Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 4)

Night Ball!

Wednesday, March 16, 2017 (A.K.A. Court Day #7)

It turns out I had the evening free after work and with the blessing of my somewhat neglected wife, after stopping very briefly at home, I raced out to the pickleball courts at Skypark in Scotts Valley for the very first time. The SCPC announcement said the gathering was 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and I got there at 6:40 to find packed courts. (The parking lot at the courts was full, so I had to park in the neighborhood streets.)


Being that we just had the time change a few days ago, it was still light for little while before the court lights were required.

Dave (my former neighbor) was there along with Eric and John (sailor). There were a smattering of regulars from Derby Park as well.

Listen To Your Elders

So, ok. I’ll admit that I’m probably wrong. I played a game later in the evening with Kent. I’ve never played with Kent—that I recall—but Kent came from the court with a SCPC 5.0 doubles player,  Terry Long. Jerry—another tournament player—was on that court along with a younger fellow who I don’t know the name of yet but who is also really good. It was fun watching them. They were all really good. Lob, volley, dink, dink, dink, volley, volley. Impressive shot after impressive shot.

I partnered with Kent. Across the net was Jukka (pronounced “you-kah”) and a man I didn’t know. Jukka is one of those guys who can spin the ball and occasionally ace serves.

So, Kent walked up to me between points and quietly told me, “You are quick on your feet. But you are moving through your shots. You should split step, set up, then hit. You shouldn’t move through your shots.” He was talking in reference to returning a serve or returning a shot sent from the baseline where I had time to adjust to the ball. Given that I’ve had two more-experienced pickleball players tell me this and I’ve also read about it, I need to take it to heart.

I have to say that amongst the rookie shots into the net or slams that went long beyond the baseline, I did make a shot that no one expected me to get to—even me! I can’t remember if it was a short and low slam or it was a dink when I was too far back, but regardless, my shot won the point and also won some accolades from my courtmates. That was a nice feeling. I just need to reduce the rookie mistakes and increase the highlight reel shots—that ratio is way out of balance right now.

Kent also quietly told me that our unnamed opponent had a weaker backhand. Later on in the game, I hit a shot a hard cross court to his backhand and it was returned into the net. Kent turned to me gave me a knowing smile and look that said, “You listened. Good job.” And we did win that match.


Yes. I did miss one serve tonight in my 2 1/2 hours of playing. But that darn thing sure looked on the centerline to me! Next time.

Of Mice and Paddles

A woman had a blue Paddletek Graphite Tempest paddle resting on the bench next to me. That’s the one that I’ve been considering purchasing. She left it unguarded so I slipped it into my backpack. Kidding! (Did you think I was serious? Ha!) I did pick it up and get a feel for it, however. It was somewhat heavier that the paddle that I have temporarily on loan from John. I did notice that Jerry and another really good player at the courts were using this model paddle. I liked the lighter feel of the loaned paddle so it has made me think twice about the Tempest. Still, maybe it’s the one I want.


I overheard John asking Dave if he was definitely going to play with him in the tournament in Palo Alto. Dave said yes. That meant I was out as John’s partner. I got Eric’s contact information and asked him what he was doing on May 6. He laughed and said he didn’t know but he’d check his calendar. I told him about the tournament and he seemed intrigued. Eric had a potential conflict on that weekend, so depending on what his wife wants, Eric will have to decide. A relaxing weekend somewhere? Or pickleball? Being that he’s been at each of the events the past week as I have—Sunday, yesterday morning and tonight—pickleball might just win!

I have no illusions that we’d have any hope of even getting close to winning, but I think it  would be fun and a great experience.

Hmmm. Playing three times in five days. I guess I really am hooked!

Hooky from Work

Well, it’s not really hooky, I’ll still easily get my 40+ hours in working this week regardless, but I took the morning off to play pickleball today, my first mid-week outing for pickleball. I’ll talk about that, but first let’s finish up some other business.

Mark Responds

So, I wrote Mark Renneson of Third Shot Sports last night and he wrote back exactly 2 hours later, at 12:36 a.m.! Here’s my message to him (trimmed down to the pertinent bit):

So, just how critical is it to be in a split step when you hit the ball?

I used to play tennis (not on a  team) back in college—at one point I was playing 4 days a week—and being that the court is big, sometimes you had no choice but to hit while on the run. It was an occasional necessity.

Granted, it’s far easier to control a shot if you are set. But am I missing the boat in not making every effort to set up prior to making contact with the ball?

I suppose my most obvious “error” in this regard is an old tennis habit, that is, hitting the ball while on the run from the baseline to the net returning a short hit.

And part of his reply:

I think that you are accidentally conflating ‘split step’ and ‘set up’. The split happens around the time your opponent is making contact. It is a way of preparing yourself to move to the ball regardless of where it is hit. You use a split step but are never ‘in’ one. 

The set up is what you (should) do just prior to your own contact with the ball. That is, you split, see where the ball is hit, move to it, set up (hopefully) and then hit. The idea, as you point out, is to be in a stable, balanced position, a comfortable distance from the ball.

The split happens when the ball is on the other side of the court. the set up happens when it is on your side. 

Mark went on to share a few videos, including a couple about movement on the court . . . staying “bouncy” and preparing to move where you need to. Thanks, Mark!

My First Wednesday Outing (Day 6 on the Courts)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017. I coordinated with my staff the night before to make sure things would be covered if I didn’t come in until 1 p.m. I was still a bit sore from Sunday, but it was not enough to stop me!

I arrived at Derby Park about 9:10 a.m. and people where just finishing setting up the nets under a cloudy sky as you can see from the photo here. (From left: Jeff with the killer spins, a guy I don’t know, elder Tom in a white hat, and another fellow I don’t know yet.)


Eric arrived soon and shortly thereafter, John my friend the sailor also appeared. Along with Dave, the retired firefighter, who used to live right next door to me until he and his wife split up and he moved out.

While things were slower to get going, the courts did fill up over the course of the morning. It was a morning of highs and lows. I’ve determined that it takes me a few games to really get warmed up. I tend to make more mistakes early. I also have a penchant to hit the ball too low and into the net on occasion. I also had a few slams that were a few inches being the baseline! Ouch.

I played a game with Wayne against Tom and Dave. We were getting clobbered (maybe 10-1) but we came back and bit and lost by several points. It was a reminder of how much work I have yet to do to become good.

Later on, a woman I was partnered with was asking, “You must play some other racket sports. This is only your 6th time?” I told her some of the tennis neurons programmed from college must still be in my head. Nice to hear, but I’m still making way too many unforced errors.

There’s one player, Bruce (not the Bruce I know through work), who is an amazingly fit 67-year-old. I would have put him at least 5 years younger. He said, “I can still do my 10 pull-ups a day.” I played with him a few times, very personable guy.

The Invitations

John walked over between matches to the waiting area along the fence near the gate and said to Dave and myself, “Would either of you like to play at the tournament in Palo Alto?” Dave immediately responded. I would have to check my calendar being that I’m not retired like John and Dave. I contacted John later via email later on today and he had already officially extended first dibs to Dave. If Dave can’t do it, I’ll get the nod. I checked out the tournament and it’s called The Bay Area Senior Games. “Senior Games”? Ack! I’m most definitely not a senior! But according to their registration information as long as you turn 50 in the 2017 calendar year, you can enter. I never thought I’d be happy to be turning 50! Maybe Eric would be interested if it doesn’t work out with John. I have to get Eric’s contact information.

Speaking of Eric, he stopped me after the day was done about 12:15 and said he and Rick (whom I’d just met and played with) were heading to West End Tap for lunch. I hesitated. I told him it was tempting but I’d promised my staff that I’d be in by 1 p.m. and I still had to go home and shower. Drat. Work. He said that they go out to lunch regularly after Wednesday pickleball, so I told him a definite “yes” for the future.


After playing today, I have to wonder about the player ratings. Just how much does consistency play a roll in grading? Being that I miss shots occasionally, am I really a 3.0 and not a 3.5? Not that it really matters right now, but it’s my personality to want to know. I can say that I didn’t miss even one serve today. And one serve went right to my opponent’s backhand and she returned it into the net—not an ace, but I did make it more difficult for her.

Night Pickleball!

I just got an email message from the Santa Cruz Pickleball Club (SCPC) saying there’s a special free night pickleball gathering out in Scotts Valley tomorrow night—talk about not much warning! I don’t know if I’m free yet (waiting to hear back from some friends) but if I am . . .

Mystery Solved

In my last post, I mentioned how odd it was that everyone left well before the noon hour. I emailed Dave Allenbaugh, the organizer of the Santa Cruz Pickleball Club and he promptly responded with: “I was at Derby and we actually finished after 12:00. I bet you didn’t reset your watch for the spring time change.”

Duh! I forgot to reset the dash clock in my car! I left at 12:20, not 11:20! (It’s corrected now!)

Aches and Pains

On the flip side, the good news with me playing longer than initially thought is that I wasn’t very fatigued even after a good 3 hours of play. Maybe I’m building some pickleball stamina. I can say that I’m still getting sore though. Lower back and . . . ah . . . er . . . butt muscles as well! Hopefully, this improvement will continue to improve with time, that is, I’ll get less sore with each outing.

Double Hits and the Rules

I’d heard different accounts of the rule for unintentionally hitting a ball twice with your paddle while in one swing motion, so Dave suggested that I look at the official rules. Here’s the pertinent rule from the INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF PICKLEBALL (IFP) OFFICIAL TOURNAMENT RULEBOOK (Last Revised: June 1, 2015):

“12.A.  Carry and Double Hits. Balls can unintentionally be hit twice or “carried”, but this must be during a continuous, single-direction stroke. If the stroke is not continuous, not single-direction, or if it is a definite second push, the hit is illegal. (revised April 1, 2011)”

So, while double hits are generally illegal, there is an exception which applies to the instance I experienced. I’ve only run into it once, maybe twice, in the however many hundreds of shots I’ve made in the roughly 12-13 hours of play I’ve had so far. It’s a pretty rare circumstance. I’m still at a loss as to exactly why it happens, but the ball manages to do it. It’s a rapid fire “tap-tap” when it occurs—but it’s perfectly legal as long as the hitter isn’t trying to pull a fast one!


I was reading a website that had a long page of interview after interview with well-known pickleball players. I did a screenshot on my iPad so I could refer to it later. In one interview, the player (Scott Clayson) said of his preferred paddle: “…it has durability so it lasts longer than some other paddles I’ve used in the past.” That paddle is the Paddletek Graphite Tempest. I could try a bunch of different paddles, but I’m thinking of just starting with a good one that’ll hold up. I figure I’ll get used to whatever I have. But I’m going to wait a while longer before I pull the trigger.


Some Advice

Tom, (the elder, not the younger) whom I played with early yesterday, shared with me a tip. He said that he noticed that I tend to be moving sometimes when I hit the ball versus stationary. He said, “When they hit the ball, you should stop and get ready with your feet apart. It’s called a ‘split step’.” After all the reading I’d done, I already knew what a split step was. And I’d read the advice about stopping before hitting the ball.

Now, call me arrogant or whatever, but I’m not yet convinced that I have to follow this advice. And maybe I’m wrong and will change my mind with time. I can’t say. But I currently believe it’s possible to properly control the ball even when hitting while moving. It’s simply hand-eye coordination. Yes, it adds a level of complexity. I’d readily admit that. It’s easier to hit the ball correctly when you don’t have a human body velocity variable in the equation. On the other hand, if you can master it, you’ll have an easier time both getting to the ball and being in the proper position for the next shot.

I think I’ll get a second opinion. Mark Renneson of Third Shot Sports is always inviting people to contact him with questions. I’m going to email him, what the heck.

Player Ratings

I talked about this before, but I’m wondering if my self-evaluated rating of a 3.5 player is correct. Based on the IFP ratings, I must be a 3.5 player. I easily meet all those criteria. I can safely say I’m not a 4.0 player yet.

Here are the 4.0 criteria (with how it applies to me in bold):

  • Consistent and dependable strokes, including directional control and depth on both forehand and backhand shots.  More or less. About half a dozen times in a game, a shot will go somewhere I don’t want it to—a wide passing shot, a dink into the net, and a dink or an upward volley that go too high.
  • Reliable serves, lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys and can use spin shots with some success.  Not so much spin shots. And lobs are probably effective about one-third of the time. Overheads are at least 90% reliable. Approaches and volleys are not always perfect, but more reliable than not. 
  • Occasionally can force errors when serving. I’ve done this only once. I’ll still have a bad serve once every few games.
  • Rallies may be lost due to impatience.  I’ve been commended by my patience on the court.
  • Uses the dink shot and drop shots to slow down or change the pace of the game. I’ve won points on my drop shots, so probably ok here.
  • Demonstrates 3rd shot strategies – drop shots, lobs, and fast-paced ground strokes. I still need work here, such as making sure I always hit to the back player!
  • Aggressive net play and teamwork in doubles is evident. This is a work in progress. Aggressive net play? Check. Teamwork, I’m now tracking with the ball and being aware of where my partner is in terms of distance from the net. There’s more work to be done on the strategy of getting opponents out of position.
  • Fully understands the rules of the game and can play by them. Pretty much, though I stepped into the kitchen yesterday after hit a shot into my opponent’s chest. No one noticed, but the called the fault on myself. I’m an honest guy.

So, definitely not 4.0 yet. More practice needed.

A Little Levity

Yesterday, while Eric and I were playing against Tom and Ileana, it was Tom’s turn to serve. Unfortunately, when I hit the ball nonchelantly over the net, it went a little wide and Tom had to jog after it. A bit embarrassed, I proclaimed, “See Tom run!” Laughing and not to be outdone, Tom responded, “See Andrew lose!” Followed by, “See Tom cry!”

Tom and Ileana did lose, but Tom held himself together and didn’t cry. We were having too much of a good time.



« Older posts

© 2024 Pickleball Journey

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Pickleball Journey