Not every day do we hit a home run in California. Today we doubled off the wall. Though yesterday, we did hit a three-run homer on Santa Cruz in the Channel Islands off Ventura. Click here for that blog. Saturday past, we hit a grand slam at our first of two hikes to the San Ysidro Falls in Montecito. Click here for that blog.
But back to the baseball analogy, we all know that a double is good hit. We’re not complaining, but we have been getting used to four baggers here in California. Let me explain.
With the forecast for sun on this mid-February Wednesday, we drive one hundred miles north from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo. We have a 9A date with pickleballers from the central coast of California.
Arriving at Meadow Park, we are immediately included in a game of doubles. Here, guests don’t pay (we pay $4 each time we play at our home courts in Saco, Maine). We notice that we are among family (i.e. seniors), which gives us a break from the high powered juices of the thirty-somethings we play with in Santa Barbara. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
When in Maine, we play indoors; today in the great outdoors, we have sunshine to deal with when hitting overhead shots. With only ten players by 910A for the three courts, it looks like we’ll have lots of playing time.
Not so fast, my friend. Alas, twenty more soon show up, so we wait and wait some more for our next game. This is not an uncommon problem with the growth of pickleball over the past few years.
You may not know that most pickleball sites have ambassadors. These angels have a challenging job as they try to balance the competing interests of the different levels of players. Understandably and most appropriately, ambassadors want to grow the sport and are excellent in embracing newcomers. Fact is, most pickleball players welcome new players. That said, beginners thrive in a setting where they learn with other newbies and are supported by the advanced players.
Advanced players were once beginners and feel a kinship with those just learning the game. But advanced players also like the competition of other advanced players. It’s an extraordinary balancing act for the selfless people who choose to be pickleball ambassadors.
One of our Maine ambassadors has the wisdom of Solomon. Check his email out.
Recently an advanced player wrote me to ask what my thoughts were regarding “picking on” the weaker player on the court. The following was my reply to him:
“Identifying and attacking the weaker player is a strategy very often used and should only be used in competitive tournament play. To apply that same strategy in recreational play is just not the right thing to do. It is demeaning and embarrassing for the weaker player. Many players feel that winning is everything! It serves no purpose to “smash” a weaker player. It makes more sense to try to improve your game by feeding the stronger player and attempting to return his/her shot….in other words, challenge yourself!
A little common sense goes a long way….an attempt should be made to balance returns between both players. All of us, including myself, at one time or another are probably guilty of consistently taking advantage of the weaker player on the court. Let’s try to remember that Pickleball is about having fun….and that includes all players.
Roger Huppe, USAPA District Ambassador, New England
Today we model Roger’s suggestions with the beginners and intermediate players; we know that in the days ahead back in Santa Barbara, we’ll have the competitive games we seek.
Hiking Black Hill
With still lots of hiking miles left in our legs, we drive to the northwest twelve miles along The 101 highway to Morro Rock State Park. Morro Rock is a 581-foot volcanic plug located just offshore from the resort town of Morro Bay.
But before we head to Morro Rock, we’ll hike to Black Hill in Morro Rock State Park a few miles away. With a mile or so to the top, we’ll get a fine workout with a decent 535’ of elevation gain. The trail climbs easily through the sage brush with the mountain top always in view.
We like to hike trails where others hike. One, we are less likely to get lost. Two, we enjoy the connection with others, however briefly.
Though the trail is basically well marked, we find a way to miss a turn and start heading around the mountain rather than up it. As the path narrows through dense sage brush, we realize the error of our ways, backtrack, and find our way to the top. The fact is, this is an easy peezy hike, to be enjoyed by hikers of all ages.
Throughout the climb, we have the massive Morro Rock as a backdrop. Dominating the coastline, it reminds me of Beacon Rock on the Columbia River Gorge in the state of Washington.
Driving a roundabout four miles to explore the base of the Morro Rock itself, we wonder if there is more hiking for us. It turns out not. To the north of the monolith, there is a surfers’ beach with families on this last sunny day before the upcoming weekend of heavy rain.
Around to the bayside, there is more parking; on this day, we see a class of middle schoolers acting the part, – cool, bored, and disinterested. That said, three cheers for these public school teachers for their commitment and perseverance to extend the student learning beyond the classroom’s four walls. Whether they know it or not, they are planting seeds of exploration that will likely grow in the years ahead. These teachers are among America’s heroes.
With non-competitive pickleball and a modest four miles of hiking, we wait on second base with our double. With no teammates around, we are stranded there and decide to drive ourselves home (you get the pun, don’t you?) to our cottage to the south. Fact is, a double means we are still batting 1.000 this February in California.