The USA Racquetball Junior Olympic Championships - their Junior Nationals - are currently underway in East Lansing, Michigan. The results are mostly according to form, and we'll report the champions here for you Sunday. But there is something shocking about what's happening in Michigan.
One hundred and eighty-five players are participating, and that's a nice figure. But the shocking thing is only 37 of the 185 players, or 20%, are girls. None of the girls singles divisions have more than 9 players! We're stunned by how low those numbers are.
In the Canadian Junior Nationals, there were 44 girls of 131 players (34%). In the girls 12 and under division there were 15 players at the Canadian Nationals, almost twice as many the 8 girls playing that division in Michigan.
Those looking out for the future of USA women's racquetball should be concerned that there are so few teen girls playing competitively, because all your future champions will have played when they were teens. Having a small pool of players at the teenage level does not bode well for creating excellent adult players in 5 to 10 years.
Look at where the Junior World Champions are coming from. For the last 5 years in the girls World Cup divisions (14 and under, 16 and under, & 18 and under) only 3 of the 15 champions have been American. That's a worrying statistic for an American coach, although at least those three titles have been earned by three different players: Danielle Key, Michelle Key and Ashley Willhite.
It may seem some American women like Cheryl Gudinas Holmes and Jackie Paraiso can win forever, but we know they can't. Other players have to come along and replace them.
But there are disturbingly few American girls trying to do so.
Follow the bouncing ball....