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Monday, September 30, 2013

Pickleball In Canada and Mexico

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Join us whenever you are visiting the Central Coast.

As our sport continues to grow across the country, we are also finding that our neighbors in both Canada and Mexico are seriously taking up the sport.  Canada has a very strong Pickleball organization

Many new locations in Mexico are showing venues for Pickleball.  They include:

In addition, the Places to Play link has several other listings for Mexico, including El Sargento, Puerto Vallarta and San Carlos.

In your travels to Canada or Mexico, think about packing your paddles.

We had 22 players this morning, including three new players.  In the past two weeks, we have had 10 new players come out and try the game.  Why not, the weather this time of year is perfect.  So is this game!!!!

Some recent observations about play at our Centennial Courts:

1. Remember, anytime the ball bounces anywhere on your side of the court, the No Volley Zone is not an issue.  You cannot violate the NVZ on your return shot.

2. Knowing the score helps you know positioning when serving.  Starting server for each team is always on the right when his/her team's score is even; always on the left when his/her team's score is odd.

3. Whenever possible, do not let balls force you to retreat.  It is better to take the ball in the air (lobs included).

4. Work your way to the 7' line by dinking.  If your first (or your partner's first) dink is not good enough, gain some ground, but wait for another dink opportunity to get to the line.  Don't be in a rush to get the ball slammed back at you.

5.  Stay in points as long as you can if you are on the defensive.  Opponents do make mistakes (unforced errors)....but, do not prolong or give your opponents extra chances by hitting OUT balls.

BTW, how did the ball come off your paddle today?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Player Ratings For Pickleball

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Visit the Central Coast and join us for Pickleball.  We have equipment you can use so just dress for play.  Our area is beautiful this time of year.

This is a follow-up to the email I sent out to our players about a month ago regarding self-ratings.  More questions have come up regarding a rating that will allow you to play in a tournament.  Actually, you do not need to be 'rated' to play in an age level tournament, but you will have to give yourself a "self- rating" if you are going to play in a skill level tournament.  The ratings---2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0.  Six skill levels....lots of overlap...oftentimes nuances of difference, but still required.  When you enter that first skill level tournament, be realistic, but also sensible, with your rating.  Thinking you are a 4.0 player after only six months of play will probably put you in a skill group that you are not ready for.  The USAPA ratings committee also states that initial self-ratings may not change until you have experienced Gold Medal success (usually twice).  Rate yourself too high and you might be experiencing limited success, lots of frustration, and a very long wait before you show success at that skill level.  Once you have self-rated yourself, you must go through an appeal process to change your rating.  Remember, the best way to self-rate is to play with players you think are comparable to you and then ask them what their rating is.  Chances are you are the same.  You are not sandbagging if you are relatively new to the game, want to play in a skill level tournament, and give yourself a one step lower rating than your wishful thinking suggests to you.  Also, friends don't want to hurt your feelings by suggesting that you are a 3.0 rather than a 3.5/4.0.  They will pad the rating to make you feel better---but they aren't playing for you in the tournament!!!!

Hope you had fun playing today and that the "ball came off your paddle with control and successful placement." 

Monday, September 23, 2013

California State Games

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:

In my previous post, I mentioned playing Pickleball in the California State Senior Games in Escondido this past weekend.  I had an excellent time, experienced some success, and learned a great deal from fellow participants---through observation and conversation.  Time to share my observations and reiterate important playing/strategy information.

1.  Pickleball players are a class act.  Everyone was very friendly and willing to share information and pointers.  I enjoyed their perspective and suggestions.

2.  These tournament players are a step-up from the social Pickleball players we are accustomed to playing against.  You must bring your 'A' game to tournaments.

3.  22 games (singles and doubles) over two days---and 30 hours is a lot, but also a lot of fun.  The toughest part is the wait in between matches.  Hard to get out of the chair!

4.  Mental toughness and the ability to play "relaxed" are keys to being successful.  Remember, your opponents have the same mental issues you do....know how to go to a comfortable place mentally.  I like to hum a favorite relaxing tune.

5.  Eat right and hydrate.  I mix my own electrolyte drink (easy) and eat properly.....most of the time.

Now, for some technical observations......

6.  The dink is so very important.  You have to 'buy in' to this belief and be ready to execute.

7.  Don't miss serves.  Get them in.  It would be nice to get them deep as well.  It seemed that the most consistent servers won a great deal of their games.  Of course, their third shot, the dink, was more important.

8.  It is important to get to the 7' line, but WORK your way there....and work your way there together!  You cannot rush to the line if you or your partner hits a bad dink, lob, or hard groundstroke.  This is especially true on the third shot of a point (your return of your or your partner's serve).  If you or your partner hits a poor shot, gain a little ground, give yourself some extra room (and time) to hit the next shot and if you hit that good dink in the NVZ, keep gaining ground.

9.  Power shots are hit occasionally.  Most of the time, though, it is about placement and patience.  Success comes from placing balls at your opponent's feet (I know, redundant....but very important).  BTW, I watched one player (who is one of the top 5 players in the U.S.) play for two days.  The only time he hit a power shot was when he had a volley he could put away....and usually he placed it with about "3/4 power."  I didn't see him miss.  I did see him miss a few dinks and lobs.  He is human....and his opponents were doing what needed to be done to make it a little more difficult.   I was told he has been playing Pickleball for 18 years.  Started in his mid-30's.

10.  Remember these two important bits of strategy:  (1) Make your opponents reach. Make them make a mistake. Make them take the extra step. Three of every four points are LOST.  Unforced errors..... (2) learn to not hit "out" balls.  Don't give your opponents the chance to stay in a point by hitting their out shot.

11.  Thought I would keep this to 10 observations, but this one is important.  Don't try to hit a winner off of your opponent's great shot.  Just get it back as best you can.

Hope the ball came off your paddle successfully today....and that you played with patience and placement.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

California State Senior Games--Pickleball

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:

I just returned from playing Pickleball in the California State Games (played in Escondido) representing our Paso Robles Pickleball Club (we have been in existence one year this September).  I was the only member of our Club to play in the tournament, but am hoping that I can get more of our players ready for upcoming tournaments.  They are close.

I was fortunate to win a Bronze medal in the men's 65-69 singles competition, beating the number one seed, Greg Linnemayer, in a second round match and then losing to the same player in the medal round.  Greg eventually went on to win the Gold medal in singles.  In doubles, my partner (Tom Gunther---from Laguna Niguel, CA) and I won the Silver medal in the 65-69 men's competition.  We beat the No. 1 seed in the second round (again, Greg Linnemayer and his partner, Brian Jensen), the No. 2 seed in the third round, and eventually lost in the Gold medal match (to the No. 1 seed) in an epic battle, 9-11, 13-11, 9-11, 13-15. Greg and Brian were excellent players (both 5.0s) and were class individuals.  In fact, all the participants were fun to be around around.  The event was held at the Tuscany Hills Resort (formerly the Castle Creek Inn) in Escondido, CA.   Participants were invited to a reception dinner on Friday evening and members of the Castle Creek Pickleball Club brought food for the participants.  Live music, good socializing, great discussions on Pickleball and Pickleball strategy.  I highly recommend this event next September.

It was very exciting to participate.  The Senior Olympics (the State Games) is played at various venues, and at different times of the year, all around California.  The games also serve as a qualifier for the National Games played each summer in different cities around the country.  This past summer the Games were played in Cleveland.  Next summer they will be in Minneapolis.

I am relatively new to the tournament scene, so I wanted to share not only my small amount of success, but also information about this great tournament and other like it all across California and the western states.  I learned so much and am excited to come back and share this learning with my fellow players here in Paso Robles.  The PB players at these tournaments are eager to visit and share tips/information on this great game.  It is an excellent way to pass the time between matches.
Gold (Center), Silver (Right), Bronze (left) Winners

Jack Hodges and Chris Thomas (USAPA Western States Ambassador)

If you played today, "how did the ball come off your paddle?"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pickleball Decisions....200 Visitors....Our Picklehood

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Drop-in and play with us when you are visiting the beautiful Central Coast of California.

Our club has had quite of few out-of-area visitors over the past two weeks.  It is always fun to see unfamiliar players walking up to our courts, paddles in hand.  We know they are here for some serious (but fun) play.  We had both.  Today, four players from Heritage Ranch (a community about 20 miles west of Paso Robles---near Lake Nacimiento) joined us for some play and instruction.  Nice to hear that they are playing on their two courts at Heritage Ranch----and enjoying this great game.  Sam and Jackie Poppen are doing a fine job promoting the game at HR.

A few blogs ago I talked about dividing the opposition's court into three hitting lanes----the right third, the middle third, etc.  When receiving a ball hit by your opponents, this same dividing needs to be observed.  The two outside lanes---right and left---are covered by the player on that side.  No problem.  Where problems do occur, is when the ball is hit down the middle, and the "decision" comes into play....who's ball is it?  BTW, I am talking about situations where you (the receiving team) are back near the baseline.  Play at the net is entirely different.  Many times the ball-down-the-middle-problem can be solved by communicating.  But you have to communicate early enough for one of you to "prepare" for the shot.  Late communication....problems.  This leads to a good rule of thumb.  Responsibility for the ball down the center should be "directional."  By this, I mean that whomever the ball is traveling towards should be responsible for the return.  If the ball is coming from the opponent's left lane (as you are looking at your opponent's side of the court) and is traveling to the middle, the player who is on the other end of the diagonal (in this case, the player on the right side of the receiving court) should be responsible for returning the ball.  The ball is traveling towards him/her.  The ball is traveling slightly away from the partner because he/she is not on the other end of the diagonal shot.  Make sense?  I hope so, because it is a very good rule of thumb to follow.  Now, I am supposing that the two players are of somewhat comparable ability.  If you mutually agree beforehand that one player's strokes are better than his/her partner, than you can agree that the stronger person take the ball down the middle.  I'm also assuming you are wanting to win.  Strategy like the above could mean the difference between winning and losing.  I know, we play mostly for fun and exercise, but isn't the drive home a little more satisfying if you have won your fair share of games?

We have gone over the 200 mark as far as players who have visited and played on our venue.  We are on the radar of Pickleballers traveling to our beautiful area of California.  We are no longer the fastest growing sport in the country "that no one has heard of."  Win or lose, the members of this Picklehood should all be smiling on the drive home from the courts.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  View our website and stop in to play with us if you are traveling through the Central Coast.

Our National Governing Body, the recently announced that there are ten new Pickleball venues a month appearing across the United States.  This truly is the "fastest growing sport in the country."  That's 40+ a month....almost 500 a year.

We had 19 players today at Centennial Park.  An early 7:30 a.m. session for any players wanting to come out and work on their game....1 new player....good play on all five courts....lots of laughter....mixed level play with our veterans helping the newbies....three more phone calls today from travelers who will join us for PB in the next couple of weeks....another person stopping me at Starbuck's to ask what Pickleball was (I had my club shirt on)....another FREE Demonstration Clinic coming on Saturday, September 14th.

Next week Monday marks the one year anniversary of Pickleball in Paso Robles.  Thank you Jerry LaFlame and Lori Stinchfield for being my first two students.  That first week was a Kodak moment.  Lots to be proud of....lots to be thankful for.  Look out year No. 2!!!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The WOW Shot in Pickleball.....1940 Buick

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:

The source of my writings as they relate to Pickleball are inspired by our experiences on the courts.  This writing is no different, and it is a long time coming.  I have seen, on way too many occasions, players attempting to hit a shot that is not part of their skill set.  I call it the WOW shot....Not necessarily to impress, but it is nice to hear your opponent say, "wow, that was a great shot."  Problem is, you don't hear them say, "that was not a very smart shot" the nine other times you are attempting WOW and not succeeding.  The misconception is that WOW requires power.  Let me repeat, you think WOW is pOWer.  The windup forehand topspin from the baseline that goes five feet long.  The swing volley at the 7' line instead of the punch volley.  The overhead full swing that goes into the net.  WOW is nice to hear, but WOW is very low percentage.  On that note of repeating, let me do so.....WOW is very low percentage.  This is a game of placement and patience.  The paddle and the wiffle ball were not engineered for power.  When, and if, you start playing a softer, more patient game, you will see the good results you are hoping for.  And, patience is a metaphor for the development of your game. 1% improvement over 100 days....not 100% improvement by the next day.  Be patient with your game, exercise patience when you play, and there will be less WOW, but more "WHOA, who is that 5.0 player occupying your body today?"

On another note, Paso Robles always has so much going on---especially on the weekends.  Concerts, wine tasting, festivals, cultural events, etc.  This past weekend was the Labor Day Classic Car Show.  What a step back in time!  Friday was the main street (Spring Street) cruise, with close to 200 cars drawing oohs and aahs.  Saturday, the cars were on exhibit at Paso's wonderful central park.  I have included a picture of the 1940 Buick that won 'Best in Show.'  A real gem.

Back to Pickleball.  "How Did The Ball Come Off Your Paddle Today?"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Good Pickleball Videos.....The 'Neutral' Shot in Pickleball

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Drop-in anytime to meet new people and play some fun Pickleball.

19 Players on Saturday, 24 players on Labor Day.  It was great to see.......Remember, we start at 8:15 a.m. tomorrow (Wed.) and for the rest of September and October (because of the school traffic).   We will always start at 8:00 on Saturdays. 

Three excellent videos from the Tournament of Champions played this past July in Ogden, Utah.  The video quality is excellent.  So is the play!!!!  You need not watch all of each video, but watch a good segment to see the use of all the shots you have been encouraged to work on....and, to see how the top players in the country play the game.  

Men's championships:

The 'Neutral' Shot:  If you played the word association game with the word neutral, you might say 'smooth,' 'controlled,' 'coasting,' 'easy,' 'soft,'.....something along those lines.  In Pickleball, the Neutral shot is most associated with the return of serve.  That easy, controlled, smooth shot that is relatively soft and deep.  This neutral return of serve is very important because it allows you to get to the 7' line BEFORE your opponent hits the return.  In our play today, I saw too many fast paced or short returns of serve that got players caught in the mid-court area trying to hit tough shots at their feet. So think neutral on your service return.  You will be happy with the results.

By the way, "How Did The Ball Come Off Your Paddle Today?"  With control and placement, I hope!!!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

August Pickleball Review....The Learning Curve

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:

On this first day of September, and as we get close to the one year anniversary of our fortuitous Pickleball beginnings here in Paso Robles, I wanted to list a summary of some of this blog's discussions regarding rules, advice, reminders, strategy, etc.  The blog takes some time to write---no complaints---but are you reading and learning?  Yes, somewhere in the Pickleball universe, this blog appears to the 'public,' but this is not my reason for writing such.  I feel the situations that arise on the court, and, in my readings, should be reviewed by our Pickleball Club.  You learn a lot by reading....and sharing.

So here many of these August blogs did you take the time to read?

1.  A review of the 'Dink' shot.
2.  The 'Decision Line'
3.  Pickleball Skills Ratings
4.  'Negative Space'
5.  Pickleball Strategy
6.  Communication Between Players
7.  Where You Can Stand
8.  Serving Rules Summarized
9.  10 Things I Saw Today....
10. 10 Common Pickleball Mistakes

The above will affect the way the "ball comes off your paddle."  Enjoy the weekend.  I also had to share this picture.  We talk a lot about being ready for your opponent's next shot.  Some of you have your paddle in positions other than the proper ready position.  Here are two youngsters (10 years old) more than ready!!!!