No one needs to be reminded how much the world has changed in 2020. Before Covid-19, nothing could keep us away from racquetball for fun or competition. The virus implications have changed getting to a court, playing on a court, or practicing solo. Now that we have lived through several months of different levels of limitations, we are trying to adjust to the proverbial “new normal.”
During this time, the Illinois State Racquetball Association (ISRA) Board members have still been hard at work thinking, planning, and executing several plans of action to keep racquetball in the minds and hearts of our members. We have concentrated on several initiatives to keep racquetball alive in our state.
For a few months now, the only way people have easily been able to keep in touch is through social media. We have recently engaged a social media guru to help reinvigorate and establish our presence on social media. In an organized approach, we are stepping up our posts on Illinois State Racquetball Association Facebook page and our israillinois Instagram page. We have been featuring Illinois players discussing their love of the sport and its role in their lives. We have been adding flashback pictures, joined in ‘pass the racquetball’ challenge, posted cartoons, shared some of the USAR and area clubs’ postings and news. We are gaining followers each week in our mission to keep people connected and communicating. Check out (and please ‘like’) Illinois State Racquetball Association on Facebook!
Note: A timeline depicting how the ISRA’s social media approach has evolved appears at the end of this article.
Clubs – Open and Closed
During the closure times for fitness centers, Chicagoland clubs have been through some hard times. We have experienced the closing of three Chicago-area YMCAs – Lattof, Leaning Tower, and Kroehler. These clubs were instrumental in serving area players through leagues, one-day competitions, and recreational play. We were all sorry our fellow players lost their racquetball homes. Forest View Racquet Club in Arlington Heights; Willow Recreation Center in Hoffman Estates; as well as Glass Court in Lombard and others have been opening their doors to welcome the members from the closed YMCAs. They are offering membership deals, and lessons are being offered by local instructors as allowed by our state’s COVID regulations and limitations.
In the past few years, our state tournaments have been held at Glass Court Swim & Fitness in Lombard. While the club was closed, a few of our ISRA Board members joined owners Joe DeArmas and Dan Jaskier in a deep cleaning, organizing, and refreshing. Area clubs were allowed to open with restrictions on June 26th, and we hope they will be able to stay open in these uncertain times.
While indoor action has been severely restricted, outdoor racquetball action picked up. Many locals have turned to outdoor facilities in La Grange and at Rainbow Beach in downtown Chicago. They have been able to keep on playing and improving their skills.
The second Saturday in August, the Windy City 3WallBrawl outdoor tournament was competed at Rainbow Beach. Tournament Director Joey Logan and his staff monitored closely to ensure everyone’s safety through providing masks, taking temperatures, and requesting social distancing.
Joining in on the offer from USA Racquetball for discounted memberships, our state conducted a mini-membership drive of our own. Several ISRA Board members volunteered to make calls to players with lapsed memberships. In the past, many members renewed as a tournament approached. We were hoping that a friendly reminder and the discount might influence the players to renew their memberships. Whether they planned to compete in the future or might simply opt to remain a faithful supporter of a sport that has made a long-term impact on their lives, we hoped they would jump in to support our sport. Many members did choose to renew their memberships, and for others, it is still on their to-do list.
Our Junior Team Illinois program has been building over the past several years. Before the pandemic hit, a great group of kids gathered on Sunday mornings with several coaches and volunteers to learn the sport and gain valuable skills. The ISRA and JTI are fortunate that Marian Bala, Carolyn Vazquez, Jairo Torres, Andy Pitock, Glen Bero, and Liz Molitor have been so committed to junior racquetball, and everyone is looking forward to the new JTI season.
In June and July, five Illinois junior players––JC Herrera, Axel Lopez, Lucas Shoemaker, Montserrat Torres, and Saigeetha Varadharajan––participated in the US Junior National Team selection process. They applied in June, diligently produced their videos in July, and excitedly await the announcement of the 2020-2021 US Junior Team in late August.
JC Herrera, Junior Team Illinois player from Freeport, teamed up with Daniel De La Rosa in the Sponsor Doubles at the 35th Annual KWM Gutterman Shamrock Shootout Pro-Am (IRT Tier 1 Pro Stop) in early March at Glass Court.
The ISRA Board is continuing its work through the summer. We joined in the teleconferencing bandwagon and held one of our meetings on Zoom – which went well. We are working on our newsletter, ISRA Courtside, and plan to have the next one ready and published in August on our website, www.IllinoisRacquetball.com.
Of course, we are saddened that we cannot meet to compete, but we look forward to normal life returning to a point when we can get together and play the sport we love!
ISRA Social Media – Work in Progress!
By Alisa Burris, ISRA Social Media Coordinator
- In February 2013, the ISRA Facebook page was created and in March 2020 had 350 likes.
- In late December 2019, Alisa Burris volunteered to help with social media. She is experienced in managing Facebook business pages and writing professional social media posts.
- From January through March 2020, ISRA President Cheryl Kirk and Social Media Coordinator Alisa communicated regularly to lay out preliminary thoughts for the page and approach.
- In March 2020, Cheryl and Alisa led a brainstorming meeting with ISRA Board members to discuss social media, soliciting ideas designed to incorporate regular features as well as to engage the organization's Facebook community.
- Since March 2020 when the new initiative launched, the ISRA Facebook page has offered a wide range of posts that include Illinois player features; fun, historic moments in local racquetball; important information from USAR, IRT, LPRT, and IRF; significant lifecycle events about people in the ISRA racquetball family; and details on membership deals and discounts related to the sport.
- At of this writing, the page has a total of 648 likes.
- In June 2020, ISRA launched an Instagram page––ISRA Illinois Racquetball––and to date has 40 followers.
ISRA Board of Directors – Cheryl Kirk (President), Geoff Peters (Vice President), Dolores Lamberson (Treasurer), Barb Vagedes (Secretary), Laurel Davis (Past President), Bill Roberts (Regional VP), John Thorson (Regional VP), Arun Baskaran (Regional VP), John O’Donnell, Jr. (Regional VP), Glen Bero, Todd Burris, Mike Davern, Jonelle Dubois, Pam Grace, Alcides Gutierrez, Rick Seaberg, and Carolyn Vazquez