RYDF Responds to Restrung

A recent article by Restrung Magazine made some poignant statements about the state of professional racquetball. Specifically, it referenced the emergence of talented Central American, South American, and Mexican male athletes who have enormous potential, yet apparently lack the killer instinct to overcome two now veteran players, Rocky Carson and Kane Waselenchuk. It also generalized that some of the current North American players appear entitled and enjoy their status as professionals without having earned major titles or achieved high rankings. In this article, they were described as being in a “bubble of mediocrity”.

For the past several years, RYDF has had a vested interest in all three professional tours (World Racquetball Tour, IRT, and Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour; LPRT). The apparent closure of the WRT is lamentable, as it provided many opportunities for young, mostly Mexican and Latin American players, to play professional racquetball without having to rely on a rather antiquated IRT system that promoted the top 8 players to the detriment of younger players in need of support and development. Happily, it should be stated that the IRT has made significant strides in this area of late, and more prize money lower in the draw has helped those trying to make it as professionals. Perhaps the increasing number of IRT players is due in part to the support of RYDF. We actively supported many WRT players, who have improved to become very competitive on the IRT.

More than four years ago, the Reaching Your Dream Foundation was created with a vision of growing racquetball through the infusion of young, elite male and female racquetball players who were aspiring to make a career from professional racquetball. RYDF’s financial commitment to the WRT, especially early on, helped in some ways to grow and develop a new generation of racquetball players. The LPRT also benefited from an influx of new players, especially from Mexico and countries further south, who struggled with the financial burdens of lengthy trips to the United States. Over the past year in particular it has been exciting to see several players emerge from the WRT to establish themselves on the IRT.

One important note; while it might be assumed that many countries support their professional racquetball players more than the United States (whose players do get a small stipend for attending international events) and Canada (whose top players receive salaries), this is simply not true. Yes, some countries do support some racquetball players, but usually it is only reserved for the very top players and the support is rarely much. Many countries provide no support for their athletes at all beyond covering their costs to attend international events. The notion that players from countries other than the United States and Canada have it far better financially is a misnomer. It is not true barring one or two exceptions.

Perhaps the most critical part of Restrung Magazine’s article was the call-out of USA players. Ramirez stated he was “a little tired of seeing certain US players wallow in mediocre play and self-disappointment that always gives way to ‘whatever’ attitudes”. RYDF supports many players, both within and external to the US, but such statements remind us that it is important our financial support leads to continued improvement of players and the sport. We continue to be committed to supporting talented athletes from any country who have clear intentions to become professionals on and off the court. It is a responsibility to our donors to support those athletes willing to make the effort to improve themselves, and simultaneously recognize if and when athletes do not have this as their primary focus. 

Moving forward, and with the apparent closure of the WRT, RYDF will continue to work closely with the IRT and LPRT to help infuse new hungry, elite men and women players into both tours. In addition, we will continue with our mission of providing educational training that encourages professionalism within the sport and encourages athletes to develop their brand, to build their own careers and succeed financially. While some may consider Ramirez’s article harsh, RYDF sees this as a stark reminder that sports are competitive by nature, and RYDF will focus on support of athletic careers versus athletic lifestyles. 

Fundraiser for RYDF a Huge Success

On Tuesday February 26th, 5-time World Champion Rocky Carson hosted a Pro-Am Fundraiser for the Reaching Your Dream Foundation at the club where he plays and teaches.  Rocky recruited several of the local area pro players (e.g., Luiz Avila, Brandon Davis, Scott Davis, Greg Solis, and Josh Tucker) and club players and was able to raise $10,000 for RYDF!  We’d like to thank Rocky, the pros, and the donors who gave their time and money to support the Reaching Your Dream Foundation.  We’d especially like to thank the owners and management of ClubSport Aliso Viejo. If any of those who read this want to consider doing the same thing for RYDF, please contact Mike Lippitt at 510.504.2494 and we will help you set it up. Thanks!

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A Fitness Forever Update from Prime Time Athletic Club, Burlingame, CA

Having started our program late last spring, it has been almost 10 months since we were first mentored by Dave and John Ellis in the re-start of our Junior Racquetball at Prime Time Athletic Club in Burlingame, California. Ranging in the ages of 6-15, our students meet every Tuesday from 5:30pm - 6:45 pm. We have had moderate growth. We began with 5 junior players, and we now average 11-12 players weekly.
 
Our participants attend regularly, and are showing signs of improving while having fun. Parents are grateful for the ongoing program, and the Club’s managers are pleased to see kids on the courts playing racquetball. We offer our program at no cost to the Club’s paying members, and we rely on volunteer instructors and donations. It feels good to contribute back to the sport that has given us so much, while at the same time know that we are growing the game. Whether these young players eventually become tournament tough, or not, they are learning new physical skills such as coordination, balance, and footwork. They also learn other important life skills such as teamwork, confidence, and social skills. Our program is a “win” all the way around. My special thanks go to John and Dave Ellis and to the Reaching Your Dream Foundation for all your support.
 
Respectfully,
 
Dave George
Coach & Racquetball Director

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Periodization: How to Time Your Weight Training for Racquetball

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Racquetball is a complex sport that involves multifaceted movement patterns and muscular involvement. Analyzing the unique demands of the sport and the needs of the athlete provides strength and conditioning specialists with the requirements needed to optimize performance and prevent injury. Unfortunately, there is almost no research about racquetball and what research we have is extremely dated. So, when trying to program for racquetball, how do you do it?  We recently published an article on this very topic.

Racquetball is characterized by short intermittent bursts of intense multidirectional activity such as changes in direction, twisting, stretching, hitting, and lunging in response to an opponent’s shot. Proficient agility, quickness, and neuromuscular control are essential for optimizing acceleration, explosiveness, and reactiveness. Dynamic balance and the ability to control one’s center of gravity are imperative for quick lateral and angular movements displayed on the court. Such multifaceted movement patterns and muscular involvement necessitate integrative training programs that focus on increasing strength and power while also improving balance and coordination. One of the challenges of the sport is that it requires whole body training and uses both aerobic and anaerobic systems. A racquetball player needs to be explosive but at times must also compete for long periods.

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 As the sport of racquetball continues to evolve and push physiological boundaries, there is a tremendous need for tailored strength and conditioning programs that address its various sport-specific demands. Trying to summarize an entire training program within a couple of pages is not possible, and we recommend reading the entire article when it is officially published (abstract here) or contacting one of us for a copy. However, one area we want to emphasize briefly is the need for periodized strength and conditioning training for the sport. Simply lifting some heavy weights or doing some plyometrics here and there may help, but it is going to work effectively. Conversely, focusing on being able to move for a long time without developing explosiveness will not suffice either.

Customizing programs specifically tailored to each team and athlete takes time and intentionality, and periodization provides the tools necessary to do so. In essence, periodization means the athlete trains and prepares for specific time points within a season so that he or she is at the best possible physical condition when it really matters.

 Since periodization is often contingent upon the competition season of the athlete, manipulating and adjusting critical variables (especially volume and intensity) allows training to elicit specific adaptations (i.e., increased muscle mass, strength, power) at varying time points throughout a season. For example, linear periodization involves a gradual progression of high volume, low intensity to low volume, high intensity throughout a training season. This approach aims to produce peak performance for a specific competition period or planned event. In contrast, programming for sporadic competition/tournament dates, where "peaking" and "maintenance" periods do not fit perfectly within a planned cycle requires a more frequent manipulation of intensity and training volume.

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The means by which training volume and intensity are altered during a periodized program impact the magnitude of neuromuscular adaptation achieved through training. When executed well, periodization optimizes the principle of overload, thereby providing the continuation of progress as well as avoidance of plateaus and/or overtraining. In other words, if periodization is done right, the athlete continues to improve throughout a season and avoids injury and overtraining. However, following such a plan means there will be times when the athlete is not at their best. The key is to perform when it really matters.

How this is accomplished is why we wrote the article in the first place, and again, cannot be explained in a few words. However, we encourage coaches and athletes to begin considering when and how they train and prepare off the court, so their best performances on the court are maximized when it matters most.

Chantel Anthony CSCS

Timothy Baghurst PhD

Spotlight on Athlete Luis Avila

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into racquetball.

Growing up I played a lot of baseball and soccer. But I got to the point where I got tired of playing the same sport. I was a little bored and wanted a new sport. I came across racquetball through my dad who showed me the basic concepts of the sport. Darrell Warren really was the one who introduced me to the fundamental basics of racquetball. I was about 15 and started getting the hang of it.

Darrell started getting me into tournaments from the beginning. This was back in 2013 or so. In my first tournament I entered the beginner division and won my first medal! Ever since that first medal I saw that I had potential to go further in the sport, as did Darrell.

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Initially, I started in the sport to have fun and play around with my dad and my friends, but in time I started progressing a bit faster than what I expected. From that progress, I started to see more and more success. My motivation has not just come from the progress I have made in the sport but because I started loving the sport. It made me want to learn more, so I started training with new coaches to get better. I have been getting a lot better and stronger in the sport and now train with others like Rocky Carson to improve and see what it takes to get to that last step to become a professional.

So what does it take to move from being an open level player to a professional?

From what I have seen, heard, and been told, there are many little things that can make the difference between the two. Basic fundamentals, shots, and little minor errors can make the difference. Being more consistent and focused on what your goal is can be the difference. The professional is dedicated enough to attack that error and fix it.

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What are your goals in the sport?

I won my first major title at WOR this year, which is just the beginning for me. I would love to be within the top 10 within a year and top 5 within 2-3 more years. However, I am not sure how realistic that is because of my schooling. It is very difficult to get away during the week when I miss so many classes. Therefore, I cannot attend as many tournaments as I want, which affects my ranking. Therefore, for this year I am just focusing on performing my best at each tournament I attend and building upon each experience.

What do you off the court to help become a pro player?

Eating healthy makes a huge difference. I used to not care what I ate and really suffered from a lack of energy and conditioning. Now I do not get that tired and I am more focused. In addition, I learned that I need to sleep well. I used to go to bed really late, but I have learned that it really makes a big difference. Working out properly is important. I do pure calisthenics where I just use my body weight right now. I am trying to add weight but not much because I do not want to bulk up and affect my flexibility. I also find it good to help up and coming young racquetball players to help teach them about the sport. Not only am I helping them, but I am learning at the same time.

How do you fund your career?

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Right now, I am a full-time student going to college (Harbor Community College). I give lessons and restring racquets, and I use that money for traveling to go to tournaments. If I do not have the funds to attend tournaments, my family will help. Also, I have acquired one or two sponsorships from friends I have met along the way. Some of my friends have helped me because they have seen the progress I have made and the potential I have to become successful. I also sell gear for Gearbox, which helps to pay for expenses.

What does RYDF mean and do for someone like you?

I did not know about RYDF until Mike Lippitt introduced me to it and gave me information about it. It is a very, very great sponsorship! It helps many players like myself and others attend tournaments we would not be able to attend. They help with hotels which is a really, really big cost on many peoples’ wallets. It means a lot to me. I hope that in the future, when I can win more prize money, as much as they have helped me, I will give as much back. I want to help other up-and-coming players to succeed. If it was not for RYDF, I would not be going to many tournaments or improving like I have. I cannot thank them enough for giving me chances to compete and give back to the sport.

Photo Credit: Stephen Fitzsimons

Photo Credit: Stephen Fitzsimons

What does the next 12 months look like for you?

I have not attended many IRT tournaments, but I plan to attend at least four or five tour stops if I can. Part of it requires that I miss classes and so I have to get permission to do that. If I can attend more that would be great. I would also like to make the US team. I got to attend the camp as a junior but I never got a chance to represent the US as a junior because of school. That is another goal I have.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank all my coaches, my family, my sponsors, and all who have helped me to achieve my goals so far.