I recently reviewed the current CLUB BUSINESS journal, a product of the International Health, Racquet, & Sports Club Association. It is filled with fitness trends, innovations, personal interest stories, and more! What is conspicuously absent is the printed word about the indoor and outdoor court sports. For years, as a club owner, manager, delegate, and professor, I attended the annual IHRSA Convention & Trade Show. A few times I was fortunate to be on the presentation list. Stops included Las Vegas, Reno, San Diego, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Francisco. Attendance at one of these conferences was in the thousands. Attendees came from across the USA and abroad, representing the over 1100 private clubs, YMCA’s, JCC’s, and other venues which had indoor courts and held onto the IHRSA name.
Over the past decade, the participation at this event has declined, along with the court sport presence. We would at one time park alongside Tennis, and droves of individuals would make their way towards us to ascertain the latest in court construction, equipment, and program trends. The National Governing Body (USA Racquetball) would send delegates to erect a booth for networking with others in the industry. The last years of my commitment to IHRSA came with a shared space with Sports Unlimited, one of the long-standing court and other unit construction companies. We began to question why the Sporting Goods Manufacturers and the NGB were no longer attending. We also questioned why the recreation arm of colleges and universities (NIRSA) did not send a representative.
To what do we attribute this drive downward? First and foremost is the mindset. Rod Serling might say that there is no reason; yet, it happens. “Racquetball has a negative growth; in fact, it is dying.” Repeat these words over and over; and, it becomes real. Private and semi-private clubs still constructing four wall indoor courts are doing so with a motivation for a net-zero-sum. For every court built, at least one is coming down. The PLPOA Club in Pagosa Springs, Colorado recently built two new four wall courts with glass back walls. At the same time, it dismantled the original two courts. The Lea County (Hobbs, New Mexico) government recently completed a multi-discipline sports park which includes two, 4 wall courts with glass back walls. This occurred shortly after the six court facility at the NM Junior College Del Norte Complex was torn down.
Many hard copy letters, emails, and telephone calls have come my way over the past two decades by those who ask for a helping hand in efforts to ‘save their courts.’ My first response is, has the dialogue already begun? When the answer is YES, it is too late to act. The reality is that the decision had been made. All of us who hold a stake in maintaining and upgrading the infrastructure must be proactive—insisting that qualified instructors/programmers be in place at all locations in order to drive the sports (racquetball, handball, paddleball, squash racquets, and pickleball). The latter is the only one which now experiences a positive growth. I have also received referrals from USA Racquetball, asking for a follow-up with concerned and desperate members who fear that a generation long passion and lifestyle will succumb to poor decisions by hierarchy. Isn’t this an assignment that one in their office should have?
When I was teaching in the college and university arena; and, when I was a college student, most colleges and universities had a mandate for one physical education credit hour before graduation. This mandate forced an avenue for most students to visit the recreation/wellness complex on campus. This requirement has all but disappeared. No longer is there a captive audience to learn lifetime fitness skills. The indoor courts offer no less than three opportunities for learning, enjoyment, and healthy life styles. They are racquetball, handball, and squash racquets courses. Many of these same students will seek more opportunity through the intramural and interscholastic competitive programs. The court sports are ‘Lifetime’ endeavors, even if there are gaps in the process.
It does not take a strong mind to understand that this trend will be difficult to reverse. The few companies that are constructing, including LA Fitness, preclude the development of youth in the games, because their business plans do not generally allow for youth to access membership. The hundreds of annual candidates we historically have recruited for instructor certification now is in the teens. Much of this activity is outside the USA, primarily in Latin America. Some educational departments recognize video gaming as part of their athletic umbrella. How does this bode for a healthy, vibrant youth population?
Finally, we shall continue to do our best; keeping those who have a history with the games happy. We shall strive to augment income streams through membership and pay to play programs. The editor of the current issue of CBI hopes about the future: ‘That tomorrow is full of opportunities, rich, and assured.’ Wouldn’t it be great if the court sports were part of this experience?
(reprinted from International Professional Racquetball Organization)
Racquetball University; ENMU Roswell, Roswell, NM
High Altitude Shootout; PLPOA, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bi-National Racquetball Event; Stout PFC at Fort Bliss, El Paso, TX
Meadow City; Montoya Recreation Center, Las Vegas, NM
Snowball; Highpoint Sports & Wellness, Albuquerque
NM State Doubles; Midtown Sports & Wellness, Albuquerque
(Check out our calendar of events on the website)
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“We are all happier when we give others a bit of our heart
instead of a piece of our mind” L’OR
PO Box 36179 Albuquerque, NM 8176 (505) 321-1110
SERVING NEW MEXICO, WEST TEXAS, & SOUTHERN COLORADO SINCE 1977