USA Racquetball: An Interview with Peggine Tellez, Manager, Sport Development
28 Dec, 2015By: Sports Destination Management Team
USA Racquetball: Founded in 1969, USA Racquetball is recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee as the National Governing Body for the sport. The organization annually conducts six national championships and sanctions hundreds of tournaments for players of all ages and skill levels. The organization also organizes the Adult and Junior National Racquetball Teams, oversees the Official Rules of Racquetball, administers National Player Rankings, manages a college scholarship program and supports the introduction of new players to the sport.
Sports Destination Management: This seems to be USA Racquetball’s busy season. Are you seeing increases in participation?
Peggine Tellez: We are, and we’ve seen participation increasing across the board at our national championships. We have National Doubles Racquetball Championships coming up in February in Tempe, and that will get a lot of the people who want to get away from the snow for a while. Right after that is the National High School Racquetball Championships in late February in Portland, Oregon, and then in late March, we have the National Intercollegiate Racquetball Championships back in Tempe. In May, we have the National Singles Racquetball Championships in Denver. In June, we’ll host the National Junior Olympic Racquetball Championships in Minneapolis and in October, it’s the U.S. Open in Minneapolis.
SDM: What is USA Racquetball looking for when it selects a site for a national tournament?
Tellez: In terms of venues for actual competition, we clearly need as many courts as we can find in one location, or at least several clubs close together, each with a good number of courts. You don’t want to be using too many different locations because people need to get back and forth. Once you go beyond four venues, it becomes a logistical challenge to staff them all. Not everyone will have a car, so if you can find a shuttle or a city with a metro, that can really help.
We tend to look at cities that have multiple opportunities for flights from a number of locations around the country. You also want a city with lodging opportunities in different price points, and of course with restaurants, shopping and so on. We also try to keep expenses down for everyone, so we’re looking for a city that is economical for people, and gives them a good bang for their buck. USA Racquetball puts its bid documents on its website under the tab for “Championships,” so that prospective host cities can find them.
SDM: Does the organization have any new initiatives to grow participation?
Tellez: Yes – we now have a special plan for our junior players. We are looking to not only increase the junior Olympic participation but to implement junior programming across various states. We are rolling out a new after-school racquetball program in eight to 10 states. It’s called “Kids on Courts” and we’re working to set up programming in various court venues. The goal is to get kids on the court, and to show them how great the sport is. Whether they become regular players or whether they use it just to stay active and provide some cross-training, we’re in favor of it. The goal, honestly, is for them to play.
SDM: Is the ultimate goal to develop more high-level juniors?
Tellez: There are already opportunities for elite athletes. This is meant just to get kids onto the courts and to help fill up the slack times that clubs have in the afternoons. And as we keep saying, it’s meant to just be fun. I’ve seen too many kids specialize in one sport and then burn out on that one sport. It stops being fun for them.
SDM: The organization is working on making it easy to bring former players back into the fold as well.
Tellez: We offer different levels of membership, but something we’re very proud of is our e-membership which is free. It keeps people connected to the sport by providing access to our magazine, the official rules of the sport, updates about the national team, information on upcoming national tournaments and a lot more. We want to make sure people continue to play, or come back to it if they’ve been away. It’s all about maintaining that relationship.