Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finals at the USAR Junior Olympics

The top seeded boy won in each of the U18, U16 and U14 divisions and the top seeded girl won in the U14 and U18 divisions as play wrapped up at the USA Racquetball Junior Olympics in Minneapolis on Wednesday.

In Boys U14 and U16 the finals were showdowns between doubles partners. Adam Manilla defeated Sawyer Lloyd, 15-6, 15-5, and they teamed up to win the U14 doubles crown by defeating Spencer Shoemaker and Kyle Ulliman, 15-2, 15-7.

Marco Rojas won Boys U16 with a win over Jose Diaz, 15-12, 15-11. They also teamed up to win the Boys U16 Doubles title by defeating Sam Reid and Zachary Wertz, 15-12, 15-7 in the final.

Taylor Knoth won the Boys U18 singles final but lost the doubles final. He defeated Bradley Kirch, 10-15, 15-11, 11-6, and lost to Kirch and Nick Montalbano, 15-6, 15-11, in the doubles final.

Abbey Lavely won the Girls U14 division by defeating Kaitlyn Simmons, 15-6, 8-15, 11-7 on Wednesday. The other two of the girls divisions were decided on Tuesday with Aubrey O'brien winning the U18 division, and Kelani Bailey winning U16. Bailey was the only non-top seed to win one of the six divisions (boys and girls U14, U16, and U18). She was seeded second in U16.

The top finishers in these divisions and the doubles divisions for U14, U16 and U18 will qualify for the U.S. Junior National Team that will compete at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Championships in November in Los Angeles.

2010 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Boy's U14
Adam Manilla (Centennial, Colo.) d. Sawyer Lloyd (Petaluma, Calif.), 15-6, 15-5
3rd: Spencer Shoemaker (Findlay, Ohio) d. Alex Winter (Melville, N.Y.), 15-10, 15-8

Boy's U16
Marco Rojas (Stockton, Calif.) d. Jose Diaz (Stockton, Calif.), 15-12, 15-11
3rd: Brad Schopieray (Swartz Creek, Mich.) d. d. Zachary Wertz (Kenner, La.), 15-13, 15-14

Boy's U18
Taylor Knoth (Milwaukie, Ore.) d. Bradley Kirch (Syracuse, N.Y.), 10-15, 15-11, 11-6
3rd: Dylan Reid (Portland, Ore.) d. Nick Montalbano (West Islip, N.Y.), 15-9, 15-6

Girl's U14
Abbey Lavely (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio) d. Kaitlyn Simmons (Crofton, Md.), 15-6, 8-15, 11-7
3rd: Hollee Hungerford (Milwaukie, Ore.) d. Krystle Boyle (Beaverton, Ore.), 15-3, 15-9

Girl's U16
Kelani Bailey (Norfolk, Va.) d. Devon Pimentelli (San Bruno, Calif.), 15-9, 15-4
3rd: Samantha Simmons (Crofton, Md.) d. Mercedes Arias (Ann Arbor, Mich.), 15-4, 15-5

Girl's U18 - Final standings
Aubrey O'brien (Auburn, Calif.)
2nd Danielle Key (Gilbert, Ariz.)
3rd Amanda Lindsay (Oregon City, Ore.)
4th Lily Berry (Columbus, Ohio)

Boys U14 Doubles
Adam Manilla & Sawyer Lloyd d. Spencer Shoemaker & Kyle Ulliman, 15-2, 15-7
3rd: Robert Hemphill & Sean Cooperrider d. Mauro Rojas & Jesse Mendoza, forfeit

Boys U16 Doubles
Jose Diaz & Marco Rojas d. Sam Reid & Zachary Wertz, 15-12, 15-7
3rd: Jon Lanford & Tyler Kendrick d. Brandon Qualls & Nicholas Riffel, 15-9, 13-15, 11-8

Boys U18 Doubles
Bradley Kirch & Nick Montalbano d. Jake Bredenbeck & Taylor Knoth, 15-6, 15-11
3rd: Trevor Snyders & Joshua Hungerford d. Dylan Reid & Joseph Lee, 15-11, 8-15, 11-2

Girls U14 Doubles
Abbey Lavely (Cuyahoga Falls, OH) & Kaitlyn Simmons (Crofton, MD)
2nd: Hollee Hungerford (Milwaukie, OR) & Krystle Boyle (Beaverton, OR)

Girls U16 Doubles
Courtney Chisholm (Marlborough, MA) & Devon Pimentelli (San Bruno, CA)
2nd: Kelani Bailey (Norfolk, VA) & Mercedes Arias (Ann Arbor, MI)

Girls U18 Doubles
Aubrey O'brien (Auburn, CA) & Danielle Key (Gilbert, AZ)
2nd Amanda Lindsay (Oregon City, OR) & Lily Berry (Columbus, OH)

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Semi finals at the USAR Junior Olympics

The USA Racquetball Junior Olympics have reached the final day of competition in Minneapolis and some of the division winners have already been determined. The top seeds have reached the finals in each of the girls and boys U18, U16 and U14 divisions.

Two of the girls divisions are complete, and the top seed won in one of them but lost in the other. Top seed Aubrey O'brien came out on top of the U18 Girls division, which was a round robin, with Danielle Key finishing second.

The Girls U16 division was won by 2nd seed Kelani Bailey, who defeated top seed Devon Pimentelli in the final on Tuesday, 15-9, 15-4.

Both the Boys U18 and U16 finals will be between the top two seeds, as top seed Taylor Knoth takes on second seed Bradley Kirch in the U18 division and top seed Marco Rojas faces second seed Jose Diaz in U16.

But in the Boys U14 division, Sawyer Lloyd the sixth seed has made it to the final by defeating second seed Spencer Shoemaker, 15-9, 15-8 on Tuesday. Lloyd will face top seed Adam Manilla on Wednesday in the final.

The top finishers in these divisions and the doubles divisions for U14, U16 and U18 will qualify for the U.S. Junior National Team that will compete at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Championships in November in Los Angeles.

Some of the action is being streamed over the internet via Racquetball

2010 USA Racquetball Junior Olympics
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tuesday Results

Boy's U14 - Semi finals
Adam Manilla (Centennial, Colo.) d. Alex Winter (Melville, N.Y.), 15-3, 15-9
Sawyer Lloyd (Petaluma, Calif.) d. Spencer Shoemaker (Findlay, Ohio), 15-9, 15-8

Boy's U16 - Semi finals
Marco Rojas (Stockton, Calif.) d. Brad Schopieray (Swartz Creek, Mich.), 15-12, 15-11
Jose Diaz (Stockton, Calif.) d. Zachary Wertz (Kenner, La.), 15-2, 15-7

Boy's U18 - Semi finals:
Taylor Knoth (Milwaukie, Ore.) d. Nick Montalbano (West Islip, N.Y.), 15-9, 15-5
Bradley Kirch (Syracuse, N.Y.) d. Dylan Reid (Portland, Ore.), 15-9, 15-5

Girl's U14 - Semi finals:
Abbey Lavely (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio) d. Krystle Boyle (Beaverton, Ore.), 15-9, 15-14
Kaitlyn Simmons (Crofton, Md.) d. Hollee Hungerford (Milwaukie, Ore.), 15-12, 14-15, 11-5

Girl's U16
Final: Kelani Bailey (Norfolk, Va.) d. Devon Pimentelli (San Bruno, Calif.), 15-9, 15-4
3rd: Samantha Simmons (Crofton, Md.) d. Mercedes Arias (Ann Arbor, Mich.), 15-4, 15-5

Girl's U18 - Final standings (wins)
1st Aubrey O'brien (Auburn, Calif.) (3)
2nd Danielle Key (Gilbert, Ariz.) (2)
3rd Amanda Lindsay (Oregon City, Ore.) (1)
4th Lily Berry (Columbus, Ohio) (0)

Follow the bouncing ball....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Not nearly 200

The USA Racquetball Junior Olympics (read US Junior National Championships) are going on in Minneapolis until June 30, and you can see some of the action on line via Racquetball There are a few things that strike us about the event that has 154 players competing, which isn't "nearly 200" players as suggested on the USAR website.

Where are the girls?

First, there are only 30 girls playing in Minneapolis. Thirty! Only 19.5% of the players at the tournament are girls. That's not enough. There's only four girls in U18. We've mentioned low numbers for female participation at racquetball events before but it bears repeating.

The people who should be most concerned about this are those who want to see the US women's racquetball team do well in the future, because if there's only a few girls playing, the likelihood of getting good players also shrinks.

Furthermore, the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) should also be concerned, because how can you support a pro tour with so few girls playing? The pro tour should be the top of a pyramid of players, but numbers in Minneapolis make it look like female racquetball in the USA is a column and it even seems the column is narrower at bottom than the top.

This is very troubling.

Meaningful competition

The second issue we'll raise is to consider whether junior tournaments, such as the USAR Junior Olympics, provide meaningful competition for the players. By meaningful competition, we mean matches that could be won by either player (i.e., matches that aren't blow outs).

The most important thing for a junior player is skill development, not winning. For skill to develop a player needs a challenge that is appropriate: not too difficult or too easy. That is, players need meaningful competition. Thus, a match between a highly skilled player and a novice won't be helpful to either player in terms of skill development, because the highly skilled player won't be pushed to perform well and the novice will be overwhelmed. Their match will be meaningless.

How do you tell if a competition is meaningful? We've decided to set the meaningful criterion at equal to or greater than 10 points for the loser in games played to 15, and looked at the Round of 16s in the boys draws in Minneapolis.

In the Round of 16 with boys from all over the USA, we'd expect that there should be some close matches, yes? If that was your expectation, then you were disappointed, because across four boys divisions - U18, U16, U14, and U12 - there were 10 games with the losing score of 10 or more. That's 10 of 64 or 15.6% (not counting the tie breakers, because those are only played to 11). Moreover, in 30 of those 64 games (46.9%) the losing score was less than 5 points.

If you get beaten 15-5, 15-5, you've certainly been blown out. And almost half of the games in the Round of 16 had scores like that. Thus, a lot of meaningless matches happened in the Round of 16.

You can also see this by looking at the number of tie-breakers in the Round of 16. Five of the 32 matches across in the Round of 16 in the four divisions in question went to a tie-breaker, which again suggests the difference in skill between the players was so large that the match was not a meaningful competition.

Multiple Goals

Now there are multiple purposes at a junior national event, such as the one in Minneapolis, and skill development isn't a high priority for the older age divisions, where the USAR is trying to select its Junior Team members.

But for younger age divisions, such as U10 and U8, ages at which many would argue you shouldn't be pushing kids into competitions at all, you could promote more meaningful competitions by having round robins instead of draws.

For example, in Minneapolis there are 14 kids total in the Boys U10, U8 and Girls U10 divisions (putting boys and girls together here, because the physical differences between them are small at those ages). And only a couple of their games so far have had losing scores greater than 10. Those divisions are round robins now, but with only a few players in each. Why not put them all together and have a bigger round robin division?

A round robin of 14 might be too much, but how about two divisions of 7 with a playoff of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. from one division playing the respective other finisher in the other division? This would give those young kids a lot of competition and more likely to give them meaningful competition, which should be the emphasis at their young age.

Our point here is that having competitions for kids that are just like adult competitions isn't appropriate if your goal is helping the kids develop their skills, because simply putting kids into a draw often has meaningless consequences.

Follow the bouncing ball....

2010-2011 WPRO Schedule

The Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) has released its tournament schedule for the 2010-2011 season. There will be 10 Tier 1 or Grand Slam events next season. That's two more than this past season. Three of the 10 events are new with 7 returning from last season.

The season begins and ends as it did last year starting with the Ektelon WPRO Texas Open in Dallas and ending with the WPRO Ektelon World Championships in New Orleans. The New Orleans event is one of three Grand Slams. The others are the World Professional Racquetball Championship in Cali, Columbia and the US Open in Minneapolis. Both of those events will also be International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events, so they will be true Grand Slam events in the sense of having both the women and men pro players competing.

The Cali event is a new one for the WPRO, as is the Puget Sound Challenge which will be in November in Olympia, Washington. The other Tier 1 event this season was on the calendar last season, but not as a Tier 1. However, the Great Balls of Fire event in Miami will return to Tier 1 status this season, as it has been for several seasons in the past.

The timing of the Texas Open on August 27-29 will make it difficult for any players competing at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships in South Korea, as Worlds ends August 22nd. Anyone flying back to North America after being in Korea will still be jet-lagged the following weekend, as it takes about 1 day of adjustment for every 1 time zone that you coming from.

Thus, the top women's players - such as Paola Longoria, Rhonda Rajsich, and Cheryl Gudinas - who are playing in Korea will not be at their best in Dallas. And some players may opt to pass on the Dallas event simply because it's too close to Worlds.

We understand that the WPRO was aware of this scheduling, but apparently the August 27-29 weekend was the only one that worked for the host facility.

Aside from the awkward timing of the first event, the 2010-11 WPRO season has good spacing between events and we're looking forward to it.

2010-2011 WPRO Tournament Calendar
Tier 1 (T1) and Grand Slam (GS) events

Ektelon WPRO Texas Open - Aug. 27-29 - Dallas (T1)
World Professional Racquetball Championship 2010 - Sept. 16-19 - Cali, Colombia (GS)

US Open Racquetball Championships - Oct. 20-24 - Minneapolis (GS)
Pudget Sound Challenge - Nov. 19-21 - Olympia, Wash. (T1)

Christmas Classic - Dec. 10-12 - Arlington, Virginia (T1)
Great Balls of Fire - Feb. 25-27 - Miami (T1)

Terrapin Shootout - Mar. 18-20 - Laurel, Maryland (T1)
Miller Lite Open - Apr. 1-3 - York, Penn. (T1)

In Shape Sport Championships - Apr.29-May 1 - Stockton, Calif. (T1)
WPRO Ektelon World Championships - May 12-15 - New Orleans (GS)

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Racquetball yes; only racquetball no.

The latest Racquetball Magazine issue focuses on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) with interviews of the top four IRT players: Kane Waselenchuk, Jack Huczek, Rocky Carson, and Shane Vanderson. Three of the four - Waselenchuk, Carson and Vanderson - mention that they played other sports when they were younger. That is, they didn't specialize in playing racquetball until they were in their later teens. Jason Mannino also played other sports when he was younger.

The issue of specialization in sport at a young age is common with some people thinking that the more you play your sport the better you will be at it, even if it means not doing other things, including other sports. In Canada, you can now play hockey 12 months of the year, and there can be pressure - real or imagined - on parents to have their kids participate in off-season hockey camps lest their kids fall behind their peers.

But most sport experts now believe that early specialization is foolishness, because many physical skills are easier to learn at a young age. Thus, if a child doesn't play some sports, the child may not learn physical skills that could benefit them later. For example, if you haven't learned to skate prior age 16, then you're not likely to make the NHL regardless of how much effort you put into training.

Playing many different sports will allow kids to develop fundamental movement skills - skills applicable in all physical activities - that can later be honed with sport specific skill development as necessary. If Michael Phelps didn't throw a ball as a kid, then he'll find it hard to play water polo, because you have to be able to accurately throw a ball in water polo regardless of how well you swim.

USA Hockey has completely bought into this idea, and they have a brilliant video illustrating it, which begins with a series of scenes with kids playing various activities outdoors in bright sunshine and the tag line "This is hockey." The video is on the USA Hockey's American Development Model website.

USA Hockey developed this model, because they realized that some of their kids who were struggling at hockey couldn't do other physical activities either. Thus, they recognized that the kids needed to do more than just hockey activities.

We mention this topic as the USA Racquetball's Junior Olympics are going on in Minneapolis this week. All of the kids playing there will have played a lot of racquetball, which is why they are good racquetball players. But if they have not played other sports, then they probably will not be as good at racquetball as they could be.

Often we think of kids who are excelling at multiple sports as being naturally gifted, but maybe those kids are doing so because they have learned skills from those sports that help them excel in general.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010-2011 IRT Schedule

The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) has put out its tournament schedule for the 2010-2011 season. There are 20 (yes, twenty) main events on it. That is, 20 events that are either Tier 1 or Grand Slam events. This is over 100% more than this past season, when there were 9 events on the schedule.

Thus, the season's pretty jam packed with events. Consider that it begins the second weekend of September and runs through to the end of April (with one more event in May). Over those 34 weeks, there are 20 events. If you knock off a couple of weeks for the year end holidays, it means there will be an IRT main event about 2 out of 3 weekends from September through April. That's a lot of events.

That's going to be quite the grind for the top players who have to be at every main event. Let's see you go through next season undefeated Mr. Waselenchuk!

Some of the events returning events are in Los Angeles, Long Island, N.Y., Sarasota, Fla., St Louis and Tijuana, Mexico. The Terre Haute event is also back, but has been moved from September to January. There are also a few events returning from past years, including those in Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego and Boston.

The big changes in the schedule are a Grand Slam event in Cali, Columbia in September and four events in November and December when there were none last season. The Cali event is interesting, as we believe it's the first IRT main event to occur outside of North America, or event outside of the USA, Canada, and Mexico, so the IRT is going outside its comfort zone, and we applaud them for doing so.

Nonetheless, new events bring uncertainty as to how they are going to go. But Cali was the host city for the 2009 Pan Am Championships and will be the site of the 2013 World Games, so there's an active sports community there that appreciates racquetball.

Now the IRT's schedule has never been as firm as some other sport organizations, so whether these 20 events actually happen remains to be seen. However, it's certainly great to see that this is the plan.

2010-2011 IRT Tournament Calendar
Tier 1 (T1) and Grand Slam (GS) events

September 9-12 GHOST OF GEORGETOWN - Kansas City (T1)
September 15-19 CALI, COLUMBIA - GRAND SLAM - Cali, Columbia (GS)
September 30-OCT 3 SAN DIEGO RACQUET HOUSE IRT Pro/Am - San Diego (T1)
October 20-24 U.S. OPEN - Minneapolis (GS)

November 11-14 ROSE CITY Pro/Am - Portland, Ore. (T1)
November 18-21 CORONA OPEN - Chihuahua, Mexico (T1)
December 9-12 MARKET AMERICA Pro/Am - Greensboro, N.C. (T1)

January 6-9 COAST TO COAST CALIFORNIA OPEN - Los Angeles (T1)
January 13-16 NEW YORK CITY Pro/Am - Long Island, N.Y. (T1)
January 20-23 LAWLER SPORTS Pro/Am - Terre Haute, Ind. (T1)
February 17-20 SEATTLE OPEN - Seattle (T1)

February 24- 27 SAN DIEGO OPEN - San Diego (T1)
March 10-13 FLORIDA SPRING BREAK Pro/Am - Sarasota, Fla. (T1)
March 17-19 SALT LAKE CITY Pro/Am - Salt Lake City (T1)
March 24-27 ST. LOUIS OPEN - St. Louis (T1)

April 7-10 ALISO VIEJO Pro/Am - Aliso Viejo, Calif. (T1)
April 14-17 MEXICO OPEN - Tijuana, Mexico (T1)
April 21-24 BOSTON Pro/Am - Boston (T1)

Follow the bouncing ball....