Over the past 20 years, the city of Stockton has had a very successful run of producing Junior National and World Racquetball Champions. This is in large part due to the players emerging from In-Shape West Lane, many of which began playing when they were six and now compete professionally. The one constant in this picture is Coach Josephine (Jody) Nance. Jody has led the West Lane Junior Program since the 1990s, often on her own, and to this day continues to introduce and develop new young talent for the sport.
Naturally, the ﬁrst few years of this new program did not bring about National Champion players; it took time. Participants were, for the most part, children of a few of West Lane’s handball families. The Rojas, Diaz, and Aldana Families all had boys that ranged from 3-11 years of age. During this time, Jody’s initial goals were to develop her players’ total games, including mechanics, drilling, shot selection strategies, and cardio training. Thanks to past successes of John Ellis at the Junior Championships, Jody was acquainted with the National and World tournaments. Although perhaps lofty goals at the time, she set competing in these events as goals for the group. Needless to say, the payoff has been great.
“Markie Rojas gave me a phone call seven days before the Junior Worlds, his last one at that, in Fullerton, CA. He had sprained his ankle at his high school basketball tryouts, and when I got to his house, I saw one of the worst sprains I had ever seen. To Markie’s credit, he faithfully came to therapy three times a day until the tournament began, and then was incredibly consistent about treatment and taping, determined to press through the pain. Watching him win match after match to another World Junior Championship, we knew he would be known for having the heart of a lion!”
“Jose Diaz was an amazing boy! He could make you laugh, growl, and clap. My best memory of Jose is from when he was in 8 & Under. We were at the Junior Nationals in Florida, and he had made it to the Finals. He woke up so nervous that he did not want to play. The ﬁrst game he was down 10-0, and we had already taken a timeout, but took another. My elaborate coaching strategy at this time was telling him to smile! He said, “What?” I said, “Smile, hit the ball, and then smile again.” Jose returned to the court, still timid, but starting hitting the ball then looking at me and smiling. He got his conﬁdence back and went on to win and become National Champion for the ﬁrst time.”
“With all three of these boys, I feel so much pride in their accomplishments, not only in racquetball, but in life as well. They all have college degrees and meaningful lives, and I am blessed to have been a part of their lives.”
The feeling is mutual, as the Rojas, Diaz, and Aldana Families all credit Jody for helping raise these ﬁne young men. Jody’s work continues, and is evidenced by a new group of talented players appearing on the World and professional stage including, but not limited to, Daniel, Jesse, Antonio and David Rojas, Ricky Diaz, and new families of Stockton Junior Racquetball with the Galvan’s, Rivera’s, Canchola’s, Ellis’s, and LaRue’s.
Jody’s life in racquetball is not limited to her coaching. She has and continues to be highly competitive. She has enjoyed great partnerships with Elaine Dexter, Marko Perez, Ninja Nomura, and last but not least, Josie Rojas himself. She has captured multiple National Doubles titles in Mixed and Women’s Divisions, and she has had too many local Northern California wins to count! Her frontcourt skills and ability to anticipate opponents are some of the best tactics ever seen on court.
Jody is a one-of-a-kind person with the kindest heart of anyone you can ﬁnd. Her passion is to help others enjoy whatever they are doing. She has empowered so many young athletes in her 20+ years of coaching racquetball, and you can believe she will be around for years and years to come. We are lucky to have such an outstanding person involved in our Fitness Forever Program. Go Jody!
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