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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Learning from the Huntsman Games

I've been thinking recently about the high probability of a Bend pickleball tournament in June out at the Thousand Trails park in Sun River next year. Tournaments are fun, no matter what your level as a pickleball player. They generally aren't very elitist and you can always learn something. There's another SunRiver in the picture as well, and I just got through a learning experience there. Every year in October Irene and I look forward to the Pickleball Tournament at SunRiver in St. George, which you probably know is part of the Huntsman Games, aka the Utah Senior Olympics. But last year when I wrote in the USAPA newsletter after the tournament was over my learning was a bit different. As I pointed out then, I played like a moron last year, and so instead of talking about what a good time I had on the courts I reported instead on what I had learned about restaurants, plays, hikes, museum tours and the myriad other things to do that are all part of beautiful St. George. All good, more or less.

I may have also mentioned how excellently well the tournament was run last year; it was, and was again this year. In fact, given the number of entrants – just under 400, way up from 2009 – it’s notable that this year’s tournament ran like a Swiss watch, no small accomplishment and testimony to the virtual army of dedicated volunteers that seemed always at hand and who were unfailingly courteous, friendly and helpful. Bob Klarich, Lee Talley and the rest of the SunRiver gang are total pros at giving great tournament and if they only had been able to make Marty Grossman and Bob Bock dress like normal people it would have been perfect. Aw, heck, it was perfect anyway.

That said, this year my partner Grasso played well at the Huntsman and I at least played un-moron-like often enough that we were able to win a couple of medals, a huge improvement, pickleball-wise, over the year before. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t get to learn a few different things, especially in the finals of the 4.0 men’s skills, to wit:

1.       No matter how much water you drink, you can wind up dehydrated when you begin playing at 8 AM and finish at 6 PM.
2.       When I get dehydrated (not sure about how it works for you) my blood pressure drops like a stone and I suddenly have the energy of roadkill.
3.       Also probably related to dehydration, I start to sweat a lot.
4.       My current brand of sunblock runs when I sweat. Into my eyes.
5.       In October on court 1 at SunRiver at 5 PM the glare from the sun is significant.
6.       The color sunglasses I was wearing during broad daylight don’t work when it’s glaring and approaching dusk.
7.       I will not have the appropriate color sunglasses with me.
8.       I will not have a towel to wipe sweat, but Marcie (Grasso’s incredibly patient and prepared wife) will.
9.       Even thought I cannot see more than four feet in front of me given the above, if the ball comes directly to me, I can still hit it back over the net.
10.   If this becomes your single focus point (hitting the ball back over the net), eventually it will stay on their side of the court and you will win a point. This in turn, done repeatedly, will perhaps win you a match. At least it did for Grasso and I, although Lennie and Mike (our more-than-worthy opponents) were in every point until the bitter end.

I don’t know if that constituted winning or just surviving, but we got it done, took our medals and went home….for Irene and I, to our motor home, dry-camped as usual in the red-dust parking lot just adjacent to the pickleball courts at SunRiver. I washed the sunblock off my face, found my Visine, drank even more water,  and sank into the captain’s chair up front, where we could look down onto the courts, across the golf course to the North, and into the spectacular mountains just beyond. That alone is easily worth the price of admission, a piece of learning that’s reinforced each year we come, and so we’re already mentally booking in for 2011.

What does this have to do with Bend pickleball? Directly, perhaps not that much, but indirectly and from a learning perspective, there is a connection. The courts at Thousand Trails play differently but the elevation and general high-desert clime make the conditions a bit similar to St. George, especially in terms of glare, dehydration and the like. I am certainly going to make certain that I correct a few of the mistakes I made above when the tournament occurs. 

As we get closer to that Bend tournament I will insure that you are all invited, both to play or at least to watch, if you let me know that you may be interested. Thanks.