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National Masters Racquetball Association is Back to Normal!

By Cindy Tilbury, NMRA President | April 18, 2022, 10:41 a.m. (ET)

The March 2022 NMRA National Championships was a smash! Before this week, the NMRA had not been to the Maryland/Washington, D.C. area, but it appears we should have done this years ago. With seven courts at the Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club, we were worried about being able to accommodate 120+ (including almost 30 women) players in round-robin competition. With a few modifications to our normal huge round-robin draws, we scheduled more pool play and fewer combined divisions. Everyone still got plenty of matches during the four-day event. We hope you caught some of the livestreaming on facebook.com/nationalmastersrb.  

Cheryl Jones, Lynn Fonseca, Vicki Hopkins, Shari Coplen, Wendy Miller, Kelly Johnson, Yvonne Grinnell, Kathy Stellema, NMRA President Cindy Tilbury

Cheryl Jones, Lynn Fonseca, Vicki Hopkins, Shari Coplen, Wendy Miller, Kelly Johnson, Yvonne Grinnell, Kathy Stellema, NMRA President Cindy Tilbury. Photo Courtesy of Shari Coplen

The Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club is known for its IRT and LPRT pro stops, so this was a bit of a shock for the regular crew there. When asked, “Who won the tournament?”, we had to let the owners know that there was a winner in each five-year age division, for singles, doubles and mixed doubles. They were pretty excited about that and asked for the winners’ pictures so they could display them on the big flat screen TVs around the club. That was a first for the NMRA!  

Also a first was the sheer number of first-time NMRA participants. We could not believe that there were 60 players out there who had not tried our format yet and were eager to join us for the mid-week tournament. I guess they liked the sound of “no one is ever eliminated.”  

We can’t have these tournaments without our generous sponsors. Fran Davis at Head/Penn Racquetball provided the balls and giveaways; Kevin Sterling’s Youngevity company sponsored Friday lunch, and our long-time NMRA sponsor is Gomer Group in Arlington, Virginia. Bruce Adams created our slideshows. Mike Hiles takes care of all our trophy/medal needs. Bill Milbach volunteered to run the desk all week. And of course, Rick Betts supports all of my racquetball efforts. I can’t thank him enough for putting up with me. We are truly blessed to have these folks in our corner.  

Our banquet was at the host hotel/casino, Maryland Live! Casino. We had reports of some big winners and some not-so-big losers in the gaming area. 

Everyone who finished the tournament was a winner on the court! For a list of the top eight place winners in each NMRA division, go to https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/viewResults.asp?TID=32053

We sponsor a fundraiser for a local racquetball cause in every city we visit, and it’s usually a cause involving young players. This year there were no local Maryland junior racquetball programs, so we gave away a few prizes and had people donate to Team USA’s expenses related to upcoming international competitions. We were proud and happy to donate $1,500 to our top amateur athletes. We hope it helps a little with the dream of Team USA bringing home the Gold!

Two player stories from this event were especially compelling...

During the pandemic, 80-year-old Ron Dochter from Bel Air, Maryland, was on a ventilator for 27 days due to Covid-19. He had been given about 20 minutes to live and told us that he saw history flash through his mind. This was his first tournament ever, and he ended up getting the 80 Doubles gold! 

JON DAVIS at the 2022 NMRA National Championships

Ron Dochter. Photo Courtesy of Karen Grisz

On Wednesday night, Jon Davis from Odenton, Maryland, was called to fight an overnight fire and texted his doubles partner to forfeit Thursday’s matches. Happily, his crew put the fire out in time, and Jon and partner Frank McCabe were right back in the round robin! Jon got two fourth place medals; Frank got a third and fourth.  

JON DAVIS  at the 2022 NMRA National Championships

Jon Davis. Photo Courtesy of Karen Grisz

Upcoming events should be well-attended since we heard so many of our Maryland players tell us they will be back for future NMRA tournaments. Here are the plans—look for links, information sheets and things-to-do on our nmra.info website:  

  • July 2022 – Minneapolis area (tentatively planned for July 20-23 near the Mall of America)
  • Late November to early December 2022 – Portland, Oregon (still a little up in the air until agreements are in ink, but this event will be in conjunction with the Live Like John IRT Pro Stop at the Multnomah Club in downtown Portland). More details very soon.  
  • March 2023 – St. Louis. We can’t wait to go back where they take amazing care of us at the Vetta Concord 10-court club.  
  • July 2023 – We are pursuing a first-ever visit to the University of Akron where they will let us rent their eight courts.  
  • December 2023 – West coast or Guatemala. Guatemala, you say? The NMRA is planning to help Marie Gomar and the Central American 40+ players create a whole new Latin American Masters Association, and the best way to start is to bring NMRA players to the new ten-court club in Guatemala City. Let me know if you are interested in visiting Guatemala in 2023 and maybe hiking a Mayan ruin or two near a volcano!

As for Maryland, we will be back soon to make an NMRA tournament available to the huge group of 40+ players in the area. They were all so welcoming! It really seemed that racquetball was back to normal, and with everyone’s help, it’s time to bring our sport back to the amazing level!

Racquetball players of all ages, see you at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, for the USAR National Doubles & Singles Championships just seven weeks away (May 25-29, 2022). 

Steven Graham, Racquetball Guru at the Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club. Thanks for playing!

Steven Graham, Racquetball Guru at the Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club. Thanks for playing! Photo courtesy of Karen Grisz