Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

Month: June 2019

Annnnd… Back! Son in tow!

Thursday, June 27, 2019 (Court Day #277)

37th day out playing lefty. Tennis elbow.

I posted to the Pickleball Forum on Facebook this afternoon asking for a used “tennis elbow” paddle to buy. I got a couple responses via FB Messenger. Maybe one of those will pan out.

I texted my son Nicholas to see if he’d be interested in joining me for pickleball. To my delight, he said he would.

I picked him up about 6:30 after work and he headed to Scotts Valley. We got to the courts about 6:45. I was immediately given an offer to be a fourth in the game just inside the gate. That was quick! I asked Nicholas if he’d be ok for me to play and he said it was fine. He’d watch first. Little did I know that I wouldn’t play a single game with my son this evening! But he got into some games and only once did I see him briefly sitting on the bench. When I asked later, he said he had a good time.

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Nicholas (light gray, left) partnered with Joshua against Eric (yellow) and Joshua’s dad, Andrew.

Nicholas ended up playing repeated games with Eric, Andrew and his son Joshua. While Eric—who came from tennis—has been a regular the last few months, Andrew and Joshua we’re visiting from Modesto. Joshua is a student at Cal Poly Pomona in Southern California. They were in town since Andrew’s wife was at some textile “maker’s fair” a bit north in the San Jose area.

Being that my left wrist was aching a bit and my right arm isn’t nearly as bad as it was six months ago, I figured I’d try playing right handed. I strapped on my tennis elbow band to my right forearm. My right arm wasn’t too bad. I did end up doing an overhead smash with my right arm and that definitely hurt some. Not as bad as it hurt when I did it back in December, but it still hurt. I need to avoid that.

Rochelle had a ProKennex ProSpeed paddle. It’s one that’s recommended for tennis elbow. I asked if I could borrow it. She said she’d only just received it this week—brand new! She agreed to let me play a game with it. I loaned her my Prince paddle. I have to say that I very much liked the ProKennex. One of the offers I got today via Facebook was a used yellow on of these. Sharyl and Rochelle both have these yellow ProSpeed paddles. I’d prefer blue, but I can manage yellow since it’ll save me about $60.

ProSpeedPaddle

Beth Black was there and said a paddle for tennis elbow was being used at Nationals which made noise when you shook it. She was having trouble remembering the name but said that Chris Yoder was using it. Oleg said Chris is using a Gearbox paddle.

I took to holding my paddle very symmetrically between my hands using my fingertips when receiving then committing the paddle to whichever side the served ball headed toward. No backhands. In a game with Kristin L. there were a couple of cross-court serves to my left that I was unable to return properly over the net and they sailed wide of the left sideline. I need to swing sooner. Being too late sent those 2-3 balls out.

When at the net with my partner receiving on the left, I would hold my paddle in my left hand in the middle of the court.

I will say that I managed to confuse myself a few times when trying to swap paddles consciously in the middle of a point. It’s one thing to do it automatically or during a slow dink rally. It’s another to do it during groundstroke rallies. I’ll probably continue to experiment with it—if I can’t get it down, I’ll just abandon that idea and limit switching to times where I’m fully confident.

Later in the evening, Shawnte called over that he was looking forward to playing with me since I was back to playing right handed. I’m rusty after not using my right arm for nearly seven months. But I will say, it’s great to serve right handed again. I won a few points off of my serve that problematic for my opponents. Serving righty, I almost picked up where I left off. After mishandling one of my serves, one of my opponents said, “Enough of those serves!”

We wrapped up play a few minutes after 9 p.m.

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Yep. Nicholas is taller. He’s over six foot and I’m definitely not!
(You can see my protective glasses moved up on my hat. I wear eye protection all the time now—unless I happen to forget, but that’s very rare.)


Sunday, June 30, 2019 (No Play)

So . . . playing with my right arm may not have been such a hot idea. Shaking hands with people has proved to be painful again. Lifting up a couple of coat hangers with a jacket and pants was painful. My right arm is NOT ready. Such a disappointment.

Number of days on a court: 277
Number of total hours: 763

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Depression/Celebration

Sunday, June 9, 2019 (Court Day #276)

36th day out playing lefty. Tennis elbow.

This was a crazy week. I put in at least 70 hours at work moving the stock from a closed store about an hour away down to our local family business. And a good amount of physical labor was involved as you might imagine. My left wrist was bothering me a bit after the tournament a week ago and I’d aggravated it significantly carrying things—especially when four of us moved a very heavy mounting press. My back hurts and my wrist hurts.

Maybe it’s time to switch back to playing right handed?

I walked out the door at 8:50—late for me—and it was warm. It would be hot today, no question. I arrived at the courts and found a unique and first time experience. There were already two games going on at Derby Park! People wanting to beat the heat came early and were using the city nets. I got about to blowing off the courts and setting up.

As I blew off the courts, it immediately became apparent with the pain in my right forearm that my right arm was not ready to be used to play. Maybe another couple months. I’m getting closer though.

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Janet (white) with Eric S. playing against Ted B. and someone.

Binh and I played two games against Kim and Buzz. We lost both, but put up a good battle preventing any blowouts. Binh showed some skills this morning. He’s getting better. Still some rough edges, but improving. I had the sudden thought that he might end up better than me! Time will tell! I was about three inches away from making an ATP left-handed around the right post—it landed just outside the sideline. Kim was visibly delighted at how close I was to pulling that off and gave me a verbal pat on the back, as did Buzz.

Binh and I played two games against Cal and Eric. Eric—the newer Eric, not Eric S. Between the heat and the time of the morning, I was dragging. We were beaten badly and it certainly was not just because I was tired. Our play was outmatched, even if we’d managed our best play, which we hadn’t. We had a rematch and were beaten soundly again. It was frustrating. And Eric has gotten a lot better in the last few months. He was getting balls back over the net that I wasn’t expecting him to get back. That’s good. When I switch back to righty, he’ll be a good sparing partner. The more good players around, the better! Cal isn’t flashy, but he’s consistent and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He seems to have gotten better since he started showing up at Derby. After the game, Cal said something along the lines of “hopefully, you be able to play right-handed soon”. Cal has never played against me at my best. It’ll be fun when I’m back and we’re both healthy.

“Cal was sure targeting you!” “But that’s good, that gives us an idea of what it’ll be like in a tournament.” I told Binh that in a big tournament, they’d be a solid 3.5 team. “I thought Cal was a 4.0.” I mused for a second. I told Binh that I didn’t think so. (Upon further reflection, maybe if he played in an older age bracket, then yes. 19+, not so sure.)

Eric—the newer Eric, not Eric S.—and I played a last game against Binh and Janet. I gave Eric his first taste of pickleball stacking. Later in the game, I drove two shots in a row right at Janet at the net. When she hit the second, the ball flew high out of bounds. “Those were some powerful drives for your left hand,” Eric observed. I guess that was one good thing on the day.

I checked the time as I left: 12:38 p.m.

Sometimes, you get discouraged and depressed. You think, “why am I doing this?” This was one of those days. Later on, I was a bit dejected. Maybe I’m just tired from the long workweek. Or maybe it was the heat. It was well over 80 degrees and maybe even 90. It affected the turnout, we only had about 26 people show up and a number left well before the official noon end time.

 


Friday, June 14, 2019 (No Play)

I spent yesterday driving to Los Angeles from Northern California. Since I was following my wife and daughter in our other car, I spent the trip by myself catching up on the Pickleball Kitchen podcast. It’s been months since I’ve listened. As typical, I listened to most of episodes at 1 1/2 speed. In Barrett’s interview with Tyson McGuffin—Tyson is not a slow talker, he got normal playback speed!—there were a few new terms I’ll need to add to my pickleball terminology page. I have to go back and listen again so I can make note of them.

Aside from work being particularly demanding this past week, my body was not too keen to play. It’s subconscious, but the desire to play is absent. Between my back and my left wrist—nope.

 


Sunday, June 16, 2019 (No Play)

As I type this my daughter is driving as we head back from LA. My son had his second graduation ceremony this morning. Friday night, he was in the 7 p.m. entire class graduation. Today was the math department ceremony where they actually called his name—along with hundreds of other math majors.

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Nicholas—sporting Latin honors cords—shaking hands with the chairman of the UCLA Math department during the graduation ceremony.

Yesterday, when making the bed, lifting the mattress with my left hand made me wince from the pain in my left wrist. Not good.

Work will leave little free time for pickleball, between a big ad deadline Monday night and immediately flying off the next morning to Las Vegas for a trade show for three days. I get back too late Thursday night to play in Scotts Valley. Friday morning is the SCPC Summer Event—it’s round robin social play followed by a club potluck. It looks like that’ll be my only play over a nearly two-week stretch leading up to Binh and my second tournament together on Saturday morning.

The question is, with my left wrist hurting, should I switch between left and right arms and maintain two forehands and split the shots between my two injured limbs? It seems I’m falling apart. Walking around UCLA, my right ankle was causing intermittent pain. My right shoulder needs to be checked for a possible torn rotator cuff. On top of lingering tennis elbow. Sheesh.

 


Sunday, June 23, 2019 (No Play)

Somewhere along the line, I caught a sinus infection that manifested itself the first night of the trade show. It wasn’t horrible, just lingering but rolled into coughing and chest congestion when I got home Thursday night. I didn’t sleep well—and, unfortunately, my wife didn’t either with all my coughing. I ended up dropping out of the club’s Summer Event on Friday morning and—very disappointingly—also Binh and my planned tournament on Saturday morning. Binh was understanding and supportive. I let the TD know the night before the tournament so he could correct his planned brackets with Binh and me out of the mix. Today, I have spent a good amount of time at work tackling the remainder of our monthly newspaper insert. I’m coughing to clear my lungs. Not fun. That and blowing my nose frequently.

 


Tuesday, June 25, 2019 (No Play)

Sill nursing this cold. Clearing my throat now and then and blowing my nose a dozen or two times a day. I was thinking this morning, I don’t have any drive to play. It’s weird. Usually, I want to get out there. Maybe between my left wrist still being sore and the illness, my body is telling me it’s not time. I was going to play anyway tomorrow morning, but I have a sales rep stopping by. Maybe I’ll sneak out after that. Not sure yet. We’ll see.

I emailed my doctor about a referral for my right ankle and shoulder (possible torn rotator cuff) and he said I should visit him and get evaluated first for insurance purposes. I’ll have to schedule that. I’m so bad about that. Running a family business can be hard. You never know if and when staffing will go off the rails and a doctor’s appointment will suddenly be extremely bad timing. If I didn’t care about quality of our customer service and/or meeting customer due dates life would be much easier!

Number of days on a court: 276
Number of total hours: 761

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Lefty Tournament! (SJB)

Sunday, June 2, 2019 (Court Day #275)
San Juan Bautista Tournament
(Competing using my non-dominant left hand. 36th d
ay out playing lefty.)

Last night I set out all my things for the tournament. I was going to have to get up early and pick up Binh after his RN shift at Dominican Hospital by 7:30 a.m. I went to get my second set of court shoes and discovered that, uh oh, I’ve been wearing my second set of court shoes! Time to get some more! I’d have to bet on no shoe problems unlike that one tournament when I’d partnered with Dave Cox and ended up wearing his extra pair of shoes!

It was misting when I pulled into the hospital parking lot at 7:26. Binh was concerned that the moisture might delay the tournament. I figured that we’d cross that bridge if and when we got there. We were on the road in short order. About halfway to San Juan Bautista, the misting stopped. We made good time with easy early Sunday morning traffic and arrived at San Juan Elementary School with time to spare at about 8:15.

img_3326People warming up at the courts.

It was gray skies, but dry, and a light breeze with cool weather requiring a sweatshirt when not playing. Warmed up though, no sweatshirt. Aside from the slight breeze, it was perfect pickleball weather.

True to her word, Jen had given us the first bye. There were five teams, so one team would sit out each round. Binh and I did get an opportunity to warm up for about 5-10 minutes before we had to vacate the courts and wait about 20 minutes for the second round of the Men’s Doubles 3.0 bracket. In the announcements for our bracket, Jen said that we’d be playing to 15, win by 2. If there was a ties at the end, the teams would have a playoff game to determine the winner.

As one team came to the admin tent, it sounded like they had been beaten handily. Jen explained that that one team had told her that they’d play in either 3.0 or 3.5. With a light 3.0 bracket, she’d put them in 3.0 to get the five teams and balance the brackets. She apologized to them. Binh and I wondered who that team was, sooner or later, we’d find out!

With this being out first tournament together—and Binh’s first tournament ever—and me playing left-handed, there were a lot of unknowns. We could go down in flames, or we might do ok. I would depending mostly on whom we’d be playing. How good would they be? How good would we be in comparison?

Game #1

Our first game was to be against Tom and Earl. They’d already played one game, of course. Binh and I stacked, keeping our forehands in the middle. (We would be the only team stacking in our bracket.) We went down 2-6 then down 2-8. Ouch. But we started to warm up. We went on a run of points. It was a battle back and forth, but we were dialing it in. We won 15-13. Tom said it was his first time playing with Earl in a tournament and that Earl was playing hurt. 

Game #2

Our second game was against Z and Greg. We were up 8-4. But the tide turned. They came back and we ended up losing 15-13. Drat. We were now 1-1 in the tournament. That’s one we just let get away from us. It was definitely winnable.

Game #3

Darren and Mike would be our opponents for the third game. These I felt might be the strong team. They had faster serves than the others and hit harder. The breeze was getting a little bit stronger, but not too blustery, but enough at times to affect the flight of the ball. It started out tight, but we took a lead. Then built on it. Then built on it some more. We walked away with this one. Sometimes, things just snowball. Teams get frustrated and the mental game takes effect. I feel this was the case here. These guys were better than that 15-3 score showed. We were now 2-1 in the tournament.

Game #4 (Last in Round Robin)

Our last round robin game would be against Bob and Steve. While the score was a bit closer than the previous game, it was more lopsided. There was a more obvious skill-level difference in this one. We won 15-4. After we’d pulled far ahead, we got a bit to relaxed and let them score some points. One was me doing a slice backhand return with too much spin and it landed a few feet in front of me! Duh!

There were a lot of different brackets going on at the same time. Between games, we would catch pieces of various battles going on.

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Jen (blue) and her partner playing Santa Cruz locals Cathy and Kim. Cathy and Kim went on to win this game. Kim told me later that the top three teams finished 2-1 (two wins, one loss) and Jen’s team ended up with silver and Kim/Cathy with bronze on tie-breakers. A team from Palo Alto took 1st. (The math seems weird to me but maybe so.)

Playoff

Darren and Mike had finished with the same 3-1 record as we had. We’d be having a playoff game. The woman standing in for Jen (who was on a court) offered us a choice: two games to 11; one game to 15; one game to 21. I was thinking 15 sounded good, but it was Mike who spoke up first, “Game to 15?” I voiced my approval. 15 it would be.

We battled back and forth, but Binh and I started to slip behind. Soon, we were down 8-4. Not good. I told Binh, “We just beat these guys 15-3. Let’s do this.” That seemed to make a difference. Soon it was 8-8. We went up 12-9. It wasn’t easy. It was work. But we finally pulled it off. 15-10. Gold medal!

img_3329The almost final results, awaiting the outcome of the bronze medal match. 

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The winners! Silver (Darren & Mike), Gold (Andrew & Binh) and Bronze (Bob & Steve).

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Santa Cruz Pickleball Club winners! Jean and Olga won all of their matches in Women’s Doubles. Dan Bliss kindly volunteered to take the photo for me. You can tell that it’s a touch breezy.

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My first ever medal while playing left-handed.

Vi, the tennis pro from MPC, was there playing in a higher bracket. He came up and said, “Hi! Remember me?” I told him that I did. He was the one whose team beat Colleen and me in the 3.5 Mixed Doubles gold medal match in the November tournament here at SJB. Later, with the gold medal around my neck, I walked up to him. “I have a secret. I’m playing left-handed.” “What level are you playing in?” “3.0.” “What? You were playing in 3.5 at that tournament…” I protested, “But I’m playing left-handed.” He had to dash off at that moment, so our conversation ended at that. Did he think it was wrong for me to drop a level when playing with my off hand?

Binh and I were grabbing our things to go when I checked the time. Exactly 12 noon. We stopped for Binh to grab something from the market across the street.

While traveling back to Santa Cruz, Binh said that my pep talk in the gold medal match made a difference. It worked.  I had given him confidence and helped him focus. Nice.

Binh was “amped”, he said. A gold medal at his first tournament! I know exactly how that feels, that was my first tournament experience too. Gold. Binh said he would have been disappointed if we hadn’t won gold since he felt we were the best team there. Me? It’s hard to say, players have good days and bad days, but it’s hard to argue that we weren’t the best on the day.

I was a bit torn. Honestly, I was feeling a bit guilty. Officially, according to the USAPA, I’m a 3.0 player. (A UTPR rating of 3.469 rounds down, not up.) But I feel that UTPR is wrong. I believe I’m easily a 3.5 player . . . when I’m healthy. Playing lefty, it’s a different story. I’m not the same player.

My feelings are flipping from elation of winning a gold medal while playing left-handed—crazy, right?—to feelings of “did I do the wrong thing playing in 3.0?”. I posted my quandary in the Pickleball Forum on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1340630926008388/permalink/2793442304060569/
The responses were almost entirely supportive of my decision to play in 3.0, but there were a handful of dissenters. Honestly, I didn’t know if I’d be competitive in 3.0 while playing left-handed. Now I know. At least in a small, barely publicized, tournament. In a big sanctioned tournament, I think we would have been clobbered.

I talked to Binh and told him that I was thinking we should play in 3.5 in the next tournament even if we weren’t nearly as competitive. He agreed.

Ongoing Medal Count:
Gold: 3
Silver: 2
Bronze: 0
(Zilch/Crash & Burn: 4)

Number of days on a court: 275
Number of total hours: 757.5

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