IPRO Director’s Message May 2017

An expansive outlook on RACQUETBALL was recently released by Alyson Renaldo (Huffington Post: She offers
anecdotes, history, and projections by an array of actors from the racquetball stage. Worth noting:

1. The author is a racquetball player
2. She has a unique, engaging style
3. All press is GOOD PRESS.

A central theme from this article is INTERNATIONAL growth. On the horizon is China, with its intrigue and potential to penetrate a market which needs an infusion. The 2018 IRF World Championships are scheduled for metropolitan Shanghai. Since the news broke, we have a waiting list for those wishing to assist with the event as well as play in the ‘Friendship’ division. Mrs Fu, president of the Chinese Federation, learned racquetball while studying in the USA. She, along with Dr Cho from Korea, President of the Asian Racquetball Federation, represent a formidable duo for future support and growth.

Another theme is that there are mixed messages about where we are and where we are going. Doug Ganim from Head/Penn says that at one time there were 15 million players. Luke St. Onge, Secretary General of the IRF, says numbers of players during peak years in the late 70’s, were significantly inflated. This has contributed to perception issues by the general public and industry insiders. The gap between what was then and what is now may not be so great. What about racquet sales, courts under construction, and other metrics of growth. How many of the 10,000 IHRSA Clubs have courts? In the 90’s there were over 1100 that qualified. IRT’s Jason Mannino says that ‘We are doing fine.” Is this stance shared by venue owners and operators? He mentions that tournaments are being planned for locations overseas, including Poland. This year Poland is hosting the World Games. Racquetball, which participated in these Games in 2009 and 2013 (Kaohsiung & Cali) is absent. There are no racquetball courts in Poland.

A final theme discussed is, the ‘repurposing’ of courts, from ‘best use’ to a mixed bag of uses. A recent letter from colleague, Tim Baghurst , perpetuates a saga from the YMCA’s. Their administrators say courts are not used. Certainly utilization is lower during off-hours, as is the case with most fitness compartments like gymnasiums, cardio areas, and swimming pools. Without programmers, instructors, and youth, the future is not bright for any venue. Y”S Were a great influence on the development of Racquetball; yet, they now generally shy away from promoting it’s strengths and opportunities. On the upside, LA Fitness and Lifetime Fitness disagree. Their new construction usually includes a bank of courts. Dialogues about court teardowns or transitions have abounded for over 20 years. When membership hears about potential court removal or transition, the decision to do so usually is already in concrete. Ongoing proactive movement in terms of smart promotions and programming can be the deterrant.

In closing, we need to attract more Renaldo’s and others who love the game. Racquetball is what it always was and uses the same amount of court space as before. We must combat the ‘fly by night’ administrators at venues who oftentimes make rash and poor business decisions. Let’s clone the likes of DebraTisinger-Moore, Jim Cameron, Aaron Embry, and Karen Key. They are pros who teach, train, recruit and promote; at the same time expanding the pie. Incremental growth is realistic and the industry can and should be vibrant.

Upcoming Events
Courses in AZ, ID, NM, WA, Bolivia
National Masters Racquetball July
World Senior Racquetball August
IRF Junior Worlds. November
Agreement between AmPRO & RacquetWorld

Quote of the Month…
‘The deeper the mud the more beautiful
the lotus blooms’ LY