Category Archives: Hobby

Slow Art Day: How To Actually Enjoy A Visit To The Art Museum Without Getting ‘Museum Legs’

By Mac McCarthy
Editorial Director, Zenergo.com

Painting--Holy Week in Seville, by Jose Jimenez y Arinda

Another heart-stopper: Holy Week in Seville, by Jose Jimenez y Arinda


My friend Greg Stern sent me an invitation this past April to join the ‘Slow Art Day‘ group he was taking to the San Francisco Legion of Honor art museum — I had never heard of Slow Art Day, but he sent materials explaining what we’d be doing.

Slow Art Day is an annual worldwide event, inspired by aspects of the Slow Food Movement. Most of us rush through art museums, glancing at the art on the walls and trying to quickly scan everything in the place and get out — which turns out to be an exhausting exercise, physically and mentally. (One art expert has even written a book on the problem: “Museum Legs” by Amy Whitaker, Holartbooks.com, Tucson, 2009). We act as if, subconsciously, we think our job is to at least glance at every item in the place–to justify the expense and effort of our annual obligatory trip to the museum.

Slow Art takes a different approach–a radically different approach. As Greg explained, we were to spend five to ten minutes on each of nine specific paintings Greg highlighted for us — individually; this isn’t a group tour. At noon, we woudl gather in the museum cafe and discuss.

Greg sent each of us a document listing the nine paintings he had selected (from hundreds) for us to concentrate on. The idea is that instead of trying to rush through and see everything, we’re going to focus on just a small set of pictures–taking our time, and letting them sink in.

It sounded interesting and offbeat. I signed up.

Nine Paintings–Three Hours

Greg’s document offered a page of background information about each painting, a few thoughts, some historical background, some things to notice. Here, for example, is Greg’s introduction to one of the most spectacular realistic paintings in the museum:

Painting: 'The Russian Bride's Attire', by Konstantin Makovsky

The Russian Bride’s Attire
by Konstantin Makovsky (Room 17)

“This may very well be the most popular piece in the museum. This life-sized painting draws a viewer into a snapshot moment as a Russian bride is being prepared for her wedding and not looking terribly happy about it. Her sister is at her knees trying to console her while her father or the groom is trying to barge his way in but is stopped by one of the attending ladies.

“This was a historical painting when it was executed (1887), depicting a Romanoff wedding in the early part of their dynasty in the 1600s (Aleksey Mikhailovich to Maria Miloslavskaya). The painting is rich in color, detail and personalities. It is fun to just stare at it and imagine what each character in the ensemble is thinking. Step up to the painting so that it completely fills your visual field and you will find that you too become part of the painting.”

Greg adds some additional information from the Internet to round out the discussion, including the observation that the artist did a great deal of research to ensure that the wonderfully detailed costumes and decorations were true to the era and the tribal styles.

I spent somewhat more than the statutory ten minutes on this painting. I couldn’t take my eyes from it. But that was an easy one: An earlier painting on our list was a three-panel Medieval work, The Last Judgment, a typically religious, unrealistic, confusing, heavily symbolic painting I would normally stroll right by in a museum visit. With Greg’s notes in hand, and the requirement to just give the piece a few minutes of my attention, I found it much more interesting than I expected. I still didn’t like it, but I got more out of it than I would have otherwise. And since it was just these few paintings I had to read the background on, I didn’t feel oppressed by the academic weight.

Best of all, when we gathered at the Legion of Honor’s cafeteria (they have excellent food, by the way), a dozen of us of varied ages and background and knowledge of art — we found the discussions of what we thought we were seeing much more interesting, than I expected. Each of the eight of us had noticed a particular thing or a particular connection as we talked about each painting. It was more interesting, and less stilted or academic, than I feared — and more interesting and satisfying than I hoped. I had a wonderful time — and I was stimulated rather than worn out at the end of the day!

Try It Yourself

The next Slow Art Day is April 28, 2012, at art museums literally around the world–see the map at http://www.slowartday.com/ for the 90+ museums participating. Sign up and your local coordinator will get in touch with you as the date comes near.

If you have found yourself with a bad case of Museum Legs from zipping through a museum a couple of times a year, trying to check off every painting in every room from your mental list so you can say you’ve “done” the museum, Slow Art Day will be as different an experience as you can possibly imagine — and infinitely more fulfilling and satisfying a day than you’re used to at the museum — especially if, like me, you are an appreciator but nothing like a student of art.

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About the Author

Mac McCarthy is editorial director of Zenergo.com, the activities-oriented social network. Mac enjoys art, but agrees with Tom Wolfe that no amount of explanation can make bad art into good art. 

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Find Others Who Appreciate Art

At Zenergo.com!

Is Art your passion? Or just your interest? Find others who share your feelings about art to that same degree by joining Zenergo.com — it’s free, and it’s easy.

At Zenergo you can find friends who like art, as well as artists, art events, and art-appreciation groups in your area — or you can start such a group of your own — or recruit from among Zenergo members in your area to join your group or attend your event. Check it out!

What do you think? Have you tried a Slow Art Day — or will you check out the one coming up in April 2012? Leave your Comment — and subscribe to this blog! — Mac McCarthy

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The 5 Secret Weapons in Plastic Scale Model Making

By Chris Bucholtz

Scale modeling is often viewed as a child’s hobby – until the viewer lays eyes on a model built by an accomplished builder. With immaculate construction and a flawless finish, the beginner might wonder what it takes to get a realistic result.

Part of it, of course is practice. A modeler with twenty years of modeling under his or her belt will have a bigger bag of tricks to draw from than a newcomer, and will have learned ways of correcting mistakes that can only be learned by experience. But there are a few things that can help modelers of any experience level up their games instantly – and they’re probably available within a few miles of your home.

Here are five tools for scale modelers that make a huge difference in a hurry:

1. Cyanoacrylate glue

Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue is better known by the brand name “Crazy Glue,” alth,ough you can get a more useful form of it from your hobby shop – and in greater quantities at a lower cost. It can replace old-fashioned plastic model cement and even liquid cements, and its benefits go beyond its fast-setting tendencies. Unlike model cements, it doesn’t shrink as it cures, and it can be sanded. That means you can join parts and then use additional CA glue to fill seams. If it’s sanded within an hour, it’s very workable and can be smoothed to the same texture as the surrounding plastic, and you seams will disappear.

It’s sold in different viscosities, from thick to very thin. The thicker glue dries more slowly, allowing you time to position parts. Thin glue can be run along seams using capillary action. Apply it with a bit of wire twisted into a small loop to maintain control.

And, if by chance, you stick your fingers together, CA glue is dissolved by acetone – the main component of nail polish remover.

2. Flexible files 

Once you have a seam to address, you’ll need to clean it up. Sandpaper is useful, but for real control, head down to your local cosmetics store. Hobby shops sell flexible files — for a hefty markup. Fortunately, flexible files got their start as tools for manicurists. They’re ideal for modeling because they allow you to apply pressure while conforming to the contours of the model. On round surfaces, this is important – a metal file could very easily leave an impossible-to-fix flat spot.

Pick up files with several degrees of roughness for coarse work, and for finishing grab a three-or four-coarseness polishing and buffing file. Good ones will enable you to sand out seams and restore the plastic to its original smoothness – even with clear parts.

3. Flush cutters 

Most modelers know they should cut parts off the sprue trees with a knife or scissors. Unfortunately, those tools can often leave behind “spurs” of plastic that heed to be sanded down, or, worse, they can remove chunks from the part. The answer to this problem is a simple tool that had its start in cable installation: flush cutters.

These are scissor-like tools with blades arranged to cut on a single edge, and are beveled on the sides of the blade away from the object being cut. This design allows the modeler to get the cutter’s blades right against the part, so when it’s removed from the sprue tree very little material is left on the part. A little sanding, or a little trimming with a hobby knife, and your part is ready to use. The amount of time you’ll spend on cleaning up these attachment points – or fixing divots left by knives or scissors – will be greatly reduced.

4. Airbrush 

Few things in the hobby evoke so much anxiety as your first airbrush, but once you have this tool you’ll wonder how you got by without it. It is the tool that allows newcomers to the hobby to apply first-rate finishes over large surfaces, like a car’s body or a plane’s wings, without leaving brush marks, and there are some effects you can only achieve with an airbrush.

Airbrushes vary in price from $50 to $250, but a good-quality brush, like a Paasche VL or an Iwata Eclipse, can be found in the $125 to $175 range. You’ll also need an air supply in the form of a small air compressor (although some modelers prefer to use a refillable CO2 tank).  The investment may come to around $400, but if they’re cared for properly they can last for decades.

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Here’s why an airbrush is great: It can apply a thin, uniform coat of paint over a large area quickly and with great control. As with any skill, it takes a bit of experience to perfect your technique, so practice on paper before working on a model.

If you buy an airbrush at a hobby shop, make sure that they explain some things to you. You’ll need how to clean your airbrush, how to thin paints properly, and whether you’ll need any additional accessories to get the results you want. This knowledge will jumpstart your airbrushing experience.

5. A local model club

Here’s one that you can’t run out and buy – but it may be the most important item on the list. There are hundreds of scale modeling clubs across the U.S., and their meetings are the best place to learn new techniques, avoid mistakes, and benefit from the knowledge of previous generations of modelers.

The International Plastic Modelers Society (IPMS) (www.ipmsusa.org) has over 215 chapters across the United States. The military vehicle-oriented Armor Modeling and Preservation Society (AMPS) (http://www.amps-armor.org/ampssite/) boasts more than 40 chapters. There are countless independent auto modeling clubs across the U.S. Nearly all of them welcome newcomers to their meetings.

A good club meeting will center around a “show and tell” of both recently completed models and in-progress work. This allows newcomers to see techniques they’d like to try – and to speak to someone who’s already using that technique. If a newcomer brings in a project and describes a problem he’s trying to solve, he’s likely to get several helpful pointers that can help him avoid suffering through the trial-and-error that his fellow modelers have already survived.

Nothing beats a club meeting as a source of good information, mentoring, and inspiration to keep building. For a newcomer, it can mean the difference between a passing interest in the hobby and a lifetime passion for scale modeling.

BIO

Chris Bucholtz has been building models for more than 30 years. A national-award winning modeler, he’s the managing editor of the International Plastic Model Society Journal and the creative director of Obscureco Aircraft, a manufacturer of resin detail parts for model planes. A technology and business journalist by trade, he’s also written three books about World War II aviation.

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ZENERGO — FIND FRIENDS, BRING YOUR MODELING CLUB!

On the new Zenergo.com — a social network that focusses on activities — you can find others in our area who share your interest in modeling, find modeling clubs and model-making events! Sign up at http://www.Zenergo.com — it’s free, and it’s easy.

Better: You can bring your model club on board Zenergofree — and enjoy all its social-networking capabilities in one place — your own site, a place to post pictures and documents, a ‘wall’ just for your members (not mixed in with everyone else!), a mailing list and group calendar so you can message organize your meetings, subgroups, and events — it’s all here, no webmaster required!

You can specify your exact interests

Zenergo is a great way to reach out to others in your area who also love making models — grow your club, get people to attend your events — and get specific details about member interests.

Try Zenergo.com now!

5 Steps to Get Into Cycling–And Stick With It

By Joe Longo

Almost all my friends seem to be cyclists. How did that happen?

My wife bought me a bike for my birthday. So I bought my daughters bikes

My daughters, Bernadette and Antonia, ahead of me on a 66-mile ride last year!

for their birthdays. They’re all grown up and two of them remain dedicated cyclists. My daughter’s boyfriend bought a bike so that he could ride Lake Tahoe with us. His mother bought my daughter’s old bike, and her husband upgraded his bike.

I started eating at the sushi place after a complete stranger on a bike told me that Sang, the owner, was a fast rider. Through Sang, I found that my daughter’s school friend was a sushi-eater — and cyclist. He knows Paul, a big-time rider, who is dating another common friend. Through him she bought a bike and started riding.

One year we auctioned a “Tour de Tahoe” ride at our school fundraiser. The buyer is a neighbor’s son with a nice bike but who does little riding. He finished the 72 miles with us, then promptly bought his girlfriend a bike.

My former CFO found that I was a rider, so we started going out together after work. He meets people at the local gym whom I meet through him. We’re all connected through his mailing list that he uses for broadcasting weekend rides. Over 80 people are on his list so far.

Three neighbors my age asked if they could join our rides. They each bought nice bikes and have been riding since.

And so it goes. I can’t be sure about the cause of this trend. Is it Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France success? Is it that everyone wants to get fit? Or is it that people emulate each other? Probably a combination of all these and more. But I can be certain of some things: How to get into cycling — and how to stay with it.

1. Buy a good bike, helmet, and riding shoes

My experience buying bikes for my daughters has taught me that you need to really like the bike to keep riding. I was about to buy her an entry-level bike for under $700 when I realized it would last her maybe a year – the gears, shifters, brakes were all low-end, cheap stuff. I went for the $1,400 Bianchi — Italian by name and Italian by price. She loved the bike and wanted to be seen on it. Two years later she upgraded to a carbon-frame Bianchi at twice the price. Now she’s a better rider than me. She admits that it would have been harder to stick with it had we started with the low-end, entry-level bike.

2. Buy cycling clothes that fit

You simply won’t want to be seen in a floppy T-shirt and board shorts. The best brands will last years, so don’t be afraid of spending extra money here. Pearl Izumi is my favorite brand. They have a wide price range and good quality products. Want to look like a model? Castelli is the brand to buy, and can’t be beat for quality and fashion.

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3. Find a riding buddy

Me (left) and a riding buddy

Your first solo rides will be limited to areas you know — your immediate neighborhood. Five to 10 miles is the typical beginner loop. To break through your psychological border, reach out to a friend who is already riding a lot. Cyclists love coaching other cyclists. Your friend will take you out weekly on his/her favorite “easy” ride, which will extend your legs. Expect to double your range to 20 and then to 35 miles.

But be careful: Don’t overreach by going too fast, or attacking long or steep hills. That would be the easiest way to be turned off the bike. Ride with your friend, but within your obvious limits.

4. Sign up for a riding event

The strongest motivator is having a goal. The best goal is a pre-paid cycling event, a few months ahead of you. Find an event that’s at least four weeks out and register with your buddy: It’s amazing how powerful this motivator can be. (It’s probably the fear of failure.)

The minimum group ride should be 35 miles, but 66 miles — the ‘metric century’ — is the standard. Complete the metric century before shooting for 100 miles – the ‘standard century.’ There really is a big difference in effort and expectations, so hold off until your second full year of riding before giving the standard century a try.

You’ll start riding four to five times a week — both weekend days and at least two weekdays. Set aside a day in between long rides for recovery. Train for the event by riding 50%, then 75% of the distance in the coming weeks. On race day, you’ll be able to exceed your personal best on the strength of the crowd around you. That’s another phenomenon.

5. Join a bigger group

Finally, join a bigger group. This is where cycling gets its converts from golf. You’ll find yourself on a mailing list or Facebook group with everyone encouraging you to “ride this weekend.” You’ll be organizing your own group rides. Groups of three, four and more a fun. Groups of ten or more are legend. Ride out to your favorite far-away coffee shop, sit, chat. Ride back. Attack some hill on the way home. Talk about it over fresh drinks when you get back. You’ll go to sleep dreaming about riding.

Conclusion

So what have you just done? Well, you’ll find you now know a lot about your body: how much to eat, how to stay hydrated, the difference and benefits of carbs, protein, vitamins, salts. You’ll gravitate away from the lousy stuff that seems to make people unhealthy. In short, your body will love you, and you’ll start converting other golfers.

Have Fun. Ride Safe. And email me with your experience — joelongo at mac.com.

BIO
Joe Longo is an Australian-born Italian-American, with a passion for Cycling. Weekdays he works as a software executive in Silicon Valley, but weekends he rides endlessly with his daughters. As a hobby, he runs a friends & family cycling club called Club Longo. Copyright 2011 Joe Longo

How I Learned To Love Running

By James Staten 
Coach, Team In Training (TNT)

I’m just a few days away from taking on the biggest running challenge of my career – to run the Grand Canyon, rim to rim and back again.

It’s a race of extremes, over 42-plus miles of rocky terrain, fully exposed to the elements, a race during which temperatures will go from near freezing at the start and at the top of the North rim, to the mid-nineties as we cross the Colorado River. The whole ordeal will take me and my fellow Silicon Valley/Monterey Bay Area Team In Training  coaches over 12 hours to complete.

And we can’t wait.

The Hard Way–On My Own

It’s hard to believe that, just nine short years ago, I could barely complete a half marathon. It was the Fall of 2002 when a friend from work, whom I had run with a few times, challenged me to get serious about my running and try a half marathon. I took her up on this challenge thinking, “How hard could it be? I run six or so miles each weekend, I feel I’m in pretty good shape. How hard could a little over twice that distance be?”

Hard. Very hard. I was hating life by mile ten that day.

As I was heading back down Ocean Boulevard in San Francisco towards the finish line, other runners were struggling, too, but many of them were whizzing by me with these incredible positive attitudes, partly because they were being cheered on by what seemed like hundreds of friends dressed in purple and calling out words of encouragement. As I was climbing the final hill to the finish I said, “I’ll never, ever, do this again – unless I can get proper coaching, and have those purple people cheering for me!”

The Better Way: With Coaching

So in the spring of 2003 I went to a Team In Training information meeting, learned what it would take and signed up.

I ended up doing a full marathon instead of a half that season, crossing the line in 80-degree heat at the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.

That season I learned that proper coaching and support make a world of difference — and I haven’t looked back since.

Every year since that race I’ve completed at least two marathons, and rose through the ranks of TNT as a mentor, captain, and now coach. I’ve been a part of TNT’s triathlon and hiking teams, as well but have always come back to my first love — the run team.

And last year, with the support of TNT, I took on the biggest challenge of my life, a year-long campaign to be the first person to complete the entire Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series and raise over $10,000 for leukemia research.

The Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series: Could I Do It?

The Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series, put on by Competitor Group out of San Diego, is a collection of marathons and half marathons spanning the United States. These events are a running party, as there are bands playing all along the course and there is a headliner concert at each finish line. And we aren’t talking party bands here but major acts including Sister Hazel, Neon Trees and Bret Michaels.

In 2010, the series had expanded to 14 events, eight of which were full marathons; if successful, I would be the first person to run every mile of every race in the series.

There were events nearly every month, with a stretch in the fall where I had an event every weekend for five weeks straight! Marathons were about every three to five weeks throughout the year. Eight marathons was two more in a single year than the total marathons I had ever attempted.

The year started strong with PF Chang’s Rock’n’Roll Arizona Marathon, a race benefitting The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), where I set a new marathon PR (personal record). Then it was off to races in New Orleans and Dallas, followed by the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, where we were nearly swept off the course by a tornado!

Next up was the inaugural Rock’n’Roll event, the San Diego Rock’n’Roll Marathon (a TNT spring season regular), then Seattle, Chicago, Virginia Beach, and Philadelphia.

The next race was the only one I had completed before, the San Jose Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon, which is a TNT summer team event again this year. This is a surprisingly beautiful event that takes you on a highlight tour of Silicon Valley’s capital via a fast, flat course – perfect for a new marathoner or someone seeking a PR. It’s always a thrill to run among and in front of your friends and family. And as a TNT coach, I finished my race, changed shirts and bibs and ran back out onto the course to help all our participants finish strong.

San Jose was also the start of a grueling stretch of back-to-back events with barely a free weekend in between. Right after San Jose was Denver, Los Angeles, and San Antonio – marathon, half, marathon. At the completion of the last Texas run I was nearing the finish of my year-long challenge and crossed over my fundraising goal. One challenge left.

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The Rock’n’Roll Las Vegas Marathon takes place in mid-December and is one of only three events that closes down the famous strip. Over 20,000 runners take over the street, running between the casinos, down to old downtown and back again. Along the way are the running Elvises, a run-through wedding chapel at the Venetian Hotel, and costumes galore. (In 2011, the race will switch to nighttime! It should be even more special with the neon lights.)

Victory! And Now It’s Your Turn!

With my R'n'R Series medals!

At the conclusion of Las Vegas, I had done it! Over $11,000 raised to help fight blood cancers, over 262 miles completed — and over 25,000 frequent flier miles collected. But the memories were the best part.

What does it take to run eight marathons and six halfs in a single year?  The training, determination, and support of Team In Training.

Our experienced coaching staff follows a proven training plan that can get you off the couch and into a lifetime running habit. And I’m living proof.

I’ve now completed 29 marathons in my eight years with TNT, and hope I will still be running well into my 70s. I’m on a quest to complete 50 marathons by my 50th birthday, and this year I am taking on the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak Marathon as well as the Tahoe Triple.

But I don’t just do this for myself. What’s a bigger thrill to me is seeing someone like you — who isn’t sure at the start of a season if you can complete a marathon or a half — cross that finish line. We help hundreds of people like you to reach that goal and nearly everyone does.

Teams are forming all across the U.S. Go to http://www.teamintraining.org/ to see if there’s a Team In Training team near you.

Come join us for an information meeting this spring and then sign up for our summer season. We will train you for some of the most incredible events in the world, including San Jose Rock’n’Roll, the Nike Women’s Marathon, and incredible events in Chicago, Portland, and Dublin, Ireland.

I hope you will join me.

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Zenergo —  The Site for Runners!

When you’re not training for your next marathon, you still want to keep in good running shape — and Zenergo can help!

When you join Zenergo (it’s free, and fast) and sign up for the Running activity, you can make this your central location for scheduling, tracking, and maintaining all your running events, plans, regular schedule — and if you run with friends (always more fun that way!), you can create your own (informal) running group, and maintain a running-group calendar. You can also post pictures, and documents, and message among yourselves. And you can keep the whole thing as public or as private as you like. (You might find a few people in your neighborhood who are looking for running companions!)

Here’s an example of the Running activity profile. Here you can specify exactly what your running interests are. It makes it easy for others looking for running partners to match up more precisely (better than just “runner, looking for people to run with” ad in the paper!).

What the Running Activity looks like on your Running page

Like this story? Please share it with friends! Thanks!

Four Quick Tips for Youth Baseball Coaches (and Parents!)


Jerry McClain, a one-time professional baseball player, has been coaching baseball at colleges and high schools for the past couple of decades, and specializes in training up-and-coming young pitchers. He has strong opinions about warming up before practice, about following the principles of Positive Coaching, and about the life benefits of learning how to coach well. We interviewed him recently, asking him for three helpful tips for coaches — and he gave us a bonus fourth tip.

1. Proper warm-up for pitchers is absolutely critical before games. Jerry has his pitchers perform an exercise routine using “sand bottles” — 16-oz drink bottles filled with sand (10-oz bottles for pitchers younger than 12). The warm-ups are aimed at increasing blood flow in the pitching arm and, especially, the shoulder.

“Just throwing the ball around or, worse, playing long-throw catch as a warm-up is a terrible idea,” says Jerry, “Yet too many coaches skip the real warm-up. You have to warm up the arm — get blood flowing in the arm and especially the shoulder — before you start throwing the ball around. You’ll ruin the kids’ arms while they’re still teenagers if you don’t pay serious attention to this!”

2. Read Positive Coaching, by Jim Thompson — “It’s the best book out there about coaching; I’ve read it many times.” Thompson is founder of the Positive Coaching Alliance, an organization to train sports coaches to deal effectively and positively with their kids — practical advice, Jerry says, not just for coaching — but for parenting, too. “I encourage everybody to read this book — even if you’re not a coach, you’ll learn life and business lessons.”

3. Understand that coaching is a skill set that is also an overlay for life skills and for business skills — Learning how to coach well helps you become a better manager — and a better human being.

Bonus tip: If you’re coaching boys teams, be sure to take the opportunity to coach a girls’ team  — “It’s totally different from coaching a boy’s team,” says Jerry, and it will expand your coaching ability, and your life skills too.

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Manage Your Team With Zenergo

Zenergo.com can be helpful to coaches trying to manage their teams and schedules, deal with players and with parents, and find support staff or even additional players.

Here’s a view of a baseball team’s group page; notice the “A Street Baseball Team Parents” at the bottom — that’s an example of a Subgroup for the parents of A Street team members.  You can create a subgroup for the managers/coaches/support staff, too.

Baseball team page with "subgroup" for parents

Joining Zenergo is easy and free at http://www.Zenergo.com — and in the Baseball Activity you can specify your interests and focus.

Better yet, you can then create a Group for your team — one central location where the kids and the parents can share information, check the calendar for practices and games, post photos, and save forms and documents. As coach, you can send messages to all the whole team, or just to subsets like the parents or the other coaches. You can even create a Group for the league, with SubGroups, one for each team. Groups can maintain privacy from non-members, which is important.

No more trying to juggle email, and calendars, and sending attachments, and posting pictures to someplace else, and worrying about protecting the kids’ privacy. Zenergo has everything in one place — perfect for the complex job of Coach!

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Copyright 2011 by Zenergo Inc.

Playing Golf in Snowshoes!

By Kristen Williams
The Golf Chick

Snow in the First Hole

The First Hole...

Since it’s snowing here tonight for the first time since 1989, I thought it a fitting time to tell you about my snowshoe golf experience. That’s right. I said snowshoe golf. What else do you do when there’s 4 feet of snow on the golf course?

Earlier this month, I went to McCall, Idaho to see my sister. It was during the town’s famous Winter Carnival, when tourists pour in and make the tiny town burst. There are all sorts of things to see and do – live music, incredible snow sculptures, comedy, hockey, theater (my sister was the lead in this year’s play), snow bike race, snowmobiling, casino night, even a “monster dog pull.” [Side note: McCall is an extremely dog friendly town, which I love. Businesses have ads in the phone book to showcase the “shop dog.”] But what was I most excited about? Of course it was the snowshoe golf!

I had never heard of such a thing but thought it sounded like terrific fun. They set the snowshoe golf course up at the city course – McCall Golf Club (which, during the winter, transforms into an outdoor winter sports venue for sledding, cross country skiing, and more – and of course dogs are welcome).

They charge $20, and all net proceeds goes to local charities. For your 20 clams, you also get a souvenir cap. You can bring your own snowshoes or use some of theirs. They give you a couple tennis balls, a styrofoam cup, offer you a club or two (why two?) if you didn’t bring your own, and set you on your way. The cup is used to pack snow to make a tee, kinda like they used to do with dirt before tees were invented (bonus trivia tidbit for you). I went with my awesome fraunt (friend/aunt) Jo, who is a local and an all around winter sports fiend! Yep, she even curls. So after a quick stop at the bar for bloody Marys, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed to the first tee. Jo had never played golf before and I had never used snowshoes before. Good pair.

Surprise! It’s hard to hit a tennis ball with a golf club off the snow!

Guess what? You don’t want to hit down on the ball. Doh! That was a struggle for me the whole round. You want to try to hit the middle of the back of the tennis ball with the edge of the club. I think I had a 6 iron. Seems to me a hybrid/utility club might be more suited to this game. Most of my tee shots were decent but beyond that, it was rough out there. We were looking for the beverage cart to refresh our drinks after the first hole. I mentioned that to the group we caught up with on the next tee and they called in our order and let us play through. JJ himself delivered our refills on the next hole. What service!

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The Beverage Cart

The nine-hole course is set up to direct the snowshoe traffic away from the regular tees and greens.  According to the “course architect,” James Johnson, the ball distance is about 1/3, so they set up the holes in feet rather than yards. This year they had 3 par 3’s (100 – 125′), 3 par 4’s (275 – 350′), and 3 par 5’s (400-475′). Par is 36.  The actual holes are buckets dug into the snow with flags next to them.  In case you want to set something like this up at your course, JJ says they try to make it interesting by routing fairways through natural paths through trees and placing greens next to trees and hazards, and using contours. They also use the plowed paths as “water” hazards – play the ball as it lies without grounding club, or take a drop and add a stroke. (Or toss it out and forget it was ever in there, like we did.) One day they had a tournament and the low score was 41. I’m guessing that guy has done this before. I think I shot in the high 60s!

Does it look like I had any fun? I made a promise to Jo that I would come back next year for some more. Looking forward to it already! I’ve got more photos from the trip up on Facebook if you’re interested.

Here is a video from a couple years ago put together by one of the event’s former sponsors. Enjoy! www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFb6pa8FGCI

Kristen Williams is a freelance writer with a serious golf obsession. Her site, The Golf Chick, a journal of her golf thoughts, is one of the longest-running female-written golf blogs. Copyright Kristen Williams.

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Photography: How to Sell a Picture

By Jerry Monkman

Lakes of Clouds Jerry Monkman

Lakes of the Clouds Hut in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Most people who get serious about their photography eventually entertain the idea of doing it professionally. Selling a few photos here or there to pay for travel and equipment isn’t actually that hard – the market for photography is huge and anyone who takes reasonably nice pictures and takes the time to figure out who buys their type of photography and targets those buyers with well though out presentations is bound to sell a picture or two from time to time. The real challenge is to build a photography business that generates enough consistent income to pay for everything in that business and in life, and as any pro will tell you that has become increasingly difficult due to many factors, primarily the explosion of digital distribution which has leveled the playing field and driven both stock and assignment prices to their lowest levels ever.

It used to be that nature and adventure photographers could make the bulk of their income by spending most of their time out in the field shooting and then send their images to a handful of stock agencies, who did all the selling. That is no longer the case as microstock agencies have increased competition and driven stock photo prices to very low levels that effect the income of all photographers. While there is no one model for success in this business, I feel that diversity is the key. While I still make decent income selling stock, I could not survive as a photographer if I didn’t also work on commissioned photo projects, write books, sell prints, and lead workshops. I am also starting to get assignments for shooting and producing multi-media projects. This is really a mix of different businesses that I never imagined I’d work on, but by adjusting to the market and “reinventing” my business, I’ve been able to keep doing what I love.

One obvious key to selling photography today is to get your images on the web. It is imperative to have images on-line where people can find them, get inspired by them, and easily purchase them. We actually use two web sites to market my photography. Both host large lumber of high-res files that can be searched by keyword and allow buyers to license them as stock without any interaction from me. We use two websites because they serve different markets. Our EcoPhotography site is geared towards professional image buyers like photo editors and art directors looking to purchase stock. I put a very deep collection of images on this site because these buyers sometimes need very specific subject matter. It is hosted by IPNstock.com and has served us well for a long time.

We set up jerryandmarcymonkman.com to serve a different audience – those members of the general public that might be interested in purchasing our books or prints, or attending one of my workshops.  This site is hosted by Photoshelter which is less expensive than IPN, but offers great features for monetizing images. Photoshelter sites can be customized (ours is a custom site that works seamlessly with my wordpress blog) and it is super easy to add images, build galleries, etc. Photoshelter has also optimized their site to improve search engine results, and they make it easy for people to buy your photos by offering simple tools to embed photos and slideshows on other websites like Facebook and blogs. Click on a photo in this post and you’ll go directly to that image’s page on our website where you can buy a print in a couple of clicks or explore the rest of the site. The Heron Pond Farm slideshow above is a gallery on our Photoshelter site that I embedded in the post by just grabbing the embed code from the gallery. This is easy, but powerful stuff that makes it simple to feature your work in a variety of places on-line.

Cherry Pond in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Cherry Pond in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

While having a strong on-line presence is a key part of any photographer’s business, it is only one small tool in actually selling images. Even though I have about 15,000 images on-line, they don’t sell themselves, even with good search engine results. To make consistent sales you need consistent marketing. Today, that involves all the social networking tools at our disposal as well as traditional direct marketing – e-mails and postcards. However, the only reason we have survived the downturn in the photo business is because we have taken the time to build solid long-term relationships with clients. Most of our income comes from direct sales to clients we have worked with for several years, and they are now the ones most willing to hire me for my new multi-media skills as well as traditional photography.

Winter hiking in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Winter hiking in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Finding these clients and making them long-term customers hasn’t changed much since since the days when I sent out pages of duplicate 35mm slides. It boils down to identifying potential customers that use the type of photography I shoot, getting my work in front of them and slowly building their interest. This may mean sending web gallery links instead of slides, e-mail story queries instead of typed letters, and laptop presentations instead of a printed portfolio, but it still requires that I reach out only to people that could potentially use my skills (I don’t market my nature photography to Vanity Fair, for instance,) and that I prove to them that I am professional both in my photography and in my business practices. This can take years with some prospects, but once they become customers I do everything I can to make sure they stay customers.  I made our first photo sale ever to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It was only the second time I had sent photos out to a photo editor, but I knew they published my style of photography and that I had the subject matter they liked to feature. That was in 1993 and I’ve sold them images every year since then.

While the details of building a photography business go much deeper than what I’ve outlined here (search Photography Business on Amazon and you’ll see just how in-depth you can get,) I feel that anyone with photographic talent can find a way to sell their pictures by taking the time to understand who their potential customers are and then reaching out to them. This is not a get rich quick business, but if you commit to it for the long term, it can be a very rewarding profession.

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About Jerry Monkman

Known for his conservation photography work in New England’s wild places, Jerry Monkman has spent the last 15 years artfully documenting the mountains, forests, and coastlines that define the region. Staying true to his mission of “promoting ecological awareness through creative photography,” his images have contributed to raising awareness and funds to protect a diverse collection of wild places, from a small Connecticut trout stream not far from New York City, to New Hampshire’s Great Bay, to Maine’s Katahdin Lake near Baxter State Park. To see more of Jerry’s work, visit his websites: http://www.ecophotography.com and http://www.jerryandmarcymonkman.com.

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10 Blogging Tips for Beginners and Experts

By JOE PULIZZI

[Republished with permission from Junta42 Content Marketing]

Just presented 20 Actionable Techniques to Enhance Your Blog’s Content at the Blogging Success Summit, an amazing series of virtual presentations put on by Social Media Examiner.

During the presentation, I shared these 10 blogging tips for beginners and experts alike that I believe are imperative for all content marketers  Here they are.

1. Use Killer Titles

Your blog title is like the cover of a magazine.  There is one purpose for a magazine cover…to get you to open the magazine.  The same holds true for a blog post.  The greatest blog post in the world might not be read unless you have a compelling title.

In an analysis of my top content marketing posts for 2010, we found that the most popular/most effective posts had some kind of number in it (i.e., 10 Most Popular Posts for 2010).  Even better was putting two numbers.  Controversial is also good.

Headline Tips

  • Think about the Problem (see #2 below)
  • Focus on important keywords for your business (Google External Search Tool)
  • Numbers Rule
  • Be VERY Specific. Instead of this  —

Ways to Increase Your Stock Return

Do this  —

10 Ways to Make More Money with Small-Cap Stocks


2. Focus on the Problem

This is where you always should start.  What are the pain points of your target reader?  What keeps them up at night?

Here’s a great example by Jay Baer where he starts the post by focusing on the problem…in this case, that customer service is a nightmare today because of social media (or can be).

Snapshot of a Sample Post

Start Your Blog by Focusing on the Problem or Pain Point

If your blog focuses 100% of the time on what keeps your customers and prospects up at night, you will most likely be successful.

3. Less is More

Blogs are best when they are shorter, instructive and to the point.  Only on a rare occasion is there a need to ramble on about an issue.

Short Tips

  • Short sentences
  • Bullets
  • Short paragraphs
  • Get rid of unnecessary words
  • Edit, Edit, Edit

One of my most popular posts, A blog is like a miniskirt, was only 23 words.

If your blog draft ends with 500 words, try to edit it down to 350.  That cuts out the clutter.

4. Think First about the Call to Action

Each blog post should have some sort of call to action.  Debbie Weil provides a great list including:

  • Download our white paper
  • Join us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
  • Ask us a question
  • Download our e-book
  • Sign up for our free webinar
  • Request our toolkit
  • Sign up for our e-newsletter
  • Request a demo

Remember, 80% of your blog traffic will probably never come back.  Show your readers additional, relevant content offers, like a valuable, niche enewsletter so you can continue to communicate with them.  Getting opt-in email names should be one of your top blogging goals (grow the database).

5. Think “Content Packages” 

This book started with a series of blog posts.

Get Content Get Customers started as a series of blog posts.  The Content Marketing Playbook began as a series of blog posts.

Continually think about how you can take blog posts and repackage into something more substantial.  Planning for this ahead of time makes all the difference.

One blogging idea could be 10 pieces of content.  Think about that for a second.

6. Spread the Love – Guest Blogging

  1. Target the top 15 blogs in your industry and offer to do relevant guest posts on their blogs.
  2. Never turn down an opportunity for a guest post.

I’ve done guest blogs for more than 100 blogs (including this one on Zenergo) and it has been one of the most important keys to building our social media and search engine presence.

7.  Promote Key Influencers with Lists

Everyone loves lists, especially the people on the list.  The Junta42 Top 42 Content Marketing blogs, now in its 10th installment, rates the top bloggers and influencers in the industry.  More than half of the top 42 place our widget (with the link) on their site.  Talk about SEO and branding love!

  1. Create a niche list
  2. Be sure it’s easily sharable (including a widget)
  3. Do a blog post about the list
  4. Let the winners AND losers know
  5. Do a press release about the list.
  6. Repeat, repeat, repeat

8. Measure, Measure, Measure

Here are 21 blog metrics that you can measure as part of your blog.  Choose the ones that make the most sense with your overall content marketing and blogging goals.  Make sure you and your team know what the goal of the blog is and that everyone sees the statistics.

  • Track lead conversions, and what type of content led to the conversions.
  • Track the most read, most engaged in content and do more of that.
  • Track the referral sources that perform the best.  Find more of those types of referral sources.

9. Influencer Q&A’s

Most industry heavy hitters will do a podcast interview or Q&A if you ask.  They will probably also share it with their network when it’s finished. Here’s an example of a Q&A with David Meerman Scott.

10. Outsource

More than 50% of companies of all sizes outsource their content marketing. 

Most businesses outsource a portion of their content marketing.

Find a great writer to help you.

Find a content agency or content team to take your blogging/strategy to the next level.

Some companies have a difficult time telling engaging stories.  Enlist help.  It’s available.

What to do next?

  • Be sure you are blogging on a niche topic where you can be the leading expert in the world.  If not, you may be targeting too wide a topic.
  • Then do the 10 recommendations above.

Good Luck!

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About Joe

Joe Pulizzi is a leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing. Joe is founder of Junta42 and the Content Marketing Institute. This blog looks at the trends in content marketing, and how marketers can learn to think and act like publishers. This post copyright 2011 by Joe Pulizzi.

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What Are the Filmmaker’s Most Important Tools?

Filmmaker cartoonBy Norman C. Berns

What’s a filmmaker’s most important tool? That essential thing we must have, no matter what?

I asked that question in various groups and online forums, and several hundred answers came in. Of course, the best tool depends on the work at hand, so even while many were job-specific, most seemed to be basic and surprisingly universal.

  • No doubt smart phones would have topped the list if they hadn’t been excluded. They’re still so pervasive that a few slipped through as the tool of choice, either stated or implied.

It replaced my laptop, my camera, my video camera, my Avid, my GPS, my LA411, my Thomas Guide and my bottle opener. Can’t use it as a Leatherman or Gaffer’s tape yet…. Oh well, nothing is perfect.

So… Other than my phone, my best tool is….

  • Software was mentioned most often. Whether on a computer or in the cloud, it included programs for production (budgeting, scheduling, writing, presenting, organizing) and instant messaging (Skype and others) and social networking (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). (12.9%)

Nothing worse in a strange town than having no idea where to get a decent meal.

I moved online and freed my company from the IT burden.

  • A close second was the computer itself. I suspect that it’s not really the machines we love, but all the software tools they hold. Those two categories – computers and software – we’re far and away the top choices. (11.2%)

The knowledge of the universe is no further away than a mouse click.

I can even live without my phone. Yes I said it; I can. But my laptop is my life – can’t leave home without it.

Our addiction to technology aside, some of the best picks were surprisingly practical, everyday hand tools.

  • The Multi-tool, whether it was a Gerber, Leatherman or Swiss Army knife. (6.9%)

In terms of hardcore survival, this is the one thing I can’t be without.

  • Pencil, paper, pens, and Sharpies were all emotional favorites, though often dismissed as “old school.” (6.0%)

Nothing beats a pen and some paper to jot down a lead, a breakthrough, a to-do item.

DPs always get the coolest toys in their kit. I stopped trying to compete. So I beat them with low tech. A pencil and paper never break down.

  • Sound quality was a major issue for many, whether it was software, a home recording studio, the ideal microphone, or just careful planning for the session. (5.5%)

A great sound track will often blow a client away, more then visual effects.

I’ve won awards because my product sounded as good as it looked.

  • A brain and/or creativity (4.3%)

It’s what enables me to make do with what I have when what I have is not enough.

By far, I use creativity more than any other object or attribute.

Its battery never runs down.

  • Cameras were popular. Some suggested “the camera in my phone,” but others focused on stand-alone SLRs. (3.5%)

It goes wherever I go and I never leave home without it.

  • Many (including me) picked their GPS, for location survival. (2.5%)

My other tools aren’t of much value if I can’t find the location….

  • Gaffers tape (or duct tape) was a frequent (and well-loved)  nominee. (2.5%)

The world in general runs on gaffers tape….

It even fixed a leak in my car’s radiator….

  • Coffee was selected only once, but remained an unspoken essential. At least in my life. So it’s included.

…When the brain needs a morning jumpstart.

  • Patience, too, only made the list once, but it was implied frequently

My best tool, though l can’t always remember where I put it.

About 50% of the tools were one-offs, and those were often the most interesting. Some were really surprising, too, good ideas I hadn’t thought of but should have. The job at hand can be clearly seen in many of them. Most could be put to use by almost everyone.

  • 3-Hole Punch

Without it how would I organize all the POs & backup?

  • 5-Button Mouse

You wouldn’t believe how much more productive I get, how much better I stay on task when I can keep one hand on the mouse.

  • Airbrush

I’m a big fan of airbrush cosmetics for the HD market.

  • Aluminum Clip Board
  • Business Cards

I’ve never met a business card I didn’t like!

  • Baby Wipes
  • Batteries

For all those mics….

  • Binder Clips 

I use them for binding paper together (duh), holding call sheets, holding a hand mic or earwig, making a larger zipper tab that’s easier to grab with heavy gloves, keeping gloves, mittens, socks paired together, clipping the ends of rolled tubes of paper, a great cable tie, an impressive money clip, holding the skin on a stuffed turkey while roasting, temporary hem holder (while looking for duct tape), closing the end of a tube when it has a blow out, holding fine wires while soldering, pinching off tubing to stop the flow of whatever, temporary curtain hold back….

  • Bolt Cutters

When an employee who is supposed to open the parking lot has slept in, I simply cut the lock and get to my shoot on time.

  • Broadband Card
  • Call Sheet/Script Wallet
  • Car keys (spare set)
  • Canon i80 Printer

Love it. And it fits in my backpack.

  • Clothes Pins
  • Compass
  • Cooler

It holds water, sandwiches and snacks. It fits in the front seat of the car for easy access. There are side pockets where I can store an external hard drive without worrying about it getting hot in the car.

  • Day Timer

Keep it handy for notes and sketches. I guess my age is showing!

  • Ears

I listen to exactly what a person is saying, because behind that language is pain, confidence, fear, love, or a need for love. We are in the business of communication yet…the silence says everything.

  • Ear buds
  • First Aid Kit
  • iPad (and other tablet computers)

Actually, I increasingly find that the IPad has become an almost indispensable utility. Now, with the advent of the Movie Magic and Final Draft apps for the IPad it’s going to be almost impossible to go on recces and attend meetings without the blessed thing.

  • Keffiyah 

Not just for wrapping around my neck or head, but to wrap delicate equipment in unforeseen circumstances; as a towel, a small camera bean bag, a pillow, a sun screen; great for diffusing strong light coming through unavoidable windows…. I thought the most obvious answer would be a roll of gaffer tape but my keffiyah has even been used to tie things together.

  • LA411

I wish every production city had its own 411. [LA411.com is a Web site filled with film production resources.]

  • Laser Range Finder

It’s saved my ass more than a few times. It’s nice to know when the trucks will really fit under that bridge with the missing clearance markings.

  • LED Camera Light

Runs on standard v-mount batteries and packs a lot of light in a small package. I take it everywhere.

  • Light Meters
  • Lists – Crew, Cast & Vendors, Call Sheets and To-Do Lists

Especially my old ones. With notes and numbers of hundreds of contacts.

  • McCallan’s 14
  • Mini Maglight

Always on my Belt Rig. Monitor Hood

  • Penny

Cheapest screwdriver EVER. Flat-head only, but that’s what tripod screws are anyway.

  • Peter

The only person mentioned by name was “my coordinator and friend extraordinaire.” It seemed worth including as a reminder of how dependent we are on our colleagues.

  • Power Converter

To run a teleprompter or light from a car’s cigarette lighter.

  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups  
  • Road Cones
  • Rolling Measure
  • Scanner

Almost all production paperwork gets scanned into an Acrobat file. Makes storage & organization a breeze… Makes everything easily transportable, especially via e-mail.

  • Sketchbook

There is no better way to communicate a visual concept than visually. Even chicken-scratch drawings, the kind that emerge from my untrained hand, convey ideas quickly.

  • Socks

A nice clean pair of thick socks. All these electronic gadgets make our jobs easier, faster and more productive, but I can still do my job without them. After 12 hours on my feet with more to go, however, it’s fresh socks!

  • Stopwatch
  • Tilley Hat
  • Turnpike Express Pass
  • Velcro
  • Whiteout

Tombo makes the best whiteout.

  • Wireless Headset
  • Work Gloves

All-leather are (sometimes) best, but at least they should have leather palms. Keeps your hands from getting chewed up/burned/etc.

  • Zip Ties / Cable Ties

And in our endlessly insane world, it all boils down to my single favorite. Okay, one of my favorites. Alright, it’s on my list. And yes, yes, it’s a very, very long list…. It is:

  • A Cup of Chamomile Tea and the Pocket Pema Chodron

Good for reminding me that oftentimes, what I need most is simply to be present in the moment.

All of this is perhaps summed up by an endlessly repeated chorus to almost every listing.

Good Lord. We (I) do carry a heap of equipment just to make things right.

You’ll find more comments (along with some of my personal favorites) in reelgrok’s reviews. When you need to add Production Knowhow to your kit, you’ll find the tools (and great discounts) in The GrokShop.

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Use Zenergo To Manage Your Film Project!

Are you involved in film and video making?  Got a film group? Planning a film project? You can manage the calendar, the people, the details, all from one dashboard — and even promote your film when it’s ready –at Zenergo.com, the social network that focusses on activities.

Example of a Film Group

Join Zenergo — it’s fast and free.

Activate your life with Zenergo — Discover, connect, and share real-world activities and interests with other like-minded people in your area.

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Norman C. Berns

Norma C. Berns is a filmmaker,  film teacher, writer and consultant. His three-part documentary series, The Writing Code, recently aired on PBS. Norman blogs at ReelGrok.com, and the NY-Times-owned Pavaline Studios and has written for The Directors Guild. When not in production, he can usually be found teaching film fundamentals, from script breakdown to successful pitching.  He is a member of The Internet Press Guild, the Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild, and Actors Equity.

COMING NEXT! 10 Tips for Beginning and Experienced Bloggers!

The Strategy of Playing Better Tennis

By Gary Berner

Special to Zenergo

Greetings again, tennis fans. This is my second attempt to write in this format about the sport I love. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments section below and tell me what you’d like to see.

First, I want to report again on professional tennis, as today marks the second major tournament in the last several weeks. The most recent event was the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida played from 3/19 to 4/3. This tournament, like the Indian Wells tournament played a couple of weeks ago, was one of the year’s most important events. Like Indian Wells, players often call this tournament “The 5th Slam.”

In Saturday’s women’s final, a hard-hitting, loud-grunting Victoria Azarenka defeated an almost equally ear-piercing (and I’m not talking jewelry) Maria Sharapova in straight sets. I really don’t mind players expressing the effort involved, but c’mon! This twosome sounded like they were auditioning for some kind of weird reality show. “Don’t men grunt?” I’m hearing some of you ask. Yes, and some of them are pretty annoying too. I just don’t get how screaming at the top of your lungs helps you in any way other than disturbing your opponent’s concentration.

The other issue in women’s tennis today, as announcer Mary Carillo pointed out, is there is currently a “for rent” sign above the World #1 ranking. No dominant player, no rivalry. When those Martina/Chrissie, Stephie/Monica, Venus/Serena rivalries return to  women’s tennis, it will be great for the game. Until then, it’s hard to get too excited.

The men’s game, by contrast has an emerging new rivalry in Djokovic/Nadal. Today’s final was a repeat of the Indian Wells final, with World #1 Rafael Nadal again being overcome by #2-ranked Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6. It was another tight match that Djokovic was able to pull out in the end, remaining undefeated in 2011. By his own admission, Novak is playing the best tennis of his career. Just as it seems that Nadal has “solved” Roger Federer in recent head-to-head competition, Djokovic seems to have “solved” Nadal.

It’s All About Strategy

Which brings me to the next section of this post, geared to perhaps the more advanced club player looking to get an edge in match play. One of the most interesting aspects of tennis is strategy. Unlike team sports, and pretty much all other sports except boxing, singles tennis is a one-on-one battle of wills and wits. How well you play, and whether you win or lose a given match, is highly dependent upon how your game matches up with your opponent’s. The concept I refer to above, “solving your opponent’s game,” really means determining how your strengths and weaknesses match up against a specific opponent–then devising a strategy to exploit those matchups.

Azarenka

For example, suppose your opponent has an outstanding and aggressive forehand, and a much weaker backhand. You have gained pretty good control of your game and feel confident that you can place the ball if you get a chance to set up. How should you plan to play such a player? How will your strengths and weaknesses match up against a lopsided player like this? On first blush, it seems obvious that the best way to “solve” this opponent is to hit to his backhand. But on each of the last several times you played him/her, maybe you didn’t do very well with this strategy. It seems like your attempts to find this weakness was answered by a player who was more than willing to step around the backhand and pound forehand winners from all over the court. So your game didn’t match up very well, and the obvious strategy didn’t work. (Sound familiar to anyone?)

Nadal

An alternative suggestion would be to try pulling this forehand-loving opponent wide to his/her favorite side. “But then I’m hitting to his/her strength,” you might reply. This seemingly counterintuitive strategy has several advantages. Often times, the lover of forehands is very happy to step around the backhand. So much so that running around that weaker side has become a favorite move. By pulling this player in the opposite direction, you move them out of their comfort zone. The second advantage you gain is the court will now be open on the backhand side for your next shot, and this previously happy forehand striker now has to run all the way across the court to hit that lousy backhand you’ve been trying to find for the last three years. So yes, you are playing to their strength, surprising them, and breaking a pattern. Try it, and see if you don’t get inside their heads a little–one of the true joys of singles tennis competition.  🙂

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Take Your Tennis To Zenergo

Zenergo.com is the place you and your tennis friends can form a group to plan your games, schedule them on your group Calendar, share comments and pictures. Tennis coaches can manage their class schedules and your students can comment on Activity Talk — everything you need is in one place, fully integrated. Visit Zenergo.com – it’s fast, it’s free, it’s fun!