The Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour broke new ground this season when professional racquetball burst onto the scene in Cochobamba, Bolivia. It was a truly special event. Below, LPRT President TJ Baumbaugh shares her thoughts on the event and the energy it brought to the game.
The Open Bolivia American Iris was a milestone for professional racquetball. It was the first professional event in Bolivia, and a premier grand slam where both tours (LPRT and IRT) were invited to compete for equal prize money; $36,000 per tour.
The event was a success for many reasons. The pro players, along with about 300 amateurs, competed in a club built for racquetball, equipped with stadium seating at 2 championship courts. Each day, a crowd of 1,000s of paying fans cheered for the players and yelled to the refs about short serve or skipped shots. Obviously the fans knew the game and the rules, most, as I have learned about Bolivia, have probably played racquetball at one time or another. They didn’t seem too bothered by whether the match was best of 3 or 5 games, they were there to watch racquetball and were happy to see a close match and tie-breaker, no matter what. Bolivian players who entered the pro divisions faired very well on both tours, which just charged the energy in the building. There was a lot of Bolivian pride there, not just with the fans who were happy to have this major event in their country, but also from Bolivian players who were excited to compete at home.
There was a separate VIP room for the pros, sponsors, and special guests and the event did a great job at limiting access to the pros so the players could focus on their matches. After the match, fans swarmed, just barely out of reach, to get an autograph or take pictures. The event sold souvenirs with the event logo and pictures of top touring pros, paraphernalia perfect for autographs. The event felt like a true professional, athletic event.
I thank, and congratulate, all of the people who made this event such a roaring success. Open Bolivia American Iris was the vision of LPRT player Yazmine Sabja and her husband Nikolas Dabjura while attending the U. S. Open in October 2018. They managed to create this giant event in 5 months, exceeding our expectations, and setting a positive path for Open Bolivia in the future.
Personally, I felt fortunate be a part of the experience. It reignited my ambition for the LPRT and the sport of racquetball. While there continues to be a lot of discussion, debate, and even finger pointing about why racquetball has declined so much since the 80’s and 90’s, I can assure you, it is alive and well in Bolivia. Junior players, fans, facilities, and people willing to invest in the sport stood out the most. It just takes people willing to get involved.
A huge thank you to the following:
• American Iris
• Tigo Sports
• Nikolas Dabura
• Yasmine Sabja
• Joseph Lama