Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

Month: August 2021 (Page 1 of 3)

Eric’s Ankle

Thursday, August 26, 2021 (Court Day #405)

I picked up my daughter Charlotte from work, ran her home, then ran out to Skypark. I arrived at 6:40 p.m. Eric S. and I had texted back and forth earlier today with him finally saying he was coming tonight. That is always awesome. Eric is a strong player.

A boatload of pickleball players!

When I arrived there were two tennis players and a ton of pickleball players—about 25 of them. Eric was already there, but involved in a game on the far side.

Kristin L. was one point into a new game with Mike B. against Mark D. and Barb B. when she very generously offered her place in the game. How thoughtful! I walked over into the game without warm up and I was optimistically thinking Mike and I would walk away with this one, but I hit a would-be winner past the baseline, slammed another into the net, hit yet another wide outside the sideline, and otherwise made a few mistakes. Playing with a good player as your partner magnifies those mistakes, but Mike is a great guy and never says an unkind word. We did go on to win, even with my “first game” errors.

Mike and I also played a game against Terry S. and Kristin L. We won 11-5.

Game of the Day

The game I most enjoyed was me and Eric versus Mike B. and Adrian. Eric and I scored a point as the first servers and never were behind. We won 11-5. Eric and I naturally mesh very well together. (We should given that we played a few tournaments together!)

There were two particularly memorable shots. One was an overhead slam that I switched to lefty and hit the ball to Adrian’s feet for a winner. (Eric and Adrian were both to my left side.) Another was more basic, a service return came between us (me on the left) and I said, “I got it.” I can’t tell you how many times “I got it” results in a horrible shot! This time though, I executed a lovely cross court drop shot, Mike popped it up just enough for me to attack it for a winner. Success!

I’ll digress a bit and share a memory. At least three years ago, Eric and I were partnered in game, with me on the right. The opponent across from me lobbed toward Eric but I switched to my left hand and took the ball over the middle . . . my shot sailed wildly high and wide of the court. “Did you switch to your left hand for that shot?”, Eric asked, bemused—and probably disgusted. I should have let that one go and trusted my partner to get it. Tonight, there were two things different. One, the lob was angled at me. And, two, I’ve had over two years of practice playing lefty. These days might I take a middle shot heading to my prepared partner, even with my developed lefty skills? I’d hope not . . . unless I felt I had an obvious winner.

We started a game of Eric and Larry vs. me and Tim. A few points in, Eric jumped up, hit a winner past me, but landed on his ankle wrong and ended up sitting on the ground. Someone retrieved an instance ice pack for him. Unfortunately, Eric hobbled out and headed for home. He was concerned, but apparently this has happened before with his ankle, so the injury didn’t freak him out.

Josh

One of the recent “clan” of young guys is tall fellow named Josh. Josh said this was his second time out. He and I played against Tim and John (relatively new guy). I asked Josh before the first serve if he was interested in me giving him advice. He eagerly agreed and so 3-4 times during the game I’d did so.

My key points to Josh were, surprise, get up to the net (#1 among rookies), keep the ball low, return deep and—one I seem to need more work on myself at times—placement over power!

We played two games and lost both to Tim and John. Not a shock. Tim said he’d been playing a year and a half. (Honestly, he’s darn good for a year and a half.) John is a decent player, if not polished yet.

Matt & Paul

Josh’s friends Matt and Paul (the taller of the two) had been playing singles but were resting. Tim and I invited them into a game. They said they weren’t 100% up on all the rules, so we explained as needed. We were just a few rallies into the game when we were plunged into darkness at 9 p.m. sharp. Paul said he had contacted the City of Scotts Valley about resetting the time back to 9:30, but as Matt speculated, “One part-time guy probably won’t get to it right away.”

Chicken Wing

There will be good indefensible shots. I was feeling bad about not being able to return a shot when I realized that the ball hit my arm about 3 inches above my armpit. It was a chicken wing shot. It’s very hard to return a ball when it is arriving somewhere between your hip and your shoulder of your paddle arm. I have to just relax and accept that there’s not always anything that I can do.

Serving

I am secretly proud of my serving variety. I can hit the ball just about wherever I want: receiver’s backhand or forehand, add spin, drop it short. And I mix them up—including lob serves. In the game against Eric, he was at the baseline. I dropped my serve over the net just past the kitchen line for an unreturnable serve. “Sneaky!”, exclaimed Eric. Ace.

Ice

More icing with my cold pack tonight. I have to be careful. Playing every two days can start to take its toll with my propensity for tennis elbow.

USAPA Sportsmanship Guide

USA Pickleball sent out a newsletter today. Nothing earth shattering, but the most interesting one thing I found it was their new Sportsmanship Guide:
https://usapickleball.org/member-news/usa-pickleball-sportsmanship-guide/

It’s kind of sad that they have to put something like this out. And I have a feeling that the people who actually need it will never see it.

I’ll share one story. The guide does say to let people know if a ball is rolling onto their court during play and otherwise let play continue if there is no risk. Excellent advice. Here’s a twist. I was at Brommer Park a couple of months ago and our ball rolled into an adjacent court. Those players weren’t in a rally on that court and were just standing out of position and chatting and they were not about to resume play. I walked over to retrieve the slow rolling ball and the woman (whom I had never seen before) gave me a dirty look then angrily berated me for not calling “ball” to let them know. Seriously? Rather than giving me the benefit of the doubt, she assumed that I was being irresponsible. I explained, “You aren’t playing right now…” She wouldn’t have it and added another negative comment. I just let it go and moved back to my court. Honestly, I was very annoyed with her. I was hoping to go up to her and introduce myself and say, “My name is Andrew, I think we got off on the wrong foot..” but she left before our game finished. Maybe it stemmed from her being mad at herself or her partner for not playing well. Regardless, I didn’t think what she did was very nice. Always be kind.


Friday, August 27, 2021 (No Play)

So here I am, 10:43 p.m. YouTube offered up a tennis U.S. Open semi-final from 1980 with Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Very evenly matched. In the tie-breaker, after over four hours of play, Connors hits an easy volley—a would-be winner—into the net. Soon after, he hits a would-be passing shot winner too long past the baseline. Granted, he was exhausted. But he was also a world-class pro. Occasional mistakes by me hitting a shot long or into the net have to be expected. That’s not an excuse to not try to improve my game, but mistakes will happen. I can’t be too hard on myself and expect perfection. I remember a fantastic quote from a legendary football coach:

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.“

Vince Lombardi

So, my additional lesson is, chase perfection, but don’t be dejected if you don’t attain it. Even pros make mistakes.


Number of days on a court: 405
Number of total hours: 2,052

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

PT on Court

Tuesday, August 24, 2021 (Court Day #404)

We’re now two months past the longest day of the year and between that and the trace smoke in the air from the massive West Coast fires north of us, it was starting to get dark earlier than I expected. I arrived at Skypark at 6:40 p.m. to longer shadows.

Kristin L. and Larry on the far court. Tim and Jeanne on the near one.

Tonight was fun. I had good games. I played “lights out” in a game with Jeanne as my partner against Tim (moved from SoCal) and Terry S. my dropshots were great, everything was “on” and I made very few mistakes.

One thing that Jeanne does which doesn’t help her game is for high balls, she backs up and takes them on the bounce. If she could just slam it out of the air, it would be far, far more difficult for her opponents to handle. There may be a valid reason she doesn’t—shoulder issue, depth perception problem—but otherwise, it’s a missed opportunity.

PT Connection

There was a tall man playing on a court who looked familiar—he reminded me of the physical therapist who has been working on my shoulder for all of this year, but I wasn’t sure. I overheard Tim—the good player who moved to our area to be near his son and family—telling someone that the tall player was his son. I was briefly sitting between games and I heard the name “Casey.” Ah. I turned to Tim standing next to me and asked, “Is your son a PT?” “Yes, he is.” A big grin crossed my face: “He’s my doctor!”

When Casey came off the court, I greeted him, “Casey!” and went onto explain that I didn’t recognize him with him looking so serious. “And you’ve never seen my full face!” True, since we’d only seen each other in a medical setting, masks were always required. His wife KD has been playing pickleball and bought him his own paddle for Father’s Day. I’m pretty sure the KD I’d met a couple of months ago at Skypark was Casey’s wife.

I was able to play a game against Casey. Jeanne was my partner and Terry was his. Casey is incredibly quick. And being 6’4″ (give or take), he has a long reach! I hit a couple of shots thinking they’d be winners, but Casey was able to sprint, reach out his long arm and return the ball. At least one of them lead to a pop up that I backhanded to his partner’s feet for a winner, but his other “good get” lead to another long rally. I explained to Jeanne and Terry that Casey is a former professional athlete. (He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, though his MLB pitching career was cut short by a shoulder injury.) It was a close game.

I told Casey, “Your dad is a better player than you, but you are very quick!” He chuckled and claimed, “Give me two weeks!”

Closing Time!

All the court lights abruptly snapped off at 9:00 p.m. though they are supposed to stay on until 9:30.

Ice

I probably should have iced my shoulder when I got home, but unlike my Black Ice velcro strap I used for my forearm, I don’t have a convenient means of icing my shoulder while lying in bed gearing down for sleep. As it was, I just iced my arm to keep tennis elbow at bay.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021 (No Play)

I had a PT appointment this morning at 10 a.m. with Casey. We did normal PT stuff about range of motion, exercises, etc. And we talked about pickleball! He said his dad moved up permanently (from near Edwards Airforce Base) to help Casey and his wife with their new daughter.

I had brought a small tape measure from work and asked Casey to put his foot against the wall like mine and stretch out to see how much difference there was in the reach between us. The assistant Dan laughed, “I know how this is going to go!” He measured and announced, “13 1/2 inches.” (Dan later said Casey was leaning a bit more, but Casey still probably has about a foot longer reach.) That helps in getting to balls angling off the court!

I told Dan, the PT assistant, that he should play pickleball too . . . then they shared that Dan had his first outing in the last few days with Casey! Dan directed my exercises and then as I left, after he expressed interest, I gave him my business card and told him to email me about playing tomorrow night.

Fame and Pickleball

Julian Edelman is 35-year-old retired professional American football player. He was a very successful wide receiver with the New England Patriots. (Yes, the team that was fined by the NFL for secretly recording their future opponents practices. That cloud lingers.) He shared some photos and a video on Instagram of him playing singles pickleball. Good for him! Amusingly, one video he shared was of himself running up and slamming a winner . . . but ending up in the kitchen in clear violation of the non-volley zone rule. Oops!

Nonetheless, it’s fun to see famous people playing pickleball!

Thoughts

I may have mentioned it before, but one of my fears is losing the skill I have developed playing left-handed for a couple of years. There were a couple of shots yesterday night where afterward, I wondered if I should have switched to lefty. Am I missing opportunities to take a shot lefty and missed having a better result?


Number of days on a court: 404
Number of total hours: 2,049.5

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

Light Crowd

Sunday, August 22, 2021 (Court Day #403)

It was drizzly and in the low 60s when I arrived at Brommer Park around 9:30 a.m. Three courts were full of doubles and a fourth had two older gentlemen playing singles. Boy. The sunbirds were waiting for nicer weather to play! I waited at least 20 minutes for another human to appear. In this case, Rick and his girlfriend Renee. 5-10 minutes later Steve came. Barb R., alert and kind as ever, called over and offered her portable net. I got it from her car then Rick and I set it up. Of course, about five minutes into warmup using that net, the singles game ended and that permanent court cleared!

Light crowd at 9:30.

Steve’s drops during warm up were consistently great. Mine were miserable. Too high or too low. They did get a little better, but so many months of playing only lefty has left my right a little rusty in some aspects.

On one court, a group of four older women were playing. While I have to give them kudos for playing, it seemed like each shot was an underhand pop up. They’d be eaten alive by nearly anyone else. But, I have to think, pro players would likely think the same about my own level of play!

I played a lot with Rick, Renee, and Steve. We rotated partners after each game. Fun times.

After an intense volley rally between myself and Rick, Renee mentioned that she was in awe of the skill involved. And, heck, we’re not pro players. But that’s one thing that strongly differentiates tennis and pickleball . . . the high speed net rallies.

Chris

Chris L. had appeared with his girlfriend Barbara and they warmed up on an empty court. When Steve left, Chris became my partner for two games, we won both. Chris is a very competitive guy and hates to lose—even in rec play. After you make an error as Chris’ partner, you’ll occasionally hear advice, a grunt, or exasperated body language. Me? I don’t mind losing if I played well and learned something. If I lose while playing badly, that’s just depressing. Regardless, if my partner makes a mistake, I try to share encouragement, “So close!” “I made that mistake already in this game.” “Ooooo, just two inches higher!” For me, an encouraging partner brings out my best play. Negative reinforcement from my partner, while perhaps accurate, stress me out, damages my focus, and typically makes me play worse.

Chris said that he’s moving to Georgia. It sounded like he hasn’t picked an exact spot yet, other than he wanted to find a place that “has good pickleball.”

That reminds me, I heard this week that Wayne moved to North Carolina during the pandemic. That’s a bummer. I’ll miss Wayne’s sense of humor and “banger” style of play.

Out just before 1:00 p.m.

Home

Very late at night, I received an email from a woman named Robin who said she’d reviewed my USAPA ambassador application and was forwarding it to the western directors, but she wanted to make sure the email I used was not my work email address. I let her know it wasn’t.


Monday, August 23, 2021 (No Play)

This “chainsaw serve” video appeared in front of my eyeballs somewhere. It’s a 4.5 gold medal match in Utah.

4.5 is very much above my skill level—I’m probably a 4.0 on my best day—so I’m not going to speculate or criticize the losing team for maybe occasionally making things harder on themselves. Rumor has it that this “chainsaw serve”—which is a byproduct of allowances made in the pandemic to allow a server to not touch the ball—will return to illegal status next year. Spinning the ball off the paddle during the toss helps create even more spin.


Number of days on a court: 403
Number of total hours: 2,047

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

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