2017 Pan American Racquetball Championship Blogs

By Cheryl Kirk | April 07, 2017, 12:35 p.m. (ET)
XXX 2017 Pan American Racquetball Championship (PARC) Blogs

San Jose, Costa Rica
April 8-15, 2017
Single Elimination Draw Sheets Link

Team USA Challenge Donation Link

2017 Team USA

Blog #10 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica
Saturday, April 15, 2017
 
Mission accomplished! With pleasure, here’s the final blog from the Pan American Racquetball Championships in San José:

Coach Dave Ellis Wraps it Up!
"Two of the best women players in the history of racquetball took to the court as Rhonda Rajsich and Paola Longoria squared off in the finals of the women’s gold medal competition. This was a rematch of the Pan American Championships in 2008 on the very same court here at the Indoor Club. I believe that 2008 was the first time that Paola had defeated Team USA’s number one player. Paola started off strong and won the first game 15-7. As was true yesterday, Rhonda again went to the walking drives which gave her serves more deception.  She built a big league and it looked like she was going to close it out quickly.  Paola is tough, and she would not let Rhonda move off of 13 points.  Soon it was 13 -13 and Rhonda hit a lob serve that Paola skipped badly. The next point saw Rhonda hit a clean winner for the game. Rhonda dominated the tiebreaker with her solid play, and it was gold for her and for Team USA. It was a super win!
 
"Charlie Pratt played the tough Mexican, Alejandro Landa.  Landa has a great game with solid drives, and an uncanny ability to hit the ball on the run for a winner. Both games were battles  with lots of seemingly impossible gets, many sideouts, and great play during the rallies. In the end, Alex got the win in two games, 15-10, 15-12. Charlie, our delegation’s rookie, had a great tournament.  As our #2 singles player, he had tough competition throughout the draw, defeating Bolivia’s Carlos Keller in the quarters and Mexico’s Javier Mar in the semis. Both Carlos and Javier are their countries' national champions. Charlie represented the IRT well, demonstrating solid focus and a pro mentality throughout his draw. I’m predicting that he will do very well at the USAR National Singles Championships in May. 
 
"Jake and Bobby were matched against Alejandro Landa and Polo Gutierrez. The match started typically in the “helter skelter” fashion with both of our guys covering for each other all over the court. Both have unbelievably quick reflexes and excellent soft hands. They were able to take the first game, 15-10. Unfortunately, at that point things changed for the worse. The Mexicans relaxed and started taking advantage of our shots that came off the back wall. This kept Team USA on the defensive, and it gave Mexico many set ups in center court. Polo was especially effective in dealing with these set-ups. His tight pinch shots just did not stay up at all. This continued into the third game, and coupled with a few breaks for the Mexicans, Jake and Bobby went down in the tiebreaker by a score of 11-4. Jake and Bobby have immense talent, and playing together, they are one of the best shows in racquetball. They do need to watch the video and realize that if you’re going to go for the low percentage shots, you better make them!
 
"To wrap it up, I’m really proud of our delegation. In my 14th year of working with Team USA, there was something special about this one, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on it.  They all really wanted to be there and were glad that they “got the call,”  aka, the invitation. They all had a sense of humor, yet each one had his/her own unique brand. At the matches, they were all there for each other throughout the tournament. They were all so proud to play with “USA” on their backs,  each gave 100% whenever he/she was on the court.   
 
"I’m so grateful to Cheryl Kirk and Brent Huff for the job they do as Team Leader and Team Trainer. They are two special people, and I call them both “Team USA MVP’s.” Putting in long hours, Brent keeps the players at 100% physically as much is humanly possible. Cheryl takes care of an infinite number of details regarding travel, uniforms, rules and policies, hotel reservations, and on and on, etc. This allows the players to play and the coaches to coach without having to attend to these details. Cheryl and Brent are absolutely the best Team Leader and Trainer, and Team USA has the advantage because of their work.  
 
"Putting the delegation together was interesting for sure. Jake had earned a place on the trip, yet he was recovering from major problems with his right arm. The problems were so serious that he played left handed for months, becoming a high open level player, with his off-hand. In February, Jake looked me in the eyes and told me he would be ready if he was permitted to go. I believed him, and greatly to his credit, with two months of therapy and training, he made it happen. Rookie Charlie won the silver medal, a noteworthy achievement for his first international event on the adult level. Bobby was kept busy playing singles, playing doubles, being an assistant coach, and serving as a Team Captain. I loved having him by my side coaching throughout the event. Sharon had the toughest draw possible in the Women’s Open. Losing to Paola and Gaby in the pool play threw her into the same half of draw as teammate Rhonda Rajsich. As Sharon mentioned later, “Well at least I lost to the winner!” Sharon is determined to do well in the Nationals in May. Right now, she is in second place in the team qualifying point totals. Sheryl Lotts worked hard to prepare for the tournament, coming to Stockton a week before the event. She has so much talent, and coupled with her positive and fun personality, she is such a credit to USA Racquetball. Sheryl and Rhonda earned a bronze medal in doubles. Our gold medal winner, Rhonda Rajsich put it all together to defeat the #1 LPRT player. Rhonda has been a US Team member for more than a dozen years, and she is always proud to play with USA on her back. Congrats to Rhonda for taking home the gold. All of USA Racquetball is so proud of you!
 
"Sharon’s mother, Frances, and Charlie’s wife, Ceci, also added positivity to our delegation. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention how grateful I am to my reina for making the trip. Our marriage motto is, “Everything is easier when we do it together,” and once again, this proved to be the case. Of course, all of racquetball is grateful to PARC President Marcelo Gómez and the Indoor Club for all their efforts in hosting the 2017 Pan American Championships."
Results
Open Divisions
Rhonda Rajsich def. Paola Longoria, Mexico, 7-15, 15-13, 11-9 -- RHONDA TAKES GOLD!!!!
Charlie Pratt lost to Alejandro Landa, Mexico, 10-15, 11-15
Jake Bredenbeck/Bobby Horn lost to Alejandro Landa/Polo Gutiérrez, Mexico, 15-10, 8-15, 4-11

Rhonda Rajsich

Friendship Cup
A Singles Tim Baghurst def. Carlos Moscoso, Bolivia, 15-5, 15-4
A Doubles Cheryl Kirk/Marie Gomar (Guatemala) lost to Alvaro Yañez/Claudio Torres, Chile, 8-15, 3-15
 
Directly after the last match, medals stands were set up in a large meeting room at the club and the ceremony commenced. Medals were awarded to those who placed first, second, and third (in PARC and IRF events, both semifinals places receive bronze medals).

Friendship Cup Winners
 
US Results
Open Divisions
Rhonda Rajsich - Gold
Charlie Pratt - Silver
Jake Bredenbeck/Bobby Horn - Silver
Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts - Bronze
 
Friendship Cup
A Singles Tim Baghurst - Gold
35 Singles Tim Baghurst - Gold
A Doubles (45+) - Marie Gomar, Guatemala/Cheryl Kirk - Bronze
 
Women's Team
1 - Mexico
2 - USA
3 - Guatemala
4 - Ecuador
 
Men's Team
1 - Mexico
2 - USA
3 - Bolivia
4 - Canada
 
Overall Team
1 - Mexico
2 - USA
3 - Bolivia
4 - Guatemala
Crowds and Marie and Cheryl

Team Meeting/Toast
Team USA rules prohibit alcohol consumption during the tournament. It has become a custom to have a Team Toast after the competition is completely over. Lots of inspirational remarks, as well as those of thanks, were made immediately after the medals ceremony. All players expressed gratitude to each other and to the staff. The international tournaments are special. Racquetball is an individual sport and the players go at it alone when playing their various pro tours. It is a refreshing change to play in a situation where there are teammates and a support staff.
Players' Party
A fantastic party was thrown back at the Indoor Club. A huge area (I think it was actually the tennis courts) was transformed into a carnival atmosphere with skill games, a mechanical bull, multiple food stations, rows and rows of tables and chairs, and a DJ who ensured the dance floor was packed throughout the night. Midway through the evening, as is the tradition at PARC and IRF events, countries had the opportunity to thank the Local Organizing Committee. On behalf of the US Team, I presented a USA Racquetball sculpture to Marcelo Gómez who is PARC President, President of the Costa Rica Racquetball Federation, and Head of the Local Organizing Committee. I also took the opportunity to invite the countries to the IRF World Junior Racquetball Championships to be held in Minneapolis this November. "While Minneapolis can be quite chilly in early November, we will welcome you with warm hearts and open arms."
Rhonda Rajsich and Charlie Pratt

Question of the Day
After greeting loved ones (and pets!), what's the first thing you will do when you get home?
 
Jake: Sleep.
Rhonda: I won't be home until the 24th-ish, but when I do get home, I'll go fall asleep by the pool.
Cheryl: Unpack/laundry/sleep, in that order. And start assisting with next weekend's Chicago Regionals!
Brent: Sleep and get ready for work on Monday morning.
Dave: Unpack, get a snack, watch a little TV, give Pat a foot rub, then get some sleep
Ceci: Prepare my yoga class for Monday 7:00 am class
Pat: Plug in all the appliances I left unplugged
Bobby: Shower and get into my bed and sleep
Sheryl: Sleep before work in the morning. I get home at midnight but cuddle with my puppy for sure

Womens and Mens Team USA
 
Thank You’s
The US Team Delegation wishes to deliver our gratitude to those who made this event so truly memorable:
 
The Local Organizing Committee, headed by Marcelo Gómez, for putting on this very successful event. The work behind the scenes to host a tournament of this magnitude is extensive. Congratulations for a job very well done! From the hotel to the transportation, the awards, the coordination, this experience was completely first class.
 
The tournament staff (Francisco Kurzbard, Amanda Barletta de Kurzbard, Mauro Grandio, Pablo Berriel, and Maria De Los Angeles Sarria).
 
The referees, headed up by Gustavo Farell (USA), who came in from seven countries to provide a quality experience for the players.
 
Pablo Fajre and Laura McCormick for bringing quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals action to viewers on the IRF Network, and Gary Mazaroff and Tim Baghurst for providing entertaining commentary.
 
The staff of the Hyatt Place/Pinares who were friendly, efficient, and responsive to all requests. I can't say enough about their service attitude and professionalism.
 
The shuttle drivers who worked many long hours transporting players back and forth between the club and the hotel.
 
The management and staff of the Indoor Club for providing a superior facility for this competition. (Note: I enjoyed some pleasant conversations with the ladies who staffed the women's locker room. It was tough to say goodbye!)
 
The cheerleaders (Pat, Frances, and Ceci) who were there for every match, living every point as if they were out there playing themselves.
 
Marie Gomar, our Roving Reporter, who gathered the Question of the Day/Extended Racquetball Family responses, providing an international flair to these blogs.
 
USAR Official Apparel Sponsor Rollout Racquetball (Jonathan and Carolyn Clay) -- the US Team looked great in the Rollout 2017 Team USA apparel line. To order what the team wears, go to http://wearrollout.com/product/team-usa-elevate-performance-crew-3/ 
 
IRF sponsors E-Force and Penn who contribute significantly to these international events.
 
All the individuals who made contributions large and small...every bit counts! The Team USA Challenge on www.usaracquetball.com provides the opportunity for racquetball players to support the US Teams with their participation at international competitions.
 
Last but not least, Leo Vasquez who stopped whatever else he might have been doing as soon as a blog and photos were ready for posting!

Team USA
 
Conclusion
Again, thanks to all of you who followed the US Team over the past eleven days. These gifted athletes are so deserving of the visibility a trip like this provides. Dave, Brent, and I look forward to seeing them compete at the USAR National Singles Championships in Tempe just six weeks from now!
 
Signing off from San José! Until next time...
 
GO TEAM USA!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk



Team USA Doubles

Blog #9 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica
Friday, April 14, 2017
 
What a great day, but to use an overdue pun, it was not a walk in the PARC! The best way to describe it is to hear from Coach Dave Ellis:
 
Charlie Pratt Interview"Our play started at 11 am this morning. The first semifinal had Rhonda scheduled against Samantha Salas of Mexico. Rhonda likes to warm up by shooting baskets at the Indoor Club basketball court. She did have a basketball career that she gave up for racquetball. Anyway, I went to retrieve so as to give her lots of shots. She was quite amazing with her accuracy. On to the match. Rhonda had three game point chances in the first game but just couldn’t get any of them. Both ladies were battling with everything they had. In the second, Samantha was rolling, and all of sudden it was 12-5. Assistant Coach Bobby Horn suggested walking drives on first serve and then high lob Z’s to the forehand when a second was necessary. Both elicited weak returns, and Rhonda was killing the set-ups with consistency. The point count from there on was 21-2 as Rhonda closed out the second and barreled through the tiebreaker. 
 
"Charlie Pratt faced the tough current Mexican National Champion, Javier Mar. Javier was playing like a god the first game, winning 15-5. He seemed to tire during the first due to the long rallies. The second game was a battle with Charlie pulling it out 15-13. Charlie’s drive serves to the left corner, coupled with crack ace serves, gave him aces and weak returns. If he needed a second serve, he went with the lob nick of the left side wall. The tiebreaker was all Charlie who ended up winning 11-3.
 
"Semifinalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts went against Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas. Our ladies ran into a buzz saw with both of the Mexican opponents playing well. Sheryl and Rhonda just weren’t clicking together quite as well as they did in the quarters. Sheryl and Rhonda defeated Paola and Samantha in an LPRT doubles event in the past, but it was not to happen today. 
 
"Our final match had Jake Bredenbeck and Bobby Horn playing the Bolivian pair Conrrado Moscoso and Roland Keller. Our guys have acquired various nicknames:  Bobby and the Beast, Speedy and the Beast, and Brains and Braun. I call them “Helter Skelter” and believe me, watching them play is an experience. Both read each other amazingly well and the coverage is a sight to see. Anyway, Jake and Bobby won the first 15-12 and dominated the second. 
 
"Team USA has three finals matches tomorrow. It will take a superior effort to defeat the talented Mexican Team, but it’s the last day, and we’re still in the running. The finals will be followed by the awards ceremony, after which there will be a social event that is being kept somewhat a secret -- 'surprises' are promised." 
Cheryl Kirk, staff and Tim Baghurst

Open Divisions
Rhonda Rajsich def. Samantha Salas, Mexico, 14-15, 15-12, 11-2
Charlie Pratt def. Javier Mar, Mexico, 5-15, 15-13, 11-3
Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts lost to Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas, Mexico, 8-15, 4-15
Jake Bredenbeck/Bobby Horn def. Roland Keller/Conrrado Moscoso, Bolivia, 15-12, 15-7
Friendship Cup
A Singles: TIm Baghurst def. Patricio Gatica, Chile, 15-8, 15-8
35+ Singles: Tim Baghurst def. Daniel Suchar, Costa Rica, 15-10, 13-15, 11-5
A Doubles: Marie Gomar, Guatemala/Cheryl Kirk lost to Manrique Mata/Javier Monge Costa Rica, 1-15, 15-14, 3-11
 
Congratulations to Tim Baghurst for capturing the Gold medal in the 35+ Singles! Tim has another final coming up tomorrow in the A Singles -- good luck!
 
Question of the Day
What is your superpower?
 
Rhonda: Freaky fast healing; draining buckets; sniper with a nerf gun.
Cheryl: I can spot a typo at 100 paces.
Brent: Flying. (Note: You can fly? Not surprised...)
Jake: Strength.
Bobby: Speed. (Note: after observing Bobby eating breakfast this morning, Sharon added another superpower: "his metabolism")
Pat: Delegating. "Dave do this, Dave do that..."
Sheryl: Invisibility. (Note: Dave replies, "Hardly, Sheryl. Besides, we can always hear you.")
Sharon: Super shopper!
Frances: Loud teacher voice.
Dave: At 5'3" and ugly, I'm still a chick magnet.
 
QOTD -- Extended Racquetball Family
The question was similar for the extended family: If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Si pudieras tener un súper poder cual sería?
(Note: Thanks to Set Cubillos for this question -- good one!)
 
María Céspedes, Player from Dominican Republic: Volar para poder hacer los 'dives' en la cancha y pararme rápido. To fly, so I could dive on the court and get up faster.
Set Cubillos, Player from Colombia: Retroceder en el tiempo. Time travel.
Tom Travers, Coach of Guatemalan Team: Give me a good cup of coffee, and I'm happy.
Andrea Martinez, Player from Guatemala: Leer la mente. Read minds.
Mauro Grandio, PARC Tournament Staff Member: Poder hablar en cualquier idioma. To be able to speak any language.
Tim Baghurst, Streaming Commentator and Social Media Director; Men's 35+ Champ here at PARC: Wisdom to make good decisions.
Ana Vélez, Player from Ecuador: Paciencia. Patience.
Paola Longoria, Player from Mexico: Super poder para escuchar y ser invisible. Super hearing power and to be invisible.
Coaches and Officials

Saturday -- The Finals!
 
Open Divisions
11:00 am Rhonda Rajsich vs. Paola Longoria, Mexico
12:00 pm Charlie Pratt vs. Alejandro Landa, Mexico
2:30 pm Jake Bredenbeck/Bobby Horn vs. Alejandro Landa/Polo Gutiérrez, Mexico
 
Friendship Cup
11:00 am A Singles Tim Baghurst vs. Carlos Moscoso, Bolivia
11:00 am A Doubles Cheryl Kirk/Marie Gomar (Guatemala) vs. Alvaro Yañez/Claudio Torres, Chile
 
So that's the lineup, and good luck to Team USA tomorrow. We're asking for powerful vibes and lots of encouraging thoughts going in!
 
Things move pretty quickly from here. After the last match has been completed Saturday afternoon, the medals ceremony takes place at the club. Then we all return to the hotel for a final team meeting and the traditional team toast. It's back to the club after that for the closing party hosted by the Local Organizing Committee and The Indoor Club. Packing needs to somehow be accomplished somewhere in there, because several of us have 4:00 amdepartures for the airport on Sunday morning!
 
Thanks to everyone for following the blogs over the last nine days. There will be one more blog either Saturday night or sometime Sunday describing the final day and the overall results before we say goodbye until next time.
 
GO TEAM USA!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 
P.S. Special birthday greetings to my good friends Jennifer Donath (Saturday) and Barbara Vagedes (Sunday)! Hope your birthdays are as wonderful as you are!


Blog #8 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Setting the Scene...Charlie Pratt and Coach Dave Ellis
The excitement at the Indoor Club was at a fever pitch today as quarterfinal action made the courts fairly sizzle. The smack of racquetballs was constant, and spectators crowded behind each court to shout encouragement, deliver country chants, and cheer or groan as each rally ended. Although the courts are pretty hot (as in "steamed up eye guards" hot), there is a cool breeze running through the common area. The smell of nearby food cooking reminds one that it's almost lunch time.The locker room attendants (at least in the ladies' locker room, for sure) are incredibly sweet and friendly, so eager to interact. This is such a great experience!
 
Coach Dave Describes the Day...
"Team USA continued our racquetball efforts to take home the Gold from Costa Rica. Rhonda Rajsich was up first against Cristina Amaya of Colombia. Rhonda laid off the pinches and hit down the line and cross court passes over and over again. Cristina was on the defense the entire match, and Captain Rhonda quickly closed it out in two games.
 
"Unfortunately, Bobby Horn was not at his best, while Costa Rican Andres Acuña was. The match began badly with Bobby falling way behind in the first game. Andres was hitting a variety of well-executed serves and then killing shots from all over the court. Bobby had a lead most of the second game but could not finish it. A wildly enthusiastic home crowd cheered loudly for their club champion.
 
"Charlie Pratt is in the semis. Against Bolivia’s tough Carlos Keller, Pratt played error free throughout the first game. In the second, Keller returned serves well enough to get himself into rallies. Carlos is a master of getting to the ball and then coming up with soft pinches for winners. In the tiebreaker, Charlie hit at least four crack aces off the left side wall. He served consistently well throughout the breaker and won with a score of 11-5. 
 
"Sheryl and Rhonda drew the Bolivian women’s doubles team. Things started badly with both women making unforced errors and not really clicking together. The second game was all USA as Sheryl started making shots and retrieving well. Rhonda also picked it up and dominated the left side player. In the tiebreaker, Team USA continued on with good serves, good returns, and solid kill shots. Rhonda was not about to let the Bolivian ladies win that match, and neither was Sheryl. Women's Doubles Scoreboard
 
"I wasn’t able to watch Bobby and Jake play the Argentinians. The match went on as Rhonda and Sheryl were playing. Trainer Brent Huff went to the court in case team representation was needed. Team USA won a one-sided first game. Bobby said in the second game they were not scoring points, so he switched to the left side and hit a number of drive serves to close out the match. 
 
"We have four in the semis tomorrow. We’re very much in the running for the Overall Trophy, but it’s going to take total effort, concentration, and focus by all the players. It’s so rewarding to me as coach to see our six players supporting each other so consistently. They are a very close-knit group, and unless there is a playing time conflict, they are there at every Team USA match." 
 
Thursday's Results
US Team Open Divisions
Rhonda Rajsich def. Cristina Amaya, Colombia, 15-4, 15-7
Bobby Horn lost to Andres Acuña, Costa Rica, 10-15, 12-15
Charlie Pratt def. Carlos Keller, Bolivia, 15-4, 9-15, 11-5
Sheryl Lotts/Rhonda Rajsich def. Jenny Daza/Stefanny Barrios, Bolivia, 6-15, 15-5, 11-3
Jake Bredenbeck/Bobby Horn def. Fernando Kurzbard/Shai Manzuri, Argentina, 15-8, 15-10
 
Friendship Cup
A Singles 11:00 am Tim Baghurst def. Alejandro De Aguilar, Costa Rica, 15-5, 15-7
35+ Singles 2:00 pm Tim Baghurst def. Claudio Torres, Chile, 15-6, 15-7
A Doubles 5:00 pm Cheryl Kirk/Marie Gomar (Guatemala) def. Carlos Daguerresar/Geovanni Quintanilla, Chile, 4-15, 15-12, 11-6 (Note: THIS was the match we wish the US Team could have viewed instead...we won!)
 
Featured Player of the Day – Rhonda Rajsich Rhonda Rajsich
Rhonda Rajsich, of Phoenix, AZ (born and raised), has played racquetball for most of her life, having hit the courts under her father and godfather’s influence at the tender age of 2. Her occupation? She says with a smile, “Pro athlete, lover of life.” When she’s not playing the LPRT, she conducts racquetball and basketball lessons and clinics.
 
When asked about her most memorable moment in racquetball, Rhonda replied, “Winning the IRF Worlds in Ireland in 2008. I wasn’t supposed to be there and ended up winning the World Championship. That was my first World title, with the second in 2010 in Korea.” 
 
Rhonda thanks her sponsors: Rollout Racquetball, Racquetball Warehouse, Restrung Magazine, and 3WallBall. She remembers her father Dennis Rajsich and thanks her mother Deneen Thurow, both for their lifelong support, and she also thanks Coach Jim Winterton, Trainers Travis Stoetzel, Jarrett East, and Jim Walter, Brent Huff (US Team Trainer), Jeff Kettering (agent), Jason Bronson, Kristi Turner (massage therapist), Dr. Michael Leff (chiropractor), and Toni Delos Santos (mental coach). Rhonda would also like to thank her real, true, unwavering friends: "You know who you are!"
 
Some of Rhonda's other interests/hobbies outside racquetball include basketball, training, playing outside, music/movies/shows, and eating.
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day – Cheryl Kirk
Team Leader Cheryl Kirk grew up in Decatur, Illinois, and resides in Naperville, Illinois, with her husband of nearly 20 years (7/4/97) Kit Lawson, dog Hayley, 10, and cat KC, 15. She is involved with and supportive of animal rights.
 
Cheryl began playing and competing in racquetball 40 years ago ("I'm older than I look!") but didn’t really get heavily into the administrative side of things until after she retired in 2007 after a 27-year career with McDonald’s Corporation (Operations/Training/Olympics activation in Atlanta, Athens, and Torino). 
 
Cheryl served as President of USA Racquetball from 2008-2012 and has currently been contributing as Secretary on the USAR Board since 2016. She is on the Board of the Illinois State Racquetball Association and an Officer on the Boards of the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) and the Pan American Racquetball Confederation (PARC).
 
“Being US Team Leader is a pleasure and an honor. I enjoy ensuring things go well --removing logistical worries and concerns from the athletes’ minds so they can go onto the court and do their best. I couldn’t be prouder of our US Team members and staff for their skill and their heart both on and off the court!
 
“I want to thank my husband Kit Lawson. He has supported me 100% over the years with anything I wanted to tackle. What a blessing to be married to my best friend."
 
Cheryl will be going back home on Sunday to assist with the Chicago Regionals and the NPRA Tournament, both at her home club, Glass Court Swim & Fitness/Lombard, IL, in late April and early May, respectively. She looks forward to seeing many U.S. racquetball friends at USA Racquetball's National Singles Championships, May 24-28, in Tempe, Arizona.
 
Question of the Day
If you could have dinner with a famous person, living or dead, who would it be?
 
Rhonda: Michael Jordan and Socrates
Sheryl: Paul Walker
Brent: Michael Jordan, but I would rather golf with him
Pat: Michelle Obama
Bobby: Kevin Durant
Dave: Jesus. I'd like to ask him about his parents.
Sharon: Marilyn Monroe, she knew all the government's secrets
Cheryl: Queen Elizabeth I or Robin Williams
Frances: Elvis Presley
Jake: Aaron Kaufman (car guy)
 
QOTD -- Extended Racquetball Family
Most answers below, although assuming their family members were not technically "famous," certainly reflect a lot of love and gratitude for those who have gone before.
 
Felipe Cardona, Junior player from Colombia: Invitaría a mi abuelo por qué no lo conocí y porque tuvo los mejores años viviendo con mi mama. Dio los valores de la familia y el talento. I would invite my grandfather because I didn't get to know him and because he had the best years living with my mom. He gave the values to the family and his talent.
 
Duvan Torres: Referee Fabian Torres' son: Invitaria a mi abuelo porque lo amo y ademas que tuve una buenas cosas que hicimos juntos y lo admiro mucho por todo lo que hizo por la familia , casa y el talento que tenía para todo. I would invite my grandfather because I love him and because I shared good things with him and I admire everything he did for the family and house and the talent he had for everything.
 
Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Junior Player from Colombia: Invitaria a comer a mi tia que está muerta por que la amo mucho y la desearía retroceder el tiempo para estar más tiempo con ella y aprovecharla al máximo. I would invite my aunt who has passed because I love her, and I would like to rewind time to spend more moments with her and take advantage of it to the max.
 
Eleni Guzman, Referee from Mexico: Yo con mi abuelito que ya murió; estaba muy apegada a él y lo extraño. With my grandfather who is dead; I was very close to him and I miss him.
 
Carlos Cuadri, Argentina Head Coach: Leonardo Da Vinci, porque es la persona que yo creo nació fuera de su época y revolucionó la suya. Leonardo Da Vinci, because he is the person whom I think was born before his time and revolutionized it.
 
Marie Gomar, Roving Reporter from Guatemala: Shakira, because she is an intelligent, confident, and talented woman that has enabled change in her country and the world.
 
Americans in Costa Rica
There are more Americans here than just the twelve in the US Team Delegation. Tom Travers (Florida, coaching for Guatemala) and Sudsy Monchik (coaching for Ecuador) are on hand, and it's great to see them continuing to participate in the growth of international racquetball.
 
IRF and Tournament Staff members Luke St. Onge (Colorado), Gary Mazaroff (New Mexco), Timothy Baghurst (Oklahoma), Gustavo Farell (Texas), and Miguel Santiago (Puerto Rico/US Military) are helping to make sure the tournament runs well.
 
Referees and Desk Staff Bobby Horn and Rhonda Rajsich
PARC and the IRF, along with all of us in the US Team Delegation, warmly thank the referees and desk staff members from seven countries who are contributing their time and expertise to make this event run smoothly with fairness and professionalism. How great it is to have them all here!
 
Argentina: Pablo Berriel, Carlos Cuadri, German Coppolecchia, Sebastian Digon, Mauro Grandio, Amanda Kurzbard, Francisco Kurzbard
Canada: Chris Exner, John Halko, Dan Smith
Colombia: Angeles Sarria, Fabian Torres
Costa Rica: Sergio Acuña, Gabriel Garcia, Adolfo Orellana, Alexander Pirie
Guatemala: Marie Gomar
Mexico: Ricardo Gonzalez (aka Tucky Kravitz), Jaime Martel, Ivan Valdez, Eleni Guzman
US: Gustavo Farell, Gary Mazaroff, Miguel Santiago
 
Friday -- It's Time for the Semifinals!
Most, if not all, Open division matches will be streamed tomorrow, so go to http://www.internationalracquetball.com/watch.html and get ready to rumble!
 
Open Divisions
11:00 am Rhonda Rajsich vs. Samantha Salas, Mexico
2:00 pm Charlie Pratt vs. Javier Mar, Mexico
3:00 pm Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas, Mexico
5:00 pm Jake Bredenbeck/Bobby Horn vs. Roland Keller/Conrrado Moscoso, Bolivia
 
Friendship Cup
10:00 am A Singles TIm Baghurst vs. Patricio Gatica, Chile
11:00 am 35+ Singles Tim Baghurst vs. Daniel Suchar, Costa Rica
2:00 pm A Doubles Marie Gomar, Guatemala/Cheryl Kirk vs. Manrique Mata/Javier Monge Costa Rica
  
GO TEAM USA!!



Rhonda Rajsich, Sheryl Lotts and Sharon Jackson

Blog #7 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
 
Thanks to everyone who is reading the daily blogs from here in Costa Rica. I realize they are getting longer and longer, and I think today may be a record! I certainly hope you are enjoying the experience, and I want to offer a hint...read down for an announcement that will be of great interest to many!
 
Over to you, Dave...
 
Coach Dave's Comments
"Team USA started early this morning with Sharon Jackson pitted against Venezuelan Paola Guerra. The match was short and sweet with Sharon winning easily. Then by the horrible luck of the draw, Sharon next played teammate Rhonda Rajsich in the Round of 16’s. The match was hard-fought with each young lady giving it her all. In the end, Rhonda came out on top with scores of 15-9, 15-11. Sharon has been working hard practicing since she arrived, and these efforts are bringing positive results.   
 
"Bobby Horn was next up against a tough Set Cubillos of Colombia. Set was reading Bobby’s drive serves and returning them well, also taking advantage of opportunities during the rallies. Bobby settled down to come from behind in the second game and closed out the match.
 
"Charlie Pratt had a tough first game, very much due to excellent play by his opponent, Francisco “Pacho” Gomez of Colombia. Using Z serves, he began to get set-ups and won the first game, 15-12.  The second game was all Charlie, as all of his talent came to the fore, winning 15-2. 
 
"Sheryl and Rhonda drew Venezuelans Mariana Tobon and Paula Guerra in their Round of 16 doubles.  Our ladies had no trouble, winning easily by scores of 15-4, 15-6.
 
 
"Tomorrow sees Team USA heading to the quarterfinals. Bobby will play the tough Costa Rican Andres Acuña, and Charlie will play Carlos Keller of Bolivia. Rhonda will battle Colombia’s Cristina Amaya. Sheryl and Rhonda will take on the Bolivians while Jake and Bobby will play Argentina. Big day tomorrow for Team USA. We’re working hard to win the Overall Championship!"
 
Wednesday's Results
 
Open Divisions
Sharon Jackson def. Paola Guerra, Venezuela, 15-2, 15-1
Rhonda Rajsich def. Sharon Jackson, 15-9, 15-11
Bobby Horn def. Set Cubillos, Colombia, 15-7, 15-13
Charlie Pratt def. Francisco Gomez, Colombia, 15-11, 15-2
Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts def. Mariana Tobon/Paola Guerra, Venezuela, 15-4. 15-6
 
Friendship Cup
35+ SIngles, Tim Baghurst def. Geovanni Quintanilla, Chile, 15-7, 15-1
A Doubles, Cheryl Kirk/Marie Gomar, Guatemala, lost to Patricio Gatica/Rafael Gatica, Chile, 1-15, 2-15
Cheryl Kirk and Team USA

US Team Supports Team Leader
Let's face it, the Friendship Cup A Doubles round robin isn't the most compelling and nail-biting division to be following here in San José. It's for fun, exercise, camaraderie, and competition, and certainly it would be great to win, but this is not the Main Event by any means. Imagine my happiness when, after Marie and I began our match vs. Chile this afternoon, I turned around and saw the entire US Team Delegation (all eleven) through the back wall glass. My heart was warmed, and not just because it was 85+ degrees F. on the court! I can't thank this team enough for the honor they bestowed.
 
That said, one could certainly imagine there might be a certain amount of pressure involved here. My gosh, look at the roster! Who among any of us has had six of the best players in the world watching you ALL AT THE SAME TIME? In 40 years of playing, this was a first. Between shots, I was thinking..."How was my follow-through? Why didn't I hit that harder? Should I have waited another split second to swing? Why did I go to the ceiling...again?? Will Head Coach Dave Ellis have any choice comments afterward?" And so on...
 
Not counting the pleasure of competing with my good friend Marie Gomar, one of my main goals for playing this A Doubles division was realized when Venezuelan Paola Guerra, age 19, asked me how old I am, and when I told her I'm 61, she expressed that she thinks it's great that I'm still playing and that she hopes she will still be playing when she is my age. That's it, in a nutshell: to inspire women that this is a "sport for life" long beyond their prime playing years. (Update: Paola Guerra sent me a Facebook friend request tonight. Love this sport!)
 
The Legend of How Racquetball Got Its Start in Costa Rica...
It’s a pretty good story that Racquetball came to Costa Rica according to the following:
 
A good friend, Rodolfo Echeverria, who was part of the Indoor Club where we are competing now, was building two squash courts. The contractors had the plans and proceeded. When they were all finished, they called him to come down and look at the courts and to tell them where to put the lines.
 
He walked into the courts and looked around and exclaimed that these were not squash courts but racquetball courts! This was in 1982 or so.
 
Once racquetball began here there was no turning back. In 1983, the Costa Rican team traveled to the U.S. to compete with the US Team under the name of Regional Games. This was played in California.
 
Then in 1984, the US Team traveled to Costa Rica to play their country's team. It was called a Regional as well, and it was the first time that the US Team traveled outside of the United States.
 
Question of the Day
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know?
 
Sharon: I will start my MBA program in the fall at the University of Georgia.
Brent: I'm pretty handy around the house. I have built furniture, remodeled the kitchen, and lots more.
Rhonda: I have never won a thumb war.
Sheryl: My 10-year goal is compete in and finish an Iron Man competition.
Dave: In the 60s at Berkeley, I grew long hair and a beard. When my parents came to visit, they passed right by and did not recognize me.
Charlie: I've been into astronomy for the last couple of years.
Ceci: Before racquetball, I was a sprinter.
Jake: I used to want to design cars, now I want to own a custom-built performance car shop.
Bobby: I didn't know how to swim until nine years of age.
Frances: I enjoy entering jams and jellies in County Fair competitions. I have around 125 champion ribbons and 30 grand champion ribbons.
Pat: I lost my hearing when I was two years old and didn't hear anything again until 4th grade.
Cheryl: I have never mowed a lawn, painted a wall, or washed a car (by hand). I do know how to take it through the car wash, however...
 
QOTD, Extended Racquetball Family
Tom Travers. Guatemala Team Coach: I get upset, but then I let it go.
Carlos Cuadri. Argentina Team Coach: Nací mujer. I was born a woman. (Blogger's note: Carlos, I'm pretty sure none of us knew that before today!)
Laura McCormick: Streaming Broadcaster and Commentator: I love the water, so I have to live close to it. I now live 10 minutes away from the beach, which is the closest I've ever lived to the water, so I go multiple times per week. 
Jose Daniel (Topo) Ugalde, Player from Ecuador: Tengo pánico escénico. I suffer from stage fright.
Set Cubillos, Player from Colombia: Soy ambidiestro pero me forzaron de niño a ser derecho y por el RB tengo más desarrollado ese brazo. I am ambidextrous but was forced to be right-handed when a child and because of RB have developed a stronger right arm.
Verónica Sotomayor, Player from Ecuador: Todos los fines de semana me como un litro entero de helado ...de vainilla y/o mantequilla de maní! Every single weekend I eat a whole liter of ice cream...vanilla or peanut butter.
Marcelo Gomez, PARC President: Estudié en un colegio francés y hablo francés.  I studied in a French school, and I speak French.
Juan Carlos Cueva. President of Ecuador Racquetball Federation: Muy pocos saben que en mi niñez y juventud representé a mi estado en el deporte de Tae Kwon Do. Very few people know that as a child and teenager I represented my state in the sport of Tae Kwon Do.
Marie Gomar, Roving Reporter from Guatemala: In high school I could recognize most everyone just by looking at their shoes, especially if they were sneakers. I still love 'em!
Pablo Fajre, Head of Broadcasting: I was Lebanese National Champ for relays and on the track and field team for seven years as a teenager.
 
Featured Player of the Day -- Sharon JacksonSharon Jackson
Sharon, 27, originally from Shelbyville, Indiana, now resides in Atlanta. She graduated cum laude from the University of Alabama in 2012 with a degree in General Business (emphasis on Healthcare Management) and is employed as an account manager for The Injury Specialists.
 
A natural athlete, Sharon earned 13 sports letters in high school (soccer 1, volleyball 3, basketball 4, track 1, tennis 4), and she is the holder of 24 national and world racquetball titles, including a gold medal in doubles and a bronze in singles at the 2013 Pan American Championships in Cali, Colombia. Sharon was the National Intercollegiate Women’s Singles Champion in 2010 and 2012 and Intercollegiate Women’s Doubles Champion all four years of college, 2009-2012.  
 
Her most memorable racquetball moment occurred at this tournament four years ago in Cali. "Rhonda and I beat Paola and Samantha from Mexico (who hadn't lost in four years prior)! We were the only USA players to take home a gold medal that year. I still have it hanging up in my room! 
 
How did you get started playing racquetball?
The Taylor family taught me and my brothers how to play in 1995 (when I was 5). Their kids were around me and my siblings' ages, so we would get together and practice often. We started traveling to play tournaments, and I won my first national title at age 8. 
 
Other interests/hobbies?
I keep quite busy between work and training for racquetball, so in the little free time I have I like going to the park, shopping, but mostly spending time with my friends. 
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support?
Kelly Beane, Marcus Riggins, Natalie Crockett, and Jim Gardner were a huge influence in my junior years of racquetball. Donald Williams, Jonathan Clay, and Head Racquetball are my current sponsors. I would also like to thank Dennis Myers and John Crowe for helping me train every week in Atlanta. Shout out to family and friends for always supporting me...and especially to my mom Frances for making the trip here to Costa Rica to cheer me on!"
 
What does playing here at PARC mean to you?
“I was so excited when I received the call from Dave about a month and a half ago telling me that I would represent the USA in Costa Rica for the Pan American Championships. This is my second time participating in the Pan Am Championships, and it has been such a dream come true. I hope to continue playing for my country and bringing many titles back to the USA in the future!"
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day -- Head Coach Dave EllisCoach Dave Ellis
Dave Ellis holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from the University of the Pacific and a Masters in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He is particularly proud of his California State bilingual teaching credential. Dave taught Mathematics in both English and Spanish for 38 years at the high school level, from fundamentals to advanced placement calculus. He retired from teaching in 2006.
 
Dave and Pat Ellis have now been married 46 years. "We met teaching at a Junior High in Stockton, California. After knowing each other for a year, “Pat begin to stalk me like a bloodhound, and I couldn’t get away. We finally went out on a date, and then we were married six weeks later.” Dave and Pat are the proud parents of son John (married to Jennifer) and grandparents of Julius, 14, and Jordan, 9. John was a professional racquetball player for 15+ years and continues to promote racquetball through his business, Pro Racquetball Academy. As a matter of fact, John has 20+ tournaments scheduled per year. John, Jody Nance, Robbie Collins, Markie Rojas, Antonio and Jesse Rojas, Pat Ellis, and I work with juniors twice a week for two hours each. “We were proud to have taken 17 juniors to the Nationals in Minneapolis this past June. This coming June, we will once again host the USAR Junior Championships in Stockton, California."
 
Dave says, “I started playing racquetball more than 40 years ago, not too long after the game was invented. I loved it immediately. I slowly but surely improved my game and eventually became a pretty solid Open player. About five years into John’s professional career, I started going to as many pro tournaments as I could, and it was during this time that my racquetball knowledge increased dramatically. In 2002, I served as Team Leader for Team USA and was privileged to work with Coach Jim Winterton. In 2004, I was appointed Team USA Coach. I’ve done two stints, 2004 – 2008, and 2012 – the present. Besides our junior classes, John and I have embarked on an ambitious project of establishing junior racquetball programs throughout Northern California.  We have created and, supported by Reaching Your Dream Foundation (RYDF), a two-phase presentation that has been well received by now three different clubs."
  
Dave’s other interests/hobbies? Spanish and Italian languages; watching way too much Netflix; working out for at least an hour per day. “I like to go dancing, but usually Pat and I just become couch potatoes in the evening. I love the NBA, and I’ve been watching it for 50 years."
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support?
"First and foremost, my family: Pat, John, Jennifer, Julius, and Jordan for all the support they give to our racquetball efforts. Secondly, I recognize the Team USA players, past and present, who have dedicated their time, energy, and effort into playing the game. The majority are professionals who take time away from the tours to represent our great country. Thirdly, I recognize our staff of Cheryl Kirk (Team Leader), Brent Huff (Athletic Trainer), and David Horn (Singles, Doubles, and Assistant Coach) who are always ready, day or night, to give support to our delegation. I cannot overemphasize the contributions of these individuals. Thanks go out to the National US Team Committee, chaired by Larry Haemmerle; Jason Thoerner, Executive Director; as well as the entire USAR Board of Directors for their support. Of course, infinite gratitude goes to Jonathan Clay and Rollout Racquetball for always keeping Team USA looking sharp. And last but not least, many, many other individual contributors who have funded player expenses, team dinners, equipment, etc., for our various delegations. RYDF particularly stands out in my mind. These people in the past and present have been lifesavers for Team USA."
 
Thoughts about competing here in San Jose, Costa Rica? "Costa Rica is certainly a favorite country in all of America Latina. The literacy percentage here is higher than that in the USA. The Costa Ricans are always ready to have a good time, and the Indoor Club is really cool. Thanks go to PARC President Marcelo Gómez and Coaches Jorge and Fernando Rodríguez for all their hospitality."
 
Exciting Announcement!
Let's see how many have read this far down into the blog...
 
Long-awaited information is available as of today about the 2017 IRF World Junior Championships. The first full week of November, the location will be Minneapolis, Minnesota, headed by John Wilinski of Life Time Fitness, along with a team of dedicated racquetball folks who did such a great job with the USAR Junior Olympics last June. Much more information to come, but you heard it here first!
 
(Every reporter loves a scoop.)
 
Thursday -- The Action Heats Up!
Catch live streaming ThursdayFriday, and Saturday by going to the following: http://www.internationalracquetball.com/watch.html
 
Pablo Fajre, Laura McCormick, & Co. do a great job of streaming in high quality and providing enjoyable commentary of the on-court action. Thanks for their efforts in bringing this event to a computer screen near you!
 
US Team Open Divisions
12:00 pm Rhonda Rajsich vs. Cristina Amaya, Colombia
1:00 pm Bobby Horn vs. Andres Acuña, Costa Rica
3:00 pm Charlie Pratt vs. Carlos Keller, Bolivia
4:00 pm Sheryl Lotts/Rhonda Rajsich vs. Jenny Daza/Stefanny Barrios, Bolivia
5:00 pm Jake Bredenbeck/Bobby Horn vs. Fernando Kurzbard/Shai Manzuri, Argentina
 
Friendship Cup
A Singles 11:00 am Tim Baghurst vs.Alejandro De Aguilar, Costa Rica
35+ Singles 2:00 pm Tim Baghurst vs. Claudio Torres, Chile
A Doubles 5:00 pm Cheryl Kirk/Marie Gomar (Guatemala) vs. Carlos Daguerresar/Geovanni Quintanilla, Chile
 
Thursday's tentative streaming schedule appears on the IRF website as follows:
 
11:00 am - Women's Singles: Carla Muñoz (Chile) vs. Gaby Martinez (Guatemala)
12:00 pm - Women's Singles: Verónica Sotomayor (Ecuador) vs. Samantha Salas (Mexico)
1:00 pm - Men's Singles: Andres Acuña (Costa Rica) vs. Bobby Horn (USA)
2:00 pm - Men's Singles: Javier Mar (Mexico) vs. Samuel Murray (Canada)
3:00 pm - Men's Singles: Carlos Keller (Bolivia) vs. Charlie Pratt (USA)
4:00 pm - Women's Doubles: Bolivia vs. USA
5:00 pm - Men's Doubles: Costa Rica vs. Bolivia
 
All times are the same as US Mountain Time.
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk



Charlie and Cecilia Pratt, Dave and Pat Ellis

Blog #6 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 -- FREE DAY!
 
On this day of leisure and sightseeing, the US Team Delegation's 12th and final member arrived! Welcome to Charlie's wife Ana Cecilia Pratt Orozco (aka Ceci). We are so glad she is here! Ceci is a delightful addition to the US Team Cheerleading Squad.
 
Question of the Day
How did you spend your free day in Costa Rica?
 
Sheryl (ATL) -- Sharon, Jake, Bobby, and I had breakfast at the hotel this morning, practiced at the club for awhile, then headed out for our adventure with our Canadian friend Pedro Castro to the active Poás Volcano **, which was a very windy road up the mountain. As we headed to the next site, we stopped along the road for fresh coffee and strawberries! The La Paz waterfall is where we finished our tour. It was so beautiful. Ended the night with team dinner, which was soooo delicious. Time to get ready for tomorrow's matches!
 
Sharon: Ate delicious breakfast, practiced at the club (thank you, Brent, for serving to me!), then we went to the volcano, stopped to get coffee and strawberries from the street vendor, went to see the beautiful waterfall, bought a dress at the boutique next to our hotel, and ate delicious salmon at the team dinner! Now off to bed to get rest before my 9:00 am match!
 
Dave and Pat: Treadmill, breakfast, walked to Walmart with bags of laundry. Walmart could not handle it, walked to Clean & Clean here in the complex, left laundry, back to Walmart for supplies, Taco Bar for lunch, nap, elliptical, shower again, team dinner.
 
Cheryl: A little breakfast, laundry run with Dave and Pat, washed hands after laundry run, trip to Walmart for supplies, worked on blog, lunch at Taco Bar (yummy coconut shrimp tacos and a mango smoothie), visited a store in the plaza near the hotel and bought a few fun items, paid hotel bill for the team, blogged again, laundry pickup at 4:45 pm, nap, team dinner at 7:45 pm at Pokeos.
 
Brent: Worked out, practiced with the team, relaxed by the pool, walked to Walmart with  Charlie and Ceci, watched Talladega Nights (Magic Man!), team dinner, worked on players.
 
Charlie: Practice at the club, picked up my beautiful wife from the airport, back to the hotel, over to Walmart for dental floss, watched Talladega Nights (Shake-n-Bake!), team dinner.
 
Rhonda: Stayed at the hotel to relax!

2017 Team USA day off
 
** From the Internet:
The Poás Volcano is an active 2,708-metre stratovolcano in central Costa Rica. It has erupted 39 times since 1828.
Elevation: 8,885′
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poás_Volcano
 
Featured Player of the Day -- Charlie PrattCharlie Pratt
This is Charlie's first competition with the US Team. He ranks at #20 in the USA Racquetball system and #17 on the IRT.
 
Charlie was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, the son of Deb and Charley Pratt. Charlie and his wife Ceci now live in Gainesville, Florida, where he is part owner, manager, master trainer, and nutritionist at Zen Fitness. "I received my plant-based nutrition certification from Cornell University through Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who is and will be considered perhaps the most influential person in the nutrition world."
 
Tell us more about Zen Fitness?
"It's a small gym on a tennis facility with two racquetball courts. I provide personal training as well as nutritional services to my clients. Our goal and overall belief as a company is that nutrition is vital to good health, even more than exercise. We are a gym that is more about nutrition than training, although we certainly do both. It's what really sets us apart from all other gyms, and our clients achieve incredible results, as you can imagine. I'm talking life and health changing results -- truly inspiring success stories."
 
How did you get started playing racquetball?
"My mom took me to the gym one day, and I saw some people playing doubles. It looked like fun so my mom signed me up for lessons, and I've never stopped playing. I was six years old."
 
Other interests/hobbies?
"Food, science, history, the natural world."
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support?
"My parents, my wife, my racquetball friends, and every coach I've had along the way: Matt Hanners, Stephanie Munger Bessett, all my Junior Team USA Coaches, Darrin McNally, and Cliff Swain, who is not only my coach but also my racquet sponsor. While I'm thanking people, I want to recognize my close friends Brian Pineda, Mike Orr, Tony Carson, Blake Martin, and Tim Prigo. The list goes on, but without the awesome people I have in my life, I wouldn't be nearly as involved or enthusiastic about racquetball. I love the sport, but it is the people who make it great."
 
Thoughts about competing for the USA at PARC?
"I don't think I've ever been this excited about any racquetball tournament. It is a dream come true to play for the Adult Team. A great honor and one I have looked forward to all my life."
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day -- Brent HuffBrent Huff
Brent Huff of St. Charles, Illinois, is our US Team Athletic Trainer. He holds a Masters degree in Sports Medicine from the US Sports Academy and possesses 17 years’ experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer with the NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association). Brent also holds certifications as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator with the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), and Holistic Lifestyle Coaching with the CHEK Institute (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology). Brent recently earned his certification and license as a Massage Therapist (AMTA).
 
In his capacity as Team Athletic Trainer, Brent provides everything from prevention to assessment to emergency care. Rehab services for athletes and on-site coverage for athletic events are part of his repertoire as well. His experience encompasses everything from “little kids to professional athletes.”
 
Brent is a Wilson and Rollout Racquetball sponsored player who took up the sport 30+ years ago.
 
"It’s a privilege and an honor to make the trip with the US Team again. It's an opportunity to work with the best racquetball athletes in the world and to put my professions to use in a sport that’s my passion and my hobby as well. I would also like to say a very special thank you to my wonderful wife Tamarah for her continued support of me, my profession, and my love of racquetball."
 
Team Dinner
The team met at Pikeos at 7:45 pm after their tourist activities and tasks. After una cena deliciosa (a tasty dinner), Coach Dave led the group in a couple of team building exercises. One, not surprisingly, was a question to be answered by each as we went around the table:
 
Will you share something about yourself that people don't know about you?
 
This will be the Question of the Day tomorrow, so answers will be deferred until then. If you are getting the idea that we are inordinately fond of questions, you would be right. And we aren't done yet...
 
Miércoles (Wednesday) at the Pan American Racquetball Championships
Now it's time for the main event... The team is rested and ready for action beginning at 9:00 am!

 
Clarification: When the round robin/pool play phase is finished for each division, one of two possible versions of the main draw are chosen blindly in the presence of country delegates, to which the results of the previous rounds are applied. This is to prevent over-analysis and possible strategies formulated that could create unfair advantages for a country over others. The IRF and PARC organizations guarantee that if two players from the same country win their preliminary pool play rounds, they will not meet until the finals, should they both advance that far. In other words, they will be placed on opposite sides of the bracket.
 
Unfortunately, if one or both players are not 100% successful in their preliminary rounds, this often means they end up on the same side of the main bracket, sometimes competing against each other in the first or second round. This has happened to the Canadian and Costa Rican women this time in the first round, and to the U.S. (if Sharon wins tomorrow vs. Venezuela) in the second round when she will play Rhonda. Besides having a teammate eliminated early, this will cost countries dearly in points earned toward the ultimate goals of, in this case, Women's Team and Overall Team Championships.
 
That's the scoop.
 
So here's tomorrow's schedule, and please send tons of good vibes to the players!
 
OPEN DIVISIONS
9:00 am  Sharon Jackson vs. Paola Guerra, Venezuela
1:00 pm  Rhonda Rajsich vs. winner of Paola Guerra, Venezuela, and Sharon Jackson, USA
2:00 pm  Bobby Horn vs. winner of Set Cubillos, Colombia, and Juan Jose Salvatierra, Jr., Guatemala
2:45 pm  Charlie Pratt vs. winner of Francisco Gomez, Colombia, and Ramon De Leon, Dominican Republic
5:30 pm  Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts vs. Mariana Tobon/Paola Guerra, Venezuela
 
FRIENDSHIP
12:15 pm 35+ SIngles, Tim Baghurst vs. Geovanni Quintanilla, Chile
4:30 pm  A Doubles, Cheryl Kirk/Marie Gomar, Guatemala, vs. Patricio Gatica/Rafael Gatica, Chile
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk



USA Racquetball Team Selfie

Blog #5 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica
Monday, April 10, 2017
 
Coach Dave Wraps Up Phase I
"Sharon Jackson has been steadily improving since the first day of practice. Unfortunately, she was placed in the toughest round robin group, the one that contained the two finalists from the 2016 IRF World Championships. The match with Paola Longoria today did not go well, as Paola was at the very top of her game. Paola executed excellent drive serves to the left corner, solid placement during the rallies, and many passes and pinches for winners. Sharon is so athletic and very determined to do well. Her two tough matches may serve her well as we move into the medal round. Teammate Rhonda Rajsich drew a feisty Cuban lefthander who was quick and determined. The Cuban was competitive the first game, but then Rhonda really kicked it into gear in the second game. Rhonda has played some spectacular ball during her three matches, and she also is well prepared for the medal round.
 
"Charlie Pratt is playing as if he were a craftsman in his workshop. Serves, placement, gets, and great passes aided Charlie to give his Chilean opponent the dreaded double doughnut. Bobby Horn drew his Chilean friend and fellow 209er, Francisco Troncoso. The match was competitive, but Bobby was able to close out the second after being behind 12-11. No tiebreaker today, thankfully. I anticipate success in the medal round for both Charlie and Bobby.
 
"Sheryl and Rhonda played the two Cuban ladies in the last of the pool play doubles. During the first game, both teams were over hitting, with many, many shots coming off the back wall for set-ups. The Cubans were trying to pick on Sheryl, but she stood her ground and would not be intimidated. USA won the first game, 15-12. The second game was USA all the way with both Rhonda and Sheryl hitting numerous winners. 
 
"So ends the seeding round robins/pool play. We have a welcome day off tomorrow, along with a Team Dinner tomorrowevening. Team USA will resume play on Wednesday. Now the real tournament begins!"
2017 Charlie Pratt and Bobby Horn

Monday's Results
 
Open Divisions
#15 Sharon Jackson lost to #1 Paola Longoria, Mexico, 6-15, 3-15
#13 Rhonda Rajsich def. #27 Maria Regla Viera Gonzalez, Cuba, 15-5, 15-1
#4 Charlie Pratt def. #20 Rodrigo Salgado, Chile, 15-0, 15-0
#2 Bobby Horn def. #18 Francisco Troncoso, Chile, 15-6, 15-13
#5 Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts def. #13 Yurisleidis Allue Araujo/Maria Regla Viera Gonzalez, Cuba, 15-11, 15-7
 
Friendship Cup
A Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst def. #7 Alvaro Yañez, Chile, 15-11, 15-9
35+ Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst def. #4 Carlos Daguerresar, Chile, 15-3, 15-5
A Doubles --  #8 Marie Gomar (Guatemala)/Cheryl Kirk vs. #2 Alejandro De Aguilar/Jonathan Zumbado, Costa Rica, Won by Forfeit
 
Featured Player of the Day – Jake Bredenbeck Jake Bredenbeck
Jake Bredenbeck, 25, grew up in Marine on St. Croix, MN, and currently resides there. He was ranked #2 on the WRT, #9 on the IRT, and #5 in the USA Racquetball rankings before tearing his labrum (shoulder fibrocartilage) at last year's US Open. Since then he has been playing and practicing left-handed as well as competing in some tournaments. He holds an MBA from Colorado State University-Pueblo, and he names dual occupations: carpenter and racquetball player.
 
Jake's #1 fans are his mom, Karen, his dad, Bill, and his brother Sam. It’s a racquetball family – Sam competed for the US Junior Team in Bolivia in 2013 and in Santo Domingo in 2015.
   
Says Jake, “My parents both played racquetball and got me into it at a young age, always bringing me to the club when they went. They ran a racquetball club for many years. I was 4½ when I started playing.”
 
Other interests/hobbies? “I love playing almost any sport. Being on a lake. Hanging out with friends and family. Working out. I love to travel and see new places”
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? My parents for their continued support in all that I do. They are the reason I play racquetball and still get to play. My brother for always being there for me no matter what. Coach Ellis for leading the team and seeing something in me, which has allowed me to be here. Thanks to Rafa and Joel of Gearbox for sponsoring me and supporting me even through the injury. Anthony for his support and help. Pablo for helping us players on the WRT and all he does to help improve the sport of racquetball. The Reaching Your Dream Foundation.”
 
Jake sums it up: “I am excited to be playing for Team USA again. I didn't think I would have this opportunity when I got injured at the Open. It is a great honor for me to be able to play a game that I love so much -- to have those three letters across my back means everything to me. I am very motivated this time because of that opportunity and what it means to me.”
 
Question of the Day
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
 
Charlie: Strategically invest all of it towards animal welfare.
Sharon: Pretend like nothing happened, continue working for a few months, buy an island, and move there with friends and family. Racquetball family always invited!
Brent: Pay off school, house, cars.
Cheryl: See Charlie's answer above.
Pat: Save it into our living trust so it would be there for John and his family.
Frances: Pay off my kids' bills!
Sheryl: Pay off every bill and reimburse my parents, then travel!
Jake: Take a million to Las Vegas, then pay off my bills.
Rhonda: Take care of the people that need it.
Bobby: Buy new houses for my mom, sister, and grandma.
Dave: I would build a luxury 24-court racquetball complex so that all future international tournaments would be close to home.
 
QOTD, Part II -- Extended Racquetball Family
Bob Fong, Team Canada Physical Therapist: Jump for joy and scream my head off.
 
Gary Mazaroff, Tournament Director, Albuquerque, New Mexico: Take a couple of grand for my mortgage and give the rest to the animal humane society.
 
Jorge Villalobos, Friendship Cup player from Chile: Haría un viaje a Bora Bora; es un lugar maravilloso. A trip to Bora Bora; it is a marvelous place.
 
Francisco Troncoso, Player from Chile: Abriría un restaurante de comida española o chilena. I would open a restaurant of Spanish or Chilean food. 
 
Javier Weissbrot. Ari Weissbrot's dad and Frienship Cup player from Chile: Abriría un hotel en Israel y viviría 6 meses allí y 6 meses en Chile.  I would open a hotel in Israel and would live there for six months a year and in Chile the other six months. 
 
Set Cubillos, Player from Colombia: Te sorprendería si te dijera que "no sé"; no veo cómo el dinero haría mi vida mejor; considero que hay cosas más importantes en mi vida para hacerme feliz. Would it surprise you if I said "I don't know"; I don't see how money could make me happier; I believe there are more important things in my life that can make me happy.
 
Jorge Cantillano Castro Pagaría, Olympic Committee shuttle driver: Mi deuda...mi sueño siempre ha sido el abrir un asilo para ancianos y un centro para niños especiales (principalmente porque tengo un hijo con Síndrome de Down y autismo). I would pay my debts...my dream has always been to open a senior asylum and a special children's center (mainly because I have a son with Down syndrome and autism).
 
Franceschi Little, Indoor Club Servicios Generales (the nice young man who has been professionally mopping the courts whenever needed): Compraría una casa para mí y mi mamá. I would buy a house for me and my mom.
 
Marie Gomar, Roving Reporter Extraordinaire from Guatemala: Pack our bags for traveling, with the first stop in Taiwan to see my son!
 
Pablo Freer, Junior player from Costa Rica: Me iría de viaje con mi familia a Hawaii; siempre he querido ir allí!  I would take my family to Hawaii; I have always wanted to go there!
 
Danielle Drury, Player from Canada: Pay for school.
 
Samuel Murray, Player from Canada: Quit school. 
 
Mark Malowitz, Racquetball and Blog Fan, Player from Texas, Ex-Junior World Champion: Have a heart attack!
2017 Charlie Pratt and Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts

Sponsors Rock!
The athletes and staff send a huge shout-out to Jonathan and Carolyn Clay of Rollout Racquetball for being the apparel sponsor of the US Team. Our newly designed uniforms are getting a lot of positive attention here at PARC. Each team member received an ample supply of shirts, shorts, and a warm-up jacket and pants, and they are lookin' good!
 
We also want to thank Penn, E-Force, and the many local sponsors who have made it possible for Marcelo Gómez and the Local Organizing Committee to provide a first-class experience to the 15 country delegations here in San José.
 
The racquetball community in the United States and around the world benefits to an enormous degree on sponsorships and donations from those who regard this sport as an important part of their own lives and one that is worthwhile to the lives of others. In the U.S., if you would like to contribute to the US Team and US Junior Team, please go to https://www.givedirect.org/donate/?cid=74 and put Team USA Challenge in the comments box. Every bit helps!
 
Martes en San José (Tuesday in San José)
Tuesday is a Free Day, an anticipated and well-deserved rest for everyone in the middle of a pretty long trip. Plans are being made as I write this, but the Team requested court time for tomorrow morning, and that has been accomplished. The concept of getting laundry done is a given; the rest is up for grabs...more on this in the next blog. We are planning our customary team dinner for Tuesday evening in one of the establishments close by the hotel, Pikeos, a Peruvian dream of a restaurant (I am told).
 
Tomorrow's blog will chronicle how team members spent their free day, and the schedule for Wednesday will be included as well!
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk



Sharon Jackson and Rhonda Rajsich

Blog #4 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica

 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The atmosphere at the Indoor Club remains electric as pool play/round robin matches continued today. The day was sunny and became overcast later on, with moderate temperatures and a cooling breeze circulating through the club. Spectators sit and stand in front of each court, many cheering loudly and chanting for their country's players and teams. Conversations between old friends and new are taking place everywhere. All of this results in a cacophony, loud but not unpleasantly so; the environment is so typically racquetball at a fever pitch. What fun!
 
Team USA had another good day with the only sobering occurrence being Sharon's loss to Gaby Martinez of Guatemala. Sharon is pulling more than her own share of responsibility here, having drawn both finalists from the IRF Worlds in Cali, Colombia, last July: Gaby as well as #1 Paola Longoria. 
 
We were disappointed at the end of the day that the Venezuelan men's doubles team had to forfeit to us since one of their players was delayed due to incomplete travel documents in Venezuela. That player should arrive tomorrow, but it will be too late to play their match against the U.S., of course.
 
Open Divisions
#15 Sharon Jackson lost to #14 Ana Gabriela Martinez, Guatemala, 6-15, 10-15
#13 Rhonda def. #16 Maria Renee Rodriguez, Guatemala, 15-9, 15-1
#4 Charlie def. #29 Fernando Mansell, Nicaragua, 15-5, 15-1
#5 Sheryl/Rhonda def. #12 Mariana Tobon/Paola Guerra, Venezuela, 15-12, 15-4
#2 Jake/Bobby def. Venezuela, Won by Forfeit
 
Bobby Horn had a bye in singles.
 
Friendship Cup
Marie Gomar and Cheryl Kirk

35+ Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst def. Honduras, Won by Forfeit
35+ Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst def. #8 Cristian Ellot, Costa Rica, 15-3, 15-4
A Doubles -- #8 Marie Gomar (Guatemala)/Cheryl Kirk lost to Cristian Ellot/Daniel Suchar, Costa Rica, 10-15, 4-15

Friendship Cup Doubles
In our (self-refereed) match this evening, we were calling the score in two languages -- me in Spanish, Daniel in English, Marie went back and forth. I whispered to Marie at one point that we probably should pick a language and stick with it, but it was good practice for everyone except Marie who is completely bilingual to begin with. There was banter and a number of good rallies. Daniel and Cristian were true gentlemen on the court, and Daniel was so gracious in saying that he had heard of Marie and me regarding our involvement in international racquetball and that it was an honor to play against us. It made us feel good that although we're the only women in the division, we are all friends in racquetball (hence the name Friendship Cup). We do offer good wishes to the player in another match in our division who took a racquet to the forehead tonight. Maybe a touch of gentle input to some that Friendship Cup really should not involve stitches?
 
Featured Player of the Day - David "Bobby" Horn
Bobby HornBorn and raised in Stockton, CA and now playing out of Pleasanton, CA, Bobby, 26, is a charter member of the "the 209." He is ranked #2 on the WRT and #10 in USA Racquetball's ranking system. His mother Michelle Horn, grandmother Anna Martin, and sister Nichole Horn stay avidly tuned in to his racquetball career.
 
Bobby's hobbies include basketball, golf, playing cards with friends, and fishing. The majority of his extra time goes to fishing: “I am addicted!”
 
How did you get started playing racquetball? “I started playing at 15 when I met teammate Jose Diaz at the gym. He pulled me onto the court, and I have played off and on since that day.
 
"I want to thank my entire team that has helped me get this far: my people in Stockton: Dave and John Ellis, Jody Nance, Jesse Serna, and all the guys there who I grew up playing with. My current coach Jim Winterton. Also a shout-out to “The Donkeys” at home, I know they are always watching. I want to thank my friends in the East Bay area as well for their support and help to get to this point. Thank you to my sponsors who allow me to play this sport regularly: Gearbox Racquetball, Reaching Your Dream Foundation, and Clubsport Pleasanton.
 
“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to play for the USA at this event. Playing two divisions is always a tough task, but I’m ready to play my butt off and hopefully bring some hardware back for our team and our country. Go USA!”
 
Nicknames
Team USA wishes to announce that they have come up with nicknames for the doubles teams. Bobby and Jake are Speedy & The Beast. Sheryl and Rhonda are Lotts-a-Buckets. Beyond references on our WhatsApp chat, I don't know exactly how we will use these nicknames, but stay tuned. Will there be nicknames for the singles players? Don't know. The air of mystery and anticipation continues...
 
Question of the Day
If you could come back reincarnated as someone, who would it be?
 
US Team
Sharon: Superman
Charlie: Elvis. He also played racquetball.
Dave: I'd like to come back as me, knowing what I know now.
Brent: A pro golfer
Jake: Professional enforcer in the NHL (Jake the Punisher)
Cheryl: Someone with a good singing voice; Meryl Streep; or my dog
Pat: A tall person (at least 5'6")
Bobby: Pro soccer player
Rhonda: Reincarnated as Rhonda because I am already Deadpool!
Sheryl: Harley Quinn (Team Leader note: Google it. This is disturbing, because I just promoted Sheryl to Assistant Team Leader last night!)
 
QOTD, Part II -- Extended Racquetball Family
Marie Gomar, Roving Reporter, Guatemala: Roger Federer. He's humble, he's great, and he has enabled himself to pay forward with what he does. And he gets to work using a racquet and a ball!
 
Estuardo Wer, President of Guatemalan Federation: Bill Gates, for his intelligence, not his money. (Yeah, right, Estuardo!)
 
Juan Manuel Gutiérrez, President of Colombian Federation: Myself but without injuries.
 
Gaby Martinez, Guatemalan player: My mother, so I can have a daughter like me!
 
Set Cubillos, Colombian player: No me gustaría ser alguien más que yo, pero si me gustaría cambiar algunas cosas de mi pasado. Nunca había pensado en esta pregunta pero me gusta porque me hace pensar sobre las cosas que no me satisfacen de mi mismo. Por favor hazme otra pregunta mañana.
I would not like to be anyone but myself, but i would like to change some things of my past. I had never thought of this question before, but I like it because it makes me think about the things about me that don’t satisfy me. Please ask me a new question tomorrow(Blogger's Note: This one from Set gets the award for sincerity and introspection!)
 
Chris Exner, Referee from Canada: Tom Brady...good at football and all.
 
María Céspedes, Dominican Republic player, Yo otra vez. Me again.
 
Fernando Kurzbard, Player from Argentina: Yo mismo. Myself.
 
Sudsy Monchik, Ecuador Team Coach: William Wallace. Loved his motivation and what he accomplished, all started and inspired by his feeling of true love for his wife Marion.
 
Melania Sauma, Player from Costa Rica: Papa Fsco por su inteligencia y espiritualidad. Pope Francisco for his intelligence and spirituality.
  
Samantha Salas, Player from Mexico: Angelina Jolie, porque aunque ha tenido sus etapas difíciles en la vida, se sobrepuso y ha ayudado a muchas personas con necesidad. Tiene su familia, hijos (algo que siempre he querido tener) y, aunque con muchísimo dinero, es una persona sencilla y altruista. 
Because even though she has gone through harsh moments in life she has overcome them and has always helped people in need. She has a family, children (I've always wanted them), and despite having lots of money she is a simple and altruistic person.
 
Daniel Olivas, San José Uber driver: Myself!
 
Kit Lawson (Cheryl Kirk's husband, guest contributor from Chicago): Ben Franklin. Self-made Renaissance man, founded our country, valuable inventions, public service, highly respected...for eternity. Or, Superman.
 
Monday at PARCJake Bredenbeck
Streaming is available via a couple of different avenues throughout the coming week. Prior to Thursday, go to YouTube, International Racquetball Federation, to view selected matches on Court 1 here at the Indoor Club. Beginning Thursday with quarterfinal action, tune into www.internationalracquetball.com/watch.html. All streaming is free of charge.
 
Also, check out www.facebook.com/internationalracquetball. And, to view the complete set of draws, go to www.internationalracquetball.com. Choose Events & Rankings at the top, then Live Events, then (draws click here), Results and Schedule, Open, Open Round Robin.
 
The US Team gets to sleep in Monday morning, then play will commence at 10:30 am MT. Here's the line-up:
 
Open Divisions
10:30 am  #15 Sharon Jackson vs. #1 Paola Longoria, Mexico
11:30 am  #13 Rhonda Rajsich vs. #27 Maria Regla Viera Gonzalez, Cuba
12:15 pm  #4 Charlie Pratt vs. #20 Rodrigo Salgado, Chile
1:00 pm   #2 Bobby Horn vs. #18 Francisco Troncoso, Chile 
5:30 pm   #5 Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts vs. #13 Yurisleidis Allue Araujo/Maria Regla Viera Gonzalez, Cuba
 
Friendship Cup
9:00 am A Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst vs. #7 Alvaro Yañez, Chile
3:30 pm 35+ Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst vs. #4 Carlos Daguerresar, Chile
7:30 pm A Doubles --  #8 Marie Gomar (Guatemala)/Cheryl Kirk vs. #2 Alejandro De Aguilar/Jonathan Zumbado, Costa Rica
 
Bobby/Jake have a bye on Monday. With the forfeit today, they win their pool by having won their first match on Saturday. First pool play win for the U.S.!
 
As each division's pool play rounds conclude Monday, draw configurations will be blindly chosen. Tomorrow night we'll get the main draws that will tell us what life will look like Wednesday through Saturday.
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 
P.S. Happy Birthday on Monday to my dog Hayley and to Geoff Peters (in that order). Geoff gives a lot to the sport, and I'm happy to note that we are once again the same age.




Blog #3 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica
Saturday, April 8, 2017
 
Disclaimer: Racquetball Fans, Friends, and Family, brace yourselves, this is a long installment. There's just so much to cover!
 
Greetings from Costa Rica, where the weather today was overcast and chilly (by Central American standards) in the mid to high 60's. Heaven if you're from Chicago... The Indoor Club was hopping with activity, fairly standing room only in front of the courts. High energy, lots of conversation, the pop of racquetballs against the walls...what could be better?
 
Coach Dave Recaps Day One
"It was a long but very positive day for Team USA at the Indoor Club. Rhonda Rajsich led off against Argentina's Veronique Guillemette. A somewhat competitive first game was followed by Rhonda rolling a doughnut to the Argentinian in the second. Next up was Charlie Pratt who dominated Colombia’s Set Cubillos. Charlie hit perfect drive serves with consistency. Anticipating Set’s shots, Charlie was able to completely control center court, sending Set to all corners of the 20 x 40 surface. Bobby Horn played Colombia’s Francisco Gomez.  Francisco is an extremely intelligent player who serves and returns serve well. He is also a great defensive player, somewhat matching Bobby’s efforts. After dominating the first game, Bobby found himself down in the second. After a number of service exchanges at 14-14, Francisco finally closed out the game.  It was 4-4 in the tiebreaker when Bobby received a couple of questionable calls. What followed was a very determined Bobby Horn playing tough and quickly closing out the match.
 
"Sheryl and Rhonda played the Canadian ladies. Sheryl has been preparing a lot for this tournament and it
 really showed. She was on fire throughout, with great returns and numerous kill shots throughout the game. Rhonda was steady and tough, and our women dominated the match, 15-4, 15-4. Jake and Bobby played the Dominicans. It’s hard for me to describe what took place as the foot speed and ball speed were incredible. Team USA dominated game one completely. At first, game two looked like a runaway, but the Dominicans stayed tough and made it competitive. The truth is, the basic principles of knowing your partner and what he can do, along with covering when he is out of position, are being followed with incredible speed and anticipation. It was an amazing show for all who were watching."
 
US Team Results - Saturday

Open Divisions
#13 Rhonda Rajsich def. #2 Veronique Guillemette, Argentina, 15-7, 15-0
#4 Charlie Pratt def. #13 Set Cubillos, Colombia, 15-7, 15-2
#2 Bobby Horn def. #15 Francisco Gomez, Colombia, 15-7, 14-15, 11-4
#5 Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts def. #4 Jen Saunders/Danielle Drury, Canada, 15-4, 15-4
#2 Bobby Horn/Jake Bredenbeck def. #10 Luis Perez/Ramon De Leon, Dominican Republic, 15-3, 15-13
 
Friendship Cup
Doubles: #8 Marie Gomar (Guatemala)/Cheryl Kirk lost to #6 Javier Clot/Jaime Ubilla, Costa Rica, 10-15, 15-14, 4-11
A Singles: #1 Tim Baghurst def. #6 Jonathan Zumbado, Costa Rica, 15-0, 14-15, 11-9
 
Now for another enthusiastically anticipated blog feature...
 
Featured Player of the Day -- Sheryl Lotts
Sheryl was born and raised in Bedford, Ohio, and is currently living in Columbus. She currently plays on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour.
 
Sheryl is the daughter of Judi and Greg Lotts and sister of Eric Lotts. She graduated from Baldwin Wallace University with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and Orthopedic Assessment and Treatment. “I am employed by lululemon athletica, an excellent company that supports my racquetball career.”
 
How did you get started playing racquetball? “I learned how to play racquetball from my dad. He has been playing since I was born, and he would take me to the club with him. I was 9 years old when I started playing.”
 
Other interests/hobbies? “I love playing all sports for fun. I enjoy Orangetheory Fitness, yoga, and crossfit. I also like to play golf and do just about anything outdoors. I am always up for a challenge!”
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? “I would like to recognize my entire family for their unconditional support through the years. They have always helped me attend all of the tournaments, traveling all over the country and taking off work to help me get where I am. I would like to thank Team Head/Penn for all of their support through the years, ever since I was a junior player. They are a great company, and I appreciate everything they have done to help me. Also, thanks to Jonathan Clay (Rollout) for keeping me styling on and off the court with great gear. To the lululemon community, I appreciate your incredible amount of support, allowing me to travel and pushing me to crush goals and be better every day. Finally, saving the best for last, I want to thank my boyfriend, Andrew, for being there for me through all of the traveling and training. He is such a great supporter, and I appreciate him very much!”
 
Thoughts about competing here in San Jose?
“I am very excited to be competing on the U.S. Adult Team. Costa Rica has always been on my list of places I have wanted to visit so I am excited for this opportunity. I have been a part of the U.S Team for seven years, and I am thrilled to continue my journey and be a part of such a great Team representing the USA!”
 
On a related subject...
 
Assistant Team Leader Position
Throwback to PARC Santo Domingo 2015 blog -- Team Leader’s note, 3/29/15: I have named Sheryl to the post of Assistant Team Leader in recognition of her outstanding support. She’s positive and helpful, plus she has a great name. Now that I have a staff, I am automatically promoted to Head Team Leader. We are both ecstatic about our promotions, and we couldn’t be happier about our 100% salary increases.
 
Team Leader Update on Sheryl Lotts
Our gal campaigned hard for a return engagement as Assistant Team Leader: "In hopes that I am selected as Assistant Team Leader, I would be honored to work along side a truly inspiring leader as Cheryl, who works so hard to allow us to truly be able to play at our highest level!" 
 
 
Um, okay, thank you, Sheryl. Normally, I am careful about making snap decisions, but in this case, it seems completely appropriate. All on the first day, Sheryl procured the club Wifi password for the team, got water for Bobby, and sent the shuttle schedule to everyone on Whatsapp. With exceptional performance like that, it would seem untoward to wait.
 
SHERYL LOTTS IS PROMOTED TO ASSISTANT TEAM LEADER!
 
And, yes, we have decided on a 200% salary increase for ourselves as befitting our heavy responsibility to the US Team. We know no one will object.
 
On to...
 
Question of the Day, Part I
What was the first thought you had when you woke up this morning?
 
Team USA Responses
Charlie: The sun comes up very early here (5:00 a.m.).
Sharon: I wish I played today!
Jake: Thankfully my bags are here and I finally slept well.
Bobby: Breakfast...
Sheryl: 10 more minutes, please.
Brent: What am I going to do today? (Note: Ha! Brent, if you don't know by now...)
Cheryl: I have to get the snack bag ready to take to the club.
Pat: I need to wake up Dave.
Dave: Delayed(Disclaimer: I have no idea what Dave's response meant, so I'm erring on the side of caution.)
Rhonda: S---, did I leave the stove on? (Blogger's challenge: Name that movie...)
 
The More, the Merrier -- QOTD Part II

 

In addition to Board member, translator, referee, transportation coordinator, player, and overall great person, Marie Gomar, Women's Development VP of PARC, has assumed yet another role here: roving reporter. While I was gathering the US Delegation's answers to the Question of the Day, she was canvassing for answers from the broader group:
 
What was your first thought this morning? ¿Cuál fué tu primer pensamiento esta mañana?
 
Tucky Kravitz, referee from Mexico: Después de mi ducha, voy a escuchar a Pink Floyd. After my shower, I am going to listen to Pink Floyd.
 
Loraine Felipe, player from Cuba: Animo a mi misma para jugar bien. Juega Bien, tú puedes!  I self-motivated myself to play well. Play Well, you can do it!
 
Sofia Freer's mother, from Costa Rica had a rapid forceful response without hesitation: Tiene que ganar. She has to win.  (She did, btw.)
 
Pachito, player from Colombia: A ganar. Go win.
 

Josefa Parada, player from Chile: Voy a ganar. I am going to win.
 
Ricardo Monroy, Dominican Republic Coach: Me desperté a las 5am y pensé: Me voy al gimnasio. I woke up at 5 am and thought: I will go to the gym now.
 
Jorge Hirsekorn, Technical Director of Venezuela Racquetball: Ahora debo de ir al baño. I need to go to the bathroom.
 
Carlos Keller Vargas, player from Bolivia: Hambre. Hunger.
 
Gabriela Martinez, player from Guatemala: Quiero seguir durmiendo. I want to keep on sleeping.
 
Bob Fong, Team Canada Physical Therapist: Excited for Day One!
 
Maria Renee Rodriguez, Guatemala: I'm glad Gaby's internal clock was working, because my alarm didn't go off!
 
Tom Travers: It's going to be a great day, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
 
Gary Mazaroff: Where am I?
 
Delegation Member #11 Arrives, and it's...
Frances Jackson! Sharon's mom got here this afternoon and quickly joined the cheerleader ranks courtside. Frances' last trip with the team was to Cali, Colombia, at this event in 2013. Welcome back, Frances!
 
Warming Up...on the Basketball Court
Rhonda the Basketball Fiend recruited the rest of the US Team players and Brent into a spirited game of Horse before the doubles matches this afternoon. They were really good! Athleticism so often transcends individual sports, and our team is no exception. Check out the photo accompanying this blog.
 
Sunday -- The Action Heats Up!
Tomorrow is the second day of three in the round robin/pool play phase of the competition. A point of importance is that the two singles players from each country have to try hard not to lose any of their matches because that's the only way to guarantee they won't meet in earlier rounds of the main draws commencing on Wednesday.
 
Open Divisions
9:45 am  #15 Sharon Jackson vs. #14 Ana Gabriela Martinez, Guatemala
11:30 am  #13 Rhonda vs. #16 Marie Renee Rodriguez, Guatemala
12:15 pm  #4 Charlie vs. #29, Fernando Mansell, Nicaragua
5:30 pm  #5 Sheryl/Rhonda vs. #12 Mariana Tobon/Paola Guerra, Venezuela
6:30 pm  #2 Jake/Bobby vs. #7 Zea/Gomez, Venezuela
 
Bobby Horn has bye in singles on Sunday.
 
Friendship Cup
A Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst has a bye on Sunday.
9:45 am  35+ Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst vs. #5 Gerardo Fajardo, Honduras
3:30 pm  35+ Singles -- #1 Tim Baghurst vs. #8 Cristian Ellot, Costa Rica
7:30 pm  Doubles -- #8 Marie Gomar (Guatemala)/Cheryl Kirk vs. Cristian Ellot/Daniel Suchar, Costa Rica
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 
P.S. It's a whirlwind here! Belated but very sincere birthday greetings go to Terry Rogers and Lori Hellmer, both on April 6th! XOXO to very good friends!



2017 U.S. National Racquetball Team

Blog #2 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica

 

April 7, 2017
 
Yes, they're here. Jake's bags, they're here. Happy dance, cause for major celebration! We were about to send Jake and Bobby (doubles partners, uniforms have to match exactly) over to WalMart to buy matching shirts and shorts. It's not like the other players could have loaned uniforms to Jake...there's a slight size differential involved here. Then we would have had to figure out how to put the required USA on the backs of the shirts.
It's all in the past now, crisis averted.
 
Coach Dave reports in:
"Out of bed early this morning for today’s practice. We had two courts reserved for six players so shuffling in and out was necessary. Thanks to years of experience, Bobby, Rhonda, Sharon, Charlie, Jake, and Sheryl easily adapt to whatever situation arises at racquetball tournaments. Various combinations of players gave each other competition. A most welcome comment I heard several times was, “I’m feeling like I know the courts now. I’m okay with the speed and altitude.”  Trainer Brent Huff stepped in as a fourth, playing with Sharon, against Rhonda and Sheryl. Then he played with Charlie to give Jake and Bobby some work. Sharon and Charlie played some singles, as well. Rhonda leads off tomorrow with a match against Argentina. I like our chances.
 
"The round robins begin tomorrow, and their results will determine the seeding into the main draw. The players are psychologically and physically ready. Each feels the love from fellow team members. There is a lot of mutual support, and it is obvious that everyone is going to send lots of positive vibes to their teammates throughout the tournament."
 
Coaches Meeting
The meeting started at high noon with the fifteen countries in attendance: Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, United States, and Venezuela.
 
Marcelo Gomez, President of PARC, and Francisco Kurzbard, Drawmaster and Technical Committee Representative, imparted tons of useful information on the schedule, new rules, the draws, uniforms, check-in times, appeals committee protocol,, drug testing, and more. After the meeting, passports were checked, entry fees paid, and the draws were distributed. Here we go!
 
Gifts!
A lovely collection of items were found in the tournament welcome bag each person received today: tournament shirt, tournament pin, a cool wireless charger, bag tag, credential, snacks...and the bag itself is another souvenir. Well done, Local Organizing Committee!
 
Opening Ceremonies...Cheryl Kirk and President Sr. Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera
...were a big WOW! The President of Costa Rica, Sr. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera honored the event and our sport by attending the first part of the Ceremonies, which took place at The Indoor Club commencing early evening. After the Parade of Nations, those at the Head Table delivered comments:
 
Sr. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, President of Costa Rica
Sr. Marcelo Gomez, President of PARC and the Costa Rica Racquetball Federation
Ms. Cheryl Kirk, Secretary, International Racquetball Federation
Mr. Tim Doyle, E-Force
Sr. Rodrigo Castro, VP of Executive Board, The Indoor Club
Sr. Silvio Sanchez, President of Racquetball Committee, The Indoor Club
 
After the athletes' and referees' oaths were taken, unusual and delightful entertainment followed with a mime juggling act (reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin) and more juggling using internally lit clubs that were synchronized by the performers. I hope someone got their performance on video, because it was way more impressive than I have been able to describe it here.
 
Reflections on Meeting a President
This was one of the coolest things ever! As the highest-ranking person on site with the International Racquetball Federation (Board Secretary), I had the honor of greeting President Solís upon his arrival at Opening Ceremonies, along with PARC President Marcelo Gomez. The entourage (Marcelo, the President, the security detail, his aide from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I) walked quite a ways through the club to get to the gym where the ceremonies were held. The entire way, club members and guests received handshakes and warm greetings from President Solís. The looks on faces were adoring -- what smiles! He is a popular president, down-to-earth and friendly. As we neared the gym, I tried to stay a respectful distance behind so that he could walk in front, but he gestured to me to walk next to him. I was touched by his courtesy and easy manner.
 
The group walked directly to the Head Table/dais, and I realized that when I asked my good friend and doubles partner Marie Gomar to hold my purse and backpack (since it wouldn't do to be laden down with stuff whilst greeting a president), I did not take my speech out of the bag! It went with Marie to the back of the gym, and now I'm trying to chat with President Solís and answer his questions about the event while the back half of my brain is in a state of blind panic. How would I get my papers before I was called to speak? Mind you, this is not something I could have delivered off the cuff, because the comments were translated into Spanish as well (thanks to Marie).
 
As it happened, President Solis departed after delivering some wonderful comments and a gracious farewell. One speaker was before me then, so I left the table (hope he didn't notice), walked around the perimeter of the gym, retrieved my document, and made it back in time to be introduced.
 
While my brain was melting down, it did occur to me that this might make a good blog anecdote. So there you have it.
2017. U.S. National Racquetball Team and Delegation

Question of the Day
Now it's time to debut the wildly popular Question of the Day. First off...
 
What do we like?
 
Brent: Food all around us!
 
Cheryl: I like the proximity of restaurants, banks, laundry, nail salon, WalMart, Starbucks, etc., so close to the excellent host hotel.
 
Rhonda: I love everything about Costa Rica, the weather, the food, the hotel, the club, the great restaurants and shops that are so close, the people, and I am particularly fond of the basketball court at the club as well. (I need to find a basketball now.)
 
Bobby: I like the hotel, it's super nice.
 
Dave: I like our Team USA unity, as well as seeing friends from other countries.
 
Sheryl: Good food and great company! Not to mention the sunshine.
 
Pat: I like seeing friends from other countries. Of course, I like teasing Sheryl. It's always Lotts of fun.
 
Sharon: We have all the conveniences of home around us.
 
Jake: Everything so far. Food options. Nice hotel. Good club. I got my bags, so I'm whole now.
 
Charlie: Perfect weather. Breakfast buffet with lots of fruit. Food diversity just a few steps away. Very safe and friendly area. Great hotel staff. And the Masters is on TV! Pura vida!
 
Saturday -- It's Time!
The tournament format will be round robin Saturday-Monday to determine main round seeding beginning on Wednesday. Team USA is pumped and ready to go! Here's tomorrow's schedule...send lots of good vibes south to Costa Rica for Team USA!
 
Times are the same as US Mountain Time:
 
9:45 am   #13 Rhonda Rajsich vs. #2 Veronique Guillemette, Argentina
12:15 pm  #4 Charlie Pratt vs. #13 Set Cubillos, Colombia
1:00 pm   #2 Bobby Horn vs. #15 Francisco Gomez, Colombia
5:30 pm   #5 Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts vs. #4 Saunders/Drury, Canada
6:30 pm   #2 Bobby Horn/Jake Bredenbeck vs. #10 Perez/De Leon, Dominican Republic
 
Friendship Cup - Doubles: 7:30 pm #8 Marie Gomar (Guatemala)/Cheryl Kirk vs. #6 Clot/Ubilla, Costa Rica
 
Sharon Jackson has a BYE first round in singles and will play her first match on Sunday.
 
Results and much more tomorrow!

GO TEAM USA!!

-- Cheryl Kirk


 

Blog #1 -- Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC), San José, Costa Rica

April 6, 2017

Greetings from San José, where the entire US Team has arrived as of today! Actually, most of us got in last night, and the only missing elements right now are Jake's two bags that did not get on his standby flight out of Atlanta last night. Severe weather in the southeast yesterday was the culprit. But don't fret, they are reportedly on Delta 325 coming in just any minute now as I write this. Update tomorrow...

2017 Team USA SelfieWithout further ado, introducing the US Team Delegation:

Bobby Horn, California: #1 Singles
Charlie Pratt, Oregon/residing in Florida: #2 Singles
Bobby Horn/Jake Bredenbeck, Minnesota: Doubles

Rhonda Rajsich, Arizona: #1 Singles
Sharon Jackson, Georgia: #2 Singles
Rhonda Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts, Ohio: Doubles

Dave Ellis, California -- Head Coach
Brent Huff, Illinois -- Team Trainer
Cheryl Kirk, Illinois -- Team Leader

And Pat Ellis, who we firmly agree is Dave's exponentially better half (even Dave says so), is with us as Team Mom.

There will be two more players' family members arriving, one on Saturday and one next Tuesday. I will announce who they are when they arrive. A blog should contain a certain air of mystery...

How We Spent Day One in San José
The breakfast buffet in the Hyatt Place is a wonderful offering of this hotel (blessed by certified nutritionist Charlie Pratt). That's how the team started out, then four of us (Dave, Pat, Brent, and I) walked just across the street to WalMart to buy supplies for the team (water, bread, peanut butter, strawberry preserves, nuts, apples, bananas, Oreos, Chips Ahoy...the latter two NOT blessed by certified nutritionist Charlie Pratt). Oh, and an orange shower flower. I learned about the new Snickers candy bar promotional wrapper (in Spanish). New vocabulary!

The team had its first official meeting this afternoon where Dave, Brent, and Cheryl briefed the players on a number of topics relative to the upcoming week. Bobby and Rhonda were elected Team Captains and had the opportunity of imparting wisdom upon the team members with inspiring encouragement like, "Don't screw up." Words to live by.

Then it was off to practice at The Indoor Club, 10 minutes' drive but considerably longer at certain times of the day. The traffic here is heavy. I didn't mention earlier that Dave, Pat, Sheryl, and Rhonda's trip from the airport yesterday, usually maybe 45 minutes, stretched almost two hours.

Coach Dave Ellis will regale us with comments each evening, and here's his account of the team's practice today:

"Shortly after our Team Meeting, Team USA made its first visit to the tournament site. The Indoor Club is a typical Latin American high-class, multi-sport facility. To belong to the club, it is required that you buy “stock” in the facility, along with paying a monthly fee as well. The facility has six courts, one of them a stadium court with seating from floor to ceiling. Because of the altitude and makeup of the courts, they are very fast.

"Team USA spent almost two hours on the courts, working to get used to the speed, the floors, and the lighting. Bobby, Jake, and Charlie spent the first half hour going through personal practice drills. Charlie mentioned that he would like to play some singles, so he moved to a nearby court and played Rhonda a series of short games. Sharon Jackson worked with Brent who concentrated on giving her a series of specific serves (service return practice). Later, Sheryl and Rhonda then played some doubles against Brent and Sharon.  Jake, Bobby, and Charlie got into playing some cutthroat. All in all, it was a good solid first day of practice, accomplishing the goal of getting to know the competition site. We’ll resume practice tomorrow at 10 am."

One of the fun things about arriving is beginning to run into people you know from past events. So many friends from so many countries -- life is good. These folks are family.

Dave and Pat Ellis and Charlie Pratt

Preview of Day Two

So as Dave said, practice for the team will commence at 10 am Friday. On the administrative side of things, the Coaches meeting will take place at 12 noon, followed by a Referee's meeting. The US Team will get together an hour or so before the Opening Ceremonies that will take place at the club. Once the festivities are over, it will be an early night since competition will commence at 9 am (equivalent of US Mountain Time) Saturday morning.


So, welcome to the PARC blogs. For the next 9 days I'll be sending results, news, anecdotes, player profiles, and more, all designed to help you, the reader, feel like you're here with us in San José. We do wish you were all here...you know how racquetball players love an audience!

-- Cheryl Kirk