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For the Love of Racquetball
My Favorite Sport
Racquetball was my all time favorite sport to play, probably because I was good at it. I played softball, water skied, snow skied, bowled, but I was at my best when playing racquetball.
This Hub is more about my experiences playing in tournaments, meeting people and playing with my dad.
To learn the rules of the game and read about how to play, check out the Hub to the right.
My sisterClick thumbnail to view full-size
In the Beginning
I was 18 years old when I started playing Racquetball. My parents introduced me to the sport after they started playing doubles with another couple.
My dad had an extensive history as an athlete and caught on to any sport quickly.
But boy was he a real stickler on form. Even after I learned the game, he would stop mid-play,
- "Did you have your racket up and back?
- Remember to cock the gun!
- Where was your position in the court on that play?
- You should have taken that with your backhand."
I loved the times I played with my dad, but I would often cop an attitude with so much attention to form.
"If you're going to do something, do it right." Hmmph... I knew he was right but I still grumbled about it.
My entire family; my mom, dad and sister all started competing in leagues and tournaments. My younger sister was just a teenager when she started playing. We were all very proud when she improved from a D player to an A player in one year and thus was named most improved junior player in Racquetball magazine.
Teaching in New York
Early in my 20's, I moved to New York city and joined a gym called, "Racquetball Fifth Avenue" across from Bryant Park.
I played some games with the manager, Micky and we quickly became friends. Within one month, he asked if I was interested in teaching racquetball. "Absolutely!"
We advertised “Learn to play Racquetball” in a monthly magazine called, “The Learning Annex”. The Learning Annex taught various adult classes, everything from pottery to photography, gardening, etc. These classes often catered to singles, hoping to meet someone.
The classes I taught were once a week for about 8 weeks, and I usually had about 15 to 20 people. We had four courts, but I would start off with everyone in one court, to explain the rules and the basics of the game. Then, using all four courts, I would divide them into groups to take turns. I had some students who caught on right away, and others who had obviously never played any sport or even knew how to catch a ball. I would often have to take away a student’s racket and just throw the ball to them to get their eye hand coordination in play.
Racquetball 5th Ave - 1981
A Women is Teaching?
Some of the men that came in had a real problem when they realized a women would be their teacher.
There were two guys who joined the club after the classes were over, and they were constantly signing up for private lessons. I soon realized they weren't paying for the instruction. They were playing to try to beat me. Neither of them took my instructions or advise, instead, just hitting the ball with as much macho strength as they could muster.
"It's really not about how hard you hit the ball, it's about placement." I tried to explain.
I also remember getting ready to start a brand new class, watching the students file in, when two men walked towards me, realized I was the teacher, turned around and walked out. "Ouch"
The positive side to this was the women loved it when they realized I was the teacher. It was empowering for them to know that they weren’t automatically going to be the underdog in a game, just because they were a women.
For the most part, once the men got used to being taught by a women, they were a lot of fun. It's just the few that couldn't handle it that stand out in my mind.
My Friend Micky
Do you love racquetball?
Have you ever played racquetball?
Racquetball, Beer and Laundry
Racquetball 5th Ave only had a few employees, and we would often take full advantage of what we considered to be our "perks".
The gym had a washer and a dryer for towels. So we would lug our laundry to work and stash it in the back. Once we closed, we would crank up the music really loud, start a load of laundry and head to the courts. After a game, we'd pop the load in the dryer, another in the washer and play some more.
Micky often supplied the beer. After a long day of work, and tuckered out from our own competitive games, we'd pop open a couple of beers while finishing up the laundry.
Great time, great memories.
My Friend Liz
I started playing another women named Liz. She was an A player as well and we had some pretty competitive games.
But it was one particular Saturday morning that we formed a special bond.
Prior to heading to the gym, my husband informed me that he had been cheating on me. I was devastated. I screamed and cried and threw him out. Then I bucked up and headed to the gym. "Damned if I'll be late for my racquetball game!"
So Liz and I warmed up and then started our game. After a few volleys and a minimal score, I was standing back waiting to receive her serve when I suddenly burst into tears. She dropped the ball and her racket and ran back to me with grave concern.
I was embarrassed to tell her what had happened that morning. But she pulled me into an embrace and took me off the court. Trying to hold back the tears, I went into more detail. She was incredibly supportive and understanding. We left the gym and she hung by my side all day. We went to a movie that night and she had me spend the night at her place. I can honestly say I would never have gotten through the weekend, the weeks and months ahead, including the divorce without my friend Liz.
Winning the NY State Pro Am 1987Click thumbnail to view full-size
As our friendship grew, we became fierce competitors. While on the court, we never let up with each other, which of course only improved our game.
Liz was one of my best doubles player, (the other was my dad), and definitely my best friend. When we were on the court, It was like we could read each other’s minds.
Our biggest achievement - In 1986, Liz and I took first in doubles in the New York State tournament. Better than the huge trophies, we each won a gold watch!
One of my favorite tournaments to play in was in Colorado. It was a team tournament, and I took a trip back there three years in a row to play.
The tournament was unusual in its format in that it was divided by teams. Each team had to have an A, B and C player. Each A player played against another team's A player, and the B and C player did the same. But it did not matter so much who actually won the game, because in the end it was the combined points from your team that mattered.
After the singles games, there were two sets of doubles in which each player had to play once. The A player usually played twice and the B and C player once. All the points were then racked up for placement.
Playing with the Guys
There were times when I played tournaments in which they didn't have enough women signed up to have a division for just women. So when this happened, I played in the men’s division.
I would also find myself playing mixed doubles, and I actually had a guy friend who ask me to be his partner in a men’s doubles tournament.. We had a blast, and we took third place. I loved getting a trophy that had a man on it!
Dad, my doubles partner
Playing Racquetball with my Dad
When my parents retired and moved to Florida I eventually joined them.
I joined Gold’s gym and regularly played their doubles challenge court.
My dad and I had played against each other down through the years, and It was an absolute blast playing against him. Although he still corrected me, and he usually won, we actually had some really challenging games. I can only count maybe 6 or 7 times out of the hundreds of games that I beat him. I loved it when I would just get a really good shot against him, and when he couldn't return it he would just stop, put his hands on his knees and just laugh. The image of surprise on his face, smiling and laughing his eyes filled with pride is one of my favorite memories.
Since we both lived in the same state, we played regularly. Although not always partners, we often teamed up on the doubles challenge court. The last doubles game we played was one day shy of his 70th birthday. In his words, “We kicked ass”.
Unfortunately, his back started to really hurt and he had to quit playing.
But winning sure is fun
The Best Thing About Racquetball
I continued to play for about two more years, but just like my dad, eventually my body started to scream at me, and not just the next day, but the day after that. It got to the point where it just took me too long to recover.
I hated giving up a sport that I loved so much. But by far one of the best things about playing racquetball was the people. I don't remember the scores, as easily as I remember the looks on my dad's face, the camaraderie of my doubles mates, or my BFF Liz. Not to mention the laughter and the fun of just playing.
Racquetball also instilled in me real discipline, and a sense of pride. In any other aspect of life, when I had doubts that I could do something, I just had to remember all that I achieved in racquetball.