The first time BYU senior and racquetball team captain Kristin Hatch played the game was at BYU’s team tryouts.
Hatch’s best friend and roommate, Sara Moulton, was on the racquetball team, and after many discussions about which sport was better – racquetball or tennis – Hatch agreed to play with Moulton. Hatch, after all, was a tennis player. They left for a 6 a.m. duel.
“She probably mentioned something about it being tryouts, but I did not realize it,” Hatch said. “So we showed up to play on the courts, and there was a lot of people there. I thought it was crazy that so many people were there that early in the morning.”
As Hatch and Moulton played, two other people walked around the courts: BYU racquetball coaches Paul Snyder and Valorie Draper.
“They observed that I had ball skills and racquet skills and that I was athletic,” Hatch said. “So they took me under their wing and let me be on the team.”
The first practices were not easy, since Hatch did not know the rules of the game or any technicalities about the sport.
“At first, I was so embarrassed at every single practice I went to,” Hatch said. “At that point I had only played racquetball twice in my life. I decided if I was going to be on the BYU racquetball team, I needed to know how to play racquetball.”
Every day Moulton and Hatch would go to the racquetball courts in the Richards Building and drill. After practice, twice a day, Moulton became Hatch’s teacher and coach in learning basic racquetball skills until Hatch was good enough to play with any other player on the court. Even in that short space of time, Hatch’s learning quickly intertwined with her natural ability.
That summer, Hatch competed in the team tournament to determine which athletes would represent BYU at the national tournament – and missed it by one spot. After that, Hatch spent her summer drilling, practicing and improving her game.
“I would just go every day in the summer and drill and drill and drill,” Hatch said. “I came back (from summer) ready to play, and I actually knew what I was doing this time.”
This time, Hatch qualified to play at the national tournament and took third place in her second year of playing racquetball. She also earned the title of All-American.
At first, Hatch did not think she would be able to play her third year in college, but due to educational plans and changes, Hatch found herself on the racquetball team again, now a senior at BYU.
“I was going to come back and do it right,” Hatch said. “The year started and I started getting in shape again, and I was team captain, which turned out to be really fun.” Having come this far, Hatch set a goal to win nationals.
“We started playing and working hard, and my goal was to go and take first at nationals,” Hatch said. “I wasn’t sure if I really could or not. I thought I had an OK chance, but the drive to win was there.”
Cue Hatch’s new coach, Cindy Richards, who began helping Hatch improve her game on the side.
“She was like my Yoda,” Hatch said. “I would step on a court with her and I could feel that she believed I could do anything. She changed what I thought about racquetball. ”
Soon Hatch found herself at the national tournament. She had seen many of her opponents play before at previous tournaments, or earlier in the five-day tournament.
“Once I stepped onto the court I felt invincible,” Hatch said. “And from there it was just one game at a time, one win at a time.”
Hatch fought until she defeated her last opponent, winning the title of national champion.
“I didn’t really know what to do; I was stunned,” Hatch said. “That really just happened. I was elated.”
In that same week, Hatch also competed in the highest-ranked doubles tournament with her partner, Lisa Kuttler, and they won the national championship, as well.
Three years prior to this tournament, Hatch had never even picked up a racquetball racquet and did not know that she had even shown up to tryouts. She rose from the bottom to national champion in her short time at BYU.
The BYU racquetball team is an extramural sport on campus, and the team’s coaches recruit many of their students from BYU’s racquetball classes. Kristin Hatch’s success story is one of many that comes from the racquetball team. For more information, visit racquetball.byu.edu.