September 28th, 2011 by Ben Croft
As many of you may know in August of this year I accepted an incredible opportunity to work full time as Business Manager for Racquetball Warehouse. I moved to San Luis Obispo, California this past August, and between moving in and starting work, I was ready for this new chapter in my life. Needless to say, my training regimen has taken a backseat and I haven’t been able to do as much on and off court training as I have in the past.
My journey to the first pro stop in Overland Park, Kansas wasn’t ideal. After a seventeen hour traveling debacle, and a 2 a.m. arrival I had finally made it to my hotel room. My first match was scheduled at 1:30 p.m. against Alejandro Herrera, who is always a tough competitor. Being a morning person, I like to have the earliest match possible, so 1:30 wouldn’t be my first choice. But, coming from California, my body’s clock is telling me it’s only 11:30 a.m.
I get to the club about forty-five minutes before I play. That’s my perfect amount of time to prepare mentally and physically. Too much time and I get distracted and too little time and I obviously cannot properly prepare. That day I was extra nervous. There were so many thoughts running through my head. I had doubts of winning, fear of losing, and thoughts about whether or not I could’ve done more to prepare. But one thing I’ve always believed is if you’re not nervous, you’re not ready. I forced myself to push those thoughts aside and focus on the task at hand, advancing through the round of 16’s and into the quarterfinals. As we began playing, it didn’t take long for the butterflies to subside and for me to feel comfortable back in battle! Although noticeably rusty, it felt like any other match on tour. After about an hour, I was able to pull off a four-game win. 6,9,(11),4.
After the round of 16’s now begins my ritual of hydrating, eating, and sleeping. I rarely hang around the club after my first match. I head straight back from the club to get lunch to go then right back to my room. I’ve always been a believer in routine, and I stick to it religiously. Although I’d much rather be around the club to socialize, winning is my main objective.
My next match was at 7:30 p.m. against the number six ranked pro Jose Rojas and I was really motivated to win. Obviously Jose is a top player for a reason, and he is in the prime of his career. I stick to my same routine; I show up around 6:45 p.m. and start to prepare for my match. This time, you never know when you’ll play. With two tough quarterfinal matches in front of me, I go on with the assumption my match will be late. I’m forced to watch the match to see the progress. We try to avoid warming up and cooling down multiple times. The anticipation at this point is brutal! After two rollercoaster games that I was able to pull off, I lost the next game but pulled off the win in four games. 9,9,(7),2. After a long and hard fought match it’s time for a quick late night snack, water, and a good night’s rest.
Saturday’s are always tough for me. Having made the semifinals numerous times, I’ve only been fortunate enough to advance into the finals once. I try to prepare as much as I can mentally and physically. But this time, I could feel it wasn’t my day. My body wasn’t in good shape, and I was tired from the late night Friday match. All racquetball players have felt like this before. Knowing that no matter what you do to prepare won’t be enough to win is a helpless feeling. All I could do was go out there and play as hard as I can for as long as I can. Needless to say, there isn’t much to write about my semifinal match against Rocky Carson. It was a lopsided loss for me, and not the outcome I would’ve hoped for. Even when I lose I like to feel like I’ve given it my all, like my opponent knows he had to play his best and work his hardest to beat me. Unfortunately, that Saturday wasn’t my day.
Overall the Novasors Kansas City Pro-Am was an encouraging tournament. Given the circumstances, I walked away with my head held high. For the first time, I went into a tournament with a new perspective. As I continue to work full time and work on my game, I will have to figure out a way to continue to elevate my game with less time. I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding new ways to improve. With the US Open rapidly approaching, I better get off the computer and back to the courts!