Pickleball Journey

Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Vintage Courts on Memorial Day 2024!

Monday, May 27, 2024 (Court Day #666)

I had dilemmas this morning. All of them really good problems they have. Play or not play? Go to club play at Brommer Park and face long waiting times, but it has organized play? Or go to Derby Park and face an unknown group of players in terms of size and skill and with no organization?

At 9:40 a.m., I was in the car and on my way to Derby Park under cloudy skies and 54°F temperatures. I was sitting there, driving, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to stay for a long period of time since I had to come home and eat lunch in time and be on the road to San Carlos by 12:45 p.m. to meet up with my sister-in-law Liz.

Derby

As I walked in, some games were going on but at least a couple of courts were empty.

Rick Arnold was at the far end in a game with Tiffany and two men I didn’t know. Rick is always good for a strong game.

I warmed up with barefoot Terry and regular whose name escapes me. Maybe Judy? After about 10 minutes, Rick called over, “We’re ready for you, Andrew!” One of the two men passed me on his way off the court as I walked on.

Rick had left shoulder surgery a few months back and is now playing with his natural right hand instead of the left hand that he’s been using for the last few years. Poor guy!

I overheard Tiffany mentioning something about her sister Nicole not coming due to an injury. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound serious. The man that stayed is an Italian fellow in his 50s named Marco. I’d never met him before. It turns out, he’s a good player.

Games

Rick and I played Tiffany and Marco and won 11-8. Tiffany has gotten better over the last couple of years.

Next, we rotated and I played with Tiffany and we lost a close one 10-12. By now, it was 10:43 a.m. and the courts were filling up.

In a third game, Marco and I had a big lead, but we ended up losing 10-12.

Mixed Doubles

Rick and Tiffany both had to go. Marco and I were looking for someone—”Anyone?”—to join us to play more. A couple of women came over, Lauren and Amy. I’d say Amy is a 3.0 and Lauren is a 3.5. Amy played with me and Lauren joined Marco. We were down a lot but came back to win 11-8. Amy started slow but played better the longer we played in that game.

11:05 a.m. The courts were emptying out.

Games with Mike and Terry

Terry and me played a game against Marco and tall, white hair Mike. I don’t see Mike much. Mike is one of those people you can’t judge by appearance. Sure, a long reach and athletic build, but closer to 70 than 60. We lost 7-11. Terry likes to drive everything. Baseline? Drive. Midcourt? Drive. Net? Drive. Still, she manages to make a game of it regardless.

Marco and I played a game against Terry and tall Mike. Initially, they were leading but that didn’t last long and we came back and beat them 11–4. It would have been the upset of the month had we lost.

Hmmm.

I’m a bit hesitant, but I’m going to share this just for educational purposes. Not everything is always “flowers and sunshine” in the pickleball world. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll run into a situation like this sooner or later. It is what it is. Nothing major.

My plan was to leave after that game, but player who also does 4.0 tournaments showed up and he’s always a good challenging opponent. I’ll leave his name out. I really should have headed out to get prepared for my trip to the Bay Area, but he was insistent that I stay. Honestly, it’s not hard to convince me to play just one more game! I was hoping to play against him for the best challenge and Marco stood next to me waiting, but no one was willing to join the player. There was an awkward period of time as people waiting nearby simply tried to look busy or turned down the requests to join the game.

I figured that the only way to get this game to happen was to cross the net and play as his partner. After I did, Lauren came in to join Marco.

My partner for that game has a habit of providing a flow of corrections during games, so before we got started, I told him that I was there to relax and then I didn’t want him to coach me. (“Where did that come from?”) And, to his credit, he didn’t.

But, boy, I played a bad game. We lost something like 3–11. I was not playing well at all. After getting water once the game was done, I walked up to my partner and told him that loss was on me. He took that as an invitation. “That was a 3.5 game.” (Since I do tournaments in 4.0.) I replied, “At best. That might have even been a 3.0 game.” He went on, “You were hitting out balls. How many years has that been?” Ouch. He was talking about the high drive by Marco where I put up my paddle then tried to pull it back down but I was too late and the ball deflected off my paddle and landed out of bounds. But my partner was 100% accurate. Hitting out balls continues to be an Achilles’ Heel for me. “Yes, something that I need to fix.”

I said my goodbyes and headed out.

I ran into the Laurie on the street when I was walking to my car. I told her about my conversation with my partner after the game. She said, “He made plenty of mistakes.“ She added, “People like that take apologies simply as an opportunity to let you have it.” Instead of being encouraging and giving gentle criticism, it’s a chance to double-down on pointing out mistakes and shift blame. (Though I take the blame for the loss since I did not play a good game at all.)

I left feeling miserable. If you’ve been reading my blog entries, you’ll know that probably like most players—at least the ones who care about improving—how well I played in my last game determines my mood.

San Carlos

The original plan was for my son Nicholas and I to leave Santa Cruz at 12:45 p.m. in order to get to San Carlos about 2 p.m. As it was, between that one extra game, getting some things done around the house, and a phone call from my sister about my mother‘s health—she’s doing ok—we left closer to 1:15 p.m. Nicholas was in his car and I was in my car. We stopped at his apartment in Santa Clara, dropping off his car, and then the two of us continued in my car to my sister-in-law‘s house.

We arrived and we said our hellos. The group would be me, Nicholas, Liz, and her husband Steve. We gathered up our things and walked about a block in their neighborhood to the home of Bill and his wife Betsy, who have their own private pickleball court on the side of their house. Nice!

Bill and Betsy

Liz introduced Nicholas and me to Bill. Liz told me in advance that Bill reminds her of her late father—and my father-in-law—Ron. I could see why. Ron was about half a foot taller but Bill has similar build . . . and the warm, carefree attitude was there.

Bill explained that the president of Sport Court was personally responsible for building this court in 1977. (I looked up Sport Court and it was founded in 1974, assuming that’s the same company.) I have to wonder if this court is one of the first pickleball courts in the State of California. Pickleball was still mostly a Pacific Northwest sport at that time. Bill says they had done a miscalculation on the amount of concrete needed and had gotten too much, so the pad is really thick. This may be why the court is in such good condition as the surface of the court only has a couple of very minor cracks. Bill says the only maintenance they do is having the surface repainted every couple of years and have the landscapers wash it off of the hose once a month. The only real downside to it was net posts are not regulation and while the net was legitimate—even with a “Pickle-ball” company logo on it—it was bit too low. I didn’t measure, but I’d guess probably 2″-4″ shy of the proper height.

Steve and Nicholas install the “Pickle-ball” net from the bin at 2:50 p.m.

Liz, Steve, Nicholas, and I rotated partners for as many games as we fit into the roughly 2 1/2 hours that we played. Amazingly, though he didn’t play at all, Bill stood and watched the entirety of our session there. His wife Betsy came and joined him for maybe an hour, but she wandered back into the house to get things done.

Bill is pretty hysterical. He would poke fun at the level of play. His target was Steve or me or Liz or Nicholas whenever its struck his fancy!

Liz has good hand-eye coordination, though she tends to play tennis on a pickleball court. She has a tendency to stay back at the baseline and not come up to the kitchen, and she also has a tendency to drive balls all the time. By the time I left, Liz is doing better getting up to the net. She and Steve were demonstrating some semblance of a soft game too. They definitely made progress!

History

Once it was decided that we were done playing, I wanted to see the purported old paddles that were in Bill’s storage bin. I walked over and, sure enough, there were two really cool vintage wooden paddles with the Pickle-ball brand logo on them and a model name, “The Diller.” I took a photo of the two of the paddles in the bin and decided I wanted another shot with better light so I and walked out with one paddle onto the court.

“Those aren’t even the old ones!”, exclaimed Bill. “There are some older ones in there with no logo.”

I walked back to the bin and dug around a little bit and sure enough, there were two paddles completely devoid of any markings. Wow. These are certainly from the early days of pickleball. I remember reading about the founders making wood paddles in their garage! I was touching history!

We wanted to get some group photos.

Liz, me, Bill, and Nicholas.

Steve and Liz wanted a patriotic shot too.

Steve and group. 5:16 p.m.

We walked back to Liz and Steve’s home, got brief visits with their two teenagers, my niece Piper and nephew Grant, who were coaxed out of their holes.

From there, Nicholas and I made a stop at In’N’Out Burger for dinner. Once I dropped him off at his apartment, I was soon on my way over the Santa Cruz Mountains to the coast and home!

It turned out to be an amazing day! Not too bad for “court day” number 666!

Number of days on a court: 666
Number of total hours: 2,837.5
Number of paid coaching hours: 37.5

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

Dewey at Derby

Sunday, May 26, 2024 (Court Day #665)

Last night, Dan Dewey texted a small group of people asking if anyone wanted to come early to Derby to drill. I replied quickly saying “yes”. Heck, I was going to be there early anyway opening up the courts as the site coordinator.

New Backpack

Today was my first day using my new Gearbox backpack. I’ve had it a couple weeks but I hadn’t made the move of taking everything out of my old backpack and putting it into my new one. The new backpack is definitely more spacious. I like that. And I’m still deciding where I want to put certain things.

Chilly

Later this week, it’ll be June. You wouldn’t know it from this morning. As I left my house it was 52°F and overcast. I don’t mind the clouds for pickleball although I wouldn’t mind it being a little bit closer to 60° instead of closer to 50°.

Brace

I brought my knee brace although I wasn’t wearing it this morning. I’ll admit vanity is part of the equation. I don’t want to have one leg tan and the other one white. We’ll see how my knee holds up.

Tomorrow, my son Nicholas and I are heading up to San Carlos to play with my sister-in-law Liz and some of her friends, I think. I’ve been meaning to get up there and play for at least a year, but now it’s actually going to happen.

Horses?

I saw something that I’d never seen this morning, there was a couple of young women riding horses down Swift Street. Aside from parades, I can’t remember ever seeing horses randomly on our city streets.

Derby Park

I parked at 8:38 a.m. and walked in. Mark G. and his wife Maree helped me set up. I was very grateful for their assistance.

Today was a really good day for play at Derby. There’s a tall guy named Aaron who came from tennis and plays really well. Dan Dewey continues to improve and was playing quite well too. There’s a younger blond guy named Jordan who played a number of games with me, Dan, and Aaron. Fun and challenging games.

Allen Goldberg came and I got into some games with him too.

Youngsters Kirby and his friend Juliette were back again. I haven’t been able to play with him since I first met him a few weeks ago. His skills have developed very quickly and I’m sure he’ll continue to improve.

A nice surprise, David L. and Minori came today. They live over by Emeline Street and David said that since it was a nice day, they rode over on bikes to Derby to get in some games. I didn’t get to play with them today, that would’ve been fun.

Brothers

Dan Dewey and I played a game against Jeff and his brother Scott. We beat them 11-1. Scott is working on getting his game up to the level of his brother.

My last game was with the young guy named Joshua against Jeff and Dan Dewey. Joshua is thin and sports a mustache and glasses. It was a back-and-forth game. I was starting to make more errors, I think I was getting tired. I think Joshua may been trying too hard. But Joshua also has a long reach and is very athletic. He made some good shots, he’s just inconsistent. 

As I was about to leave, Joshua asked about where he should be signing up in terms of colors. I appreciate him asking. He said that someone had told him that he should not be signing up in red (advanced) and should be signing up in blue (4.0+). I told him that the person that told him who told him that probably should be signing up in green instead. I told Joshua there’s a lot of “skill creep” going on. I added that if he wants to sign up in blue to ask first and “read the room”. When I mentioned that there’s no way he should sign up in blue when he’s at Brommer, he heartily agreed.

If every day was like today playing at Derby, I’d be happy staying at Derby indefinitely as a site coordinator.

Rec Teaching

As of today, both of my June 4-week Rec classes are sold out. That’s good. That means I get my full pay for the sessions. Rec sent out an email this past week stating that they will no longer compensate instructors a minimum amount regardless of the number of students, but instead will cancel classes that don’t meet their threshold of registrations.

Today was the last day of class for my current group of beginners that includes my wife.

Pickleheads

A couple of weeks ago, Connie Thrasher, the USAP Western Section Leader, sent out an email the USA Pickleball ambassadors in her area, including me:
“On April 16th an announcement was made by USAP regarding our selection of Pickleheads as our official Court and Game Finder tool.

Pickleheads will be replacing Places2Play.org.

It went on to explain more then ask us to download the app and make sure our courts appear and have the correct information. As ambassadors, we get more weight to our recommended edits.

I downloaded the app, registered, and our local courts were already entered. It looks like I can do a little tidying up, but what is there is very workable. I will say that the capabilities of Pickleheads is far more than that of Places2Play. It has a means of organizing play in a group and other coordination features.

Number of days on a court: 665
Number of total hours: 2,832.5
Number of paid coaching hours: 37.5

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

Play in Las Cruces 2024

Thursday, May 23, 2024 (Court Day #664)

I flew out to Las Cruces yesterday to help pack up my daughter’s apartment. She had an all-day practice test today at school for her medical boards, so I boxed up what was left to pack and moved almost all of it to her friends Kristin’s and Adrienne’s garage. (Kristin is the one who plays pickleball with Charlotte when they aren’t swamped with school.)

Charlotte wanted to join Kristin and Adrienne in seeing a friend this evening, so I grabbed some fast food and was at Apodaca Park by 7:45 p.m. (Charlotte said that local players mostly wait until sunset to play due to the desert heat.) Unlike the early morning session nearly two years ago, I couldn’t park right next to the courts and had to park a little down the side road. As I walked to the courts, I passed a temporary chain link fence and graded dirt. I was told later than this would be additional pickleball courts. I’m jealous!

The Courts

I let myself through the gate and greeted the first person I saw. She volunteered that her name is Maddie and she was from El Paso, but she plays regularly here. Maddie said they weren’t using the paddle rack since it wasn’t too busy. Me, I was seeing 10 people both sitting and standing around not playing. But I guess they each had their groups they were playing with.

The view as I arrived.

I left Maddie as she made motions to into a game and walked over to a group of six young people next to an empty court. There was a man named Isaac who’s in the Air Force and his lady friend. The two had never played before. I explained to them the non-valley zone as well as the double-bounce rule. The other four started a game and Isaac and his friend went to an empty court past the divider to hit the ball back-and-forth to get used to it. I didn’t play with any of that group this evening.

First Games

I got into a conversation with a man named Ron. Ron’s wife Keysha and their son Miles were also there. Miles was off in a game. Ron convinced his wife to join us and I was paired with a young fellow named Jake.

Jake and I lost both games we played. In those two, I hit four balls into the net with unforced errors. That’s not to say the primary reason we lost was me, but I certainly didn’t help things by slamming balls into the net!

Milo and Bennie

I was fortunate enough to get into a game with Ron against Milo and Bennie. Ron warned me: “They are 4.0-4.5.” I said, “So, no speed ups unless it’s high.” Ron corrected, “No speed ups unless it’s a slam.”

We lost 3-11. I missed a couple serves and popped up too many shots. And I think Ron was trying too hard, he’d been very consistent in the earlier games, here he made some uncharacteristic errors. Me? I was still playing in a frustrating fashion. 

We played again and while Ron and I had been up 3-0 in that second game, we lost 11-4. It’s great playing against strong competition, especially competition that is unfamiliar.

It was 9:02 p.m. when we were done with that second game.

Getting to Know the Locals

I learned that Ron’s son Miles just took the MCAT test to get into medical school. Ron and Keysha have another son who is working on his doctorate at MIT.

Bennie is a captain in the U.S. Army. There were a number of players from El Paso, which is about 45 minutes away. Ron told me that they only have four permanent courts in El Paso and the rest are dual-lined courts. The locals here find that astounding. Right now, they’re building a lot of new courts in Las Cruces, not just at the park where I played tonight. I kidded with Bennie, “Well, Texas is so small, I can see how they might have trouble fitting in pickleball courts!”

What’s amazing is Bennie said he’d been playing for about only 8 months. I asked if he has tennis background. “Ping-pong.” Ah. It’s crazy that I’ve been playing for 7 years and he’s been playing for 8 months and he’s already better than I am. How is that fair? Ha! Ah, well.

Ron said that the lights here go off at 10:40 p.m. He said they used to go off at 11:00 but the city changed it so that goes off 20 minutes earlier, though he didn’t give a reason. Maybe there aren’t enough players that late to make it worthwhile.

Ouch

Mid-evening, I noticed that my right ring finger knuckle was tender and purple. Hmmm. It must have been hit with the ball. I didn’t remember the impact.

I played with a guy with an unusual name that goes by simply “E” against Alex and Vanessa. Almost all the players there tonight were quite good. We lost and it was mostly on me.

Alex and I played a last game against E and a quiet young Asian fellow whom I didn’t catch his name. Alex and I won that one. I finished up that last game about 10:15 p.m. No one else was willing to squeeze in one more.

Keysha, her son Miles, her husband Ron, me, and a local whom I didn’t get his name.

Everyone was watching a foursome play—the only game going, Milo and Vanessa against Bennie and E—and I watched until about 10:30 p.m. then I said my goodbyes. I had to get up early and on the road tomorrow morning. Ron said something about playing again sometime and I asked if he’d be here in a couple of years. He smiled and said, “I’m not going anywhere.” I probably won’t be back in Las Cruces until Charlotte graduates from Burrell College with her medical degree in 2026. The new courts should be long-done by then!

As I waved goodbye to everyone and headed to the gate, Bennie went out of his way to give me a smile and fist bump.

Nice folks.


Friday, May 24, 2024 (No Play)

As I type this, it’s my daughter’s turn to drive. We’re in the middle of Arizona somewhere in the midst of a 10+ hour trip from Las Cruces to San Diego. We’ll be staying overnight at my mother-in-law’s condo while she’s out of the country site-seeing. My right ring finger is sore to the touch and mildly discolored. Ow.

We stashed some last bit of stuff in Kristin’s garage first thing this morning. Kristin asked me how pickleball went. I told her about the people I met including Ron and Keysha and their son Miles who just took the MCAT… “Oh, I know who Miles is! I didn’t know about he took MCAT!” We talked a bit more and Kristin said, “You know more about them than we do! We just play with them.”


Saturday, May 25, 2024 (No Play)

Charlotte is taking the first leg driving on day two of our trip home. We’ve been on the road a little over an hour. It’s 8:49 a.m. and we’re heading north on the freeway from San Diego. My right wrist is bothering me a bit with certain motions. Maybe it’s the driving I did for hours yesterday. Or awkward screen time in the car. And my right ring finger knuckle is still pink. I was tempted to try and squeeze in some play last night, but after traveling for 9 1/2 hours, the last thing I wanted to do is get back into the car and drive to courts somewhere. But, regardless, the key fob my mother-in-law had mailed to me a couple weeks ago has a dead battery and we had to wait for a car to pull up behind us to open the gate to the private parking garage under her condo building . . . I wasn’t about to drive off and hassle the garage access again. Instead, it was early to bed after a long day.

We’ve spent a lot of the trip with Charlotte either on her laptop or listening to a series board test review podcasts by a Dr. Goljan. I looked him up and, with some math, I figured out the recording is from 2000. Basic medicine hasn’t changed all that much in the last 24 years. I’m learning more about medicine than I’ve ever wanted…

Number of days on a court: 664
Number of total hours: 2,829.5
Number of paid coaching hours: 36

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

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