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Fun Monday Off

Posted on September 6, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

Last week I took Monday off to hang out with our out of town guests, Noi and Antonio, and happened to get a bonus Doug Oxler sighting at the park. For those unaware, Doug is the father of local pickleball and tennis legend Jack Oxler.

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I got a video of Doug playing with the guys.

After a few games, we decided to have lunch at TJ’s and then after lunched I played some more at someone’s house. They have a pickleball court in their backyard.

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It seems pickleball courts are the new swimming pools. Everyone I know seems to be building one these days. Anyway, that’s all for now. GNG.

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Meeting Pickleball Friends In Person

Posted on September 6, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

I had the opportunity to meet some Facebook pickleball friends in person for the first time this past weekend when we had some top level pickleball players converge into Wichita. Dylan Frazier, Quinton Birkeness, Noi Sourinthone, and Antonio Cummings were all in town.

Dylan Frazier is from Columbia, MO. I met him for the first time when the Jonny Pickleball Show was at Chicken N Pickle last month. Quinton Birkeness is from the Kansas City, MO area. I’ve been friends with Quinton on Facebook for some time (at least since March when Chris Heck and Jon Maugans played in the SEMO Chemo Smash tournament in Missouri and I was trying to follow their progress). I had to send Quinton a Facebook friend request because he was really good about posting pictures and videos from the tournament and it was the only way I could keep up with the tournament results. Despite being friends on Facebook for a few months, we’d never actually met in real life until last weekend. Of course, we had to take a picture together (below).

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Dylan and Quinton both played in the Saturday morning big boys’ game at Chicken N Pickle. It was a huge pickleball morning. Even Chris Heck, who never comes out for the Saturday morning game, played with Cody’s group that day.

Later that day, Michael Cheung’s friend Noi Sourinthone and his doubles partner Antonio Cummings arrived in town. They are both top level pickleball players from Tennessee. I wanted them to have some challenging games so I hooked them up with Cody. Cody managed to talk Quinton into playing with him against Noi and Antonio. Quinton is such a trooper. He played for ten hours straight that day.

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Here is a picture of me with Noi. I became friends with Noi through Michael. They went to church camp together and have known each other for many years. Last year they realized that they’re both into pickleball. Michael and I have actually sent Noi videos of our games to critique and he’s given us really good feedback. It was so nice to finally meet him in person.

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Antonio is Noi’s friend and doubles partner. They traveled together to Wichita. I didn’t really become friends with Antonio until this past weekend. I’m so glad that he came. Noi and Antonio are ridiculously good and it was fun to watch them play together against Cody and Quinton.

Here’s a video of one of their games. Mind you, this was around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and Quinton and Cody had been playing since 7:30 am that morning and then Noi and Antonio had been up since like 5 o’clock in the morning for their early flight that day. They basically landed in Wichita and then went to play right away.

Here are a couple more videos.

Here’s a video of a game between Jimmy and Antonio vs. Tom and Noi at Edgemoor Park on Sunday morning.

On Sunday evening, Fong hosted a get together at her house.

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It was so fun! I didn’t stay too late because I had a 7 o’clock am lesson with Chris Heck in the morning. After my lesson I went to Seneca Park to check on everyone. Noi and Antonio were holding a clinic. Afterwards I managed to talk the guys into taking a “jumping” picture.

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We took a more serious group photo also.

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I had so much fun hanging out with the guys. We ended that morning with lunch at TJ’s. The burgers and root beer floats hit the spot.

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Until next time. GNG.

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Passing of the Gavel at Rio

Posted on September 1, 2020 by under Events, Hobbies.    

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We said thank you and farewell (for now) to our Rotary Club’s outgoing president Josh Vargo on Thursday. The gavel was officially passed to Norm Duncan, who has been our acting president for a few months now since Josh resigned because his work responsibilities had changed. Anyway, the year runs July through June so, even though Norm has been performing the role of president, his term didn’t officially start until July. Of course it’s already September. There were several factors that prevented us from getting together and making the transition official, the COVID-19 pandemic not being the least of them. Anyway, I’m hoping that Josh will rejoin the club soon because he is a great guy and it has been wonderful working with him on our various community events and getting to know him.

Speaking of, I have pickleball league at Chicken N Pickle every Thursday at 6:30 PM but I wanted to attend the social to make sure that I got picture of the passing of the gavel for our club’s Facebook page. It’s kind of my responsibility being PR Chair. I really didn’t want to eat anything because I was worried about not being able to move and playing terribly but I was starving. So my plan to simply stick to just eating chips and salsa went out the window. I ordered my favorite thing to get, which is the Burrito California, and quickly scarfed it up (to put as much distance from the eating and playing as possible). And it was so delicious that I lost all self control and ate all of it, instead of just eating half. That burrito is so good!

Thankfully, we didn’t have to play teams that were as intense as last week. The previous week we had to play the two other undefeated teams in our league – Undercover Secret Weapon (Jimmy Cho and Fong Witte) and Dropping L’s (Donnie and Tiffany Lesperance). They are probably our toughest competitors on Thursday nights. Both of our matches lasted over an hour because we went three games both times. And all of the games were really close. Overall we had to play about two and half hours, which is the longest I’ve ever had to play in league. Tom and I were victorious and so we are the only undefeated team left in that league.

I knew it was going to be a tough night so I mentally prepared myself by making some wagers (because I often play better when properly motivated). Tiffany and Donnie had been wanting my Engage Encore MX 6.0 paddle forever. I think they called dibs on it before it was even delivered. Tiffany already had the purple one but she also wanted the green one, which is the one I got. So Donnie immediately asked me to sell it to them whenever I’m ready to move on to a new paddle. I go through paddles like most people go through underwear so I think he knew that it wouldn’t be long before I would be ready to part with it.

Since I knew that they wanted my paddle, I made it the wager when I found out we would be playing against one another. I told Tiffany and Donnie that if they won our match then they would get my paddle but, if Tom and I won, then they would pay me $75 for it. Brian thought it was a stupid wager because he felt that I would get nothing out of it since Tiffany and Donnie wanted to buy my paddle anyway. I could just sell them my paddle and not risk it on a silly bet. I told Brian that I didn’t intend to lose and just laughed it off.

Anyway, to properly motivate myself, I told myself that if Tom and I won both matches that night I could buy this new outfit that I’d been eyeing. To motivate Tom, I told him I would buy him dinner and drinks if we won both of our matches that night. At the time I didn’t realize that he doesn’t drink. LOL. So that wasn’t very motivating. We won both matches so I ordered my outfit that evening. I received it pretty quickly and actually wore it to league this past Thursday. Tom is yet to collect on his reward.

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Here’s the outfit. It’s super cute. I ordered both the top and the skort in medium because the website said that this style ran “very small” and I was worried about not having sized up enough but both pieces fit me perfectly. I absolutely love this outfit! Specially since I earned it.

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This is the paddle that I sold on that wager. Tiffany cleaned up and customized it with her fancy edge guard and overgrip. She removed my name and phone number that I wrote on one side but she kept my name on the other side because she said that my autograph might be worth something one day. She’s joking, of course, but I got a kick out of it.

All of the teams in our league are pretty strong so, while we weren’t playing the toughest teams again, I still didn’t want to be moving around slow because my belly is full of that giant burrito I just ate. I did tell myself (and also Tom) that if we lost our matches that night it would be because I didn’t have enough self-discipline not to eat before league. If there’s anything that I cannot resist, it’s delicious food. I do love to eat! And that night, I happened to show up to the social starving.

Thankfully, we didn’t play too bad. We won against Chudley Cannons (Kyle Long and Rachel McMahon) and C&K (Chris Wilson and Kim Knotts) in two straight sets. I was relieved that we didn’t have to play longer than 30 minutes each time. There was no way I was surviving an hour-long match that night with my belly full of food. Let alone two of them.

We are about halfway through this session and so far we are doing well. I’ll keep you posted on how the rest of the league session (and our league tournment) goes. Wish us luck! GNG.

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Team Tournament at Nahola

Posted on August 28, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

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I got to participate in a fun team pickleball tournament at Nahola last weekend thanks to my friends Bruce Meyer and Dick Pavelski. Their team originally consisted of two other ladies who fell through so they invited Dawn Hazelwood and me to play with them.

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Here’s our obligatory team photo: (from left) Bruce Meyer, me, Dawn Hazelwood, and Dick Pavelski.

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Dick is so fun. It’s been forever since I’ve played with him and I was grateful that this event gave us an opportunity to reunite. I first met Dick at the West YMCA about a year and a half ago. I had take some time off work over the Thanksgiving holiday and was able to play during the day when the retired people play so our paths crossed. At the time I was a beginner who barely knew how to play. He was one of the more skilled people who was patient enough to play with me.

At the West YMCA, the format is two on, two off and winners stay and split. I remember us coming on and Dick asking the other two players if we could play together because he wanted to challenge the winners. He said losers have to run around the track squealing like pigs.

Being brand new, I asked Dick, “Are you sure about this?” He was adamant and so I agreed. Naturally, we lost and were the ones who had to run around the track that goes around the basketball gym on the second level. He was such a good sport. We ran around squealing together.

Anyway, I don’t really get to play with Dick much because he normally plays during the day. We both kind of quit going to the Y for pickleball but also we were going at different times so our paths didn’t really cross except for that time when I was off work. I did see him a couple of times at Nahola but those times were either before or after lessons with Chris Heck so we didn’t have an opportunity to play. That’s why I was so happy when Bruce told me that Dick was on our team. I finally had a chance to play with him again.

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Here are some pics of some of the other teams. These are (from left) Donnie and Tiffany Lesperance, Patty Rothweiler, and Dan Hill.

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These good looking picklers in pink are Jennifer Tiano, Michael Cheung, Fong Witte, and Hanbeen You. Michael insisted they match. Even to the extent of sending pictures of outfit options to everyone. I think Dan should have been on their team based on his bright pink shirt.

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These are the winners: Kyle Starkel, Heather Griffin, Kim Knotts and Chris Wilson. They smoked everyone! It wasn’t even close.

What’s really funny is that my team did not have very high expectations for us. Bruce said his goals were (1) not to get skunked, and (2) not to finish last. Well, we totally messed up on the first goal. Dick and I got pickled by Kyle and Heather in our very first game. I can’t remember who skunked Bruce and Dawn but I think Bruce said they got skunked too. We almost missed making our second goal. We came in second to last.

It’s so funny because, when we were trying to decide our matching outfits for the event, we settled on black. Black was the one color everyone had. Anyway, it’s almost fitting that we wore all black so we could mourn the results. LOL.

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Here are a few action shots that Kayla (one of the Nahola owners) took during the event. The men in pink above are Mike and Han. The men in black below are my teammates, Dickey and Bruce.

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Chris and Kyle were a really strong team.

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And so were their teammates, Heather and Kim.

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Jen and Fong were an unlikely pair because she is tall and Fong is even shorter than me. I think they complemented each other well, though.

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And then there’s us, Ching and Dawn in matching black outfits.

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Here are some of the mixed pics: Dawn and Bruce.

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Tiffany and Donnie, aka Dropping L’s aka Kinky Dinkers.

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Anyway, it was a lot of fun. I’m thinking the next time this event comes around, I’m putting my own team together instead of waiting for an invitation. Then my team’s goal will be to win the whole darn thing. Until next time. GNG.

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One League Down, Two More to Go

Posted on August 27, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

I’d been wanting to try the Tuesday night pickleball league at Nahola for some time now. However, my schedule never allowed it because, for the longest time, I was teaching Aqua Zumba on Tuesday nights. Last summer I taught Aqua Zumba at the West Central Genesis Health Clubs and then in the fall I moved on to teaching the same class at Woodlawn VASA Fitness location when it finally opened.

Fast forward to 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started and all the gyms closed. Suddenly, I didn’t have all the Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes I was teaching. Since the gyms have reopened, I’ve only resumed one class – my Monday night Zumba class at the Harry VASA location. That meant I could finally join the Tuesday night league.

They had the league listed as competitive so I had super high expectations. Unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. There were lots of times I got very few ball touches. And, with the exception of a couple of guys, the ladies were way more skilled. The format of these leagues is where you don’t have a permanent partner from week to week. Instead, you play 5 to 6 games each with a different partner. So if you were paired with one of these less skilled guys, you were not going to get the ball hit to you and you were in for a rough night

It took me a couple of weeks to accept this and adjust. After that, I was focused on making sure that, whenever I did get a good partner, me and my partner won by a large margin. Maybe giving up only a couple of points (or four at most). And then, whenever I was paired with a partner who wasn’t so go good, I tried to make sure to minimize the damage and only lose by a couple of points. Not that Kayla was keeping track of the scores (because I found out later she only kept track of your win-loss record) but I was keeping track for my own benefit. It helped me measure my progress. For example, when I got paired with X the first time, maybe we lost 11-4, but then the next time I played with the same person, we’d still lose but not by as much, maybe 11-9. What this tells me is that I am doing much better at taking charge and being aggressive, instead of letting the other team pick on my partner and passively taking it, which is how I am normally.

Why does your win-loss record matter? Well, that’s how you get a good partner for tournament night. The way Kayla does it, to ensure the most fun for everyone, is that she pairs people with similar skills together. That way one partner doesn’t get targeted during the game. If you pair a really good player with a terrible one, then the other team will just hit to the weak player every time and the better player will not get any balls and it’s not fun for anyone.

Normally, if there’s an even number of male and female players, the top male gets paired with the top female and so forth all the way down. Except when the skills are completely disparate. In which case, Kayla would rather have teams of the same gender so that the two partners are closer in skill and will have more fun playing together. Having the skills more even is basically a higher priority than making sure it’s a coed team. I didn’t know all of this science prior to tournament night but I did know that I needed to have a good win rate in order to guarantee myself a good partner. I knew this because I had a couple of friends who had played in the league before – one won it two sessions in a row (Tommy) and then another had not as great a time because she got paired with the same guy both times who wasn’t great.

After I played in the league a couple of weeks, I knew exactly what she meant. And I made it my mission not to be at the bottom of the rankings so I would not get paired with this guy on tournament night. I figured that Tommy got paired with the best females both times because he had a good record during that session.

I was actually hoping to get paired with Tommy for tournament because he won the past two times. I have played with him before and we play pretty well together. He doesn’t have explosive shots but he is very consistent. I ended up getting paired with Jimmy. He is not as consistent as Tommy but his serves are very tough to return and he has amazing drives which is super effective with lesser skilled players, which is why I think Jimmy had a better win rate than Tommy and we ended up together.

I think that, if some of the other players were better at handling the drives, then Tommy probably would have fared better because he’s stronger at the net with more consistent dinks and drops. Many of the players we played against could not handle Jimmy’s drives and many didn’t really have good drop shots so whenever they would drive to us we could easily block it. It made for a much easier time.

Ultimately, it worked out perfect that I got to team up with Jimmy because our skills complemented each other well and it was the perfect balance for the teams that we faced that night. The only time we really felt challenged was when we played against Huyen and Daniel (because Daniel could chase down all the shots and Huyen had good aggression – she poaches like a guy and she’s completely fearless). We eliminated them from the main bracket in a close 12-10 game and, just as I had predicted, they came out on top in the consolation bracket and we had to face them again.

The actually beat in the first game of the finals. Thankfully, Jimmy and I were undefeated so they had to beat us a second time, which they couldn’t do. After the first game, we made some adjustments and we were able to win the second game with a comfortable margin. All the games we played with these guys were great and super competitive. I wish I could have gotten them on video. And, I wished that all the games were like that during the season.

Unfortunately, you had to suffer through several miserable games for every good competitive match because the skill levels among the players were so unbalanced. While I feel like playing is better than not playing and I was grateful for the opportunity to play in the league, it left me somewhat dissatisfied. I’d gotten really spoiled with mixed games that I’d been playing with people where the teams are even and we have really competitive matches and where I actually get the ball hit to me. I was grateful when it was finally over and could go back to playing mixed doubles on Tuesday night where our format is to play best two out of three games, switch partners, and then play two out of three again – rinse and repeat.

Anyway, I’m glad I got to try this league format. At least now I know I don’t like it. LOL. It made me realize the value of having a regular partner week after week because then you’re not just randomly paired with someone. You actually picked your partner so, if you have a miserable time, it’s entirely your fault.

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Here’s a picture of me and my partner Jimmy with Daniel and Huyen, the team we had to play in the finals.

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Another pic of me and Jimmy. So grateful that we got paired up because I have never really played with him much (definitely not as much as Tommy or the other guys) and it was a good experience for adapting to a different style of play than I’m used to (Jimmy likes to drive a lot and I am the exact opposite).

Anyway, now that Tuesday night league is over, I can focus on my Wednesday and Thursday night leagues. Hopefully, I will have more great news to report next month. Until then. GNG.

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