APRIL 2, 2023
Is racquetball dying? For people who are immersed in the sport, the question stirs feelings quickly. These questions and statements, in their varying forms, and the condemnations for those who have been charged with leadership during this time, come to life and then die repeatedly in the ether of regular conversation within the sport. In a new TV series, Lucky Hank, shortly after the main character rants about being stuck in the center of mediocrity, he plays racquetball with his buddy at the small college where he teaches. The scene woefully ends with the two sitting against the glass, as the scene is brilliantly set to communicate a stagnant atmosphere; the decor reflects not having been retouched since the 80s or even the 70s. It is a comparative and fair view in my opinion of how the game is viewed by the populous, here in the US. Events are still happening in the small clubs that are still left sprinkled throughout the US. So, to say, racquetball is dying, is simply not the truth. The game will continue to be played and isn't going anywhere, despite having undergone an apathetic shift during the last two decades. Racquetball, invented in America, has a "where the game is played" problem.
Existing racquetball courts have been externally under assault by people seeking court conversions in the name of profit or fiscal survival. This is not a new problem, but one that has been chipping away at the sport for a long time. To date, those charged with sustaining the sport's presence in the US have been completely baffled by this for the last 10-15 years. As much as I try to understand the USA Racquetball mandate in this space, I arguably propose that providing "experience" trumps all foundational processes needed to recognize and act on the underlying social realities and it is reflected in the nonprofit's performance these past years.
Consider what went on with USA Racquetball last Fall. If you followed along, you'll see the truth in my statement. The drive for "experience" was so universally bought into, that conflict of interest swirled unobserved as events were being organized. The true conflict here is the sacrificing of long-term, fiscal, and cultural responsibility. The latter you can just call short-sightedness or conveniently vague. But the form in which they've created events has left the organization with no real plan on where to play these events. There were NEVER resources on the table, so to speak, to address this problem of location, which, operationally, wasn't ever a real problem if you could just find the right spot for this year's event. So, there was no problem to address in committee, if an actual plan was not in order.
NO bashing USA Racquetball here, contrary to what you may be believing from my words. There in the unique position of operational self-discovery and can radically rethink their approach to representing racquetball in the United States. Racquetball in its initial iterations didn't have cause to worry about the where-to-play problem. It was incepted in a space that already existed. The question was who will play at that time. Pushing the experience was easy when the game was popularized along with the growing number of well-populated health and racquet clubs. The sport was set in a social scene and has been ever since. Events run fundamentally unchanged. What was there to change if there is a particular comfort in keeping it unchanged? People don't change when they are comfortable. Sometimes you have to break before you do. If you've personally spent your meaningful time giving to racquetball, you've made mistakes. We ALL have.
In the name of time management and because this is more of a long conversation of sorts, here are my most basic points of observation up front.
Collectively, over the past 10+ years, experience funding on the professional level has produced significant growth and commercial benefits for international players with favorable demographics at home, making it very attractive to travel to the US for this sport.
US Population numbers HERE are important. Racquetball has a who-will-play problem. Declining numbers mean less cultural integration. This should go hand in hand with addressing court closures and the need for a strategic plan to build a centralized home for US Racquetball with a concrete plan for monetization and cultural re-integration.
Experience Funding. I think those charged with raising money for USA Racquetball should recognize it and mitigate it drastically. (Something already begun out of the recent necessity.) Let me try to clarify what it is a bit. Racquetball is a sport played in a health and fitness venue or a racquet club of some sort. USA Racquetball's main mission since its inception is to create racquetball events for its members. No? Yes? Another main mission is to ensure there is a US team to represent internationally, yes? There is always a plan to coordinate national events. There is always a plan to get the US Team to whatever country hosting an international event. You can read about their experiences at the latter in detail.
Now think about the Reaching Your Dream Foundation (RYDF) (I'm talking fundraised dollars.) This is money raised to cover travel expenses for the players. Just "get them to the event" funding. Intending to spark all types of engagement meant to boost racquetball participation. This is not new at all. A key turning point historically came with the World Racquetball Tour and the introduction of RYDF. Raise money for hotel rooms. The growth benefits for the players and the sport will sort and calculate themselves. Eventually, impartiality spread the RYDF's nonprofit concept to the International Racquetball Tour and Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour. All of a sudden, pro tours were subsidized by donated money. This plan of action worked to entrench racquetball in countries ready to embrace racquetball courts that are filled with young, athletes who are rising in the ranks on a tour played in America.
Experience Funding is donated money allocated to pay any expenses for event participants. That's as simplistic as I can make it. It's vastly different than say, endorsement or sponsorship money. Though the words donation and sponsorship, have been at times interchanged to present as growth, sponsorship money should be considered as commerce here. Like a company backing a player to boost their own sales. I should mention, that of course I'm aware of Team Dovetail. From what I can put together from their marketing, they fund the personal experiences of a team of players with the goal of sparking, engagement, growth, participation, and all the buzzwords by having players interact with the community in some way.
Why a hardcore push for a Building Fund is a good idea.
because there is enough engagement within our community to make a long term investment a viable endevour.
recent article mention here
state casually watching squash grow this whole time.
Slowly. Methodically. Incidentally.
The EXPERIENCE and the WHO.
Experience funding mainly benefitted Mexican and International players who had the opportunities this kind of exposure is meant to garner. They go home to broad recognition. Racquetball is culturally viable.
Getting back to experiencing trumping all processes... or the ability to recognize the processes. Before anything, I'll note that population numbers dropped, especially relative to countries like Mexico and some in South America. Just putting it out there. How our money... the money being raised through donation, sparked opportunities for players outside of the country, their numbers..meanwhile, we were playing the wrong game all the time. We needed to figure out where we needed to direct efforts.
You can see it just by looking at the "type" of opportunity US players get, as opposed to the sponsorships some international players have been able to garner. Altruism/Benefactor vs Corporate.
If you compare the reality of Creating an experience, without the people to inspire, then the inspiration goes where? More for Mexico and South America.
If our Junior pools are shrinking...an opportunity to introduce a wider - broad demographic of juniors.... more juniors... any juniors in the US.
Where to focus? Colleges.
How? Just increase the number of people who are highly sympathetic to racquetball.
Where? Start with an area that can be considered a last "Hotbed" for racquetball.
Programming, in a building that was built to house racquetball events, training, etc., IF we are talking USA Racquetball, which we are, then begin with a building that has an operational plan to instantly centralize and monetize all major USA Racquetball Events and operations, with a local operating plan to operate as a racquetball and training proprietorship. If you find a space with appropriate attached outdoor space, you could build outdoor courts and centralize and monetize those who travel for WOR. Indoor One Wall courts are another way.
But, colleges. Why? College racquetball is not a thing you think "scholarship" for. At all. Unless you're a pro player under the perfect circumstances somehow tied in with the Jim Hiser set. So, I'll need to say it again. Focus on colleges. Just because. A program that incorporated racquetball and scholastic studies. Focus on college prep and success. WITH post-acceptance programming and services. So they can come back and share their experiences with the next class, while you're giving the next class more racquetball players to look up to, next to the pros they may see on the streams.
Colleges here in the US will NEED to find quality students across the board, no? If they're attracting the great students they want, keeping the racquetball courts at the school becomes a plus at the admissions discussion table. You're just building out quality racquetball players who will be actively looking for colleges, a few local colleges can find quality students, with post-college support pretty easily. If colleges are discussing "racquetball" at the admissions table, it doesn't matter where the students come from. USA Racquetball's mission is successful. In time, if a kid looks at that particular school and thinks they can play racquetball... it doesn't matter where they are from.
Why? Because it is a solid plan that makes the word "INVESTMENT" and "Donation" a good word way more palatable. Asking for donations for events or prize money sucks. But centralizing all investment will prove something anyone who's given their personal money or some of their businesses liquidity can truly be satisfied with. The "lasting" effects. Everything builds in one place.
It strengthens everything everywhere else. Build out connected courts, with training tech and the ability to stream lessons. Show club owners what racquetball courts could be.
The majority of the money raised to facilitate players pursuing their professional careers has gone to international players traveling to the US. International players are better able to turn that into the actual goal of providing sponsor opportunities. Numbers. I'll argue, if you do this correctly, you'll get bigger pools of American players to draw from to send to international competition.
AT. THE WHY. THE WHERE. That is the long part. I fully believe continuing along without fundamentally acting like a true non-profit, where you have to have tangible success in your mission to continue on, is unsustainable. Raising money is directly connected with the sentiment behind the belief in your mission. And seriously, how many wealthy individuals are left to drop the cash for tournaments? And how long will they want to?
State state of reacquetball...
Board make up.
Raise money... what to say.
Depth of purpose... schools... demographics... racquetball... Mexico had more kids... more parents to support... which basically means spend money hear in the States.
Recent history... influx of Mexicans and South Americans... experience... funded. Trend. Experience... all about.
How about trade that with "Legacy" providing experiences. Provide opportunity. Some place to go.
two reasons why now. Export racquetball and population numbers.
I asked myself, whose job would it be? USA Racquetball? Lost in committee? Which committee would be responsible for looking at proposing an endeavor like this? Is it the Executive Committee? The Finance Committee is there to approve and audit but that's not policy programming. And as I looked, there is a newly forming revenue Generating/Fundraising committee in the works. If it's adding a committee just dedicated to raising money for basic operations as normal, that in itself, seems pretty dire to me. I say that respectively. If you're looking to root something and build a physical structure on solid ground, then the new committee is a very basic start.
The rankings on both pro tours, which coincidentally operate mostly in the US, are players led by Mexican and South American players. The tours offer a supreme value in experience for these players as long as they can find the means to attend these events. Success has indeed provided opportunities for national notoriety in their respective countries.
In a comparison the sport of racquetball here in the States…. High School Nationals… USA Racquetball… what is the comparative organization hosted 231 competitors… almost all from either Missouri or Oregon… with just under a dozen coming from Illinois, California, Texas or Iowa. Mike Grisz.... encouragement. update 5 months in letter. .. ME too. Me too.
SEA Nats… 450 students High School and Middle School participants… (310 High Schoolers) from 21… 21 member organizations… 5 player team tournament.
Fueling the experiences of these players lifestyles of travel and competition. Where is the measurable/tangible growth here in the States, where the tour mostly can find operation?
I don’t know much about how Dovetail operates… other than they have a team, so they get help with traveling and being a professional… and now they have juniors…, sweet.
But now, wouldn’t it be a good idea to pair that available support more comprehensively with junior support… because at some point, we have to ask, when do corporate sponsors support the life of the professional… maybe wean them off after a few years? They are inspiring to teens no? Ah. Money. Who do you staff a building with professional coaches? You have a crop to employ… bargain that into the value for donations or corporate help. A good, solid, well developed plan for sustainment of dreams. Not fulfillment of them.
Aside from the story of these players? Where is the return? Donating for professional existence at some point becomes a grift. Measure the juniors. Not an intentional grift… but an incidental one.
What... they why... short... the where is the long park.
missed the boat... pro tours reflect the loss of that foundation a generation ago. The time to build to prevent that would have been the generation before... when you had power in the line ups.
Refective Mexico and South America.
Population numbers and the inability to adjust to cultural shifts..
Pro tours reflect that Competitve Success of America's game.
Money being donated to build the sport was funding the experiences of international players by a larger margin. When the players most benefiting from their postion on the tours know that they have to travel to the States to play...
Competitive Success – USAR strives to maintain America’s position as the number one racquetball nation in the world. Success at the elite levels has a positive influence on every other facet of our sport.
Competitive Success – USAR strives to maintain America’s position as the number one racquetball nation in the world. Success at the elite levels has a positive influence on every other facet of our sport.
Good people… my experience. qualify. I say these things in qualification. Focus should be “found” easily. From every direction. Small spaces. Racquetball has a bigger lake in which to cast nets. If you had the same net to catch funding… you would just have to travel farther throughout your lake. But you know the money is there… because you see it being spent elsewhere. Think endorsements for players like Paola, and Conrado by corporate sponsor interests at home.
Would this NOT be a good argument to bring to USAOC? Having a handle on what is culturally taking place in your sport, and building a program for a real depth of plan… espousing, and expanding all the value drive they exist for. (I wouldn’t be shocked if Grisz or laughs at the ignorance… ) it may be enough to raise a substantial sum initially and peak their interest enough to at least consult as you get close to dropping capital on a start.
When they think racquetball and the US… they think that’s where the tours run… yes?
They can continue to think that. Is the plan to have as many of them come to the US to play? Where are they playing? Actually. Think. IS it enough to motivate parents? Yes, parents. Think… travel… focus of training… seeing it done correctly, continuously.
USA… build a youth program for the building. Or build the building business and then bring in the kids…
Two years worth of marketing.. specifically of these women… simply look at the subdued banners both years. That year. But there definitely was a wave of interest in these women… growth… Bolivia was thrown to the women first, the IRT rode in conveniently. Like the biggest racquetball event in South America. Made Conrodo a household name… I can argue.
All I’m trying to communicate is that focus should be shifted into the “experiences of parents and juniors and the professionals regularly. What better selling point to a parent, knowing that their kid is enrolled in a program at the USA R Building… with the benefactor names on the courts…
As I stated in Sustaining Eden… There are currently 6 in the works to break ground as I write this… one home office being developed in Connecticut… just squash programs for kids. Some even have outdoor squash courts being fathered into the planning.
Cmon. The money to raise is there.
First thing you ask is, how has your support manifested itself. Do you see it somehow today? THAT is the first question you ask them. If they are entertaining you… they’ll hear you out, at least.
As simple as being current on the things.
WOR One Wall Racquetball mission statement funny. WOR page is perpetually Under Construction.
Witnessed college teams bulking up on Eygptian players...
Witnessed the dying or marginalization of one sport...
And the happenstance growth of another.
THe push to incorporate outdoors is a direct reflection that... they’re are running out of places and events to play. Outdoor has been calling to indoor players aggressively since 2004... the year of the original everyone from everywhere event at Garfield Park, home of Beach Bash. The sudden "love" for the game is great, but make no mistake, if the US Open had grown and if USA Racquetball had at least treaded water in the pool of serious investment in foundational thinking, outdoor would not be as significant a factor in maintain the sport now. Back in the day, when the talk was outdoor can save racquetball, people balked. Man, I even balked.
The intense focus on incorporating outdoor now is a direct effect of the lack, NOT so much desire for the outdoor game as it has been played, by traditional racquetball. It would be easy, though long-winded of me to explain the facts here, but I can say, there was a push to try and meaningfully engage outdoor and indoor in the early-to mid 2000s. And things were still quite different. The lack that you see now wasn't as clear-cut, you still had a huge US Open feeding perceptions of the sport, and plenty of US players in the top 10, and relatively speaking, plenty of places to play. It's necessity. Remove outdoor from all racquetball talk now... and you have swaths of months of relative crickets from the sport.
Railton College.... center of mediocrity center.... scene racquetball.... whoafully sad... "I regret all the things I didn't have." Character...
Didn't have the TV or mainstream attention... but we had full clubs and players showing up n numbers to sit next to the pros as they play matches. Gone.
"I think I'm feeling regret. All these years I haven't fully appreciated all that I didn't have." Apropos.
I mentioned squash throughout my time blogging. .
How did squash infiltrate the US as a sport? Through elite colleges. I remember escorting a team to college nationals at Penn in 2007 or 2008 and thinking some of these Egyptian guys are huge... or something to that effect. A huge effort went into building the level of college squash... think Trinity College.
Now it's the fastest-growing college sport during a time when population numbers are in decline.
Need a building. Need a plan. A really good plan will get you the whole of racquetball. You'll indeed need the whole of racquetball.
Making showing interest in partnering up. Just remember the lessons from the past please. Don't believe it's ok to change the way they've played the game their whole lives.
Kane... forever stiff arming outdoor. His view, it offered him no value worth risking injury.
Who were or are the sport's biggest donors. Are they still in a position to be able to help? Where are their sentiments? Find out why.
Were there for the love. Not for Qualifier. That has to change. No? Players are chosen by committee. Making earnings a gray area. USA is allowed to have a national team to represent the US. That's it in a nutshell.
If you don't address these generational issues, the few who have access to competing properly to be considered for representation. THAT IS a BASIC line here.
"Incremental things... "
Aging Report on R2 could be VERY helpful here.... great way to raise funds next to memberships.
Remind them what their membership is going to. PLAN. Comprehensive.
Frustrating 6 half months... everyday gets better. losing courts was his first stated problem... need people to play Just. There is a lot of heart. Just need a plan. WHY? What's the WHY?
Representation? Numbers? People to play? Which?
American Sport. Do you really want to be the place racquetballs best players make money outside the states... sustainability. Starting points for World Racquetball Day
Ran High Schools... and they've experienced the sport in a free, local growth driven... and the difference in tournament logisitics eased up signiicantly because of time. Portland and Missouri..." looking for more hotbeds." High Schools specifically speaking about.
Build them out.
John Scott crossover talk. His time... players carrying the entitlement without the deep draws...which you can plainly see foundationally broke the generational transitions.
think about it... Texas would be perfect. Taxes... the fact that it is one of the remaining hotspots for the sport.
Who in the racquetball world lives there? Staffing? What would the social investment be? Because my argument is that the need for there to be an aspect of that to build in the next generation. Let's take a look at our population numbers>>> think about it. If you follow population statistics and listen to guys Zyan dude.... then this should interest you.... talking points with those who have the resources to will their original hopes for the game....like lives there? Cmon.
Names on the courts will attest to their direction of the game.
Squash fastest growing sport in colleges... think infiltration... build in a demographic geographically... make it appealing for colleges to consider racquetball as a sport or a consideration to attract students. Think about the lower population numbers... think about how the sport facilitates attention from Mexico, and South America.... students looking to study here to play racquetball... colleges have another source of tuition... if your building or seeding you Center.
Plus the attention and easy access from Floridians... build an adjacent outdoor facility and you're paying rent with as the center of the racquetball world on weekends.
I tried to look at what has been done in the past. I've tried to draw out as much real world operating stuff to peice together an opinion here. And honestly... the only old thinking that actually works is related to the game itself, not how things are run. Are racquetball players migrating to Texas?
Long Game. Target an area with applicaple elementary - middle schools... high schools... bring in the Ellis' and Jodie Nance to consult on programming... or anyone else who just as credibly traverses these age groups as credibly.
Dr Tim Bagdhurst... who better to get in andpush this type of curriculum to colleges who will be looking for students in the near future... if you go by population numbers.
look back at my blog... as far as you can... i wrote about Paola's impact incessantly
I follow who were the top players... who floated up and down the top 2-8. Because that's what puts asses in the benches or chairs just outside the glass during pro stops. What still does... who? The Pro Stop is still the shoulder rubbing tour.... See the pros... close up. Something you play every day.