Players get better.
Whether it’s competing on the International Racquetball Tour or the World Racquetball Tour - players get better.
That simple fact has never been more clear following four days of racquetball March 16-19 at the 2017 Shamrock Shootout IRT ProAm in Chicago, Illinois.
After a relatively well-known history of dismissing the WRT as semi-pro racquetball or a different level, IRT loyalists were given a stark reminder that preparation and opportunity can come together to make special things happen, regardless of tour affiliation.
And what a special weekend it was for Andre Parrilla. Five wins, two of those coming against the IRT’s No. 2 and No. 3 ranked players, en route to his first career IRT final.
“Like everybody, I have bad days on the court. Some other days are really, really good,” Parrilla said following the weekend.
And things turned out really, really good for Parrilla in Chicago.
He opened the tournament with wins over Bryan Crosser and Justus Benson before defeating No. 3-ranked Daniel De La Rosa in the round of sixteen. Parrilla won in five (11-3, 1-11, 11-9, 10-12, 12-10), and thanks to those two previous matches being three games each, he had plenty of gas left in the tank.
Being a ripe, young 20 years of age doesn’t hurt, either. Parrilla turns 21 in July.
Parrilla followed up the De La Rosa match with another notable victory against Alejandro Landa (11-8, 10-12, 11-3, 12-10) and found himself advancing to his first ever IRT semifinal against No. 2-ranked Rocky Carson. Parrilla won in five games (3-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-5, 11-8), showing poise and confidence throughout the match.
If Parrilla’s victory over De La Rosa didn’t raise any eyebrows in the world of racquetball (and it almost certainly did), following that up with a win against Carson may have seemed even more unlikely. But Parrilla didn’t seem surprised, and said he has been feeling more comfortable on the court.
“One of the main differences is the fact that I’ve been playing a lot of tournaments, “ he said. “Last year I played in maybe twenty to twenty-five tournaments. This year I started strong like that, playing three tournaments in January.”
He played another in February before making the trip to Chicago.
Parrilla has taken advantage of the time he spends on the road to concentrate on training and watching racquetball video, something he acknowledges has improved his game and his shot selection.
“Sometimes I just go to bed and watch four or five different matches before sleeping. It’s becoming a problem now, because when I have to sleep I’m watching matches,” he says.
For now, it’s safe to say all the study has paid off. And the lack of sleep didn’t prevent him from a dream weekend in Chicago.
Eventually, like most tournaments end up on the IRT, Parrilla fell to Kane Waselenchuk in the final (11-1, 11-4, 12-10). But the fact that Parrilla was able to make that kind of run speaks volumes about how young players are improving. Another WRT regular, David Bobby Horn, notched a victory over the IRT’s No. 6-ranked Jansen Allen in the same tournament.
All of this makes for entertaining discussion and comparisons, but it shows clearly that players are getting better regardless of professional tour - and that makes racquetball on the horizon even more of a compelling subject. And what the future of racquetball will look like isn’t something lost on players like Parrilla.
“Of course we think about it,” he said. “We would like racquetball to be big, big, big - as much as soccer, tennis, or some other big sport. But for now we’ve just got to do what we have to do. If we can help our tour, if we can help racquetball with something, then we will do it.”