Saturday, November 25, 2017 (Court Day #96)
While staying over Thanksgiving weekend in the San Diego area at my wife Kristen’s parents, she wanted to take our dog to the dog beach. Knowing that I get bored easily sitting while our corgi Oliver dashes around in and out of the waves, she said, “You can go to pickleball if you want.” I’d previously used the Places2Play app to locate the nearest Friday gathering. Coronado. The details were slim. Friendliness, 2 stars out of 5? Hmmm. I’d have to see for myself!
I found their Facebook page and at 10:30 a.m., knowing there wasn’t much time, I messaged them anyway asking for a confirmation of the hours since the USAPA website/app shows a 1 p.m. start and their Facebook page instead shows 2 p.m. No one got back to me by noon, so I figured I’d just plan on the earlier start.
I headed north from Bonita under cloudy skies for the 15-20 minute trip. It was painless. I pulled up right outside the courts and found a spot at 12:50. My research showed that there was only on-street parking, so being early was important if I wanted a short walk and no stress—stress such as having to drive around in an unfamiliar area to find a place for my car!
Through the fence mesh, I saw some people dinking on a court—a great sign! Right place, right time! I walked along the fence until I found the opening. There were a bunch of courts, as predicted by the app.
Stan, a woman, and Tammy (r. to l.) early at the courts, soon to be my first game.
I introduced myself to the first people that I saw, just inside the gate. Soon I was talking to the very helpful Tammy.
Informative notes and signage at the sign-in table.
I asked Tammy if there was a waiver to sign and she said there wasn’t. I asked how I paid the fee and she showed me the money box and I deposited a $5 and removed a $1. My next question was how they reserved courts: paddles or board? She took me over to an empty paddle rack cleverly constructed of PVC pipe. I let her know that I was a “3.5 player, give or take.” The eight courts were evenly split between intermediate and advanced, even with laminated signs temporarily posted indicating such. The intermediate courts would be my home for the next few hours.
I noticed on one court that the baseline flared slightly the last 6 inches or so. Ah! The orange lines were tape! This would be the first time for me playing on such courts. There wasn’t much difference—aside from the flaring I mentioned. No biggie, it wasn’t much. I forgot to ask how often they have have to take those up and/or put them down.
Tammy and a woman started warming up at a court with a man in his late 60s named Stan. I asked if I could join them and soon I was dinking with the group that quickly lead into a game.
Tammy was the site coordinator, so she had to run off in the middle of the game to take care of a woman there for the beginner class at 1:30. I told her, “I get it, I’m a site coordinator back in Santa Cruz!” As the afternoon progressed, we shared information about our two programs. At one point, she offered me a gift from one volunteer to another, a Coronado Pickleball shirt like she sported herself! I was honored to accept! Boy, these people sure aren’t friendly! *snort* (They got a 5 star review from me!)
An embroidered “Coronado Pickleball Paradise” shirt. Nifty!
Ok, back to the first game. Tammy has a fast serve and strong ground strokes. Stan and I went on to take a solid lead and later win that game. It was “two off, two on” with the winners (us) staying.
Stan and I played a tall older man who said that Stan had nicknamed him “Doctor Spin”! He employed spin, but it wasn’t over the top or anything. Stan had a very reliable woman player as his partner. Stan and I lost. Off we went and put our paddles single file in the center of the holder.
Not long after, a man took the paddles and broke them up into two rows. “What’s up with that?”, I was thinking, slightly concerned. But there was a sign posted on the rack. Basically, when there are 8 or more paddles waiting, then the paddles go from a single row to a “Winners” row and a “Losers” row with a “four off, four on” court process. In other words, losers in a game will go up against other losers and winners go against other winners. Four paddles are taken from one row and the “Next” clip moves to the other row so it alternates as a court opens up. This system does guarantee at least some mixing of players on a court. (With a sign-up board like back in Santa Cruz, where you have to take the next box of your skill level players in it, you often end up with the same group of players unless you sit out for a bit to catch a later box/grouping.)
As court came open, when Tammy was not on a court herself, she would call out the names on the next four paddles. If she wasn’t around, either a good Samaritan or one of the next group of four would try to find the rest of the players so they could take their court.
My next game was with a nice woman named Diane against a man named David and another woman. Diane is a lower intermediate player. She hasn’t yet developed a soft game, and her drives aren’t super strong. After playing pretty well in my first two games, I played less well in this one. We lost. Back to the “losers” row! (About 2 hours later, when talking to David, he said he hadn’t lost a game yet. Solid player!)
Wait times were getting long. I think there may have been a good 20 minutes between games at the height of attendance.
While waiting, I was chatting with a woman from Arizona who was out visiting her son. He was on the advanced courts. He was the 4.5 silver doubles medallist from the tournament in Oceanside yesterday. There was some very strong competition for the advanced players, but I’m not ready to be on those courts!
Game 4 & 5
In my next game, I was paired with a really nice guy from Temecula, Terry. Terry was my height, a touch older, but much more fit! (Yes, I still need to lose about 25 pounds!) Terry is a bit of banger with quick reactions. Kind of like Grita back home but not quite as strong of a player. But even without a fully-developed soft game, Terry was super fun to play with.
Terry and I had a great time playing! (I’m wearing my Santa Cruz Pickleball Club shirt!)
Terry and I won our first match together handily. “Thanks for the lesson!”, came from Danny, the former New Yorker, after that game.
The facility had gotten more and more people. Between the beginner class, the intermediates and the advanced players, it maxed out at probably 70 people!
The next match was far more of a battle against a tall man and woman with wild dark hair. We pulled out ahead but they came back on us. Almost every point was earned. If I recall correctly, Terry and I won that one 12-10. Into the winners row we went. Or was it we lost 10-12 and into the loser row we went? Regardless, it was a close game.
We decided to stay as partners. We were playing against a tall middle-aged woman named Karen and a taller man probably in his late 50s. They were both good all-around players. The man hit one shot right at me and I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. (Gee? Can we say, “Keep your paddle up?”) I also tried a hard backhand drive to surprise the man while he was at the net—no dice, he handled it easily for a winner. Well, that didn’t work!
They went up 9-2. Ouch. At one point, Terry said, “I should probably make a better effort to get to the net.” I voiced my concurrence! As the second server, I went on a five point run with Terry and we brought it to a more respectable 9-7. The man attempted some additional body shots at me, but won no more points with that maneuver. Our opponents were really good at handling Terry’s hard drives, unfortunately, plus I had my occasional miscues and we ended up losing 11-7 or 11-8. That was a very fun and challenging game. There were smiles and thanks all around at the net after that one!
Bleachers full of waiting players. You can’t even make out them all in this photo. Busy!
I was told by our former opponent Karen that this day was the most players they’d ever seen and that it was likely due to holiday visitors to the area. (Like me!)
As the afternoon wore on, while it was still far from sparse, the crowd thinned some and wait times shortened accordingly. The next game was Terry and me against Tammy and another woman. Terry and I took a 6-0 lead until I served into the net—a very uncommon occurrence for me! They slowly crawled back into the game to make it challenging, but Terry and I did take the match in the end. Tammy said, “You keep winning against me!” Well, only the two games we played against each other! And losing (or winning) a match is very much a function of your partner as well!
Terry and I played one last game together. It was against a young couple. We got absolutely clobbered. 11-0. They were very good getting the ball back over and handling drives while at the net. I remember one dinking rally where it was going back and forth—until I dinked it a bit too long crosscourt and out it went. I had to shake my head at that one! At least service went back and forth half a dozen times or so.
I checked the time. 4:10. Time to boogie. The family was going to church at 5, followed by going out to dinner to celebrate my son’s and wife’s birthdays (both in a couple of weeks) and our 23rd wedding anniversary tomorrow. A lot of events!
I caught Tammy for a photo. Two hard-working site coordinators—from different parts of the state!
I got great hospitality from Tammy, their site coordinator! She’s very organized, to boot!
Coronado turned out to be a worthwhile experience and I got to meet a number of nice people!
There were a few instances where my service routine was disrupted and my serve failed. A person walking behind the court, a score correction, something. I need to figure out my “zero point”. Where do I need to start in my routine to avoid messing up? Simply calling the score again and bouncing the ball again a couple times isn’t always doing it. I think part of it is just feeling rushed since I don’t want to delay the game further—imaginary pressure.
Another “head thing” was a service return. I was being served to from right to my left by Karen in that tough game I mentioned. A young girl was walking out the gate 3-4 feet from my left elbow. I know since I turned my head. I held up my paddle but Karen didn’t look up and served the ball. Instantaneously, I figured I could just take the serve anyway. I took my paddle down and returned the ball into the net. Point over. Learning experience! If it’s a distraction, it’s a distraction. Delay the game if that’s that it takes to make it fair.
Lobbing. I realized that I haven’t lobbed even one ball for a number of outings now. The three ‘D’s, I guess. Drive. Drop. Dink. A lob is a lower percentage shot, so I don’t miss it. If I had the perfect opportunity, a lob might naturally and automatically kick in, but that golden opportunity has not presented itself recently.
I’m closing in on 100 days on a pickleball court. And quickly approaching 10 months playing—which it’ll be as of November 29th. Yep. Still hooked on pickleball!
- You are guaranteed to have two new players in your foursome for your next game.
- If you consistently win, you will be paired with others who will be closer to your skill level (winners/winners, losers/losers). As for the losers category, there will still be a mix since after a winners/winners game, those losers will cycle back into the losers row.
- It’s a great system to mix skill levels. For beginners, it’s good since it’s hard for people to avoid playing with them since it just depends on where the paddles “fall”.
- Depending on how you partner up, you either can stick with the same partner (as I did for a number of games) or change partners and not play with them again (assuming the other two players don’t mind splitting). HOWEVER, if someone pulls their paddle and puts it back into the rack later, you may end up being split from your partner . . . unless you pull your paddle (and/or your partner’s paddle) at the last second and require/ask the next one up to play instead.
Without rifling through the paddles, it’s hard to tell where you are in the queue. (Unless you mark the top edge of your paddle . . . which I’d do if I were regularly in that system, but not many players—if any—there did!)
It’s quite hard to set up a foursome with specific people.
Losers may end up playing strong players in the losers bracket who just happened to go up against, say, the strongest team on the courts and lose.
You can’t easily avoid playing against someone who is mean to you or is an all-around jerk. (You could even be stuck playing with such a person.)
For very strong players, it can be bad since it’s hard to avoid playing with beginners since it’s just depends on where the paddles “fall”.
Number of days on a court: 96
Number of total hours: 272
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