With the cancellation of the 2020 USAR Junior National Championships, USA Racquetball had the difficult task of naming Junior Team USA without the normal competitive qualifier. The Junior Team Coaches, US Team Committee, and Board of Directors formed the plan to accept applications and training videos from all junior athletes across the country who wished to be named to the team. The athletes were also asked to provide letters of recommendation as well as competition videos as recent as possible.
Before the selection process began, USA Racquetball made the commitment to name a full team, which consists of four athletes per age group (two singles players and one doubles team). This gives more players the potential opportunity to compete for their country and gain valuable experience at the highest level of competition.
The process would be carried out by the Junior Coaches as well as an Advisory Group comprised of individuals with many years of competitive and coaching experience. The selection process lasted over two months, and USA Racquetball announced its US National Junior Team on August 27th.
Email sent to USA Racquetball members announcing the selection process and instructions for athlete submissions with a deadline of June 13th.
Seventy-two athletes expressed interest and were sent the application with further instructions and a deadline of June 23rd to complete and return the application (including essay questions) along with a letter of recommendation and a racquetball competition/introduction video.
Sixty-six applications were received by the deadline and all 66 athletes, ages ranging from 10-18, were invited to Phase 2 of the selection process: July Training Videos.
Each division was assigned a certain number of training videos per week (1-3 videos depending on the size of division) not to exceed 5 minutes for each video. These videos would showcase the athlete’s skills as well as work ethic, discipline, and commitment. The videos were examined by the Junior Team Coaches and Advisory Group. Past results from Junior events such as Nationals and Worlds were strongly taken into consideration as well (e.g. team appearances, Junior Nationals/Worlds results).
First-round cuts were made, taking the original number from 66 athletes to 55 for the remaining two weeks of July Training videos. Individual letters were sent to players who did not make it to Round 2 of Phase 2.
Training videos complete! Coaches and Advisors began the considerable challenge of deciding the roster. The progression of consultation and approval went from the Coaches, to the Advisors, to the US Team Committee.
The roster was approved by USA Team Committee and passed to the Board of Directors.
The roster was ratified by the Board of Directors at their monthly meeting (scheduled one week early to shorten the waiting time for the athletes and their families).
The roster and individual letters were sent to Junior Athletes and parents. USA Racquetball announced the roster one hour later.
Players stayed active and goal oriented, bettering themselves even during these difficult times of club closures and social distancing. They experienced how to present themselves both via applications and in videos – something that should come in handy when they apply for admission to colleges and for employment in the future. It was beyond impressive how well they all performed.
Many parents were closely involved with supporting their kids: transporting them to locations where they could record videos such as parks and outdoor courts. Some moms and dads worked out right alongside their Junior Team hopefuls! Many parents played practice games against their children as “same household” rules applied at many gyms. The coaches were also taking some notes on the parents (we have work to do)!
Private coaches were as involved as ever, helping their athletes through July with drills, workouts, helping send the training videos, and asking questions to make sure they understood the process correctly. They have always been a huge part of this team’s success and they showed that this summer.
The USA Racquetball family was able to see this inspiring US Junior Team selection process unfolding in our sport at a time when so much else could not be counted upon.
This process, like so many other things these days, taught us what might be possible for this team in the future. The coaches were able to study the athletes and their training like never before. We received over 50 hours of training videos, which is a huge amount of information. The coaches were able to learn about players they had never seen before and spot more strengths and weaknesses from players they have worked with in the past. It is very possible that parts of this process will be implemented to help the Junior Team prepare for World Juniors in future years.
The decision has yet to be made on whether there will be an IRF World Junior Championships later this year or in early 2021, but if the tournament does take place, and if USA Racquetball and the families determine that the trip will be feasible and advisable for Junior Team USA, our players will be ready!
If you haven’t had the chance to view the roster yet, click here.