Dinks and Smashes

Now that Pennsauken has the new courts on River Road, I am somewhat nostalgic remembering the start of my pickleball playing at the Browning Road courts. Cookie Sey introduced a number of us to the game including Rita and Art Lattanzi, John Babcock, Bill M., Celeste Bub, Fran Mick, Lisa Heisler, Shira Carroll  etc. Lots of good memories, great people…Browning Road was our entree to other pickleball venues like Lions Den etc.

Every local pickleball venue (DeCou, Berlin, Hainesport, Pennsauken, Runnemede, Willingboro, etc.) has its own unique personality and characters. There are varieties of competitiveness, social interaction, formality, protocol and atmosphere. Each site is blessed with a good Meet-Up host.

Finally a pickleball player whose BMI is closer to many of us! Eden Lica is 6’5 and about 250 lbs. Despite his size, he has very good foot movement on the court as a singles player and he offers a nice touch and a finesse game to go with his power shots. Watch Lica’s recent singles match against Frank Anthony Davis at Delray Beach to get an idea of his agility and touch. Video starts with Lica-Davis match and continues for about 21 minutes. Note: lots of good action of other players including Ben Johns throughout video…

Experiment of one: I’ve played with a $150 Selkirk paddle but it doesn’t translate to a 100% performance improvement from playing earlier with a $75 graphite paddle. It’s often the archer, not the arrow.

Locally, informal scouting reports on players are being shared even at the intermediate level. The word of mouth reports are not only based on a player’s skills and performance but also, ominously for some, about their attitude and temperament on the court. Anecdotally I’m sad to hear stories where some players are made to feel uncomfortable because they may not be at the playing level of their fellow or lady competitors.

I commend Mindee Goldstein Hewitt for her continued improvement. She’s a pickleball dynamo and whirlwind. Not big in size, but big in heart. I’ve played with her on the Pennsauken courts. She is about a foot smaller than me but possesses a spirit and enthusiam for the game that complements her ever increasing level of skills and performance. She always has a smile on her face and has an energy level that belies her age.

If you measure your game solely by wins and losses instead of the opportunities for improvement, having fun and meeting friends/new people then you don’t understand the game.

The current performance gaps between Ben Johns from other men’s professionals and Simone Jardin from other women’s professionals are huge. Both are dominating pickleball like an early Mike Tyson with boxing and Simone Biles in gymnastics. Both players need rivalries and with new talent moving in from tennis and other sports, they soon may find it. Johns is dominating current pickleball like Bjorn Borg dominated tennis in the 1970s.

I’m amused that some of the topics (paddles, illegal serves, rules interpretions) on various Facebook pickleball forums draw as much heat as those on political topics.

I’m noticing that the streams and commentary on YouTube and Facebook from different pickleball venues and tournaments continue to improve. Those improvements will generate a wider audience and interest from casual fans.

The one exercise that may be most helpful for pickleball players is hitting a speed bag. Many pickleball shots, at the net, are like a boxer’s jab, requiring no wind up but quick flicks, reactions and jabs. Advanced pickleball players need the hand speeds and reflexes possessed by top amateur and professional boxers when parrying hard shots and volleys at the net.

My pickleball goals for this spring and summer are simple. I want to reconnect and play with old friends who I have not seen due to the Covid outbreak, improve my serve, try singles play and stay healthy.

See you on the courts!

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