Warning:  You may not want to read this if you don’t like stories and don’t want to hear what I learned while travelling and playing Pickleball the last few weeks.

I spent the last few weeks travelling around the country trying to stay out of the cold in the Northeast. As part of my ventures, I was able to play Pickleball at few different locations in Southern California and Arizona.

It is always an interesting experience to play in new locations. Each venue has its own way of organizing drop in play. The skill level of the players also varies widely and some groups are more friendly than others.

I used to be reticent about playing with people I didn’t know. But, by avoiding these opportunities I found I was missing out on meeting some great people and having a lot of fun.

My first stop was a stay at my brothers for a few weeks in Burbank, CA. I had the choice of playing outdoors, which I seldom do, or going to an indoor recreation center. I decided to try the outdoor park which had four dedicated Pickleball courts. It was abut 40 degrees in the morning so I figured the die hards would be out playing and they were.

I first met Jesse who was from out of town also so we were able to figure out the system together. He was pretty new to the game but I think he had a tennis background so it was a lot of fun. Burbank plays more of a challenge court system so if you win, you stay on the court and the winners do not split. Since I came from a racquetball background I was used to the style and I think we only came off the court one time. I really would like to give Jesse a shout out as he was so much fun to play with and an exceptionally nice guy. I hope to see him next year.

The level of play was excellent in Burbank and I had to ask where the beginners were. Apparently they come out more on Wednesdays or play indoor. I believe the advertised times for Pickleball were Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings or Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday nights. I only played in the mornings but found out when I met Peter that they also played Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I found those matches to be some of the most competitive and enjoyable although I pretty much played every week day.

One of my favorite players was Ann.  We played, practiced and I lost to her every time in doubles.  I got even in skinny singles but like she said, she can play with anyone :).

I also learned that many of the players coming to Burbank didn’t live in the immediate area. Apparently, Pickleball isn’t as popular in Los Angeles as other areas like Palm Springs, Arizona, and Connecticut. I believe this is because tennis still dominates in Los Angles. So, local players had quite a drive. I was happy it was just 10 minutes for me.

I played in Burbank for almost two weeks and then one day in Palm Springs. I had an interesting experience with a couple of the guys who I played with for the first time. They wanted to give me advice after about 30 seconds even though they had never seen me play. I’m sure they were trying to be helpful but I think it is strange they wanted to “help me” even before they saw me play two points.

When this happened the first time, I didn’t say much as I was interested in what he wanted to teach me. I’ll admit I did get one piece of good advice which I will use in the future.  I then played against him and he decided to play keep away.  I only got to hit a few shots as the opposing team rarely hit the ball to me.  I’ll look forward to a rematch next time.

The second time this happened to me, the gentleman who was my partner gave me the following advice after I hit one serve return over the net but short in our opponents’ court. He said, “You should hit deep to keep the serving team back”. I know this is the traditional advice many coaches will give and it is a strategy I would give to beginners.

However my philosophy is a bit different, especially at the beginning of the game, when I don’t know my opponents. I like to start by hitting the ball short so I can see how the competition reacts. So, the first time I received his advice, I didn’t say anything. On the next serve return, I did the same thing hitting the ball just over the net. The opposing team hit the ball in the net.

After the point, I said to my doubles partner the following:  This is why you hit short, to see if the opponent can return the shot. After this, my partner and I had a great time. Even he hit some short shots on serve returns as we knew we could get a side out. We won a couple of games together and I believe we had mutual respect at the end. Our only loss was to a very good player but we did keep it close.

The best part of my Pickleball experience was to teach my best friend of almost 50 years to play Pickleball. Jody is one of the best athletes I have ever known. She has been playing tennis a few times a week in Lake Havasu City. Of course, she was a natural in Pickleball and I just had to remind her to stay back on the
third shot

and to move up after serving.  After losing the first game together, we won every other game we played together in doubles. I think she may be dropping in for Pickleball in the future when not playing tennis.

Now, that I’m home, I’m looking forward to playing in Connecticut. I really spent more time these past two years staying home rather than playing. Sometimes, I would just play once or twice per month due to injuries. Now, I’m used to playing almost everyday so I’m putting together my schedule for next week. Monday is practice with the Lobster Pickleball machine, Wednesday at the senior center and the weekend either at Oxford or Simsmore.

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