Inside Events: USA Racquetball
1 Mar, 2015By: Bob Bodor
An Interview with Bob Bodor, Manager of Membership
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: USA Racquetball has been making gains in participation in recent years.
Bob Bodor: Yes -- the raw numbers are all up. At National Doubles in February, we were up 14% from last year in terms of registered players. Our membership numbers are up, and our e-membership program is looking very strong as well.
SDM: What kind of initiatives has USA Racquetball put in place recently that have helped that growth?
Bodor: The biggest initiative at our end has been doing much more in terms of communication. We are trying to get the word out in advance of these events, announcing where we’re going to be and promoting not just the events, but all the things that occur around them. That might not be revolutionary to a lot of people, but in prior years, we were slower to secure locations for events, and to make announcements about them. Now we want to build the activities and create even more reasons for people to come there. We’re reaching out to the convention and visitors bureaus and so forth to build partnerships, and we’re making contact with our state organizations as well.
SDM: The National Singles Championship, which had been held in Stockton, California, for many years, will play this year in Denver, Colorado. Stockton will host the Junior Olympics in June. What do you look for in a city to host a national tournament? Obviously, an appropriate number of regulation racquetball facilities is essential, but what else?
Bodor: The first thing we’re looking for is a place that is really excited about hosting one of our national championships. We want to go somewhere our business is wanted, and where people are going to immerse themselves in the culture of our sport. From experience, we know that will translate into a better event. That human element is really important in racquetball because we’re such a community sport. And of course, everyone who is putting on a sports event wants a lot of the same things: availability of an airport, reasonable hotel rates, restaurants, fun things to do when you’re off the court, that sort of thing. We’ve put our bid documents on our website under the tab for “Championships,” so that prospective host cities can find them.
SDM: What kind of growth is racquetball seeing on the younger end?
Bodor: We devote a considerable amount of time and energy to Junior Olympics. That is something we are looking to grow. The numbers there were up last year for the first time in four years; we take that growth as a very good sign. We’re also working very hard to grow the sport at a high school level. The high school market is dominated by two cities: Portland, Oregon (where the Oregon High School State Championships were held, and where the National High School Championships have been held in the past), and St. Louis, Missouri (where this year’s nationals recently concluded).
We’re also working to grow awareness of, and participation at, the college level. In fact, we recently overhauled our website and added a section on college racquetball. We have young folks who are now submitting information about their college teams, and they’re very active and involved. USA Racquetball just added a seventh collegiate conference, the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Racquetball Conference, and this has the potential to be a very robust organization. Plus, we have the national intercollegiate championships coming up at the end of this month in Tempe, Arizona, so of course, we’re looking forward to that.
SDM: What are some of the sport’s most valuable resources?
Bodor: From a staffing standpoint, we’re limited, so we have worked very hard to develop relationships with our state organizations because we realize that without those, we are never going to advance as a sport. We have seen state groups take the initiative, such as offering to pay for junior players’ participation in tournaments, and really working to entice those young folks to step onto the courts and compete. As a result, we’ve had a significant number of young players last year. Our executive director, Steve Czarnecki, has worked very hard to create good relationships, and we have great leadership at the national and board level. USA Racquetball is definitely in this for the long haul.