A group of former national champions practice for their next event in the recesses of the Richards Building. Although largely unknown to the school, the BYU racquetball team boasts various national titles and an impressive lineup of All-American team members and coaches.
From March 30 to April 2 at the 2016 Collegiate Racquetball National competition, the men’s team took ninth place, the women’s team took third place and overall the team took fourth place.
BYU head coach Paul Snyder explained that the team competes through the Utah Racquetball Association.
“You get players from everywhere,” Snyder said. “It actually helps. There’s a lot more competition statewide as opposed to just playing the colleges. Utah State, University of Utah, Utah Valley — they all have teams and we play them regularly, but it’s usually through Utah racquetball association tournaments.”
Then at the annual Collegiate Nationals on March 30 through April 2, the Cougars had the opportunity to take on these rivals.
“There were about 45 different schools this year — all the schools you’d recognize,” Snyder said. “You have to be a degree-seeking, full-time student to play. There are six men, six women on each team so the No. 1s play the (other) No. 1s, etc.”
Some universities are able to recruit and offer scholarship money to players but the racquetball team at BYU is a self-proclaimed “developmental team;” the players actually pay dues and most hadn’t touched a racket before coming to college.
“We don’t recruit, we just develop the talent that is already here at BYU,” Snyder said. “We take athletes from scratch and turn them into great players.”
Exercise and wellness major Kaylie Bartholomew took a racquetball class as a freshman and was encouraged by the teacher, a member of the racquetball team herself, to try out for the team.
Two years later, she’s playing at the No. 3 spot and took first place nationally in her division.
“We have a really good program and lots of good coaches that are willing to teach you,” Bartholomew said. “It’s definitely growing but it’s really fun to be a part of.”
Public health major Jessica Smith took first place in the No. 6 spot at nationals and also attributed the team’s success to the coaching staff.
“We have awesome coaches that not only teach us how to play, but they teach us how to represent BYU,” Smith said. “I think that’s one of the greatest things about being on the team is just that we’re not only representing ourselves but (also) the school and Jesus Christ.”