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Archive for "Hobbies"

My Final Days of Freedom

Posted on March 28, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

I tried to get as much playing in as I could in the weeks leading up to the 30-day stay-at-home mandate in Sedgwick County. Several of our usual haunts had already shut down and there were only a couple of places left to play.

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I played at Hoops, which isn’t even a place I would normally play at, a couple of nights. One night with the guys and then the next night with my girlfriends.

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The night I was out with the girls, we decided to go to Stearman Field for dinner after. Here’s a fun #SocialDistancing pic that we took out on the patio.

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Here are some pictures of dinner.

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It was a Thursday night, a week before things got really serious. But even then, we were being very careful. We disinfected the balls carefully between games, sanitized our hands, and practiced good social distancing.

The next day, I spent six hours at Nahola. I had my final one-on-one training with Chris, played the Friday night open play from 5-7 PM, and then played in Debbie’s 7-9 PM private game. I was trying to squeeze every bit of pickleball I could play, fully expecting that my days of playing were numbered.

Nahola followed the other gyms and eventually closed also but they honored our reservations for the weekend. On Saturday I played with Debbie, Cameron, and Tommy and then on Sunday I played with Debbie, Tiffany, and Amy. I had a great time but it was bittersweet because I knew these were going to be my last games. We knew that it was only a matter of time before a 30-day stay-at-home order would be issued for our community.

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The best thing about playing that weekend was running into Lori Belew at Nahola. She gave me her Mid-South tournament shirt. I was so thrilled. She’s one of my pickleball idols and to have something that came from her felt truly special.

The funniest thing to happen that weekend was when Tommy, Debbie, and I went to grab a bite at Merle’s after pickleball. Donnie and Tiffany happened to be there. They were already seated at a booth when the server asked if they were waiting for their pickleball friend to show up. They were regulars at Merle’s because this was a favorite spot after Friday night pickleball. I had never gone with them because I usually go straight home after.

Anyway, the server told them that their friend (Debbie) just walked in with her two kids (me and Tommy). That was hilarious! We had a kick out of it.

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Here’s a picture of my club sandwich that day. It was delicious. It had been over ten years since I had been to Merle’s. My friend Jan first introduced me to the restaurant and we went there a few times for lunch back when we worked together. I had also been there a couple of times for bar poker years ago (back when bar poker was thing) but Brian doesn’t remember it. There were several restaurant closures in the last month. Merle’s was one of the few places that remained open.

The five of us had a great time eating and visiting. This was the last time I got to spend time with Tommy, Donnie, and Tiffany. I know I’m being overly dramatic but I really miss playing pickleball and I really miss my friends.

Debbie and I made plans to do some drills on Monday night but something came up and so I didn’t play. We did get together for drills at Seneca Park on Tuesday night. We ran into Dave and Lori Belew and they were just hitting back and forth. They weren’t expecting anyone else so the four of us ended up playing together. They even gave us pointers and feedback. It was so much fun. That was the last time I played pickleball because the next day the 30-day stay-at-home order for Sedgwick County officially started.

It’s only been four days since my last pickleball game but it feels like four months. I think the situation is exacerbated by the fact that I’ve been working from home for the last two weeks. I haven’t been out of the house since the stay-at-home order began and I’m absolutely going nuts. I am so ready for all of this to be over and for things to return to normal. Until we are all free again. GNG.

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Meeting the Legendary Jack Oxler

Posted on March 20, 2020 by under Hobbies, Life.    

Jack Oxler is a name that comes up quite frequently in our little pickleball community because the Wichita people are so very proud of Jack and legendary achievements. When I first started playing and had the opportunity to meet and play with some of the more seasoned pickleball players they would always ask, “Do you know Jack Oxler?” Immediately followed by, “You need to meet him.”

I’ve actually wrote about Jack before without even meeting him. It was about a year go at Chicken N Pickle when I met one of his friends. So many people know Jack because he used to live in Wichita before moving to Kansas City. Even though he doesn’t even live here, his name comes up a lot. Matt Wright, one of the biggest names in pickleball, even mentioned him during a Q&A at Chicken N Pickle a few months ago. Currently Jack is the Director of Pickleball and one of the teaching professionals at the Kansas City Chicken N Pickle. I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to meet him unless I made a trip to KC for a pickleball lesson.

But then fate intervened. A few weeks ago Aaron Trost, the former head of pickleball at the Wichita Chicken N Pickle, moved to San Antonio to run the pickleball program at that new location. They hired Michael Harris to replace him and brought Jack Oxler down to Wichita to train the new guy and show him the ropes. Jack offered some lessons while he was in town. Of course, they were all during the day from Tuesday through Thursday and, when Michael first posted the info in our Facebook group, none of the times worked.

On Tuesday I found out that my lunch meeting on Wednesday got canceled so I actually would have time to squeeze in a lesson but all of the appointment times were taken at that point. I still wanted to meet this guy in the flesh because tales of his pickleball and tennis prowess are legendary so I thought, even though I couldn’t book a lesson, I could still have lunch at Chicken N Pickle, meet him, and have him sign my special pickleball paddles. I didn’t want to go up there unannounced and unexpected, though. People already think I’m a weirdo. I didn’t want to provide yet another example of me being weird by going up to a total stranger and asking for his autograph. But then I recalled that, in his how we got started with pickleball story, Matt Wright also mentioned Chris Heck. Chis Heck is another local pickleball pro who is magnificent and happens to be my friend. I’ve been taking lessons from Chris since January and we have now officially moved into friend status and with him being my friend I asked for my first friend favor — to give Jack a heads up that I will stop by Chicken N Pickle at lunch because I’m dying to meet him.

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And so that’s how it happened. I finally got to meet the great and legendary Jack Oxler. And, I got his autograph on my paddles.

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He is much shorter in real life than I expected, even though I’d watched enough YouTube videos. I just assumed it’s because all the other players are super tall. I always had it in my brain that I would never be any good at pickleball because I’m not tall enough. Meeting Jack gave me hope. I can be amazing even with the height disadvantage. Of course, Jack is very talented and skilled so he’s in a special category but now I’m thinking maybe it’s not so bad being short. If I continue to learn from Chris (and Kayla and Lucy and others I’m taking pickleball lessons from) and work hard, I can compete with players at my level and maybe even beat them despite the height disadvantage.

I’m hoping that Jack will return to Wichita and offer some lessons again. If not, I’m hoping to make a trip out to Kansas City at some point to schedule a session with him. I just want to get his perspective — short person to short person. LOL.

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Jokes aside, some of my friends (Jenny, Amy, Beth, and Debbie) got to learn from Jack while he was here. I took some pics of their session when I was at Chicken N Pickle for lunch that day.

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A bunch of us got together for a group photo with Jack before I went back to work. From left: Beth, Jenny, Debbie, Jack, Tammy, Amy, Jack’s mom, and me.

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After their lesson, they all stayed and played some more pickleball. Of course, I had to go back to work before returning that night for the Intermediate Women’s Doubles League Tournament. I usually stay to watch the Competitive Men’s Doubles League. This was actually a record day for my friend Debbie because she stayed to watch the men play too. Their tournament lasted past 11 o’clock that night. She spent over 14 hours at Chicken N Pickle without ever leaving that day.

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Brian came out to livestream the league tournament that night. Debbie got this picture of us. I later realized that she got Jack Oxler in the background looking very James Bond (Daniel Craig without the tux).

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Here’s a better pic of us with Brian looking at the camera this time.

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It’s always great when Brian can come out to capture videos and do a livestream. You can watch some of the videos we captured that night in this post. But I digress, it was so great to finally meet Jack Oxler. I’m hoping it won’t be our last encounter. Until next time. GNG.

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Winter League Tournament

Posted on March 19, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

This is a picture of Bananas (left: Sammi and Tommy) and Bread & Butter (right: Kristina and Adam). They are the winners of the Monday night Intermediate Mixed Doubles league at Chicken N Pickle this season. Bread & Butter took first and Bananas took second. Cobra Kai (our team) unfortunately only took third despite a really great undefeated regular season. I guess you can’t win them all.

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Our first match was against Carpe Dinkem. It was easy enough. However, our second match was against Bread & Butter and, even though we beat them in the regular season, Kristina and Adam both came to win and played very well.

Here’s a video of our match against Bread & Butter. What sucked about this match is it was only our second one and it sent us into the consolation/opportunity bracket (otherwise known as the losers’ bracket).

Here’s how the match against Bread & Butter ended.

The downside of the losers’ bracket is instead of playing best two out of three games to 11 points, win by 2; we then had to play only one game to 15. We had fewer games and much shorter matches.

Here are a few of the opportunity bracket matches we had as we tried to claw our way back up to the winner’s circle.

We finally defeated all of the other losers and had to battle it out with Bananas for the opportunity to duke it out with Bread & Butter one more time. This time for the championship. We had beaten Bananas before and are fully capable of beating them but they got the better of us that night and beat us 15-12.

It was a really disappointing finish to an otherwise stellar season. I badly wanted to win the tournament so that we could say we were undefeated in the regular season and also the winners of our league tournament but we just couldn’t pull it off. I must not have wanted it bad enough. We ended up finishing in third place. (Better number three than number two, I suppose.) Bananas went on to duke it out with Bread & Butter (#FoodFight – JK) and Bread & Butter came out on top to win the league tournament. They went completely undefeated that night.

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In other news, the top two men’s doubles teams ended up battling it out for first place in the Competitive Men’s Doubles League on Wednesday night. Matt Conrad was out of town so his son Lakelin filled in for him. He was great too but Patrick Smith and Jamie Lynch ended up winning, which is what I predicted. I actually predicted the winner of every single match in the winner’s bracket and I only missed predicting the winner of three matches in the consolation/opportunity bracket. Needless to say, I smoked everyone in the bracket challenge. I even beat out Aaron Trost (the former league director) and Dan Leddy and they work there! LOL. The league winners each got $20 gift cards to Chicken N Pickle and my prize for winning the bracket challenge was a $50 gift card so I still felt like a winner. I would have liked to have won both (Intermediate Mixed and the bracket challenge). I knew my partner Renee and I had no chance in hell in Intermediate Women’s Doubles League so I’m not even talking about that one — LOL. It was a fun but sucky league season for me overall. I’m refraining from playing in any more leagues for the time being.

Anyway, let me leave with you three hours of amazing matches from the Competitive Men’s Doubles League. Enjoy!

Until next time. GNG.

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Pickleball Lessons

Posted on March 17, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

As you know (or maybe you don’t), I started taking pickleball lessons from Chris Heck earlier this year. We’ve been meeting weekly since about mid-January and he’s been teaching me things I don’t know how to do or don’t do very well like defending, speed-ups, overheads, and most recently I learned how to set up and execute an erne. The lessons are really fun and I enjoy them almost more than actually playing. I look forward to it every week.

Our schedule has actually worked pretty well except for a few weeks ago when he went to Missouri for a tournament. While we didn’t get to train together that weekend, it was fun following his tournament progress online.

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He played mixed with Lindsey Newman (right) at the tournament. In case you don’t already know of her, she is amazing and a big name in the professional pickleball circuit. She played in the Franklin Pickleball Masters invitational tournament at Chicken N Pickle last year. The tournament is so exclusive that you could only participate if you were invited. And, to be invited, you had to be really good. Anyway, she’s a big deal. And, as big of a deal as Chris is (because he’s also amazing in his own right), she is an even bigger deal so it was really awesome that he got to play with her as his partner.

Here’s a video of their gold medal match from that tournament. He and Lindsey won gold against Quinton Birkeness and Rachel Chai-Wise.

In addition to playing in mixed, he also played in men’s doubles with our friend Jon Maugans. Chris and Jon lost to Brad Tursky and Quinton Birkeness and ended taking silver in this event.

Anyway, it is such a privilege to take lessons from a pickleball player of Chris’ calibre. He is amazing not just as a pickleball player but also at teaching skills, techniques, and strategies. Our training sessions have helped me improve tremendously. At least I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about my playing of late. I think it’s because of skills I’m learning in our training.

Besides training with Chris, I’ve also started training with others in our pickleball community. We are very lucky to have so many talented pros in Wichita who offer instruction. Kimberly and I have had a couple of partner sessions with Kayla Keuter (Nahola Pickleball Club) and Debbie and I have had some group sessions with Lucy Kovalova (Wichita Country Club).

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Here are a couple of pics with Lucy from our group session this Sunday.

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This past weekend, I actually had training with Chris on Saturday afternoon, Kayla on Sunday morning, and then Lucy on Sunday afternoon. As addicted as I am to pickleball, I think I’m now also addicted to pickleball training. I especially love my one on one time with Chris. It’s like therapy. Plus, everyone I’ve trained with has been so motivating. All three are great at providing constructive feedback that makes you come away feeling encouraged. You can’t help but feel totally positive and energized after.

Speaking of training, I was really bummed when Ansboury Academy was canceled. I was looking forward to traveling to Hilton Head Island next week and training with Sarah Ansboury. However, I understand that, given the current situation with the Corona Virus pandemic, everyone needs to buckle down and do their part. That means limiting all unnecessary social contact. Everyone needs to be in isolation so as not to spread the virus. At first it was just no gatherings of 250 people or more, then over 50, and now it’s down to 10. It’s gotten so serious that work has even mandated that everyone who can work remotely should work from home for at least the next two weeks. And poof, no more South Carolina trip just like that.

I’ve canceled our hotel and Brian is working on canceling our flights. I have also reached out to Sarah Ansboury to begin the refund process. Once we have contacted everyone, it’s just a matter of waiting for all the refunds to come through but I’m less bummed about that than not having the opportunity to train with Sarah. Hopefully, an Ansboury Academy will be offered again later this year that fits my schedule and I’ll be able to attend at that point.

In the meantime, I’m stuck in Wichita which won’t really be too bad as long as I can still continue my training sessions with Chris and others locally. However, almost all the gyms have shut down so there may not be anywhere to train. If we really shut everything down and we are all stuck at home for several weeks, at least we have YouTube. Until next time. GNG.

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First Group Lesson with Lucy

Posted on March 5, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

I had the most amazing Sunday. I had my normal one-on-one lesson with Chris Heck in the morning and then had a group lesson with Lucy Kovalova in the afternoon following my Aqua Zumba and Zumba classes. It was the best day ever!

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The best part is spending time with these amazing pickleball peeps.

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It was my first experience taking a group lesson with Lucy. It was a lesson for me, Debbie, and Jen (who had to leave early thus, she isn’t in the photos). Lucy invited Caesar to assist with the lesson so that’s why he’s with us.

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We had such a wonderful time learning from Lucy that we’re doing it all again this weekend. I’m so excited. It’s such a privilege to be able to learn from the top female pickleball player. We’re so lucky she lives in Wichita.

Above is an old video from 2018 when Lucy and Matt were playing for Engage Pickleball. They are now both sponsored by Onix.

This video is from the Franklin Pickleball Masters at Chicken N Pickle last year.

Anyway, group lessons with Lucy are a welcome addition to my normal weekly training sessions with Chris Heck who is my absolute favorite person to learn from. He is absolutely magnificent. I’ll have to remember to get a pic with him this Sunday so I can share it here.

Until then, have a fabulous weekend and enjoy this beautiful weather!

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