Connor Shane, director of national evens at USA Racquetball, laments losing three championship tournaments to COVID-19. What he couldn’t take was missing out on the chance to honor deserving athletes.
Taking inspiration from a Boston Symphony Orchestra virtual concert he saw performed, Shane initiated a digital awards ceremony to end the season on the right foot.
It took six weeks of planning, timely shipping of the trophies, observing SafeSport rules (no cameras in bedrooms, for instance) and teaching some athletes how to use Zoom, but “the final product was fantastic,” Shane says. “It was almost seamless.”
The show helped offset the cancellation of the NGB’s intercollegiate, singles and junior championships. In particular, Shane wanted to ensure the youngest athletes were singled out as USA Racquetball looks to grow from a grassroots level. “They were probably hit the hardest by all this; they really loved the chance to be celebrated in a forum in front of our whole community.”
Currently, racquetball’s popularity can be traced to where big clubs offer the sport, Shane says. St. Louis, Minneapolis and Chicago are some hot spots precisely of that reason. Shane has made it his mission to expand the sport’s reach through events—something he looks forward to once action resumes.
But at least for one day, all was right in the racquetball world. Shane credits his in-house team for putting together a production that met his expectations.
“They really killed it,” he says.
Watch the ceremony here.