Photo courtesy Joe Hall / Splathead
I was on a call in February and heard something that made me take note. There were a few people on this call and the comment came from the head of a major racquetball manufacturer. It went something like this, "...and there is no growth in Outdoor..." or something like that. Since the topic we were discussing wasn't directly related to the reason we were on the call, I continued on with the topic at hand, not finding room or relevancy to what was being discussed.
But ever since, that sentiment has echoed in my head. I think, initially, because at that time I said to myself that statement is not true. But as time goes on and I continue to follow the sport as broadly as I can, I know more and more it wasn't. The fact that it's not what some might categorize as growth for them because it doesn't dramatically affect how they operate within the sport, sometimes can cause people to miss the relevancy of Outdoor racquetball in today's overall racquetball. Especially when it comes to growth. As this thought bounces around in my head, I can't help but include this type of thinking towards some of the unfortunate dialogue in the sport at the moment.
First, if we scrub the word "growth" and substitute the word "behavior", we see some very encouraging things. Players are in some key areas of the country are changing how they participate in the sport, and in the process, encouraging more and more of their groups to do so. Case in point: Look at what going on in Texas and Tennessee.
In Texas, players are beginning to organize frequently to hit the few outdoor courts that they do have and are finding that those occasions can become increasingly more social. Texas, right now, only has a handful of courts and they are only onewall. (There are currently plans to build more.) Texas is probably one of a few states that have a thriving indoor racquetball scene. (I use the term "thriving" here to point to vibrancy, as opposed to a static scene.) They love their racquetball and participate across the board in all the sport has to offer. A few players from Texas have been taking part in outdoor racquetball in other states for some time now, and currently, more players are seeing the potential of showing up to play outdoor. And they are showing up on those onewall courts to have fun. Growing events like Beach Bash only spark interest and have more players looking to try it out.
In Tennessee, they believed in the words "Build it and they will come," because that's exactly what has happened. The outdoor racquetball community, which is well aggregated by World Outdoor Racquetball, has jumped into support that idea. It's a community that has decided, after looking at outdoor as a viable and fun way to experience the sport, that they would build their own courts... one man's vision or not, the racquetball community over there has validated that thinking in full support from the larger national community. You now have key outdoor players from other states, making the trip to Racquetball Ranch. Even if there is a long flight plus a long drive involved.
In both cases, it's about how players are behaving. Being open to new ways of thinking and open to other experiences. And I point to the small fact that in order to experience something new, you have to know it's there and be open to it. And as I bring this thought back to the statement that triggered my thoughts in the first paragraph, I would now respond to that statement by saying growth could come through the behavior of the people that you may already have on board or right in front of you. What are "they" seeing and doing. Where are they? How can that energy or insight be used to engage new players?
Spoiler Alert... this is not about outdoor racquetball and it being the answer for growth.
Before you or any group or business can do that, you have to ask yourself, "How is it that "I" see it?". What should come next is active engagement in the incorporation of other views and experiences.
But, if that single question is good enough for you and all other ideas of growth have to look like yours, then you'll continue to have today's racquetball, with all of its static behavior.