The Pan American Games, Toronto 2015, begin later this month. The racquetball and squash competitions will be held at a newly constructed Downtown venue. These Games represent the third largest sporting festival in the world. The top racquetball men and women players from 10 countries will be vying for the gold in singles and doubles. It is a huge opportunity for exposure, as was the case in past Pan Ams in Argentina, Canada (Winnipeg), Dominican Republic, and Mexico. The new glass courts will remain a part of Racquetball Canada’s legacy.
Those of us in the field have a responsibility to sustain and to grow the sport. Having accessible courts does not guarantee an upward spike in growth. It is a beginning. The construction of new courts in Seoul, South Korea for the 2010 IRF World Championships did not produce any lasting effect. The original plan was to expand the athletic center at the High School where the courts were built. To date, the court panels and hardware are in storage. At the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, two courts were constructed. The city had no racquetball courts at that time. The portable court was disassembled, and the other one remained as part of the Taiwan racquetball legacy. This court still exists; yet, is not being utilized near capacity. Fortunately, another court exists in the city at a private business park and the ownership is helping to grow the game.
All of us need to be cognizant of the fragile environment in which we currently sit. Courts are being built; yet, generally in small banks of two to four. At the same time, businesses are leaving the marketplace along with the courts, and others are transitioning courts for uses which are not based on sound business practice. We must identify all of our courts and establish programs. This means indoor and outdoor, four wall, three wall, and one wall. Membership at private and semi-private clubs can be restricted based on age and finances. Our opportunity set must expand into other venues. They include secondary and collegiate centers, Y’s, JCC’s and other parochial facilities, apartment complexes, military installations, hotel and community recreation centers, and more. Networking with paddleball, handball, and pickleball organizations can open up more opportunities.
During our recent visit to New York City, we attended Broadway shows, a Yankees game, and shared great cuisine. Another motivation was to visit a host of court facilities, including those at Orchard Beach (Bronx) and Brighton Beach (Brooklyn). Hundreds of athletes from all walks of life share these courts playing racquetball, paddleball, and handball. Costs are minimal and there is a wide cross section of the population involved. This festival of sport exists in the competitive arena in Las Vegas (Stratosphere), where racquetball and handball share the stage. More large gatherings bringing together enjoyment, competition, social interaction, and learning can be the equation for growth and success.