Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

Month: June 2018 (Page 1 of 4)

There and back again.

Thursday, June 28, 2018 (Court Day #164)

I had some late customers and couldn’t leave work right away. I got to Scotts Valley about 7:15. Things were in full swing. (No pun intended!)

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Eric was no place to be seen. Then I remembered that he’d said—when talking about pickleball—that he had a jazz gig tonight. (He plays upright bass.) I found myself, yes, once again, on the bench by myself as the only odd man out.  Thankfully, it only lasted about 5 minutes.

I spent the entire two hour evening playing in games with Brennan and Bruce. It’d started with Matt as the fourth, Matt being the tennis instructor I’d seen only once before. He was the guy battling a stomach ache way back when at Skypark. Matt was having a rough night. He had his moments and got better, but balls were going out or into the net more than he wanted. I wasn’t having a fantastic night either, but not too bad. And my play got better.

After Matt opted to head home at a particular moment of exodus later in the evening, Mark Dettle took over his spot. We played a few games with Mark.

Played wrapped up at 9:15, two hours after I’d arrived.

One of my Achilles Heels continues to be hitting balls that would otherwise go out. Another is hitting the ball sideways in a face-to-face fast volley battle at the net instead of simply hitting it straight back to my opponent.

I could feel my right ankle a bit midway through the evening. I think I may opt to wear it again . . . though it’s a hassle.

Number of days on a court: 164
Number of total hours: 449.5

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

Whippersnappers 2

Tuesday, June 26, 2018 (Court Day #163)

Eric, 59, and Andrew, 50.

Brennan, 35, and Josh, 29.

Scores? No ages.

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On the near court: Brennan, Eric (white cap), and Josh to the right.

Any time you lose, it’s  a learning opportunity. It’s kind of nutty, but outside of tournaments, I love losing. Not because I like to lose, but because it means I’m playing against strong players and it’s a challenge. Sure, it’s nice to be unquestionably the best player on the court—that happened a couple times on Sunday—but that’s not really a strong growth opportunity.

Brommer

I got to Brommer at 6:30, heading straight there from work. Parking was easy this time. My cohorts were already there plus there were three pickleball players on the other side of the divider. (I didn’t know the other players. I have to wonder where these people come from whom I’ve never seen before in any club play!)

Brennan brought a tall new guy, Josh, whom he’d met at the gym. When I asked him, Josh said he has been only playing pickleball for about a month, but played on the UCSC tennis team and “was pretty decent”.

Eric and I played and seemingly clumsily lost against the young lads. “We want to mix it up?”, asked Eric. “But we haven’t won yet!” I wanted a rematch. We lost. Several times.
“Want to mix it up?”
“I want to play until we win!”
“As long as they don’t get bored beating on us!”

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even notice that Josh is a lefty until at least deep into the first or even second game. Silly really. It’s a key thing to be aware of. After a couple more games, I told Eric, “There are times when they are weak in the middle with both backhands. Have you been taking advantage of that?” He admitted he hadn’t. We need to strategize sooner.

In the fifth or sixth game we finally won. And easily too. Like 11-2 or 11-3. Now, Brennan was the one who really wanted a rematch! Our success didn’t last. We lost the next one 11-6 or thereabouts.

After that, I played with Brennan as my partner then a second game with Josh as my partner. They were close games. I can’t remember if Brennan and I won, but Josh and I did. They were all fun. Josh doesn’t have a super strong soft game yet, but he more than makes up for it with fast and low serves, powerful forehands and backhands, and angled shots. It’s that tennis background.

Thoughts

The experience of Eric and me against them was similar to our Paso Robles tournament experience. Hard hitters. Not much in the way of dropshots. I remember once when Brennan simply hit the ball so hard approaching the net that when it contacted my paddle it went wild off the court. A learning opportunity. You really need to drill/play against hard hitters to train to handle those—no ball machine or drilling with a soft hitter will help you.

Another thing in the game with them was keeping the ball low. Accidentally hit it too high and they’d take full advantage to end the point. We also needed to do a better job getting them into the soft game and take away their power advantage. It’s easy to lapse into hard hitting when your opponent is hitting hard to you. Eric caught himself doing that and I no doubt did it myself once or twice.

Number of days on a court: 163
Number of total hours: 447.5

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

Another good, long, day.

Sunday, June 24, 2018 (Court Day #162)

My wife was leaving this morning for a week along with my daughter Charlotte. It’s the annual Sail Camp and both are instructing. It took a bit longer to get out of the house and I didn’t arrive at the courts until just about 9 a.m. As I walked closer, I could see some of the nets were already set up. Dave Allenbaugh? Nope. Stuart.
“I thought I was supposed to set up today.”
“Nope.”
“I had an email that just said ‘tomorrow’ and so I wasn’t sure the day.”
I thanked him as I had been late.

I played a bunch of games, including some with and against Grita whom I hadn’t seen for at least a month.

As the morning wore on, I saw Eric had signed up in red. I surveyed all the players. I could go toe-to-toe with any of them and make them work. I wrote my name down in an empty box in red. Melody asked if she could join my game and I said sure. Grita and Eric filled out the four. Grita and I pulled out ahead, they came back as Mel tightened up her game, and then Grita and I finally closed out the game with a hard-earned win. A fun one.

Eric and I played a game against Jane and Rob. We won fairly handily. Then we had a rematch and won again. Not a fluke. In one of the games, Eric was serving left to right to Jane and successfully clipped the front outside corner of the service court—it was an ace. Later, I was serving right to left to Jane and successfully clipped the front outside corner of the service court—it was an ace. “Was that hit by Eric?”, she kidded. “By my alter ego Eric,” explained Eric, laughing. As we walked off, Jane asked Eric about he and I playing together. He told her we’d be playing a tournament in a few weeks. “You two should do well.”

Wrapping up the day, Rob and I played two games against Brennan and Jeff. They were hotly contested challenging games. Rob and I won the first and they won the second, 12-10. I was dead on my feet.

Tracking

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One of the issues that I need to continue to work on—particularly when I am tired and am less inclined to move—is tracking better. There was a shot where Rob (R) hit to Jeff (J) and Jeff hit it right between Rob and me (A) for a winner. It was my fault. I can’t imagine any exception to the rule: if the ball is passed down the middle, it’s the fault of the player on the half of the court away from the ball. It’s that player’s responsibility to close up the gap. Sure, the player on the same half as the ball might overprotect for a sideline passing shot, but even then, his/her partner needs to close the gap down the middle.

In my defense, in an early game on the day of John P. and me against Leslie and Stuart, Stuart made a great crosscourt shot from the net which pulled John completely off the court to the left. John managed to hit the ball back to Leslie who hit straight ahead into the gap between John and me. Only there wasn’t a gap anymore. I had moved past the centerline into John’s half of the court to cover. Instead, I was there and hit the ball back between Leslie and Stuart for a winner. (Stuart has a bum knee which contributed significantly to John and my win.) This was the same coverage that I had done back at my first tournament where John had been pulled off to the right and I moved well into his side along the kitchen line to cover until he got back. The trick is being aware and applying that consistently when it’s not as obvious and when you are tired!

Closing Time

After our game, we stowed the net and I checked the time. Woah. 1:42! Almost 5 hours since I arrived to the courts.

The Blacks were still playing a game against Oleg and Dave W. (They had all arrived later in the morning.) I don’t know the final score, but Oleg and Dave won since the point they won finished off the game. Once they were through, I stowed the last net, locked up the bins and we were off.

Rob and I chatted for a bit at our cars about skill levels, challenging games, and our tournament coming up at the end of July. He said he is taking July 28 (the day before) off so he is guaranteed a good night’s sleep—instead of possibly responding to firefighter calls!

Overall

I was happy with my play today. I made my mistakes, but from a bird’s eye view, I played well. I got an assortment of compliments from various opponents for good shots. That helps balance the shots where I felt dumb. Like hitting “out balls”, dropping a handful of shots into the net or blowing three shots in a row, like in our first game against Brennan and Jeff. But still, doing good, making progress.

Shoes

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I’m not sure why I wear out my left shoe faster than my right shoe, but it’s consistent. On the left is my first set of dedicated pickleball court shoes from last year. On the right is the newer pair which are headed to retirement soon. I also have a new pair—not shown—which I’ve only worn at two tournaments, those will become my everyday pickleball shoes before too long.

Number of days on a court: 162
Number of total hours: 445.5

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

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