USA Racquetball has begun it's 47th Annual National Singles Championships this week. Players vying for National Championships in all divisions. Bragging rights for many players, men and women, who truly love to play racquetball and put their time in. These players are the foundation for today's indoor game in the U.S.
As I'm beginning to write this, I'm struggling a bit with wanting to be positive. I believe this event is really important, yet I feel the need to point out something that jumps in my face. Why are there such few women playing to qualify for the USA national team? (5 players.) No doubt the U.S. is still a powerhouse team internationally, but shouldn't we be cultivating more strong, young women players? Because it seems to be trending against the US holding the top seeds. Maybe there is a feeling that they can always just think or justify the way into creating representative teams?
I've talked before how it's hard for exceptional young players to follow their passion for racquetball into pursuing pro careers. The support and payoffs just aren't there for many of them. Same holds true for the women. The LPRT's Scholarship Program is a great step towards encouraging these types of players to make their way up the pro rankings. I understand USA racquetball includes LPRT top US women onto the team, as they do IRT top US men. I feel, as time goes by, this model will be completely reliant on outside organizations to introduce strong teams to international competition. Organizations that aren't even included in this years event.
From this perspective, there are quite a few noticeable players absent who should be in this draw, and these are only the ones I know about. Da'monique Davis, Michelle Key, Sharon Jackson, Hailey Miller, Sheryl Lotts and Linda Scales. All names I pulled off of the current LPRT rankings. Wouldn't they want a serious chance at reaping the US internationally? One player I will note, whom I saw play at National Doubles in 2013, is Kelani Bailey of Virginia. From what I saw, she was a really strong player with some swag. And my guess is that she could at some point give any top pro fits. But I don't know her situation, maybe she just didn't see the value of pursuing racquetball when weighing her decisions. How will USA Racquetball work to engage these players. Are they even looking to facilitate with substance here?
I know it's all about resources here. The sport needs a model rethink.