Famous Kansas Jayhawks Fan Edition

I know,…I know,…you’re probably wondering what a Kansas Jayhawk ‘is’, and,…’what it has to do with pickleball’? College basketball isn’t as popular in Canada as it is in the USA.

Well, I looked it up, the Jayhawks are a basketball team (NCAA), and they have a connection to a rising PB star. I hope I have ‘piqued’ your curiosity enough to read on. But, enough of the pre-ramble,..let’s get right to it,…let’s hear from:

ASPEN KERN – IN HIS OWN WORDS

1. How old are you Aspen?

  • 22 years old.

2. Where did you grow up?

  • I’m from San Diego, California. My parents were full time Rvers, so I spent a lot of time travelling the USA, and have been to all 50 states. I’m vegetarian since birth, and home schooled.

3. What is your sports background?

  • I started playing tennis at the age of 10, and competed in many tournaments until I injured my wrist at the age of 14. I first hit a pickleball in Santa Barbara, California,…that was eight years ago, and I have been a Pickleball addict ever since. I enjoyed playing every sport, but concentrate on Pickleball. I love basketball, and I am the ‘self proclaimed’ biggest fan of the Kansas Jayhawks.

4. You have played with, and won medals, with Steve Wong. You’re in Mesa, but Steve’s in Surprise, Az…Both places are ‘hot beds’ for pickleball players to develop their games. What’s the story of how you guys met and became tournament partners?

  • I actually don’t know Steve Wong very well. We liked each others game, so we decided to team up. He is a ‘legend’ in the sport (on and off the court), so it was a privilege to get to partner with him. At that time Steve was playing in a group located about 40 miles from me, so, we had only hit together a couple of times.

5. In last years’ Fall Brawl you were playing with the talented Matt Staub. I mentioned you guys in an article I did on stacking…Matt was on the right side, and, at the 7 foot line, and was picking off a lot of shots with his backhand. In the left court you were getting a good share of points with your forehand smashes. Do you prefer the left court when you’re using the stacking strategy?

  • Fall Brawl was a fun tournament with first rate facilities, and St. George is a beautiful town. Matt and I play together recreationally in Scottsdale, Arizona. As far as stacking,…I don’t usually stack. I like to think I can play both sides equally well. Matt is a great player as you know. He and I actually switch it up according to who we play. I don’t think a player should get comfortable stacking on one side,…best to keep sharp in both positions. The Fall Brawl took place at midnight after a full day of playing in he sun. We met Dave Weinbach (The Badger) and Brian Ashworth (The Beard). Both of them ‘beasts on the court’! We pulled out the win in that one.

6. At last years’ Nationals you won a silver medal with Matt in the 19 plus age bracket, and a bronze with Brian Ashworth in the men’s open doubles. I imagine it was quite a thrill to win two medals at this major event. What was it like for you to stand on the podium at the Nationals?

  • 2015 National VII was quite a thrill to take the podium in both my events! Brian was my partner in men’s open and he played lights out as usual. Thanks to him I got some hardware in a tough field of players. Matt and I medaled in the 19 plus, and I was proud of Matt for playing so tough all the way to the end. That was the 6th Nationals I had taken part in. At the age of 17 I was officially the youngest player to take home a cash reward from an open event,… and that was in singles. I loved singles as well, but determined that it was too hard on the body to play long term. Doubles to me is the real Pickleball.

7. There are some pro level tourneys coming up that you are registered to compete in – the Grand Canyon State Games (late February), and the LeMaster-Davison Classic (April). Are there specific areas of your game that you are working on in prep for the tournament season?

  • I’m looking forward to playing Grand Canyon and LeMaster-Davison coming up soon. I have mostly been doing drills for hand speed and footwork drills to become lighter on my feet. I also watch videos of the top players and pick apart their games and steal a technique or two from them. My Dad is my coach and his motto is ”work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths”.

8. Are we Canucks going to have the pleasure of watching you compete in the Canadian West Nationals in Kelowna this year?

  • I hope to start travelling year round through my sponsorship with Pro Lite Sports and Neil Friedenberg. I would love to come and play in the Canadian Nationals,…right now it is not on my schedule, but you never know. I might make the trip if the prize money warrants it (hint,hint). Yankees vs. Canucks…sounds good to me, bring it on!! I am definitely going to be playing SoCal Classic, ToC (Tournament of Champions), and the Nationals VIII, and, maybe a few more if they can draw top players.

9. Last question Aspen….Are you planning on entering in the mixed doubles category in PB tournaments, and, if so, who would you like to team up with?

  • As far as mixed doubles, I enjoy it but, as you know, the men players don’t get a lot of balls. It’s frustrating on one hand, but challenging on the other…. You have to make each ball you do get, ‘count’…. I am glad to see the women’s field getting stronger every year. I am going to be playing with several different women players in 2016, with a few ‘aces up my sleeve’.
  • I have found that, similar to chess, the point variations in Pickleball are endless. That, to me, is the most exciting part of the game…never seeing the same ball twice! Thanks for taking an interest in my game, and I hope this sheds some light on myself and my game.

Thanks a lot Aspen!!… I learned a lot,…and not just about pickleball….I found out that the Kansas Jayhawks are 21-4 on the season….Wow,…they have a good chance to be one of the ‘Final Four’. Hmmm,… I wonder,….hey,…. maybe I could do an interview with power forward Perry Ellis!!

  • If you enjoyed this player profile, please send in your comments to my email address. I will forward them to Aspen Kern.
  • Send comments to – douglas.baker50@gmail.com

 

**Here’s the link to one of the men’s open doubles match mentioned in the above article. Aspen and ‘The Beard’ are matched up against Steve (father) and Callan (son) Dawson.

2015 Nationals USAPA Pickleball Bronze Medal Match

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Love Pickleball Channel Style

It seems fitting that, since Valentine’s Day has just passed, that we feature a love story. The couple involved, in the past, have not exactly been ‘overly friendly’…..As a matter of fact, at times they have been rivals for the affections of their cohorts…How did they learn to live together? How did they learn to enjoy each other’s company?…..Well,….in the town of Palm Desert, California, it had a lot to do with the work of a matchmaker….

Here is this odd couple movie…It ‘stars’ pickleball ambassador Chris Thomas, and co-stars Marcin Rozpedski, Kim Jagd, Morgan Evans, and other tennis/pickleballers.

PEACE ON THE COURTS

Pickleball Channel – Find Out What Happens When Tennis & Pickleball Mix

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What I Was Thinking About On Valentine’s Day

I was listening to that old Don Henley song – ‘Not Enough Love In The World’ – and, I imagined what it would be like if there ‘was’ enough love in the world,….not too much,…just the right amount. Just enough so everyone was filled with love…..I’m sure if that happened that most of the problems of the world would disappear!

To make this all happen, I think we need to have a new song…One that talks about having ‘Just Enough Love In The World’…. That would be a great song…sometimes I think I hear it playing in the back of my mind….I think it’s out there if I can listen hard enough…

Oh,…by the way,…I ‘even’ thought of what to do if there wasn’t enough ‘fun’ in the world…We would make sure there was ‘Just Enough Pickleball Played In The World’!!

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Cucumber Vine – More Dill-icious Items To Chew Over Until Drop-In Time

– The ‘Mix and Match Tournament’ at Cedar Hill Rec Center is Saturday, February 20th. The host, Ian Daniel, is asking for some volunteers to provide tactical support. If you would like to help,…here is his email address: Ian Daniel    dan47ian@gmail.com

– I heard a rumour from an American Facebook friend that CBS is going to televise the Saturday night finals of the US Open Pickleball Tournament that is being held this April in Naples…..Holy Doughnuts Batman!….Is Pickleball going all ‘Mainstream’!

– I got an email from a new reader in Ontario. She was wondering why they don’t have many ‘places to play’ in Toronto. If anyone knows, send me a message, and I’ll pass the info along to her.

-Canadian pickleballer, Mark Rennesen, who produces the ‘third shot sports’ videos has a crowd funding site for people who would like to see him get to major tournament events. Here is the link to the donation site:

https://www.gofundme.com/pickleball

##Rant of the Week- I continue to hear about, from my social media contacts, instances where communities smaller than Victoria are getting beautiful outdoor pickleball courts. I hope it is ‘only a matter of time’ before we get our own designated pickle park. That may, or may not, happen,…but, that’s not what I want to talk about this week…I think we have to start thinking BIG!! Our PM, Justin Trudeau, believes in funding worthwhile infrastructure projects…Why don’t we get a delegation together, approach our local MPs, and get some money to expand, replace, or build a new, recreation centre in Victoria? Our city is growing…We need more places to play! There’s just not enough pickleball places in our world.

-For next week, I am working on another player profile,…I hope to have it ready…It features a ‘much loved’ pickleball professional who has a connection with some of our local PB players. I like watching this lady play, and I’m quite excited about doing an interview with her.…’Til next time….

Thanks for the game,

DJ Baker.

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