Cliff Swain took 2 divisions at this year's WOR Championships this past weekend, Pro Doubles and CPRT Pro Doubles. It's not surprising at all and falls in line with his recent work on both his focus and image.
Outdoor racquetball is a bit different than traditional racquetball in that, the format that draws the most general interest is doubles. It's played mostly at public parks with a pick-up game culture. You win with a partner or you wait. As far as the game goes, I won't go into comparing singles and doubles... you get it.
When I first started work on Restrung, I put together a concept mag with 3 articles. (Accessible to Restrung members.) The first article was titled "The Advent Of The IRT Pro Outdoors". That was almost 4 years ago. Things aren't quite as I had imagined they would be today. I was just starting to envision more of a comprehensive engagement between pro tours and organized outdoor racquetball. A relationship built on accessing markets and broadening racquetball's appeal. But promoters of outdoor racquetball suffer from the same hurdles the pro tours do. Communication and content development. The sun, the fun, the young bodies (for lack of a better term,) just hasn't translated to buzz worthy, spreadable video meant to be accessed on mobile phones. The kind of imagery that entices a generation to want to explore it themselves with their friends.
What does that have to do with Cliff Swain? He is accessing this opportunity in his own way. Cliff is capitalizing on what he can still do on the court and making it his job to play where ever he can competitively, while at the same time being available to those who know of him. Facebook just isn't where it used to be in terms of being able to keep today's younger generation engaged, though they alternatively keep track of them effectively. But the platform is still very good at engaging an older generation that desires to know what's going on. Add to that, his connections with young, promising players... players that he identifies, who are open to his mentorship.
So, in these things, Swain is hitting his marks. The fact that he is still a force is on the court, translates to his market keeping their eyes on what's happening with him and all the solid things happening in his camp. His brand is perfect for Facebook.
Lot's of young players at the Chips this year, though getting most of the young, promising IRT players showing up constantly to outdoor events, has been on and off. Outdoor events have become "must attends" for a few IRT players, but for a less "professional" reason than would be the case if significant growth was there. (I don't count Rocky Carson, who just won his what, 10th Outdoor Championship? It's a part of his lifestyle, that fits perfectly for him. Alvaro and De La Rosa are a couple of players to point to here also... more so for Daniel who is much younger, and who is progressively winning more outdoors.) In a sense, it is more important for younger IRT pros to make these a outdoor events a must, but to do so presents just "more" of the logistical, monetary hurdles they face. If things were a bit more in line with the ways some entities are thriving in today's media, outdoor would make it easier for younger players to be able to make living as a professional feasible. (A seperate thought for younger players... Read some fundamentally basic, good advice here.) And of the younger-ish IRT pros that did attend, well, it was almost radio silence.
The IRT's best player just doesn't view outdoor as something to even consider because there just isn't financial development. And for maybe the same reasons, the pro tours don't put effort into outdoor... a cart before the horse thing I guess. The potential is there, in outdoor, but only if the young players view it as a "must" and the media potentials are developed. Yea, this is easy for me to say, but actually doing it, well... in this game, that's the touchy part.
Back to Cliff. Cliff plays outdoor. WELL. Cliff coaches. Cliff mentors. Cliff shares his days with people who look up to him. He talks back. And this past weekend, Cliff won.