Pickleball Points: Play smarter, and the witness protection program

Everyone who knows me has heard me talk about the importance of practice and the prescription that 100,000 exact repetitions of a shot will serve you well. But there arrives a very important moment in the development of every player when they realize they are on automatic pilot as far as the development of their game. The amount of practice and repetitions no longer seems to work. It is at that moment they realize they need to play smarter to play better.

Smarter means thinking about the type of court and the type of ball. It means deciphering your competition and how their background might influence their most likely shots. Smarter means knowing your weaknesses and attack your competition’s weakness with shots that reduce their ability to attack yours. You can beat players with more raw talent by playing smarter.

Beyond playing smarter, there is then the need to simplify and take your game back to the basics. At a tournament, we call it getting into and staying in the zone while playing, and then remaining focused between matches. When they are not playing tournaments, advanced players need to tell themselves ahead of time if they are just planning to have a good time or if these are training days when they plan to practice discipline-lined sessions.

I have heard students say they just can’t remember all the things to play properly. “Move your feet, get in position, take the paddle back early, hit the ball in front of you with top spin, close onto the net, move with your partner to reduce openings between you…” When better players compete in a tournament, their only thoughts should be to stay focused on the moment and their game plan, and to watch the ball. They got to this point from practiced repetition of shots.


Witness protection


I don’t know if I ever knew anyone from the witness protection program, but I imagine they would be prudent to only use first names like we do in pickleball. Since we also call each other names like big Bob, tall Bob, Bob G. and Bob Z., Steve 1, Steve 2 and Steve C., or Don C. and “Donn with two Ns,” I suppose you could say we are collectively in the Pickleball Fitness Protection Program.

I thought that perhaps the pickleball crowd might, after three years or more, just like to known some last names, and what some of the folks did in real life before moving to Delaware. I was very impressed by the collection of volunteer talent that so astutely organized the fun pickleball league. They named it Coastal Community Pickleball League (CCPL), and 14 communities now participate.

This week, I want to highlight three pickleball individuals.

The first is “Big Stan” Piesla, who lives at Millville-By-the-Sea with his wife, Kate. Stan has been very helpful forming the CCPL. Stan recently organized a social side-trip for 130 pickleballers to attend a professional baseball game in Salisbury, Md.

Stan was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was a heartthrob lifeguard at Rockaway Beach in Queens. With a special-education master’s degree from Queen’s College, Stan worked four years with the Catholic Schools Diocese of Brooklyn in high school-level special education before a 31-year career as teacher and administrator for the Saint Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in Brooklyn.

Stan was involved for many years with the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, creating student summer programs. He not only chaired the Convention of the New York State Association of Educators of the Deaf but collaborated with AT&T corporate to create a program to pair hearing and deaf students using non-verbal communication technologies to communicate via keyboard skills.

Thanks, Stan, for helping form the CCPL and for your four decades of teaching disadvantaged kids.

The second featured player this week is “Bob G” — Bob Gaudreau — who has led the Ocean View Crew as No. 1 the last two years.

Bob, originally from Wellesley, Mass., lives at Bay Colony with his wife, Beth, where their community has greatly improved their pickleball courts. Bob moved here after a 35-year sales and program management career with “Big Blue” — IBM. He finished his career in the Washington, D.C., metro area as an executive partner servicing IBM’s efforts with border protection and U.S. Customs.

Bob played various racket sports, but table tennis no doubt influenced his ability to volley. Bob did not become our leading player because he descended from a family of pickleball players. No, he just practices and works harder than most players.

Thanks, Bob, for setting the example for Ocean View Crew.

My third featured player is “Don C.” Don “Donny” Creel, was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in the Hollywood neighborhood of College Park. He and his wife, Dolores, now reside at Bear Trap Dunes, where he is captain of their pickleball team in the Coastal Community Pickleball League (CCPL).

Don, a Vietnam veteran, retired in 2004, following a 34-year management career with Verizon Communications, where he and Dolores last lived, in Glenwood, Md. Don has actively held seasonal positions with the Bethany Beach town community, as well as volunteering at VFW Post 7234, and has always been helpful with any of our pickleball activities, including marketing of the CCPL. Thanks for your military service, Don, and your ready smile.

Please be sure to thank all three pickleballers for their contribution to society, as well as to pickleball.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.

By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point