July - August 2000 | Vol. 11, No. 4
Linda Mojer

"Open" = "Open"
by Linda Mojer

I had the pleasure of having a little email exchange with Drew Stoddard recently (former editor of National Racquetball) in pursuit of some insight on an issue that flares up every now and again — you know, that pro thing. Mr. Stoddard had penned an editorial fifteen years ago [January 1986] that urged the then-AARA to establish “open” racquetball in the truest sense of the word.

At that time, “money-earning pros” were restricted from AARA events, while those same sanctioned tournaments routinely offered substantial cash prizes to their weekend warriors. In these events, players could win cash (equal to a round or two of earnings at a pro stop), without jeopardizing their eligibility to compete. On the other hand, pros (with the stated goal of playing racquetball as a profession) were denied that same earning potential and restricted from competing in AARA events altogether.

How then, asked Stoddard, could anyone justify allowing an individual to win $1,000 at a AARA sanctioned tournament and remain eligible for future events ... while ousting a player who won $250 following an early-round loss at a designated pro stop? The term “shamateurism” was bandied about.

Today’s eligibility rules evolved from that mid-80’s debate. The rigid, narrow view of defining pros on the basis of “earnings” alone (in any amount) gave way to a kinder-and-gentler policy taken from tennis ... “open” became “open.”

So who’s eligible? Consider the player who reaches the quarters of a pro stop and wins, oh, $750.00 (I’m guessing here) 10 times in a season, to bring home a whopping $7,500.00 in “salary” for the year (less expenses ...). We all know that’s not a living wage, but it may be enough to keep that individual motivated to keep playing at their peak — so they have the option of putting those earnings “in trust” with the USRA, then drawing against those funds for travel and training expenses. Those who exercise that option want to stay in the game, but they’ve still got to keep a day job, just like you and me.

Today, at any USRA “open” event (particularly nationals), you should expect to play any “eligible” athlete, and there won’t be any money on the line. If a local event offers cash in its “open” divisions, you should expect to compete against someone whose name just might appear on the top-50, season-end pro rankings list (or of that calibre). Even then, you could still have a pretty good chance of winning. In fact ... it’s wide open.

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