Those who follow the happenings of United States of America Racquetball (USAR) might have been somewhat surprised when it was announced that Charlie Pratt had accepted the position of Head Coach of the 2017 Junior National Team. For Pratt, this will be his first venture into international racquetball coaching, and many wondered who his assistant coaches would be. Jody Nance and Jen Meyer were almost automatic choices, according to Pratt, but he was not initially sure who else should join him. After thinking about it for several days, and speaking to others in the sport, David “Bobby” Horn and Robbie Collins were named as his two assistant coaches. They did not need convincing, and both jumped at the opportunity.
“I was ready to do it right away,” said Bobby. “I was honored that they asked me and trusted that I know enough about the sport to be able to teach the juniors and help them achieve their goals and achieve a junior world title.” A similar sentiment was expressed by Robbie. “It was very humbling. For Charlie to think of me in this position, knowing there were only two positions available, I felt very grateful for him asking me to be part of the team.”
Some may wonder why Bobby and Robbie were chosen, when plenty of other “big name” coaches might have been available. “The biggest thing that stood out for me was their enthusiasm for the game,” said Charlie.” I’ve been to a lot of tournaments with both of them, and both are a lot of fun to be around. It’s fun to have enthusiastic coaches. I didn’t have that as a pro and my time on tour. Bobby and Robbie are young, excited, and want to make something happen. They love the game and they love working hard to improve themselves.”
RYDF support both Bobby and Robbie as professional athletes, but they have been competing in the sport for much less time than many of the pros their age. “That’s something that stands out to me,” said Charlie. “Players of their caliber usually have a lot of junior racquetball, and they didn’t play very much when they were younger. Robbie didn’t have a lot of junior racquetball in Hawaii, and didn’t start playing properly until he was in college. Bobby is the same way. I didn’t know either of them until around seven or eight years ago. I’ve known most up-and-coming players since they were kids, and so it shows how quickly they have been able to progress. I see them both as being on the upswing, and I wanted to find coaches that were joining a team that was on the upswing also.”
Robbie echoed the thoughts of Charlie. Although both assistant coaches are relatively young, and have not played as long as many other professionals their age, they have experience coaching. “Although I’m young at 26, I have been coaching,” said Robbie. “I’ve been a part of the RYDF Fitness Forever program for three years, and have helped some of the kids on the team through that program. Both Bobby and I bring some youthfulness but also some experience coaching juniors with it.”
USOC Training Camp
The first opportunity for Charlie, Robbie, Bobby, and Jody Nance to work together was at the national training camp held at the United States Olympic Committee training center in Colorado Springs, CO. For Charlie, it brought back many memories, which he was able to use in making modifications to its effectiveness.” I was on the junior team for five years and went to the camp seven times. I’m pretty sure I’m the first and only head coach that was on the junior team. I knew what I did and didn’t like from a player’s perspective and changed a lot of things. The workouts were different. The timing of the day was different. I made them all eat plant-based food, which was an interesting experience for them. Camp was the most fun and the best part about being on the team. It was the ultimate training experience for me and it was what I lived for as a teenager.”
For Robbie and Bobby, it was an opportunity to get to know Charlie a little better, understand his coaching philosophy, and develop bonds with the players. Bobby was immediately a fan. “I really like how Charlie goes about coaching the juniors. He guides them both on and off the court, and it’s similar to what the three of us do already. It was interesting to see how the kids received the information, which they may have had before, but not in that format. It was more professional.”
Robbie also thought they quickly formed a cohesive bond. “It was really good working with each other. I’ve known Charlie for a few years and Bobby and I are good friends. Jody Nance has been a big help for me learning to coach juniors. The four of us were a really good team, on the same page, and really looking forward to working together again in a few weeks at the Junior World Championships!”
Charlie had nothing but praise for his new assistants. “Working with Robbie and Bobby was great. They brought so much enthusiasm. I knew I could delegate tasks to them, and I knew they could handle it and work effectively with the athletes. They were excellent role models. It was great that we all could get on the court and show our juniors the drills and skills, because we’re all still playing. It made it easier for me because they could demonstrate it. They were everything I expected and then some too! We could feel how good this team is, and it was a new energy.”
The Junior World Championships
The Junior World Championships will be held in Minneapolis, MN during the first week of November. It is then that Charlie and his staff must perform at their very best against the very best. Bobby is excited about the prospect, especially having represented USA several times previously. “I’m looking forward to being there for kids. I have a little experience helping the US adult team and I’ve helped coach at those events. I feel like I have a knack for it, and can help whomever I’m working with.”
It is a different challenge, however, knowing that no coach can do more than observe their athlete from outside the court. Skills that Robbie and Bobby might be able to perform flawlessly may not be replicated in the same manner by their athletes. “I don’t want to tell them what to do, but guide them based on our own experiences. I want to help get them through some of the challenges that a big tournament can bring,” said Bobby. “Sometimes it’s just keeping them calm and encouraging them to do what they’re capable of. The main thing is for me to help them do what they can. We do expect them to show up prepared, however. I’m working with a bunch of them at home already so I know they’ll be prepared.”
Robbie almost mimicked Bobby’s thoughts. “I look at coaching and especially coaching juniors as another set of eyes outside of the court. All the work has already been put in, and my job is to steer the ship. Maybe I need to just nudge it in the right direction. I don’t get to hit the ball while I’m there. Instead, I’m just there to help them, whether during a timeout or in-between games. I want to keep them motivated and help them in the moment when they might not see something.”
Charlie summed up the potential of this coaching team well. "Robbie and Bobby were never on the team before, but they're completely fresh to this. They get to come in and create a brand new environment. I'm going to hang on to these guys and create a dynasty that'll be successful for years to come."
Please support the mission of RYDF in assisting young athletes from around the world with needed resources to achieve success both on and off the court, and to develop successful careers in sports and life. RYDF accomplishes this through three related programs:
Dream It – Fitness Forever Program
Empowers communities by providing opportunities for youth & families to experience fun, friendship, and lifetime health and fitness through participation in racquet sports.
Reach It – The Dream Team
Provides emerging professional racquet sport athletes with financial support, mentoring, and career development opportunities to achieve success on the court and in their life.
Live It – Athlete to Professional
Uses experts across disciplines to provide knowledge, skills, tools, and practices to improve performance, build a successful career on and off the court, and give back to the community.
To learn more about RYDF or to donate, please visit www.give2rydf.org.