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Meet My Friend Steve

Posted on October 13, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

I met Steve Vetter through my friend Jon who I met at the West YMCA after one of their tournaments. Jon was there to spectate. I went to check things out after my Zumba class because I had just learned to play pickleball and I wanted to see some more advanced players play. Jon stayed to play a few games with us. I knew he was really good (but, at the time, I had no idea how good) so I naturally wanted to play against him because I’m always up for a challenge. In the middle of our game, I remember seeing him say something to his partner. I couldn’t hear it from the other end of the court but it was probably something like, “Watch this!” And then he served a really sick, crazy serve that had a lot of spin. I managed to return it somehow, much to his amazement and mine. I thought he was showing off and being a jerk but honestly he wasn’t even playing for real. He was just goofing around with us beginners.

Fast forward three months or so later. I went to teach my early morning Saturday Aqua Zumba class at VASA but, after waiting a few minutes and having no one, I decided to go check out pickleball at the Bel Aire Rec Center before my 10:30 AM Zumba class in Andover. I ran into Jon again there. There were only two others there and they were beginners. Jon was super nice and didn’t try to kill us. He made sure play was enjoyable for everyone. It was after that day that I tracked him down and friended him on Facebook.

Months later when I posted in the Pickleball Forum (the big pickleball group on Facebook run by Aspen Kern) that I needed a partner for Atlanta (which didn’t happen for me this year after all because of COVID) and was getting flack from people telling me I should do some local tournaments first, this random guy Steve chimed in and defended me. I sent him message thanking him for the support. He basically said, “You’ve done a lot for the Wichita pickleball community and my friend Jon tells me you’re at least 3.0 so don’t listen to those people and play in whatever tournament you want.” That was my first interaction with Steve and we became friends shortly after.

I didn’t really get to play with him because he is super advanced (because the higher level players don’t really mingle with the mediocre people) but I did get to watch him play with the other competitive guys in their league at Chicken N Pickle. We often joked about the Secret Society of the Super Elite Pickleball Players and how they just play with their own group. Anyway, at the beginning of the year, Steve took time off from playing pickleball following his wrist surgery.

A couple of months later, when he was ready to start playing again, he reached out to me to set up some matches because he wasn’t ready to start playing full out and wanted to ease back into it. At the time, I was mostly doing open play so I naively told him to just come to the park and we would let him rotate in. He told me he usually just played with a small group of four so he would prefer something more like that. I had no idea how much of a “diva” this guy was at the time. I would quickly learn this was just the beginning of all sorts of specific conditions that he needed in order to play.

Realizing that opportunities to play with a player his caliber were few and far between (for instance, I remember only having opportunities to play with Jon once every 3-6 months), I was prepared to do whatever it took to set up these games. He wasn’t playing in any pickleball leagues at the time so we would play mixed with my friend Ryan (from Rotary) and Tiffany on Wednesday evenings at Chicken N Pickle and then we would play mixed with Karen and another guy (sometimes Mason, sometimes Kyle, sometimes Rick – just whoever we could get) on the weekends at Seneca Park. We played weekly (sometimes twice a week) while he was “rehabilitating” and I took full advantage of this time because I knew that, when his shots were back and he was fully recovered, he would resume playing with the Super Elite and I would never get to play with him again.

This period of “recovery” for Steve was also a growth period for me. They say that you have to play better players to get better and this is absolutely true. The thing is, you don’t really have access to play with better players unless you are friends with them, so this period was really beneficial for both of us. Steve was easing his way back into the game and I was learning (and growing) a ton. I was also taking weekly pickleball lessons from Chris Heck around this time (which we had started at the beginning of the year) so I could be “more fun” to play with. It was also around this time that I realized how much of a “diva” Steve could be. Not only did he prefer to just play with a specific number of people (rather than open play), he also prefers not to play two days in a row, and he hates playing outside because of the wind and the heat. The temperature can’t be too hot or too cold. The conditions have to be just right for him to play.

Anyway, once he was back to his former glory, he went back to playing with the higher level players that he usually plays with and he joined a couple of pickleball leagues, and so we don’t get to play as much anymore (specially since the conditions also had to be “just right” for play). We still play every now and then but not as frequently or as regularly as before when he was in “pickleball rehab” as I like to call it. So, when he texted me out of the blue last week asking to play the next day, I figured out a way to make it happen because I really didn’t know when another opportunity would present itself.

I had already scheduled play with Cameron and Mikayla Tucker and Andy Bloyer at the Mulvane park the next day but, since Steve said he wanted to play and willing to play with anyone and even drive to Mulvane, I quickly scrambled to find three others to complete a group of eight. Karen Fox, Kim Knotts, and Mark Smith were the other three players who completed our group.

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Here’s a picture from that night last week in Mulvane. I wore my brightest green shirt because people wearing green shirts that match the ball is another peeve of his. Steve doesn’t mind it as much in rec play but absolutely hates it in league and tournament play. I did it to be funny. Anyway, my friend Karen sent me this text the other day. I don’t think people intentionally wear green to match the balls but now they might just to push his buttons. LOL.

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I feel like I have come a long way since the beginning of the year. Mostly because of the lessons with Chris but also from playing mixed doubles with players like Steve who are way better than me. It’s given me a bit of confidence and I’m actually less apprehensive about asking higher level players to play these days. I was feeling really ambitious recently and even asked Jocelyn’s wife to play with me in the competitive womens’ league at Chicken N Pickle. She is like ten levels above me but I had no qualms asking. The worst they can do is say no, right?

An then when I found out that Tony Swantek was subbing for Patrick in the mens’ league on Wednesday, I asked him to stay and play a couple of mixed games with me, knowing full well that mixed is not really his thing. I couldn’t believe it when he agreed! When I got home that night, I texted my friends Jon and Steve and Chris in our group chat. I told them that I got to play mixed with Tony as my partner and could finally cross this off my bucket list. Steve, who can be a smart aleck, immediately replied with, “You must have a bunch of boring things on your bucket list!” I was so happy, he couldn’t burst my bubble no matter what he said.

I don’t know if Tony agreeing to play a couple of games with me made the difference but, randomly, out of nowhere, Steve asked if I still wanted to play with him in the next round of competitive mixed league. I’ve asked him a few times and he has always said no. Anyway, I’m not one to pass up this chance so of course I said, “Heck yes!” Below was his response.

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There were a couple of hours between the two messages because I was tied up in meetings and I’m thinking that I should have replied right away to lock him in. So I guess, if we’re playing together, there will be no matching outfits and just one social media pic (if at all). Leave it up to a lawyer to negotiate specific terms. Since I don’t want to miss out on this chance to play in a mixed league with Steve, I suppose I’m agreeing to it. Even though he is taking all of my fun away.

Anyway, you’ve read about my friend Chris Wilson and I’ve also written about my friend Karen Fox a few times, so I thought it fitting to introduce you to yet another pickleball friend. Until next time, GNG.

Related Posts

  • Weekend Recap on July 28, 2020
  • My Friend Chris Wilson on August 21, 2020
  • Wichita Corporate Challenge on September 1, 2019
  • 80/100 Tournament on August 22, 2020
  • Independence Day Cookout on July 11, 2020

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