where we lose even though I made only one or two mistakes the entire game. Those, I remember that it’s just social play and I just do my personal best. I’m not going to pouch shots as a ball hog and keep it from being fun for my partner.) Trust isn’t not communicating. If it’s between us and I want them to take it, I’ll say, “Take it!” Most people say, “Yours”—I’m a rebel, I guess.

Derby Park


I arrived at Derby Park at 9:15. It was overcast—a sight for sore eyes—but it burned off in short order. Fortunately, I was back to my routine of putting on sunscreen and, in fact, put on SPF 70 for extra protection for my sunburn from Sunday!

Allan and I played a game against Grita and (English accent) Alan. “You and me? Ooookay…. this will be a challenging game!” And it was. It was back and forth. Allan stopped me at one point. “You need to stay over on your side of the court more. You are taking my forehand with your backhand.” Which I had just done and set up a winner for our opponent by hitting it too high. I’ve probably mentioned it, but generally, it’s practice for a player’s forehand responsibility to extend a foot or two past the center line into his or her partner’s side of the court. The idea is that a forehand shot is almost always going to be better than someone’s backhand. I tend cover too much ground with my backhand (when I’m on the right) and not enough with my forehand (when I’m on the left). In this particular game, Allan and I pulled an upset and won the game 11-9.

Stuart and me vs. Jerry Louis and John P.

Stuart was encouraging me to advance to the kitchen on the third shot. Here’s the thing, I’m used to playing with partners who don’t have reliable third shot drops. Stuart isn’t perfect, but has an overall strong game and a very reliable third shot drop. Like he probably makes 10 for every 1 that he misses. In other words, I don’t have to be on high alert for a slam back at me when he does a drop and can dash up to the kitchen almost without reservation. It took a while for that to get into my head. In the end, Stuart and I won handily. I think it was 11-5 or 11-6.

Grita and me vs. Kent and Alan

This was a game I was really looking forward to. Especially after Greg and I got slaughtered by Kent and a partner recently. I really wanted an opportunity to show Kent that I wasn’t as bad as that shutout game seemed to indicate. And I made good of the opportunity. I wasn’t perfect—like slamming an easy shot into the net—but I was fairly solid. Like in a dinking battle with Kent across from me and I dinked it almost as a passing shot out from his forehand . . . he got it, but it was too high back and I whacked it with my backhand between the two of them for a winner. Grita and I won by about a 2:1 ratio. Alan had a bad cough but said he felt fine, just sounded bad. Though I’m not convinced that Alan was at the top of his game. Oh, and Grita, who is not known for her soft game, had a great dink rally. Even Kent commented on it. 

Grita and Terri vs. Jerry (no-backhand Jerry) and me.

I need to learn Jerry’s last name. It’s not fair to call him “no-backhand” Jerry. He does have a backhand, just not a super one. Jerry’s about my height—maybe just a touch shorter—with white hair and an upbeat personality and mellow down-to-earth attitude. Jerry and I were leading. Terri got to serve and went on a very long run of points. Here’s the rub. After they’d scored 2-3 points off her serve, she hit a serve short. It was just short of the line of the service court. My brain wasn’t quick enough to simply call it and the ball was in play. But even if the ball had hit the line, the line is still part of the kitchen and would also have been an illegal serve. As it was that run of points pretty much cost us the game. It’s all learning experience. I’ll put it in my hat and next time be prepared to quickly call a failed serve. I didn’t mind losing to Terri and Grita. Both are good sports.

Grita and Terri vs. John P. and me.

We convinced John P. to play one more game. “I can’t guarantee that I’ll do much more than stand there.” He was tired, but will to play to allow us to get that last game in. Of course, John is a competitive soul and was soon found dashing around the court as one would expect him to! This was a back and forth game but John and I eked out a win.

After the game, Allan—who was watching along with Terri’s husband Gary—said, “You played well. You should be proud of yourself.”

Today was a climb day, not a plateau day. That’s good. Play wrapped up at 12:15.


Drop shots are just amazingly effective. And I’m continuing to get better with them. Not near as reliable as someone like Stuart, but slowly improving.


76 hours. So a byproduct of me keeping track of playing time is I also know exactly how many hours of wear are on the shoes I use for playing pickleball. I only put them on when I play. They have have an hour outside of travel to, playing, and travel from pickleball, but that’s about it. Court play is obviously going to harder on the shoes than walking around. Here’s what the Costco shoes look like after 76 hours of hard pickleball play. Now, not everyone plays as hard as I do, but I can’t imagine most people are that far off from me. What’s curious is why I wear my left shoe down noticeably faster than my right shoe. Maybe my body is imbalanced as well as my brain!



I have my son Nicholas (UCLA Applied Mathematics) help me at work while he’s home for the summer. I had him running a new cable (four phone lines) among other projects. He told me that he had some trouble wiring up one of the four new wire pairs. Here’s a photo:

I can understand why. Major spaghetti! Actually, it’s not quite as bad as it looks, except for one thing. Some professional phone installer guy got in there and, for one of the phone lines, rewired all the wires to each other with couplers instead of to a single mounted screw. (Ok, technically, it’s two screws.) I’m going to rip this all out and redo it closer to the original (pre-phone tech) way. Then it’ll be much easier to know what’s in use, what’s not, and add/remove wires.

It’s funny running a family business. You never know what you are going to be doing. One minute, you are HR. Another, because you are shorthanded, you end up helping unload a truck. Next, you are writing code to be able to import products into the point-of-sale database. Then you doing graphic design. Then reviewing supplier invoices. Then answering a product technical question for a customer. Then you are a phone technician. You never know.


I found out tonight on the Facebook pickleball forum that the actor George Clooney plays pickleball. It was even mentioned in an Esquire magazine article:

It’s hard for the sport to stay obscure with exposure like that!

Number of days on a court: 62
umber of total hours: 179.5


Sunday, August 27, 2017 (Court Day #61)

I left my house and the car thermometer read 66 degrees. Since it is regularly 59, and there were no clouds today, I figured we were in for a hot one. As I drove down to Derby Park I was delighted to see coastal fog over the courts. We’d get at least some reprieve from heat. I pulled up a few minutes after 9 a.m. Dale from Santa Rosa was also parking and walking in.

There were some of the advanced players there today. Terry and Karen Long, Dean, Stuart and a woman who showed up later whom I’d never seen but was obviously a very good player—she was always on the move and anticipating the opponents’ shots. She was quick. I’d love to play against her skills someday. Playing against better players makes you better. (Later that evening, I emailed Karen Long and she said the woman’s name is Lori Dunn and she’s from Livermore and plays as 4.5. Lori won a silver medal at the Bay Area Senior Games.)

Lori Dunn (pink) and friend Chuck take on some local opponents.

A new player named Janet arrived today. Maree was showing her the ropes. Dave (a different Dave, a regular, but I don’t think we’d played together before) and partnered up against Maree and Janet. Janet was very green. Unlike Rolando—who was there today—who came in with a fairly solid skill set, she has probably the longest way to go that I’ve seen. But we each have to start somewhere! I have to give her credit for getting out there.

I got a compliment from Allan today. He was critiquing Rolando’s serve. He wasn’t hitting it underhand. I was Rolando’s partner. Allan said, “Andrew, show him how to serve. You have a nice serve.” I’ll take that any day! 

So how did today go?

Grita asked how I my morning was going. I told her it was kind of up and down. I told her that learning was full of climbs and plateaus—I demonstrated with my hand—I’m currently on a plateau.

While I didn’t embarrass myself too much—a few shots went wild—it was a “eh” kind of day. I’m putting in my hours—that can never hurt. I can say that my drops shots are continuing to get better. I still miss too many, but the ratio is improving.

One quick thing I try to remind myself of. Those points where the ball goes back and forth and you exasperatingly lose a hard-fought rally? At the end of the game, those lost points are valued exactly the same as messing up a serve. Serve a ball into the net? Too long? Too wide? Same as a lost long rally—but totally preventable. It’s better to simply serve the ball into the center of the opponent’s service court and work your way into the point than to “get tricky” and blow the point before it begins.

The last game was Jeff (relatively new guy with strong forehand and wicked backspin) and me against a tall linebacker guy, Rich, and Wayne. We lost 11-9. But a good game though and I played pretty well.

At 12:30 it was time to head home.

Warm Skin

I was trying to figure out why I felt so warm in the late afternoon. Duh. I forgot to put on sunscreen! I have fair skin (it’s the Irish, German, English/Scottish blood—the Italian didn’t come through so much!), so 3 1/2 hours in the sun means sunburn for me. But it wasn’t crazy bad, but definitely some pink! Gotta remember that.


Oh. And our softball team lost in the playoffs on Friday night. We took a 10-0 lead in the first inning but the other team had a couple of good innings later, with lots of solid singles that were indefensible.  Then, in the top of the last inning the umpire called our runner out at home plate even though the catcher dropped the ball. Season over. I was base-coaching 3rd and had an excellent unobstructed view. The ump said the catcher picked the ball back up before the runner crossed the plate, but it wasn’t even close—she had cleared home plate easily by a few feet by the time the catcher recovered the ball. I was really confused when the other team started celebrating. Huh? Then I got the word. Unbelievable. Those watching while waiting for the following semi-final game said we were robbed. Would we have made up the 10 runs with the bases loaded and two outs? Probably not, though we did score 10 runs in the 1st inning. We’ll never know. But it stinks to end a season on a very bad officiating call. We’ll have to wait until June next year to wash that loss out of our mouths!

At least I have pickleball!

Number of days on a court: 61
Number of total hours: 176.5


Wednesday, August 23, 2017 (Court Day #60)

I arrived at Derby Park at 9:10 a.m. Cloudy skies.

I caught myself daydreaming in several games today. That’s not good for scoring points. And I guess it means that those games must have been a little boring to lose my focus. I’m somewhat distractible, but if it’s a challenging game, I’m naturally going to be more “in the moment” and paying attention. It was really bad in some games, I had no idea who just served or what was going on. I just had to shake my head at myself.

I played an assortment of routine games. Nothing of serious note. Terri and I did play a game against Jerry Louis and Cathy and lost 11-2. We got clobbered. I was hoping to get a rematch and almost got it, but Jerry left the court just before the first serve to play with a fellow named Paul whom Jerry said would be his partner in a tournament coming up and they wanted to get reps together.

My play the last two outings have been bland. I’m in one of those plateau stages again, I guess. I’m hoping my skill level will start to take another climb soon. I have recently been attempting more drop shots. Some are good, some lead to winners for the other team—either I hit it into the net or give them an easily volley shot—but if I were to drive the ball those might lead to winners too, so not much is lost by attempting a third shot drop against good players. With weaker players, a third shot drive can be a winner right then and there . . . but I want to develop that third shot drop, hence more attempts.

Play wrapped up at 12:20 p.m. Ted, John P. and I headed to Mexican food after and talked about bicycling accidents, sailing, the solar eclipse that happened on Monday. Then it was time to head home, shower, and to work.

I noticed my paddle wrist hurting a bit in a few games. That and hips a bit. My softball team’s playoffs are in two days in the evening. I’m going to skip playing pickleball tomorrow night in Scotts Valley both because I don’t want to be fatigued for the game plus my daughter Charlotte leaves for school on the East Coast on Saturday. There are only so many days she’ll be home.

Oh, and the sun peeked out just as I pulled up in front of my house. Summer still.

Number of days on a court: 60
Number of total hours: 173

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