Inspiration, Perspiration, And Pickleball Parties

PB tournaments are unique in the sports world for being as much about social interactions with friends as they are about winning games. The following interviews and videos capture the atmosphere of fun and spirited competition from last weekend’s LeMaster-Davison Classic….A big tap of the paddle to Rich Geenen for producing all but one of the videos featured in this edition.

This first video is from the Open Mens Doubles category. Dan Geenen is the player in the red t-shirt. His twin brother Rich Geenen is wearing the black tee and black shorts. Justin Rodgers is in the blue long sleeved tee, and Ryan O’Toole is wearing the black and white tee. Rich was featured in the April 3rd archive edition of my newsletter.

I would like to get a lesson from the Geenen brothers on pb serving. They hit their first shots hard and close to the back line….Justin Rodgers has a rather unique ”back-hand” style of play. Justin is a licensed physical therapist–you can check out his articles in Jennifer’s Pickleball Blog under the Health section.

LDC OMD 1-16 Final Geenen Geenen v Rodgers O’Toole

In the April 5th edition of my blog I talked with Gigi LeMaster about her playing with the Badger (Dave Weinbach). The next video is from one of their early matches in the qualifying rounds. Dave and Gigi came close to getting in the medal round, but were edged out in a 15-13 game against the Jagd-Rozpedski team. (I have an interview with Kim Poppa Jagd coming up at the end of this edition)

LDC OMX 1-64 Friedenberg Hickox v Weinbach LeMaster

I interviewed Kyle Yates in the last edition of CC. I asked him one more question on Friday evening after he won a silver medal in singles play at the LMD.

* Kyle, I heard in an interview that you prefer doubles pb to singles…That being said, you must have had your game going well to beat Morgan Evans and get in the finals against Marcin Rozpedski!..I know Marcin must have some special singles sauce to beat Daniel Moore last year at the Nationals, but it looks like you had a good effort against him…Were you happy with the silver?

Kyle Yates – I was satisfied with how I played. Singles was fun today…I still prefer the doubles game, but it was nice to compete against the best and hold my own. I know I’m a great singles player and I feel I proved that today which makes me happy.

LDC 5.0 Men’s Singles – Finals Rozpedski vs Yates

Who is the best female pickleball player in the world today?….I don’t know, but the four ladies featured in the next video might ALL be included in the conversation. I asked one of the participants, Christine Barksdale to comment on her making it into the finals of the women’s doubles match with her friend Joy Leising and playing against the eventual gold medalists Sarah Ansboury and Christine McGrath.

* Hello Christine Barksdale….From the scores it looks like Joy and you had an exciting day on the courts….I would have liked to be at Sun City to see your matches against Gigi LeMaster and Jennifer Lucore and your finals against Sarah Ansboury and Christine McGrath…Were you happy with the silver today?

Christine Barksdale – Thanks!…Yes we had a great deal of fun. It would have been great to get to the 15 pt tiebreak, but Sarah and Christine outplayed us and we made a few unforced errors…There’s no room for those against talented players. We hope to play them again soon though!

Here is a short interview with the other Christine(McGrath), about her medal performance at the LeMaster-Davison Classic….Hi Christine, A big high five for your gold with Sarah at the LMD. What was it like for you to compete in women’s doubles with Sarah Ansboury?

Christine McGrath – It was so much fun playing with Sarah for women’s doubles! We are good friends off court as well, so it is easy to play together, communicate. It doesn’t hurt that she is a great player and our game styles complement each other.

* What was the reason that you did not play in the mixed doubles and singles events?

Christine McGrath – I only played women’s doubles this tournament because my baby, who is 10 months old, was at home in California and I didn’t want to be away too long! Usually she can travel with me and I will play all the events.

* How do you think Dee Davison and Gigi LeMaster performed as tournament directors?

Christine McGrath – Dee and Gigi did a good job as tournament directors. Using the system and tournament staff, they were very organized and had all the event schedules ‘down to a science’. The day I played I finished ahead of schedule, which was awesome.

* I also congratulated Christine on her being pregnant. I asked her when  she is due to deliver her second child and if she would continue playing in tournaments until that time?

Christine McGrath – Thank you!! I will announce the due date and etc. after the US Open. (April 26th-May 1st) That will be my last tournament until after the baby is born, but am hoping to be able to practice up until delivery. I was able to with my first so we will see!…..Best, Christine

* Thanks to both Christine’s for their comments. In addition to her silver medal in women’s doubles Christine Barksdale won a silver in mixed doubles with Tyler Wren. Joy Leising earned a silver in women’s singles. Sarah Ansboury had an incredible run and won gold in singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles!

LMD – OWD Finals  Ansboury McGrath v Barksdale Leising

My last conversation is with the bronze medal winner in mixed doubles- Kim Poppa Jagd.

* Hi Kim… Congrats on the medal in MXD with Marcin Rozpedski. How long have you been playing in major pb events?

KPG – I played Nationals 2014 as my first tournament, having only played for 2-3 months. The experience really peaked my competitive spirit and I began practicing and playing as much as I could.

* Are there good players in the places you practice?

KPG – I practice and play in a variety of settings. The primary place we play is Freedom Park in Palm Desert. There are 8 city courts. There is a wide range of players and lots of snowbirds! The other place we (Morgan, Marcin, Scott Burr and I) practice/play is at Marcin’s club: The Lakes CC, where he is the director of sports. I also train at my home club–Desert Horizons CC–where Hall of Fame Volleyball Coach, Andy Banachowski and I live and do drills!

* How old are you and what is your sports background?

KPG – I will be 52 on June 3rd…I have an All-Sports background. I swam at a high level until 11, then I found tennis…I trained at the Jack Kramer Club in Ranch Palos Verdes on court #2, right behind Tracy Austin, but my love of team sports drew me towards volleyball, basketball and softball–where I was a setter, point guard and pitcher as a freshman at Varsity. I loved volleyball the most, and ended up as a scholarship athlete at UCI and UCLA. Then I was fortunate to play 3 years on the pro beach volleyball tour after college. I have also ski raced, rode dirt bikes, dabbled with squash, ping pong and racquetball. I am a 5.2 handicap golfer and club champion!! I love sports!!!

I coached for a living–high school, club and USA High Performance. My last 18 years were at UCLA. Andy and I retired the same year, 2010, and at that time he had the most wins with 1106… I was his assistant for 18 of his 43 years at UCLA.

* My next question for Kim was about a video I had seen where Morgan Evans and she had first come on my ”radar screen”. They had won a match against Wes Gabrielsen and Christine Barksdale, and I was impressed with their play. The games took place at last year’s SoCal Classic….I also asked Kim what she liked about competing in doubles play with Marcin Rozpedski. I told Kim I had previously done an article about Marcin’s singles pb play at last year’s Nationals.

KPJ – That tournament was Morgan and my ”breakout” tournament, and, in all honesty, it was all Morgan…He was crazy good that day at Melba Bishop. He turned a lot of players heads….Morgan is a comedic Tasmanian Devil! He is such a riot, but he also has a very thoughtful way about him and he is a tremendously gifted teacher as well as a beautiful writer.

Marcin Rozpedski is truly a unique human being. From my coaches perspective his athleticism is superior. He is physically large, therefore powerful, with beautiful footwork. Two things that make Marcin unique as an athlete are his insatiable will to win and his fun, yet caring personality. He is the perfect partner!

Singles and doubles are so different. Marcin is a very socially gifted person. I have seen him interact with his members. Singles is solitary. One has to deal with one’s strategy with oneself and manage the pain of singles. When he plays doubles he feeds off  the teamwork and the interaction with his partners. Chemistry is very important in doubles to Marcin. He will admit to being a singles specialist in tennis. So, pb singles is natural–but I think his personality is so well suited for doubles. He is such a good partner. Marcin’s learning curve in doubles continues to rise. He is just scratching the surface in doubles!…..Marcin and Morgan–these men are truly talented in so many ways.

* Thanks Kim for your insightful comments. I have a feeling you will do well in future events–Marcin and Kim are playing mixed doubles again at the US Open.

Here is a video from the ”breakout” tournament that Kim talked about in her interview:

USAPA 2015 SoCal Classic Gabrielsen Barksdale vs Evans Jagd

This next video shows Kim and Marcin in the qualifying rounds at the action last weekend:

LDC OMX 1-32 Final Jagd Rozpedski v Evans Fenton-Kovanda

This last video features Kim’s desert pals, Morgan Evans and Marcin Rozpedski in their silver medal performance in men’s doubles against The Badger and Oliver Strecker (the big O).

LDC OMD Finals Weinbach Strecker v Rozpedski Evans


* The players who have the most fun at a pickeball tournament are the biggest winners. In that respect, the LeMaster-Davison was a big success…I think the Marinette Recreation Center deserves a platinum medal–what a nice looking facility…. Thanks again to all the players who contributed to this ”wrap” edition. Be sure to check out all of Rich Geenen’s great videos from the tournament on YouTube.

* Next week I plan to get to know another beautiful pickle personality…Till then,

Thanks for the game,

DJ Baker.

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