Do It Yourself, Racquetball
The turn of the new year has customarily been a time that I reflect on the sport in various ways. This RestrungMag blog thing has been an opportunity to produce top ten lists and put down my comprehensive observations made throughout the years. In the background are the customary conversations with the people I truly respect within the sport, where the questions come regarding what's lined up this year and the back and forth of sharing thoughts regarding players and organizations. Only this year, I wasn't holding on to thoughts about what would make a good list or what to what to write, examples of which would be topics like, what players won what titles, or what organizations did a good or bad job where. Yet, even as I've been very active over the last decade looking deep into these aspects of racquetball, I really only saw one thing that could make a fundamental difference in how the sport could be experienced by the racquetball faithful.
I truly believe, the thoughts of the days of glory for racquetball are left for those who's lives are socially connected to the club event, where the old guard talks of the hay days of racquetball before Jane Fonda ruined things for the club pro, and the wish to elbow up to pro players drive the sport monetarily. Sustainability in racquetball's case is a basic survival of the status quo. Still a very valuable thing for young players, because there is a space they can aspire towards, even though it's a very limiting rode as a profession to be sustained beyond a social lifestyle. Any further detailing on what I think all of this means would be just a repeat of most of the thoughts I have already processed and put up in print. For that purpose, I've embedded every blog post at the bottom of this page to scroll through and weigh for yourself. Truth is truth, facts are facts and opinions are just that. You'll find everything I've poured my time into here.... my thoughts on racquetball events as they have developed over the past decade since my week tripping on the Gearbox bus and my initial indoctrination into understanding American racquetball with the Dave Ellis and his wonderful family and their work in Stockton. As racquetball will continue to survive, my personal connections are no longer enough to drive the time I put into the game. I don't play the type of racquetball that I've analyzed and poured thought into. I once offered up in a video, that I learned the rules of racquetball watching Kane play at the US Open as I watched him through glass. But in all honesty, I don't watch the streams offered up beyond any minute or two of curiosity. With that curiosity waining more and more, I don't count myself in with the reminiscing old guard or as a participant within the social setting of club event in racquetball.
As this time has me checking out, I do want to point out something that could make a true difference in how this sport could be experienced moving forward into the decade by players that have a drive for this niche. The do it yourself pro racquetball player mentality. 2021 saw Kane and Sudsy put together a fantasy camp experience that pinpointed a purpose for some who are willing to dish out cash. An experience with legends on the court. They tapped into the celebrity as an experiential sell. All fair and deserved, for as far as they can take it with growth. A niche within a niche. But to me, growth-wise, I saw the Manillas, Adam and Erika, along with Bobby Horn, who have engaged the sport directly with their training module Manilla Athletics, turn that drive to engage commerce into something that was called Court Wars and I love that they did. They basically set up premiere matches for themselves. That is the most basic way I can explain what they did. And they did it themselves. Kudos.
My thoughts Court Wars
I really like what they did. I really like that they put themselves in a position to make big mistakes. I think they should keep pushing, hard.
Having some experience behind the scenes, I know this is never super easy to do, especially from scratch. The trick is driving people into caring enough to drop money on a pay-to-view model. I see two aspects of this here, paying to view the matches at an actual location and playing to view it on a live-stream. Yes, I'll concede it was one event. But I will offer up that the delivery involves two very different ways of thinking and production. Which one becomes the priority for initial sustainability?
The stream is a relatively huge ask at $30. Not that it would unreasonable to continue at that cost, but the ask is to plant and view in a device, so making someone on the outside truly care enough to extend themselves like so requires an immense amount of planting seeds of interest in a manner that is fitting in today's viral marketplace. Production done right is expensive. Everything else is amateur do it yourself stuff, friends of the sport supporting... fighting for time against some kid with a phone posting on Tic Tok. Yet, even as I am writing this, I know there is fruit here. The trick is video execution way beyond a smooth, flawless stream because that alone won't mean enough for that $30 ask.
The part where I feel they are right on the edge of greatness is the play at the club. They found a hub, got the locals excited and put on a show. Find another hub. Put on another show. Find another hub. Put on a show. This is where the growth in the way racquetball is experienced has a chance to fundamentally change. Imagine just for a brief (ridiculous) moment, in this whole enterprise, that they could leave a player behind in each hub. A hub where there are already established groups of players. The type of players that spend to travel to national events frequently. (We're talking true, increasingly rare racquetball hubs, not sports clubs that at one time were very successful but are now struggling to decide whether they want to keep their racquetball courts.) If players at these hubs are deep enough into racquetball to drop a few hundred to a grand or two to play at the US Open, they'd buy into traveling to another hub to play against another hub, as a team. The thought of club teams is not new. The Premiere Squash League is an example. Club teams with one or two top ranked pros on them. This is where my thinking takes me. Facilitating a growth with a defined, prospective growth in mind. That could evolve into a fundamental change of how racquetball is experienced now.
That's All I Got
I'll pull back now and think of racquetball as a whole, the way it plays out today. My year end thoughts would be, as an answer to the conversations I mentioned early.... to those specific people I text and talk with... you know who you are... I will say, I really have nothing else to say.
Again, was just another passing thought I write here.
Happy New Year everyone.