Notable Colorado Juniors share an equally long and successful history in the sport, and the CRA supports them in many ways – from new player programs, coaching and instruction, to scholarships and travel funding to major events. Board members Dave Stone and Marcia Richards have recently unveiled the newest program, outlined below!

Developing Juniors – A Fresh Approach to Building the Next Generation of Racquetball Players…

Remember when you were in karate and earned a yellow or orange belt? Or maybe you worked diligently to get your merit badges for Boy Scouts? Many successful youth programs offer advancement levels to foster goal setting and celebrate achievement. So why not employ this same concept for racquetball?  We think it’s a great idea – but we need your help to make this work!

It all starts with getting racquetball coordinators in the local clubs that are skilled with working with younger players. Those that have worked with younger students will attest that their attention span is not quite that of adults. Does that mean you have to be specially trained to work with juniors – yes and no. It’s like they say – attitude determines aptitude. We have many skilled instructors with experience working with juniors that are willing to share their secrets. The CRA is looking for a host of volunteers willing to coordinate and assist with building the next generation of players. Will you consider giving of your time?

The program we envision for Colorado starts with racquetball clubs within our local clubs that develop players from the beginner level through the advanced level. However, rather than adults soliciting juniors to start in the program, we want the juniors to have a more active role in getting their friends to try the sport, and hopefully continue their training. That’s why our program will ask juniors to bring friends to the club in order to advance past a certain level. Moreover, we want those juniors that have moved through the initial levels to mentor the younger, less experienced players. We all know from experience that younger players associate better with peers.

So you’re probably wondering what it takes for juniors to progress through the various levels. That’s a great question, and we’re hoping you can provide some insight. Our program framework envisions that players need to attend a camp for beginners, pass certain level tests for hitting, movement, and rules, and finally, participate in activities that support their local clubs. Camps and multi-week classes will provide for instruction and practice, while offering more experienced players to assist with instruction and mentor younger players. Hitting and movement tests will offer each player an opportunity to showcase the skills they have developed during structured classes and practice times. The tests will be developed to allow for age and skill appropriate requirements – those that are challenging, but achievable. Finally, each player should be an active participant in their own development. This means participating in fund raisers for junior meets and equipment, contributing to the development of the local program, playing in local meets and tournaments, and bringing new players to the team. If you’re thinking this sounds like a lot – it is. But, separated into manageable steps, youth are more than capable of rising to the challenge. It is our job to challenge and provide a safe environment – and then let them fly!

One of the obstacles to a program that operates across a variety of locations is consistency. We want each junior to have the same opportunities, and same requirements. The CRA is prepared to oversee this program by providing assistance to coordinators in the form of instruction, drills, and testing standards. We would appreciate any and all input you may have on how to make this fair and consistent, yet challenging. We would like to see every club self-sufficient, in that fees cover the time, equipment, and instruction from the local coordinator. That being said, the CRA would be willing to participate in the success of the program! Clubs that work through the CRA with the outlined junior’s program will be eligible for assistance, including matching funds, contingent upon budgets. Additionally, the CRA will have access to donated equipment that will be ideal for beginner camps and structured meets. Most importantly, we see the CRA having an active role in the advancement of players and a means to celebrate their achievement. We have discussed colored bag tags, iron-on badges for club shirts, or other memorabilia that will allow each player to showcase their progress. We have identified that there should be 5-7 levels that could be annotated by color, name, or some other identifier. What would you recommend? Should we call the beginning player a “camper” or give them a green badge… What say you?

So what’s next? Easy – it all starts with your input and willingness to share your time and passion. Please provide your comments to Dave@coloradoracquetball.com, or anyone on the CRA. Next, volunteer to coordinate or assist a program at your local club. This can be one of the most rewarding opportunities to share a passion that drives us to play this game – why not share that with the next generation? Finally, get on our mailing list for juniors so we can leverage your experience and insight. We don’t want to operate this program from an island – we want to oversee a collaborative effort that works for our youth. We would like to see junior’s programs starting up all over Colorado in the fall and begin meets among our upcoming players in 2016. That’s an aggressive plan, but achievable with your help. Contact us today to see how you can help get the program up and running.

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