Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Month: March 2018 (Page 1 of 4)

A Good Friday

Friday, March 30, 2018 (Court Day #141) – Easter Weekend

I got to Brommer Park at about 9:10. It was going to be a warm one today. It was just shy of 60° when I left the house. I had a bit of a sore right calf when I woke up. Nothing major though.

Eric was there already and I jumped in and warmed up with him and tennis pro Chris and his wife Jen. This rolled into our first game. Eric and I played well and we beat them 11-3. We relinquished the court, but were shortly back out for a rematch. The rematch wasn’t much different in the result, 11-4.

Next, we played Karen Long and Stuart. This was a closer game. Nonetheless, we won this game too, 11-8.

The next game, we mixed things up. Jen and Eric beat Barb (tall, long gray ponytail) and me 11-6. I made some mistakes, Barb made some mistakes.

Alan and I took on Eric and Peter. It was pretty lopsided. 9-2, I think before Alan and I opted to go out of our way to hit to Eric and hit more risky shots. They climbed up to 6 points after a couple service rotations. We got the serve back and Alan said, “Ok, let’s wrap this up.” We won the next two points and the game 11-6.

In the next game, Eric and I beat Asian Ted—Eric calls him “Hawaiian Ted”—and Alan 11-0. That was kind of surprising. Both are decent players.

We looked for a harder game and got ourselves into a game with Kent and Jen. It was a more challenging one, but we won that one too, 11-5.

Eric had to go and left on a high note. As partners, we’d gone an undefeated 5-0 against opposing teams. And not wimpy opposing teams. Eric leaned over and quietly said, “We’re getting too good.” He was speaking relatively, of course, we’re not about to jump into 5.0 matches. We do play very well together. But, now, if we could just be more consistent. As I told Eric, my lows are getting higher. Even when I play badly, it’s better than weak players on good days. And occasionally, I’ll pull off a shot that a 5.0 would be proud of. But consistency and reducing unforced errors are what make a strong pickleball player. I still make too many unforced errors.

The Last Two Games

I looked for another game. Gil (from San Jose) and a man with a goate whom I’d seen before, Steve, were signed up in red on the board. I added my name in red below them and asked John Connor if he’d play as my partner, he agreed especially with Kim’s encouragement. (She wanted the box cleared so she could have her all-women game!) I think Steve may be from a San Jose as well since Gil and Steve were stacking. This was my first game that I recall—aside from Jerry Louis’ class last summer—that I played against a stacking team. We got about halfway through the game, John and I were down 8-3 I think, when John abruptly said he had someone waiting for lunch, the game was taking too long, and he had to go. The 8-3 deficit was almost as much John’s fault as mine and I’m sure he’d admit so. I’m sure he would have stayed if he could since we’d just started closing the score gap. Ah, well. I did hold my own in that game. It wasn’t a case of me being a big liability for John, that was good. (I was a big liability for lefty Steve very recently.)

“If you can find a partner, we’ll finish the game,” said Gil smiling, then he added, “Nah. We’ll start over!” I asked Asian Ted if he’d be my partner. He asked how our opponents are. I told him, “They are pretty good. Steve is a banger. Gil is a lefty. He hits hard too. We’ll want to get them into the soft game.”

Ted and I did get them into the soft game and took a 6-0 lead. But that wasn’t to last. We both make our share of errors and Gil and Steve came back and won 11-9. It was a bummer to lose our lead and the game, but against two advanced players, 11-9 is very respectable. And, fun, during that game was a yell from Kim after a high-speed contested ball at the net: “All right, Andrew!” I’d won the point. A few women were sitting partly watching while chatting.

Asian Ted and Gil chat about paddles after our game.

Goatee Steve and friend about to hit the road.

Overall, it was a great day.  Yes, errors, but limited and far ourweighed by good shots. I’m happy. I left the courts at 12:20. There was one game still going, Karen Long, Dean, Asian Dave and a fourth. When I got to my car, I checked my weather app for the temperature. 77 degrees. Yep. Warm.

Unfortunately, my schedule will keep me from playing for almost week. Maybe Thursday night, maybe Friday morning.

Number of days on a court: 141
Number of total hours: 403

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

Dialing It In

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 (Court Day #140)

On Monday, on the Pickleball Forum, someone posted a link to the official USAPA score sheet:

And here’s is an excellent video on refs keeping score. I may have shared it once before, but here is is:

Here’s a drill video I really like. Hitting a lob off of a dink volley.

Tuesday, I emailed Eric about two tournaments. The Golden State Games in Concord and another one in mid-July in Pleasanton. I love tournaments for a variety of reasons—meeting new people, players playing their best with no excuses or holding back, gauging your skill in the greater pickleball community, an opportunity to see top players battle it out, a goal to focus and improve your own play. There may be more. There are downsides, of course. Costs for entry, travel, sometimes lodging, opportunity cost—travel time and other lost time could be spent on playing locally, reading a book, doing yard work, etc., anxiety, maybe spousal disapproval or jealousy of time wasted on a addiction to pickleball! (Eric’s wife and mine are pretty supportive, but others may not be!)

Off to Derby

I was slow moving. I had woken up about 4:30 a.m. and was awake until about 6. (I have a very strange sleeping schedule right now for some reason.) I arrived at Derby quite late, at 9:30. Rob was sitting on the tailgate of his truck changing his shoes on the street outside the park.

Rob, the firefighter, on the left. Mike, visor Tom, Dave, Ted in a game as I arrived.

I played pretty well in my first game with Jennie against visitors, Doug and his wife Cam, which we won. We switched it up with me partner with Cam and she and I both played less well, though she was apologizing a lot more often.

Dave Allenbaugh and I played a game against Ted and Rob and we got beaten 11-5. I was not playing well and Dave has played better too. Drag.

I played a few more games, such as one with Tom S. as my partner against Craig and his wife Leah. I played ok-ish. I did have one fantastic forehand slice winner that Leah could barely contact. Even court to the opposite corner. It was so effective and commanding that I apologized for hitting it. It was like opening a door with a cannon. She told me to not apologize and that he has to learn to handle shots like that. Of course.

I don’t know what it was, but I was dragging a bit. I was ready to lie down. Not enough sleep or somethin’.

Later in the morning, Eric and I got a game together. We beat Grita and Alan 11-3. “That’s the best I’ve seen you two play together,” complimented Alan.

Eric and I played another against Grita and Ted and won fairly handily. One memorable shot in that game was when Grita hit a drive from the baseline to me at the net. I raised my backhand and sliced the ball dropping it near her kitchen line. It never traveled any further along in the court and while she ran forward, she was unable to get a paddle on it. I got a “nice shot” from Grita.

We mixed it up and Ted and I lost a 25 minutes game, 13-11. That was a battle! I was playing very well. At one point, Ted exclaimed, “Wow, Andrew! That was great play!” I think Eric was getting tired as he made a few uncharacteristic errors. If Ted could cut back on the drives right into the net and develop his drop shot, he’d move up in the pecking order. I am jealous of Ted’s physique. He’s about 20 years older than me but is more fit! Sad! (For me!)

I left the courts at noon. Things were winding up.

Afterward, on the way to my car and giving Alan a lift to his home, I broached the subject of tournaments with Rob. I can see him advancing quickly. He’s already no slouch. He’s very interested. That might come in handy down the road being that Eric isn’t super interested in doing tournaments, though he humors me! Eric said he’s in for the Pleasanton one but can’t do the one in Concord—I’ll need to find a partner for Concord, assuming there is still room.

Regardless, I need to dial in my game quicker. It takes me too long to go from playing like I haven’t played in months to playing like a tournament player. Focus? Taking every game more seriously? I have no answer yet.

I did hit two cool milestones. I passed the 130s and hit 140 court days. And the biggy, 400 hours on a court. Nice! It took about 14 months. An average of 28.5 hours per month or a little less than a hour per day. Not bad for a guy who works full time!

Number of days on a court: 140
Number of total hours: 400

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

Battling Hard with the Rain

Sunday, March 25, 2018 (Court Day #139)

I awoke at 1:25 a.m. Drips were chattering in the downspout. “Uh, oh.” The courts might be wet in seven hours. As site coordinator, would I have to call off the day? Time would tell. After an hour or so, I managed to get back to sleep.

As I got ready, I asked Siri on my iPhone the temperature: “Brr! It’s 41 degrees outside.” I grabbed my sweatshirt.

I walked up to the Derby courts at 8:50. Oy. Very wet—puddles! I tried to call Dave Allenbaugh but got no answer, so I emailed Dave and Karen Long asking them to broadcast to the club that we should delay the start for an hour.

I got to blowing off the courts. Ray was the first arrival and helped set up.

There was a man from Canada visiting with a local friend. The friend said they’d just played in a tournament the day before in Southern California. I had the visitor sign the liability release. Optimistic!

After we’d set up one net and installed the mesh divider between the two tennis nets, it began to rain. Arg!!  Begrudging amused, we collected everything, returned it all to the storage bins then, disappointedly, the eight or so of us diehards went our separate ways.

Yep. Derby was a little soggy. A sad lonely place after everything was put back away.

As I was on the phone with Dave in my car, Grita and I waved to each other as she drove away. She never even made it to the courts. Dave would email out the cancel notice.


Back at home, I got a text from John P. at 9:30 saying the rain should clear up by 2 p.m. and we—John, Eric, Tom S.—should meet at Brommer. It was drying out at my house with intermittent sun.

My wife Kristen and I ran a couple of errands a few blocks from Derby and it was raining again at about 11:45. It was a good call to cancel play this morning.

At 1:20, it was hailing! I was only partially optimistic, but still hoping for the Brommer gathering. At 1:45, John said that the pavement had dried near his house so he’d meet Tom at the courts at 2. Shortly before 2, I hopped in the car and headed over. But halfway there, a text came through which I had the phone read to me. John said the courts were wet and was canceling. Later, I saw he had attached a photo as proof.


I turned around and headed home. About a quarter of the way from home, I got a call from Eric saying they were going to do some dinking drills since they were there anyway. I turned around at Ocean Street and got back onto the freeway. Sheesh. Dedicated, aren’t we all?

I arrived at Brommer at 2:20. Tom was sweeping puddles off the first court, while Eric and John were dinking. The sun was peeking in and out of the moving clouds.


We played a couple of dinking games using only the non-volley zone as the legal court. At one point, John smiled and exclaimed, “I hate that you can switch hands!” (When he’d hit a sharp cross court dink, and I’d just switch the paddle to my left hand and hit the ball back over.) We were about to start a real game when the rain swept through again. *grumble* John and I retreated to my car while Eric and Tom braved the 10 minute shower.

The court dried quicker this time around. An unfamiliar family showed up—a dad and a friend along with the mom and son around 10-years-old. They had a pickleball set with four matching paddles—probably wood—and a bright green ball. They were having a grand time. Though they were a bit too exuberant for the court conditions and the mom ended up on her back. She was smiling and ok, but they did their share of slipping!

We continued with our dinking game. As the court dried, we moved to Terry’s “work your way to the net” drill—person at the net cooperatively serves to the player at the baseline who hits a drive. From there the net player tries to keep the other back, while the other tries to gain the net. If the baseline player survives four hits, then the drill is over and that player “survives”. I played with John while Eric played with Tom.

Soon the court was dry enough for a gentle pickleball game. We played, careful not to do anything too wild. As time progressed, the court got dry enough for typical games. We used our tournament partners, Eric and me against John and Tom. Eric and I won every time. After a few games, we mixed it up.

Eric was only having marginal success with a crosscourt drop shot. “Ah, you are using the patented Andrew Crosscourt Dropshot!” I think he got one out of four or five attempts. After a miss, I told him, “You know I can license that shot to you.” After another miss, I repeated, “I can license that to you.” Eric laughed, “At this point, I’m willing to pay just about anything!”

While Eric worked on his crosscourt dropshots, I worked a little on my forehand slice service return. More failed than worked, but I did have some success. After one went wild, Eric chuckled and suggested said, “You can only use that when we’re five points ahead.” So, I worked harder to get us five points ahead. Which we achieved… until my next forehand slice return went wild! But hey, if you don’t try, you don’t improve!

I had a learning moment. Tom accidentally popped up a very high shot that landed in the kitchen and bounced quite high. I stepped into the kitchen, waited for the ball to bounce, then slammed it between them for a winner. That is, until I called a fault on myself for hitting the net with my paddle followthrough. Duh. Something to avoid next time!

Around 4 p.m., maybe half an hour after the family left, a group of six athletic-looking seniors appeared and settled in on the far pickleball courts. I didn’t recognize any of them—it seems they don’t come to the club days.

John had his mom coming over for dinner and had to leave by 4:45. We finished our game at 4:40. “I have to go.” I pleaded, “You have time! One more game!” “5 minutes.” Eric suggested we start a game at 5-5. Surprisingly, John and Tom went on a six point run and—while service went back and forth a few times—beat Eric and me for the first time that day. “I feel better now,” said John.

On the way off of the courts, Eric asked John, “Did you bring a car or are you riding that home?” John was carrying his broom. “This is my Nimbus 2000!” (An obvious Harry Potter reference!) John, never one to pass kidding around, demonstrated!

“As long as you can see the broom in the photo!” Don’t worry, John!

I realized after we’d played most of our games that I still hadn’t put on my ankle brace. I opted to delay when we started since we were only dinking but then I didn’t get around to it. My ankle held up fine. It’s still not back to normal, but it seems to be continually improving.

Number of days on a court: 139
Number of total hours: 397.5

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

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