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Archive for "Hobbies"

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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80/100 Tournament

Posted on August 22, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

Pictures from the 80/100 social tournament at Chicken N Pickle last weekend.

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Karen and Jenny played in the 80+ pool since they were short one team. It worked out great because they won it!

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My partner Bob Palmer and I played in the 100+ pool and ended up duking it out with Kinky Dinkers Donnie and Tiffany Lesperance for the championship.

Believe it or not, it was quite challenging looking for a partner for this social tournament. You and your partner’s age have to add up to either 80 and above or 100 and above in order to play.

Most of the guys I play with for mixed doubles are in their 20s or 30s so it was tough to even get to a sum of 80. And then a bunch of other guys who are the right age were already playing in Cody’s Saturday morning “King of Courts” play. I asked my friend Chris Wilson but he was already playing with Kim Knotts who is his regular partner for tournaments. In an act of desperation, I posted a funny “want ad” in our Wichita Pickleball Facebook group. As luck would have it, Bob Palmer saw my post and offered to play with me. And, even better, he is the correct age so we could play in the 100+ pool.

It would have been a lot easier to play in the 80+ pool because some of the stronger players were in 100+ but I really wanted to play against Chris and Kim and also Donnie and Tiffany. I’m a glutton for punishment and I like to be challenged. Chris and Kim actually didn’t end up playing because Kim hurt her leg on Friday night, which was a huge bummer. But we still got to play against Donnie and Tiffany, though. They were super tough opponents. They beat us in pool play and then they beat us again in two straight sets in the finals.

Anyway, even though Bob and I didn’t win, it was still a lot of fun. I had a great time. That’s all for now. Until next time. GNG.

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My Friend Chris Wilson

Posted on August 21, 2020 by under Community, Hobbies, Toys.    

My friend Chris Wilson and I recreated our Wichita Corporate Challenge picture from last year. So much has changed since then. At the time, I was playing with my first big girl pickleball paddle – a Selkirk S1C. I’ve switched to four different paddles since then. I first switched to playing with a Prokennex Pro Speed because I ended up with really bad tennis elbow. Then, when my tennis elbow started to feel better, I let my friend Jon talk me into switching to the Onix Evoke Premier, which is the paddle that local pickleball superstars Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright use.

Then, all of my friends started playing with the Engage Encore MX 6.0, which is the paddle you see in the pic below. Both Chris and I started playing with it around the same time. Almost everyone in our Friday night pickleball group plays with this exact paddle. I think there are only a couple of people who use different ones.

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Anyway, I’ve since moved on and switched to playing with an Electrum Pro. It’s the first pickleball paddle that I’ve fallen in love with and chosen for myself. All other paddles I’ve ever played with were recommended to me by other friends (Selkirk – Gregg Smith, Prokennex – Jimmy Cho, Onix – Jon Maugans, Engage – Debbie Fanning). The Electrum is the first one that I’ve chosen for myself after demoing. I actually thought I would be the first person to play with one as my regular paddle (Patrick Smith has one – it’s actually the one I demoed – but he wasn’t playing with it because he was still playing with his Engage) in town but my dad actually beat me to it. Dad bough and got his Electrum Pro about a week before me.

Back to Chris Wilson. I met him at Paul Haas’ (another pickleball friend) church about a year and a half ago. I had no idea that he and Paul both worked for Evergy (Westar Energy at the time) until Paul actually retired. Anyway, I was looking for a partner for the pickleball tournament portion of the Wichita Corporate Challenge and I was going to ask Paul at first and then Paul told me that Chris also works for our company. Unlike Paul, he isn’t retired, so the two of us teamed up.

Anyway, Chris is a really good pickleball player. When I first started playing, I was mostly playing at the West YMCA with a bunch of beginners. There were some better players but then they started not coming around. I found out later they were playing at the the West Heights United Methodist Church (Paul’s church) down the street instead. It was like a secret place. It wasn’t published on the USA Pickleball Places2Play site. You just kind of had to know about it either through a friend or you were invited. I remember being so excited when I finally found the church.

I met Chris on my first time there. I was still very much a beginner so everyone was so much better than me. My friend Gregg Smith, who I know through Brian (because he is an Edward Jones client), paired me with who he said was “the best player” there on my very first game, and that “best player” he gave me was Chris. I think our first game was me and Chris vs. Gregg and another guy. I was a newbie who needed some “babysitting” so I was grateful to have Chris as my partner.

A few months later, Chris asked me if I would play with him in a tournament. I was so flattered that he thought I was good enough to play with him until I found out it was a pickleball tournament for senior citizens. And then I wasn’t sure if I should feel insulted that he thought I would be old enough to play in it.

Another funny story I have about Chris happened a few weeks ago. We have been playing in some recreational (but still somewhat competitive) mixed doubles at the park on Sunday mornings. The first time we did this format, I played with my friend Michael Cheung who I have played with in past leagues and tournaments. Jimmy Cho, who organizes this play, makes it Sadie Hawkins dance style where the girls ask guys to be their partner. I assumed we were picking partners from “Jimmy’s boys,” a group of mostly Asian guys who Jimmy has been training and mentoring. Anyway, I noticed that other people invited non-Asian guys to be their partner so I decided that I would invite the best player I know for the following weekend and texted Chris Wilson.

Anyway, he immediately replied back that he was already playing with Kim Knotts. About that same time, I saw that Kim replied to the group chat with the ladies that she is playing with Chris as her partner. It was understandable as the two of them have been playing in tournaments together so it only makes sense that they would want to continue to team up even for rec play so that they can have lots of practice. But, not to be outdone, I decided to ask another really good player who also happens to be left handed same as Chris.

When Chris turned me down and I found another partner, I texted him back saying that I found another lefty to play with me. Well, we have a famous lefty in town, Cody Courter, who is super amazing. So he texted back and asked if I was bringing Cody. I didn’t reply because I wanted him to chew on that little niblet for a bit. I also wanted the element of surprise.

That Sunday I played with Tom Pham, another great pickleball player who happens to be a lefty. Tom is amazing and we did really well that day. I might not have brought Cody but I got the next best thing. LOL. Tom and I have since teamed up for mixed competitive league at Chicken N Pickle on Thursday nights and are also doing well in that league.

There are several guys who are really good and super fun to play with and I am grateful that they are willing to play with me. Kim has Chris pretty much on lock but I did get to play mixed doubles with Chris some over the summer. And, I also get to play with (and against) him every week in our normal Friday night group at Nahola that Debbie organizes.

One last little story about Chris. I’ve gotten a lot better at pickleball since the very first time we met and don’t really need much “babysitting” anymore. Whenever Chris and I play together, he actually lets me handle things instead of taking my shots to help me out. Anyway, he’s noticed that I actually play better against him than with him and he’s made a comment about it a couple of times.

After one particularly good game where me and my partner beat him and his partner he asked, “How come you don’t play like that when you’re playing with me?” I think I revert back to “beginner Ching” when we play together and still want him to do some “babysitting” because in my mind I think he is amazing and his shots are going to be way better than mine so I end up not taking shots I should be taking and just expect him to take care of everything.

For instance, I’ve gotten a lot better at chasing down lobs and he’s seen how much progress I’ve had in this area so then we get lobbed he expects me to “handle” it whereas before when we first started playing he would have to chase all of them down (because I simply did not have the skills to deal with them properly). So now that he knows I am capable he expects me to take these but in my mind I’m still thinking he will take care of these. I don’t think I have this same mental challenges when I’m playing with other guys who didn’t know me as a beginner. And I think this is why I seem to play much better when I’m playing with other people. Because I don’t expect them to “babysit” me like does.

Anyway, that’s pretty much my Chris Wilson stories. It’s Friday and that means we’re playing tonight. I am so excited! I love Fridays because I get to play pickleball for four hours nonstop. Until next time. GNG.

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League Update

Posted on August 18, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

I know I swore off leagues for a while but I missed it so I’m actually in three different leagues this time. On Tuesdays I play in a competitive league at Nahola. The format there is different. You don’t have a set partner. You play 5-6 games each night with different partners each time and then you report your game results. They tally it all together and match everyone up for a tournament on the final night.

On Wednesday nights, I play in the women’s competitive league at Chicken N Pickle. I wasn’t going to do it because I swore off Chicken N Pickle leagues for a bit but all my girl friends were doing it and my friend Ryan’s wife Renae who I have been wanting to team up with for a long time is finally available to play so I couldn’t pass it up. I absolutely had to play this season.

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Here’s a pic of me and my partner Renae in our matching CNP tie dye shirts.

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These two lovely ladies are Kim and Brooke. They play as B & K.

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These are the Jens — Jen R and Jen T — also known as Jen Squared.

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These are Kimberly and Tiffany. They play as Tiff & Berly.

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Karen and Jenny play as 501 Dinkers. Although, we talked about them possibly changing their team name to JK (for their initials Jenny and Karen or it could also stand for Just Kidding) in the future.

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These are Chris and Jan. They play as ChrisJan. They’re probably the only two ladies I don’t know as well as the others in our league.

Women's Competitive

Above are our current league standings two weeks in. Renae and I play as Backhanded Compliments. We are currently in second place, behind B & K. We suffered a disappointing loss to Brooke and Kim last week. Hoping for a good night tomorrow so we can stay competitively close to the number one team.

However, I’m not really as concerned about our record. Mainly, we just want to play well and learn as much as we can so we can do really well on our final night which is the league tournament. That’s when the wins and losses really matter.

Anyway, I’m super thrilled with this league because I’m playing with women who I normally play with on a regular basis. Another league that I have is mixed competitive on Thursdays nights. I play in that league with my friend Tom Pham. We’re both Asians so our team name is Asian Invasion. That’s another fun league because it’s pretty much our Sunday morning mixed group plus two other teams.

Will keep you posted on how it goes this season. Until then, GNG.

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