There's been developments off court in women's pro racquetball, as a new organization has been announced: the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT). Organized by Andy Kulback and T.J. Baumbaugh, the LPRT will be a player run organization.
The Racquetball Blog talked to Kulback, and he indicated that LPRT events would be open to all players. They are in the planning stages for their tournament schedule, but they hope to have 10-12 events next season. The idea is to "retrench" and create "a solid foundation" before figuring out their "growth path," according to Kulback.
We pointed out that there aren't a lot of regular tour players in their 20s, and Kulback indicated their growth path would mean some player development. To that end, he suggested that some collegiate players have indicated they will be playing more events this coming season.
Also, Kulback suggested they'd like to see some of the young talented players from Central and South American play on tour more often. One way to do this may be to schedule events closer together in time so as to help such players who travel to the US to play a chance at playing a couple or three events in one visit. Colombian Cristina Amaya played the last three events of last season without returning home, but that was a span of six weeks, which is not a brief time.
Having some events in Mexico, which the LPRT is exploring as a possibility, could also help the Latin American players.
Kulback and Baumbaugh are organizing the LPRT now, but there will be a search for a commissioner and a Board of Directors will be created. But he emphasized "the players will be the owners of the tour" even though they won't necessarily be involved in day to day decisions.
Asked about sponsorships, Kulback said many of the usual supporters within the racquetball community have been approached and they would like to look outside the racquetball industry as well, but they need to "get our own house in order first" before reaching "outside of the sport to find sponsorship opportunities." Kulback states "the initial response from the racquetball community has been very positive and the LPRT is looking forward to working with those supporters and building those relationships."
The Racquetball Blog also contacted Gigi Rock, Commissioner of the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) about this development, but she declined to comment on it at this time.
Too many cooks?
When The Racquetball Blog first heard that a new women's tour was in development, we were concerned, because it's a situation we've seen before in racquetball (with the Catalina tour in the men's professional game back in the early 1980s) and in other sports (such as boxing) and one that usually is not good for the sport in question.
It's fine for there to be separate national organizations, but it's best for there to be one organization overseeing professional competitions, as golf or tennis have. Hopefully, the LPRT and WPRO could make some sort of reconciliation so that there would be no split of players between the two. Such splits lead can lead to confusion among fans if one organization's #1 player or champion differs from the other, which has happened in boxing over the past few decades and in our opinion contributed to that sport's decline in popularity.
One thing is clear. People care about women's racquetball and want to see it succeed and grow. However, there are differences about how to accomplish that.
Hopefully, those differences won't end up being counter productive to women's racquetball.
Follow the bouncing ball….