Taking The Leap Into Pickleball Tournament Play

                                                                                                    Contributed by Stan Piesla, 8.25.18

Tournament 1: Toys for Tots Fundraiser, Georgetown, Delaware – DECEMBER 2017.        Late in 2017, I took the plunge and entered my very first pickleball tournament. Playing in the Men’s Doubles category, my partner and I were rather quickly eliminated – scoring a total of only five points in three games – Ouch! We were out of there so fast that the car engine hadn’t even cooled down yet on that gray, snowy and frigid afternoon. It was a pretty quiet ride back home to Millville with my playing partner.

Gladly, I wasn’t devastated by the experience. My attitude was, to parody the famous line in an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, “ Tis better to have played in a Pickleball Tournament and lost than to have never had the experience at all ”.    I knew that I would try it again!

I kept plugging away. My problem is that I am, many times – check that – most times, way too social during pickleball sessions. It’s my nature. I love to kid around, to chat, etc. and that means less time concentrating on remembering the basics – set & stance – or honing skills and gaining skills for improving my game.

There are a bunch of very good advanced players out there that really try to help other players “up their games” with demonstration, pointers, critique and encouragement. But I don’t allow myself, most of the time, to really focus and get into a “zone”. I have a passion to play but I have not become a student of the game. For an advanced player, winning matters & losing matters and both winning and losing teaches you something.

Tournament 2:  Ocean City Recreation & Parks Tournament – MAY 2018. Played in my second tournament with a new partner and had to play in a younger age bracket due to our twelve-year age difference. In the first game, my partner suffered a leg injury and was about ready to withdraw but after a break was able to continue. But his injury, our nerves and adrenaline flow got in the way of making a decent showing and we were eliminated in the second round.

Third time’s a charm!

Tournament 3:   Fundraising Tournament for the Delaware Senior Olympics – Dagsboro, Delaware – AUGUST 2018. When this tournament was first announced, I wanted to partner with a fairly new but excellent pickleball player, Vince Schettino. We have played often together at his home courts at Bay Colony.  Three mornings a week we play there with a terrific group of folks. There is a lot of joking, prodding and mischief – more social than serious, for the most part! And I am one of the few contributors to the “trash talk” – a court clown, if you will! Vince and I “clicked” from day one, I think, due to the fact that we are both originally from NY, growing up in NYC, moved to Long Island and share a variety of interests, tastes and familiarities. And we both like to laugh and share stories. The difference between us is that Vince is also very motivated to improve his game. He has become a YouTube fanatic for growing his knowledge of the game and skill base. He talks to advanced players, always seeking tips and then attempts to put them into practice.

When I approached him about entering the tournament, he somewhat reluctantly, agreed. His concerns were that he was still green and didn’t want to go down in flames, his first time out. Additionally, he wanted to make sure that we would be taking this seriously. I assured him that he would experience a different “Me” on game day! He also mentioned that he sometimes gets a bad case of the nerves – I’ll get back to this concern of his a bit later. He likes the challenge and competition on the court and I assured him that we’d be OK and would be a good ice-breaker for him.

I knew our putting in a decent performance was important to him. Vince’s concerns of making a good showing really made the difference in my totally focusing on the game with no idle chatter or fooling around.  On game day I could see he was somewhat nervous by hearing his sighs, his being unusually quiet and his body language after missed shots. So now I turned my chatter away from the usual jokes and nonsense and went into coaching and calming chatter mode. I think it worked to help him with his jitters and helped me stay more focused on my game as well.

Well, it worked out just fine for us. We took the Silver Medal for our skill level and age group. It was truly thrilling to excel in the competition. This third time out was a proving ground for me. I can do this! I see my partner getting better and better as time goes on. The tables may turn where his nerves will go away as his skills and confidence grow and he, in fact, becomes my coach as he becomes an advanced level player. For the present, we are good for each other and are having a blast! In fact, we are going into the September Ocean City Tournament as a team. No coaxing was needed this time!

Oh, and about Vince’s nerves. The day before the Clayton tournament, he told me a story – and a concern of his, for game day situations.

His son, Vin Jr., was an excellent lacrosse player. He told me he watched him grow and excel in the sport, attending every game that he had, since he began playing at the age of 6. He continued to play through high school and then at the college level at SUNY, Oneonta, in upstate NY. Vince then went on to tell me that young Vin was playing his last college game as a senior and that this game would win them the championship. He said he (older Vince) was so nervous that he got sick before the game. And to make it worse, and to drive his point home about how nervousness affects him, that after the game went into triple overtime and young Vin scored the winning goal, he got sick again!!

I again told Vince not to worry – it would be OK! But his tale did have an effect on me!  During our games, every time he cleared his throat or made a sigh, I prayed that history would not repeat itself, here on the pickleball court. Unlike Vin Junior, Vince would have gone down in Sports History for a different reason, and I with him. It didn’t happen and we had a Happy Ending and his first tournament paid off in Silver!

Vince & Stan Aug 2018 3 crop   Vince Schettino & Stan Piesla


4 thoughts on “Taking The Leap Into Pickleball Tournament Play

  1. Congrats to Stan & Vin on their Silver Medal 🥈 in the DSO tournament. Both of you demonstrate what Pickleball is all about, having fun & enjoying the sport.
    Great job !!!


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