It’s that time of year where the best of the best in racquetball descend on Hollywood Beach to participate in what has become the “creme de la creme” of outdoor racquetball tournaments. Over 250 participants will compete in several different categories throughout the weekend to see who reigns supreme in the sport  of one-wall racquetball. Indoor and 3- wall outdoor players have come to enjoy the skill and reflexes needed to succeed in one-wall. Different angles and different swinging positions made the game very challenging to the purists in the beginning, but as the tournament has grown and the players have adapted, the once dominate NY players are now feeling the pressure from some of the dominant indoor and outdoor 3-wall players. This year should prove no different as top pros have been gearing up for this tournament for weeks by practicing their one wall skills in anticipation of competing against the world’s best.

Come out to Hollywood Beach, FL March 23 – 26 to watch some of the most exciting, hard hitting , and intense action from some of the greatest racquetball players on the planet. Not only will you enjoy the action, but also the friendly electric atmosphere that is created by the players,  and the staff that puts it all together.

Here’s an taste of some of the action you’ll see this weekend

Why there isn’t prize money in all divisions at Beach Bash, and other ramblings…

My point of view…
Why Beach Bash doesn’t have prize money in lower divisions and other insights:

I am often asked why I don’t offer prize money to the lower divisions at the Beach Bash. The reasoning is connected to why I run the event in the first place!

How do I measure success? It’s simple: A great Beach Bash means the maximum number of people have an incredible weekend.

And to be clear, I appreciate that there are events of all flavors, just like players’ preferences! I enjoy playing in events that have different goals than Beach Bash, and appreciate the efforts of anyone who puts in the time and effort to give others a good time. What seems nuts to some people, is the best format for others. We are all different, and it’s a good thing that events are different as well. Something for everyone!

So these ramblings are about Beach Bash, and my own goals and thought process. I am certainly not telling others what to do.

Prize money in lower divisions? No, not at Beach Bash. I don’t think that fits into my goal of maximum people having an outstanding weekend. There are much better ways to show appreciation to the amateur players, rather than the just the couple of winners who might take home few bucks.

The overall experience of every single player matters to me, even the ones who lose every match they play. Most of the lower level players would prefer a nice trophy/plaque/Medal over a nominal cash award that is spent and forgotten about in a week.

Ten years from now, 60+ winners in 34 divisions get to show their kids or grandkids that they were Beach Bash Champions. It doesn’t matter if its Mixed Century, or Mens B singles. Especially in the lower divisions where folks don’t take winning for granted,  those players appreciate having memories that last. I know not everyone agrees and that’s OK. This is just how I am thinking.

Rather than offer prize money to amateur divisions, I would use that money to enhance the overall experience of all participants. Some examples:

· Keep entry fees low
· Provide strong hospitality and refreshments at event for all players and fans.
· Rocking annual player party!
· Nicer awards
· Donate profits to charity
· Donate profits to Team Florida juniors so they can travel
· No entry fee for juniors, even when playing adult divisions.
· Help players in need. “Cant afford the entry” is not a reason to miss Beach Bash, and never has been.
· More….

The above is just a sampling. But the point is, I’d rather invest in every single player’s experience, rather than focus on prize money in lower divisions that just the winners would enjoy.

There’s a contingent of players who don’t care if Pros play at all. There’s a contingent of players who think only the pros matter. I am in neither of those camps.

Many players in the racquetball hotbeds take for granted that they have opportunity to watch pro-level play every weekend at their park. But for most of us, watching top Pros from 1wall, indoor and 3wall compete is a very special treat! So, I always do my best to make prize money as high as possible in Pro events. Top pros battling it out adds tremendously to the experience of every player!  I have to find the balance, and obviously that’s the challenge.

That said, the overall experience of all 240 players is my priority. Grow the game. Maximum people enjoying the weekend is what I am trying to do. As participation grows, sponsors take note, and everyone wins.

This year, I am again thrilled to see so many players in the amateur divisions! Recreational players have events they can compete in, against their peers from around the country. We have approximately 60 players in the Pro divisions, and 180 amateurs. That feels good.

At least 55 women are playing in 2017 Beach Bash. Roughly 20 youngsters college age and younger are playing 2017 Beach Bash. The Mens combined 120 has a full pool.  Mixed Century also has a large draw.  Mens A doubles is bigger than the Pro doubles draw. Womens B doubles is larger than Womens Pro doubles..etc… These are the stats I look at when I measure if my effort is successful.

While I am rambling, let’s talk about officiating. Beach Bash is a where 3 worlds meet in the middle, with each group struggling with some rules they simply aren’t used to.

But that’s part of the charm of Beach Bash! Indoor players, 3 wall players and Big Apple 1wallers all have to leave their comfort zone.  This is always going to be challenging, and there will be some bad calls as players and referees adjust to what’s different than they are used to.  Just relax,have fun, and do the best you can!

On the planet earth, how many people are qualified to be a Beach Bash referee? It’s silly to say I should pay refs to solve the problem. We’d still have the same issues, especially in the pro divisions. There is no ref I can fly in to save the day.

Making matters worse, the toughest folks to ref are usually the ones who won’t step up. They want 3 additional people for line judges every single match, yet not once during the weekend do they volunteer their services. And when I ask I hear: “I am too tired” “I have been drinking” “I want to go eat” “I don’t want to ref that guy because he argues so much” “I am a lazy ass who feels everyone should serve me” etc… Stop it already. Be easy for anyone to ref your match. Expect a few bad calls every match. Count on it!! Let it go.

This isn’t unique to Beach Bash. I have seen outlandish arguing over rules and reffing in all corners of the country, in all the wallball sports. It’s just insane. There aren’t enough high quality refs on the planet, and most of the qualified refs are also the top players.

Back on point…
Bottom line – I hope 240 people and their families have an outstanding and memorable Beach Bash weekend. That’s the plan.

That’s just a sliver of what’s in my head!

Vic Leibofsky

AF 2017 Pro Series Tournament of Champions ….A Look Back

As the last of the incredible participants from out of town pack their bags and head back to the comfort of their own home, we take a look back on some of the memorable highlights of the AF PRO SERIES 2017.

Paddleball IS BACK!! Lighter paddles coupled with a live ball that rarely breaks has literally brought paddleball back from the abyss. The speed of the game is no longer an issue. Power was on display all weekend long as players like Brian Romero, Carlito Espinal, Nelson Deida and Richie Miller ripped into the ball like it was 1999. The legends of the game have jumped back in with renewed energy. Players like Frank Savino, Eddie Acevedo, and Artie Rondon on the men’s side, and Anita Maldonado, Maira Rosario Ramos, and Susan Stephen on the ladies side are back and looking to stand in the winners circle once again. Exciting volleys and incredibly close games created some breathtaking moments for all those that watched both the ladies and men’s semi-final matches.  The finals proved to be just as thrilling as the ladies match went to a tie-breaker, and the men’s final was dominated by the G.O.A.T and his partner Iggy Espinal. Paddleball is again the main event.

THE LADIES RACQUETBALL FINAL!! HolySmokes!! Anyone who was there will tell you it was like watching a great movie.  It was suspenseful, intense, exciting, heartbreaking, breathtaking, nerve racking, and most of all had an incredible ending. Two young ladies, Regina Franco and Maritza Gonzalez, playing in their first one wall event took on two extremely talented and experienced players , Susan Stephen and Ivonne Torres Irizarry, in a final match that had the crowd on the edge of their seat for an hour. Back and forth they battled in the tie-breaker. Both teams looked like victory was in their grasp only to see it slip away several times. Clutch shots in dire situations along with nerves of steel in key moments made this an instant classic. Regina and Maritza not only battling their opponents, but also trying to navigate the rules of a game they have never played. In the end it was neither the rules nor the one wall, but miscommunication between partners that lead to their defeat. The score was championship point serving 9. Serving for the match Regina slams a low power serve to Ivonne who hits a very short and soft return. The crowd gasped as they anticipated the talented 4- waller to blast a killer and take the title. As the ball came off the wall both partners had the same intentions, each one excited to end the match. It was like slow motion as both players cocked their racket back, and proceeded to defer to the other as the ball slowly bounced between them. The crowd erupted in disbelief and that sealed the match for Susan and Ivonne. WOW!

KENNY ARMWOOD and JUN HYUNG JEON’S INCREDIBLE TENNIS BALL CHAMPIONSHIP RUN!! Where did they come from, and how in the world did they do it? That’s what everyone wanted to know after they completed their incredible run to the title. They defeated players like Michael Dembin, Bobby Fiorentino, Johnny Wai, Keith, Iggy Espinal, and Robert Sostre. Basically a who’s who of finalists in tennis ball tournaments. Not bad for a team playing in their first tournament together. They came from behind in every single match as the more experienced Kenny Armwood played the father figure in calming the younger Jun’s nerves while navigating a strategy for victory. Jun coming up huge in clutch situations time and time again helped his veteran partner seal the deal. Upset after upset, they took out the number one seed, and then went on to defeat Robert Sostre and Iggy Espinal in a very exciting and surprising final. This was probably the biggest surprise victory of the tournament.

RACQUETBALL MIXED DOUBLES FINAL!! The ladies in this match played so well you could barely tell it was a mixed doubles match. Delia and Elizabeth took center stage in this emotional final as the men, David Blatt and Robert Sostre, relentlessly blasted the women to no avail as they deftly returned the ball with intensity and purpose. Sostre made some uncharacteristic unforced errors and it seemed that the team of Blatt and Colon were destined to win the title. The volleys were long, the gets were glorious, and the games were legendary as David and Elizabeth went on to defeat Robert Sostre and Delia Silva two straight. The game ended emotionally as both David and Elizabeth dropped to their knees in appreciation and disbelief of such a monumental victory. After shaking hands with their gracious opponents and hugging their spouses, the victors celebrated their big win. Liz proceeded to get carried around the court on the shoulders of her friends like Bill Parcells after defeating the Buffalo Bills in the SuperBowl, and David going into his patented Hulkamaniac impersonation. Both celebrations were well deserved, and the crowd loved it.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY CROWD!! Paddleball, racquetball, handball, and tennis ball players fill up the court to watch the Championship matches. The cheering, singing, chanting, and emotional gasps of the crowd make Championship Sunday feel like the World Cup of Soccer in Brazil. The crowd is what makes this tournament so special. Without it, it would be just another tournament. The cheering for friends, but also the respect for opponents and new players to the game is what will keep this tournament alive for years to come. The bonds of friendship that is created crosses all sports and is genuinely memorialized by the expressions on the faces in all the pictures that are taken. Next time you look through the pictures on Championship Sunday take a look at the joy on everyone’s face as they celebrate old and new friendships. That’s what this tournament is truly about.

Thank you Liz for letting mikedtvsports.com assist you in this incredible event.  We do know how hard you worked and how gracious you are.

If you would like to share your highlights let us know and we’ll publish it!

Until next year……

Mike D