Racquetball, whose inception began in the 1950s with wood-framed racquets and a newly created ball, is a uniquely American sport. With the sport gaining popularity, changes in racquet production to aluminum, then to graphite, sparked the growth of competition as well as corporate sponsorship. By the 1980s, the sport was riding high on engagement and social awareness with racquetball courts a common amenity within health clubs and organizational involvement spreading in clubs across the country.
In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000's the professional tours that developed were dominated by American players as the sport was exported internationally for competition. As Mexico and some South American countries began participating in international competitions, the sport spread outwardly as the game was peaking here in the US. Fast forward to the 2010s... the game had already significantly retreated from its zenith as a commonly known sport and one could see the transition in dominance was well underway. It's safe to say, that the top players in both the men's and women's tours were international players. During the 2010s, we saw the injection of a crop of international players fresh off well-developed junior programs from Mexico and South America. So much so, a competing professional tour was basically predicated on this talent at the time. By the 2020s, both tours, mostly played in the US, not only have drastically increased numbers of international players on the regular, they own the rankings.
Racquetball struggles to survive with the court closures and conversions that are decimating opportunities to access what used to be a commonly played sport. A once huge niche here in the United States is now relegated to a fringe of diehards, a desperately late push to include Outdoor racquetball as an integrated part of the game, and a national organization that is attempting to just survive over expenditures and a lagging membership.
The good news for racquetball is the grip it holds on Mexico and South America. Growth and mainstream access stand a chance in these places, especially as players on tour find the success they can exclaim. Add to a new crop of young, energized American players, former top professionals deeply investing their time, gate-keepers of aggregated info, and vested administrators who have stepped up. Passion and altruism, working to ensure the production of quality events in the US.
Sources to find CURRENTRB INFORMATION
PRO RACQUETBALL STATS BLOG
Todd Boss has the most comprehensive info you can find when it comes to professional players, statistics and event previews and updates.
The longest running blog I'm aware of. Evan never misses event previews,updates and recaps.
The organization has some business to do. They have a re-energized core. They need to keep their courts. And they want you to play.
MY ENGAGEMENT WITH RACQUETBALL began in the mid to late 2000s, as a result of traveling to play professional outdoor racquetball tournaments. Growing up, I knew about the sport of racquetball but wasn't exposed to it in any way other than what I would read in the Wallbanger-type publications I sometimes got my hands on. I later would have the opportunity to try it a couple of times when I went to college. While Outdoor racquetball was being played regularly in California and Florida, One Wall racquetball was prevalent in New York City because paddleball players had transitioned to racquets. (That's a paddleball story.) Outdoor racquetball encompasses many different-sized courts and rules. When World Outdoor Racquetball began aggregating communities for continuity, it was instantly a hit with players like me who were established in their own groups, yet, its adoption by mainstream racquetball groups grew slowly. As I traveled and played, I took photos and I wrote about it. I transitioned into documenting traditional racquetball, as I was tapped to shoot a national event in 2011.
During this time, I continued to compete in outdoor racquetball tournaments. For a good part of the time, I managed to keep both aspects separate. Aside from the few professional players that were engaging in outdoor racquetball at the time, those two worlds, for me, remained pretty separated.
For the next decade, I would follow and document professional racquetball exclusively. You will still find my work with most major manufacturers in some way, as well as national organizations, with my images found in almost every Racquetball Magazine printed during this time. Add to that my formal work with the pro tours, and you will find my involvement comprehensive. During this time, racquetball had been navigating instability and falling interest as sports and health clubs moved towards a myriad of other options for membership, leaving racquetball here in the States on the fringes with considerably less engagement here in the US. You can see this clearly in the transition to Mexican and South American players topping out professional rankings. Where the US dominated in the past, it struggles to represent in the rankings today, as racquetball has become increasingly popular in Mexico and Central and South America, where engagement thrives. I covered this unique time of transition in racquetball with my blog and throughout my body of work.