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.