By Woodard, Dale on October 17, 2020.
It didn’t matter it was their first pickleball games of the year, this one was a sprint to the finish.
A team of local athletes -Tom and Heather Myndio, Richard and Valerie Boras and Michael Wagner and Glen Novak headed to Okotoks earlier this month for the first event of the year in a season otherwise wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If getting back into game shape wasn’t tough enough, due to time constraints the tournament format had changed as well.
“In the final we were running out of time,” said Tom, who won the men’s doubles 3.0 category with Dave Hanson. “Usually it’s a best-of-three to 11. They changed it to one game to 21. So it was a slugfest. It’s a lot harder on you. There are no breaks or stops.”
Heather and Valerie also teamed up for top spot, taking first in the women’s doubles 3.0 division, while Wagner and Novak were tops in the men’s doubles 4.0 division.
After the pandemic wiped out a summer’s worth of events, Tom said it was good to finally get some games in.
“Everybody has been cooped up for so long. That way, you get to meet different people and different players, it’s a different ball game.”
In the women’s event, Heather and Valerie also got used to the race to 21.
“So we had to keep talking our way through that,” said Heather, who made it to the mixed semifinals with Tom. “When it got to 11 we said ‘We’re not there yet. Keep pushing.’ So every point after that we were concentrating on the score and staying in the game to 21.”
Valerie said the win was a surprise given the calibre of players in Okotoks.
“We certainly didn’t expect to win because these competitions are actually pretty tough. There are a lot of players from Calgary and it’s 40-plus (age groups). So there were teams that were 20-plus years younger than us.”
But a good team attitude helped the women’s champs.
“We decided that everything was going to be positive and you remember the good shots, don’t dwell on the bad shots and just support each other. It was a lot of fun,” said Valerie.
Like the rest of her pickleball players, Valerie was just happy to get in an event.
“We were surprised when that notice came out,” she said. “We scrambled to get in because we didn’t know if they would have any more or if this one would actually go through. When it did, it was wonderful.”
There were no events, but the athletes still kept sharp in the summer.
“When summer first hit we tried the outdoor pickleball court in Legacy Park and nobody showed up because if there is a bit of wind there you can’t play. So Val and Richard organized play at the Coaldale facility. It’s a beautiful facility and I don’t know why Lethbridge can’t get anything like that because we really need it.”
Valerie and Richard got in some swings at home.
“We had our driveway paved last year, so it was big enough that we could mark off exactly half a court. So we would practise out there. The practice was good, but if you just do that without competing, you lose your timing.”
Under COVID protocol, only 50 people were allowed in the gym at one time.
The pickleballs were also sanitized as well as a separate entrance for the athletes and hand washing up all the times. Athletes didn’t have to wear a mask while playing.
Tom said the hope is to have a tournament in Okotoks each month in November.
Whatever the case, it’s good to be back.
“The good thing about this game is you can take it to whatever level you want, if you want it to just be recreational or whatever,” said Tom. “We’re out there trying to be to the best we can.”
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