The Big O and The Big Circle

 

Part of keeping going on the pb tournament trail is staying in good with the people that help with expenses. I have interviewed many talented players–Alex Hamner, Aspen Kern, Kyle Yates, Gigi LeMaster, Sarah Ansboury, Wes Gabrielsen and many others….Pickleballers like these are more than just skilled players. They have a quality that their fans, and thus sponsors love….charisma!

Coming up is a story of a fellow that had some good tournament success last year and has the potential to go far in 2017. With his star quality he could fit right in with the phenoms above….He could be one of the great ”cukes” that deserves a raise from his sponsor this year. Later in the interview we will hear from some of his buddies. They keep him spiralling up to pb fun.

Let’s hear from this interesting gent now…Say Hallo (with an accent) to:

OLIVER STRECKER

1. First of all Oliver, how about some vital statistics?…How old are you, how tall are you, and what is your sports background?

OS – I’m 26 years old. I’m 6’2” and a half (I’m very proud of that half btw)…I tried my luck playing professional tennis in Europe for a couple of years before playing college tennis at Auburn and then Lipscomb University in Nashville (which is the same University as Stephanie Lane). I grew up playing 6 different sports–a lot of them being racquet sports–so I basically had a ball or racquet in my hand for as long as I can think.

2. You’re from Nashville, Tennessee…All I know about the place is that it is the home of country singers, the Predators hockey team, and noted pickleballers Stephanie and LeEllen Lane….What do you like about Nashville and what is the pb like there?

OS – Nashville is an amazing and growing city. The people are fantastic and I learned quickly that southern hospitality is a real thing down there. I enjoyed it enough to stay here and take a job. I love LeEllen and Steph!…Steph actually is the one that got me started in pickleball. I walked into a gym one day and they were playing and I thought, ”Oh, I got this”, but got my butt kicked by Stephanie Lane and Nicole Hobson and I was like, ”How am I losing right now”? So I came back and enjoyed it more and more…What really got me hooked is the fantastic pickleball family we have down here. Just as important as the pickleball is that community aspect of the game. We are working on getting some dedicated courts down here but, unfortunately, that is easier said than done in a big city like Nashville.

3. I first saw you play on one of Rich Geenen’s videos from the LeMaster-Davison Classic. If that was your first major pickleball event, why did you decide to go there for your big playing debut?

OS – Well, I had played a tournament around a year earlier in Las Vegas with Dave Weinbach and he convinced me to make the trip out to Arizona for that one. I was an easy sell. I had just finished a busy season and needed a break. (I am an auditor with Ernst and Young)…Dave said it was gonna be the toughest competition that I would ever have seen and I wanted to find out what I needed to work on to make my game better. I figured no better way to do that than to practice with and play against some of the best. As much fun as the tournament was, the rec games in the 2 days leading up to the tournament were the most fun pickleball competition I had played to that point. I got hooked even more on the game….I was amazed how nice everyone was at the highest level as well. It was a great weekend!

4. You were competing there with Dave Weinbach…What do you like about hitting with the Badger?

OS – Here is the thing with the Badger. You have got to make sure you wear your ear plugs when you are playing with him. I seriously have never met a person who talks more than Dave Weinbach, which is a great thing, but after a weekend of playing with him my ears definitely feel relief when I am in the airport or car on the way back home. Haha, joking aside, Dave is a fantastic person and character. I am happy to call him my friend after these tournaments we have played together. He is incredibly consistent and his game is so fundamentally sound. He makes smart decisions, he is patient and he is hard to beat in the air. Those things together make him one of the best players in the country. I love the steadiness and discipline of his game…wish I had that! I am like a seven year old out there from a discipline standpoint.

5. Dave and you got into the men’s finals vs Morgan Evans and Marcin Rozpedski…How did you feel when you guys edged them out to capture gold?

OS – The final was unbelievable and the most intense competition I had experienced in pickleball. Marcin and Morgan are such competitors and such amazing players that we knew going in that anything could happen – as it always can at the highest level. It felt amazing to get the win and Dave and I celebrated with some Pei Wei.

6. Your partner for the TOC and the US Nationals was Matt Wright. He is a fine player who has been on my radar since his good play at the US Open…Matt is from Witchita, Kansas which is a bit of a drive from your hood…Do you guys have much chance to practice together?

OS – The day before TOC was the first time we had been on the same side of a pickleball court together so unfortunately we had not played or practiced together before. However, Matt is a fantastic player with great hands and all the shots in the book, so it didn’t take us long to get used to each other. Can’t wait to play more tournaments with him and get in a groove together.

7. Your mixed partner at the TOC was Irina Tereshenko. I like watching her finesse style of play, and she is one of my fave lady players. What can you tell us about her as a partner?

OS – Oh yes, absolutely. Irina is one of the best women out there and I am lucky to snag such an amazing player for a big tournament like that one…You can just tell she was a great tennis player and it transfers so well to her pickleball.

8. Looking ahead, are you going to be able to compete in many big pb tournaments in 2017?

OS – I am looking forward to playing the US Open in 2017 and hopefully a couple of more big ones (TOC and Nationals) in 2017 as well.

9. Last question Oliver, I think you have a strong Germanic heritage…Were you born or raised in Germany?

OS – I was born and raised in Germany close to Heidelberg. Grew up there until I was 19 and then came over here to play college tennis and now got a work visa…So I will be here for a little longer haha.

* Thanks Oliver for letting us get to know more about you…The Big O and Irina Tereschenko were on the podium at the Tournament of Champions. They earned a bronze medal…Oliver and his partner Matt Wright came close to getting a medal at the Nationals and came in fourth in that great field of guys.

His Circle Of Soulful Friends

* Stephanie and LeEllen Lane are Oliver’s friends from Nashville. Stephanie is a legendary player and a consistent winner on the pickleball tournament circuit. Her daughter, 14 year old LeEllen, is an up and coming star who won gold and silver medals in the youth brackets at the last US Nationals. You can see a short interview of them in the June 30th archived edition of my blog….Dave Weinbach has played quite a lot with Oliver, including their gold medal performance at last year’s LeMaster-Davison Classic. Known as The Badger, Dave is an highly skilled player….I think that he is one of the top 5 or so players in the world! I talked to Dave by phone about his play with Oliver, including their gold medal performance at last year’s LeMaster-Davison Classic….I also heard from Marcin Rozpedski. He is one half of the team (with Morgan Evans) that faced the Badger and the Big O in the LMD finals.

Here is the comments on Oliver Strecker from some of his pals:

Stephanie Lane – Thanks Doug…With Oliver living in Nashville, I know him very well. Oliver’s wicked skills set him apart from most; however, what truly sets him apart is his humility and how he treats others. Oliver is so humble and easy to talk to. He impresses me the more I’m around him. He sincerely listens to what you’re saying. This guy is very special and we are extremely blessed to have crossed paths with such a champion on and off the court as the Big O!!

LeEllen Lane – Oliver is one of my best friends. He’s like a big brother to me and he’s always there to talk about serious stuff, or have fun and be silly. He’s so intelligent and has matured so much over the time I’ve known Ollie. It’s a privilege to live 3 minutes away from him:-)

Dave Weinbach – I reached Dave by phone…Dave spoke of meeting Oliver through Steph Lane…On the the court he described him as a good individual, a high quality gentleman, a good sport, very athletic and a joy to play with. Dave spoke highly of Oliver’s offensive game, ”He attacks with his backhand and forehand, which surprises people. On the kitchen line he leans in which puts a lot of pressure on opponents.”

Marcin Rozpedski – Marcin talked about how he and Morgan were fairly new to playing doubles pickleball last year. They are both talented tennis players, but they had a challenge mastering the smaller court and different equipment of pickleball. However, when they tried doubles, Marcin knew right away that he and Morgan Evans were going to be a good team. Marcin describes Morgan as the anchor, the smart one of their team…. At the LeMaster-Davison last April, they beat a lot of teams with their ”shake and bake” style. Marcin describes himself as a free spirit. They didn’t need to dink a lot, Morgan would hit a hard, low 3rd shot and Marcin would poach the return shots. The strategy worked well until their finals matchup vs the Badger and the Big O…. Marcin talked about Dave Weinbach being a very solid, consistent and patient player and Oliver as being, like him, a ”free spirit” with quick hands…Oliver was able to  make impossible shots from odd angles. The desert guys found out it was very difficult to get a hard ball past Strecker. Marcin said that the main thing he and Morgan learned in the match was that a team must be on top of their game vs Dave and Oliver…a team can’t make mistakes against Weinbach/Strecker…. After the LeMaster-Davison, the Rozpedski and Evans team continued to improve their open MD play in 2016. They took gold at the SoCal Classic, bronze at the TOC and silver at the US Nationals. That’s some good cookin’ from the ”shake and bakers”:-)



Video Gallery

* This first match is one of Oliver’s early tournaments…He and Stephanie Lane are matched up against Rich Geenen and his regular mixed partner Jennifer Lincoln…Rich is in a red tee, Jennifer in yellow, Oliver is wearing a white tee, and Stephanie is looking chilly with lots of clothes on (it was winter in Indiana).

    Cheers to New Year 2015, Terre Haute   https://youtu.be/EmPvFUUmU3g

* Here is Dave and Oliver’s gold medal match from Sun City, Az last April…Badger is wearing a red hat, Oliver is in a black and red golf shirt, Marcin is wearing a black tee, Morgan a blue tee….From what I hear, the LeMaster-Davison was a great tournament. Marcin Rozpedski told me how impressed he was with the organization of the event…. Way to go Gigi LeMaster and Dee Davison!

   OMD LeMaster-Davison Classic      https://youtu.be/c75DrjQtiqs

* Here is a good look at how the free birds, Oliver Strecker and Matt Wright, do in action together. Matt and Oliver are awesome players and I look forward to see how they do in 2017…. This match was from a small tournament at Kansas City, MO last October. There were some good teams in competition. Matt and Oliver got into the finals vs the awesome pair of Dave Weinbach and Kyle Yates!…

Chicken-N-Pickle       https://youtu.be/303XidBmzuc



* This is the first post I have done for awhile. I have been taking a bit of a break from pickleball writing . However, there are a lot of interesting pickleball people that I would like to blog about, so I intend to get more regular in my work habits. To my readers, thanks for being patient.

* Courtesy of Anne Scheffer:

Here is the schedule info link for pickleball at Greenglade Recreation Ctr in Sidney, B.C…      https://www.seniorschoosingwisely.com/greenglade-rec-ctr   I’m impressed that they have play 6 days a week at Greenglades! …Thanks for the tip on another place to play Anne.

* Next week I will do my best to follow through on my mission bring you pb insights from the players who make our game the best sport in the world. As I like to say, none of us are experts….we are all trying to improve our game….all pickleheads are green…Whether you’re a 3.5 rec player or a 5.0 tournament star, I would welcome any story that you think would interest your fellow players….So, send in your comments, and until next time…

Thanks for the game,

DJ Baker.

douglas.baker50@gmail.com

www.challengecourt.net

 

 

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One Response to The Big O and The Big Circle

  1. Gigi says:

    Welcome back Doug! I’ve missed reading the Challenge Court and what a great way to come back with one of the funniest, kindest and most talented players “Ollie” Strecker. Look forward to the next edition. Gigi

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