Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share our recent accomplishments as well as the opportunities facing racquetball in the Hoosier State. It is my pleasure to share the “Turnaround Success Story” of the Indiana State Racquetball Association. I hope our story will inspire other state associations and players across the country to step up and help make a difference to preserve and grow racquetball nationwide.
In 2015, I moved from my native Chicago to Fort Wayne, Indiana. I was fortunate to have a day job that allowed me to work from anywhere and my only prerequisites for choosing a final destination were that it had to have a Costco and an active Racquetball Community. Fort Wayne checked both boxes and had the added bonus of being close enough to home to visit friends and family on a regular basis. I tracked down the YMCA, joined a local racquetball league, and found my new racquetball family. After a few short months, the league administrator approached me and said, “If you don’t start playing Indiana tournaments, I’m kicking you out of the league.” Two weeks later, I was heading to Indianapolis to play in my first Indiana sanctioned event, and I’ve been playing in local, regional, and national tournaments ever since.
At the time, what was less apparent to me as a player was that the State Association responsible for coordinating racquetball events across Indiana needed a “shot in the arm.” By the end of 2017, the association was operating in crisis mode. After a leadership changeover in early 2018, folks who were familiar with my track record of turnaround success in the business world persuaded me to join the Board as a director. I identified and shared with the Board what I thought were some key areas that needed to be addressed to ensure the continued success of INSRA and Indiana racquetball. In the next election, I was chosen as president to lead INSRA on its journey of transformation. With the active support and cooperation of the entire INSRA Board, we successfully turned around a struggling organization, established a solid operating foundation, and reinvigorated racquetball in Indiana.
This did not happen overnight. Many of us on the new Board were “newbies” either to board stewardship or to the challenges and complexities of running events. We learned together from our successes and from our mistakes, and I am grateful to my fellow Board members and to the Indiana racquetball community for having the determination, patience, and just plain grit to get the job done to be where we are today. Two years of hard work can be synthesized into three oversimplified steps. Here’s how we did it:
Step 1: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Not just a question for grade schoolers anymore! It was evident early on that INSRA lacked a clear identity and touchstone – something all of us could point to and say, “This is what I’m helping to create!” So, our first order of business was to create a comprehensive strategic plan. Board members took the time to brainstorm what the future could look like for Indiana racquetball players and collectively defined and aligned on several different dimensions including:
• Future Vision and Mission
• Core Values and Decision-Making Criteria
• Goals and Objectives
• Optimal Board Size and Committee Structure
• Roles & Responsibilities
• Communication Plan and Meeting Cadence
• Calendar of Events
• Annual Budget
Step 2: Get your house in order!
Once we had a shared understanding of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to accomplish, INSRA had to take a hard look at where we sat currently to understand where gaps existed and determine how best to close those gaps. Our initial current state assessment indicated that basic infrastructure, standard operating procedures, communication systems, and other governance tools either did not exist or were outdated and not useful. So, in typical Hoosier fashion we “hunkered down” and made improvements in several key areas such as:
• Correcting state filings and establishing full compliance with all USAR/USOPC statutes
• Revising outdated INSRA Bylaws
• Implementing Roberts Rules of Order and open meeting practices
• Launching a new website and communication strategy and updating our Facebook page
• Creating event and tournament director sanctioning guidelines, an annual schedule of events for planning purposes, and event planning and budgeting templates
• Establishing SOPs and streamlining processes and procedures regarding elections, event set-up, and draw development
• Settling all outstanding financial obligations and developing auditable, ongoing, financial statements
Step 3: Grow the sport
With a clear understanding of what we wanted to accomplish and a solid foundation upon which we could operate, INSRA turned its focus towards sponsoring events geared toward reinvigorating racquetball in Indiana. We introduced two new sanctioned clinics to the schedule: the highly successful Rocky Carson Clinic which, for three years running now, has provided amateur players from across the nation with expert instruction from a highly decorated world champion, and the equally impressive Lotts of Love Women’s Clinic featuring Sheryl Lotts, who is ranked in the top 25 women’s pro players in the nation. In addition to our Indiana State Singles and State Doubles Championships, INSRA introduced a third large event to the Indiana event schedule, The Great Pumpkin Shootout, which became one of our most highly attended non-championship sanctioned events. All of this, combined with executing effective procurement and supply chain management strategies, enabled:
• A 15% increase in first-time players participating in an INSRA sponsored event since before 2017
• An average annual revenue increase of approximately 95%
• A 75% event cost structure improvement that allowed INSRA to keep member registration fees relatively flat with limited sponsorship funding
2020 and Beyond
With all of this positive momentum, INSRA was on target to have its best year yet in 2020. Local facility directors of national fitness chains, who were previously uninterested in supporting racquetball, either agreed to host an event or requested INSRA resources for court programming and league development. In addition to our regular line-up, INSRA added four smaller events to the 2020 schedule with plans to implement a direct marketing campaign targeting the recreational player.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has temporarily paused those plans. INSRA continues to monitor the situation closely in Indiana and is keeping the lines of communication open with all of the facility directors that have partnered with us in the past and that have agreed to partner with us in the future to host events for our player community. Our courts are opening, albeit slowly and many with restrictions. As soon as conditions warrant, INSRA will resume its plans to provide a robust schedule of events and a rewarding, competitive, and fun tournament experience to the Indiana racquetball community. In the meantime, please use this time to practice and hone your skills as best you can so you can join us for what we hope will be a stellar 2021!
See you on a court near you soon...
INSRA Board of Directors – Laura Pesek (President), Mike Pace (Vice President), Chris Cerny (Treasurer), Patrick Buckley (Secretary), Gerry Godfrey, Adam Taylor, Jody Ashley, Matt Beals, Tom Morgan
Facebook: Indiana State Racquetball Association