For us at the Reaching Your Dream Foundation, this first year has been a time filled with intimately learning the struggles young professional racquetball players face trying to make racquetball a life endeavor. The major goal of our foundation is to grow racquetball, and within that context, identify and raise the resources needed to address the unmet needs of players from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
Throughout this year, we’ve engaged with many organizations and individuals to try and identify opportunities to enable players to pursue professional racquetball. However, our main operational strategy to date, to address the needs of these players, has been to help the World Racquetball Tour, in part, with their mission to facilitate a professional environment for young aspirational racquetball players. RYDF has provided support for players logistically with travel expenses and working to try and develop actionable engagement that help players make the most of their experiences on tour.
Our dedicated board most of which are from the Bay Area and who I will talk about in a later entry, worked bring the WRT to ClubSport in Pleasanton, California this past February. It was an endeavor to provide RYDF players another opportunity to compete for prize money, while allowing the local community to see and enjoy the players the community support.
The Mario Saga: One Player Pushing Us To Open Doors
One of the young players who came to Pleasanton was Mario Mercado age 19 from Bolivia. Mario is the 2013 Word Junior Champion. Mario had recently made the decision to leave Bolivia and play for Columbia. His decision found him with a few months of “free time”. He decided to stay in the Bay Area and was graciously taken in by a number of families, most of whom were board members of the foundation.
While in the Bay Area, Mario was closely befriended and mentored by Bobby Horn from Stockton, California and Carla Munoz of Chile, both RYDF supported players. Bobby plays primarily at WRT tour stops and Carla is a regular on the LPRT. Both train and teach racquetball to children and adults at ClubSport Pleasanton. Bobby and Carla spent a good amount of time with Mario working on his racquetball game as well as his cultural adjustment here in the States.
The mentoring Mario received was closely supervised by Pablo Fajre. Pablo is the coach of the Chilean Racquetball Team and president of the World Racquetball Tour. Also involved in oversight was Carlos Contreras, a Columbian born player who now lives and plays in the United States and is a citizen of the USA. Carlos is also the Treasurer and accountant for the RYDF.
Although all of these machinations dealt with the specifics of one player, it provided a good opportunity to explore educational opportunities and possible partnerships for players like Mario. The leadership of the foundation in conjunction with Pablo and Carlos decided to meet with some administrators of Las Positas College. We met with the Dean of Athletics and the Coordinator of the International Students Program to discuss the more general issue of understanding what is involved with assisting non-USA citizens with their desire to live, learn, train, and play high level professional racquetball in the United States, specifically (for now,) the Bay Area.
We are finding that there is much to learn and we feel very encouraged by our experience with Mario. The Reaching Your Dream Foundation has a mission of providing opportunities for players while facilitating growth for racquetball. Right now, we envisioned the Bay Area becoming a major training and education center for both American and non-American, young, elite racquetball players. We are currently learning that moving forward with our mission often involves investing in our players one at a time.