A Pickleball Lesson With a Pro - 6th in a Series of 12 - Suzee Anderson!
Utah was never a place that was really on the Coffeys2Go radar for an extended visit. While Ky and I were looking around for our next road trip and pet sitting opportunity, we found a great situation in Park City, Utah for a full 2 1/2 months. The homeowners bought a trimaran and went to sail for the summer out of Cape Cod. We temporarily adopted their dog, Basie, and two cats, YaYoi and Ziggy. They are all awesome pets. And, WHO KNEW about Utah? We had no idea that it is so beautiful, historic and full of fit people. The abundance of options for an active lifestyle attracts and retains athletic folks!
The town of Park City lies east of Salt Lake City. It is well known to skiers around the world. As the largest ski resort in the United States with over 7,300 skiable acres, the town hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The unusually short 35-minute drive east from Salt Lake City International Airport makes it easily accessible to visitors, so the population swells enormously in the winter. The Utah Olympic Park is now predominantly a training facility and there are lots of fun diversions in the summer like tubing, bobsled rides and zip lines to name a few. Sundance Film Festival hosts a drive-in movie theater there for the locals in the summer just for fun.
For mountain biking enthusiasts, the entire county is metaphorically a candy shop of trails. Every other vehicle seems to have racks for transporting a variety of two wheelers of both the standard and electric types. The latter makes a lot of sense with all the hills and mountainous terrain, but there are a lot of diehard beasts that like the old fashioned do-it-yourself gears.
Before arriving we found out that there is a very active pickleball club in Park City. For only $25 a year, joining gives instant access to a myriad of invitations to play in different ladders and events. https://pcpickleballclub.com/ The pickleball growth in the area has been phenomenal, so the growing pains of needing more courts, and who gets to use what courts and when has been quite an issue. To everyone who loves seeing the growth of the sport, that is a good problem to have. There are several industrious, creative people who are working on solutions.
Through a new friend named Paul in the club, we learned about pickleball pro Suzee Anderson. Paul had taken a number of lessons from her, and his game had improved substantially. As proof, he has three Golden Tickets to Nationals.
Suzee is the director and head teaching pro at Club Pickleball USA in Orem, UT. She has played as a 5.5 player all over the US and Europe. She is energetic and fun and amazingly strong, which is a surprise coming from such a small frame.
You may have heard the expression, "Pickleball - making tennis courts great again!" Club Pickleball USA in Orem, UT is making good on a new expression, "Pickleball - making shopping malls great again!" The 42,000 square foot facility in a strip mall claims to be "The Nation's Largest Indoor Pickleball Facility." There are 15 spacious indoor courts plus 2 dink practice courts. They have outdoor surfaces and indoor comfort. It makes a lot of sense in an area where for the majority of the year there is extreme cold and snow or excessive heat.
Suzee offers several different options for her lessons, but this time I chose something different from all our previous sessions with other pros. I signed up for what is called a “Three and Me” session. I invited two friends, Kelly (from Ohio) and Mary (from Park City) to join me. The three of us played with Suzee rotating around so that each of us was able to play with and against her. There were a couple of key skills that she introduced, and then all throughout the play she gave instructions and tips for how to improve our mechanics or court positioning for maximum benefit.
Suzee prefers not to have her lessons recorded, but I can share a few of the primary things that were helpful to me and my friends. To see them in action, you can book a lesson with her. Her website is https://www.suzeeandersonpb.com/.
My main takeaways from the lesson were:
1) I need to change my ready position from just having my paddle up in front of me, to getting my paddle out further in front and having my elbows away from my body. This helps with always hitting the ball out in front of me.
2) The finish of one swing and hit should be the beginning of the next. If a good hit is made with appropriate follow through, then my paddle should be in almost exactly the right spot for the next shot. Having too big of a backswing, or over-swinging leaves me behind the curve for the next shot.
3) If my partner and I have a triangular defense we are in the right position to best defend against the person who is attacking either of us.
4) An off-pace push against the person directly across the net catches them off guard, but it requires being ready to defend against their reaction. I loved Suzee's expression "You are poking the bear, and you need to be ready for what the bear does next." This comes to me frequently when I'm playing now.
5) I can now tell if I am hitting the ball too early or two late by the trajectory of my ball that flies out of bounds. For me, I am typically hitting the ball too early, and my ball flies out to the right, indicating that I need to pause just a bit before hitting to make better square contact with the ball. Patience... if I could bottle it and sell it I would be a very rich woman!
Club Pickleball USA just opened in early 2021, and there is just one thing that I would note for improvement. The noise level was quite high due to the number of people playing and having fun, and the type of large open construction. Suzee used a helpful and necessary microphone system to make sure that we could hear her instructions. Some sort of sound dampening on the walls and ceilings or heavy curtains between courts would be immensely helpful.
We had booked a one hour lesson rather than our usual two, and in the future I think I will stick to two. We also booked an hour to play after our lesson so that we could work on what we had just learned. Afterwards, we all agreed that it would have been better to warm up for half an hour and then take the lesson and play for half an hour more. Without warmup, we were not playing our best pickleball at the beginning of the lesson.
Overall, this was a very helpful session, and I would highly recommend Suzee for instruction.
We are loving Utah! I will be posting another blog devoted to our time here that is more about pet sitting and activities (as well as my motorcycle wreck), so please sign up for my blog posts if you are interested in more than just pickleball. Please invite your friends as well - thanks :-)