This morning at the fitness center as I was making my regular transition from the core strength/free weights area to the circuit machines, I passed by the two racquetball courts on the top floor of the facility. Nothing unusual about that as I have a pretty regular routine that I follow during my Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning workouts. What was unusual was that both of the glass-walled rooms were in use. There were two women in each, intently following a blue rubber ball, just smaller than a tennis ball, off the front, side and occasionally the back wall. Using a racket similar to the one used in tennis (though a good seven inches shorter), they endeavored to return their opponent’s shot before the ball bounced more than once on the floor of the court. As I watched, I recognized one of the players as a friend I met through Women of the World where I have served as one of the co-coordinators for the past 3 and a half years. I knew we shared a love of cooking and cross country skiing, but I never imagined she had an interest in racquetball.
I was first introduced to racquetball when I was a college student in the seventies at Fresno State University. The school had a couple of outdoor, concrete, three-sided courts near the gym where I spent a lot of my time as a physical education major. Using borrowed equipment, I would occasionally play pick-up games with my friends. Without a back wall (or a roof) we would often end-up chasing the ball when we missed a stroke. Still, it was a new way to get exercise and have fun at the same time. Invented in the early ’50s and based on the game of handball, the popularity of racquetball was just beginning to take off in 1976 when I arrived at the University of Oregon for graduate school. Oregon also had outdoor courts but they also had a number of indoor squash/handball courts that could be used for the newer upstart game. It was game on. I bought my own racquet and balls and was soon playing whenever I had an hour or so of free time. I feel in love with the fast paced indoor game and got to where I could hold my own against my mostly male opponents.
Back in California after graduation, I was happy to find that more and more people were taking up the game. In fact in the 1980s, racquetball was one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. Racquetball clubs were springing up across the country and I was only too happy to have more outlets for my new favorite sport. In fact, I was so caught up in the craze that I even considered buying into one of those new racquetball clubs. I thought, what a great way to make a living by turning my love of the sport into a career. Thankfully, I didn’t have the funds to make that leap right away. By the time I found a good paying job that allowed me to save some money, the craze was already beginning to fade. Racquetball clubs were closing or converting into more traditional fitness centers. I put racquetball on the back burner when I married, had kids, and a management career with the Post Office but I never lost my interest in the game. So this morning when I saw those four women in the locker room following my workout, I didn’t hesitate approaching them and saying, “I want in the next time you play”.