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    August 17, 2021 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Despite not having any tournaments to travel to during the 2020-21 season, Liberty University’s founding men’s and women’s racquetball Head Coach Danny Rodriguez instilled a competitive atmosphere in his team’s practices while still managing to maintain the sociable aspect of the sport.

    “We have a great bunch of kids that love racquetball,” Rodriguez said. “We didn’t have a season last year, but that didn’t change their minds. They show up and play on their own, practice on their own. They still love playing racquetball and except for the ones that graduated, almost everybody is returning to the team this year.”

    He and Assistant Coach Pam Passburg are hoping to attract more interested players to tryouts scheduled for the weeks of Aug. 23-27 and Aug. 30-Sept. 3, set for 5 p.m. each night on the LaHaye Recreation & Fitness Center’s four courts.

    Together, they help promote a tight-knit team cultuere of players who challenge one another to become better on the court while encouraging one another off of it.

    “One of the biggest things with our team is we are a family environment,” Rodriguez said. “We all look after each other, we all talk with each other. A lot of kids go out and eat together, they meet for lunch, they study together. It’s a very cohesive environment. They were able to practice during normal practice hours plus the kids were practicing on their own by playing each other over and over again.”

    Lynchburg-area players were able to participate in their first tournament of the year, the annual Virginia Commonwealth Games at Liberty in July.

    “They loved that,” Rodriquez said. “The Commonwealth Games was a big advantage for those students who did compete. It gave them their first tournament environment and they realized it was a different environment than just playing each other. They got to play with adult players from throughout Virginia, and they had a new perspective on racquetball. Some of them learned very quickly that there’s some tough competition out there.”

    He said the only way for the Flames and Lady Flames to become better players is by playing better players, as well as through hours of practice and repetitive drills on the court.

    “Our goals are always the same,” Rodriguez said. “We have a set schedule that we go by all of the time. We expect our players to show up at practice. We’ll do our drills on scheduled days. We’ll play doubles, singles, cutthroat (with three players on the court). Drilling’s probably to me the most important thing. People don’t like to drill, but if you can hit the same shot over and over again and be consistent with it, when you get into a game, you’re going to be consistent also (so) I really press drilling as much as I can. I allow them to play competitively against each other, which helps their game also. They are very competitive players.”

    Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media