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Archive for "Hobbies"

Picklemania in Oklahoma City

Posted on September 13, 2021 by under Hobbies, Travel.    

I spent the weekend in Oklahoma City a couple of weeks ago to participate in the Picklemania pickleball tournament held at Lifetime Athletics at the end of August. Sometimes I wonder why I never made pickleball its own category on this blog because that’s mostly what I write about these days. Zumba has its own category but I don’t even spend as much time doing that anymore.

Anyway, Picklemania was a three-day event. Women’s doubles was on Saturday and mixed doubles was on Sunday. There were no singles events but they had a split-age event called 50/50 on Friday night. It didn’t cost that much more to play in extra events so I decided to play in all three. Chris Wilson was my partner for both 50/50 and mixed. Kimberly Howe was my women’s doubles partner.

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Part of the fun of going to tournaments is seeing some pickleball friends that you only get to see at these events. I bumped into Julie and Antonio (pictured above) — a couple of friends I made when I was at the OKC Chicken n Pickle a few weeks ago for Lauren Stratman and Patrick Smith’s clinic. It’s always so fun to reconnect with pickleball pals from other states.

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Several friends from Wichita came down to compete but we mostly hung out with Kimberly and Eric Howe because they were our doubles partners. Eric played with Chris in men’s doubles and Kimberly and I were women’s doubles partners. The two of them, Kimberly and Eric, also played in the 50/50 tournament. We were all in the same division for 50/50 but, thankfully, we were in different pools. Kimberly and Eric were in Group 3 and Chris and I were in Group 2. So we didn’t have to play each other during pool play.

There were 15 teams altogether and they divided us into 5-team pools for the round robin. The first and second place teams in each pool advanced into the single elimination bracket. Kimberly and Eric ended up third in their pool missing bracket play by a few points. Chris and I cruised through our bracket for the most part. There was only one team that gave us a challenge and we ended up having to play them again in the championship.

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Chris and I ended up with gold, followed by William Chaing and Cindy Minard from Tulsa, and then Gene Click and Barbara Mock from Edmond and Oklahoma City in third. William pulled out his chainsaw serve in the championship and really made me look like an idiot. That serve is ridiculous!

Anyway, the format is a bit different. They only play two games in the round robin and the team with the higher total score wins that match. They award bonus points for each game and match you win. And then in bracket play, you played two games in the quarter finals and the team with the higher total wins the match but then in the semi finals and finals the points don’t matter and if it’s split then you play a third game but only to 7 points. It was so different and that one game to 7 is kind of stressful. I mean, sometimes I’m down 7 points before I even start actually playing. It turned out okay for me and Chris, though.

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The 50/50 tournament was on Friday night. The next day was mens and women’s doubles. Kimberly and I looked pretty spiffy in our team uniforms. Our shoes even matched! There were 20 teams in the 3.0-3.5 skill level so they divided us into four 5-team pools. Kimberly and I cruised through pool play. But, unlucky for us, we ended up with several 3.0 teams in our pool so we didn’t really get much preparation for bracket play.

We ended up having to play the gold medal team in the first round. After playing against some lower skilled teams, we really weren’t prepared to crank up our game and didn’t adjust fast enough. Committed too many errors, which we would have gotten away with had we been playing the same caliber of teams as in pool play. Bottom line, we didn’t play our best.

It was really unfortunate because it was a single elimination bracket so, once you lose, you’re out, and I feel like we were fully capable of beating both the third and second place teams. We had already defeated the third place team in the round robin portion, 11-7 and 11-8, so we knew we could beat them. And the second place team were Brandi Richardson and Parrish Gumeringer from Wichita. We play with these girls all the time and I feel like we had a great chance against them as well. Honestly, I think we could have beat the gold medal team too, had we not played so poorly. We really beat ourselves with all the errors we made.

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The guys did much better and ended up with bronze in 50+ men’s doubles. They won their pool and got third based on their total points in bracket play.

Mixed doubles on Sunday was interesting because there were so many teams. There were four teams from Wichita: Brandi and Ty Richardson, Parrish Gumeringer and Ryan Kellenbarger, Rachel McMahon and Kyle Long, and then me and Chris. There were five pools in the round robin portion and each of us were in our own pool so we didn’t have the potential to run into one another until bracket play.

I kind of wish they separated 3.0 and 3.5 because we ended up in a super easy pool and cruised through the round robin (which is not always a good thing). We ended up getting a bye in the first round and had to play a team that came out of a tougher pool and also had to play in the first round so they had some momentum going with a bracket win under their belt already as our very first match. Same story as the previous day. Just made too many errors and got eliminated.

Wichita still took home medals, though. Rachel and Kyle ended up getting silver in 3.5 mixed and Parrish and Ryan ended up with gold in 3.0 mixed. They ended up in the 3.0 bracket because they were third place in your pool. They basically pooled all the 3.0 and 3.5 teams together and then first and second place in the pool advanced to play in the 3.5 bracket and third and fourth place advanced to play in the 3.0 bracket. Parrish and Ryan are a solid 3.5 team so they pretty much smoked everyone in the bracket.

In some ways, since there were more than enough teams, I kind of wish they separated 3.0 and 3.5 rather than pooling them together. It’s great that you get a lot of games but, depending on the group you’re in, they may not be very challenging. And then, when it really matters you end up not being ready to play your best. I know this sounds like a really lame excuse for my poor performance in women’s and mixed but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. LOL.

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As tournaments go, this has to be my most favorite one in terms of cost and location. The entry fees were reasonable and they even provided food — breakfast and lunch! The venue was also top notch. Lifetime Athletics is probably the most amazing gym I’ve ever set foot in. It smells so good in there (probably because the spa is right by the front door). It doesn’t smell like a gym at all.

I loved that we got to play indoors on outdoor tennis court surface so we got the best of everything. We had the perfect playing surface but didn’t have to worry about the sun and wind. I’m totally adding this to my list of tournaments to hit next year, along with the Sunflower State Games (another one that is indoors).

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Anyhow, that’s all for now. Until next time. GNG.

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Mixed Doubles Fun

Posted on September 2, 2021 by under Community, Hobbies.    

Been enjoying some fabulous mixed doubles action the last few weeks. We had one of the best groups I’d ever had a couple of weeks ago thanks to my friend Kyle Starkel (Nick Soapdish). It all came together because I saw him on the waitlist for Debbie’s group so I knew he wanted to play. I wanted to play too but I couldn’t start at 10 AM like the others. I asked Kyle if he wanted to play 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM at Riverside Tennis Center instead and we could create a foursome.

He asked Lacy Waugh who happened to be available and then it was up to me to find a mixed partner. Lacy suggested I ask either Chris Heck, Steve Vetter or Jon Maugans. Chris had a tennis match in Topeka and Steve was going to be out of town that weekend. Jon is always kind of a meh-let-me-think-about-it-for-a-bit kind of guy so he told me to ask him again on Friday because he didn’t know what he was doing that weekend so early in the week. I think it was Wednesday when I was putting together play for Sunday.

So then I convinced my friend Ramon Lozano who was in town for the weekend to team up with Greta Siemens for Downtown YMCA Men’s Group’s charity tournament at Chicken N Pickle to stay an extra day and play with us on Sunday, to which he agreed. Unbeknownst to me, Lacy also asked Jon and, of course, Jon said yes to Lacy because Lacy is Lacy and I am just me. So then we had an extra person. I was stuck with either bumping either Ramon or Jon off, which I didn’t want to do, so I came up with the best solution. Add more courts and find more players to make it ladder play. But, once I got the all stars (Kyle, Lacy, Jon and Ramon) on board, it made it easier for the other better players to say yes so we ended up with Dave and Lori Belew and Heather Griffin.

It was quite an intimidating bunch, with me being the weakest link, to say the least. Thankfully, my friend Karen Fox really wanted to play so that gave me a reason to open up another court which we filled with players who are more my speed. It still turned out to be really fantastic group, though.

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Dave and I even had a little duet in between games. I have a ton of fun playing pickleball but this was seriously the most fun session I’ve had in a really long time.

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The last couple of Wednesdays, my mixed doubles partner Bo Tolbert and I have been practicing with Tony Mathews and Parrish Gumeringer after my Aqua Zumba class. The first week we won most of the games but lost quite a few times also. Last week we won all of the games but one. So this week I thought we could get a couple more mixed teams to play against for greater diversity. And also to make it more challenging.

It was definitely more challenging! We added a couple of 5.0s (Lacy and Steve) and a couple of 4.5s (Kim and Kyle). The teams were as follows: Ching and Bo, Parrish and Tony, Kim and Steve, and Lacy and Kyle. Lacy and Kyle did not lose a single game and pretty much owned winner court all session. We only played one game against Kim and Steve — the very first game, which we lost. And then after than our two teams bounced back and forth between winner and loser court, never meeting up again.

I really love it when higher level players play because it challenges me to be better. We got some great games in last night and I feel like as Bo and I learn each others strengths and weaknesses and how to effectively communicate with one another, we continue to get stronger as a team.

My other favorite pickleball play night is Tuesday, since Chicken N Pickle is in between league sessions. Michael and I have been doing different things the last few weeks. The first week we just did a regular ladder, where winners move up and losers move down (partners split at each rotation). I invited too many people to play so he fired me from setting up the play on Playtime Scheduler. The last could of times he set it up himself, hand-picking the players.

Last week, we did a “random partner” round robin tournament. All the guys picked numbers and all the girls picked numbers to determine teams. After that, you kept your same partner throughout the night. The team with the most wins won.

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Donnie Lesperance and Krystal Fosnight were the champs of our little round robin tournament that night. I drew Matthew Rochat as my partner, which I was super excited about because he is amazing, but he hurt himself in Jujitsu earlier that day so he couldn’t finish. He had to quit after the third game because he was hurting too much. We won two of our three games together (we lost the last one for obvious reasons, my partner was in pain) and then Caden Courter took over. Caden and I played pretty well together. We won two and lost two, so not a bad record over all. There was no way we could catch up to Donnie and Krystal, though, because they didn’t drop a single game and were flawless all night. I donated a couple of gift cards as prizes for the mini tournament and they definitely earned them.

The other night, Micheal set up the play again (I think I’m banned from setting these up forever) and we went back to a ladder format except only the winners moved. The losers stay on their same court. Partners still split each team but only the winners advanced to the next court. The only difference is at the top court, the winner stays and the loser gets to start over at the bottom. It’s a really challenging format and you really have to earn your way to the top. Once you make it there and you drop a game, it’s a grind to get back up.

I love playing mixed doubles specially these smaller invite only groups we’ve been playing. The level of play is pretty competitive and really makes you play harder. Some days are better than others but I feel like each day I play I’m getting better so that makes me feel good. Until next time. GNG.

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Charity Tournament at Chicken N Pickle

Posted on August 17, 2021 by under Community, Hobbies.    

The Downtown Wichita Y’s Men’s Club held a super fun charity tournament at Chicken N Pickle on Saturday. It was a full day affair with competitive teams in the morning and social teams in the afternoon.

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Erica and I reversed matched with our Electrum tanks.

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Here are some pictures from that day. Above pic is with my partner Chris Wilson and Karen Fox. Karen played in the social but came early to hang out and watch.

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Here’s another picture of the three of us with Lesli Toubassi.

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Here are some action shots of one of my favorite pickleball couples, Tiffany and Donnie Lesperance.

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Here are some action shots of Greta Siemens and Ramon Lozano.

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Here are some action shots of Hanbeen You and Kim Knotts.

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Here are some action shots of Lori and Dave Belew.

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Lesli, Jenny Cole, Scott Wolford, and Tiffany.

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Even after we were eliminated from the tournament, we hung around and watch all of the awesome matches. Here’s Chris with Dave Belew (and his wife Lori Belew in background, deeply concentrating on something).

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Many of us stayed to watch the championship match.

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Scott did a great job of recruiting teams. Lots of really good pickleball players came out to play in this charity tournament which is not usually the case. It’s pretty rare that benefit tournaments attract real pickleball players. You usually end up playing with mostly beginners and maybe a couple of teams who know how to play. I think that’s why the matches were so fun to watch.

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I didn’t end up staying for the afternoon portion because Brian and I had plans that night (dinner and baseball) so I didn’t get to watch Karen and her partner Ian Carr take down the championship of the social (drink in hand) tournament. Janelle Lindeman and her partner Devin Hansen took second.

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I think everyone had a great time overall. Kudos to the Downtown Wichita Y’s Men’s Club for putting on such a wonderful event. I would totally do this again. Until next time. GNG.

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Friday Night Fun

Posted on August 16, 2021 by under Community, Hobbies.    

I know my definition of fun is probably way different than most. Brian likes to play video games for fun. Some people like to drink for fun. As for me, I just want to play pickleball. And so that’s exactly what I do on Friday nights every weekend.

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I keep a pretty predictable schedule. Every Friday I try to hit the open play at Nahola before our 7 PM private group reservation that way I can get almost four solid hours of play on the weekends.

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This past Friday, my friend Ramon was in town. There were also several others who don’t normally come who played. It was a busy night for open play.

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I didn’t mind it too much because I knew that I would have my two hours after open play when it’s just our group of ten. I like this format because, even though we have two players waiting, the wait is never too long. And when I’m winning, I never have to wait because winners always stay and split. I’ve been playing pretty well the last few months to where I rarely ever lose. Most times I win and only lose when certain match ups happen. I can even win with Eric sometimes, which a year ago would never have happened.

I haven’t had any pickleball lessons in months but I have been playing a lot and since I’ve been playing with various people I’ve often found myself just standing around and not getting hit the ball. This used to frustrate the heck out of me before I knew how to help my partner. Over time I started to figure out what to do to ensure that I also get the ball sometimes.

It used to be I would just give up and hope that the game would end as quickly as possible, which was never any fun. With my new approach, I actually get to play some and even win some games too despite being on the weaker team.

So what am I doing differently? I’m sure you’re wondering. Amazingly enough, all I’ve changed is where I position myself on the court. If my partner is getting 80-90% of the balls, then I start putting myself smack dab in the middle at T. Believe it or not, this makes a huge difference because then it considerably shrinks the other team’s target. Now, instead of having half of the court as their target, their target has diminished to a third or a quarter of the court. This helps me and my team because then I get more of the court so balls will actually come my way sometimes and I can get be part of the rally. And, if they do force the issue and continue to target my partner, since their target is much smaller they are more likely to hit the ball out which earns my team either a point or a sideout.

This new strategy has been super effective and I’m actually winning more on Friday nights. Whereas before, whenever I would get paired up with certain people then I would just rollover and take the loss and wait for the next game. Now, the games are way closer and sometimes my team even wins!

The only downside of getting used to playing this way is sometimes I forget to switch back to normal mode when I’m actually paired up with someone good and I’m taking up too much of the court when I should be. LOL. Now that I know what to do when playing with a weaker partner, I just need to learn to adjust when I’m with a strong partner. Rec is always hard because you’re constantly playing with different people. I like it when I get to play with the same people on a regular basis because then I can get used to how they play and they can get used to how I play and we begin to build that rapport and chemistry on the court. There are some people I just cannot play with, though. Like, that chemistry isn’t happening, no matter what. Thankfully, none of those people are in my regular play groups.

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This past weekend was special because my friend Ramon came to visit. It’s kind of a bummer that he didn’t get to play in Rocky Mountain Championships but that was good news for me because then he got to spend time in Wichita. He played in the Nahola open play and then hung out and joined us for dinner after.

I don’t usually go out to dinner with the Friday night crew because I have to teach Aqua Zumba on Saturday mornings but I made an exception this time around. It’s okay to deviate from routines sometimes, specially when friends come to visit.

This is all for now but stay tuned for a few more posts from this weekend. GNG.

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Weekend Pickleball

Posted on August 13, 2021 by under Community, Hobbies.    

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My friend Debbie Fanning sets up the best pickleball play groups. I still remember when she first invited me to play in her Friday night group. I was so excited! I also owe her for getting me connected with Tom Pham. I had never played with him before she and Dave started inviting us to play mixed doubles in the bubble at Riverside Tennis Center (RTC) a year ago. If it weren’t for these games, I never would have gotten the idea to team up with Tom last year.

We don’t do mixed during the week anymore because our schedules have diverged. Before I picked up additional classes at VASA, I was playing in multiple leagues so it was hard to play during the week nights. Nowadays the main hurdle with playing during the week is my Aqua Zumba schedule. I teach classes every single week night except for Friday. I have a 6:30 PM Aqua Zumba class at the Harry location on Mondays and Wednesdays and a 5:30 PM Aqua Zumba class at the Woodlawn location on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This makes it nearly impossible to get in any play groups. Even leagues are tricky. I can’t do a league that starts any earlier than 8 PM most of the time.

Anyway, in addition to our fabulous group on Friday night, Debbie has started organizing weekend play. They usually start at 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning, which is impossible for me to make because I have Aqua Zumba on Saturdays (Woodlawn location) and Sundays (Harry location) from 9-10 AM. There were a couple of Saturdays that I piggy-backed off the 10 AM Saturday group and started my group at 10:30 AM just so I could play with them. And then there were a couple of weeks when it was too hot to play outside and Debbie booked courts inside the bubble instead. On those times, the indoor courts at RTC weren’t available until later so I could actually join the fun.

The one day that has always eluded me is Sunday. They usually play from 9-11 AM at Rolling Hills so it’s impossible for me to join them. However, luck was on my side last weekend. The pools at VASA were closed for maintenance so my weekend classes were canceled. I didn’t find out until the weekend so I was on the waiting list but, luckily, there were a couple of cancellations and I managed to in.

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I was so excited to finally be able to play with this group that I begged them to take a group picture at the end. I wanted to remember this forever because I wasn’t sure when the stars would align for me to be able to play with them again.

It’s so amazing that Debbie’s groups have grown so much. Our Friday night group is always a standard 10 players. Her weekend groups have gone from 12 players to an average of 16 players to now 24 players routinely playing a ladder format together. Even with that many players, she still ends up with a pretty deep waiting list.

I just love playing with this group. I wish I could play with them more.

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