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  • Freddy Ramirez

USAR 2020: When A Non-profit Thinks Extinction Level Event For Racquetball, You Have Your Answer

The US Open Show Court

Just when I thought I would let things settle at the end of 2020 before I would share more thoughts on racquetball, I hear this, "I'm not for turning High School Nationals into outdoor events". This get me thinking that no one with any significant outdoor experience could have said that credibly. So, it was either someone with no extended outdoor facilitation experience saying that or it was a pre-conceived notion of what outdoor players would want to see or think.

If you've read my posts at all, you know I can light into this statement. And I will, but not with a focus on outdoor and "the nothing" USA Racquetball has done with WOR. Despite the nearly two years of talk and numerous committee meetings WOR has been an almost nothing burger with USA. Just get into a real conversation with Mike Coulter and you would know this to be true. Yes, USA Racquetball and the tours fully embraced his Field Of Dreams-type event because there was absolutely nothing else they could possibly swing their racquets at. Yet, at the end of the day, Coulter is no closer to progress with sustainability, especially with his sponsors. This type of observation speaks for itself.

I hate hating on USA Racquetball. Yet, this is just a statement I only hold true in between the times I believe racquetball seriously needs to see something different from them. I've invested so much time and effort in the sport personally. I learned the truths about racquetball sitting against the glass at the US Open. From the rules to the who's who. And NOT in the health club with racquetball courts. I'll also add my time running with a pro tour recently as a part of what I know. So, I can imagine some the things they see while trying to maintain this sport in states and clubs where there is no "this sport" and won't be regularly anytime soon. I feel like I have to address something specific with USA Racquetball. (You just have to scroll through my posts here to see that it's not something I shy away from in the past.) As much as I don't believe USA Racquetball can actually, significantly, hear transformative ideas and bring them into reality with its current structure, (and I truly don't mean anything derogatory in that statement,) I feel like I have to scream something right now. (Maybe, just to get it off my chest.)

Thinking Like A Non-profit

Where is the strategic plan? There has to be one. Question. If you're tasked to keep something alive, but you can't find a place where it can thrive, can you actually save it? How? Ok, I'll go a little further. What if those few places can no longer survive with your something? How do you keep it alive? Do you keep pushing them in hope? With little or no control? As your thing dies.

3 WallBall held at the Strat Hotel in Las Vegas

How about Mike Coulter? What did he do? He built courts for 3 WallBall 11 years ago. And they saved your ass this year. But let's not get side-tracked. Any talk about USA "throwing" Outdoor events feels short-sighted to me, enough so, that I wanted to throw my computer as I listened to the conversation on USA's Real Racquetball Show, as Sudsy pushed a few times to have something of substance about Outdoor. (See below). This type of talk dishearteningly shows how little has already been done. There already is a WOR. Don't bury that. Don't get in its way by throwing tournaments. You're already too engrossed with and overly stuck in "the how" of doing what you normally do in this 2020 time of uncertainty... things like trying to facilitate national tournaments during a time when most people can't play now at all... those kinds of things. Just let WOR work your email list effectively. Let WOR work to build a synergy you can use in various basic ways. Because Outdoor is NOT the answer that will save racquetball. It never will be. (It will always be a separate yet pliable cousin.)

• Rethink the business plan. Re-assess all your resources, the ones that go into things like the US Open, National events, programs and everywhere you spend money. Get ready for a big change. Focus it all. Seed money-like. Get your fund raising ducks in a row and set milestones. Look to build a well-thought-out racquetball center. Procure some board members with similar real estate development backgrounds, both for experience and fund-raising efforts. BUILD. Be a non-profit that is building a future for an at-risk demographic. What would that future look like? Build that. Set your fund-raising future on that. If you look deep enough in this "operational space", it's already being done, in a sense, elsewhere in other sports.

• Build the facility. Show court and courts enabled with technology. If you look at Interactive Racquetball, you'll get some of what would be included. There are already squash academies that use this tech effectively. But the idea is not to stay short-sighted on this type of stuff. These technologies also enhance environments, recreational, competitive and social. This would allow you to work on sustainability through programming. Examples of this could be (beyond the obvious lessons and court / event space rentals): centralized virtual training for members, player programs, clinics, and volunteers. Headquarter it since THIS would be where Nationals and The US Open and possible pro stops could be held. (Note: If the pro tours can't raise money to have pro stops in a center built for this, then they have far bigger problems.)

• Act as though your whole mission is to build it. Everything you think it could be. Make the courts media ready. Invest in telling the story media and content-wise. This will help to both get you through the process of sustained fund-raising and possibly build marketing revenue opportunities, as well as effectively providing potential court facilitators with something new to look at where racquetball is concerned. Do this like your lives depended on it. Keep it relevant with media output, videos, updates, etc. Do you think that if a center like that existed, health clubs would be interested as they see the videos produced and an environment reflecting one that is current and promotable? I do. I think it beats just communicating with clubs, asking them how things are going then, trying to convince them that the courts in their clubs can generate money if they just hold on a little longer. This would be a USA I could get behind. Am I a part of racquetball? Better yet, I would ask USA Racquetball, "Would your constituents get behind this in a big way?" (And who is to say, that you can't have outdoor courts built on or around the property?)

When I wrote the title to this entry, it wasn't just hyperbole. Just doing "what you can" in a time like this, well, that's the same old shit in a time where there is even less than the usual same old. (Pardon my french.) But I'm sincerely asking... Do you really think racquetball will even be close to what it was before Chicken and Pickles?


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