IRT Update: Hope for the Hungry

If I were a player on the International Racquetball Tour, or if I were coaching any player on the International Racquetball Tour, I would make sure they were salivating at the opportunities that lie in front of them throughout the remainder of the season.

Over and over again, I would be telling myself or my athlete that if there was ever a reason to be hopeful about the chances of breaking through and capturing an ever-elusive tournament victory and a year-end number one title, this could be the year to do it.

During the Florida Pro-Am on February 26 through March 1, we saw the superhuman Kane Waselenchuk appear to be mortal – actually dropping a game to Alvaro Beltran in the semifinals and being challenged in the final by Rocky Carson in a way we haven’t see for a while. Beltran actually had a chance to win game one before falling 11-10 and bounced back to take game number two 11-6. Granted, Kane answered with authority and ran on cruise control for victories of 11-2 and 11-0 down the stretch in that match. But in the finals we saw another challenge to Kane’s dominance that is very uncommon in professional racquetball. Although Carson fell in three straight, he scored eight in the first, eight in the second, and extended the third game before falling 14-12. In all three games, Carson had a chance to win – and what more could you ask for against the greatest player of all-time?

Even if the future shows that these events were just happenstance and that the simple truth of the situation proves to us that Kane was just a little bit off his game that weekend, I would try convincing myself or the player I coached that those little glimmers of weakness provide hope for defeating him in one of these final IRT events.

Hope is a dangerous thing for hungry athletes. The more they see vulnerability in Kane’s performances, the more they will come gunning for him. They will start shooting with more confidence, playing with more belief, and challenging him for the crown he has held for what must seem like an eternity to other IRT pros.

This weekend in Chicago should be an interesting spectacle. Best of luck to everybody playing.