Great Netspectations

When I get to talking to people about the blog, some of them ask me about my motivation. ”Why”, they say, ‘do you go to the trouble in putting out the CHALLENGE COURT”? They seem suspicious.

I had a difficult time explaining my reasons. I wasn’t sure what to say. I decided to get some advice, so I called my friend Kevin (a former Saturday Night Live alumni) to get his advice.

He stated emphatically, ‘With all the undisclosed advertising these days, you have to reassure your readers that you have no hidden messages, no subliminal messages, and definitely no ulterior motives!! Be straight with your audience, and you’ll be rewarded by the satisfaction of doing a good job”.

I appreciated his input. So I’ve made up my mind to tell the truth. I’m not after financial gain (send money). I’ve always been honest (un-marked bill). There’s just too much of that these days. Some crooks actually try to avoid taxes (give gold coins). I could never do that because I think of the pickleballers (marks) as my family (dysfunctional).

If you see me sitting around at Pearkes and want to comment about the blog (buy me lunch), that’s all the satisfaction I need from my writing (ribs at Montana’s). I’m not a rich man (keys to your car). I believe that the most important thing in life (your Visa card) is to be rich in friends. We hang out (buy me a round), we have a few laughs (your jokes suck).

Thanks for letting me come clean about why I’m doing the CHALLENGE COURT (case of Pinot Noir, diamond jewelry, years pass to Saanich rec, Alaska cruise…) Give me the simple life (no checks). That’s the message I want to leave with you all (50’s and 100’s).

You’re in the middle of a long rally. You and your partner have made some good shots. The play goes back and forth, no one has an advantage. Then a mistake! Your opponent has popped up the ball, you swing hard and… arrghh, nooo… you’ve hit it into the net!

What to call it?….. hummm, how about a nosey?….like a bogey in golf?…..nope.

How about a dirt shot? (because it makes you say a dirty word)….. nah.

Maybe it doesn’t need a name,… except I can’t leave it alone. When I’m sitting around waiting to play, I see that shot so often. Even by advanced players. It should have its’ own descriptive title.

Then it came to me. The best name for that stinky, groaner of a flubbed smash, is a….’sardine’!

What do you think? Have you hit any sardine shots lately? Or,… do you have a better word for those seemingly easy shots that go all wrong? Does anyone have a way to make fewer ‘bum’ plays? Is it a problem with technique, or is it something psychological? Perhaps someone knows what causes dumb mistakes in pickleball.

Write me if you know what turns a ‘slam dunk’ into a ‘slam flunk’.

RESPONSES: I showed the above article to Gwen Chew, Elisabeth Martin, and Dave McNeill. I was hoping to get their feedback. Here are some of their insights:

”For me, it is usually technique but sometimes you just don’t have time to be in position to use the ‘best technique’ and the ball is not hit squarely on the paddle”.

”On the pop up you talk about generally we see it as a ‘duck’ or a ‘lame duck’ and we have it in our sights, ready to blast it but, in our effort to ‘kill it’ we swing too hard, forgetting the number one objective of ‘place the ball’.

”I think the ‘sardine shot’ is caused more by bad technique than it is psychological. This is one of the shots I’m still working on. Yes, learn the right technique and practise on it”.

CONCLUSIONS: As you can see the answers these players gave were quite insightful. However, one more anonymous pickleballer gave what has to be the ‘definitive’ answer to the ‘sardine’ question!

— ”I find if you’re able to do a quick calculation of the HEIGHT of the ball and the HEIGHT OF THE HEMLINE of your opponent’s shorts, and multiply by the distance of the two, then you take the cosine of that number to get the perfect angle at which to meet the ball with the paddle. Works every time!

WOW, it’s so simple when it’s explained that way. The mystery is solved!!

A big part of any sport is getting the ‘feel’ for the ball and racquet. Developing your reflexes to be quick is also a big part of pickleball. Some serious picklers play a bit of table tennis to help get quicker reactions in preparation for the fast pace of pickleball.

Practising for pickleball can be done anytime and almost anywhere. You can work with a partner or practise by yourself.

Partner Practise
Stand four or five feet apart and volley to each other to see how often you can keep the ball going back and forth. Try variations of this…move a bit farther apart and repeat. Try to build up your speed by making the shots harder and faster.

With three people try ‘one against two’. The single person alternates between the two and, thus, works on accuracy as well.

Try to volley from all over the court. For this drill it is good to have a bunch of balls to hit to the one practising the volley shots.

Individual Practise
At home you can practise inside the house with the new ‘soft ball’. It is made of foam and won’t mark the walls or make much of a sound. Hit the ball toward and see how many ‘hits’ you can achieve or how long you can ‘keep it alive’.

It would be better to have a ‘Practise Wall’ somewhere that can be used for your volleying drills. Some, not many, tennis courts have such a practise wall that could be used. Even a 4×4 piece of plywood set up in a backyard would do the trick.

Anything to get you reacting to the ball coming back to you so your short punch shot can be used to return it.

Remember the punch shot is a short stroke about 1 and a half feet long with the paddle ending in front of, or near your face so you will be ready for the next return if there is one.

Before games I will usually practise the volley shots amongst others to get prepared for our match.

Although practise may not be big on your ‘to do’ list it is important to do a bit. It will pay off in the end and when you play games with longer rallies, you will enjoy your pickleball games even more.


DOUG – ” I tried a ‘pepper volley’ practise session with a ‘pickle pal’ the other  day. I believe it sharpened up my reaction time in my next games. Thanks Coach for another great article!

Love,….. isn’t it wonderful, and is it not rare for a couple to be so in sync with each other that they are a perfect union of mind and soul! Thus it is with Susan and Edward….as you will see below in the questions I posed for ‘him’, and were answered by ‘her’.

Eddie Zabiela’s mini bio (answers by Sue Guest):

  1. Eddie, where were you born and raised?
    • Eddie raised hell in Toronto.
  2. What was your sports background?
    • Table tennis, ping pong, table tennis, ping pong…
  3. What your former profession?
    • Loan shark!
  4. Why did you take up pickleball?
    • He took up pickleball as a way of annoying old ping pong players.
  5. What is your philosophy about life and sports?
    • Eddie’s philosophy is ”Don’t worry, don’t hurry, and don’t forget to smell the roses!”

Thanks Sue……I forgot to ask one question. –  Which is older, Eddie or his paddle?

Occasion – Eddie Zabiela’s 65th birthday.
Date        – Monday,May 25th
Time       – pickleball starts around 10am, lunch at noon.
Place      – McMinn Park.
Bring       – finger food, camping chair (if you have one).

Some people have asked me where I get my ideas for the articles in CHALLENGE COURT. Well, I get input from 4 sources:

  1. Deep Dinker – my Rodin hating, philosophical sidekick.
  2. Yujoil Kowq  – my alien pen pal, and plunkenwheedle player from the planet Zweegh.
  3. Genie – yes, I have one. ( more about her in a future edition )
  4. But, the main place I get ideas from is…..’ You ‘!

I get many suggestions from the Victoria pickleballers! So keep writing in, I would like to hear what’s on your mind. Let’s get ‘creative’ and ‘synergistic’.

Thanks this week to John R. Paterson for a funny idea that I used. A tap of the paddle to Elisabeth and Gwen for their feedback, and great appreciation to Dave McNeill who has given me so much help and encouragement with the blog.

I had a request from John McLeod that I thought I would pass on. His friends from Saskatchewan are looking for a house sitting (or reduced rent) position in Victoria this Winter. If you need someone, email me and I will send your message to John.

Who knows what malarkey will be in the CHALLENGE COURT next week. I hope for a tasty surprise, because the ‘crock pot’ is brewing.

If you feel like writing in, I would like to know:

– How did your game go this week?

– Is pickleball your most additive sport?


‘Pickle well’,


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