Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Month: January 2022 (Page 1 of 5)

Boatload of Newbies

Sunday, January 30, 2022 (Court Day #462)

Pickleball Anniversary 

Yesterday was my five year anniversary of starting pickleball. January 29, 2017 – January 29, 2022. I guess it stuck!

A man named Douglas from Campbell—about 30 minutes north—emailed the club asking about play at Derby since he could arrive no earlier than 11:30. This message got forwarded to me from Mark, the president, and I wrote back to Douglas giving him the scoop.


It was sunny but in the low 40s when I arrived to a deserted Derby Park. The players who would beat me there lately were nowhere to be seen. Today is a regional tournament weekend and the crowd was lighter, as I expected, topping out about 30 people. The next person to arrive was a man named Don—I’m guessing mid-40s—who lives in Los Gatos but inherited a beach house in Santa Cruz from his late parents. This was his first visit to Derby. He said he played at Brommer on a club day and it was so well-organized and everyone was so welcoming compared to  San Jose, that he figured that he’d continue to play in Santa Cruz as a regular thing.

My first game was with Don against big-mustache Steve and a woman named Susan I’d never played with. Don and I won that game handily. Susan appears to be a 2.5 level player. No one was waiting, so we decided to play a second game. I told Susan, “I’ll play with you.” With that, Susan’s luck changed and we went ahead 7-0 or thereabouts. Eventually, she made a few mistakes and they scored some points, but we still won a lopsided game. I’d put Don as a middle of the road 3.0 and Steve as a high 3.0.

Tom Sherwood listens as Mike K. explains something.

Rookie Move

I had a deja vu moment playing with Mike K.—a.k.a. Grumpy Mike—deja vu of five years ago in my first few months of playing. I drove the ball at Glenn as Mike was running up to the net and the ball got slammed by Glenn at Mike’s feet. He growled, “Good thing I was running up.” (Sarcasm.) I made a bad strategic decision.


Between games, Jason—with a big grin—pointed to my right shin, “Am I responsible for that?” I held out my leg and looked, sure enough, there was a red welt. Ted had popped up the ball and Jason took full advantage—just as I would have myself! My leg had taken the brunt of that shot.

During a game, Jason turned to me, “You shouldn’t be able to hit that—that was below the net!” I was on the right a ball had bounced just high enough to my right that I could lift and apply topspin and drive it between my opponents for a winner. Was it below the net? Maybe.

Jason had a fabulous backhand ATP around the left post against retired firefighter Matt S. “I thought you’d made a mistake!”, exclaimed the surprised Matt. Matt doesn’t see too many ATPs, I guess!

Herd of Newbies

Wandering in between noon and 1 p.m., a group of about a dozen beginners showed up where someone was teaching them to play. I didn’t know anything about it and it wasn’t club sponsored. Club play officially ends at noon, but we generally stick around an extra hour.

An amazing number of non-club players filling the courts at 1 p.m.!

Douglas from Campbell never did show up. Too bad.


My right arm is holding up pretty well. The inside of my elbow was mildly painful when driving to Derby, but very mild and only at certain times.


I asked online and was provided with a link to the video of Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and NFL star Larry Fitzgerald playing pickleball as part of a PPA event in Arizona, the 2022 Carvana Desert Ridge Open.

Link to key part of YouTube Video

It’s quickly obvious to anyone who plays pickleball even somewhat regularly that the pros are merely keeping ball in play—avoiding on winning shots—and just waiting for Larry or Michael to make mistakes. Larry is decent and almost certainly had prior experience. Michael was horrid and may have never even played pickleball before. It’s entertaining like watching a train wreck. If the players weren’t famous, no one would have watched it.

Number of days on a court: 462
Number of total hours: 2,219.5

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

Doink. Regression.

Thursday, January 27, 2022 (Court Day #461)

On the USAP Ambassador’s email chat group, there was some discussion the USTA (tennis) and their restrictions regarding tennis tournaments. After some discussion, it turns out the USTA umbrella organization does not have prohibition on pickleball lines on a tennis court for tournaments, however, it does allow a section (region) to have their own prohibitions. A couple of USAP representatives have been meeting with the USTA reps to see if they can come to some agreement universally allowing dual marking of courts.


I left work a few minutes before closing and was at Skypark by 6:15 p.m. Kristin L. commented, “You are here early!” Due to tennis players (there were six in the complex and two waiting on a bench outside), we were only using the permanent pickleball courts.


All the lights were fixed, but I initially, I didn’t think so. One court was dark enough that I thought the light wasn’t on. I don’t know if they used a wrong ballast or if the light was partially broken or what. Regardless, people were avoiding that court and would rather play with a well-lit court with dual-striping and a temporary net . . . under normal circumstances, permanent courts are prized!

First Games

My first game was against David (of Aptos, we common family friends) and a man I didn’t know and I had a partner I’d never seen before. We were on the “lit, but dark” permanent court. I had no warm up—usually, not a big deal—and was playing incredibly badly. It was so frustrating. Normally, I can make up for a partner’s subpar play. Not these two games. The first game I lost 11-3 and the second—with a man named Jim against his wife Hillary and regular Wendy—we lost 11-0. Brilliant, right?

New Guys

A couple 30-ish guys showed up. One was named Sam. They said they came on a Wednesday and there were no pickleball players at the courts. I told them that players regularly come on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I wasn’t playing my best tonight. I got better as the evening went on, but nothing to write home about. I try not to fret too much about bad play outings. I feel I’m progressing overall. There will be dips in performance. It happens.

Hit to the deep player

Vince Lombardi, the famous Green Bay Packers football coach, used to assign grades to the performance of a player on a particular play. If you did your job, you got a “0”. If you blew your assignment, you got a “-2”. There was a Championship game where a Packers defender disregarded his assignment, and forced the pressured quarterback to throw an interception ending the game and giving the Packers a championship. Lombardi gave that defender a “-2” on the play.

Why did I tell that story? With Tim back and Casey forward, Paul (near the net) drove the ball at Casey. Casey, not expecting the shot, mishandled it and we won the rally. I mentally gave Paul a “-2”. I didn’t tell him that though. But I did tell him that it’s best practice to hit to the player who is back to keep him back. Paul listened and the next time around, he hit to Tim who was back and after the rally, turned to me and said, “Like that?” Yes, Paul, perfect, like that. You get a “0”.

It’s a wrap

At 8:45 p.m., Tim was done and, hence, my play was done. Tim said he had played three hours this morning. Paul jumped onto a court with three stragglers, they were the last active game. As I was talking to Tim and his son Casey when we were done playing, as I shifted my weight, I realized that I had what felt like a blister on my right foot. Sigh. New shoes. But it doesn’t bother me, so it’s fine.

What did I learn?

There is success to be had being patient. In the last couple of games with Paul against Tim and Casey, I decided to hold off and only attack if I could hit down . . . not across, and not up. It was a successful strategy.


I iced my right arm when I got home. It seems to be getting a bit better.

Friday, January 28, 2022 (No Play)

There was a PPA tournament, the Carvana Desert Ridge Open in Arizona. The big news was famous Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps as well as famous NFL receiver Larry Fitzgerald would be playing exhibition matches at the venue.

I tracked down video of the event:

It’s pretty obvious that Michael has very little pickleball skill and didn’t really know the rules. Larry, on the other hand, played ok. Maybe a 3.0 level. It’s entertaining just because they are famous people. Beyond the first few minutes, it’s entertaining like gawking at a fender bender.

Number of days on a court: 461
Number of total hours: 2,215.5

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

Fabulous Night!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022 (Court Day #460)

Work is really stressful. I have two of my staff on vacation, one whose last day was Friday last week, one out with COVID-19, another out sick (not COVID), and another out with a chronic health condition. I have a big advertising deadline (12-page newspaper insert) and projects due in our custom framing department that only I know how to do. Tomorrow won’t be better. I needed to play tonight to forget about the stresses of work. And I was not disappointed.

Tennis Trouble

The crowd was a bit lighter tonight and I found a great parking spot at Skypark at 7:15 p.m. When I walked in, there were two tennis players using the court that also serves as four temporary pickleball courts. There was a slightly heated discussion going on about their use of that court. Mark D. said, “It’s not fair to have 20 people wait while you two continue to play.” One of the tennis players asked about time limits. Mark said, “It’s 30 minutes, it’s posted outside the gate.” This conversation went on for a few more minutes, when I looked again, the tennis players had moved to an open tennis court elsewhere in the complex.


The flashing strobe-like light was fixed as was the corner light. Finally! One was still out in the other corner and across the complex a tennis court light was still dim. More work to do.

Oldtimer Friend

While I was waiting, there was a familiar face on one of the courts. I hadn’t seen him in probably 10 years. When their game was done, I called, “Jim!” He turned. Yep, Jim Jocelyn. He quickly introduced me to two of his friends and also his wife. I told his male friend, “Jim and I played football together 40 years ago.” (Geez, I did the math in my head—how to feel old!) “High school,” Jim explained. Jim and I weren’t close, but you end up knowing everyone on a sports team. I asked Jim if he was still a minister. “Pastor,” he corrected, “at Twin Lakes Church.” Twin Lakes has the largest protestant congregation in the county and has a big physical complex in south county. He said it was his second time out playing. From the looks of things from the sidelines, he did pretty well for a newbie. Jim played offensive line back in high school and has the advantage of being tall, 6-foot plus.


Dan M. asked me to playing in a game, which was with Paul and Matt. Kristin L. called over asking me to play with them instead. “They asked first,” I explained. “I don’t want to play with a poacher anyway!”, she kidded back. (Ok, so I unsuccessfully poached a few times in my first game that I happened to play with her as my partner last week…)

I noticed tire marks on the courts, it took me less than a second to realize it was from a bucket truck to fix the lights. The faint marks are a small price to pay!

I played a number of games with Dan as my partner against Paul and Matt. Dan is coming along. Still not a match for Paul and Matt, but improving a lot.


Later, Paul and I played a few games against Mike B. and Matt. I wasn’t expecting to win any games, but we did. (I’d say Matt is better than Paul and I suspect most people would pick Mike over me as a tournament partner.) Those games were fabulous. Challenging but not so far out of whack that winning a game wasn’t possible. After learning Mike has been doing tournaments in 4.0, I wanted to make a good impression in case I ever want to partner up with him for a tournament, and I believe I did that. It was fairly balanced, so we just played repeatedly, swapping sides after each game. If I could play games like that the rest of my life, I’d probably die happy.

Shortly after 9 p.m., Mike was fried and done. He’d been playing for hours. It was 9:09 when the four of us walked off the court.

What did I learn?

When you play better players, you have to keep drives low. I have to give credit to Matt. I did a crosscourt dink to my left. It was just high enough that Matt attacked, hitting the ball to my left hip. I was not expecting that and the rally was over. I complimented him, it was a nice shot. (Thinking now, perhaps Paul could have attacked that ball with his forehand, but his reactions would have had to have been very, very quick!)

I do have to wonder how pros handle “chicken wing” shots so well. I was doing my best to analyze why I lost a point and a number were shots either at my right hip, armpit, or thereabouts for a very awkward shot. There were also shots where Mike got me with hard shots hit from the net to my toes while I was at midcourt. I did get Mike with some of my own, though!


I iced my right arm when I got home, standard fare these days.

Number of days on a court: 460
Number of total hours: 2,213

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

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