- Freddy Ramirez
Why This Shouldn't Go Away.
It's been a few weeks since this thing was being talked about. And as the dust settles, we find that USA Racquetball's response was a basic response to how things were communicated. They dropped the IRT Network and the mutual agreement they had to stream USAR events. As a business decision, you could see this coming. They were in fact employing the network to stream on their behalf, viewing the commentators diatribe on the Eric Garcia decision as inappropriately discussed, with their demands and grandstanding seemingly well over the top. As a business decision, it was right. As things are today with streaming and how other organizations and tours are doing it, it was well within their reach to do it themselves in a way that is comparable to what is being seen currently. So, my guess would be that someone like Nick Irvine of Play Racquetball, who is well versed in this type of stuff, could be brought in to provide event-streaming access to the public.
The IRT Network saw things a different way. Understanding USA Racquetball in fact hired them, they proceeded to go on and call out USA Racquetball during the broadcast, even so much as saying if it cost them money, they still felt the need to speak for the fans. As noble as they may have thought this to be, the fact is, they don't speak for all the fans. At most, they can speak for the fans that subscribe to their network. Even then, much has to be considered that, the network is the only place right now you can watch Kane and Rocky play live. Wanting to watch those guys play does not necessarily mean you subscribe to the views or banter on the network. Note the Facebook post on the IRT Network's official fan page. Their job isn't to represent the fans, but to represent to the fans. That is something completely different.
Moving forward, USA Racquetball has to keep moving progressively now. Right now. Their constituency could mandate this and should not let this go away. While there shouldn't be an outcry, there should be some sort of engagement that causes the organization to think deeply about this. They should not settle for just an amendment to a vague rule that was used inappropriately. It's the light in which the rule was viewed and who is overseeing this rule. Who is it that is at the table? Is it truly inclusive? How can the organization be truly inclusive? The organization should see this even if their consituency doesn't, because they would do better with members who do see a true value in growth.
Last year, I submitted a letter requesting to be considered as someone who could run for the board. I was rightly denied because I am not a member of USA Racquetball, only because of the rules described here. I knew I was breaking that rule. That rule may have a valid point to it, but what it does, is effectively keep outside perspectives from sitting at the table. (Typically, nonprofit organizations try and get as broad a board membership as possible.) And this whole affair is directly related to who is at the table leading the organization and whom they think they represent. It's not inclusive enough.
Being inclusive doesn't mean changing a rule or two. Being inclusive means having a platform that engages across boundaries and expanding reach. If organization were serious about being inclusive, then they would move inclusion to the center of everything they do. From how and who they hire, to how and who they engage for perspectives and information. That thinking has to be applied to everything they do, then they will find their way to identifying and engaging more people to the sport. And then things will look a lot better both internally and externally.
There is always talk about building the sport. When these conversations happen, naturally organizations and pro tours are mentioned in the "Whose responsibility is it?" response. Let me clarify a thought about the difference in responsibility...
Pro tours are charged with getting people excited to know about, watch and follow professional racquetball players. It's a business, that when done right, encourages people to watch providing value to their advertisers. It's a business model. When that is done right, people are more inspired to want to go out and try and be like those players. But that is residual, not necessary. If people do that, it brings in interest all around. That can foster growth, but that in no means is a responsibility, that is a thriving business model.
USA Racquetball and non-profit organizations are charged with creating engagement. Inherent in that is growth. They are the on the front lines of figuring out where the opportunities are to partner up with other institutions, getting them to view racquetball as something that can add significant value to what they currently have in place. The front lines of outreach to communities that are playing racquetball in some form or another and figuring out how membership can add value to how they experience racquetball. And tied up in all of that, creating ways to introduce themselves and the sport to those who could be playing tomorrow. (Note that creating un-coincidentally sounds similar to creatively.)