Saturday, August 8, 2020

Jessie Hyde’s racquetball journey brings national title

2019 Intercollegiate National Racquetball Competition — Doubles

Of the 14 student athletes BYU took to the 2019 racquetball nationals, only one had never been there before.

Jessica “Jessie” Hyland Hyde was the lone Cougar freshman competing in the 2019 National Intercollegiate Racquetball Championships, held at Arizona State — where 200 players from 32 universities had come together to crown their champions.

It was her last doubles match of the tournament and victory was within reach. All that was left for Jessie and her teammate, Chloe Durrans, was a best-of-three tilt for the title.

After splitting the first two games, Jessie and Chloe played a first-to-11-points tiebreaker and held the opposition at match point for what seemed an eternity, but an eventual missed ball gave their opponents the championship.

“We fought so hard and it felt like our hard work went to waste,” Jessie said. “I remember just feeling so sad because that was the first — and only time — either of us had lost a game in the entire tournament.”

Learning to love the sport

As the youngest of three sisters, Jessie had no intention of following in the footsteps of her older sisters Rachel and Maddie, both of whom played racquetball. Jessie had fallen in love with tennis and, while racquetball was similar, Jessie didn’t want the extra burden of doing two sports at the same time.

In the end it was her parents who pushed her to begin playing on her high school racquetball team as an incoming freshman.

“I made her do it,” Jessie’s father and high school racquetball coach Scott Hyland said.

Hyland said the sport seemed to be a good idea for Jessie, who would not only get to spend additional time with her sisters, but would also fill her time during the tennis offseason winter months competing in another discipline.

In addition to meeting new people, developing skills and increasing confidence, Hyland said racquetball was just what Jessie needed to be pushed outside of her comfort zone and into an area of growth.

While Jessie said she was “a bit grumpy” about playing racquetball for the first couple of months, she began to enjoy the change of racquet and recognized her knack for the high-speed sport.

Little did Jessie know, racquetball would earn her a national title, an All-American award and even a husband during her first year attending BYU. 

“Racquetball has honestly and literally changed my life,” Jessie said.

Jessica Hyland Hyde and her husband Cade Hyde embrace following a BYU racquetball practice. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hyland Hyde).

2019 Intercollegiate National Racquetball Competition — Singles

After a discouraging doubles loss the day before, Jessie’s nerves were catching up to her.

The very same opponent that had defeated her and her doubles partner would stand between her and the 2018-19 Sixth Division Singles National Championship.

Jessie said instead of succumbing to the fear of facing the same opponent, she felt motivated to bring her best game against the odds.

While losing the doubles match hadn’t been ideal, it reminded her to stay humble, work hard and maintain a positive mentality. One particular bit of advice from her coaches before the singles championship match is credited with completely changing Jessie’s mental approach.

Instead of focusing on the winning point, they had told her, “Focus on hitting each shot well.”

This time, Jessie was victorious.

“I literally cried because I was so happy,” Jessie said. “It was the best feeling ever.”

Having once adopted the sport reluctantly, the Sandy native is now an All-American racquetball player, a singles national champion and doubles silver medalist.

“I never thought I would be a nationally ranked athlete,” Jessie said. “I never thought I was good enough at any one sport.”

Jessie said the hardest thing about becoming a nationally ranked athlete was the work and dedication needed before the tournament. With racquetball practices at 6 a.m. three days a week, she found it difficult to push through the early-morning routine.

Luckily, her motivation would increase as she fell in love with a racquetball teammate, Cade Hyde.

First came racquetball, then came marriage

Cade had enrolled in an elective racquetball class during his first semester at BYU. While he had dabbled in racquetball with youth summer leagues before his mission, Cade primarily wanted to take the class because it sounded fun.

Jessica and Cade Hyde prior to their August 2019 wedding. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hyland Hyde)

It was in this class that Cade saw Jessie for the first time.

“In the class you get to play with everyone,” Cade said. “I made sure I got to play with Jessie a lot.”

Cade and Jessie were married in August of 2019, in the Salt Lake City Temple.

While the couple doesn’t give full credit to racquetball for their love story, they believe their common interest in the sport has given them a certain competitive advantage over their opponents. 

“We have more chemistry,” Cade said.

The two have competed in mixed doubles tournaments and have been each other’s motivation to put in more hours, push harder and increase their level of play.

This year, Cade managed to snag one of six roster spots on BYU’s 2019-20 racquetball team and remains hopeful he will make it to nationals in the coming season.

Before COVID-19 canceled the event, Jessie was scheduled to compete in the second division at the 2020 National Intercollegiate Racquetball Championship in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“I was devastated when I heard they were canceling Nationals — not necessarily for myself, but for seniors like my sister, Maddie,” Jessie said. “It’s sad to think we will never go to nationals together.”

Sophomore Jessie will continue preparing as a hopeful for the 2021 nationals where she is determined to bring home another title for BYU.

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