Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

Month: September 2017 (Page 1 of 5)

And . . . up!

Tuesday, September 28, 2017 (Off Day)

My copy of Pickleball Magazine appeared in the last few days. I finally got a few minutes to open it yesterday at lunch time while I was throwing the ball for the dog. I didn’t know I was going to get a hard copy. That’s a good thing since I got a digital version by email from the USAPA some weeks ago but I only got through the first 10 pages or so. There’s something to be said for print that is tangible and you can hold in your hand!


Inside was an article mentioning local player Ray Pereyra who was off in Detroit over the summer to coach kids at the Junior Olympic Games. How do  you like that? Nifty.

rayARticle-temp

 

Friday, September 29, 2017 (Court Day #75)

I arrived at Brommer at 9:10 a.m. and there was already a couple of games in progress and folks milling around waiting to get started.

One of the first games was Sandra and me against Alan and Kirsten. I didn’t make a single mistake until we were leading 8-4. Then I made one. Dunno, maybe hit a drop shot into the net or something, but it was a good performance. Sandra and I won that game.

Another was Beth Black and me against Kirsten and Lora. We played with hard ball. “Is that ok, Andrew?”, Beth asked. I said sure. I should play with that ball all the time if I play like that. I did make a few mistakes but I—as Kirsten said after—was “on fire”. I played very well. Beth and I handily won.

There was a funny moment in that game where Beth told me, “Nice try” after my crosscourt shot with us all at the net. Except the ball hadn’t landed yet and it landed in! We went on to win the point.

I played an assortment of games and saw that Eric’s game had shifted to the last court means that they’d been going for a while and would likely be ending soon. Well, it still ran another 10 minutes. I signed Eric and me onto a schedule square so we could get some additional time as partners before the tournament next month. Once he got done, we were set to play together, which we did.

Of note, we played a game against Chuck and a new woman, Uli. Uli has lots of tennis background and is pretty decent even as a beginner. Eric and won that one as expect. One one point, I served right to left, Chuck returned it crosscourt, it returned it sharp left and it left an opening between Chuck and Uli. Eric took full advantage and hit it for a winner right between. “I was hoping you’d do that,” I told Eric, “that’s how it supposed to work, teamwork.” (Not that we different agendas or aren’t normally strategic, it was just such a great example.)

Later on, Eric and I played a game against Mark (Maree’s husband) and Chuck. It was a challenging and balanced game that stayed close the whole time. We won 11-9.

I had a first today in that game. I thwarted an around-the-post shot. There was an angled shot. Mark moved off to his left to hit it and he was outside the post when he made contact with the ball. It was coming back to our side. But I had tracked with Mark. Instead of a winner, I volleyed the ball back over the net into their court. Eric liked that.

The last game of the day was Eric and me against Chuck and John Connors. John is a medal-winning tournament 4.0 player and it shows. While it was a valiant battle, Eric and I lost 11-6.

I had what I am almost certain was an around-the-post service return in that game. It happened so fast. John has very strong serves that he gets with a running start. He had one that was angled and shallow from his right to my right. I had to madly scramble and I barely got to it. I remember my return sailing very low as a passing shot down their sideline. I don’t think it went over the net—though it may have, but I think not. Chuck had no chance. That was a crazy point.

I pulled out of the parking lot at 12:22 p.m. I’d call today an “up” day. I had my moments of dumb shots, but overall, not bad. Today does want me to work more on making my serve faster. One such attempt resulted in the ball going long. Practice!

Los Gatos Tournament

The tournament came up in conversation and Tom S. (John P.’s partner) that he was told after he registered that it was full and he was on the waiting list. We’ll have to see how that plays out with John P.! Stuart said he hadn’t registered because he couldn’t find a partner. Oh, and kudos to Eric. When it came up that Eric was to be my partner in the tournament, two separate people said, “Good player.” Good for Eric—and good for me!

Number of days on a court: 75
Number of total hours: 216

Click here to start at the beginning of this blog: PickleballJourney

Videos, videos, videos

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 (Off Day)

One thing I remembered about that great game on Sunday was me being intent on watching the angle of my opponent’s paddle. In a game like that with quick serves and fast returns, the paddle angle can give you a split-second head start on a shot. Yes, they can get sneaky and present the paddle a certain way and change it at the last instant, but at my level, that’s rare. I saw it once all day on Sunday. I still got the ball back over the net, but—man—had I been snoozing even a little bit, that point would have been over! But you only usually see intentionally misleading one’s opponents by advanced players. I’m not there yet! Typically, paddle angles are a great tip-off.

Being a pickleball nut, I’ll sometimes spend some time late at night watching instructional videos. Here’s a good video about your feet:

And I want to learn how to do this!

The Los Gatos Tournament

So a little more about that quirky tournament in Los Gatos. It’s an indoor tournament. (That’ll be new.) What’s throwing people is there division of skill levels:

SKILL LEVEL
• Beginner – has never played any racquet sport
• Intermediate – has played a racquet sport (i.e. tennis, racquetball, etc.)
• Advanced – plays racquet sports frequently

Obviously, these are far different than anything you’d see just about any regular tournament which are either broken up by ages or by IFP skill levels (1.0-5.0)—or both. I suggested to Sophia (the organizer) that she reach out to a nearby pickleball player with tournament experience for advice and gave her the names of Terry and Karen Long in case she couldn’t one local to Los Gatos. The question will be where Eric and I end up once the dust settles.

 


Wednesday, September 27, 2017 (Court Day #74)

I’m on the mend from some kind of sinus bug that has given me a very slight sore throat. It just makes my sinuses sting a little. I’m not quite as perky as I normally am.

I arrived at Derby at 9 sharp. Only Dave and John P. were on the courts. I can’t recall for sure, but I think may have been Tom S. who filled out the foursome for the very first game of the day. Dale and Sandra appeared and warmed up over by themselves. Dave and I started slowly, falling behind immediately, but we came back and won the game as we got warmed up.

I played an assortment of games then Eric arrived. Since we’ll be tournament partners we figured we should make an effort to get more game time together.

Eric and I learned that  John P. and Tom S. had signed up for the Los Gatos tournament also. That’ll be fun! We opted to play against each other, kind of to test the waters. We won the first game 11-6.

Being that there were people waiting, we came off the court but we had a rematch once a court opened. Things didn’t go was well this second game. John decided that he and Tom were going to do stacking. It really disrupted the flow of the game. We’d have to wait while they consulted about who was on what side, what the score was, and where they should precisely be. I think they generally would have ok under tournament time restrictions and Eric and I need to get used to seeing that. Eric and I lost second game 11-7. I wanted to play a tie-breaker, but John had to go.

Later, Eric and I played a game against Grita and Ted. It was not close. We were all tired at that time, late in the morning and my game just disintegrated. I did video record that game. It’s immortalized here:

Here’s a chronology of my mistakes:

  • At 0:56, I take a blatant step into the kitchen—a complete bummer since I played pretty darn well on that point otherwise.
  • At 2:56, my 3rd shot drop is too high and allows Ted to do a great drop volley just over the net for a winner.
  • At 3:24, I hit an easy shot right into the net. I just have to shake my head on that one
  • At 4:43, my 3rd shot drop goes right into the net.
  • At 5:03, my intended crosscourt dink goes into the net.
  • At 6:00, you’ll see a sequence where I do a very bad 3rd shot—far too high and it leads to a lost point . . . though I could have still won it, but I while I had a nice 5th shot, it was followed by a gift of a 7th shot that Grita hit for a winner.
  • At 8:34, I make a dumb decision, it’s a shot that should have gone crosscourt to Ted instead of at Grita who powered it back for a winner.
  • At 8:50, I return a shot that was going to land out—we still won that point, but it was more work than it had to be.
  • At 9:16, I return a lob, but it goes too long.
  • At 9:30, Grita hits a ball in my direction and I wasn’t properly prepared and can’t react fast enough . . . with the paddle in a more backhand position—as I’ve been advised numerous times—I might have gotten it.
  • At 9:46, I jump at a lob and hit it down onto my own side of the court! (Sigh.)
  • At 10:00, I hit a shot that should have been at a sharper angle, as it was Grita returned it down the middle for a winner.
  • At 10:52, I hit it too high twice in a row and paid the price.
  • At 12:58, I step in after Eric serves, only to have to step backward to be able to legally return the 3rd shot.
  • At 13:20, I get fancy and hit a slice backhand with backspin. But it’s high and Ted takes advantage to win that point.

[14:29 is a bummer. A ball rolls onto our court when Eric and I have the net and are keeping Ted and Grita back . . . we lost the replay of the point.]

I guess the good news is that I didn’t make any noticeable mistakes the last 4 minutes of the game.

Ugh. I really wish I had recorded the game of Angie and Sycha against Greg and me from about a week ago. I played really well in that game. Not today. Today’s video shows an embarrassing plethora of errors. So bad. And I really need to fix the kitchen step problem. That’s twice in two outings!

It was funny after that game, I thought it was about 12:30, but when I checked the time, it was only 11:51 p.m. Yeah, fatigued, but I finished the morning off with yet one more game.

I thought I recorded this last game as well, but I’m not sure what went wrong. The camera should have been on and I pressed the remote, but when I checked tonight, the second game was not there. Bummer, not that it was all that great either. Grita and I won against Eric and Ted, but it was mostly Grita’s doing. I only played marginally better than the previous game and that’s not saying much!

Today was a “slide day”, not a “climb day” on my learning curve.

I left just after 12:00 and joined Eric and Ted for lunch where we talk a whole lot about pickleball!

Health

During one game, my right elbow hurt. That was a new thing. Eric had complained about his elbow not long before. In the 1960’s Star Trek series, there’s an episode where there’s a woman who “takes on” the ailments of others which heals them, then she heals herself immediately after. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I had absorbed Eric’s ailment. It hasn’t bothered me since, but we’ll see if it reappears. My hips hurt a bit, but no sharp pains.

Number of days on a court: 74
Number of total hours: 213

Click here to start at the beginning of this blog: PickleballJourney

Palo Alto

Sunday, September 24, 2017 (Court Day #73)

Mark and Maree invited me to tag along with them on a trip to play in Palo Alto at Mitchell Park. I was ready to get out and see how I match up against players outside of Santa Cruz County.

Being that this adventure was going to be out of town, I broke out my yet-unworn white Santa Cruz Pickleball Club shortsleeve shirt. I figured that I would represent SCPC well enough now that I was worthy of it. I also wore my recently acquired SCPC cap. There’d be no mistaking where I was from!

Arrival

I pulled up in front of their house at 8:10 a.m. and we were on the road in their Mini Cooper within 10 minutes for the approximate the 45 minute drive up to the South Bay . . . home of Stanford University, Hewlett-Packard, and the north end of the Silicon Valley.

We talked about my kids, their remodel project, Maree’s former year and a half as a site coordinator for three pickleball locales, among other things.

We arrived at 9:11 a.m. at Mitchell Park. My two hosts brought folding camping chairs, one of which served as a great holder for my backpack!

Mark took a jaunt to the restrooms. Wanting to know exactly where they were and to get lay of the land, I tagged along. On the way, Mark pointed out the paddle tennis courts where the more elite players gather sequestered from the masses. Maree had mentioned that those courts have an extra set of back lines that get ignored and that a pickleball kitchen line was painted onto those courts. As we headed back to the main area, Mark took me the back way where he pointed out the drinking fountain in the kids’ playground area. Mitchell Park is quite the large community complex. Impressive.

One of the first thing one notices about the main courts is the wire mesh used to keep balls from rolling between courts, especially since some courts are oriented 90° from the rest.

The homemade retaining divider between courts—4 on one side, 6 on the other.

Counting the two extra isolated courts for paddle tennis, there were 12 total courts.

First Games

We helped set up two nets. My first game was paired with Maree against Mark and Palo Alto local Victor, a shorter Filipino man probably in his late 60s. Maree and I won decisively. We switched sides and played again with the same result.

Maree and I moved to an empty court at the far end and invited a woman named Andrea and her mom Laurie to a match. Maree and I won that one too.

Getting Court Time

Now, Palo Alto has a different system for getting people onto courts. They don’t have a signup board. They have a challenge system. To move onto a court, you place your paddles to the side of the net on the post support. In a court next to the walkway was a team, Manny and Ray. What makes Ray unique is that he’s in his early 80s and is an effective player. The two of them staved off a number of challengers. Maree and I placed our paddles to stake out the next challenge.

Manny—about 60—is a lefty and has speedy tricky serves and occasional spin to complicate things. Ray doesn’t move quickly, but gets where he needs to be and returns the ball back over the net without a lot of unforced errors. Maree and I kept it pretty even at first, but ended up losing 11-7 or 11-6. Pretty amazing really. To be beaten by a man in his 80s! Cool, really. It’s one of the big advantages of pickleball—while providing many of the same strategic and control challenges as tennis, the court isn’t as expansive and therefore better for those with less mobility. Lack of mobility is still a liability, of course. Lobs when the receiver is at the net, drops when the receiver is at the baseline, passing shots, these can all be problematic if you can’t move quickly.

Maree and I challenged another court against Barry and a tall guy named Dave. Maree and I pulled out to a 8-0 lead. Yeah, we lost. Shocking. Barry has a strong forehand. I made some mistakes, Maree made some more and that was that. 9-11.

“Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!”

We challenged at another court and played against a couple of men. It was back and forth, and we lost that one too. Of note in that game, I dropped the ball over the net and the opponent ran up, just got barely got there, and popped the ball up. I slammed the ball between them for a winner. Unfortunately, he still had his head low and the ball passed within about a foot of him. The paddle noise scared him and I could tell he felt that I had just about killed him. I wasn’t aiming at him and I didn’t hit him and the ball had gone exactly where I had aimed. Still, I apologized. Maybe I should have lobbed over him, though given the trajectory that would have been a harder shot to execute. Pickleball is only a game and not worth slamming someone in the head with a ball. Oh, well. Kind of a dilemma.

Registration Table

This club has the nice touch of having a table with snacks. It was super helpful for someone like me who didn’t eat breakfast and forgot to grab food for later. The president of the Silicon Valley Pickleball Club is Monica Williams. I remembered Monica, she’s nice. She and I had played a game together down in Santa Cruz. I signed their waiver form and paid my $2 donation.

Familiar Faces

Dean, an advanced tournament player from Santa Cruz, appeared later in the morning and found some games to play in the main group of courts. Aside from Monica, the only other face I knew was the shorter man, Tom, who appears at Brommer now and then with his killer serve. Palo Alto is his home territory. He’s part of their club’s leadership committee.

Denied!

Maree suggested playing against a couple of women on a center court. I looked over and there was a net bag there along with someone’s pack with some paddle handles sticking out. I jogged over and placed our paddles on the exposed net support on the other side. After about 10 minutes of waiting, the game was complete, we headed over to play. We introduced ourselves  to the women, Bari and—I think it was Natalie. But then Andrea and her mom Laurie appeared. “We had our paddles down first!” So the blob of stuff next to the net wasn’t just storage. Another good reason to not keep a net bag in the playing area—and also put your paddles somewhere where they will be clearly seen. Disappointed, Maree and I left the court to wait again for another court.

A panoramic photo of one side of the courts. Maree talking with 80-something Ray over the snack and registration table.

Game of the Day

We placed our paddles on the court that had formerly held Ray and Manny. That game wrapped up and only one player wanted to stay, a woman named Terry. There were two young-looking guys wanting to play, a guy about my height named Dave—who Maree and Mark say they really like—and a fellow I’ll call Windup Bill. Bill is tall, thin and has this big looping windup for his deadly serves. He got me a few times with his serve. Mark later told me that Bill often plays off at the big boy courts. Anyway, Maree stepped away and let me get in the game.

Terry and I took on Bill and Dave. Dave and Bill were both good sports. I kidded with both of them. This was the game of the day. Challenging. Mistakes were less common for this group of players, including myself, though we all made mistakes here and there. It was back and forth, with no team getting more than 1-2 points ahead of the other. Back and forth. Dink, slam, stretch, dig. Back and forth. I remember serving the same exact score three times in a row. We’d broken each other’s serves repeatedly. In the end, Terry and I won. It was quite the long game. It wouldn’t shock me if someone said that it took over half an hour.

Maree later said Dave has kids in college. I was surprised. He must be one of those guys that doesn’t appear his age—as I’ve been told I don’t either. I would have put him about 30-something. Bill, I would put around 30, but I might be wrong with him too!

Big Boy Courts

I noticed that some nets were sitting idle. It was about 12:45. Maree asked if I was about ready to go. I said, “Whenever you want.” I was getting a bit worn from the play and the heat, though I’ll almost always play until I’m ready to drop. She suggested going over to the paddle tennis courts where Mark was and see what’s up. As I arrived, Dean was just leaving immediately after they’d finished their game. I greeted him by name as he passed and he said hi back. One fellow inside said, “Join us.” I walked in while they were drinking water. They weren’t ready to play again, but Mark’s game on the second court was just about done.

I ended up playing with a Asian fellow named Brian as my partner against Mark and Dave L., whom I’d never met. Brian and I won, but it was more Brian than me. At Brommer on Friday, while waiting to play outside the courts, someone had said, “See that guy there? He’s the best player on the courts.”
“Dean?”
“No, that guy. Brian. Just watch his ball control.”
“Oh, yeah. Oh, wait. Well, he did just hit it out.”
It was an anomaly. Brian is really good. When I asked, he said he’s been playing for two years. He’s smooth. His play at the net is particularly admirable. The ball just goes where he wants—even when stretching for the ball. It’s not a surprise that the team with Brian as a member won!

There was one point where we were all at the net. Dave and I were opposites with me to my right. We were dinking repeatedly across. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. I got impatient. Part of me was thinking, “We’re hogging the ball. The others want to play.” I forced a shot but it was not a winner and we lost the point. My fault. Lesson? Dink fifty times if you have to. Give lots of time for the other person to make a mistake. Patience. Patience.

After a somewhat long water break, we played a second game, this time Mark and me against Brian and Dave L. We got clobbered. 11-3, maybe? Still it was a good learning experience with a reasonable amount of service changes.

Lunch

We all packed back into their Mini Cooper at 1:40 and headed to a nearby market for sandwiches. Maree and Mark very thoughtfully treated me to my choice of sandwich. Brian and Dave L. joined us at the outdoor tables. The discussion was primarily various regional players. “Do you think so-and-so and so-and-so get married?” “So-and-so has been playing at this club.” There were a lot of names of people whom I don’t know. Once we were back in the car, we talked pickleball the entire way back home. I walked in my door at home just about 3:30 p.m. It was worthwhile trip.

Court System

So, what about this challenge (“we’re next”) paddle system? There is an advantage in that you typically play the winners of a match, so you are up against good competition. Also you also know where you are going to play and—aside from simply walking off the court for a break—the winners can’t turn you down. The disadvantage is that from any point in time you may wait anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to get onto the court where dropped your paddle, whereas with the schedule board, you are onto the next open court no matter where it is. With the challenge system, if you are unlucky, you might end up spending quite a bit of your morning simply waiting to play. The schedule system means everyone is going to be on the court in what may be the most possible fair system to reduce waiting. The problem with the schedule board is people may not sign up with you, if they are either intimidated or don’t want to stoop down to your level. If that’s the case, then sometimes you might end up waiting long periods of time anyway as those squares with four players signed up move onto the courts ahead of you with your incomplete square.

Monday, September 24, 2017 (No Play)

I got information Friday night from the SCPC about a tournament in Los Gatos hosted by “The Club”. I know nothing about The Club, but the tournament is free and there’s a free BBQ after. The tournament seems to be a little quirky, but it’s their first and the woman organizing it who emailed me back to answer my questions included that she’d never played! I emailed Eric right away to see if he’d be willing to be my partner. Dave Allenbaugh emailed later asking if I’d be his partner. I told him I’d have to wait to hear back from Eric first. Eric wrote me back today saying he would, so we’re on for our very first tournament! I broke the news to Dave.

Leslie, who’s on the steering committee, emailed me and a man named Bob Bates on Saturday thanking us for taking on the role as two new site coordinators. So, it appears that the steering committee approved me. I emailed back with a bunch of questions and told them I’d review how it’s going in 3-6 months.

Heath-wise, not too bad. So the groin muscle I’ve been complaining about isn’t a groin so much as the pelvis-area muscle or tendon that is involved when lunging sideways—maybe halfway between the top of the quad muscle and the groin muscle. It was definitely bothering me last night. I was a bit stiff. I spent a few hours watching the previously undefeated Oakland Raiders get completely walloped by the Washington Redskins. When I got up, that muscle was not happy and I almost collapsed back down. But it seems to heal quickly and allows me to get around and play without too much trouble. I count my blessings!

Number of days on a court: 73
Number of total hours: 210

Click here to start at the beginning of this blog: PickleballJourney

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