Athlete-to-Professional

Lalo Portillo: Building a Brand

In December, we published what some might consider a controversial article featuring Markie Rojas. Within this article, we highlighted the financial struggle many players on racquetball tour experience: relying on prize money from tournament successes is not a sustainable financial model. Our article was not written to criticize tours, players, or tournament directors. Rather, a goal of RYDF is to actively help those in racquetball overcome challenges just like this. We see ourselves as part of the solution. However, sometimes to offer solutions, problems must be identified.

So how does a player not only financially survive as a professional but profit from it? Some do, such as Rocky Carson and Paola Longoria, and one young RYDF supported player is in the early stages of attempting to replicate their success. We caught up with Mexican Lalo Portillo to learn more about what he is doing to make his racquetball career a success on and off the court.

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Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Lalo Portillo and I am from Mexico. I am 18 years old and I am currently living in Seattle because I am in an Intensive Program to learn English. One day I would like to be a pilot and to do that I need to speak fluent English. I have been at the school for one semester and I will finish my second semester in March. I have one sister in Mexico who is in her last year in high school. My dad is a civil engineer and my mom stays at home and takes care of the family.

 

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What about racquetball? When did you start and how successful have you been?

I began playing racquetball when I was six years old. I used to live in Querétaro where I did gymnastics, but my family moved to San Luis Potosi and gymnastics was too expensive there. Instead, my dad would bring me to the racquetball courts because my parents were members of the club and it was free for me.

The first tournament I won was the Mexican junior nationals at age seven. It was a multibounce event, which qualified me for the junior world championships, which I also won. I have won many junior national titles in Mexico as well as world titles. In 2017, I won the 18s doubles title at the World Juniors but lost to Mauro Rojas in the final of the 18s singles.

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What are your racquetball goals?

I want to be the best racquetball player in the world one day. That is one of my goals. But another goal I have is to be the youngest player to ever win the US Open.

You have been much more visible on social media recently. Why are you doing that?

Well, there are two reasons. The first is to help grow racquetball and share the sport with other people who may not know too much about it. I want more people to know what it is and maybe it encourages them to want to play it also. If I can, I want to use social media to present racquetball to those who do not know what it is. The other purpose is to help build my image and brand to help me get more sponsors.

 

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Can you explain what you mean by building your brand?

Yes. I want to be a professional racquetball player, but I know that at the moment there is not a lot of money in the sport. If you win first place in a tournament you can make some money, but that is very hard to do. But many players in other sports make a lot of money from sponsors, and sometimes they make more money from sponsors than their prize money. They do not even have to be the best player, but if they are very popular, the sponsor wants to work with them. I think it is important to try to be like that.

Paola Longoria is a very good example of what you can do to make money from sponsors that are not normally part of racquetball. Her popularity in Mexico helps her to make money and makes racquetball more popular. Of course, it helps that she is successful on the court!

I am not just doing this to get sponsors so that I have more money. Well, I do want more sponsors to have more money, but I need more money in order to travel to more pro stops. If I can play more and better players, I can learn more quickly and gain more experience. Sponsors can help me go to tournaments, which helps me improve my racquetball skills, which helps me earn more prize money by getting better results in tournaments.

How did this start and what specific things are you doing to build your image?

I have been working with GOAT Sports Performance for the last few months. We are developing a plan to grow my image and develop a sponsorship plan. One of the videos that I watched that GOAT Sports made was an interview with Gearbox Sports owner Rafael Filippini. He talked about how to promote yourself as an athlete and gave examples of players who understood they were their own business. Since watching the video, I have been talking with Rafael and getting his advice so that I can learn from the best.

I have also started creating instructional videos about racquetball and have a playlist of videos I have made so far. I am slowly making short videos to help those who might be interested in learning more about racquetball skills and technique.

 The last thing I am doing is to create video logs about my racquetball and life experiences. I want to be able to share with people my experiences studying in America, traveling to tournaments, and what it is like to be a professional racquetball player. I am really excited about this and I want to show people my experiences and adventures playing racquetball. I am hoping to travel a lot this year, which will give me lots of great material!

What are your plans for the near future?

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I am still a junior player in Mexico, but I want to try and qualify for China if possible. The competition is very hard in Mexico but I want to get the experience. I will also compete in the junior national championships in Mexico, but I hope to be able to compete in many pro stops this year. I am grateful to RYDF for helping me over the past several months to travel to some of these tournaments. Without their help, I could not have gained so much experience.

Summary

Developing a social media presence that might attract sponsors is a long-term project, and cannot be accomplished through short-term efforts. It requires consistent work to develop a brand and image that is attractive to potential sponsors. As an 18 year old, Lalo is a young professional that understands the value of social media. Within this interview, he has shown how he has learned from others, such as Rafael Filippini, and has begun making specific efforts to grow his visibility.

While unfortunate, the current reality of professional racquetball is that athletes must find sources beyond prize money to support their careers. This is a difficult task, and requires substantial work. However, should Lalo succeed in securing sponsors and building a larger social media presence over the next several years, it is important to recognize the longevity of this effort, which began in 2018.

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Understanding Anxiety and Nerves

by

Dr. Tim Baghurst

www.goatsports.pro

Ice skating requires perfect timing in a very visible environment.

Ice skating requires perfect timing in a very visible environment.

If you’ve been watching the Winter Olympics, you’ve seen some of the finest athletes on the planet compete for the greatest prize in their sport. Some athletes have risen to the occasion, doing their very best when it mattered most. Yet some have not, and we have seen many, many catastrophic failures on ice and snow.

Why is this? An athlete trains for years for this very moment, and when it comes, they fall short. They train countless hours to become physically perfect but break down mentally in the big moment.

A great example of this came during the ice dancing. American duo of Hubbell and Donohue were in third place after the short program, and a good performance in the long program could put them in the history books.

But, as reporter Christine Brennan states, “… they started off a bit raggedly on their twizzles, one of the staples of any ice dance program, and doubt suddenly crept in. ‘I think we both had a little bit of a moment mentally,’ Hubbell said. ‘We knew everybody was skating very strong in the event, and we knew that it was going to be very close.’”

Another lapse in concentration and another mistake soon found the Americans completely out of the medal picture. Simple routines done thousands of times in practice became complicated.  Suddenly the pair could not keep it together, and found themselves going home without a medal.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety can be easily confused with fear and stress. Fear is the presence of a specific, observable danger. Something tangible, such as a tree falling toward you, is a danger and can cause fear. Stress is caused by the perception that you do not have the resources to cope with the situation.

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Anxiety is the perception of a threat to a person’s essential value. It may be a physical (injury), psychological (shame), or interpersonal (loss of respect) threat.   A sports example is a coach who tells an athlete to play a new position immediately before an event. If the athlete doesn’t think they can play that position, they are likely to become stressed.

In most sporting situations, there is no need to be fearful. Stress can and does occur, but it’s anxiety which is most common. More specifically, athletes experience anxiety or get nervous when they place expectations upon themselves that would otherwise not exist. Examples include:

·         “What if I lose?”

·         “What if I win?”

·         “I’ll let so many people down if I don’t play well.”

·         “This match is more important to me.”

·         “Coach said it’s on me to win this.”

Anxiety is a very complex topic; not something that can be explained or trained in a short article. However, recognize that some athletes are more likely to get nervous than others. It is part of their personality.

Also understand that nerves can be both mentally and physically harmful. An athlete who is nervous will most likely be thinking negatively, which impacts their performance through feelings of self-doubt and fear of failure, but they will also experience physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, nausea, and sweating. All these lead to negative outcomes and cause the athlete to experience mental and physical fatigue.

When Does Anxiety Occur?

Oftentimes, the assumption is that athletes are most nervous in the big moments. Yes, in many situations that is true, but not because the environment is suddenly different, but rather because the athlete perceives the environment or situation to be different. It is psychological.

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However, nerves may occur more in situations where the pressure is perceived to be greatest. In a big match, where I am a significant underdog, I may experience no nerves, because I do not feel pressured to win. It is not expected of me. Rather, I may experience more nervousness in a situation where I know it will be close.

Here is a good example: get a ball and a bucket and attempt to throw the ball into the bucket from three feet, nine feet, and fifteen feet (if you can create a pressure environment such as in front of an audience then even better). In which situation did you feel the most pressure? My guess is at nine feet. Why? Well, three feet was simple and at fifteen feet you knew it would be very difficult and there would be no judgement if you missed. But at nine feet, making the shot is possible. The same applies to sporting situations. You may have an easy match, and an impossible match, but that one in the middle might be the one which creates the anxiety.

Controlling Anxiety

Nerves are very individual specific, and there is no secret sauce that fixes nerves. Unfortunately, many coaches tell their athletes to “just relax” but are not relaxed themselves and have never taught their athletes how to relax. Meditation, breathing techniques, and physical techniques such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation are all valuable tools in controlling anxiety, but they take time and training to master.

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Athletes who recognize they are nervous are taking the first step in addressing it. One recommendation for the short term is to interpret nervousness with excitement. Excitement is not a bad thing and can help performance. Unfortunately, too many athletes see anxiety as a negative and therefore focus on negative thinking. Instead, athletes should try seeing nerves as a positive tool. Why the excitement? Usually because the opportunity exists for success.

Summary

Nerves are common within sports and racquetball is no exception. They typically stem from the athlete placing too much pressure on themselves in specific situations where they perceive a lot is at stake. Coaches may also contribute to this situation. Unfortunately, nerves can cause physical and mental side effects, and as a result, performances decline. Recognizing when an athlete gets nervous is the first step in providing treatment, which can come in both physical and mental forms. 

About RYDF

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.

Jody Nance = Junior Racquetball

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.

Jody gives some instruction on swing technique to some young players.

Jody gives some instruction on swing technique to some young players.

Jody began her athletic pursuit at a young age as a track and field and cross-country athlete. Known for her “barefoot” running style, she excelled in the AAU programs in the Central Coast of California, which eventually landed her a scholarship at Boise State University. While at Boise, Jody would spend some “down time” in the summer playing tennis with friends, which ultimately transitioned into racquetball, a relatively new sport at the time. Some of the Boise State football players challenged Jody to a game, which she gladly accepted, and even though it was a little wild and crazy on the court with three offensive linemen, she fell in love with the sport. When her athletic eligibility ran out, she joined the local YMCA, began playing racquetball regularly, and never stopped!

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A few years later, Jody found herself in Stockton attending Physical Therapy school. A time-consuming vocation with expensive training made even a gym membership an imprudent expense. With this in mind, Jody approached West Lane’s General Manager, Rob Farrens, and asked what she could do for a membership trade-off to allow her to continue playing racquetball. At the time, Jody was a strong Women’s Open level player, and Rob mentioned the idea of having her create and manage a new Junior Racquetball Program. Jody happily accepted, having already acquired a little experience coaching track and field. As Jody likes to say, “The rest is history!”


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.

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Sharing with us some of her most special memories from her experiences coaching various junior players, Jody recalled that, “Jose Rojas has so many, but his victory over David Ortega of Mexico in the Boy’s 18’s in Cochabamba, Bolivia, while he was playing both 16 & Under and 18 & Under, was a special one. David had beaten Jose when they were 12, and it was goal for Jose to get him back. This was particularly special because David had been undefeated at Junior Worlds for 10 years, and it was his final tournament. I have never been so proud of “Josie”, as we like to call him. He plugged away point after point, digging deep, never doubting his resolve, and his determination and mental toughness were on full display.”

“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.


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Jody began serving as the Assistant Head Coach on the USA Junior National Team in 2014. When asked about her most enjoyable moments as the Assistant Coach of Team USA, she responded that it was very difficult to decide. “I love racquetball and watching these young athletes pursue their dreams. Every year, watching the growth in their games, confidence, and personalities is very special. I enjoy seeing these kids develop into great people. However, the moments and memories made when off the court with the athletes and coaches, laughing and spending precious time together, are invaluable. I now have new people in my life, athletes and my fellow coach Jen Meyer, which have touched my soul. Friendships have been made here that will last a lifetime. How lucky am I? I would like to thank RYDF for assisting so many of these athletes. They are making it possible for so many to go to events that are helping shape their lives and careers. Also, thanks to John, Dave, and Pat Ellis, and all our West Lane volunteers for their energy, experience, and commitment to the 209!”

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!

Best Practices For Working And Interacting With Referees

by Dr. Tim Baghurst

www.goatsports.pro


Referees: the word evokes a variety of images and feelings for many. To some, they can be a second opponent. But to others, they are a support, and an assurance that the best player will emerge the winner, and not the one who complained the most.

Years ago, I was a FIFA certified soccer referee. As one might imagine, I endured plenty of challenges in that role. However, in 2010 that I became involved in refereeing international racquetball. Since then, I have continued to serve as an international referee, and these experiences have allowed me to see and deal with all kinds of situations. The purpose of this article is not to share my stories, but to explain how these experiences can be used to develop best practices for athletes and coaches when interacting with officials.


Trained Versus Untrained Officials

Although a generalization, trained and qualified referees are much easier to work and communicate with. It is expected that those with some form of training (there are different kinds) have a basic understanding of the rules and care enough about officiating that they have taken the time to get training. That is a good start. Therefore, you can and should have greater trust in their knowledge of the rules.

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Often in local tournaments, racquetball players are expected to referee. Usually the referee will be the previous match’s loser, who find themselves doubly punished by being required to referee following the defeat. Unfortunately, most of them will be untrained, have a limited knowledge of the rules, and lack any motivation whatsoever to do a “professional” job. Many times, there is little to be done in this situation, but when players are refereeing, some negotiation with the Tournament Director is still possible. In situations where you believe a strong referee is necessary, politely ask the Tournament Director in advance of your match for a qualified official or one with a good reputation.

Qualified officials can be great referees, but great referees are not always qualified. What if an official has poor eyesight, or what if they do not know how to handle difficult situations? What if they have problems concentrating for a long period of time? These are not always tested in certification. Therefore, it is important to recognize that an official who is certified should have a fundamental knowledge of the rules, but it does not mean that they are a good referee.


Reputations Matter

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A good official is one who has an in-depth knowledge of the rules, handles themselves in a professional manner at all times, frequently makes the correct decision, is humble enough to accept they will not always make the correct call, is ambivalent to who wins, respects the players and the sport, and seeks to improve their own skills. It should be noted that referees that meet these criteria are rare.

In time, officials will develop a reputation, and it is valuable to learn what that reputation is. In international events, officials are assigned based on their ranking/reputation and the match being played. Better referees are assigned to matches that are more important or those that might be perceived as potentially being difficult. However, in other tournaments referees may be randomly assigned or end up being a player, as mentioned previously. A good suggestion is to learn who is refereeing in advance to allow you to (if necessary) request line judges (if available) or ask the Tournament Director for a different referee if desired. Not doing so may result in you being stuck with a referee who might not be interested in the match or want to be there, and therefore the calls cannot be trusted.

Poor officials can lead to serious problems on the court. An official who does not meet the standards of a good official, as outlined earlier, can create problems for players, coaches, and other officials. For example, an official who is inconsistent on avoidable (penalty) hinder calls, who wants to be the star of the show, or who does not know the rules, can create frustration and anger. Understand that even though they should not, poor officials can influence the outcome of a match.


Working with Officials

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Keep in mind that officials can influence the outcome of the match, but only if the athlete allows the official to influence them. For example, a poor call is made by the official and the athlete loses their self-control feeling cheated by the decision. Unable to let the bad decision go, they allow it to simmer and affect their mental focus. Consequently, they make mental errors over the next few minutes because their focus is not on their task.

How can this be overcome? First, recognize that officials will make mistakes. Errors will happen and decisions will not always go in your favor. However, also recognize that some other calls may go in your favor, and generally calls even out over time.

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Second, learn to let bad decisions go. This is an easy thing to say but a very difficult thing to put into practice. Being able to deflect poor decisions when they happen requires training. Practicing a behavior modification and transitioning it from practice into a match scenario takes time, especially if an athlete has been responding this way for a long time.

Third, respect the official. Being an official is not an easy task and mistakes happen to even the best. Little looks, comments, refusing to shake their hand, and other disrespectful behaviors are remembered by officials. Although referees may develop reputations for being “good” or “bad,” so do athletes in their behavior toward referees. An athlete should remember they represent more than just themselves when on (and off) the court. They represent what is on the front and back of the shirt, which may include their family, their sponsors, their country, and even RYDF. How athletes react to and interact with officials is seen and remembered, and can positively or negatively impact current and future outcomes.


About RYDF
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.reachingyourdreamfoundation.org.

RYDF Players Horn and Collins Named United States Junior National Team Assistant Coaches

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.

Bobbie will be one of the assistant coaches at the Junior World Championships in November.

Bobbie will be one of the assistant coaches at the Junior World Championships in November.

“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 Collins is excited about coaching at international level for the first time.

Robbie Collins is excited about coaching at international level for the first time.

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!”

The Junior World Championships bring players together from around the world.

The Junior World Championships bring players together from around the world.

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.”

Coaching is crucial if teams are to be successful at the Junior World Championships.

Coaching is crucial if teams are to be successful at the Junior World Championships.

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."

About RYDF

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.

 

Pros and Amateurs Gain Knowledge Through Performance 360

RYDF has three primary goals within its overall mission. The first, Dream It, empowers communities by providing opportunities for youth and families to experience fun, friendship, and lifetime health and fitness through participation in racquet sports. The second, Reach It, provides emerging professional racquet sport athletes with financial support, mentoring, and career development opportunities to achieve success on the court and in their life. The third, Live It, 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.

Rocky provides some on court instruction.

Rocky provides some on court instruction.

Just a few short weeks ago, we had the opportunity to see all three goals being met through a performance-focused fundraiser. Held at the ClubSport San Ramon in San Ramon, California, a group of 23 amateurs joined 12 young and established professionals for some education, training, and fun. The afternoon began with an instructional session for amateurs led by 5-time World Champion Rocky Carson. The purpose of this session was to provide a holistic overview of racquetball technique where Carson provided instruction on racquetball fundamentals. As Carson noted, “I can teach someone to hit a splat shot or a reverse pinch, but what most players really need to learn is the basic shots of racquetball. If they learn these well, then they are much more likely to be successful when they compete.”

Francisco Troncoso is interviewed by board member Mike Manoske.

While amateurs were being instructed by Rocky, RYDF-supported players such as Jose Rojas, Mauro Rojas, Antonio Rojas, Jose Diaz, Ricky Diaz, Jaime Martell, Alex Cardona, Bobby Horn, Francisco Troncoso, and Robbie Collins participated in video interviews with board member and career coach Mike Manoske. Following their interview, athletes met with GOAT Sports Performance expert Dr. Tim Baghurst to discuss their career goals and the importance of professionalism in becoming and succeeding as an athlete. Tim also spoke to the amateur athletes and provided some tips on how to overcome negative situations in competition.

ProAm doubles soon followed these sessions and amateur players had the opportunity to interact and compete alongside the professionals. This was a time of fun, conversation, and competition enjoyed by all. For amateurs, this is a special event. After all, how often do players get the opportunity to play with and against some of the best racquetball players in the world?

Coaches Dave and John Ellis discussing our Fitness Forever program.

Coaches Dave and John Ellis discussing our Fitness Forever program.

After the doubles mixer, all participants enjoyed dinner while coaches Dave and John Ellis provided an update on our very successful Fitness Forever program that is part of Dream It. The program is being expanded across sports clubs in California, and the progress Dave, John, and the other coaches involved have made in attracting youth to racquetball is encouraging. Not only does it provide youth in our community with physical activity opportunities, but also it can be used as a platform to justify to club owners and general managers how racquetball courts can be effectively used.

The program’s focus is on engaging youth and children in regular racquetball activities. Initially begun in Stockton, the program has spread to other clubs across California. Coaches interesting in adopting the model should contact us for more information.

Rocky Carson and Tim Baghurst were the primary guest speakers at this event.

Rocky Carson and Tim Baghurst were the primary guest speakers at this event.

The evening ended with a Q&A with world champion Rocky Carson and performance expert Dr. Tim Baghurst. Topics varied, from whether athletes should have coaches, how game plans can be developed, how sponsors can be raised, and how racquetball has changed over time. However, the primary goal of this time of the event was to emphasize how important all facets of life are in being a professional.

This is the first time RYDF has offered a Performance 360 event, but it was well received by all.

I enjoyed the event a lot,” said up-and-coming pro Daniel Rojas. “I learned a lot from Rocky and his business manager, and that whatever I’m doing, I have a good reason for doing so. I enjoyed playing with everyone, it was a great experience, and I hope to get a chance to do it again soon.”

Such sentiments were echoed by current pro Jaime Martell. “I got a better understanding of how the Foundation works, and it will help me present the Foundation to others as we attend tournaments and meet people. I really enjoyed the part of the program where Rocky Carson and Tim Baghurst spoke. They reminded us how important it is to behave as a professional on and off the court. It was also great to meet people who support the sport we love and help us to continue playing it.”

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Although this is the first Performance 360, we intend to continue offering such events in the future. We recognize that while supporting young players financially helps to grow the sport, RYDF also has the responsibility to promote physical activity among youth and train emerging athletes to become professionals on and off the court.

You can support the mission of RYDF by 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 different initiatives:

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.

A Good Weekend For Teaming Up And Contributing To Team Efforts

(Left to Right) Barry Clyde, Francisco Troncoso,  Jake Bredenbeck and Kim Randolph

We just finished up a successful weekend in California at the Pleasanton Open. While the World Racquetball Tour held another exciting and successful tour stop, our RYDF players competed well both on the tour side and the Pro Am side. Many friends of Reaching Your Dream who support us participated in the round robin format of the Pro Am, as they were paired up with many of our players. The competition, though friendly, was filled with intense play. All of the young pros played very hard and worked respectfully with their patrons. Overall, it proved to be one of the main highlights of the weekend.

Featured in the picture are Pro Am winners Kim Randolph and her partner, Jake Bredenbeck and runner ups Barry Clyde and Francisco Troncoso.

Cocco Hayes

Cocco Hayes

For some of our players, it’s not all play. The WRT works very hard to provide a quality product with their live streaming. It benefits the fans as they get to enjoy high quality professional racquetball at home. But it also benefits many of the players, by giving them valuable experience contributing to tour operations and sometimes assisting the production crew. If you are familiar with the WRT feeds, you will often hear our players providing color commentary during matches. But there is also an added benefit for the players as the tour production grows, they get a chance to get hands on experience working with the production crew working the cameras and sometimes helping with the set ups. Manning the camera for the finals is the very popular Cocco Hayes, an up and coming 21 year old from one of Mexico’s main racquetball cities, San Luis Potosi.

Bobby Horn and Laura McCormick

Bobby Horn and Laura McCormick

These are the kinds of results we like to take away from these events. All positive. WRT’s Laura McCormick with Americans David Bobby Horn (#4 on the tour) and Jake Bredenbeck (#3). Jake and Bobby were first and second in last years U.S. Nationals and represented the USA in world competitions and will again in March in the Dominican Republic.