Pumped To Play — Part Two

”Let the Games begin”…..”Uh,…can you wait a bit…I have to catch up on some reading.”

This is the second installment of the answers to 2 questions I posed to some top pickleballers. To refresh your memory:

The Questions

1. In the week preceding a big match, how do you get ‘tournament ready’?

2. Are there any quirky superstitions you do on game day that you believe help you to victory?

The Contributors This Edition

* Cookie Drake – Full of fun, and jam-packed with talent, Cookie is a popular and well known player. Her medal performances include a silver in WD 60 Plus playing with Roxanne Pierce in last years US Nationals. I plan to write about Cookie in a future edition and find out more about her Canadian connection.

  • How do I get Tournament ready? Well,..this depends on whether I am in Canada or in the United States. I live in a small town in Northern Alberta where pickleball is just beginning. I spend time with my husband practicing basic shots and placement on the court. Mostly I work on my drop shots, my approach shots and my dinking drills. I often just hit dinks against my garage door in my driveway–weather permitting–my door has raised panels so when the ball strikes the panel–if I don’t hit a perfect spot–I will get a wonky bounce, which is actually great, as it makes me move quickly to get the ball…. I often don’t know where it’s going to go, so it’s quite a challenge to keep it in play. I also watch pickleball videos and review a lot of material dealing with strokes and strategy. I think about playing a lot!
  • When I am in the US for a few months in the winter, and in the 6 weeks in the fall, I play and practice with other people almost every day. I play many tournaments, so the day or two before a tournament I try to just have fun. I like to keep it light on the court and I don’t take my pre tourney games too seriously. I don’t really ”focus in fun play” all the time. During tournament play I have a totally different approach and focus hard on the game at hand. When I am in the US I drill very little. I save all that for my time in Canada.
  • During the spring and summer I try to travel from Canada to the US once every 6 weeks or so, specifically to just play a tournament. I always try to arrive a day or two ahead of the tournament so I can get some really competitive practice in. I like to have guys hit hard at me so that I can get used to the pace of the ball once again.
  • As for superstitions…On game day I have a little yellow bracelet that say ”Never Give Up”. I like to wear that.

* Wayne Russell – It’s not just the top ranked players who think a lot about playing to win. There are hardcore pickle heads here in Victoria that also have the tournament bug. One such fellow is my pal Wayne…He had a interesting player interview in the November 29th, 2015 edition of Challenge Court. Other than being an avid player, Wayne also has an pickleball travel adventure company. Check out his site for an inspirational story of Vancouver Island player Mike Bellis:   pickleballgo.com

  • I am very much a novice tournament player compared to those other players on your list, but this is what I do. Our next big tournament is in April and we have already started preparing. We are working on team play, skills, strategy, fitness, focus, etc…
  • During the week before a tournament, we will try to play some top teams and put our practice to the test. Eating, drinking and rest during the week are very important. We won’t play for a couple of days before the tournament. Those two days of rest make a big difference. We won’t be practicing at the tournament. Hopefully,..live in the moment, focus, react, success.
  • I’m not superstitious but I do have a t-shirt already picked out. I also have some special tournament shoe laces. Do they work?… You bet!!

* Sarah Ansboury – I’m a hardcore fan of Sarahs’. I mentioned her in my blog as soon as I saw her play on the live feed at last years’ Nationals. If you check out the February 19th edition of my blog, there is more about Sarah in my interview with Gigi LeMaster.….Gigi LeMaster and Sarah Ansboury are having a pickleball retreat and teaching clinic this summer in Kelowna. Check out Wayne Russell’s site for more info: pickleballgo.com    Sarahansboury.proliteproud.com

  • Because a majority of our courts are indoors here (Vancouver, WA), one of the important thing I try to do the week before a tournament is get onto an outdoor surface and use the type of ball we will be using in competition. I mostly just try to get some extra practice days in–and especially if I am near one of my partners–I will get the games in with them.
  • I don’t believe I have any type of superstitions before a game. I just want to make sure I’m ”mentally tough” the ”day of”’–and have the things that will sustain me through a long day of competition–usually food and drink and extra clothes. I do prefer to play with wristbands for tournament play, so I make sure I’m carrying those, and I like to make sure I have 2-3 paddles I’m going to use when I’m ready to play.


Here is one of Sarah Ansboury’s instructional videos. I think everyone will want to subscribe to her site:

Basic Third Shot Drop — Building A Solid Foundation


Pumped Up About Island Lady

In my last newsletter, one of the contributors was from Nanaimo, B.C. Go to this website:  www.vipa.ca  push NEWS,….you will come to the story about Nancy Stern and her bronze medal at the 2016 Grand Canyon State. Nancy was partnered with Debi Glogower. I sent Nancy an email and this is her reply:

  • Hi Douglas,  Yes we had some great games today. How would I rate the competition? Better than I usually play with. I was in an age category, not skill, so therefore, all our games were against 5.0 players and Ded and I are still ranked 4.5. So, great competition, but,…good to know that Deb and I can play with the 5.0’s and do well. We just need more opportunity to play with the 5.0’s for practice…..As far as a medal in the GCS games, I just like the competition and was thrilled to play against Cookie and Roxanne to get the feel for ‘seasoned’ 5.0 players. That is a rush for me. Now I can go back and work on some different parts of my game……About bumping up to 5.0,…I hope not. It is tough to get partners, and there are few players around my south home that are at 5.0.   Cheers, Nancy.


Recent Challenge Court Contributors At The GCS PB Games

* Byron Freso won gold in MD +55 with Steve Cole.

* Gigi LeMaster won bronze with Brian Asworth in MXD +19 and bronze with Cami Schermerhorn in WD +50.

* Jennifer Lucore won gold with Alex Hamner in WD+50.

* Cookie Drake won gold in MXD +50 with Scott Moore.

* Sarah Ansboury won gold in MXD+19 with Wes Gabrielsen.


Speaking of Tournaments

Last weekend there was a Mixer Tournament at Cedar Hill Rec Centre in Saanich. The organizer, Ian Daniel, did a great job. He was assisted by his ‘right hand man’ Nick Marsden, and his ‘right hand lady’ Trish Main. Handy job everyone…..Competing in the finals were Bill Bradley and Keith Dowdall vs the eventual winners Sue Willacy and myself. It was a fun event and I’m looking forward to the doubles event on March 12th.


I’m looking to put this edition to bed folks….but coming soon will be part three, and, I’m saving some surprise guests for the end!

To all my recent subscribers from the US…

Thanks ‘eh,.. for the game,

DJ Baker.









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One Response to Pumped To Play — Part Two

  1. Michael Pesile says:

    I have been playing pickleball for two years now and love the game, however trying to get someone to practice with is hard as they all just want to play. So I really enjoy and appreciate the training videos and helpful hints that people like you do. Please keep this up and thank you.

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