Breaking the Comfort Zone

Special thanks to Silvino (Sill) Lyra for sharing his story of competing in his first pickleball tournament…

Breaking the Comfort Zone… My Experience…

By Silvino (Sill) Lyra

As an Olympic Coach, I have witnessed the resistance that some athletes have to participate in high level events. As with anything in life, we need goals. So, as a new player in this wonderful sport that is pickle ball, I set my goal to be a 5.0 player, no matter how much hard work takes. My first step was to participate in the closest competition to Boise, high level event.

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On August 9th 2017, this humble 3.0 player took his first steps at the Northwest Mecca of pickle ball…Bend Oregon…to participate in the pickle ball Zone Bend USAPA Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament, in conjunction with the Pro Northwest Event.

The setting of the venue, with the volunteers working hard in all sectors to have everything in place for the next day’s start, would cause envy in the best production company in Hollywood. Everybody had a smile and a soaked shirt, as the temperature was getting very hot.

Watching the players doing their training made me doubt my decision to participate in this amazing event. However, a couple of encouraging words from my partner, John Sweeting, made me understand that in order to walk 1,000 miles we need to make one first step…so here I am.

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I did my usual stretching exercises and placed my paddle in one of numerous courts from that amazing facility. Indeed, the Town of Bend has a gift of the life time with this venue.

I introduced myself to a fellow player named Mike and we went to face each other in a singles game. He is a 3.5 player, very nice and friendly, that gave me very good instructions during our experience. He beat me 11 x 4. Hey, I thought to myself, I made 4 points, and my goal for the competition was 5 points, so I’m on my way. I always played doubles and this was a very bold adventure to play singles.

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Not only were the high level players challenge, there was also the altitude, the heat and a different ball from the one that I use to train. Since the start of the outdoors season, I’ve used an Onix 2 and here they are using the Ultra 40. Basically, I needed to be very soft on my shots, as the ball travels very fast. On my first day, I lost a lot of points missing the services and returning long balls. I have to work on that for the next day. I’m glad that I arrived earlier.

Then I had a couple of doubles games with a very good player as a partner, maybe a 4.5, whose name was Bill…a very nice, experienced player. We played against Mike and another lady, also a great player—everybody is so friendly and supportive!

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My competition day, in the midst of the Pros, playing in that amazing fast/slow/fast game, was just a gift to me, to be present in such a high level event.

During my first game for me, I got killed 15 x 0—I had an amazing opponent! The second game, my opponent had a lot of handicap skills and I accomplished 15 x 2. In my third game, at some point I was losing 9 x 2, but I discovered some weaknesses in my opponent. Well…I lost 15 x 7, but HOORAAAYYYYYYY!!! I broke my goal of scoring 5 points. Mission accomplished!

On the next day, I had the doubles competition with John. Our bracket was 3.5 players. He is an amazing player that teach me a lot during our 3 games of 11 points. We lost the games by a small margin; however, the learning experience was priceless…thanks, John, for taking the chance to play with me…it was an honor to be your partner. He just returned from being a medalist in track and field in the Seniors Games in Idaho and also played on the singles games on the day before. On the next day he was supposed to play mixed doubles—the man is a machine!

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This was my experience at Bend. A couple days ago, I got my official rankings from the USAPA. I’m officially a 3.0 player! A start point in my way to 5.0. When will I arrive there? I don’t know and I don’t care…I will just work as hard as I can…

On Thursday August 31st, I’m heading to the PPF Tournament of Champions in conjunction with the Brigham City Fall Classic (2.5 – 4.5 Non-PPF) in Utah.

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I will play mixed doubles with my partner Sarah Hart from Meridian. I’m expecting more great game atmosphere, most importantly, more experience. Sarah is a great athlete and we will have a lot of fun.

To be continued…