Meet A Famous Pickleballer Edition

I have a confession to make….I am starstruck about the person who is featured in this edition’s player profile. I would love to meet her in person, so, I sent her an email to see if she was coming up to play in this years Canadian West Nationals at Kelowna. She replied, and said that, although Kelowna was on her ‘bucket list’, that she wouldn’t be able to make it this year. I was disappointed, and not just for myself, because I think she would have had a good chance at a bunch of medals. After all, she has won 4 gold medals in women’s doubles play at the most competitive doubles venue in the world….the US Nationals! She has also won a slew of medals in other major tournaments, and, what I find truly remarkable, is this lady is what I refer to as a ‘working class’ hero….she has a day job as a CPA, is married with 2 teenage boys, and only has time to compete in 5 or so tournaments a year!

I think my readers will be interested to hear from one of my favourite pro pickleballers, and, hear some tidbits about her playing famous playing partners- Jennifer Lucore and Matthew Blom.

Alex Hamner      In Her Own Words

1. (The first question I have concerns her play with her partner in mixed doubles, Matthew Blom. Re: pickle sign language) Alex, watching you and Matthew in doubles play, to me, it seems that communication is a big part of your game strategy. Can you comment on this, and, in general, what Matthew Blom is like to partner with?

  • Communication is, (or should be!), a big part of every double’s team’s strategy. When I play with Matthew Blom, we communicate in 3 ways: verbally, with hand signals, and telepathically. The verbal part is the most common between partners – ”Hit it there” or ”Switch” or ”Mine” are examples. These same cues can be accomplished through hand signals, which Mathew likes to use frequently. Matthew tends to be very active at the net, so with a hand signal we can tell each other how we want the point to begin and try to gain control from the very beginning of the rally. The communication of hand signals starts, of course, with a conversation about strategies and abilities. So you can’t really say that signalling is non-verbal! And, okay, I’m kidding about the telepathy part but – as when I play with Jennifer Lucore – there is a lot of ”body language” that gets used. That means paying attention to where your partner is and reading their movement so that the hole can be filled if they have left ”their” place somewhat unexpectedly.
  • BTW, Matthew is a great guy on and off the court. He’s very supportive and kind, offering only praise and suggestions for the team to work better together. Plus, he’s an AMAZING pickleball player!

2. I have been following Jennifer Lucore’s blog for about a year. She sent me a nice email when I first subscribed to her site. I noticed that last year you and Jen were on Bainbridge Island celebrating PB’s 50th anniversary with Barney McCallum. Wow, I have to admit it,…that brought a tear to my eye! What was that experience like for you? (note to my new readers – Barney is one of the men who invented pickleball)

  • I’ve been lucky to spend some fun times with Barney McCallum and his family over the last few years. In 2015 Jennifer and I made a special trip to see Barney and again get more history ”from the horse’s mouth” about the beginnings of this wonderful game originally called Pickle-Ball that we all love so much. We also had some fun with it being the 50th anniversary of the sport, like singing Happy Birthday to Pickleball on the original court it was invented. Barney is an extremely interesting and accomplished man. And he’s very humble about his many successes and inventions. I consider myself fortunate to call him a friend.

3. I like to watch, and analyze, you and Jennifer’s videos. When you two are playing together I noticed it’s very hard for opponents to get shots past you and Jen, especially,…down the middle. One of you is always there defending the t-spot. I it important to reduce gaps, and squeeze close to your partner when you’re at the 7 foot line.

  • Yay, I hope it’s hard for opponents to get shots past us! Jen and I believe it is, as you stated, important to reduce gaps – whether defending the t-spot or any other hole – that might be created. There should be a certain amount of movement by both players regardless of who is hitting the ball. And if you (or your partner) keep getting passed, at least one of you needs to change your positioning to make that nonsense STOP. 😉

4. There was a lot of new players competing at the US Nationals this year. Tennis/pickleballers like Simone Jardim, Corrine Carr, Christine McGrath and Sarah Ansboury are competing and winning medals at the top level events. I’m wondering if that is part of a trend? Do you think that, as the prize money increases, we are going to see pro tennis players at the big pickleball tournaments?

  • Isn’t the influx of new players at every level fabulous? There are former pro’s of many sports already involved in pickleball – tennis, badminton, racquetball, volleyball, etc – so I think the trend that’s happening is that people from all backgrounds and of all abilities are finding Pickleball to be so much fun that they’re grabbing their friends and everyone involved. And even if there wasn’t much money to be made, pickleball tournaments would keep getting bigger as they have been for the last 50 years. (But to answer your question…Yes)

5. Last question Alex,….what’s more fun for you,….a friendly game with your So. Cal. pickle pals,…or,…competing in a big tournament match where a medal is up for grabs?

  • Just being on a pickleball court anywhere for any reason is fun for me; playing for fun and competing in a tournament are just different kinds of fun. I’m happy that I have the opportunity to do both.

Thank you Alex for sharing your game stories with us, and congrats on all the medals you captured in last November……My readers may be interested to know that Alex continued to do well at the 2015 US Nationals. Although her and Jennifer Lucore did not 5 ‘peat’ in the Women’s Open Doubles, they did win silver in the 35 plus bracket. Alex also won bronze in the 50 plus mixed doubles bracket with Brian Staub, bronze in Senior’s Womens Open Singles, and silver in Women’s Singles in the 50 plus bracket!

VIDEOS

1. From the 2014 Tournament of Champions – Alex Hamner and Mathew Blom vs Puppetmater (Tim Nelson) and Jennifer Lucore…..notice the hand signals and general great communication by Alex and Mathew.

https://youtu.be/Q1ngnbXvPYo

2. From the 2014 US Nationals in the 35 plus bracket – Alex Hamner and Jennifer Lucore vs Christine Barksdale and Joy Leising…..I like to watch the way Jen and Alex stand at the 7 foot line…pretty perfect pickleballer’s posture. Alex stands a bit taller to take the overhead volleys.

https://youtu.be/MjvHlEW9djc

3. From the 2014 US Nationals Youth Division – To show the ‘apple does fall far from the tree’…an interview with Alex’s apple cheeked son Chad Hamner

https://youtu.be/A_HqiaDheJo

 

*Note – Alex Hamner would like to hear from ‘you’!!.. Please send in your comments and I’ll forward them to her.

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Cucumber Vine –  emails, ideas, reflections

– In the last CC…the blurb about the Cedar Hill tournaments,….the phone # for registration was wrong,…shoulda been 250-475-7121….Sorry.

  • A message from Ian Daniel, the Cedar Hill tournaments host:
  • This is not my tournament!!!! It is put on by Saanich. They have agreed to let us use the CH facility. I am only organizing and running the tournament.
  • The cost was set by Cedar Hill Rec. It was my idea to offer sandwiches and coffees a way to encourage socializing which is an important aspect of PB. If not wanted in the future, the cost would be lowered by $7.50. The rest of the cost comes from renting the courts, using the staff for registering, providing support, and offering prizes. There is still a lot of unpaid hours that are going into this, and it is pretty well a financially break-even event.
  • There was no separation of genders because we have only have 3 courts and 1 day to have the event. ….The bottom line is we have two tournaments and two classes that we didn’t have before. It is a first attempt to provide more PB at a facility that agreed to participate…..These types of initiatives will never satisfy everyone’s agenda but some people will appreciate the opportunity.

-Point taken Ian….and don’t worry, I think the tournaments will be popular and sell out fast.

– HEY, WAKE UP!! IT’S TIME TO PLAY!!….starting Monday, Feb 15th there will be 7-8:30am Pickleball Drop In at Commonwealth Rec. on a trial basis. To see who’s going ….contact:

dorisclemens@yahoo.ca

-I heard Dennis Peters a pickleballer from Lake Cowichan. They have have group of about 50 regulars up there. Dennis and I are going to keep in touch so that we can share ideas and any success stories in our adventures in dealing with officialdoms….. It’s a long and winding pickle path we travel to reach our mutual court contentments!

-Coming in the next Court…cool and crunchy condiments for you cerebellum, from your subjective scribbler, or someone similar…

Thanks for the game,

DJ Baker.

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