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Cross-Court Dinking in Concord, CA

What comes to mind when you think of Concord? A town near you in one of seven different states (AL, AR, CA, DE, GA, IL, IN)? Grape juice perhaps, or maybe a really fast airplane (but you need an “e” on the end for that). It is quite likely that in the future, pickleball will be what people think of first when Concord, CA is mentioned.

Willow Pass Park, just a quick 20 minute drive north of Alamo, subject of my recent post, and if you’re in the general area, this park is one you definitely do not want to miss!

Ky was taking a day off to do a bike ride, so I showed up by myself. The courts were hopping! Instead of jumping on right away, I decided to put my drone up first to capture the great energy on the courts.

Here, I submit to you, is the perfect photo to use if you are proposing new courts and want to show why courts are a good investment for any community, government or resort to make. Please do not think that I am bashing tennis here, (sorry, not sorry), but pickleball gets people up and moving in droves, while the tennis courts, which take up considerably more real estate, frequently sit empty these days. On a Friday morning at 9:15 am, the age group on the pickleball courts ranged from mid-20s to predominantly mid-40s up in to the mid 70s.

After drone flying, I walked on to the court and within minutes, I was invited in to a game. Ahem… that’s another huge difference! Try going to a tennis court by yourself and see how long it takes to get invited in to a game.

At Willow Pass’s 14 courts, there were all levels playing and they use a colored flag system with red, yellow and green flags to show the level of play at each. No one is policing which courts anyone belongs on, but if you’re color blind, you’ll quickly find out that you’re on the wrong court if you enter the upper echelons. There are amazing players, way above my pay grade, that are super fun and inspirational to watch.

Pickleball is still a pretty small, but quickly growing, world. It was a pleasant surprise to see Lori Makabe at the courts. We met at Tres Palapas in Los Barriles, Mexico. She's a fantastic photographer and pickleball player and she calls Willow Creek her home court when she's not in Mexico.

It turned out that on Fridays and Saturday mornings , a pretty large group shows up for drills for two hours, leading in to some fun and competitive matches. I had missed Friday’s session, but Ky and I planned to show up for them the next day.

The leader of the drill pack is Batong Briones. For two hours on Saturday, he announced various shots to work on, made them in to short competitive games, and helped people get rotated in and then out when they missed shots. He makes drilling so worthwhile, interesting and fun, that getting better at pickleball is natural. If you want to improve your game, set up time to drill, with good instructions so that you're not drilling in bad habits, and have fun!

Batong is the father of Jordon Briones of fame, and while at Willow Pass, I had the good fortune to meet Nicole Havlicek, co-founder of PrimeTime. If you haven’t seen the videos which she and Jordon create, take a look at the wide selection of 100+ teaching videos that they have uploaded to YouTube. You can pretty much learn anything you need to know in one of their tutorials.

Ky played on a day which started off cool and warmed up quickly. He had pulled off his outer shirt and inadvertently left it at the court. We tracked it down through the grapevine, and found that Batong had found it and taken it with him. We coordinated to meet him pick it up at church in Concord the next day, which happened to be Father's Day. It was a great service at The Bay Church, and we had a chance to chat with Batong a bit - what a nice and interesting guy.

We have loved every pickleball place we've played on this road trip so far, but Willow Pass ranks at the top for great courts and advanced players. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former governor of California, "I'll be back!"

If you go:

Google Maps Plus Code: XXPH+GQ Concord, California (Google Maps still shows 8 tennis courts, but 4 are now 14 Pickleball Courts)

Cost: Free

Happy Cross-Court Dinking from Willow Pass Park in Concord, CA

Next stop Eureka, CA!

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