2016 IRF Racquetball World Championships

July 15, 2016, 11:30 a.m. (ET)



XVIII IRF World Racquetball Championships Daily Blogs

Cali, Colombia

Team USA Challenge Donation Link

Blog #10
Saturday, July 23, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk

Coach Dave reports on Team USA's day, below. Many thanks to Dave for his insightful comments over the last 10 days, and kudos to Janel Tisinger for the "Vee-Logs" that brought extra coverage and a lot of fun. Go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nellers10 to view the Vee-Logs, or simply type in "nellers10".
 
In the Women's Singles final, Paola Longoria of Mexico and Ana Gabriela Martinez of Guatemala battled for the Gold.  Longoria took the match with scores of 15-12, 15-5. We can't wait to see what the future holds for Gaby, the Women's Singles silver medalist. At 16 years old, her adventure is just beginning.
 
Coach Dave: It's a Wrap!
 
"It was quite a day, Saturday. Team USA competed in five finals, and we won four of them. Michelle, playing in the Red division, took care of business, defeating María Renée of Guatemala. Rhonda, playing in the Blue division, defeated Korea’sJin Young Siok in two tough games. All of Team USA gives credit and admiration for Rhonda’s continuing to play, in spite of a tough blow to the face from the match with Ana Gabriela Martinez in the Round of 16 in the Gold division. Rhonda refused to forfeit out of the competition although plagued by intense headaches. Rhonda turned her ankle on her first match point; Trainer Brent Huff was called into action once again. Rhonda was able to close out the match shortly thereafter, taped ankle and all.
 
"Rocky Carson faced frequent pro tour rival Daniel De La Rosa. The two competed frequently throughout the year, but now, in Cali, Colombia, it was a different setting.  Both players have excellent anticipation and “retrieve-ability,” resulting in numerous extraordinarily long rallies in a court that many players described as a sauna. The match went tiebreaker, and the game saw Rocky continuing with his variety of Z serves with only a rare jam serve. His returns were excellent throughout, and the four-time defending champion now has earned his fifth. As Team USA Coach, I want to say that I have tremendous admiration for Rocky’s achievement. He will have been IRF World Champion from 2008-2018, and to emphasize this feat, I’ll mention that 37-year old-Carson was able to defeat 23-year-old De La Rosa, who was bleeding and totally exhausted after the match. Don’t count Rocky out for win #6 in 2018!
 
"Jake and Jose faced defending champions Alvaro Beltran and Javier Martinez of Mexico. Beltran gave our Jose Diaz a lot of tough nick serves off the right side, eliciting weak returns that put us at a disadvantage during the rallies. Jose, with the score at 3-9, went to the box and scored 9 straight points with absolutely excellent right side wallpaper. Now up 12-9, the guys couldn’t hold the lead. Throughout the rest of the first game, and throughout the second, Javier/Alvaro had the advantage and won in two games.
 
"To cap off the event, Aimee and Janel faced off against rivals Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas of Mexico. This rivalry had become more intense with the Mexican players having defeated our ladies in 2014 in Burlington. The match was back and forth throughout, with the emotion so intense in the room that you could almost cut it with a knife.  With the match going tiebreaker, our ladies immediately went down 3-0.  Fighting back, with high lob nick serves by Aimee to Paola that pinned her in the back of the court, and with low lob wallpaper by Janel, our gals fought back to a 10-4 lead. The last point is many times the toughest to come by, and this was no exception.  Paola’s coach, Fran Davis, refusing to lose, had Samantha serve Z’s from the left side to Aimee. She did score a couple of points but then Aimee adapted. Our ladies went through at least four tries with no success. Finally, Aimee hit a perfect down the line pass on the left side that did not come off the back wall, and the victory was ours. Most of the onlookers called this an upset. Not in my mind, as I had the benefit of knowing of their intense pre-match preparation, along with their awesome talent.
 
"In conclusion, I’m eternally grateful for the work of both our staff and our players. Cheryl and Brent have been just the absolute best in their roles as Team Leader and Team Trainer.  With the addition of Debbie Tisinger-Moore, our staff is complete. Debbie works well with all the players on the team, but I’m especially grateful to her for taking the strong lead with our women’s delegation. Debbie, it was such a pleasure working with you.
 
"Our players give 100% on the court, and they do so away from their families for 11 days. Nearly all are pro players who compete in many tournaments during the season, and it is admirable and so appreciated that they sacrifice themselves to play for their country. Remember these names and give them strokes when you see them again: Rocky Carson, Chris Crowther, Jake Bredenbeck, Jose Diaz, Rhonda Rajsich, Michelle Key, Aimee Ruiz, and Janel Tisinger. Next up for the US Adult Team will be the Pan American Championships in April of 2017. The site will be the Indoor Club in Costa Rica. Go Team USA!"



 
The Finals
Michelle Key def. María Renée Rodriguez (Guatemala) -- Red division, 15-12, 15-13
Rhonda Rajsich def. Jin Young Siok (Korea) -- Blue division, 15-13, 15-10
Rocky Carson def. Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico) -- Gold division, 15-11, 5-15, 11-5 
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz lost to Alvaro Beltran/Javier Moreno (Mexico) -- Gold division, 12-15, 9-15
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger def. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico) -- Gold division, 15-11, 9-15, 11-8
 
US Men's, Women's, and Overall Team Results
Rocky Carson -- Gold -- Men's Singles
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger -- Gold -- Women's Doubles
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz -- Silver -- Men's Doubles
Rhonda Rajsich -- Gold -- Women's Singles Blue
Michelle Key -- Gold -- Women's Singles Red
 
US Men's Team -- 1st place
US Women's Team -- 2nd place
Overall Team -- 2nd place
 
Final Positions
Men's Team -- USA; Mexico; Bolivia; Canada
Women's Team -- Mexico; USA; Guatemala; Canada
Overall Team -- Mexico; USA; Bolivia; Canada
 
After the Awards...
Once the match point of the last match (Women's Doubles) was won by Aimee and Janel, all heck broke loose. What a whirlwind -- lots of emails, texts, crying, hugs, and joyous celebration. Then it was time for the awards ceremony, and with medals, flags, and national anthems, the players were recognized in the gold, blue, red, and white divisions. We took a team photo directly afterward, waited for a team member's (routine) drug test to be administered, then boarded the bus back to the hotel. The team met to raise a toast and to be together one more time before departures in the morning. The early morning. The very early morning. Five leave at 3 am and seven at 4:30 am!
 
Question of the Day
What are the first thing(s) you'll do when you get home?
 
Cheryl: Kiss my hubby and critters (in that order), make a smoothie, and sleep. Also, I will enjoy brushing my teeth with water direct from the faucet!
 
Michelle: Hugs to my family, kisses to Grace, grab food, take a long hot shower, and sleep in my amazing bed!
 
Rocky: I believe we are having a family beach day as long as I make it home at the original time of arrival.
 
Aimee: Hug and kiss for Felix then home to Maggie, Casper, and Wendy for kisses. Long hot shower, sleep, then Monday Felix took the day off so we're headed to the US Open Golf to watch some practice rounds before back to work.
 
Brent: Hug 'n kiss Tami (assuming she picks me up from the airport), eat normal food, shower in hot water, sleep in my own bed!
 
Debbie: Hugs and kisses to hubby, hugs to Blue, SLEEP, shower, then work/play in the garden. Blue will love that, too!
 
Dave: Hug Pat a thousand times :-). I'm home mid afternoon Sunday, so maybe a get-together for pizza with John and family.
 
Janel: I'm gonna talk to and cuddle my baby kitties! I'm gonna take a nap. And I'm gonna be proud of myself and enjoy my accomplishment!
 
Note:  You might notice Jake and Jose missing from this list...they actually are staying a couple more days in Colombia to visit and sightsee. Have fun, guys!
 
Thank You’s
The US Team Delegation wishes to deliver our gratitude to those who made the event so truly memorable:
 
Jonathan and Carolyn Clay of Rollout Racquetball for being Official Apparel Sponsor for USA Racquetball and the US Team.
 
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 Team with their participation at international competitions.
 
The Local Organizing Committee (Juan Manuel Gutiérrez and Company) for putting on a fantastic event. The work behind the scenes to pull of a tournament of this magnitude is massive, and they accomplished it in fine style.
 
The tournament staff (Osvaldo Maggi, Francisco Kurzbard, Gary Mazaroff, Mauro Grandio, Pablo Berriel, et al)
 

The referees who traveled from several countries to provide the happy gift that no player had to ref the next match!



 
Pablo Fajre and Laura McCormick for bringing the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals to racquetball fans around the globe. Gary Mazaroff, Tim Baghurst, and Laura, great job on the commentary!
 
The many volunteers and employees who worked tirelessly in support of this event and its players, coaches, and delegates from the 20 countries in attendance.
 
The staff of the NH Royal Cali Hotel who continually served us in the spirit of “Yes! Now, what’s the question?”
 
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!
 
Thank you for tuning in to the Daily Blogs. The team sends their heartfelt gratitude for all the support via Facebook, email, text messages, and telepathy!
 
Signing off from Cali, Colombia.
 
GO TEAM USA!!


Blog #9
Friday, July 22, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk
 
What a Day! -- Dave Gives the Scoop
"We had five matches and came back to the hotel with five victories. Michelle played against Japan and dominated the first game. The second game was tough.  It got to be about 11-10, and from this point Michelle closed it out with four high lob serves that gave her set-ups.
 
"Rhonda played the tough Mariana Tobon from Venezuela, and she emerged victorious in two fairly one-sided games. Rhonda continues to compete, even though still bothered by headaches that resulted from the contact with Ana Gabriela of Guatemala two days ago.
 

"Next up was Rocky Carson, the four-time defending champion. Conrrado Moscoso of Bolivia gave Rocky all he wanted and then some. Throughout the rallies, Rocky hit many, many three-wall shots, and these forced Conrrado to do lots of running. The match went tiebreaker with Rocky winning 11-9.  At the end of the match, Conrrado lay face down on the court, completely exhausted.



 
"Aimee and Janel played solidly against Jen Saunders and Frédérique Lambert of Canada, winning in two games, 15-9, 15-8. Both ladies stepped it up, ripping jam serves that were mixed in with their other weapons. Aimee and Janel are getting better every match, and I like their chances tomorrow in the final. 
 
"Jake and Jose played Carlos Keller and Karim Carrasco from Bolivia, winning the first game 15-14. The two Bolivians kicked it into gear with long runs of points in the second. In the tiebreaker, Jake was hammering jam serves among others, with these producing set-ups. The Bolivians looked overwhelmed with Jake’s power and Jose’s ability to cover lots of near winners. 
 
"Michelle is in the final of the red category, and Rhonda is in the blue. Rocky, Aimee, Janel, Jake, and Jose are all in their respective finals in the gold divisions. It will be the USA against Mexico in the Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, and Ladies Doubles. Please, all of you USA fans, do anything you can to send us good luck. I’m so proud of each and every player in our delegation as they continue to give 100% at all times."
 
Friday's Results
Michelle Key def. Harumi Kajino (Japan) -- Red division, 15-2, 15-9
Rhonda Rajsich def. Mariana Tobon (Venezuela) -- Blue division, 15-10, 15-5
 
Gold Division:
Rocky Carson def. Conrrado Moscoso (Bolivia), 15-12, 12-15, 11-4
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger def. Jen Saunders/Frédérique Lambert (Canada), 15-8, 15-7
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz def. Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco (Bolivia), 15-14, 8-15, 11-8
 
Note: Winning these matches today meant the world to the US Team. More than a few times, the pressure was so bad that I closed my eyes and listened to which side was cheering at the end of each point. I couldn't bear to watch. It was living and dying by the sound of applause. Is it possible to OD on your own generated adrenaline? If so, I did, when you count pre-, during-, and post-games of three high-energy matches. That buzz didn't go away for a good long while.
 
Featured Player of the Day – Rocky Carson
Rocky, 37, has been a California guy all his life. He was born in Newport Beach and currently resides in Ladera Ranch. Rocky and Jenn have been married for 14 years, and they are parents to daughter Jasmine, 12, and son Christian, 9.
 
So how did you get started playing racquetball? “My parents, RO and Lauren Carson, owned health/racquetball clubs when I was a kid. I was on the racquetball court at 18 months with a ball and racquet. My parents used the court as childcare. They knew I loved it because I cried every time I had to get off the court. When I was six years old, we moved to Santa Maria, CA. Santa Maria is a small town and there was no junior program, so I had to play with the adults.  I believe having to play adults gave me an advantage when I did start playing juniors. My first juniors tournament was in Dallas, and I was 10 years old. From then on, we were hooked!  All of our family vacations revolved around Junior Nationals. At age 19 in 1998, I qualified as an alternate on Team USA. That year, three days before the World Games started in Bolivia, I got a call from USA Racquetball saying that I needed to grab my passport and get to Bolivia as one of our players had gotten hurt. That was my first experience being part of Team USA, and I’ve been a part of it ever since.”
 
Other hobbies/interests? “Surfing (sometimes with my son and daughter), hanging out with my family, coaching my son’s sports teams, being Jasmine’s biggest fan in her dance competitions. Both kids play racquetball, too. I also do some training and teaching out of Renaissance ClubSports in Aliso Viejo.”
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? “Racquetball has been a big blessing in my life. I'm grateful to my wife Jenn for giving me the support to pursue my dreams, as well as Jasmine and Christian, my sister Dawn, and of course my parents who have always understood my passion for racquetball. Thanks to my sponsors Head/Penn, RacquetWorld, Rollout Racquetball, CourtGrabbers, and Renaissance ClubSports. Lastly, but most importantly, I'd like to thank God for blessing me with this wonderful opportunity and the gifts he has given me.
 
“I have always considered it to not only be an honor but also a blessing to play for the US Team. America is the best. It is also nice to be a part of a team in which we are all trying to win the gold, individually and collectively.”
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day – Cheryl Kirk
Team Leader Cheryl Kirk grew up in Decatur, IL, and resides in Naperville, IL, with her husband of 19 years, Kit Lawson, dog Hayley, 9, and cat KC, 14. She is involved with and supportive of animal rights issues.
 
Cheryl began playing and competing in racquetball 39 years ago 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. She is on the Board of the Illinois State Racquetball Association and an Officer on the Boards of USA Racquetball, 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 would I do without him?!"
 
This month and next, Cheryl is looking forward to competing in Summerfest (a local Lombard, Illinois, event) and then the World Senior Racquetball Championships (ages 35 and over) in late August in Albuquerque, NM. She hopes to see a lot of you there!
 
Meeting Wonderful People

Besides experiencing great racquetball, one of the most meaningful things on this trip is the opportunity to meet nice people who are so interested in interacting with us and learning more about us and about racquetball. For example, on my way to the club today, I had a nice conversation (in my broken Spanish) with Jose the conductor (driver). Great practice!



 
A group of day care providers with maybe twelve 2-3 year olds in tow stopped by to watch part of Rhonda's match this morning. They asked questions about racquetball, and the little ones were enthralled with the game.
 
The volunteers helping out the Local Organizing Committee with a variety of tasks at the club are fantastic young people who are eager to talk with and get to know us.
 
I'm really going to miss these folks when we leave here on Sunday. The warmth and friendliness we have enjoyed will be remembered for a long, long time.
 
Question of the Day
What are your favorite three movies?
 
Dave: Shawshank Redemption; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; The King’s Speech
Rocky: Star Wars; Gladiator; Zoolander
Janel: Jurassic Park; Love Actually; anything with zombies in it!
Michelle: Couples Retreat; The Book of Life; Remember the Titans
Aimee: Jerry Maguire; P.S. I Love You; any of the Transformer movies
Jake: Fast and Furious series; Boondock Saints; Warrior
Jose: Notebook; Fault in All Stars; Me Before You
Debbie: Jaws; Alien; Silence of the Lambs
Rhonda: Jaws; Warrior; Boondock Saints; anything 30 for 30
Chris: Caddy Shack; Training Day; Casino
Cheryl: Remember the Titans; Pretty Woman; My Cousin Vinny

Brent: Star Wars movies; Transformers movies; Austin Powers movies



 
Super Saturday Schedule!
We're down to the wire, this is it, US Team fans! The Gold divisions' final matches will be streamed live beginning at approximately 12:45 pm Central time with the Women's Gold final. To kick off the afternoon, it will be Paola Longoria (Mexico) vs. 16-year-old Ana Gabriela Martinez (Guatemala). Congrats to Gaby on her first appearance in an IRF Worlds final!
 
US Team Matches
Michelle Key, 10:00 am vs. María Renée Rodriguez (Guatemala) -- Red division
Rhonda Rajsich, 10:00 am vs. Jin Young Siok (Korea) -- Blue division
Rocky Carson, 2:00 pm vs. Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico) -- Gold division
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz, 3:00 pm vs. Alvaro Beltran/Javier Moreno (Mexico) -- Gold division  
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger 4:00 pm vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas (Mexico) -- Gold division
 
There will be one more blog of fairly short length tomorrow night. After a banquet at a local restaurant, the US Team leaves virtually in the middle of the night for the airport to catch their flights home.
 
But, first things first...
 
GO TEAM USA!!


Blog #8
Thursday, July 21, 2016

by Cheryl Kirk
 
Dave's Comments
Rhonda and Michelle both were successful in their opening matches in the Blue and Red divisions, respectively. Both ladies won in two games, with Michelle defeating Ane from Korea and Rhonda defeating Maiko from Japan. 
 
Chris played Canada’s Samuel Murray in the quarters of the Gold division. Chris dominated the first game, but then Samuel was able to turn it around. The Canadian started returning the Chris’s Z’s consistently. He stepped up his own service game by hitting a variety of serves, executing each of them very well. Samuel hit lots of excellent shots during the rallies, along with throwing his body all over the court making great gets. 



Rocky played the up-and-coming Javier Mar from Mexico on the live streaming court. Rocky played solidly throughout, ending the match in two games. The four-time defending champion will play the semis tomorrow against Bolivia’s Conrrado Moscoso. 
 
Aimee and Janel won in two over the Dominican Republic and will play Canada tomorrow in the semifinals. Jake and Jose defeated a tough Costa Rican team in two games, also. The guys are reading each other better and better. Jake’s lob nicks and Jose’s jam serves and wallpaper kept Costa Rica on the defense throughout the match.
 
Thursday Results
Michelle Key def. Jung Eun Ane (Korea), 15-4, 15-11 (Red division)
Rhonda Rajsich def. Maiko Sato (Japan), 15-4, 15-11 (Blue division)
Chris Crowther lost to Samuel Murray (Canada), 15-7, 3-15, 7-11
Rocky Carson def. Javier Mar (Mexico), 15-9, 15-9
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger def. Maria Cespedes/Merynanyelly Delgado Araujo (Dominican Republic), 15-6, 15-8.  
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz def. Teobaldo Fumero Adams/Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica), 15-9, 15-9
 
Featured Player of the Day – Rhonda Rajsich
Rhonda Rajsich, 37, 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, who ended the LPRT season in the #2 position, 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 wants to recognize her father Dennis Rajsich and mother Deneen Thurow for their lifelong support, and she also thanks Coach Jim Winterton, Trainers 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. In answer to last night's blog question (What is your favorite childhood memory?), Rhonda reminisces, "Going to Disneyland and Huntington Beach with my parents."
 
How does it feel to play for the USA? “It is truly an honor to wear USA on our backs and to compete for our country. So few athletes get the chance, and it is an unforgettable experience to share a single vision and goal with a team in an ‘individual’ sport. It’s pretty special when you hear the cheers and support from teammates who are usually your opponents for the other 99% of the season. We all bleed Red, White, and Blue together at these special events and give our all to represent the USA.”
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day – Dave Ellis
US Team Head Coach Dave Ellis has been married to Patricia for over 45 years. Stockton, CA, of the 209, is home to the Ellises. Dave and Pat are the proud parents of son John (married to Jennifer) and grandparents of Julius, 14, and Jordan, 8. 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. Dave says, “Also, John, Jody Nance, Robbie Collins, Jazmine Trevino, Pat Ellis, and I work with juniors twice a week for three hours each. We were proud to have taken 17 juniors to the Nationals in Minneapolis last month. My constant challenge to all racquetball players is to help out at least one junior with coaching, transportation, financial support, etc., etc."
 
Dave 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, from fundamentals to advanced placement calculus. He retired in 2006 and now devotes his full time and efforts to racquetball. Dave has been coaching professional racquetball since 1992.
 
How did you get started playing racquetball? "My brother-in-law, Dave Apodaca, introduced me to the game. We found an old quonset hut on the University of the Pacific campus and started playing there with wooden racquets. I was 29 years old. I soon joined the YMCA that had three courts. After two years, Pat and I joined the Quail Lakes Athletic Club where we soon had a “second family,” all of our racquetball friends. We now have many new family additions: all of our friends at In Shape in Stockton and huge numbers throughout NorCal and the racquetball community worldwide."
 
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."
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? "First and foremost, my family: Pat, John, Jennifer and the kids for all the support they give to our racquetball efforts. Secondly, I recognize the US Team 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 Debbie Tisinger-Moore (Assistant Coach) who are always ready, day or night, to give support to our delegation. I cannot overemphasize the contributions of these individuals. Thanks to USAR President Jason Thoerner (who is also the National Team Committee Chairperson) and the USA Racquetball Board of Directors who have fought through years of budgetary woes and are now finding ways to properly fund Team USA. Last but not least, many, many other individual contributors who have funded player expenses (per diems), team dinners, uniforms, equipment, etc., for our various delegations. Reaching Your Dream Foundation particularly stands out in my mind. These people in the past and present have been lifesavers for Team USA." 
 
Thoughts about competing here in Cali, Colombia? "I love Cali, the people, the “salsa ambience,” the Colombian Federation with Juan Manuel Gutiérrez’ leadership, the club, Cañasgordas, the hotel, and the nearby malls. Also, I can get a pedicure for my ugly toes for about $5!"



Quotes/Comments of the Day (Overheard)
Rocky stumbles on the stairs. Debbie says, "Be careful there." Rocky replies, "Thanks, I'm a dainty flower." (Note: Um, right.)
 
"Footwork is the key to the universe." -- Debbie Tisinger-Moore
(Note: this comment may have changed my life.)
 
Cheryl to Dave and Debbie: "One of the many, many things I like about Debbie is that she reminds me of...me." (Note: we really are a lot alike -- we are both what you might call "CDO" -- that's OCD but with the letters in alphabetical order as they should be. Junior Team Esprit Coach Jen Meyer resembles this remark...)


 
Family Bonding
Throughout the match schedule today, and via the wonders of technology, I got to do some update texting with Karen Key, Dennis Rajsich, Lauren Carson, Felix Ruiz, and Karen Bredenbeck. The families back home are on pins and needles like the rest of us, but alas, unless streamed, they don't get to watch their loved ones play real-time. It's fun to include them in the action!
 
Shout Out to Keith Calkins
The US Teams sends warm wishes to Keith Calkins whose birthday is Friday. Also, we express our hearty congratulations on Keith's induction into the IRF Hall of Fame, voted on at the World Congress on Tuesday evening. Few deserve induction more than Keith. His leadership, his passion for the game, his countless contributions, and his tireless work on behalf of racquetball are legendary. We couldn't be happier for Keith!



Question of the Day
What are your three biggest pet peeves?
(Disclaimer: some people were compelled to provide more than three. We respect that and are proud to give them this emotional outlet.)
 
Aimee: When Felix tells me he's listening, but he's really not (happens a lot); when people don't return shopping carts in a parking lot; when people spell my name wrong!
 
Janel: Lack of empathy; selfishness; people who don't watch where they walk; when people don't respect boundaries and think they can go through your 'fridge when they come over and try on all your clothes and go through your drawers. (Feels like we struck a nerve here...)
 
Brent: Slow drivers in the passing lane for no reason; being late -- if you are right on time, you are late; people who ask for help/suggestions and then don't do anything with it after spending all that time with them.
 
Rocky: When my wife tells me how to drive ALL the time; sleeping all day (unless sick); not washing hands after a workout at the gym; using the phone at the dinner table.
 
Jake: Slow drivers/bad drivers; lazy people, all the time; rude people without manners. LOL.
 
Chris: Paying taxes; rooming with Rocky for 10 days; playing 22-year-olds from Canada.
 
Jose: People who don't use their turn signal; slow drivers; bad pizza.
 
Michelle: Being treated like a child; people who are late or lazy with their responsibilities; when people scratch their plates with their silverware and make that really annoying noise; people who chew with their mouths open.
 
Cheryl: People walking in crowds who stop suddenly when you're right behind them; letting the dog go outside without a leash; putting shoes on the bedspread; Facebook misspelling and nastiness; greed; crooked pictures and court stickers; people who don't do what I say (LOL).
 
Dave: Salesmen who do not have any regard for the truth and will say anything in order to persuade you; racists, bigots, snobs; doubles players who don’t get out of the service box quickly when their partner is serving; people who make fun of the Lakers now that they’re down; players who don’t prepare; people who throw trash on the ground; long layovers when traveling; American Airlines baggage staff; takers who are never givers; young people who won't help us viejos (old people) with technology.
 
Debbie: Liars and cheaters; dirty stove; slow drivers in the fast lane. (The latter is starting to be a trend here...)
 
Rhonda (who receives credit for suggesting this Question of the Day): Being cold (including being blasted with cold air and including when I am trying eat hot food and it ends up getting cold before I can finish it); people who are self-absorbed and inconsiderate; when the volume on commercials blasts out so much louder than the program I'm trying to watch.
 
Remote Responders
From back in the good old US of A, Pat Ellis and Kit Lawson (Cheryl's husband) were invited to participate.
 
Pat (California): People chewing gum; water spilled on tile floors and not wiped up; people who like to disagree just for the heck of it.
 
Kit (Illinois): When people stop listening to me, after three words; the gravity moment that occurs nearly every morning when I have to pick up something I dropped; when I am blamed for wrongdoing, even if I did it. (Me: Um, hubby, don't you have any pet peeves about me? Hubby: Sure, #'s 8 and 17 on the longer list. Me: Can't wait to get home and see that list.)
 
Guest Responders (On-site)
María Renée Rodriguez (Guatemalan player): Spelling mistakes, especially in PowerPoint and academic presentations; mediocrity; students who only want to expend minimum effort, if at all; Guatemalan traffic and corruption.
 
Corey Osborne (Canadian coach): No intensity on the court.
 
Michel Gagnon (Canadian coach): Having to wash the dishes after dinner.
 
Sudsy Monchik (Ecuadoran coach): Being late (or not being early); complacency; not saying please and thank you.
 
Tom Travers: Players who say "good rally"...sure, that's great if you've been running around the court like an idiot; having a ref trying to explain to each line judge what he called, but you can't understand the language; someone says they're going to do something, but they don't do it.
 
Note: Okay, I want to share a conversation I had with Tom on this topic today. I told him about my shoes on the bedspread pet peeve. He asked an unsolicited follow-up question: "Do you let your dog and cat on the bed?" I said yes, of course I do. He started chortling and couldn't stop. He said that pets even have four feet vs. the two shoes. He asked if I give them a bath every night. (No.) He thought the "pet" peeve aspect was hilarious. He said I made his week. I fail to see how this could be even remotely similar to shoes on the bed. Whatever.
 
Somewhere out there, someone is reading this and thinking, "What does this have to do with racquetball?" They would be right...but this is my blog. Alright, alright, back to the racquetball tournament...
 
Friday's Match Schedule
It's Semifinal Friday! Nail-biters tomorrow will include:
 
Michelle Key, 10:00 am vs. Harumi Kajino (Japan) -- Red division
Rhonda Rajsich, 11:00 am vs. Mariana Tobon (Venezuela) -- Blue division
Rocky Carson, 1:00 pm vs. Conrrado Moscoso (Bolivia)
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger, 2:00 pm vs. Jen Saunders/Frédérique Lambert (Canada)
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz, 3:00 pm vs. Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco (Bolivia)
 
Exciting times for Team USA and all their fans! Be sure to check the streaming schedule and tune in as your day will allow. Go to www.internationalracquetball.com and click on Watch.
 
GO TEAM USA!!


Blog #7
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk
 
"Team USA had four matches today, and we won three of them. Rhonda left it all on the court with the up-and-coming Gaby Martinez. Ana Gabriela is about 3 foot 5 inches but solid muscle and extreme determination. It was just a great match. Gabby took the first game 15-14. Rhonda got the second by the same score. Gaby made a lot of shots in the tiebreaker and ended up winning, 11-7.
 
"Rocky played Colombian Alejandro Herrera in front of the home crowd on the stadium court. Alejandro was tough the first game, giving Rocky all he wanted, with the game going to Mr. Carson, 15-14.  During the second game, Rocky’s serves reminded me of those of Egan Inoue and Tim Doyle. They were rockets, and they overpowered Herrera, with Rocky winning the second game easily. 
 
"Chris played Argentina’s Francisco Kurzbard. Playing steadily throughout, he ended up winning 15-8, 15-8. Chris is playing very solidly, very relaxed. Using deep Z serves with an occasional lob, Chris was able to dominate center court throughout the match. 
 
"Jake and Jose played Korea. Jose, seeming somewhat lackadaisical, played most of the first game as if he was a bit tired. Jake hit lots of good serves and good shots to dominate. Jose woke up and played really well in the second game. Team USA easily closed out the match in two games.
 
"Each day now will get tougher. The quarterfinals are tomorrow, semis on Friday, and then the finals on Saturday. The gold cup will be tough obtain, but not impossible. Rhonda and Michelle will continue to contribute points by playing in the Olympic format dropdown categories. All for now, send us positive vibes for Thursday’s play!"

Wednesday's Results
Rhonda Rajsich lost to Ana Gabriela Martinez (Guatemala), 14-15, 15-14, 7-11
Rocky Carson def. Alejandro Herrera (Colombia), 15-12, 15-2
Chris Crowther def. Fernando Kurzbard (Argentina), 15-8, 15-8
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz def. Daeyong Kwon/Park Ju Yong (Korea), 15-8, 15-5
 
Featured Player of the Day -- Chris Crowther
 
Chris Crowther, 37, is a born-and-raised California boy by way of Yorba Linda and RIverside. His father got him started with racquetball at the age of 10.
 
Chris graduated from UC Riverside in 2000, and he is Director of Sales for E-Force Racquetball. When he's not working and playing racquetball, he enjoys golf, squash, swimming, and hiking.
 
Chris thanks his family and friends for their support, and he offers these thoughts on competing at the IRF World Championships: "It's fun competing and playing for the USA. It's always a privilege and honor to represent my country."
 
Note: Every reporter loves a scoop, and do I have a great one! In talking with Chris the other night at the team dinner, he shared that he became engaged to his now-fiancee Julie Chun less than two weeks ago, on Sunday, July 10th. Following a romantic proposal at the beach, Julie said yes! Then, three days later, Chris left the country to compete here in Cali. The US Team expresses its warm congratulations to Chris and Julie on their engagement! P.S. Ladies, I saw a picture of the ring, and it is stunning!
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day – Brent Huff
 
Brent Huff of St. Charles, IL, is our US Team Athletic Trainer. He holds a Masters degree in Sports Medicine from the US Sports Academy and possesses 16 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 for Holistic Lifestyle Coaching with the CHEK Institute (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology). He will be completing his certification in massage therapy this August.
 
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 the LA Dodgers.”
 
A Wilson- and Rollout Racquetball-sponsored player who took up the sport 30+ years ago, Brent was gold medalist in Mixed Elite at 2016 USAR National Doubles.
 
"It’s a privilege and an honor to make the trip with the US Team again, an opportunity to work with the best racquetball athletes in the world and help out 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 support of me, my profession, and my love of racquetball."
 
Question of the Day
What is your happiest childhood memory?
 
Michelle: The day my sister was born and holding her for the first time.
 
Cheryl: My parents gave my sister and me such great childhoods, it's hard to choose. For example, when other moms were saying how they couldn't wait for school to start after summer vacation, I remember my mom saying she was sad because she liked having us at home with her. Also when I got my tonsils out when I was 6, I got a Barbie doll as a gift (the one with the blonde ponytail, striped one-piece bathing suit, plastic shoes, and earrings that turned the side of her head green).
 
Rocky: So many great memories on vacations with my whole family, but I also love all the times I played sports with my dad -- tennis, baseball, and especially racquetball.
 
Dave: My father was a Methodist minister, and growing up in Corona, CA, I had access to a small full basketball court. My friends and I would go there at all hours to play. We'd play really hard for a long time, and then we'd check out the refrigerator in the kitchen. There were almost always leftovers from a wedding or a church group, so we'd graciously help clean out the refrigerator. This is one memory among MANY.
 
Chris: Having a great group of friends on the same block to grow up with, many of whom I'm still friends with, and being fortunate enough to travel the world at such a young age.
 
Brent: Going to Branson, Missouri, for summer vacations -- water parks, go carts, music shows, mini golf, etc.
 
Jake: Mine would be traveling to all the tourneys with my family, all around the country and in-state.
 
Jose: Going to and winning my first Junior Nationals. All Junior Nationals and Worlds were very special.
 
Janel: My happiest memories as a child all have to do with being with my mom, my brother, and my sister -- just the four of us. When we were together, everything was gonna be okay.
 
Debbie: One of my happiest memories as a kid was that when the Beatles were going to be on Ed Sullivan, my mom let us eat TV dinners on kitchen chairs in the living room. Black & white TV gang! Oh, and I remember my mom giving me a dollar to take my little brother and sister to the movie theater to see The Wizard of Oz. I had no idea the scene at Munchkin Land was going to be in COLOR. Wow! Oh, the memories are flowing now! Got another one -- we were kind of poor growing up, and we couldn't afford potato chips. So, my mom would cut corn tortillas into triangles, fry them up in the morning, then put them my school lunch. I still fry up corn tortillas to this day!
 
Host Hotel -- Home Away From Home
The NH Royal Cali Hotel is located in the southern part of Cali, and it is the place the US Team, and indeed all of this tournament's participants and staff, lay their heads. Formerly the Radisson, the hotel is 15-20 minutes' drive from Club Cañasgordas. Adjacent is a small mall with a grocery and a few stores and businesses; across the street is the Unicentro Mall that boasts many levels, numerous restaurants, and tons of top-notch shopping.
 

The hotel itself has a very nice registration and lobby area. Meeting rooms, a full service restaurant, pool, jacuzzi, business center, and a workout facility are all amenities enjoyed by guests. What is perhaps most impressive is the friendliness and efficiency of the staff. They are extremely professional and very welcoming. In fact, we were happy to see several still here from our last visit a couple of years ago.



 
Americans in Colombia
There are more Americans here than just the twelve in the US Team Delegation. Fran Davis (WA, coaching for Mexico), Tom Travers (FL, coaching for Guatemala), and Sudsy Monchik (coaching for Ecuador) are all here, and it's great to see them participating in the growth of international racquetball.
 
IRF and Tournament Staff members Luke St. Onge (CO), Gary Mazaroff (NM), Marco Hidalgo (MI), and Timothy Baghurst (OK, with wife Terra-Leigh) are on hand, and there are a few players who reside in the United States but play for their home countries. Alok Mehta, Aaron Booker, and Sriram Ravindran, to name three, come under that category. If there are others and someone could please let me know, I'll give them a shout-out in a coming blog.
 
Thursday's Match Schedule
The US Team players will compete against six different countries on Thursday. Although we don't yet know the streaming schedule (i.e. who will be assigned to the streaming court each hour), the streaming does indeed begin tomorrow at the club. Please visit http://www.internationalracquetball.com/watch.html for more information!
 
Michelle Key, 10:00 am vs. Jung Eun Ane (Korea) -- Red Division
Rhonda Rajsich, 10:00 am vs. Maiko Sato (Japan) -- Blue Division
Chris Crowther, 11:00 am vs. Samuel Murray (Canada) -- Gold Division
Rocky Carson, 12:00 am vs. Javier Mar (Mexico) -- Gold Division
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger, 2:00 pm vs. Maria Cespedes/Merynanyelly Delgado Araujo (Dominican Republic) -- Gold Division
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz, 4:00 pm vs. Teobaldo Fumero Adams/Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica) -- Gold Division
 
Now is the time, and the US Team is looking for every good thought, vibe, comment that we can get! See www.usaracquetball.com, Facebook and YouTube for more coverage of this IRF Worlds Event!
 
GO TEAM USA!!


Blog #6
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk
 
Coach Dave Describes the Day

"Team USA got off to a disappointing start this morning as Michelle lost to Mariana Tobon from Venezuela. Michelle played like God herself the first game. She has so much natural talent, and it all shone through in every aspect of her game. The second and third games were a complete turnaround as she just couldn’t find answers. She dropped the tiebreaker by a score of 11-4. Rocky had a match with Sriram Ravindran of India by way of Illinois who was overmatched by the four-time defending world champion (but enjoyed the experience immensely). Rocky had a chance to bear down practicing different serves, particularly to get his drive serve ready for upcoming matches. Chris Crowther played Timothy Baghurst of the one-person England delegation. Chris also had a chance to work on different parts of his game. I’m pretty sure that Queen Elizabeth was glued to the streaming, but unfortunately Tim was not able to emerge victorious. Off with his head. Seriously, the singles move into the round of 16 tomorrow. Jake/Jose also are in the round of 16 while Aimee and Janel have a bye into the quarters."

 
Tuesday's Match Results
Michelle Key lost to Mariana Tobon (Venezuela), 15-4, 9-15, 4-11
Rocky Carson def. Sriram Ravindran (India), 15-2, 15-3
Chris Crowther def. Timothy Baghurst (England), 15-5, 15-7
 
Featured Player of the Day – Michelle Key
The city of Gilbert, Arizona, is home to Michelle Key, 27. She is ranked #11 on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) and #14 in the USA Racquetball rankings. Michelle graduated from ASU in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, concentration in Exercise and Wellness, Family Studies, and Child Development. She is a professional racquetball player, and she is also an ambassador for the sport through involvement in Key Racquetball (family business, growing the sport via church camps, training camps, tournament hosting, instruction, and programming) and Arizona Outdoor Racquetball (promotion of the outdoor game).
 
The Key family consists of Darold (father and coach), Karen (mother and coach), Danielle Maddux (sister, best friend, and doubles partner), Jake Maddux (brother-in-law), and Daniel de la Rosa (boyfriend, doubles partner, and IRT #3).
 
Michelle describes her start in racquetball: “My parents met playing racquetball, so I grew up in the sport. They were very involved in racquetball, so Danielle and I would always be around the gym. As soon as we were able to hold a racquet, we started playing, and it has been a part of my life ever since. At the age of 16 is when I started playing more seriously and made my first Junior National Team. After juniors, I played off and on until recently when I was encouraged to play on the LPRT. Now I play full time, and I really enjoy the friendships and experiences racquetball has given me.”
 
Other interests/hobbies? ”I love to bake and to get my nails done. I really enjoy playing all sports and being outside exploring new things. Right now I’m attempting to play golf and spend as much time as I can with my friends and family."
 
Whom would you like to recognize? “First I would like to thank my family for all of their love and support. Mom, Dad, Danielle, Jake, and Daniel, I love you! I would also like to send special thanks to my sponsors: Ektelon, Key Racquetball, Susie, King Label, 3WallBall, and Arizona Outdoor Racquetball. Last but not least, I want to thank all my friends, fans, and everyone who loves racquetball. Thank you all so much, because without you I would not be here representing the USA!”
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day -- Debbie Tisinger-Moore 
Debbie Moore was born in Phoenix, Arizona and raised in Simi Valley, California. The oldest of seven children (two brothers and four sisters), she is the daughter of Richard and Arlene Torst of Santa Monica, California. She attended California State University, Northridge and Moorpark College where she was captain of the volleyball team.
 
Debbie is mom to Janel, Avree, and Devyn (from her first marriage, to Kevin Tisinger). Sixteen years ago, she met her husband Gary Moore at the Spectrum Club in Canoga Park.
   
Occupation? Debbie replied, "I’ve been in the racquetball biz for almost 30 years. I'm a Certified AmPro Instructor and Racquetball Director at the former Racquetball World and the Spectrum Clubs. I’m currently directing racquetball at the 360 Club & Oakridge Athletic Clubs. Before racquetball, I used to work for Simi Valley Hospital as a receptionist in the Emergency Room. -- I loved that job, too." 
 
How did you get started playing racquetball? "I played USVBA (U.S. Volleyball Association) and played tennis to stay in shape. My dad was an avid handball player then surrendered to racquetball in the late '70’s. I was introduced to the game by my dad and was bitten hard by the 'bug.'  I’m still itching!"
 
How old were you, and who got you started? "I was 21 years old and my first racquet was Leach from Kmart. My dad bought me my first Ektelon racquet. He was a graphic artist at Hughes Aircraft and would draw diagrams of the racquetball court, shots, and strategy. That’s how I see the game today. Jim Carson, former coach and supervisor at Racquetball World, was my biggest influence. He was a great coach and mentor. Other influences were Lynn Adams, my idol and friend, and Mae Varon, my BFF in racquetball and life. I’ve been playing doubles with Mae for 25 years through thick & thin, children, injuries, surgeries, divorce, and the GOLD MEDAL!"
 
Other interests/hobbies? "I love flower gardens and working out. My favorite movie is Jaws. Just when you thought it was safe...hahaha! I watch the Investigation Discovery Channel daily, and I listen to classic rock like Van Halen, Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Metallica, KISS … yes, KISS!  And I love scary movies like the Exorcist."
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support?  "A big thank you to my sponsor Wilson Racquetball. Lots of “ xxxooo" to my husband, Gary. Thanks for the memories to my Janelli Belli. Love to my biggest fan, my dad. Kudos to Randy Lam, my right hand man running the tournaments. And much gratitude goes to the doctors who extended my career, especially my Orthopedist who didn’t want me to play after my bilateral hip replacements. Yeah, right!"
  
Debbie, who was inducted into the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame in 2013, describes coaching at the IRF Worlds as "a dream come true, truly. It is an honor to assist this talented US Team. Hey, I’ve known most of the team players since they were kids! 'Yippee' for this opportunity. Go USA!!"
 
Question of the Day
What's one thing about you that your racquetball family doesn't know?
 
Rocky: I have my real estate license and look forward to teaming up with my wife and using it, even as I play many more years of pro racquetball.
 
Aimee: One of my biggest fears is speaking in front of groups of people, small or large. Ahem...like last night, thanks, Dave. (Note: Each member of the team was asked to say something at the Monday night team dinner.)
 
Jake: I want to own a car shop and build cars like you would see in the shows on TV.
 
Janel: I can sing! Also, I have battled half my life with a bone infection in my face, and I've had six surgeries for it.
 
Michelle: I played badminton in high school and got the Varsity #1 spot on the team. I was still learning the rules at the state championships!
 
Debbie: I saved my dad from drowning after he jumped off a rock into a deep river in Sequoia National Park.
 
Jose: I made sectionals for tennis my senior year of high school.
 
Dave: I taught math and my wife Pat taught homemaking. Now retired, I cook and she keeps the books.
 
Brent: I built a bedroom set in high school woodworking class...a dresser/hutch my sophomore year, a king-size waterbed with headboard and double pedestal underneath in my junior year, and an armoire my senior year. All of out of solid walnut. I designed, built, and finished all from scratch.
 
Rhonda: One thing I've always wanted my whole life was a basketball hoop at my house, but my parents would never let me have one (probably because they knew I'd never quit playing and come inside). Still don't have one, still want one. Also never had a Nintendo.
 
Chris: I used to play guitar for almost nine years.
 
Cheryl: I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies.
 
IRF World Congress
Every two years, delegates from the countries in attendance meet to approve minutes, hear reports, receive updates, elect Board members, discuss rule changes, etc. At this World Congress that took place for the better part of 3.5 hours tonight, many decisions were made.
 

One rule change in particular was the vote to go to two serves vs. one serve for all players in all IRF divisions. This is consistent with the IRT, WRT, LPRT, NMRA, WSMRA, not to mention USA Racquetball. This and a few other rule changes will be published soon. They go into effect September 1, 2016.

 
Elected to four-year seats on the Board of Directors were Osvaldo Maggi (Argentina), Marcelo Gomez (Costa Rica), Cheryl Kirk (USA), and Juan Manuel Gutiérrez (Colombia). In a short IRF Board meeting after the World Congress adjourned, Osvaldo was re-elected to President, Marcelo Gomez is Executive Vice President, Cheryl Kirk will continue as Secretary, and the Treasurer position will be filled soon.
 
US Team Laundry Challenge
No, the US Team isn't challenging YOU to do laundry; they just really really want clean clothes for themselves. This is not as easy as it sounds. Chris had scouted out a place yesterday, and Dave, Aimee, and I headed there this morning to drop off several bags. Turns out nothing will be ready until Thursday because Colombia's Independence Day is Wednesday, and businesses are closed.
 
History lesson: On July 20, 1810, Colombian patriots stirred the population of Bogotá into street protests against Spanish rule. The Viceroy, under pressure, was forced to agree to allow for a limited independence which later became permanent. Today, July 20 is celebrated in Colombia as Independence Day.
 
But I digress... Michelle wanted her laundry back because there were some items she couldn't live without. She will do some wash in the sink. Rocky said fine, send his. Others will drop off Thursday and hope the promise of Friday rings true.
 

The subject of clothing is always emotional.

 
You Know You're Getting Tired When...
You receive a gracious gift from a Korean player and you say, "Muchas gracias."
Not saying this happened to me.
 
Wednesday is Here, Already!
Main draw action continues tomorrow with four bound-to-be-exciting matches:
 
Rhonda Rajsich, Wednesday, 10:00 am vs. Ana Gabriela Martinez (Guatemala)
Rocky Carson, Wednesday, 1:00 pm vs. Alejandro Herrera (Colombia)
Chris Crowther, Wednesday, 1:00 pm vs. Fernando Kurzbard (Argentina)
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz, Wednesday, 3:00 vs. Daeyong Kwon/Park Ju Yong (Korea)
 
And the beat goes on...
 
GO TEAM USA!!


Blog #5
Monday, July 18, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk
 
Coach Dave Does a Happy Dance

Well, Dave does indeed love dancing, and today's matches indeed gave us all something to dance about -- six for six!

 
"A successful day at the office for Team USA here at the IRF World Championships in Cali, Colombia. All team members had matches and all won in two games with just one exception. Rhonda’s match with María Renée Rodriguez of Guatemala did go to a tiebreaker. María Renée has steadily improved over the last five years. Her plans are to play the LPRT this coming season, and I’m predicting she makes a real run at the Top 8. Rhonda did emerge the winner in the third game, winning by a score of 11-4. Rocky was challenged by a tough player from Costa Rica. Chris, Michelle, and Jose/Jake all went right through their opponents. Aimee and Janel played the tough Gaby Martinez and María Renée of Guatemala. They won in two, but they were aware that they were not the only solid team on the court.
 
"The elimination rounds start tomorrow. Michelle, Rocky, and Chris all have matches. Now the tournament will begin for real. After a wonderful team dinner tonight, along with a team building activity, Team USA is ready to work. Captain Rocky emphasized that although we all have many international friends, we’re here to work, and we’re here to get it done. Captain Rhonda reemphasized Rocky’s remarks: Let's Do This!"
 
Monday's Results for Team USA
Michelle Key def. Naomi Sasso Kessler (Costa Rica). 15-1, 15-1
Rhonda Rajsich def. María Renée Rodriguez (Guatemala), 15-14, 13-15, 11-4
Rocky Carson def. Jose Eduardo Ubilla (Costa Rica), 15-8, 15-4
Chris Crowther def. Cesar Castillo (Venezuela), 15-6, 15-5
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger def. Ana Gabriela Martinez/ María Renée Rodriguez (Guatemala), 15-7, 15-9
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz def. Juan Jose Salvatierra/Hanzel Gerardo Martinez (Guatemala), 15-8, 15-3
 
Featured Player of the Day -- Aimee Ruiz
Aimee Ruiz, 41, was born and raised in Allentown, PA, and resides in Whitehouse Station, NJ, with her husband Felix and their three pit bull terrier rescues, Casper, Wendy, and Maggie.
 
Aimee currently has her own business, ABR Communications, that offers social media and communication services that will increase visibility of businesses.  
 
When asked how she got started playing racquetball, Aimee replied, “My mom was taking college classes, and she had to take some sort of gym class. She chose Intro to Racquetball. I would go with her and do my homework while she was taking the class. She herself started playing tournaments, got me started playing at age 11, and the rest is history.”
 
Other interests/hobbies? “I love tennis and golf, and I enjoy baking and reading.”
 
Aimee expressed gratitude for the tremendous support she receives. “More than anyone, I recognize my husband Felix. Win or lose, he’s proud of me and knows I’m giving it 100% out there. Thanks to my speed and agility trainer, Skip Fuller, and last but not least, I would like to thank my sponsors: HEAD Penn Racquetball, Rollout, and Halo Headbands."
 
On competing at this event: “This is my sixth consecutive World Championships, and each time I compete and wear USA on my back, it means even more to me than it did the first time. It’s a huge honor for me and something I never take for granted.”
 
Question of the Day
What are you grateful for in your life?
 
Aimee Ruiz: Felix!
 
Jake Bredenbeck: My family. Friends. Health. Ability to do what I do in life. And my home and freedom.
 
Brent Huff: Family for starting me in racquetball. My mentors in my career. Mostly my wife for support of my love of both my career and love of racquetball and the opportunities to travel with Team USA.

Janel Tisinger: Grateful for my family, friends, talents, health, and freedom.
 
Debbie Tisinger-Moore: My family who support me in RB, my friends who cheer me on in RB, my health and doctors who help me to stay in RB, my dog Blue who waits for me after RB, and my Church.

Michelle Key: I'm grateful for my family and loved ones.
 
Dave Ellis: My RB family which now includes my immediate family, our Junior group, Team USA, and so many friendships made over the years. I'm grateful for health and retirement.
 
Chris Crowther: Grateful for health, family, great girl, and freedom.
 
Rocky Carson: Thankful for my health, family, and the ability to do what I love.
 
Jose Diaz: Grateful for health, family, and friends.
 
Cheryl Kirk: So many things -- my hubby Kit Lawson; our home; our family; true friends; our critters Hayley the Dog and KC the Cat; racquetball: the sport and the people; the USA and all the incredible blessings it affords.
 
Speaking of Gratitude...
Team USA wishes to thank several people and organizations who work behind the scenes to support us and the IRF:
 
Rollout Racquetball (Jonathan and Carolyn Clay), the US Team's Official Apparel Sponsor, who make us all look great at international competitions.

Personal Touch Travel (Greg and Julia Hayenga) who made our flight reservations and helped out with the Saga of the Lost Luggage.
 

IRF Sponsors E-Force and Penn for their dedication to the growth of international racquetball.

 
Tim Baghurst and his lovely assistant/wife Terra-Leigh who are videotaping matches and conducting interviews for posting on YouTube. Visit the International Racquetball Federation's Facebook page for more information, and while you're there please "Like" the page. Tim does a wonderful job with the IRF website and social media, and he is the federation's WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) contact as well.
 
Team Dinner

Tradition dictates that the entire team dine together somewhere around mid-trip. Leños and Carbón at Unicentro Mall (where the opening ceremonies were held) was the destination, and we had a fine time kicking back with some very good food and excellent company. Really nice that the first match tomorrow is at 12:00, so we felt no pressure to rush back.

 
Whatever It Takes...US Team Excels
Yep, being team leader is a pretty challenging undertaking, but blessed is she who has a team like this to pitch in, in so many ways. This is a total team effort, and everyone cooperates in multiple roles off the court! This is group multi-tasking at its finest.
 
Using Whatsapp, we have a team chat set up where everyone can communicate easily with everyone else, with an encouraging "GO TEAM USA," or a request, or to share details everyone needs to know. (Some witty repartees break out from time to time, also.)
 
Let's have a look at some of the ways Team USA is helping each other:
 
Janel helps Brent with players' massage needs, and she has invented the social media "Vee-log" that is going viral in the Facebook racquetball world; she has also shown several of us how to Air Drop on iPhone!
 
Rhonda is Culinary Director as well as Director of IT, Entertainment, and Security.
 
Debbie makes peanut and butter jelly sandwiches with love, "the total mom way" (according to Rhonda), and offers triangles with the crust cut off. She also helps bring the snack bag from court to court.
 
Michelle researched the main draws online and sent screen shots to everyone.
 
Aimee, who is suffering from a bit of a cold, is not sneezing on anyone and also very responsibly checked to make sure the cold medicine she bought is not a banned substance.
 
Brent is moving toward a promotion (?) to Assistant Team Leader by taking photos before matches and carrying the Windex and paper towels (for shoes) along with everything else a competing athlete could possibly need.
 
Dave conducts questionable "interviews" for the Vee-log with a jar of peanut butter as a microphone. Okay, maybe that's not technically helping out, but he does provide comic relief.
 
Jose allowed Dave to interview him with a jar of peanut butter as a microphone. I don't think that segment made the Vee-log.
 
Rocky is posting the daily blog on his Facebook page, earning him a coveted place on Janel's Social Media Team (I just made that up).
 
Chris found a nearby laundry facility (which is a LOT more important to the team than one might think), and he walked us all there so we would know where to go.
 

Jake, Chris, and Jose accompanied me to the grocery store tonight after the team dinner. I can easily say that I have NEVER felt so completely safe walking down a street in a foreign country at night.

 
Tuesday -- First-Round Schedule for Main Draw
The Men's and Women's Doubles teams as well as Rhonda have byes tomorrow. Just three matches for Team USA on Tuesday:
 
Michelle Key, Tuesday, 12:00 pm vs. Mariana Tobon (Venezuela)
Rocky Carson, Tuesday 2:00 vs. qualifier winner of Boentaran (Indonesia) vs. Ravindran (India)
Chris Crowther, Tuesday 3:00 vs. qualifier winner of Baghurst (England) vs. Ortega (Honduras)
 
This is it, folks -- the Main Event is upon us. Please send good wishes to Team USA by email, text, Facebook, and/or telepathy. This team is gearing up to make you proud.
 
GO TEAM USA!!


Blog #4
Sunday, July 17, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk



Coach Dave's Comments

"Today’s play went smoothly from start to finish. Michelle defeated Honduras in two one-sided games. She played calmly throughout, letting her awesome talent simply overpower her opponent. Chris Crowther also bested his opponent, Timothy Baghurst of English ancestry. Chris was playing calmly, hitting solid shots throughout the match. Jake and Jose also won in two games. Diaz, at my insistence, worked on a variety of drive serves, particularly the jam serve off the left sidewall. Jake got into it as well, working on jam serves off the right side wall. The guys will need these tools as they move on in the competition. Tomorrow, the round robins will conclude, after which the main draws will be announced. Six matches tomorrow for Team USA, that’s a lot of racquetball!"



Sunday Success -- Three for Three
Michelle Key def. Pamela Sierra (Honduras), 15-2, 15-5
Chris Crowther def. Timothy Baghurst (England), 15-6, 15-3
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz def. Raul Banegas/Sergio Ortega (Honduras), 15-5, 15-6
 
Featured Player of the Day – Jose Diaz
Jose Diaz, 21, hails from Stockton, California. A member of "the 209,” he is ranked #13 on the men's tour and #20 in the US.
 
Jose's family consists of his parents Jose and Carolina, two brothers, Esteban and Ricky (a member of the US Junior Team), and one sister, Tere. His occupation is "getting my education." Jose, whose major is Sports Medicine, attends the University of the Pacific. He is majoring in Sports Medicine.
 
"My dad started me playing racquetball when I was 6, and I joined Jody Nance's junior class. Six months later I attended Junior Worlds in 1999 and took second in Red 6 & Under multibounce.” Fast forward to 2009...Jose won Junior Worlds in Tempe as a 16-year-old, defeating teammate and friend Markie Rojas in a tiebreaker. When he was 18, he won Junior Nationals and was named Junior Player of the Year. He finished his junior career as the 18 & Under silver medalist at Junior Worlds in Los Angeles.
 
Jose offers thanks to Coach Dave Ellis, Trainer Jesse Serna, Head, Rollout, and the Reaching Your Dream Foundation. He also recognizes his parents and his girlfriend Karen Sanchez for their support. 
 
When asked his thoughts about competing in the IRF World Championships, Jose replied, "I’m excited to represent my country and happy to spend a little time away from school playing a sport I love. I have been training hard for this event!"
 
Question of the Day
What achievements in life are you most proud of (personally and/or professionally)?
 
Rocky Carson
Professional: My World Championships, Pan American Games, and US Open titles. 
Personal: I'm proud of my family.
 
Chris Crowther
Learning at a young age from my parents to be independent and strive to reach your dreams in playing racquetball while maintaining a stressful job.
 
Jake Bredenbeck
Professional: Winning National Singles in 2014 and 2015 and National Doubles in 2016.
Personal: Getting my MBA.
 
Jose Diaz

Both: Getting accepted to the University of the Pacific.



 
Rhonda Rajsich
Both: In 2008, getting through the brass knuckles on the beach and being able to represent my country at the IRF Worlds in Ireland (gold medalist) and not let Team USA down.
 
Michelle Key
Professional: I'm most proud of being the first in my family to get a college degree. 
Personal: I haven't accomplished it yet.
 
Aimee Ruiz
Both: Winning National Singles in 2009 and winning National Doubles for the 10th time in 2016.
 
Janel Tisinger
Professional: Being the first person to Triple Crown at the World Outdoor Racquetball Championships in 2012: Women's Pro SIngles, Women's Pro Doubles, and Mixed Pro Doubles.
Personal: Becoming independent with a career and my own apartment. Being able to 100% take care of myself and not depend on anyone.
 
Dave Ellis
Professional: My 38-year high school math teaching career, now happily retired.
Personal: The fact that my best friends are Pat (wife), John (son), and his family.
 
Brent Huff
Professional: Getting asked to be a part of Team USA.
Personal: Getting my Master's degree.
 
Debbie Tisinger-Moore
Professional: My induction into the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Personal: Janelli Belli and all her racquetball accomplishments. Devyn, my son, who served a two-year mission in Costa Rica and is now married to his sweetheart. Avree, my middle child, whose life I try to save every day!! LOL
 
Cheryl Kirk
Professional: My 27-year career with McDonald's. It taught me so many life and business skills and provided so much experience I can put to good use in the racquetball world.
Personal: To be married to my best friend and enjoying a nice life. Also, through participating in protests, I helped close down the "Puppy Parlor" in Lisle, IL -- a puppy mill disguised as a pet store. Every little bit helps.

Club Cañasgordas Comfenalco Cali
Thought you might like a description of the club where all matches are being played...
 
A shuttle bus runs on the hour from the hotel to the club and on the half hour from the club to the hotel. A one-way trip is about 20 minutes, but times are approximate based on traffic back-ups.
 
At this beautiful club, six courts are concrete with glass back walls. Two additional stadium courts were built for The World Games in 2013: one with glass side and back walls, the other with glass right side wall and back wall. The former will be the streaming court. 
 
The club is open air, so there is no air conditioning, but there is ventilation on the courts. Especially since the club is in a wooded area, insect repellent is a must.

Photo: Juan Manuel Gutiérrez (President, Colombia Racquetball Federation) Eduardo Lenis
(Club Cañasgordas Manager), and Jhon Jairo Gonzalez (INDERVALLE)
The court surfaces are not finished with polyurethane, which actually means the floors absorb moisture more quickly than do treated surfaces. However, it's good for players to have sleeves or pads for arm and leg protection if they feel inclined to dive (and many do!). 
 
A special foodservice area has been set up especially for this event where lunch is served for a nominal fee. Plenty of water and Gatorade is available at no charge, and there are a couple of stands selling fruit and snack items.
 
Many sports are played at this complex, and on this particular bright, sunny, and warm Sunday, there was a festive atmosphere as families gathered at the pool and picnic area. It was really nice.
 



Monday Match Schedule

So as Dave mentioned, the round robin phase ends tomorrow, and Tuesday will be the beginning of the main draws. It will be a full day at the club, so send lots of good vibes! Here's what Monday will bring:
 
#4 seed Michelle Key, 9:00 am vs. #20 seed Naomi Sasso Kessler (Costa Rica)
#2 seed Rhonda Rajsich, 10:00 am vs. #18 seed Maria Renee Rodriguez (Guatemala)
#1 seed Rocky Carson, 11:00 am vs. #19 seed Jose Eduardo Ubilla (Costa Rica)
#3 seed Chris Crowther, 1:00 pm vs. #21 Cesar Castillo (Venezuela)
#2 seed Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger, 2:00 vs. #10 seed Ana Gabriela Martinez/ Maria Renee Rodriguez (Guatemala)
#1 seed Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz, 3:00 pm vs. #9 Juan Jose Salvatierra/Hanzel Gerardo Martinez (Guatemala)
 
Tune in tomorrow, and...
 
GO TEAM USA!!

Blog #3
Saturday, July 16, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk


Team USA Travel Update

First things first...THE BAGS ARRIVED! Crisis averted. Jose got his gear a few hours before he and Jake had to completely match in their doubles this afternoon. As for Dave, the team was spared yet another day of seeing him in the same shirt and jeans. Rumor has it the pair of jeans is standing up by themselves in a corner of his room. Rumor also has it that someone surreptitiously used a whole can of Febreeze™ on Dave and Jose while they weren't looking. Mind you, these are only rumors.
 

On to the main event...



 
According to Coach Dave...
"Today’s action was certainly exciting. We had six matches, winning five, with four of them going tiebreaker.
 
Michelle’s match was tough. She totally controlled the first game against Adriana Riveros, but the Bolivian was able to turn things around, winning the second and third.
 
Chris Crowther played calmly against Argentina, winning in two. I was so impressed with Chris’s efforts in the National Championships, and I’m seeing a continuation of this excellent play here in Cali.
 
Rhonda had an incredible match with Jenny Daza of Bolivia, fighting off a couple of match points to win 11-10.
 
Rocky Carson won in two against Luis Perez of the Dominican Republic.
 
Aimee and Janel turned things around after losing the first game against Korea. The girls started clicking, winning the second and third with lopsided scores.
 
Jake and Jose also fought off five match points to win in three games, 11-10, against Ecuador.
 
Personally, I’ve watched so many of today’s opponents develop over the years. The level of international racquetball has certainly improved.
 
It’s a pleasure to have Debbie Tisinger-Moore on staff as our Assistant Coach. Debbie is taking the lead with the ladies. She had three matches today, all of them going tiebreaker. Debbie, Team USA is so happy that you’re here with us!
 

Back at it tomorrow with three matches. It will be a relatively short time at the club."



 
Team Leader P.S. -- I had the opportunity to bond-via-text with Felix Ruiz and Karen Bredenbeck this aftenoon while the matches were going on. Karen Bredenbeck knew I was gnawing on my fingernails, so she sent me calming photos of flowers and yard art. Ah, teamwork from near and far...  So here are the scores from Day #1:
 
US Team Swings into Action -- First Day's Results
Michelle Key lost to Adriana Riveros (Bolivia), 15-1, 6-15, 4-11
Rhonda Rajsich def. Jenny Daza (Bolivia), 12-15, 15-2, 11-10
Chris Crowther def. Franco Capandegui (Argentina), 15-6, 15-3
Rocky Carson def. Luis Perez (Dominican Republic), 15-6, 15-10
Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger def. Jin Young Seok/Jung Eun Ane (Korea), 6-15, 15-8, 11-1
Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz def. Fernando Rios/Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador), 15-7, 6-15, 11-10
 
Featured Player of the Day – Janel Tisinger

Janel Tisinger, 33, hails from Simi Valley, CA (born and raised). Her parents started her into racquetball at the tender age of 4. She comes by her racquetball talent naturally – her mother, Debbie Tisinger-Moore, is a USAR Hall of Famer with scores of titles to her name. Janel says, “My mom has been a great coach to me. She gave me the talent and drive to play this sport. She guided me in the right direction.”



 
Some of Janel’s other family members include brother Devyn, sister Avree (both younger), and her uncle Jonathan Dunn who is one of her doubles partners and has assisted in her training. And, let’s not forget her two five-year-old cats Weasley and Spongebob.
 
A Pro Kennex, Rollout Racquetball, and 3wallball.com sponsored player, Janel is a self-employed massage therapist. She likes to train almost every day. Her hobbies include photography and singing. She takes vocal lessons and calls singing “one of my greatest passions.” She loves to do anything that involves being creative. 
 
When asked how she feels about being here, Janel responded, “I feel very blessed and honored to be here representing the team. I hope I can play my best and represent my country in an honorable way.”
 
Question of the Day
If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, what would you choose?
 
Jake: Fast N Loud
Michelle: Fixer Upper
Cheryl: Madame Secretary, but just as an aide
Brent: Big Bang Theory
Rhonda: SportsCenter
Janel: The Walking Dead
Dave: Two and a Half Men, of course (or, Dos Hombres y Media)
Debbie: Gilligan's Island
Aimee: Real Housewives of Orange County
Jose: Grey's Anatomy

Rocky: SportsCenter



 
International News
COLOMBIA: This country's top female player and international medallista Cristina Amaya is doing triple duty at this event. While playing both singles and doubles, she is also the official stringer. No rest for the weary!
 
JAPAN: I'm sorry to report that Hiroshi Shimizu, who traveled 26 hours to play here in Cali, arrived on Wednesday and soon afterward badly cut the bottom of his foot on some glass. Four stitches later, he is relegated to coaching on the sidelines while his teammates were shuffled into coverage of the men's singles and doubles divisions. Feel better soon, Hiroshi-san!
 
KOREA: The doubles team of Jin Young Seok and Jung Eun Ane played tough today against the USA, and these delightful women were obviously having a lot of fun and appreciating the opportunity to compete. It's so great to see cultural differences exhibited on the court. For example, Ane half-bowed to her opponents before she served. It's a reminder that we get so much more out of these international experiences than just the competition itself.
 
There are tiny future racquetball players who have either just entered the world or will be here by the end of the year:
 
ARGENTINA: Véronique Guillemette and Daniel Maggi (along with proud grandfather Osvaldo Maggi and big sister Elena) welcomed Lucca and Eva on June 25th.
 
MEXICO: Weighing in at 3.2 kilos, Jacob Moreno entered the world on July 11th to the delight of parents Javier and Nishmy Moreno and abuelo Javier.
 
COLOMBIA: Alejandro Herrera and his wife are expecting twin boys in November!
 
Always Play by the Rules...
Racquetball fans, there are a few rules differences between USA Racquetball and the IRF, and here are some examples:
 
One serve
Out of bounds – 12 feet high – can be tough to call on some courts. The line is in.
You may exit from the service box after serving as soon as your racquet hits the ball. Same as the pro tours, different from USAR. In doubles, the partner may exit also.
Doubles teams use the previous rule regarding service order, not the USAR revised  rule. The service order is fixed for the game. 
 
Sunday's Schedule (times are CDT)
Rhonda Rajsich, Rocky Carson, and the Women's Doubles team all received byes for tomorrow, leaving only three matches to be played:
 
#4 seed Michelle Key, 10:00 am vs. ##29 seed Pamela Sierra (Honduras)
#3 seed Chris Crowther, 11:00 am vs. #34 Timothy Baghurst (England)
#1 seed Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz, 3:00 pm, vs. #16 Raul Banegas/Sergio Ortega (Honduras)
 
A couple of reminders as we close out Saturday's blog...

-- Watch for online updates on Facebook from USA Racquetball and the International Racquetball Federation. Please take a moment to "like" these two sites when you visit.
 
-- Visit internationalracquetball.com for results: Events & Rankings/Live Events/Results and Schedule/Round Robins
 
-- On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, quarterfinal, semifinal, and final matches will be streamed live from the Gatorade Stadium Court. No charge to view...go to internationalracquetball.com for more information.
 

GO TEAM USA!!


Blog #2
Friday, July 15, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk

 
Team USA Travel Update
Rocky Carson arrived not at the 11:58 pm Thursday time that we expected but rather at 9:00 am THIS morning. Weather delayed his flight out of Bogotá, and Rocky had the joy of sleeping on the floor at the airport. This morning, the day dawned considerably brighter as Rocky's taxi pulled up at the hotel. He checked in, showered, grabbed some breakfast, and went over to the club to hit. He's a trouper.
 
On the lost bag situation, Dave and Jose's bags have still not hit this hotel. We feel (fairly) confident that they will be delivered early tomorrow morning. If not, Jose will be playing his first doubles match Saturday afternoon wearing clothes a bit on the large side, donated by Rocky, Chris, or Jake. I'll be ready with my camera...

Coach Dave Kicks it Off
"Today was our “early start” day. Our courts were reserved for 9:00 am, which implied an 8:00 am shuttle to the club. Things worked out well as there was easy access to the courts. It was especially important for our preparation that all players got a chance to play on the stadium court. Funny thing, my bag has still not arrived, and so we had none of the 45 racquetballs that I had packed. Aimee had brought a couple, Coach Debbie had one. Ecuador gave us one right off as did the sole member of the England delegation (Tim Baghurst). Ecuador only practiced for a half an hour, and Coach Sudsy was nice enough to give us four additional as they were leaving. The three-person delegation from Ireland had none, so I gave them one. Mexico was in the same situation, so they got one as well. Quite a comedy here at the World Championships.
 
"Michelle and Chris played some singles. Janel gave Rhonda a game as well. Jake and Jose played several different opponents, as did Aimee and Janel. Trainer Brent also served as a fill-in for both singles and doubles.  Rocky finally made it to Cali, and joined us at the club for a half hour of getting used to the courts. The round robins start tomorrow and everyone on the Team has a match. To all of you Team USA fans, send us good vibes. A credit to international racquetball is that there are virtually no more easy matches. Team USA is excited to get started!
 
"At 11:00 am, we boarded the shuttle and returned to the hotel. A 1.5 hour coaches meeting for myself, Debbie, and Cheryl was soon followed by some rest, a short team meeting, opening ceremonies, and finally a dinner." 
 
A Jam-Packed Day
While the team practiced, I greeted Rocky and then assisted in setting up the room for the IRF Coaches Meeting. Every one of the 20 countries in attendance had a coach or a delegate at this meeting. What types of things were covered? A welcome from Gutty (Juan Manuel Gutiérrez), schedule for the week, transportation, logistics at the club, uniforms, forfeits, appeals committee, the event's point system for team competition, and, of course, the draws. Registration took place immediately after the close of the meeting, where each country paid their players' entry fees, showed player passports to validate citizenship, and collected welcome bags for each member of their delegation.
 
Tonight was the Opening Ceremonies at Unicentro Mall, across from the hotel. Country delegations made the walk together and queued up at the mall awaiting the announcement of each country as the signal to march in was conveyed.
 
Populating the head table were Tim Doyle (E-Force), Cheryl Kirk (IRF), Juan Manuel Gutierréz (Fecoracquet), Sr. Mauricio Rivas, Luke St. Onge (IRF), and Fernando Ivan Cabal. After short speeches of welcome and congratulations were delivered, the athletes' and referees' oaths were taken, Colombian children danced the salsa for the entertainment of the crowd, and this event was declared officially open!
 
Several of us went to dinner afterward at Brazzeiro, a meat-that-comes-to-your-table-on a-skewer kind of place. Janel and I were entranced to find that cats were roaming around the outside patio, which was actually still inside the mall. Curiously, they disappeared when our salmon was brought.
 
 
And now the return of a familiar blog feature where you'll learn more about one of the Team USA players each night of the competition...it's aptly named Featured Player of the Day.
 
Featured Player of the Day – Jake Bredenbeck 
Jake Bredenbeck, 24, grew up in Marine on St. Croix, MN, and currently resides there. He is ranked #2 on the WRT, #13 on the IRT, and #5 in the USA Racquetball rankings. Jake and his partner Jose Diaz are the reigning National Doubles Champions. He holds an MBA from Colorado State University-Pueblo, and he names dual occupations – electrician 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.”
 
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. Thanks to Rafa and Joel of Gearbox for sponsoring me and supporting me. Anthony for his support and help. Pablo for helping us players on the WRT and all he does. And Mike Lippitt for his support, also.”
 
Jake sums it up: “I am excited to be playing for Team USA again. It is a great honor for me to be able to do this. I am very motivated this time because I didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped in Toronto at the Pan American Games last year, and because I want to keep the momentum going from my recent success at National Doubles.”
 
Question of the Day
In these blogs, we like to ask fun questions of the team. With the lost luggage situation not yet resolved, it only seems respectful to ask a question for which we have a couple of SMEs** (subject matter experts):
 
Would you rather go a week without bathing but be able to change your clothes? Or, a week without changing your clothes but be able to bathe?
 
Aimee: Follow-up question: Would I be playing racquetball in that week? (Yes, Aimee, you would, every other day.) Then I would need to bathe. (And put the same clothes back on? Never mind, we'll get back to our readers later, post-clarification. This is harder than it sounds...)
Janel: I would bathe, too. If you're clean, your clothes won't get as smelly as fast. And you won't stink in the beginning.
Rocky: I'm good either way. I usually don't change or shower. (He's kidding...I think.)
Brent: I'd do the bathe.
Debbie: Go without bathing but change clothes. It's nasty either way.
Michelle: Bathe.
Rhonda: Change clothes.
**Dave: I can be a consultant after these three days. Have to bathe, absolutely.
**Jose: Bathe, for sure!
Cheryl: Pray for rain.
Jake: Hmmmm, I guess I'll go with bathe. Can I wash my clothes in the sink? LOL.(Answer: no. That would ruin the question.)
 
Racquetball on Saturday in Cali -- Day One!
The first three days are competed in round robins to determine the winner of each flight. Players strive to win his/her own pool to better the chances of a good seed going into the main draw Olympic Format early next week.

Here's the schedule for tomorrow's round robin pair-offs. It's time for action!
 
#4 seed Michelle Key, 9:00 am vs. #13 seed Adriana Riveros (Bolivia)
#2 seed Rhonda Rajsich, 10:00 am vs. #15 seed Jenny Daza (Bolivia)
#3 seed Chris Crowther, 11:00 am vs. #16 seed Franco Capandegui (Argentina)
#1 seed Rocky Carson, 1:00 pm vs. #18 seed Luis Perez (Dominican Republic)
#2 seed Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger, 2:00 pm vs. #7 seed Jin Young Seok/Jung Eun Ane (Korea)
#1 seed Jake Bredenbeck/Jose Diaz, 4:00 pm vs. #8 Fernando Rios/Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador)
 
Follow the results on www.internationalracquetball.com, or check back with this blog each day. And, live streaming of quarterfinal, semifinal, and finals action will start on Thursday (same website)!
 
GO TEAM USA!!

Blog #1
Thursday, July 14, 2016
by Cheryl Kirk

The US Team Delegation is on the ground in Cali, Colombia, for the XVIII IRF World Championships! Well, almost all of them...and most of their luggage...



 
All delegation members left early Wednesday morning and 91.67% arrived at the Cali Airport last night where shuttles transported them the 60 minutes to the hotel. Rocky Carson is having a dickens of a time getting here. Starting with insane traffic at LAX, and a three-minute late check-in, they wouldn't let him get on the plane. Horrible! Didn't they know who they were dealing with? He's ROCKY CARSON! Rocky tried again today, and as of 10:55 pm Central (and Cali) time, his flight is delayed out of Bogotá into Cali. At least he's in-country and slated to arrive yet tonight!
 
Oh, and then there's the luggage situation. Dave Ellis and Jose Diaz are both missing their checked bags. Thanks to USA Racquetball's Reneé Gundolff and Personal Touch Travel's Julia Hayenga, the bags are located, but they won't arrive untilSaturday morning. Plan B is in effect for both of these guys.
 
Introducing the athletes!
 
Men’s Singles
Rocky Carson, 36, Ladera Ranch, CA
Chris Crowther, 37, Carlsbad, CA
 
Men’s Doubles
Jake Bredenbeck, 24, Marine, MN
Jose Diaz, 21, Stockton, CA
 
Women’s Singles
Rhonda Rajsich, 37, Phoenix, AZ
Michelle Key, 27, Gilbert, AZ
 
Women’s Doubles
Aimee Ruiz, 41, Whitehouse Station, NJ
Janel Tisinger, 33, Simi Valley, CA
 
And, introducing the support staff...
 
Dave Ellis, Stockton, CA, Head Coach
Debbie Tisinger-Moore, Simi Valley, CA, Assistant Coach
Brent Huff, St. Charles, IL, Athletic Trainer
Cheryl Kirk, Naperville, IL, Team Leader

Coach Dave Ellis Reports
   
The team practiced at Club Cañasgordas Comfenalco Cali today and will do it again tomorrow before participating in theFriday afternoon Opening Ceremonies. Coach Dave Ellis will be reporting in daily via these blogs, and here are his first comments:
 
"All in all, our first full day in Cali went very well. After half the delegation didn’t make it to the hotel until 2:00 am Thursdaymorning, it was appropriate that our team meeting had a late start at 11:30 am. Rocky (in absentia) and Rhonda were elected Captains. A four-page agenda was covered in 50 minutes. After the meeting, the women’s team had a short informal talk about the day’s practice. Speaking of which, we had courts reserved at 2 pm. Team members hurried down to catch the 1 pm shuttle, but alas, due to an abbreviated schedule, we all resorted to taxis. The upside is that the taxis charge only about $5 for a 20-minute ride to the club. 
 
"I was really happy that the stadium courts were open. One of the courts has glass on both sides as well as the back wall. The second has a glass right side and back wall. There are also six other concrete courts with glass back walls. Chris Crowther and Michelle Key worked a lot on service precision. Jake and Jose practiced and then played Chris and trainer Brent Huff. Aimee and Janel first played two-on-one with Diaz. Then they played Rhonda and Michelle without keeping score. Aimee and Janel then played Rhonda and Brent, winning with a score of 15-10.  Rhonda had various moments on the court by herself, working primarily on excellent drive serves. The chief downside of the day was the 1-2 hour wait for transportation back to the hotel after practice. All enjoyed the free time in the evening. Early practice tomorrow with a 9:00 am starting time. 
 
"Note, it was quite an experience shopping for the team. Team leader Cheryl charged more than half a million pesos to her credit card at a grocery store in the mall adjacent to the hotel. (Not to worry, Kit, the exchange rate is around 3000 COP to 1 USD, so that figures out to be around $200.) After purchasing three grocery carts mostly of water, three store employees wheeled the cards around the hotel to the front entrance.  What a scene!"
 
Team Leader Cheryl Chimes In
 
From a team leader's perspective, Thursday and Friday of the first week at any of the 11-day international events are the most hectic by far. These blogs over the next 9 days will be focusing mainly on the athletes, their competition results and schedules, player profiles, along with anecdotes and fun questions for the team. So let me take a minute and describe what my first day looked like, while it's still all about me.
 
After receiving the lost bag news and calling in resources, it started with a 9:00 am meeting with Marco Hidalgo of Michigan who is here as a referee and who is splendidly and perfectly bilingual. I had asked for his help with pronunciation of some of the tougher Spanish words I would be delivering shortly at the 10:00 am event press conference (representing the IRF). Marco declared Marie Gomar's translation perfect (thank you, dear friend Marie!), and my comments went well at the press conference due to the assistance of these two great people.
 
At 11:30 am, the US Team had its first meeting, then everyone went off to practice. I had a meeting and lunch with IRF Secretary General Luke St. Onge, then I went to my room to see if I could get someone from the hotel to come and fix the room safe. No dice, so at 3:30 pm downstairs in the open-air restaurant area, Luke and I organized all of the materials for the registration meeting tomorrow. Mission accomplished. Another attempt at the room safe repair, they came this time, all better! (Worked on Opening Ceremonies comments during the wait.)
 
Then around 6:00 pm it was off to the mall across the street with Dave to have some dinner and check out a couple of restaurants as potential sites for the team dinner early next week. Check. Next stop, grocery store. What did we buy? Water, peanut butter, strawberry jam, bread, Oreos (duh), salty crunchy snacks (for Debbie et al), fruit, glass (aka shoe) cleaner, paper towels, Gatorade, mixed nuts, and Febreeze. After the three nice young ladies helped us get everything back to the hotel (fun to see the stares as bright green shopping carts were wheeled through the lobby) and after Michelle helped organize everything, a Whatsapp chat message went out for everyone to come pick up their supplies. Johnnys-on-the-spot, they were. Check.
 
Texted with Rocky and arranged for a later shuttle pick-up reservation -- done. Blogging now...and you are up to date. That is all.

Back to the Event
IRF Worlds is held every other year and determines World Champions in both singles and doubles. Ninety players from 20 countries (4 continents) are scheduled to compete here in Cali. Countries represented are: Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, England, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States, and Venezuela. More details tomorrow!
 
Friday in Cali
The team will practice again in the morning, then Dave, Debbie, and Cheryl will attend the coaches' meeting at noon. Late afternoon will see all country delegations and the official referees queue up in the hotel lobby and proceed over to the Unicentro Mall for Opening Ceremonies. A free evening, hopefully no late nights, because... Competition begins Saturday!
 

GO TEAM USA!!