Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy 26th Birthday Karina Odegard!

You were a prodigal player, winning Canadian Junior National titles every year between 1992 and 1999, including wins in both Girls 16 and under and 18 and under categories in '98 and '99. You were still eligible to play Junior Nationals in 2000 and 2001, but chose not to.

By that point, you'd already appeared on the Canadian National Team. You won silver medals at the 2000 and 2002 World Championships in women's doubles playing with Amanda MacDonald. In 2000 when you were just 17, you and MacDonald took Americans Kersten Hallander and Kim Russell to a tie-breaker before losing 11-7.

You struck gold with Lori-Jane Powell at the 2002 Pan American Championships. But that would be the second last of your five appearances on Team Canada.

Because despite your considerable success - winning your age category at Junior Worlds 7 of 8 times between 1991 and 1998 as well as three Junior Worlds doubles titles, and two Canadian National doubles titles with MacDonald in 2000 and 2002 - you retired following the 2004 Canadian Nationals.

Many people argue that "juniors are the future of racquetball!" but we know that's simply not so. It may be that future champions will have been good players when they were juniors (two guys named Huczek and Vanderson won boys' Junior Worlds titles in a two of the years you won girls' titles, and they've done all right for themselves), but that's not the same thing as pinning future adult racquetball participation on those who are now junior players.

Because we know that most of the junior racquetball players will stop playing once they become adults. This isn't a racquetball phenomenon; it happens across sports. Once people get to be 18 or 19, their lives change and many of the things that they were doing prior to that age drop away or are replaced with other things.

And that's why, in addition to junior racquetball programs, racquetball needs adult racquetball programs, perhaps especially women's racquetball programs, to attract new players to the game and encourage those who are already playing to continue their participation. Perhaps such programs can entice some of those juniors who stopped playing to come back to racquetball.

We doubt we'll see you come back, Karina, although we'd welcome it, and at a mere 26 years of age - we can hardly believe you're only 26! - time wouldn't prevent a comeback. However, we're happy that you did play racquetball, even if you decided to leave it behind, and we hope that wherever you are, you're having a happy birthday.

1 comment:

Karina said...

I spent my 26th birthday in a dust storm at Burning Man. What a life of love, travel and adventure I am living now. Thank you so much for thinking of me. My partner, Rolf, and I have a website and blog at www.RolfandKarina.com. Come visit, if you want to see what life after racquetball is like for me.

Love,
Karina