Pickleball Journey

Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Skill Creep at Derby, Eye, Eye, Eye

Sunday, September 3, 2023 (Court Day #608)

As I was driving to Derby Park to open up, I was musing that this is just about the most perfect pickleball weather. Overcast, negligible breeze, and 63°. I don’t know if I would change anything.

Playing Thursday night seemed to push my knee a little bit. Yesterday, I was up in Pleasanton for the annual Scottish highland games, followed immediately by a San Jose Earthquakes soccer game in, well, San Jose. I’d never been to a professional soccer game before, so that was fun. However, going down bleachers stairs was uncomfortable on my right knee. Not crippling in any sense, just uncomfortable with mild pain.

It wasn’t all as busy today compared to last Sunday. We had about 40 people, so the wait wasn’t too long between games. It gradually got very mildly breezy and that only had an occasional effect on shots.

Old-timer (like me) Jeff—watch for his spin! Caught looking serious!
Mark the cook (often at Skypark) and a couple somewhat newish regulars.

Skill Creep

As the site coordinator, after playing a game with one friendly regular (I’m leaving out his name), I asked what his DUPR rating was. He said he’s been playing for about a year and he didn’t have one. I casually mentioned that I thought he might be signing up in one level too high. Boom! It was like I had just told him that I thought he played like garbage. He got very indignant and told me he’d stop coming to play at Derby. Boy, right to the nuclear option. I talked him down. I get it, everyone wants good games. I do, that’s why I said something. And as I told him, the alternative is I sign up in a higher/highest level. And maybe I should. Currently, my DUPR rating is holding at exactly 4.0. And as Tony said, “red at Derby isn’t the same as red at Brommer”.

More Sign-up Challenges

I was signing up in red/advanced, but wasn’t getting the best games. (See the above paragraph.) Charles arrived and I convinced him to sign up in blue with me. The concern was whether there would be enough players signing up in that 4.0+ level. We added Tony Sloss as our third. The problem was there was a group of players who had been signing up in blue previously but wanted to continue to play together, so they signed up en masse as red to avoid filling out the remainder of our blue box. I complained politely to Detier and Ying about leaving us hanging, and Charles also later complained, then Dan Dewey (who, when we explained the situation, commented, “ooo, that would be a good game”) took pity on our waiting box and left his “group” to join us. We had a game. And it was a good one.

The best games of the day, by far, were Charles and myself against Tony and Detier. Charles and I did lose both games but they were close and rallies were extended. We’d make a shot that would normally end the rally but, instead, the ball would come back. It was awesome! Afterward, Tony said that I played very well. (Though I didn’t feel that way myself, I thought I made too many errors.)

Dieter had been playing offhanded due to an injury but is back to playing with his natural left hand. He can now really whip the ball. Formidable. Nice.

Rule Check

Misa had hit what was a successful-appearing more or less ATP attempt, but the ball had clipped the top of the net post. Misa was celebrating her winner but Dan Dewey and his partner quizzed me about the shot. I walked over onto the court, had it explained to me and told them that the net post is, by rule, considered a “permanent object” and the ball touching it is an immediate fault. The ball was dead once it hit that post. Sorry, Misa.

Eye Protection

I was hit in the face with a ball by Charles. We were in a firefight at the net and he hit the ball at my right temple simultaneously hitting the brim of my cap and the frame of my sunglasses. (It was an awkward spot to move my paddle to defend.) Mildly uncomfortable, but no injuries to speak of. Another great example of why to wear eye protection!

Forever game

I was in a game with a guy named Phil as my partner. (Or maybe it’s Bill—he’s relatively new.) We were playing against Anne and Rick A. and down significantly. We started to crawl back. John (Robin’s boyfriend) and Dan Dewey were waiting for the imminent end of our game to play again. Only the end wasn’t imminent! I served the ball to Anne right to left and dropped the ball in the front outside corner for an ace. I then served the ball to Rick left to right and dropped the ball in the front outside corner for another ace. (I like it when I can dispel the “Did you do that on purpose?” comments!) We clawed back and tied up the score 10-10. This, just by itself, took probably another 10 minutes. John saw where this game was headed and wandered off for a minute anticipating our win. Only not long after, Anne and Rick scored a couple unanswered points and finished us off. When John found out, he was shocked, “You lost?”
“We lost.”
It’s funny, swings in momentum!


After counting the day’s donations—with John, who agreed to be my counter-signer—I left a Derby Park at 1:45 p.m.


Some long-time friends of my wife and me, Richard and Laurie, had a party at Beer Thirty in Soquel to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. (Funny, I started typing “weeding”! No, there was no work involved!) Also invited was David and his wife along his daughter who is about the same age as my kids. David is a doctor, but he’s also a regular in the evenings at Skypark . We talked about pickleball for almost an hour! It was a great conversation. Funny, when someone asked about us both playing pickleball, David laughed, “He kicks my butt.” I don’t know about that, I can’t get lazy playing against David!

Number of days on a court: 608
Number of total hours: 2,672.5
Number of paid coaching hours: 2

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

Clawing Back at Skypark

Thursday, August 31, 2023 (Court Day #607)

Yesterday, I weighed in at 179.8 pounds, breaking into the 170s after starting my diet and exercise plan at the very end of May at 196.8. I’m sure I’ll pop back up into the 180s over the next week or so, but I’m hoping to dip down permanently soon.


I arrived in Skypark shortly after 6:30 p.m. I must have good karma this month, since again, like last time, a car pulled out just as I arrived, so I was able to park right up against the courts in the main parking lot.

Things are fairly busy, but nothing like it was on Tuesday. Tuesday was crazy.

I was playing relatively poorly tonight, though I got better and better as evening went on.

Sometime in the last two days, the City of Scotts Valley fixed the three burnt out lights over the courts. This is great because it was quite dark on Tuesday night. Thank you, SV!

Blind serving

For one game, Kristin L. and I were matched up against Mark Dettle and a new player named Melissa. We took a quick and significant lead, so I told Kristen, “I’m going to serve with my eyes closed.” Which I did and got the serve in easily. A few points later, I told her, “I’m going to see how fast I can serve it with my eyes closed.” I served to Mark and making a good and fast serve. Kristin was funny: “You should serve with your eyes closed more often!”

Over the course of the entire night, I had about a half dozen of my serves returned into the net. At least my serve is making life harder for my opponents.


I played a couple of games with a blonde-haired woman who I had not previously met named Katie. Katie, like me, went to Harbor High School, though she graduated 12 years after I did. She said her husband graduated in 1992. I shared that brother Mike graduated from Harbor in 1991 so I told her that her husband might know my brother. She asked what his name is and I said, “Mike Lenz.” She told Charles later that she can be sarcastic, but I didn’t see that. Katie is an upbeat and amusing person.

La Madrona

In a conversation I overheard between Katie and Tim H. (the tennis coach), La Madrona came up. I asked Katie if she belongs to the La Madrona Athletic Club and she said she did. I asked about the pickleball courts there and she said that while they have lights there, it’s hit or miss if there are enough players to make it a worthwhile visit. She said that with Skypark, you are guaranteed to get into games. Katie must have had some tennis background. We partnered for a game then later I played against her when she was partnered with Charles. She has strong drives—she’s a lefty—though she still has work to do on other aspects of her game. I’d put her at a solid 3.0. She’s not a 3.5 yet.

With my wife pushing to join the La Madrona club, I’ve been recently thinking about what their guest policy is. If my wife and I are members, I wonder if I can invite three people to come play with me at the club as guests. I’m not sure what the protocol is, but I guess will likely be finding out. I suspect it’s not an unlimited open invitation for guests of members.


The last three games were the games of the night. I was playing with a young guy named Ralph against David (still with no Minori) in a tall guy named John. John and Ralph I didn’t know. Ralph turned out to be far better than I was expecting, and John was almost as good. David and John beat Ralph and me by significant margin in the first game. In the second game, we got closer, it was 11-7. And last game, Ralph and I were leading 10-9 when the lights clicked off. “Awwwwww!” Those are a lot of fun.

A few of us hung out and talked. David said I was playing well. Perhaps in those last games. But it took me over two hours to get dialed in, hopefully, that’ll shorten as I knock off the rust.

And I got into my car at about 10 o’clock after chatting with the guys after play. I realized that I had accidentally left my pants and my shirt at work. That’s a first! I had changed out of them and left them in a prominent place on a counter so I wouldn’t forget them, but then I exited a different way. That was annoying and amusing at the same time. It did mean a pitstop to pick up my clothes, but fortunately, it only added about five minutes to my total time getting home since it’s only a few blocks out of my way.

Pickleball in the News

My wife belongs to a book group of all women and pickleball somehow became a topic of conversation in their group text strand. Kristen shared an article with me about a woman in San Francisco (about an hour north of us), who is complaining about the noise of pickleball from across the street from her house. What is kind of ironic and hypocritical is the fact that her $36 million house has a private pickleball court in its backyard!
Understandably, the woman has received some public criticism.


So, this isn’t brand new news, but it’s been building up. There was a merger agreement between MLP and PPA in November last year, but MLP never signed the agreement to validate it. Now, it seems, that each organization is independently scrambling to exclusively lock up pro players.
We’ll see how this hashes out in the coming months.

Friday, September 1, 2023 (No Play)

I’m feeling my knee a bit this morning. Since returning to work after my knee surgery about three months ago, I’ve been icing my right knee at least once a day and often twice a day.

Why Positive Partner Communication Matters

I definitely want to share this short video I ran across this morning.
If you want your partner to do poorly, criticize repeatedly.
If you want your partner to do well, encourage repeatedly.
Here’s a perfect example from another sport:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a court and had criticism result in even worse play by me. Sometimes, I’ve even just been intimidated by my partner’s higher skill level and had it mess with my head and consequently my play.


I haven’t mentioned this before, but my two recent goals have been to make sure my drop shots clear the net and also to better shadow the ball, that is, tracking even more side to side and thereby not leaving a hole down the middle.

I believe I’ve been doing better on those. Watching a pro match a few weeks ago , I was surprised on high some of the drop shots were from the baseline to the net. If that drop shot didn’t work, they’d try again. Eventually—though not always—the drop shot would work and the team would work their way to the net. Too low and the rally is over, too high and there’s another chance.

College Pickleball Classes?

An email pickleball newsletter this week shared how a college in the San Diego area is offering pickleball classes as if this was some new thing. Well, Cabrillo, our local junior college has been offering such classes for years now. In fact, they are on their second instructor (Tony) after the first one (Kim) retired 2-3 years ago. I looked up their current list of classes.

Cabrillo is on a semester system, so by offering pickleball classes “Fall, Spring, and Summer”, that’s all year around.

Number of days on a court: 607
Number of total hours: 2,668
Number of paid coaching hours: 2

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

Crowded at Skypark

Tuesday, August 29 2023 (Court Day #606)

This morning, Jean Yi, the reporter, texted me with a link to her finished article in Lookout Santa Cruz:

Well-balanced and accurate. She didn’t use any quotes from me from our interview at Brommer Park, but she interviewed a bunch of people. If I said something controversial, I’m sure I would have been included!

Near the bottom of the article, there’s a photo of Larry serving with Mark Dettle on his left as his partner.


As I pulled into the Skypark parking lot shortly after 6:30 p.m., I could tell things were quite busy. Fortunately for me, a car pulled out right as I pulled in, otherwise I would’ve had to park a couple blocks away.

As I walked in, it was as busy ever seen it. In fact, it got so busy that Mark Dettle fished out the signup board out of the storage bin. I never seen that used at night. (I suspect that it’s common on Saturday mornings there.)

Players signing up for games and waiting. That’s Rob A. and someone I don’t know on the right.

With that many players and with no means of sorting skill levels, you just sign up as best you can. There are a lot of new names and faces, so I just signed up and hoped that I would end up with some good games.

I have number of people inquire about my absence and explained my knee surgery to about half a dozen times to various people. It was nice to be missed!


Two or three of the overhead lights above the courts are burnt out. It’s really a shame as it makes it harder to see the ball and one court in the corner by the entrance is actually quite dark. There are a few times when I lost the flight of the ball for lack of illumination.


David was there but he said his girlfriend Minori is traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I saw David on a court with Casey and his dad, Tim and also the tennis coach Tim. I was very jealous. I would love to be in the game with those people. As it was, I didn’t play with any of them tonight. Avery was there along with his girlfriend Massie, who remembers my daughter Charlotte from Santa Cruz High School.

One fun game was with Mike (Colin‘s dad), against two young guys, Ryan and Jonathan. In a game earlier with Simon against Jonathan and Scott, Simon had warned me the Jonathan hits hard. He hits somewhat hard, but definitely not on the same level of David or Matt Smith. Mike and I found ourselves down 2-3 to Ryan and Jonathan but we came back to win. That was on a better-lit court and I was playing better.

Overall, I fell to my play tonight was still on the sloppy side.

The lights clicked off at 9:33 p.m. I got in a good three hours of play, which was great.

Daughter and Pickleball?!?

When I finished up at Skypark, there was a text from my daughter Charlotte: “Played pickleball for the first time. Would play again.” She included a photo—which she asked me not to share—with her standing on a court posing with two female friends on either side. When I pointed out that she played pickleball in middle school, she replied, “I guess like a million years ago.” (More like 12 years, but who’s counting?) Charlotte is very competitive and at 5’9″ is tall for a female, so she could be really good if she plays regularly.

Number of days on a court: 606
Number of total hours: 2,665
Number of paid coaching hours: 2

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

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