The Annual WSMRA Women’s Senior/Masters Tournament attracts players from all over the country and of all ages and abilities. Some have been playing for years, some for only a few. They are all united in their love of the sport and their desire to keep it going and growing! I thought it would be interesting to profile some of the players at this year’s tournament to give you an idea of who plays our sport today, so I posed some questions- I wanted to find out why the players like racquetball and the WSMRA and what else they are interested in. I received many great responses, too numerous to reprint here.
Lola Markus has played the tournament almost from the beginning. She writes:
“I was told that I just had to go to the 2nd Women's Senior/Masters tournament held in Madison, WI by my good friend Pauline Kelly (who had gone to the first one there). She had so much fun at the first one that she talked a group of us from this area into going to the one the following year. I was hooked from the very start and I now put it on my calendar for every January (no matter where it is held). The women who attend this tournament come from all over the country and are the greatest gals. They come from all walks of life, are terrific athletes and are good sports on the court. I've made life long friends through these tournaments, and have attended every one since the second one (except for one year when I ended up in the hospital and couldn't go). By moving the tournament to different parts of the country each year, it attracts more local gals to participate in them. And the banquet that is held on Friday night by the Board is a blast for one and all. The Board is an all volunteer group of racquetball women that give untold hours of their time to promote this group and Women's racquetball overall. The women of the WSMRA are phenomenal!
I started playing racquetball when I was about 46 years old back in the late 70's when the YMCA in my area added four courts to the building. My husband taught me the rules, and I would drag anybody to the courts just so that I could play. I loved the game from the very beginning, and played pretty much every chance I could (sometimes twice a day). I also taught racquetball classes at the Y to adults and children, and ran some tournaments there. Presently I teach a Youth Racquetball class at our Community Center, and play about 3 times a week. I try to go to as many tournaments as possible to support the game that I love, and I enjoy watching the Pros play every chance I get. My husband and I started a Youth racquetball program at the Y we belong to, which continues today. I volunteer to help at local tournaments, and cannot count the many treasured friends I've made throughout the years. I count myself so lucky to still be playing after 30 years of abuse to my body in trying to kill the ball!”
Joan Vande Kieft has been playing the tournament for just a few years now. She writes:
“Nancy Kronenfeld persuaded me to try going to the Women’s Seniors/Masters tournament while we driving to the Chicagoland travel league matches on Monday nights. We are both pretty competitive so if she enjoyed the tournaments I thought I might also. Then my fellow Lattoff travel team members generously invited me to join them not only at the Women’s Seniors/Masters tournament, but sharing car, hotel, and later I discovered, dinners, adventures, wine, snacks, laughter and fun. I started playing around thirty years ago, taking lessons in Chicago, and then playing three times a week with my lefty friend Felicia at the Lincoln Belmont YMCA. The handball players there often helped us develop our skills and by the time I joined Bally’s in Morton Grove I immediately was invited to play with a great group of women who were older than me. As I improved and my friends gradually gave up racquetball, I started playing with the guys, which improved my game significantly. I developed a love for athletic endeavors, a pride in my physical abilities, and a desire to compete and win. I started playing at local tournaments, blowing through the divisions, ending up at the open level, still competitive, winning less but still enjoying the games and atmosphere. My favorite thing about the sport is the exercise, but, equally important are my friendships developed through racquetball. At the tournaments and at travel league I met many fun and interesting players. My club is a microcosm of Chicago: young, old, new, seasoned players from all over the world learning, loving and playing racquetball for fun and fitness, becoming good friends along the way, which I think is the very best part about racquetball.
Terry Rogers has been on the WSMRA Board for years, and has been our tournament director twice.
“I have been playing racquetball for over approximately 40 years starting at a club in Buffalo owned by Tim and Cindy Doyle’s parents during college and then continuing when I moved to San Francisco 20 years ago. Jack Hughes and I opened the Racquetball Plus Pro Shop inside Royal Athletic Club and began running all of the racquetball programs and I was hooked. I love being a part of the racquetball family and I have made so many friends from all over the country it is incredible. In 1996 Merijean Kelley asked Jack and me if we would be interested in hosting the WSMRA annual tournament and at the point I really knew nothing about the association. We hosted the tourney and the rest is history. I loved the flight/round robin format, the 2-1/2 days of play and the fact the ladies came from all over the US to participate. The competition is great and the socialization surpasses all expectations! Of all the national tournaments this is my favorite.
I play racquetball 2-4 times a week, swim, and workout on non-racquetball dates. I also enjoy bike riding, kayaking, and traveling. I participate in most of the national tournaments each year and numerous local tournaments. As a member of the board of the WSMRA I am a member of the tournament committee. As the chair of the Ektelon Women’s Committee the groups main focus is promoting Rally for a Reason (RfaR) tournaments and Women and Racquetball (WaR). I have recently joined the USAR Women’s Committee and am looking forward to brainstorming with others regarding women and racquetball further. I LOVE RACQUETABLL!”
Katy Wood lives in Sitka AK and usually is the one who travels the furthest to our tournament often over 2000 miles! She writes:
“I started playing racquetball about 20 years ago while I lived in Seattle just after college. The apartment complex where I lived had a racquetball court and two old cronies who loved the game, they took me under their wing, probably because I was young and female, but more because they loved teaching the game to whomever wanted to learn. Two great people, Bill Dodge and the late Denny Dong. They also introduced me to some small local tournaments, and I was hooked.
A few years later I moved to Sitka, Alaska, and racquetball was quite a bit different. There was a handful of great male racquetball players, who at the time were not real interested in playing with a female, and always played only with each other. Therefore, traveling to tournaments down south was a way for me to stay connected to the game I loved.
Years later, and finally convincing the good old boys that this female could play racquetball just about as good as them, they let me in, we usually play 3 times a week on the same court every game. We have a Rec center that is owned by the college but the college closed down several years ago and the people of the community convinced the city to keep the doors open, but it has been a battle every year with this being the last year. It is scheduled to close in November, if the general election held this fall does not pass.
I first played the Women's tournament when I was 37, Joanne Johnson from Bellingham Washington, had told me about the tournament for several years and wanted me to travel with her. That year it was in Orlando, Florida, and Florida in January was all the convincing I needed that year. I was hooked!!!! This tournament is special to me for several reasons; the format of playing 2 games to 11 and playing up to 9 other ladies, with every point counting, to someone like me who does not get the opportunity to play a lot of tournaments, I get to play a lot of matches where in another tournament I could possibly play one to two matches and be out, even though I'm a very competitive person by nature I know that I am not a competitive threat at this tournament but that's okay with me because I get to play a lot of racquetball in 3 days. Two other reasons this tournament is special to me, are the friendships I've made, and the venue changing every year. I look forward to finding out where I'll be going the following January.
I travel less for tournaments now with my children traveling more for their activities, living in Southeast Alaska is very unique for school activities, unlike down south all our competition is the rest of the state and we have to travel to compete, every weekend someplace else. Therefore, I am very choosy on the tournaments that take me away from my family. The Northwest Open in Bellingham held the 3rd week in March, is a top favorite and one I try not to miss and National Doubles in February is another.
Other activities I enjoy doing are hiking, biking, kayaking, camping and snowboarding. I'm very active with my children, coaching my daughter's softball team and winning the southeast championship tournament the past several years, and hopefully again this year. Several years ago I became a stroke and turn official to be more involved with my daughter's swim club. I have been a big supporter of growing the game of racquetball to women in my community, largely due to the selfishness on my part, wanting female competition, but also to get more women active in the sport. I generally wait until there is a group of 4 or more ladies interested, so that when they learn, they will have a player pool, then I introduce them to others who have recently learned to grow their pool of players, so they will not have the same problems of finding competition like I did so many years ago.
Reta Harring is currently our oldest player and never fails to attend this tournament:
“The Women's Senior/Masters is my favorite tournament because I prefer to play singles and I get to play women closer to my own age. Having just women in the tournament and having women's type prizes and clothes & sizes also make that tournament more attractive. Also, I like the idea of alternating East and West each year. The thing I love most about racquetball is that it’s the most fun way I have found to get a good workout and to make some new friends. I also like having it available to play year-round. I started playing when I was 50 so I have been playing for about 31 years. I had been playing for a few years when Lola Markus and the Chicago group were playing one day at Harbor. She was the one that told me about the Senior's tournaments and what fun they are. I continue to play racquetball because I enjoy the sport. It keeps me in shape and I have less aches and pains than other people my age. I also enjoy and value the friends I have made through racquetball. I feel it keeps me younger than those that don't play. I play twice a week. Julie Jacobsen was the one that taught me to play. My favorite RB player was Mary Low Acuff and I really miss playing her at the tournaments. We were about equal in ability and had many good matches. The other tournaments that I like are the smaller ones at Harbor and also the Masters. The other sports I like are downhill skiing and golf. I also like gardening, reading and do quite a bit of volunteer work and traveling. I keep telling younger people that they are never too old to play and if they used to play, they should take it up again. Sometimes they do!
Wanda Collins is from Washington State and is a club pro.
“Racquetball has been a part of my life for over thirty years. It has kept me in better shape, become the source of my income, and has led me to meet some wonderful people. There are a lot of stages and facets to my racquetball "career", and one of those that I have come to enjoy is the Women's Seniors/Masters tournament.
One of the reasons that I first attended a women's senior tourney was because of two women at my club Joann Johnson and Sharon Chandler had gone to almost all of them, I think! It was when it was held in San Francisco, and we decided to bring a large contingency from Washington State. It is a great mix of competitive drive on the court, and a chance to spend a really fun weekend with a great group of women. These women totally enjoy playing their hearts out on the court, but underlying everything is the sense that they appreciate their health and wellness. You know that they all look forward for this chance to see familiar faces from across the United States and live it up!
I started playing racquetball in my twenties. I had been a tennis player, but did not like the atmosphere of the local tennis club. There was a club being built in our city that would have racquetball courts, and eventually, tennis courts. The people were friendly, and I made a deposit on the hopes that the tennis courts would appear. I'm now 58, and to this day, there are no tennis courts at Bellingham Athletic Club, but I don't miss them! The quick growth of racquetball in the 70's and 80's had me hooked. It was easy to learn but difficult to master. It was much faster than tennis and gave me a great workout.
I know what it feels like to be the new player and appreciate better players taking the time to get on the court with me and teach me a few things. I also learned what it feels like to have players make excuses to NOT get on the court with me, and told myself never to forget and always try to take the time.
Lynn Adams was always a player that I admired. She had a steely determination, but was kind and generous to everyone she met. Every point was a focused effort. I always felt like she was having fun at this game, meeting people and promoting the sport.
I quit working full time when I had children in the 80's. I began working at that athletic club that I joined, teaching racquetball part time. I still work at the club, teaching adult and junior lessons and hosting four tournaments a year. In July, we will be hosting our 9th annual Junior Racquetball camp. It's a week-long event that I look forward to each summer. I am the club pro for racquetball and court sports (including handball and pickleball), and string racquets. I also have served on the board of the Washington Racquetball Association for many years, most recently focusing my efforts on the junior committee and the WRA Newsletter. I am on committees to direct both our state doubles and state singles tournaments, and an IRT Pro Am tournament in Seattle. I play about 12-14 tournaments a year, and keep thinking I will cut back. I teach racquetball about 15 hours a week, and spend much more time than that at the club. It is my second home. I'm sponsored by Wilson Racquetball and they have been the BEST sponsor I have ever had. They allow me to give to others.
One of my greatest joys has been teaching junior players. As coach of our state junior team, I have come full circle in my racquetball "career". With the help of Wilson Racquetball and just about EVERY adult player in our state, I manage to give a lot of kids racquets and gear. We also are able to help pay entry fees and some travel expenses for our kids through generous donations and a silent auction that we hold once a year at our Northwest Open tournament in Bellingham. The people who play this sport play it because they love it. Not just the amateurs, but the pros, who are great athletes and deserve much more than they get. Racquetball players are social, caring and fun. They are competitive and feisty too. When I see senior players enjoying this sport, I see athletes willing to ignore a lot of aches and pains to get on the court. It is truly a game for all ages.
When I'm not doing this racquetball thing, I play golf, camp and hike, work a crossword puzzle every day and enjoy my time with my husband. Our kids are grown and busy at colleges in New York and Oregon. I know I am in better health because I have had racquetball in my life.
Paula Sperling is very involved with the IRT World Seniors held every year in Albuquerque.
“Carol Gellman and I have been going since 1996--we haven't missed one yet and we don't intend to!!! We thought it would be a fun trip and it was Atlanta- the Olympic city so we decided to try it--needless to say we are hooked.
I've been playing since the early 80's--got interested through my sister and brother-in-law. I play because I love it--not only the exercise but also the fact that I challenge myself to get better every time I am on the court. I began teaching racquetball 10 years ago when I retired from my "real job" as an electric utility reliability engineer. I teach about 10-12 lessons a week--and I learn something every time I do. I also give squash lessons--so I am on the court a lot. I am the court sports coordinator for Midtown--so I spend a lot of time promoting racquetball to members and the community. I teach a clinic to senior players sponsored by the City of Albuquerque Senior Affairs office. Needless to say my other favorite tournament is World Seniors.
I coach high school softball--which is pretty much year round--we have an athletics class--so we are able to work with the girls during the entire school year. I play a lot of golf--that is actually my first love--been playing since I was 8--just a year or two ago.
Lynnie Clemens came to our tournament for the first time this year. She writes:
“From the time I started playing racquetball in Madison, Reta Harring talked about this group. She told me that it was a wonderful group of women who were great racquetball players and who were great fun to be with as well. She said that the tournament was her favorite of all the tournaments and the one that she never wants to miss ... a well-run tournament that was low-key by comparison to some of the larger tournaments. They were all right! I loved the tournament in California! Everyone was so welcoming! There is such camaraderie among the players and everyone seemed to have a marvelous time. I sure did! The matches were competitive but congenial. The entire tournament and all the events were well-run and lots of fun. Of all the tournaments, this is the one that I am most interested in attending each year.
I started playing racquetball in 1973 (age 34) and immediately fell in love with it. I was also playing tennis so I never focused on one over the other. I played racquetball on and off over the years with various lapses due to injuries or lack of opportunity. When I moved to Madison and was able to play racquetball again, I met Reta Harring. Reta encouraged me to enter the NMRA tournament in Milwaukee last summer. I thoroughly enjoyed the tournament and heard from so many of the women there that the Women's Seniors/Masters tournament was the best and most well-liked by the women players.
I'll never be a person who is an avid tournament player. I love the game of racquetball but I have so many other things going on in my life that my preference is to just play with friends and perhaps enter one or two tournaments a year if I can. For me, racquetball is wonderful exercise and I love the aggressiveness of it. My preference is to play twice a week but, now that I am 70, I find that I'm more injury-prone and need more time to heal. In fact, I'm just now getting back on the court after a 4-month layoff.
I'm still working full-time so that keeps me pretty busy. In my free time, I love to work in the garden, walk, spend time with my grandchildren (oh yes, and other family members too), play tennis and cheer on the Badgers. I also work with the Madison Waldorf School and thoroughly enjoy that relationship.
I'm thrilled that I am still able to play racquetball at 70. Reta has been my idol ever since I met her and I would love to follow in her footsteps and stay as physically active as she is! Racquetball is a big part of that and I hope I can continue playing forever!
Linda Moore from Nebraska has attended 15 WSMRA tournaments.
“I was first attracted to the Women's Senior/Master tournament because I knew that there would be lots of women racquetball players and I would get good women's competition. I also knew that I would get lots of playing time because of the round-robin type format. And I was right! I have always enjoyed the tournament not only because of the competition but also I get to see friends I've met over the years. For a lot of us, it is an event we don't want to miss and we keep coming back year after year. A big part of the fun of the event is the social atmosphere. It's turns into a big party!
I learned to play racquetball at Central Michigan University by a good friend. He told me it was the best game he had ever played and I agreed. I have always enjoyed racquet sports so racquetball was the perfect sport for me. It was fast, fun and you used a racquet! I have played racquetball ever since and it has become a huge influence in my life. I still play racquetball a couple times a week along with Spinning and pilates to stay in shape. It's very true that racquetball is a lifetime sport.
I have worked at the Lincoln Racquet Club in Lincoln, NE for over twenty years with part of my job as the Racquetball Director. I also promote racquetball in the state of Nebraska where I have been the state president for many years. I still enjoy going to several National tournament a year (National Singles and Doubles and the US Open).
Joyce Satorius has been playing the tournament since 2005
“I was attracted to this tournament because it was for women only, I fit the age bracket, it was in INDY (which meant I could drive), and I needed time away from my normal routine of life. I knew nothing about this tournament. I received the flyer in the mail. I didn't realize it was for only Open players. I was totally out of my league but played.
I first played racquetball in 1992. I was 39 at the time. A friend and I decided to try to play. We began playing at the local park district for fun. Little by little, we played, got exercise and then she moved away. I talked to a few other ladies and got them interested in playing. We had about 5 of us playing on a regular basis and we all seem to enjoy the game. We helped each other. We didn't take any lessons. After a couple of years, most of the ladies had dropped out of our group. It was only one other lady and I who continued on playing. It took one lesson from someone at the park district. I picked up a few pointers.
I enjoy the game because it is good exercise and I have continued to improve my game. I began playing in a man's league since most of the women had lost interest. I didn't really want to play men, because I didn't think I could be competitive with them. During my many years of playing, I have taken 5 lessons. Kathy Ruzycki mentored, and got me involved with the tournaments.
At the present time, I am playing 3-4 times a week. I live out away from the Chicago area, so anytime I play in any of the tournaments, I have quite a drive. I don't mind traveling to play this sport. I am hooked on it. At 56 years old, I am not sure how many active years I have left. I thank God for my physical ability to keep on playing.”
Renee Fish is from Florida and has played every tournament since 1994 in Jacksonville, FL.
The first WSMRA tournament that I competed in was in Jacksonville and I was hooked. The tournament gives me the opportunity to play women in my age group and travel to different parts of the country. The round robin format guarantees that each competitor will be playing a lot of matches. This makes the trip worthwhile. You want to feel like you have spent your time and money wisely.
I have played racquetball for 35 years, since I was 22. My husband taught me to play. I play at LA fitness about 5 times a week. I love being able to get a great work out in a short amount of time with friends. The sport is great exercise and lots of fun and I have a great group of friends to play with. My favorite racquetball player is Janet Tyler. I’m a retired math teacher and I also attend national doubles and the US Open. I am Board member of Florida Racquetball Association, help run tournaments, sponsored Wilson player
Nancy Kronenfeld has been a Board member since the WSMRA was formed in St. Louis in 1993.
Several of my good friends played in the first two WS/MRA tournaments in Madison 20 years ago and said I would love this event. So, I attended the 3rd WSMRA tourney in Charlotte, North Carolina and I was hooked. I love the time with my friends, I love the women I have met at this event year after year. I love that we get lots of women in my draw every year - for some reason my age group has the largest draw ALWAYS. After playing in the WSMRA events it's hard to go to a regular one and out tournament style as our tourney offers lots of competitive racquetball throughout the weekend and the best banquet I have ever attended at any racquetball tournament.
I love the great workout racquetball gives me. I'm a competitive person so it offers a workout with a challenge too. I just love to chase that little ball around and I even love it better now that there are pink ones! I'm a YMCA junkie - I try to play a couple times a week Unfortunately I pretty much learned on my own so that's why I have lots of bad habits but I did try to get help from some instructors along the way such as Dave Negrete - he's so patient! I also do lots of bicycling when weather permits – I just got back from biking in Croatia. And, cross country skiing when there is snow!!
There are many players in the sport that I admire. I think Merijean Kelley is the most honest and fair player I have stepped on the court with and I admire she can be that way as well as so competitive. I think Pauline Kelly is great because she enjoys racquetball more than anyone I know - I feel that every time she steps out on the court she has a great time, which is what it should be about. And I really admire Susan Mertes who played her heart out and never would anyone have known she was dying of breast cancer. She played on two of our championship teams at the "Y" and I miss how tough she was on and off the court. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to be her friend.
In addition to being on the WSMRA Board, I have been a Board Member of the ISRA for a few years. I used to run a Travel League at the Y. I try to attract more women to our sport and our tournament. I felt the WS/MRA tourney would keep women competing in racquetball but we seem to be running out of young players but will keep searching so our tournament lives on after the rest of us can't play anymore!!!
Pat Meyer is Terry Rogers’ sister and has been to two of our tournaments
“The main reason that I decided to play in the tournament was because it was an opportunity to see my sister and play some racquetball at the same time. When she lived in Buffalo we always played doubles together and it was fun to be able to do that again, especially in a non competitive atmosphere. It was also great that they offered a B/C division for less than A players.
Obviously the best thing about the tournament is the round robin format. I would not like to travel across the country only to play 1 match. Being guaranteed to play a lot and meet new people is great. This will be the only tournament that I play. As for racquetball itself, I learned to play at Buffalo State College. I think of all the sports that I play (softball, volleyball, tennis, bowling) racquetball definitely gives me the best work out. I love the game and will continue to play as long as my body allows.”
Kathy Zasucha came to LA to play the tournament for the first time.
“I am responding because I hold Terry Rogers and Pat Meyer in such high regard. If it wasn't for these women I would probably wouldn't be as active and playing racquetball.
I'm a retired Physical Education teacher (35 years). I started playing racquetball because a boyfriend was heavy into playing. (What we do for men's attention) I was 24. (So I have been playing for 34 years). I went to my first tournament, only to lose in the first round. I was very out of shape and vowed to play more and get into tournament shape. (I didn't like being red in the face, breathing hard and LOSING)That was in 1975.
I lived 25 miles away from the nearest racquetball club. But I played 4-5 times a week.
By 1979 I won the New York State Open Women's title. Repeated in 1980.
NOW after marriage, and 2 boys I play once a week. The old body doesn't recover as quickly as it use to.
Over the years, racquetball has diminished quit a bit in my area. In the early 80's I would have like to think that Western NY was a hot spot for racquetball. There were over 50 courts. NOW, around here fitness is king and the racquetball courts have been taken out for fitness areas. I have to travel almost 43 miles to play at the remaining 3 courts.
The WSMRA tournament was a great experience for me because I saw that fitness and racquetball could coexist together. Each has a place in a person's work out. That club was fabulous. The other thing that impressed me at the tournament was the camaraderie with the group of women. We had such a great time. Plato once said that you can discover more about a person in a hour of play than in a year of conversation. That is so true.
I teach swimming and have to go and do my CPR to be certified to lifeguard and teach swimming. Racquetball is my first love, swimming is my second. “
VIckey Utter of North Carolina is on the WSMRA Board.
I played on a semi-pro softball team in the 60s/70s. Thought that was the greatest sport ever. Crushed my right hand in 1978-cutting four fingers off. Luckily a hand surgeon just opened a practice in Asheville and he was able to reattach them although the fingers were very crooked. That stopped the softball. Dec 79 @ 32 yrs old a teammate introduced me to RB. I had to tape the racquet to my hand to be able to hold onto it. I just kept it taped the whole match. We won the NC State Doubles in Feb. 80. People thought the tape around my hand was a "secret weapon". I absolutely loved RB. Softball was a team sport where a person could play a great game and still lose because of others errors. RB is won/lost by only one person. ME! Softball practice was my favorite but if it rained/snowed that was out. RB can be played anytime no matter the weather & even if you are alone on the court. I fell in love. I could hardly wait until I turned 45 so I could play in the Masters but in 1990 I injured my neck/back. I stopped RB for 8 years. I went back to RB in 1999 knowing I was going to be in extreme pain most of the time. No matter what I did it caused pain so I might as well be playing RB something I loved doing. Went to my first Masters with Mary Low and Earl Acuff and to my first WSMRA tourney with Mary Low again. I was completely hooked. Love the Round Robin format. I am too old to play with the younger kids and waste money on traveling, motels and one game. I have taught racquetball at our local clubs (formed leagues and tournaments) and also taught at the local middle school. I play 3/4 times a wk and drive 30 miles one way to do that. I am sponsored & a team member of EForce. I am constantly promoting RB, EForce, Racquetworld.com and the most important WSMRA & NMRA. I have 2 boys, 7 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I cannot get enough traveling to make me happy.