Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Court Day #601)
Today was the first ever day of pickleball play gathering specifically for Santa Cruz Pickleball Club volunteers—board members and site coordinators. There was a mention that they’d be trying out the DUPR rating app too. When I arrived at 8:20 a.m. at Willowbrook Park in Aptos for the 8:30 a.m. start, almost all were familiar faces.
I have to say, I knew the courts at Willowbrook had been redone, but, wow, these courts went from borderline unplayable to most perfect surface in the county. Very nice. The only complaint I experienced and heard was the lack of grit in the painted lines—pointed out by Dan Bliss in a game later when a ball didn’t come back up to my paddle as expected.
The SCPC board had provided yummy muffins and lemon bread, but with the diet my wife now has me on, I was good and passed on all those . . . as tempting as they were! I’d had a big omelette, so I wasn’t hungry regardless. (Not that that has ever stopped me from eating sweets!)
The first part of the session, Pam had a phone app that randomly selected players to initially fill the courts—which were numbered 1-4. (We didn’t use court labeled #5. A couple of board members swapped in and out since we didn’t have a multiple of 4.) After all the games in a given round were completed, the winners would move up a court and losers would move down a court. The winners in the top court would stay and losers in the bottom court would stay. The winners would split and losers would split, so you’d rotate partners every game.
Mary Kay and Dan Bliss were my opponents with lefty Andrew McLeod as my partner. I’m always surprised how well Mary Kay plays. She’s one of those players you can’t prejudge. Long white hair doesn’t mean she can’t be a strong player. Apparently, I was still warming up and Andrew needed even more warming up. We lost. I was looking longingly at courts 1 and 2 on the other side of the dividing tennis net . . . one always wants the opportunity to play with the strongest players possible.
Andrew and I moved down to Court 4. Ted and I played against Alan and Andrew. Ted and I won so we moved up to Court 3.
Barb and I took on Dan Bliss and Ted. Not a shocker, we lost 11-5, but it was a very long game. John Pacholski said he was impressed that we held off Dan and Ted for that long—Dan being one of the advanced O.G., as they say. All the other games had long since ended and everyone was standing around waiting for us to finish our game which kept going on and on and on. I was starting get warmed up and play better. (Ted is better than Barb, and I’m better than Ted, and I’ll unquestionably tip my hat to Dan’s consistency and experience. The only more balanced format would have been Dan and Barb against Ted and me.)
And since we lost that game, we went down to Court 4 and split. I had Alan Cable as my partner against Barb and a man named Joel who I don’t believe I had ever met before. I suspect that he’s a regular at Willowbrook and doesn’t get around much. Alan and I won the game in pretty short order in a lopsided fashion, and since all the other courts are still going, we opted to play an additional game until the last other game was completed. I decided to play that second game left-handed, so I took off my wrist brace and my forearm strap and placed them into my right pocket since I wouldn’t be needing them. Even with me playing left-handed Alan and I were leading when the game on the court at the far end finished up and we abandoned our game.
For the next game, Alan split over to the other side of Court 3 with Ted and I was teamed up with Steve. Steve and I pulled out ahead but Steve made a series of errors and soon the game was tied up. (Yes, I made a few errors in the game myself!) Alan and Ted scored another point and were suddenly leading 9-8. But then our side tighten things up a little bit and won the match.
Steve and I moved up to Court 2. Steve played with Pam and I paired with Leslie whom I hadn’t played with yet. I would’ve been shocked had Leslie and I lost that game, and we didn’t. It would’ve been nice to move up to the premier Court 1 after our win, but it was time for the break.
I pulled out my phone and opened up the DUPR app. It was showing my rating as 4.01. Fun to see, but I think it’s a touch high.
Pam asked who wanted to do some DUPR matches. Roughly half of us raised our hands. We got to pick partners and I quickly asked Eric Schmidt to be my partner—like some of our old tournaments! He accepted.
DUPR Game 1
Ted said his DUPR rating was showing 2.68 which is ridiculous, he’s somewhere between 3.0 and 3.5. He said he never assigned himself a rating, it just appeared as a number. We played against Steve and Ted and after a few minutes, it was never in doubt. We won 11-1.
We waited for the next game to finish. It was Mark Dettle and John Pacholski against Alan Cable and Jim Dal Porto. It was very contested and back-and-forth with Mark and John finally winning 14-12. They would be our opponents for the next game.
DUPR Game 2
Eric and I played John and Mark. They won the first point but that would not be the outcome. Erik and I ended up winning 11-3.
At 11:30 a.m., it was time to go. I had a number of players wish me well with my knee surgery tomorrow morning.
There were a couple of backhand shots that were quite painful for my right wrist, but it held up reasonably well for the session. By the last game between Erik and myself against Mark and John, my right knee was starting to ache. It wasn’t debilitating, but I could definitely feel it. The last time it ached like that during play was a few months ago, but that was more intense and I ended up hobbling for a few days.
The Way Home
On my way home from Willowbrook Park, I stopped off at the pharmacy that the medical folks had tracked down for me that actually had the elusive painkillers that I might need after my surgery tomorrow.
When I got home, I ate lunch—my wife has me on a new diet, more on that later—then iced my right knee and right wrist, both of which were aching. Then it was off to work.
With my surgery looming, there are things at work that I needed to get done before I disappeared for what could be up to a week. I didn’t get to Skypark until about 7:30 p.m.. The advantage to my late arrival was that I had an easy parking spot.
When I walked in, I found a very light crowd, they were only 5 courts in use. Tim said F. said that he had a net bag out but it wasn’t needed so just sitting there. Tim added that he wasn’t feeling well and he stayed another 10 minutes then left early and I didn’t even get to see him play .
My first game was with Conner against David and Oscar. David and Oscar cleaned our clocks. Ok, we were actually leading in the second game 6-5.
There are three players who I know that hit very hard. David is one of them, Casey is another, and fire fighter Matt Smith is the final one. The thing with David is he is very quick and gets around on the court and poaches a lot. I have to get used to his tactics. They tend to be a lot of “shake & bake” combinations for winners for him.
Oscar attempted a “Kyle” on me—named for Kyle Yates—where the hitter appears that he’s going crosscourt with a dink but at the last instant, flips his paddle and drives it directly at the opponent across from him. But I was ready and hit it back over to the middle for a winner.
Here are both games in one video (Oscar is in bright yellow):
I’m going to point out my errors. I don’t care about what I’m doing right, I want to know what needs to be corrected!
In the video, with the rally ending at 1:57, it is a perfect example of me not tracking with the ball and it costing us a point.
Then there is 2:31, where Oscar hit a shot that just barely catches the sideline. I just watch, thinking it is going out.
2:50. Me being lazy and not being in ready position. It also demonstrates the problem I’ve been having with backhands.
3:26. Court positioning again, not covering the right sideline.
3:57. I probably should have shifted over a bit more to cover the middle, but with my partner’s pop up, it probably would not have made any difference.
5:30. I creeped in after my serve and ended up not being set and hit my drop shot into the net.
6:20. Popped up a shot.
7:17 (start of point). This is what happens when you are lackadaisical getting to the net. A ball ended up at my feet.
8:08. This is Oscar’s attempt of a “Kyle” on me. I was ready.
9:43. Popped up a shot.
9:58. This is a case of “trust your partner” and court positioning. This was Conner’s shot to make but I started to make a move for the ball then backed off and it messed up Conner. I should have been shifted over and covering more of the sideline.
This was a quick game that was completed in less than 10 minutes.
Then we did a second game.
10:53. Popped up a backhand volley.
12:03. Drove a third shot right into the net. [Insert eye rolling here!]
12:17. Lob that’s not deep enough and his slammed by David for a winner,
12:30. Very short service return, followed by a crosscourt drive that’s out. (Two bad shots in a row.)
14:40. Lobbed too deep by a few inches.
14:56. Oscar was slamming off a high ball that Conner popped up and I couldn’t take enough off the ball from my backhand volley and it got popped back up for a put-away by Oscar.
15:16. Another “trust your partner” moment. I should have left this to Conner’s forehand, instead I popped up the ball with my backhand volley. Rally over.
16:17. Third shot drop into the net.
17:21. This is start of a bit of a crazy rally. This is where you can tell that we aren’t 3.0 players. But I hit a dink volley that was too hit and David attacked, It was all damage control after that.
19:00. David drives a low volley to my chest and I wasn’t ready for it.
20:15. Third shot drop into the white tape. Feet not entirely set.
20:52. Conner popped up a shot that Oscar was slamming down at my right foot. I couldn’t get it back over the net,
21:04. David serves and I never contact the ball to return it. I think it hit a leaf or debris since it did not come back up. (You can see me checking the ball afterward.)
Later in the evening, I played a couple of games with Casey against Aaron a tall man named Daniel who I think was here in the past week but I previously hadn’t seen for a long time. I have to say, Aaron continues to get better and better. I mentioned before that he used to be canon fodder, but that is no longer the case. He might even be a 3.5 level player now. He’s getting better. Even then Casey and I won those games against him but they were challenging games.
I felt pretty good about myself this morning. I could’ve rolled into two or three month hiatus feeling with those wins. Tonight was a bit more of a wake up call back to reality but having those last two games as wins felt good.
It was 9:28 p.m. when Casey and I finished our second game with Aaron and Daniel.
It’s been a really long day. I woke up at 5:50 a.m. (dog) and never got back to sleep. I had my alarm set for 7:30, so I lost about an hour and a half of intended asleep.
I had a number of kind folks wish me well with the surgery. Thanks, peeps!
Friday, June 2, 2023 (No Play)
As I type this on my phone, lying down in I’m in a hospital gown with an IV stabbed into the back of my left hand. Surgery is to be in 30 minutes at 8:45 a.m. One of the numerous nurses brought a small cordless trimmer and shaved off the hair around my knee the used a sticky glove to collect stray hairs. Fr. Welle came in briefly and wrote “YES” and his initials on my right knee.
Ok. It’s much later in the day now, after sleeping a lot. The surgery was successful. It was a “Class III” tear, that is, all the way through. There are four classes, “0” is perfect. Classes I and II are both partial tears. Class III is the most severe. They injected painkillers into my knee to manage the pain for the first 24 hours, give or take. It’s 11:22 p.m. as I type this and I’m a bit jet lagged from sleeping for about 4-5 hours today.
My knee barely aches, it’s felt worse. Not bad considering they poked rods into my knee about 15 hours ago! I forewent the strong painkiller in favor of several Ibuprofen. They recommended taking something the first night, even if I don’t think that I needed it. A big thanks to my wife for her care. She’s been great, getting me food and looking out for me.
I’ve got my leg raised and I can see the bandages wrapped around my knee and partway down my shin. I’m also sporting my hospital wrist band—which I just now removed—and blood-stained gauze bandaging the back of my left hand. I’m sure that’ll be minor compared to my knee when it gets unwrapped in a couple of days!
Saturday, June 3, 2023 (No Play)
My sleep is kind of messed up after yesterday, I got to sleep about 3:30 a.m. and woke up a few times until I completely woke up at 8:50 a.m. to texts of one staff member not being able to come to work. (He knew last night but didn’t tell me until 30 minutes before he was to get to work. *sigh*) With staff on vacation, this meant me scrambling to arrange other staffing. Lots of texts!
My wife mentioned it’s supposed to rain on Tuesday. My first thought was that it could affect pickleball for me… uh, nope! I’ll be out 2-3 months!
Sunday, June 4, 2023 (No Play)
So, on social media, there’s some hubbub going on about paddle tapping. After some digging, it comes down to a post made by pro Riley Newman on Instagram:
Riley says that he will only tap paddles at the end of a match, not after every game in a match. While I won’t likely do this, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. In the venerable game of tennis, players only meet each other at the net at the beginning of the match and at the very end. I can’t quickly think of other good analogies—quarters or periods in other sports don’t totally equate—but the very beginning and the very end make sense in serious games. Of course, it’s easy to argue that pickleball is a different breed, being more social than other sports, but, hey, it’s a sport, not a dance. That said, I’ll likely continue the practice at tournaments or match situations of tapping after each game.
I looked up a PPA match today and found a semi-final between Waters/Parenteau and Irvine/Jansen. Watching, it’s heartening to see even the top female player in the world hit a service return into the net or otherwise not getting the ball back over. I can’t expect myself to be absolutely perfect. (Not that I’m even close, but still…) I do wish I was better at is letting out balls go. These pros did a great job of it in the game.
Monday, June 5, 2023 (No Play)
Earlier today, I had the strong urge to play pickleball. That lasted about one second until I remembered I’m recovering from knee surgery. Bleh.
So, I mentioned a diet. My wife Kristen is done with teaching for the summer and has time to prep food and keep me on track. She wants me to lose weight. Heck, I want to lose weight too, but just want it to happen magically while I continue to each hamburgers and ice cream and pizza! Since Wednesday (May 31), I’ve had no sweets—aside from a token dark chocolate square once a day, no gluten, no processed foods, lots of veggies, a little fruit, and protein. My sister-in-law Liz is running support too. In five days, I’ve lost 4 pounds and that’s with me spending the last three days lying down and not moving around much. Truth be told, I could lose 40 pounds and I still might need to lose another 5-10 to get to optimum weight . . . maybe. I think I was around 150 pounds when I got married. Even losing 30 pounds would be awesome. Regardless, the less extra weight that I have the easier it’ll be on my joints—such as my knees!
Tuesday, June 6, 2023 (No Play)
Conner emailed out the winning team for the inaugural SCALPEL season:
“Comprised by captain Casey Feickert at the helm, his progenitor Tim Feickert, as well as Tim “not Casey’s dad” Handley and Nate Hines – our champions are: The Ass Paddlers”
I haven’t been entering many games into DUPR. The vast majority of the entries were from the tournament that Jason and I played in September last year. From something I read, DUPR gets updated on Tuesdays. So I checked today. My rating went from 4.01 to 4.0. Given that Eric and I beat Steve and Ted 11-1 and beat Mark and John 11-3, you’d think it’d make a minor positive impact on my rating, if anything. BUT, apparently, DUPR thinks Eric and I should have had more convincing wins. [shrug]
Wednesday, June 7, 2023 (No Play)
I weighed in at 189.7 this morning. That’s down from 196.4—nearly 7 pounds—a little over a week ago (May 29). I’m being good! I texted an update to my sister-in-law who is helping my wife with recipes and advice:
Binh shared sign from his travels—from Tustin, CA—that he liked:
I told him that I like it. The trick is when unskilled players get paired with the best player to “make the game more fair”, the margin gets slimmer. Players will want to balance teams so they don’t get bumped down. A sign like this might help with extreme cases of hopelessly outclassed players, as long as they actually head its advice.
I’m continuing to take it pretty easy and severely limit walking. I took a trip to the fridge to grab an ice pack and depending on how I moved, there was a sharp pain on the inside of my knee.
Thursday, June 8, 2023 (No Play)
I had my post-op appointment with the physician’s assistant this morning, my wife tagged along. Everything is looking good. The PA wasn’t too keen on the idea of me returning to work and walking around quite yet, so I’m going to give it until Monday. When I asked her about getting back to pickleball, she figured, “4-6 weeks”. That would be great, but we’ll see.
Watching pickleball, of course. A game clip popped up as an Instagram reel and I tracked down the YouTube video of the same rally.
Dekel Bar. Pro pickleball player. Exhibit #1. So this first MLP match clip pits him with Frederico Staksrud against Kyle Yates and Andrei Daescu.
If you look closely, you’ll notice Dekel has his paddle in his left hand—he is not left-handed. Andrei just hit a great high backhand swat down near Dekel’s left foot. Dekel knew couldn’t reach it with backhand, so he switched hands. While it was ultimately ineffective, he did manage to hit the ball back toward the net off the bounce . . . instead of whiffing it with his right hand.
Exhibit #2. This second match clip has Regina Franco and Dekel against AJ Koller and Lee Whitwell.
Even at 6’3”, Dekel knows he has limits. In this rally, he again switches to his left hand to lunge and stretch to reach the ball—hit at a sharp angle by AJ. This time he’s successful and they go on to win the rally.
(As a bonus, watch the “behind the head” shot by Mary Brascia at the end of the video linked above. That’s a first for me, seeing a shot like that!)
Now, why do I mention all this? I’ll go to my grave believing that switching hands has a time and a place. For uncoordinated people, that may be extremely rare. For others, like me, you might see it once or twice an outing—or not at all, depending. I love Mark Renneson of Third Shot Sports, but when he asked for pickleball myths to bust, I suggested “never switching hands”. He never wrote me back . . . unlike the other times that we’ve corresponded. Also, in a podcast, he was rifling through quick-fire yes/no questions with a guest pro, one of the questions was “Switching hands?” She answered no. He affirmed, “Correct.” Now, for a fellow who pushes that there is always more than one way to do something, I find it funny he’s so steadfast against switching hands.
So I just throw my hands in the air bemused and shrug.
A good piece of advice from the mother of the top female player in the world.
A very good practice. Positive attitude.
I’ve had a number of players check in and see how I’m doing . . . Jason, Binh, Charles, Matt Babb, René, Tim F. (Casey’s dad). Thoughtful. Some others, like SCPC volunteers, I gave updates to via email when I was corresponding anyway.
Twice this week, I’ve seen videos suggesting volley drills with both players standing fully inside the kitchen. By doing this, when you return to the standard distance, the ball seems to “slow down” in comparison.
Friday, June 9, 2023 (No Play)
I’m getting really tired of being cooped up and not moving much.
As pointed out on the “interwebs” today, yesterday, Elon Musk came to the rescue of pickleball on Twitter:
How’s that for a reply?
Anna Leigh Waters continues to garner attention as the top female player. This time in an article by Sports Illustrated:
This is my main takeaway:
“Waters’s camp believes that between the pickleball prize money that comes with winning the biggest events and off-court income, she could make seven figures this year.”
There’s a two-edged sword involved. We happy to see pickleball start getting some respect and stop hearing, “Pickleball? What’s that?” and see pros get some money. The downside is the cost of tournaments going nuts…$150+ entry fees, $50 for a day of parking, etc.
Saturday, June 10, 2023 (No Play)
Roll out court surface!
A couple of weeks ago, the APP held their New York Open at the Billie Jean King Center in—not a surprise—New York City. I read somewhere that weren’t allowed to repaint the surface, so they employed Pickleball United’s True Court to roll out pickleball courts.
Maybe I’m easily entertained, but I thought this is nifty.
Here’s the company website:
My knee is improving. It’s still not comfortable to walk, but my knee doesn’t feel like it’s about to collapse. What’s concerning is my right wrist has flared up and is bothering me a bit . . . and that’s with not playing for over a week.
Oh, and I weighed in 8 pounds lighter today than 13 days ago.
Last night, I was looking over the shared SCALPEL Google spreadsheet. Conner is pretty amazing with all his updates. I was expecting the DUPR ratings to be static, but I noticed that they are not the same as when the league season started. I had to roll my eyes a bit. Aside from a couple of outliers, I think all the DUPR ratings are inflated by 0.25 to 0.5.
The trick is, unless people are playing tournaments—I might have to qualify that as even “distant tournaments” or maybe even regionals—DUPR has to rely on its inputs, that is, what it’s fed in terms of data. If you have a pool of players and they only play against each other, there is no objective correction/dampener to ratings.
Here’s an extreme example. You have a group of new players. Maybe they would have a USAP UTPR of 3.0, but they all set themselves as 5.0 players. After some weeks of regular games, some will drop and others will rise. Some might go to 5.5, others to 4.5. But in reality, none of the players are that. The truth is, they’d get destroyed in the 3.5 bracket of a tournament.
I’ll give a real world example. About a year ago, maybe less, Binh and Shawnte signed up for a tournament as 4.0s. Binh said they got destroyed. I believe Shawnte is a 4.0. Binh and I are fairly comparable—that makes us good tournament partners—but we’re somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0 and since you round down, that’s 3.5. And, honestly, that’s where nearly all of the SCALPEL players should be. Instead, there are an unrealistic number of 4.0+ players. Having playing 15 tournaments, including one that featured Ben Johns and other top players, I know these local ratings are inflated.
Sunday, June 11, 2023 (No Play)
This is turning into a very long post! Since I won’t be playing for probably a month or more, I’ll publish this one and start work on a new one. There will a lot less writing with me returning to work!
The International Pickleball Federation (IPF) released a PDF document.
I saw on the new IPF website (theipf.org, new URL) that the USA is again listed as a participating nation. I thought it was dumb that we weren’t, it seemed petty, but maybe there were good reasons. I mean, there have been changes made at the IPF.
I kept having to go back and correct IFP to IPF since I kept thinking “International Federation of Pickleball”.
It has changed! And . . . wow. I just noticed that former SCPC club president Karen Long is now secretary for the IPF!
At the time of this writing, the IPF has 78 member countries. The latest three organizations being Iran, Amman (in Jordan), and Belize.
Anyway, here is the link to that PDF:
The International Pickleball Federation (IPF) stands behind our motto: “No Country Left Behind”
I see that it’s dated May 1, 2023, so about a month ago.
Ok, that one is somewhat uninteresting, but this one is gold:
Clean Up on Aisle Pickleball
Dated June 1 (10 days ago) and lays wide open exactly what happened to the IFP and why the IPF was started.
A bit of a bombshell. Basically, the IFP was mismanaged, and due to financial irregularities the organization was permanently banned from non-profit status in the USA—where it is/was based. Non-profit status is mandatory for working with the IOC (International Olympic Committee). So the IFP is in the process of being jettisoned and the IPF was founded as its new non-profit successor. Things are looking up!
Tuesday, June 13, 2023 (No Play)
Coincidentally, in a podcast interview yesterday, DUPR founder Steve Kuhn talked about what’s coming to DUPR.
In addition to your standard DUPR rating, you will also be given a “reliability score” which is determined by four sub-measures. (This is still in the “beta” stage, so things could change.) Steve obviously had some fun naming these!
First is the “Kevin Bacon score”, that is, how many people are in your web out to six generations—how many opponents have you played and who have they played, etc. If you’ve played a lot of opponents and they’ve played a lot of opponents, you’ll get a higher reliability score. (This solves my beef about the lack of accuracy due to only with playing in the same pool of players.)
“Big game score”, or how many tournaments have you played in? (I’m guessing that the size of the tournament might be a factor in this too.)
“Swinger score” or how many partners have you had? If you always play with only one or two doubles partners, your reliability score would be low, (DUPR has a hard time determining if a win was mostly you, or your partner, or both.)
“Even Steven score” or have you played a lot of players about the same rating? (If you are a 5.0 playing against 3.0 players all the time, this hampers getting an accurate rating.)
A shock to me—and I’m not convinced it’s a good idea—is eliminating the use of point differential in the DUPR calculation. In other words, it’s going to only “win/loss” and throwing away if you won 11-0 or 18-16 . . . which I thought was a real strength of DUPR.
Here is a link to the precise time in the YouTube video where Steve Kuhn talks about changes in the DUPR algorithm:
Wednesday, June 14, 2023 (No Play)
Today was my first time driving in 13 days. Today is day 12 since my knee surgery. I’m walking better, but it can still be painful. Kneeling hurts (intensely, depending) and pulling my foot up to put on a sock also is painful. But it’s improving. PT tomorrow morning.
Number of days on a court: 601
Number of total hours: 2,646
Number of paid coaching hours: 2
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