Part of the appeal of the World Games is that it features the best in the world in sports you may be unfamiliar with. Such as finswimming, canoe marathon, canopy piloting and a lot more. You can learn about sports that the casual fan might not know that much about.
Racquetball is one of those sports that – for something that been around for only about 70 years – has had several lives and existed a bit under the radar. It’s had its moments, kind of:
- It grew quickly – after being invented by Joe Sobeck in 1950 – because lots of gyms had handball courts. Plus, it was easy to pick up the game.
- Elvis was a fan. The King famously had a racquetball court built at Graceland. You could still play a game there, if you can convince the owners to clean out all the gold records, outfits and memorabilia that now adorn the walls.
Today, the game that started in the U.S., is seeing some of its strongest support and growth in places like Central and South America (a quick glance at the top players at the World Games and those headed to the finals confirms this). And it’s working hard to take some additional steps to the next level – Olympian-level, you might say.
So, here are six things I learned about racquetball from the World Games … And six things that I’ve learned about the game over the years as someone who’s played for more years than I’d like to admit.
From the World Games:
- The International Racquetball Federation (IRF), like many of the sports at the World Games, is actively lobbying for the sport to be included in the Olympics. The World Games is often a tryout of sorts for new additions to the summer games. Representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were expected to attend matches during the competition.
- According to Maria Paz Munoz, an official with the IRF, the sport recently made competition changes to speed up the game and make it more attractive for the IOC.
- Like many of the IRF officials, Munoz is also a past top 20 player in the world.
- The racquetball court used at the World Games is a competition court constructed at the UAB Recreation Center specifically for the World Games. UAB created a time-lapse video of its construction for the world to see.
- The World Games features two of the top female racquetball players in history of the sport: Paolo Longoria from Mexico and American Rhonda Rajsich, both of whom have won multiple world championships and titles.
- A strong case can be made that Paolo Longoria is the greatest female player of all time, having won more than 100 tournaments. Her longevity and fame have made her a familiar face and name in Mexico. In fact, in 2021, Mattel released a Paolo Longoria Barbie© doll in a line that recognized famous women athletes in Latin America.
Life Lessons From the Racquetball Court
- There are reasons why every court says something like “Eyewear Strongly Encouraged.” It’s not lying … this is experience talking.
- Writers should really love the game, because the language is fun. Most every shot has a cool name. Examples include “splat,” “pinch,” “Z,” “ceiling,” “kill” and “rollout.”
- If you’re looking to try the game out, the initial investment is fairly low – a racquet, balls and eyewear. And there are players in almost every major city in the US with state and national organizations that can help you find other competitors, if you need the assist.
- It’s a game where “power” seems to be critical, but it’s not. Patience and accuracy – with the strategic application of power – is really the key.
- It’s a game in which you really need a short memory. Because every serve is a chance to change the game. You can’t dwell on the mistakes or celebrate the successes too long.
- Like the World Games, it’s typically a community. The people tend to know each other, compete with people that they’ve played with for years. They get to know each other, support each other and know how they play … It’s a winning formula.
Medal Results Birmingham 2022
Andres Acuña – Costa Rica
Rodrigo Montoya – Mexico
Andree Parrilla – Mexico
Paola Longoria – Mexico
Ana Gabriela Martínez – Guatemala
Angelica Barrios – Bolivia
Regions is a foundation-level sponsor of the 2022 World Games and has been a consistent supporter of sports in the markets the company serves. Through the World Games, the bank is spotlighting sports that be a little less familiar.
Regions is proud to sponsor HERstory, an initiative created by The World Games 2022 Birmingham Organizing Committee to allow and encourage the women of The World Games to share their stories – who they are, where they’re from, and how they got to where they are today. One of those recognized was Cheryl Kirk, representing racquetball.