I think that why we do things–motivation, needs, wants, and inspiration–are interesting topics. In the last edition of Challenge Court, I learned that Matthew Blom’s life had been changed by people he met along his way. He used his training to become adept at racquet sports. That was part of his story. He was winning medals in major tournaments, but, as we will learn, pickleball was not the only important thing to him. Let’s find out what Matthew has learned by living.
I feel motivated here to mention that I will be interested in what the pb tips video will be like that he decides to make. Please take the time to fill out Matthew’s reader feedback survey at the end of his interview.
Now, let’s move on to the game….Here is:
Matthew Blom In His Own Words
6. In last year’s US Nationals, you teamed up with Daniel Moore for doubles play. At the start of the Games on a Monday, you two were knocked out of the 19+ MD. On the following Friday you two were scheduled to play in open mens doubles. Had Daniel and you made any changes in your strategy for that highly competitive bracket?
MB – Well, one ”strategy” was that we both hadn’t played for a month or more leading up to the tournament–he living in Japan, and me doing service work in Cambodia. So 3 days before the tournament we both flew in and used playing pickleball to help overcome jet lag. So one piece was that we were simply out of practice and our tools weren’t sharp yet.
The other is that we had played two days of pickup games together, but that’s very little to get tested with and figure out how to best play together. So part of it was learning about the other on court–who takes what shot, what’s their shot selection in various circumstances, and for us there was a big strategy piece that we played around with and finally settled on for the big event–which was a modified stacking that I’d never heard of or seen another team do, but seemed to work well in the end for us.
I think us both having singles success (he winning gold and me silver in our age brackets), also helped us get our game and strokes back in order and firing, so that when we came back together we were ready for the run to the gold.
I don’t know what Daniel would say, but I came to see getting knocked out in the age division as a blessing in disguise because we may have been cocky and overconfident if we’d won it. I gave us the knowledge that we were going to have to dig deep and work for it in the open event.
7. Daniel Moore and you won a gold medal that day. Your final match was against Steve and Callan Dawson. Daniel and you were playing from the winner’s bracket. Was it difficult to keep your emotions in check when you know you’re two games away from a gold medal?
MB – I remember it being quite exciting, with each match, to get closer and closer, until, there we were without a loss awaiting the winner of the bronze medal match. I was watching that match and knew that either team was going to be tough in the finals (we’d already had a tough 3-game match with Brian Ashworth and Aspen Kern), so I think watching them, and knowing that, kept me focused with knowing we had to play a good match for the final act.
We won the first game a bit too easily, and I think that set up the run they made in the second with getting quite a lead. Coming from 8-10 down to win 12-10,…well that was a nice dramatic finish to it all.
8. How was it to stand on the podium with Daniel that day and receive your gold medal at the US Nationals VII?
MB – Quite satisfying. I think I might have more silver medals than any other player at nationals. It’s been a lot of reaching the top but just short of the gold. I may not look old, but I see a younger group of 20 somethings coming up, that I know I have limited time to keep up with. So it felt like it might be a last shot at doing it….I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Dan. We’d been waiting for a year to see how we’d do together (after gaining a lot of respect for each other as players from across the net at the Tournament of Champions in 2014).
So it satisfied an itch I didn’t want to admit I had–to be able to call myself a national champion–in something. It’s a small, niche sport, but since I never had the talent/passion/time to go for it in tennis, badminton, to table tennis, I’m glad those could be boiled down into our crazy little world of pickleball where, as I say it, ”I get to be a big fish in a small pond.” I may still compete, and if I do I’ll be playing to do as well as I can, but the ”need” to have that gold around my neck has been satisfied. Anything else feels like a sweet bonus at this point.
9. Many of the fundamentals of the game can be learned by drills and repetition. Is there something about the top players that sets them apart?….Some natural gift they are born with? Or,…are they just more motivated to excel than the general public?
MB – I think you need to ask each of the top players to find out the answer to this (and ask non top players to see if you can discover the difference). I’m sure it’s individual. Each one would have their own story as to why they pursued and kept going with it. I know with many of the top players, there’s a tennis story behind their pickleball one. Natural ability? Perseverance? An ability to learn? A hunger? A drive to be better? Extra time put in?
I’m sure with each person you’d get a unique combination of them all–and more. Certain coaches, life events (like one top player who’s in pickleball because of a case of malaria he got at 19…) I think it’s an interesting question. What I think would be unfortunate for anyone reading, regardless of what answer I give, is if you’d use it as a way to sell yourself short. Natural ability plays some part, as well as the physical body you were given. But if something is important to you, then getting the right teachers, influences, pursuing what you’re passionate about, developing existing strengths, exposing and working with weakness…can bring you most, if not all, the way you want to go.
I’ve been watching a bit of the success of Steph Curry–currently the NBA’s most valuable player–he is leading his team to the best record of any NBA team, ever…..He’s 6’3” and a small build–which is very short for a basketball player. He does things that no one’s ever done, and boy does he apply himself, and seemingly with a lot of joy.
The movie Rudy comes to mind–as a great watch about being able to go where you want to go with whatever you’re given as a starting place.
It’s important to know what you want out of the sport. Then hitch up the support to make it happen.
10. Last question Matthew, I’ve heard you speak in an interview about living in a relatively isolated community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. What is it about your life there that keeps you from moving to a pb hotbed like Surprise, Portland, or Seattle?
MB – This makes me smile….Simply put, because pickleball is far from the most important thing in my life. I play about 3 times a month (partly because I have to drive 2.5 hrs. round trip to play), but also because it’s on my list as something I enjoy, but, in the scope of my life, don’t put much weight on.
Most of my friends haven’t even seen a pickleball court and have a mild interest, or even a little teasing, towards the fact that I play and am ”a big shot nationals champion” They help me make sure my feet stay on the ground. Part of it also is that I haven’t linked my social life to pickleball. This isn’t good or bad, but simply how it’s gone for me. So I go, use it for what I want to use it for, then go on to other areas of my life. Would I like to live next to other great players?…Yes. But at this point, they’d have to move to where I am, not vice versa. Nevada City, CA is a very nice place to live for those 4.5-5.0s of you out there reading…:)
The biggest thing, is that here in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in CA, I have a teacher and a group of peers I study with about how to see and remove the obstacles we have in the way of greater peace, love, actual joy, and ultimately reconnecting with that which gives us life….But that’s a whole other story…
*Thanks Matthew… I’ll be mighty tempted to come down see what it’s like in your neck of the woods…. Especially if I can get guru-ed up to be a 4.5 pickleballer:-)
*Below is a repeat of Matthew’s introduction and his reader feedback survey.
MB – Hello pickleball fans…..5 years ago I was reintroduced and turned on to the seemingly incurable addiction of pickleball.
After playing tennis through college, high level badminton in South Korea, and competitive-level Table Tennis, I put down those paddles and racquets for the all-in one fun, skill, and intensity of pickleball.
After getting the thrill of climbing to the pickleball peak at the National last November, I now turn my attention to how to pass on some of what I’ve been given to other aspiring and experienced pickleball players. The nuts and bolts of a basic foundation to the nuances and split second subtleties that win you points as you climb the ladder on a local or national scene.
I really enjoyed the questions Doug asked me in this interview, and gave my best to the answers. I hope it means something to you if you read it….He’s graciously let me reach out to you to ask how I might be of most use to you and your pickleball goals.
There’s a brief survey included here. I will make a video based on the biggest response as a thank you for filling out the survey. (feel free to pass it on to other players you know who might be interested)
Play Great Pickleball
* From what I know about Matthew, I think his video will be a interesting production. He is sure to give it his unique and creative spin….. I’m looking forward to seeing it!
*Here is that final game in mens doubles where Matthew and Daniel had to come from behind to claim their gold:
2015.11.13 – Blom, Matthew-Moore, Daniel vs Dawson, Callan- Dawson, Steve – OMD Final
* Coming up soon in Challenge Court I will have an interview with a top player who works hard, plays hard, and laughs a lot. He has some great pb stories that you will want to hear about. He is a unique individual. I don’t want to give any more hints, but he definitely fits the description of being ”no ordinary joe”.
That’s next time, ’til then,
Thanks for the game,