Lessons with Pros - Put to the Test
Do pickleball lessons with pros make a difference? We put our last five month's worth of lessons to the test to find out.
Over almost four years of playing, a quick and dirty, very conservative estimate of the numbers of different people we have played with would be well over 3,000. Rather than becoming bored by it and going on to another sport, the game just keeps getting more interesting to both of us. There is still so much to learn, and even more fun and laughter to be had.
But .... Ky and I are very competitive, so we have interest in testing our skills at tournaments. The stress of competition isn't always great for our marriage however. Tournament entry fees are an expensive way to test the strength of our 36 year relationship. And we haven't even gotten to the added expense of counseling yet LOL!
For several reasons, Ky and I have only played in five tournaments in about four years of playing. Only one or two of those were sanctioned for ratings purposes, so as a benchmark, our current numbers calculated by USAPA don't seem to infer any real meaning. Or do they...?
One of the main reasons that we haven't played in many tournaments is because of the way we like to travel. We have rarely known where we would be even two weeks in to the future unless we had committed to a pet sitting job. While pet sitting, we would not sign up for a tournament due to the amount of time away from the pets. (Contact me if you want to know more about how we find pet sitting jobs or people who are willing to sit for your pets for free.)
Those factors make it tough to sign up for tournaments that may be months away. Being nomadic also means that the only people we can practice with regularly is each other.
In the past, Ky and I have each played lots of ball sports. I'll speak for myself when I say I have always been a perpetual intermediate at every one of them. Ky, on the other hand, is naturally gifted not only by being 6' tall, but he has good balance and eye hand coordination, and he's strong. Pickleball is the first of those sports that I have been interested in becoming more than a persistent average player. AND, it's one we generally enjoy playing together. What a bonus!
As for most people, due to covid-19, it had been over a year since we had played anything other than recreational pickleball. Unfortunately for many people, lockdowns have been so tight that they couldn't play at all. We have been blessed to live in areas where we have been able to continue to play most of the time, with extra precautions of course (social spacing, outdoors only, etc).
We've played and practiced many many hours since our last foray in medal seeking competition. If you've been following my blog, you already know about the excellent instructors we have worked with. So, have any of them made lasting impressions and improvements to our play? It is said that the proof is in the pudding. If you are not a native English speaker, that expression means we need to put it to the test.
Picking up a brand new partner that you just met on the court that day, is not a recipe for medal success in most cases. With rare exceptions, it makes playing mens' or women's doubles very difficult because competing against established partners who have practiced together extensively is generally a losing proposition.
Staying in one place for a while has its benefits. While playing in Tempe, Ky had recently met and practiced with an excellent player, Daniel, who encouraged Ky to sign up at the 4.5 level. I was fortunate to meet and play with Kelly, a visitor to the Phoenix area from Ohio, who wanted to join me, and we signed up at 4.0. It was really nice to have a few chances to practice and strategize together prior to the tournament.
We entered in to a P.I.G. Tournament (Pickleball is Great) in Tucson, Arizona where we've been staying for a little while now. Huge shout out to Gigi Guerra for a very well run tournament. Check out http://pickleballisgreat.com/.
Thanks to great partners, Ky and I both took home bronze medals in our respective doubles and we garnered a bronze in our mixed doubles as well. Overall, we were really happy with our games and despite two days of high winds that affected everyone's games adversely, we felt like we have progressed in so many ways. This wasn't a sanctioned tournament, so no changes will be made to our formal ratings.
- Do we still need more work? Definitely, always. We now have effective drills that will continue to improve our game.
- Are we still married? Definitely, and we improved in our court attitude and communication!
- Did the lessons help - Definitely, in so many ways. We both could feel the advancements in our court positioning, dinking, shot blocking and return of lobs.
We both felt improvements while playing in our doubles matches with partners in levels above where we had previously played. The type of game played at a higher level is very different. It includes more strategy and dinking, both areas of focus for us now. Winning matches at a higher level increased both of our confidence levels immensely. Even losing a match at a higher level doesn't sting quite as badly either for some strange reason. And confidence does wonders for one's game.
We are so thankful to Caden Nemoff, Adam MacKinnon, Dee Ahern and Helle Sparre for sharing their knowledge with us through lessons. We are also looking forward to more lessons. There might be benefits to finding one coach with a style that seems to work for you, and sticking with them. However, we really enjoy getting to meet all of these different great players, and getting a few nuggets to work on every month. It will make going to the next Nationals tournament so much more fun too when we get to see and watch many of them in one place.
Who will our pro be in April? That remains to be seen since we have no idea where we'll be! Suggestions?
Happy Pickling from Tucson, Arizona!
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