Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Category: Pickleball (Page 1 of 214)

Bouncing Back… and COVID Again!

Friday, January 26, 2024 (Court Day #625)

My right knee hurt a bit yesterday going up and down stairs. It’s an ongoing adventure. In about a week, it will have been seven months since my knee surgery in June last year.

I took the morning off from work and I arrived at Brommer Park at 9:10 a.m. The lot was completely full, so I parked out on the street. It was 54° and cloudy skies. There were wet patches in the ground from recent rain, but the courts were dry.

It was a busy morning and partway through the session, they made the games to 9 instead of to 11 due to all the people.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the day. I got to see Chuck Oliver and John Conner at the first time in a long time. John was noticeably thinner and when I asked, he said he had lost 60 pounds. Impressive!

Oh, I got to play a fun game with Sycha and Colleen. Sycha was my partner and said, “Nice serve!” On my next serve, she said, “Nice serve!” Then I think she figured out what’s normal for my serves.

I got to play a few games with René, which is good since we have that tournament coming up next month.

My play continued to be an extension of Thursday night, that is, I was playing poorly. Fortunately, over the course of the four hours, my play improved until I got to be serviceable. Well, I wasn’t delighted with my play at the end of the session, but I was at least satisfied with my play. I had moments of 4.0 level play, a lot of 3.5 play, and early in the morning even some 3.0 level play on my part. Bleh.

I left Brommer at 1:23 p.m., headed home, showered, and then drove to work.


Saturday, January 27, 2024 (No Play)

The U.S. Surgeon General is featured on the cover of the latest issue of Pickleball Magazine. I don’t get physical copies, just digital access. A mailed copy used to be included as a benefit of USAPA membership—before it became known as “USA Pickleball”, I still have those old issues around, unless my wife pitched them when I wasn’t looking! (I can be a bit of a pack rat.) Anyway, pickleball is moving up in the world!


Tuesday, January 30, 2024 (No Play)

So, I tested positive for COVID late Sunday morning. Lovely. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) I had already sent out a request by text at 1:02 a.m. to some site coordinators saying I had a sore throat and was coughing and couldn’t sleep. Barb G. had said she’d open Derby Park for me.

Seven Year Anniversary

Yesterday passed uneventfully—sick in bed—marking exactly seven years since the day I tried pickleball for the very first time. I never imagined the world that would open up and how much a part of my life it would become.

As Seen on TV

Today, the San Francisco 49ers were playing in the NFC championship against the Detroit Lions in their home stadium in Santa Clara about 30 miles north of me. For those of you keeping track, yes, I am a Raiders fan. However, the 49ers are also a team that I root for, just not in a diehard fashion. The Niners did horribly in the first half, but then came back and earned themselves a trip to the Super Bowl by playing much better in the second half. You may ask why I’m mentioning this, but USAA continues to run an advertisement during football games featuring the famous former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski playing pickleball.

More prime pickleball exposure!

DUPR

I received an email from DUPR today, announcing that my rating had gone up. They are re-implementing taking into account point differential in each final game score. I thought it was dumb of them to eliminate that data point in the first place since it was such a key advantage of their system. But now it’s back. Good. If you beat someone 11-0, that should mean more than beating them 15-13.

With the revamp, I’m back over 4.0 again, 4.044.

Seriously? Get an Artist!

I was shown an ad in my Facebook feed tonight. I’m obscuring the vendor because they don’t deserve any promotion. A.I. technology is a fun new—and often useful—thing. But don’t feed us crap. It’s annoying. How many errors can we find in the image?

  • one man appears to be holding a large flyswatter
  • there are four balls in play
  • one woman appears to be holding a lollipop or the head of a golf club
  • there’s a fifth player in action at the end of the net
  • the left net post is seemingly also a lamp post
  • one woman is holding a lacrosse stick and maybe a paint roller too, it’s hard to tell
  • one man appears to be holding an oversized BBQ spatula
  • there is a shadow in the middle of the court coming from nothing.

Did I miss anything? (Aside from the oddly-shaped “bird-plane”?)

Come on. Should we assume you pay any better attention to the details in your promoted newsletter? Or that you are going to properly invest the time into it to make it good? I am not impressed.


Thursday, February 1, 2024 (No Play)

While I’m improving, my still really congested from COVID. My fever is gone and I only have mild to no headaches. Last night, through, I couldn’t get to sleep until nearly 3 a.m. and then I had very interrupted sleep since I had cramping in my legs, primarily my hamstrings. Dehydration? Lack of movement? Dunno.

Website Troubleshooting

Yesterday, I spent the vast majority of my day in bed sick, implementing a new contact form for this website. The last few days, I started receiving a relative flood of spam contact form messages, at least a dozen every day. While investigating a solution, I discovered that the company that had created WordPress plugin that I was using was no longer in business and was no longer supporting it. Ah. But now it’s replaced with a new plugin, configured, tested, and working.

Politician Naysayer

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the controversial young radially left congressional representative from New York, was interviewed and said that she believes pickleball is “on its way out.” Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly wouldn’t bet on her claim!


Friday, February 2, 2024 (No Play)

Ok, now here’s an ad image with pickleball that is at least correct. I can almost guarantee it was created by a human being:

Interesting. Two lefties… makes for a better image balance and composition.

Too bad I don’t have “$750K+” around! (For multiple reasons!!)


Saturday, February 3, 2024 (No Play)

Crazy behind-the-back ATP by Jack Ignatowich! Check out this short video!
https://www.instagram.com/reel/C23rrFYgQ9w/?igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

Class Cancellation

I was carbon-copied on email from Sean today—the other beginners pickleball coach—to Mike at Rec.us, saying that Sean was canceling his Sunday pickleball class. With the rain forecast at 99% and storm warning, it totally made sense. I emailed my students today, letting them know that I would be cancelling our class for tomorrow. I then emailed Mike at Rec.us to let him know that I had done so—they’d be refunding the students for their missed class, the last class of the session. With the next session starting, we don’t have a Sunday available to make up the class. Alas. I was bummed that I only got to say goodbye to my students by email.

Ow. Back!

I was putting on a pair of shorts well, standing up when I pulled a muscle in my back just above my left hip. I guess this is middle-age problems. Fortunately, though it’s somewhat painful, it’s nothing like the incapacitating experience I had couple months ago.


Sunday, February 4, 2024 (No play)

It has been a week, and while I was still mildly congested, I took a COVID test and it came back negative. That’s very good news.

The muscle I pulled in my back yesterday appears that it may take a week or so to heal. We will see. I took our younger corgi pepper for a walk, and my back was mildly painful with every step.

I went to a family dinner at my parents’ house to celebrate my nephew‘s birthday. While there my brother John told me that he had played pickleball a couple of times without me. Good for him!

Sports Celebrity Match

The Pickleball Slam 2 was this afternoon with Andre Agassi and his wife Steffi Graf against John McEnroe and Maria Sharapova. Team Agassi won the $1 million prize.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/tennis/2024/02/04/pickleball-slam-mcenroe-agassi-graf-sharapova-on-espn-live-updates/72475147007/


Tuesday, February 6, 2024 (No Play)

Ouch. My back is not happy. Yesterday afternoon it was spasming some while at work. I suspect this may take a couple of weeks to get better. Today, I took some ibuprofen and my wife kindly had fished out the last lidocaine patch for me to use. I cut it in half, which still left a decent-sized patch, leaving the other half for tomorrow.

Just in case, I texted Mark G. to see if he could open for me on Sunday morning, but he said he’d be out of town this weekend.


Thursday, February 8, 2024 (No play)

Today, Mike from Rec.us organized a lunch meeting with Santa Cruz instructors. It was Mike, Bob Hansen, Larry Yien (who is looking to start instructing), and myself. Mike said Sean didn’t respond, maybe he was busy. We talked about nets, expansion of instruction, possibilities in the future. Mike said he was a band nerd in school. Later, as we were leaving, I asked him and he said he still plays saxophone.

Me, Mike, Bob, and Larry.

Walking back to work from Walnut Avenue Cafe, my lower back mildly hurt with every step.

National TV

Oh, and pickleball made it onto Jeopardy again:
https://www.instagram.com/reel/C3ErQghrWO6/?igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==


Saturday, February 10, 2024 (No Play)

My back continues to be sore. My tournament partners are getting antsy to practice with me. I got texts from Jason and René today inquiring about how I was doing. I told them both that I wasn’t ready to play yet, unfortunately.

I had minor back spasms last night while standing. Dave Cox called and asked if I was available to drill tomorrow, but I told him my back has been bothering me and I’m not ready to hit a ball around.

Before bed, I put on a lidocaine patch and took ibuprofen.


Sunday, February 11, 2024 (No Play)

Yesterday, I had asked for coverage this morning for Derby Park. Tom Sherwood opened and Barb Gerry closed for me today. Some nights. I can turn over in bed with only minor pain and other nights, it’s more painful . . . but it’s trending in the right direction.

Breakfast Visitors

One of my wife’s high school friends, Daniel, along with his wife and two daughters were in town and we went out to breakfast at Walnut Avenue Cafe, along with my son Nicholas. It’s kind of funny, if I had even been in this restaurant previously, it must have been years and years, but now, I’m in it twice in one week. (The last time for our Rec lunch meeting on Thursday.)

Beginners Class

I had my first meeting of my February 4-week Rec.us class this afternoon. Rec made an error and set my class time for 1 p.m. instead of 1:30 p.m. That should be fixed going forward. (Sean’s class was also bumped up half an hour by mistake.)

Crazily, one of my eight students dropped out at 8:35 a.m. this morning . . . yes, a little over 4 hours before my class was supposed to start. How am I supposed to fill a spot in that short of a time span? [Later note: Rec informed me that if a student drops out within 72-hours of the first class, the student doesn’t get a refund.] I had my son Nicholas—who had come down to watch the Super Bowl later with me—come to act as the 8th student for my class so we’d have two full sets of doubles.

As it turned out, Katie—who had been in Bob’s intermediate class that I subbed for recently—arrived a bit early and thought she had signed up for my class. I told her that she wasn’t on the list but there was now an opening. She confirmed on her phone that she wasn’t registered and then registered right there and then and I instantaneously received a confirmation from Rec that she was enrolled. Great. I’d have a full class with an even number of students.

Students Vicki, Katie, Denise, Ethan, Henri, Susan, Karyn, Ray and me.

This seemed like a pretty balanced group today, with no one far better or worse than anyone else.


Monday, February 12, 2024 (No Play)

An ad for a fancy paddle carrier appeared on Instagram. My wife was especially into Dooney & Bourke purses some years back, so I sent her a screenshot.

She replied, “Can Dooney & Burke make a more ugly pickleball sling?” She was not impressed, obviously. It reminds me of a strawberry.

Funny!

An assuming and sometimes true meme also appeared.

I don’t know if I’ve ever said that I’d never play again, but wanting to leave the court due to my bad play has certainly happened…even in the last few weeks! (Now that I think more about it, there have been times after playing when I have thought, “Why am I doing this?”)

Tournament Update

So the upcoming Cabrillo tournament operated by PIG (Pickleball is Great) that I’m playing in with Jason and René has been moved to Soquel High School. The email tonight said there was wind damage and the court fence is down at the Cabrillo courts. That’s some crazy wind! I’ve never played at Soquel High—any sport . . . I take that back. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that I played a football game there in high school, but that would have been 40 years ago! When I managed a summer Co-Rec softball team, in later years, we’d practice at the public park next door to that school. Regardless, my knowledge of that facility is very limited beyond knowing where it is without a map!


Tuesday, February 13, 2024 (No Play)

Netflix’s “Break Point” series showed the family and friends and supporters of U.S. tennis star Frances Tiafoe in the stands . . . and there’s this guy at a major tennis event wearing a pickleball T-shirt. I had to stop and go back to make sure. It brought a smile to my face! That “takes some cajones” as they say!

Number of days on a court: 625
Number of total hours: 2,720.5
Number of paid coaching hours: 15.5

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

Pit of Despair

Tuesday, January 23, 2024 (Court Day #624)

So they say in developing skill, the growth curve is not a straight line. It’s more akin to climbing to the top of a jaggy mountain peak, with high points and low points. And tonight was downright depressing. There were games that I played that were just outright embarrassing. So much so that I had to fight a desire to simply leave and head home. It was awful. On that skill graph, today was a severe drop into a valley.

I hit the white tape of the net at least eight times. I hit a few shots beyond the baseline that otherwise would have been winners. An example of ineptitude, I sped up shot at Paul—crosscourt, how dumb!—but I know he has very fast hands and so he simply ended the rally when I gave him patty cake shots like that.

On the upside, I went out and got some exercise. My serves were strong and reliable. They were also some resets that I made back into the kitchen off of slams.

But overall it was the disaster.

Arrival

I arrived a few minutes before 7 p.m. The lot was full and I watched a slow moving car that had apparently failed to find a parking spot in the overflow area next to the courts. I ended up parking on the street nearby.

Yup. People waitin’!

I was talking to one of the regulars, and we agreed that we only recognized about half of the people that were there. Pickleball continues to grow like crazy.

My first game was with two UCSC students, Diana and Cait (short for Caitlyn). There is a tall guy named John, a 3.0 player, and he was our fourth. He played with Diana and I played with Cait. Cait was the weakest of the players. I held back in that game and tried not to make the rallies end too quickly.

I was able to get into some better games with Paul, David, and Scott A. I picked Scott as my partner, leaving the two stronger players as my opponents. I wasn’t after balance, I was after the hardest game. Which it was, Scott and I didn’t win a game in this configuration.

Bleh

Not at to dwell on it, but if I play like this in René and my tournament, it’s over. The good news, is I do tend to play for better during the day than at night and I also play better when it’s not the end of a long day.

I guess one other consideration, although it’s typical for me, is, I didn’t eat dinner before I played tonight, though midway through the evening I did drink the protein drink that I had in my backpack. But I doubt that made any difference, I often play in the mornings without eating since dinner the night before.

I played until right before the lights went out at 9:30 p.m.

It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to play next.

I woke up in the middle of the night and it occurred to me that I had received the flu vaccine shot about 1 p.m. I wonder if that could have thrown me off at Skypark.

Coaching

The one really positive occurrence this evening was one of the regulars, a woman, came up to me and said, “I hear that you are a really good coach.” And later, Aud and Shaye came up and they said that they are working on serving deep, returning deep, and the third shot drop that I had them all work on at the Intermediate class that I substituted for last Thursday. At that Intermediate class, I had pointed out to Aud that she might do better standing a little bit more to her left when serving so that she could take more returns with her forehand and less with her backhand or have to adjust less to do so. Little things add up. She shared that she was working on that too.


Wednesday, January 24, 2024 (No Play)

I woke up at 5 a.m. with a mild headache and a slight sore throat. Those symptoms went away over the course of the day, thankfully.

Here’s a fun video of NFL head coaches being quizzed about the “fastest growing sport in America”:
https://www.instagram.com/reel/C2QUc1WONRB/?igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

Pickleball continues to get more and more popular.

Number of days on a court: 624
Number of total hours: 2,716.5
Number of paid coaching hours: 14

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

All Day at Brommer, MRI-PET

Thursday, January 18, 2024 (Court Day #623)

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Mike at Rec.us to substitute teach for Bob Hansen‘s Intermediate pickleball class at Brommer Park. I had agreed and today is that day. Bob’s two classes run from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and then 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I decided to take the morning off from work and head to Brommer to get in some play before I had to teach. I asked René if she was available because we have a tournament coming up in a month and she was able to arrange things so she could be there this morning.

Yesterday, my right knee was aching a little bit. First, it was on outside of my knee and then the inside of my knee. This morning, my right knee has mild pain on the outside. I took a couple of ibuprofen to stave off any inflammation and pain from playing this morning.

I left my house and got about half a mile before I realized that I had left my phone at home had to turn around and go back. That’s a rarity! I texted René that I’d be a few minutes later than discussed.

Brommer

It was a hazy morning and my car dashboard read 50°F when I pulled into the Brommer Park parking lot at 9:24 a.m. About a quarter of the parking lot was still empty.

At 9:25 a.m. with lots of long sleeves and pants going on!

René was sitting on the wall getting ready, and the first thing we did was move to an open court to warm up. Kim, the one who wears the cap with a star on it, asked if she could warm up with us, and we agreed. Kim was on one side of the net and René and I were on the other. Initially, René was on my left and I was on the right. We dinked for a bit and then we worked on drop shots with René and me back and Kim with the net. René and I were consistently dropping good shots and Kim commented on it. It’s nice that those are coming along in my game.

Games

We rolled right into actual games, with me spending most of my time with René as my partner, as planned. Overall, the games were good, with the exception of one. The games I typically enjoy the most are the ones where the skill levels of the players are equal or better to my own. One was not and make for a less interesting game.

Later, René and I were leading 8 -3 or maybe 8-5 in the game against Marcus and Francis. But momentum shifted and we ended up losing that one.

Unfortunately, I hit the white net tape in that three or four times over the 3 1/2 hours today. I’ve been much happier if that was zero. I also missed two or three serves into the net when trying to serve hard. That’s a bit unusual as my serves tend to be very reliable.

Bangers

René and I have an ongoing disagreement over bangers. René is contention is that regularly hitting the ball hard is not playing pickleball. My contention is, if you are hitting the ball hard regularly to your opponent and your opponent can’t handle it, then that’s what you use regardless of “the way the game should be played“.

In a game with René against Marcus and Francis, I remember one dropshot that was definitely too high on my part, and Marcus simply angled it off the court for a winner. Of course, I was disappointed with myself, but with retrospect, that’s a far better shot than having my drop shot land in the net and not even giving my opponents a chance to hit the ball. A minor solace for a non-professional player like me, I guess.

When you get into games that are good enough, you have all four players at the net get into a firefight, who can then reset the point and get back to dinking. That’s not something that you see in most intermediate and lower games. Those are fun to experience.

Teaching

I played all morning and then right up to 12:58 p.m. when my intermediate class was just about starting. I had warned by game-mates and, indeed, had to stop mid-game.

There were some people using one of the two rolling county Rec.us nets so, being a nice guy, I brought out my portable net from my car and used that for one of the two courts for the class.

Both groups of students paid attention and followed directions. The first class had a woman named Deb, who I met at Willowbrook a couple of months ago for my very first beginner Rec class. She had been playing with a group of friends there, including a woman going by “Debzo” who was also in the same class as Deb. The second class had a woman named Chris who I was familar with but to be reminded of her name. Also in the second class was Aud and my around-the-corner neighbor Shaye (whose husband is Mauricio). But I didn’t know the majority of the students.

There were only 7 students instead of 8 in each class which meant I had to be on a court to complete the two sets of doubles. I rotated through to get exposed to all the students.

Both my classes seemed very happy.

My text out to the two classes of students and some responses.

Friday, January 19, 2024 (No Play)

Back in October, barefoot Terry S. had come by my work and, with my knee surgery recovery coming up in our discussion, she mentioned a joint study at Stanford. I was intrigued and she texted me the link later. I connected up with the study and had originally set up a visit in December but I had thrown out my back and couldn’t go. We rescheduled it for today. It’s to do scans with a joint “under load”.

Stanford

After roughly an hour drive, I arrived at 2:35 p.m. at Stanford University in Palo Alto for their study, at their Lucas Center for Imaging. Two biomedical engineering young women grad students—one was Ananya, to whom I’d been talking and texting—were waiting for me in the parking lot even though it was lightly raining. I had texted them when I was three minutes away, but still, they were very much looking out for my well-being. They set me up with parking then led me into the foyer to fill out paperwork. One was there only as a mentor to the other, supervising.

The Lucas Center on a nicer day, courtesy Google Maps. I parked on the right.

Once done, they took me to the floor and area where I’d spend the most of the next three hours. I changed into their provided scrubs shirt and pants. The MRI tech, Dawn, who, it turns out, lives in Santa Cruz a few blocks from my house, put in two I.V.s.—one on my right arm and one on my left and drew some blood.

Dawn said the large medical device, an MRI-PET combination, was the first in the country but now there are three, including one at a children’s hospital. This one, she said, is for research only.

The Scan

When I was lying down and about to be fed feet first into the machine, Dawn injected some fast-decaying radioactive solution into my I.V. for the PET part of the scan. I’d had an MRI for my shoulder and my right knee a few years ago, so this wasn’t all new to me. The scan took 45 minutes to an hour and you just lay there in your own thoughts. The machine is quite loud, but they inserted foam earplugs then added hearing protection earmuffs. Even then, it’s far from a quiet experience.

The Load

Once the first scan was done, the primary grad student led me outside then down some stairs to a tent in an open-air atrium. There we connected up with the other student from the parking lot and a new third grad student, another young woman. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining, just an occasional drop now and then, but it was a touch chilly—it is winter after all! They recorded me with two mobile phones mounted on tripods. Up the stairs. Stop. Wait. Turn around. Down the stairs. Stop. Wait. Turn around. Up the stairs. We did this for ten cycles. The main student excitedly shared that they could estimate my skeletal movements, then she held up the laptop, turned the screen towards me, and showed a yellow simulation of my skeleton on a black background. So this was the “load” part. Scan, load, scan.

The Second Scan

Once done with the steps, we headed back to the machine for another 45 minutes to an hour scan. From there, maybe another blood draw then the I.V.s were removed and I was free to change and go. The grad student kindly led me back out through the maze of the building to the parking lot at about a quarter to 6 p.m. A little over three hours total.

Dinner

My son Nicholas had been recruited by my traveling sister-in-law Liz and her family—yes, the pickleball playing one—to watch their dog at their house in San Carlos. Nicholas and I arranged to meet at her house where we hung out for a little bit, had pizza from a shop downtown, then I left Nicholas to watch Lucky and I headed back to Santa Cruz.

It’s a Wrap!

I learned this study is multi-year, so they’ll probably want me to come back for more scans. For each visit, they give me $100 for gas and time. The benefit for me is if their radiologist finds anything needing attention—anything torn in my knee, for instance—then I’m to be notified and my doctor can order an MRI that isn’t proprietary and secret. Basically, I get a free “super checkup” on my lower extremities: hips, knees, ankles. I’ll take it.

Number of days on a court: 623
Number of total hours: 2,714
Number of paid coaching hours: 14

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

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