A Word from our CEO: How the game has changed
Welcome to the first IRT CEO blog post. I am Mike Grisz, the CEO of the IRT. This blog is intended to provide a venue for either one of the IRT management team members or me to periodically talk about what’s going on inside the IRT and the world of racquetball. There is no set agenda, but we’d appreciate any feedback, comments, suggestions, questions, or advice.
Looking back at the last year
The IRT, just like everyone and everything else, has faced tough times since Covid-19 sprang up last March. At that time, we, the IRT team and our players, and amateurs and fans, were gathered in Chicago on the eve of the Shamrock tournament at the Glass Court club, hosted by our dear friend, Geoff Peters. As we began the qualifying rounds, the NBA shut down, and March Madness was canceled. We faced a difficult decision – play or go home.
We had many players there who had come from Mexico or Latin America and all over the United States. Everyone was already there, and the pros wanted to play. We decided to play. Not all of the amateurs came, and it was a stressful but successful tournament. Unfortunately, it was the last tournament we’ve had. If the tournament had started two days later, we probably would not have played.
The world was shutting down more and more each day. Some players had to leave early due to impending quarantines in their countries. We are so thankful that everyone made it home safely, albeit with a little difficulty, and that they could be a part of an amazing event.
Throughout the next nine months, the IRT (and the LPRT, the USAR, and other racquetball organizations) has struggled with when and if to have tournaments. States started to open up, but then with COVID-19 surging again this fall/winter, many states are taking two steps back.
Future plans for IRT
But, the IRT is moving forward. We have in Atlanta, GA, the Suivant Consulting Pro-Am presented by Zurek Construction, January 6-10. The players want to play; they need to play. Despite difficulties in being able to play/practice, this is their livelihood. Racquetball requires the pros to play.
Atlanta is a full, amateurs-included event. We (the collective “we” – the IRT, our fabulous hosts, and all participants) must be as careful and vigilant as possible. We will take every COVID-based safety protocol we can, considering the club and the space we have. Masks when not playing, temperature checks at the door, medical questionnaires completed by all players. And, of course, as much social distancing as possible. We do this for one reason – the love of racquetball.
The LPRT just had an event in Kansas City. We hope you watched it online – it was amazing to see these athletes back in action (if not – go to their website – www.lprt.com – to find the videos).
We are in this together! The rules of the game changed, but it’s not game over!
Let’s get through this one together. The next one scheduled is in March. The schedule may change. That’s this world right now. The players need a chance to earn prize money. Fans want to see these amazing athletes – you can see the pent-up demand by looking at the numbers who watched the LPRT event last week. For one, I was so encouraged and motivated by the support of the fans for that tournament.
If all goes well, the IRT will have eight tournaments that are either Tier 1 or Grand Slam events in 2021, hopefully, more. We’re on a calendar year season now and, probably, in the future. In 2022, the Longhorn will be back, as will the Lewis, both premier events for us. We want to go back to Bolivia. We would love a tournament in Mexico.
What’s so damn frustrating about Covid-19 is that I thought we had made significant strides in improving the Tour in 2019 and early 2020. And now we have taken three steps back. It’s going to be a challenging year. But we are up for the challenge. We hope you will join us for the long road back. We hope to be better than ever in the future!
Please send any comments to me at [email protected]