IRT Satellite Tour: More Stops to Meet and Play the Pros

Ben Croft at 2010 Minot Open IRT T4 Satellite

IRT Satellite Tour: More Stops to Meet and Play the Pros

Ben Croft at 2010 Minot Open IRT T4 Satellite
Ben Croft at 2010 Minot Open IRT T4 Satellite

Major League baseball teams can pick from the minors, but amateur hitters are more than field of dreams away from playing the top stars. Not so in racquetball. In addition to full schedule of Grand Slam and Tier 1 tournaments, which are professional tournaments where competitors have to win their way into the pro draw, the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) offers an expanding schedule of Satellite Tour Stops, which provide an entry point to a higher level of competition, community, and energy for players, fans, and host clubs.

For those ready to test their skills against some of the best in the business, battling for purses reaching up to $15,000 in total prize money, these tournaments feature up to four top-8 players depending on the tier level, 2-5. The chance to earn a higher position in a Tier 1 or Grand Slam qualifying pro draw also sends competitors to the courts. Kim Roy, Event Director and Consultant, has been involved with Satellite and Tier 1 tournaments across the United States. “In Florida, the Satellite events earn players valuable ranking points for the upcoming Tier 1’s.”
Yet, it’s not just the challengers who can win. Clubs featuring IRT events enjoy more people on the courts and in the stands. Health and Fitness Director, Stacy Crase, has seen racquetball participation triple in the five years she’s been running programs at the Garden City Family YMCA in Kansas. “Every tournament gets bigger. Now, I get players from different states, more people are getting involved, and kids along with adults are picking up the sport.”
Increased participation in racquetball events tightens the community within a club, helping it to retain and add members. Crase appreciates this community of recreational and pro players. “When I first started, I didn’t know the people or even where to begin. Now the players meet to help out every time, have my back, and help keep it all going.”
She can also count on top ranked pros, like Shane Vanderson and Ben Croft, and retired professionals Mitch Williams and Jason Thoerner who “just come,” according to Crase. “It meant a lot to hear Croft announce that ‘we’re a racquetball family’ because it’s true, people just care.”
The IRT also is ready to assist, too, as Adam Karp, Vice President of Event Development consults with state associations and governing bodies in order to schedule IRT events in conjunction with the national and state calendar in order to resolve any issues resulting from conflicting partnerships. Once an event is planned, Karp works with Event Directors to provide promotional material, discounted products like tee shirts and court stickers, and even free merchandise to help make events a success beyond the final match.
Long after the pop of rubber balls goes silent, an event champion collects his check, and the stands clear, the energy continues to reverberate throughout the club. No
Ben Croft prepares to lob serve at the 2010 Minot Open T4

matter who wins or loses, the pros’ and local players’ diving gets, ace serves, and did-you-see-that shots are rehashed and relished in conversations outside the courts and around the club for months and years to come.
Did a young gun pull off an upset or the guy who plays for a living demonstrate why he made it to the top? With more than fifty satellite events planned in twenty U.S. states, Canada, and Costa Rica this season, local fans and regional competitors can hit the stands and the courts to battle with racquetball’s tops pros and rising stars.
For more information on entering or hosting a Satellite Tour Stop, check out the IRT 2011-2012 IRT Season schedule or contact [email protected].