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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.


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


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.

Related Posts

  • League Update on August 18, 2020
  • League Finals on September 21, 2020
  • Pickleball League Nights on February 21, 2020
  • Pickleball League at Chicken N Pickle on October 5, 2019
  • League Recap on November 6, 2019

  • Replies to "One League Down, Two More to Go"


    League Finals  on September 21, 2020

    […] I wrote about how Jimmy H and I won our Nahola league a few weeks ago. I wanted to also win my Wednesday night competitive women’s doubles and Thursday night […]

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