This past weekend saw the last Tier 1 stops for 2014. Both the International Racquetball Tour and the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour had first time winners, which for both tours, was a good thing. And needed, with both Kane and Paola not playing.
Daniel De La Rosa scored his first prime win on the tour after playing strong throughout his draw. Typically, he'd be expected to get to the quarters and most semis. At the NJO, De La Rosa got by Jansen Allen, Rocky Carson and Alvaro Beltran, keeping each match up under 5 games. Solid.
Maria Jose Vargas took her first LPRT T1, working through Michelle key, a promising Alexandra Herrera and Rhonda Rajsich. I had been talking about momentum on the LPRT, and I believe she made the most of the year end timing.
Both players are not from the US and what is common is that they have plenty of US based support. With the rise of some amazing talent coming from south of the border, this is telling for the future of top tier play in both the IRT and LPRT.
Another promising way to end the year is that you can easily view all the matches that were streamed this weekend. The IRT Network has quietly opened up their site to everyone, without having to log in. With how they are instantly archiving matches, you can catch all the action from the NJO easlily. The IRT has also slowly begun to post full matches on their Youtube Channel. The LPRT makes it easy for fans to see what they produce with their Livestream channel. Good moves.
At the NJO, I had an interesting conversation with coach Jim Winterton. (Kane's coach.) As usual, we get to share some words and he said something interesting. We were talking about promising young players and both were agreeing that Jake Brendenbeck has huge potential. While we were agreeing that it always comes down to a willingness to learn outside of yourself. Winterton said something very interesting to me. It went, "If the WRT guys think they are so good, why aren't they coming and and beating everyone." We then proceeded to talk about methods to get players to take in advice. The statement lingered in my head and I eventually took it for what it was, just misinformation. Because I don't think they think they think that.
WRT players have to date, wanting to play the IRT. It's an opportunity to be in the same draw as the best players in the world. They often tend to support each other closely, sitting with one another and coaching each other, which could be seen as seperating themselves. That in itself doesn't communicate "they think they are so good." And there are times when they are sitting and sharing with IRT only players. But the tendency to end up grouped up could be in response to a feeling of marginalization in a particular space and the feelings that extend from their thoughts about the draws they get. I think it may just be the complete seperation between the two tours, which right now is like comparing apples to oranges, depending on perspective. There are perseptions flying from both sides right now, some are being talked about, but most aren't.
Progress comes though understanding and respecting differences.