A fellow racquetball enthusiast posted a challenge about what should be done with a large sum of money to best improve, support, sustain, and grow the sport. His challenge came with a Go Fund Me, asking for $100,000, with no specificity on how he would spend that money (in any way, shape, or form). He also refused to provide any specific details on how he would spend the money. I did not choose to donate. 🙂
In any case, here is my response to how I would spend a large sum of money, over time, and with specificity (my amount is at the end, or in the TL:DR (too long: didn’t read) section below).
I first starting thinking about this project in 2020, when the LPRT asked their executive team what they would like to do for racquetball if money weren’t a concern. You can review their Service Box playlist, here:
I own some decent consumer level cameras that can record in 4K (but only livestream at 1080p). I would take these cameras and my other audio and video tools and create a series of commercials for as many facilities with racquetball courts as possible. I would expect the project to take ~four years, if each state was focused on for one month. (One month is way too short for many states; FL, CA, TX, for example. It would also be too long for others that don’t have thirty known court facilities currently. With any luck, the project would also get more players reporting their court locations so that the list and maps were completely up to date.) This would provide continuing/constant exposure for racquetball both at the clubs where the interviews / tournaments were being recorded / broadcast and everywhere else that has access to YouTube.
Obviously all courts in a state won’t be able to be visited. With the proposed broadcast schedule below, it would take an entire year (50 weeks) of 4 facilities per week to cover just the indoor facilities in California. Another 4-5 months to include the outdoor courts.
Current Camera Equipment:
Clubs lists and maps:
Daily Racquetball YouTube Channel:
(check out the playlists that cross all of the broadcast entities for racquetball, in addition to the matches I’ve broadcast)
Let’s break the project down, into actionable pieces.
1) Monthly tasks
– Contact next state board of directors, confirm tournament dates/cities (if any), request assistance with setting up interviews with helpful court staff and players at as many cities in that state as possible
– Broadcast one tournament per state
– Create new YouTube playlist for the next state
– Embed the new playlist on that state’s map page
2) How a day during the week would look (Monday thru Thursday):
– Visit court in morning, ideally 6-8 am, to capture the morning hard-core crews
– Interview the morning crew
– Capture drone video of the court facility from the parking lot to use to start the video of the interviews
– Spend a few hours editing the prior day’s footage, and upload that video and add it to the state playlist
– Contact tomorrow’s court to reconfirm availability of facility management or local pro to talk about facility
– Play some racquetball at some point during the day!
– Visit the court in the evening, ideally 4-7 pm, to capture the evening crews
– Interview the evening crew
– 8-9 pm drive to the next city (or to the area of the next court, if in the same city – some cities will require either a multi-day commitment or some of the individual courts will have to be skipped, input from the state board of directors and locals will be needed)
– Spend a few hours editing the prior day’s footage, and upload that video and add it to the state playlist
– Travel to tournament location, if one is scheduled that weekend, otherwise travel to the city with courts scheduled for Monday
– If no tournament on the weekend, use the rest of Friday to do the monthly tasks
3) How a weekend would look, if there was a tournament scheduled (only one per state per month):
– Arrive on site on Friday afternoon/early evening, greet tournament staff, discuss which court should be broadcast, confirm first match time (or best match times for broadcast), discuss which 3-4 matches should be broadcast on Saturday and which 2-3 should be broadcast on Sunday to best serve the tournament staff for their next iteration of the tournament
– Broadcast live from the event on Saturday and Sunday, then travel to Monday’s city
4) How a weekend would look, if there was no tournament scheduled:
– Do any needful Monthly tasks, perform maintenance on existing travel vehicle, get away from the cameras and computer for a few hours
– Travel to the Monday city, if not done on Friday
Sound like an overwhelming lifestyle? Not too bad really. The key will be good interview questions, with well prepped locals that can talk about their courts, their leagues, their love of the game, and how they are supporting the game of racquetball. This will make the video editing a much shorter task, I hope. 🙂
Okay, so let’s talk a bit about why I am in a good position to do this.
1) I already own a travel vehicle that gets 26 MPG highway and that I can sleep in, so no hotel expenses. (Although local tournament sponsors would be welcome to provide a room, as a break for the same daily scenery and routine.)
2) I’m single with no plans to change that. I have no one that needs me for financial or physical support in any single location. I will probably have to arrange a full week off every 6 months or so and visit some family at that point.
4) My only agenda is racquetball, I’m not looking to use the experience to put my face all over the internet, the focus will always be on the local courts, local players, and local events.
Now we will need to talk about some possible negatives.
Are there better people to accomplish this kind of task? Certainly!
1) Joel Adler (https://www.youtube.com/user/adleryg) could likely do a better job with the videoing and editing, at least today. I would hope to be at his level long before the project was complete.
2) Young / college age pros! Young, fit, outgoing, and professional quality players might make a better go at keeping the locals engaged, and they could likely supplement the income for the project with clinics or quick lessons on the go. I’m an A level player according to USA Racquetball rankings (required to play in A or higher at the US Open and national events). So there are certainly elite / open / pro players that will see that and have some disdain that wouldn’t be present for a Bobby Horn or Hollie Rae Scott.
3) Tournament play-by-play announcers! Timothy Baghurst, or Leo Vasquez, or Dave Ellis, or any of the current or retired pros can do a better job at the tournament discussion part of the task. They are all definitely invited when I broadcast a tournament in their city/state/area! I have broadcast for the Military Racquetball Federation, the National Masters Racquetball Association, the World Racquetball Tour, and the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour, and I am well aware of my limitations, particularly if I am also working the cameras and the scoreboard, etc.
Should you use better equipment?
Jerry Josey with the LPRT or Pablo Fajre with the IRT both have better equipment (particularly cameras) than I am using currently. For ~$4,100, I would change up my equipment quite a bit. I would need more than that for better cameras, but with live streaming capped at 1080p on Facebook and YouTube, I don’t know that I would bother until better free options for the live match broadcasts becomes available. *The only upgrade I would be considering here at the end of 2021 would be cameras, and that could dwarf the costs of everything else, so I am not going to be spending that money myself until other investors help the rest of the project move forward.
– Wireless HDMI for 3 cameras (~$1,500)
Three Hollyland Mars 400S Pro – https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B08L588BBW/
*These were acquired during 2021 for the 2021 Team Root Outdoor National Championships at Marina Park in Huntington Beach, California.
– Newer laptop for quicker video editing (~$1,800)
Alienware m15 R3 as recommended by vMix – https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B0898MPK8P
*This was acquired prior to the Chicago LPRT event.
– An ATEM Mini Extreme Switcher to handle the camera inputs, do the side-by-side for interviews and drone footage of the facility, and to stream the matches during tournaments. $995 – https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B08WWXFZ5W/
*This was acquired during 2021 prior to the last LPRT event of the year.
– A Chromecast style device to wirelessly connect the laptop and the switcher, to handle overlays and for the scoreboard. Would use H2R Graphics for the scoreboard itself. – https://heretorecord.com/graphics
*I went with vMix instead to handle scoreboards, graphics, commercials at timeouts, instant replay, etc.
– Two additional monitors to attach to the Switcher to monitor the video broadcast. Less than $150 each. – https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07NNXH2SS/
*I’m using one monitor for a multi-view from all of the cameras, and then using the 17-inch laptop monitor to view everything else in vMix, so I haven’t needed a second monitor.
What about that C word?
I was vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson one-shot version in April 2021.
What about states that have very few courts and no state board of directors or that you can’t drive to, like Hawaii?
Choices would definitely have to be made to ensure that the largest populations of the racquetball playing public were serviced, and ideally serviced first. We’ll talk a bit more about that when we talk about how to raise the money and how to prioritize states to visit.
Okay, with all of that out of the way, what would the recurring expenses of such a project look like?
1) Vehicle related – insurance, gas, oil changes, etc. $900-1,500 per month, depending on how large the state was and how much travel was needed to reach the courts. An additional amount should be saved up for new tires each year, if they are going to be used to travel throughout 12 states. The current tires would be ~$600 to replace, so figure on about that much at the beginning of each of the 4 years.
2) Gym costs – for larger chains, a membership could be purchased that would facilitate access. This would likely be $3-500, and wouldn’t apply to all states. There are no LA Fitness or Lifetime Fitness locations in Alabama, for example, but there are plenty of YMCAs. If the local facility can’t be talked into a free day pass, then ~$20 per day (4 days per week, 4 weeks per month) would be about right ($320-350 ish).
3) Food costs – I can’t eat dairy, gluten, or soy, so easy greasy cheese sandwiches aren’t an option. I would expect the budget for food to be very similar to the budget for gym day passes, or ~$600 for a thirty day month.
4) Medical insurance – if the project was funded thru an existing company, this could be worked out with them. If handled as a solo-project, $400-500 a month is likely. Less if the project is incorporated as a business and all of the expenses are deducted to ensure a low income to get Affordable Care Act assistance. I don’t take any medication or have any significant diseases that require treatment, so it would only be used for emergencies and annual checkup style doctor visits. Advice on this from insurance reps that play racquetball would be appreciated!
5) Tournament advertising! I would spend $500 on advertising the tournament that I was going to attend and broadcast from next. This would primarily be spent on Facebook and Instagram. A commitment from the local state board or the tournament organizer would definitely be required to ensure that all of the proper information was available and was being pushed into the ads so that when they reached potential and former racquetball players they could do the necessary things to get to the event.
6) Cellular internet access. To upload daily videos, either wi-fi must be found, or cellular uploads will be required. Tournaments will provide a similar requirement but are more likely to have wi-fi if indoors. Unlimited data on 1 phone and two hotspots with 100GB of data allowance will run about $210 per month with AT&T.
7) Rainy day fund. Some amount needs to be put away each month in case I break both my legs and can’t travel and continue on with the project. I will estimate that this should be ~$1,000 per month so that I am not totally broke coming out the end of the project. 🙂
With those main categories discussed, the next type of expense would be the larger budget items. The laptop and cameras should be replaced about every other year, to take advantage of advances in speed, software, lenses, etc. I would want to have ~$12,000 available for new equipment available at the end of the second year.
So, all of that together comes into the $6,000 per month range, with $1,000 for personal use/expenses and the rest put directly into the project and advertising the events attended.
If we assume 48 months (as some states won’t take a full month, looking at you North Dakota and Vermont), then the project should require somewhere in the neighborhood of 290,000 to 300,000 dollars. Not all of that would be needed up front, of course. The project could be taken on with as little as 12 months of commitment, in the 75,000 dollar range.
How would I go about financing such a project?
First, I would take a look at who would benefit most from the project. There are four groups that benefit, assuming that the project succeeds in getting players back on courts (or new players onto courts!). The clubs that are visited, the manufacturers, the tournament directors and the existing players.
Aside: Selfishness = playing with the players you are playing with now. Enlightened self interest = playing with same level players for enjoyment, playing with lower level players so that you have someone to play with next year, and playing with brand new players so that you have someone to play with 5 years from now.
Looking at each of the groups, who would likely pay?
The clubs won’t pay in advance, at least not until there is significant traction behind the project and some proven results, which might require a live interview type show that talks to the facilities that have already been visited to see how they have changed or improved (or if they have). It might be the third year before any clubs were willing to do more than give a free day pass.
The manufacturers might be willing to provide balls or demo racquets to travel with the project, but again I would not expect them to do much more than that without additional considerations. (Definitely reach out to me if I’m wrong on this one, I’d love to talk to Gearbox, ProKennex, Head, e-Force, or the online retailers (Racquetworld or Racquetball Warehouse) about possibilities for continuing my current racquetball projects and adding this one under their sponsorship and I can run ads in my videos.)
The tournament directors aren’t likely to jump up to the $500 advertising level, as there is so little free advertising used by the existing tournaments that it is almost a joke. I’ve discussed the free options before, here:
This leaves the existing players. To entice players to contribute, I would look at the following options:
1) Different levels of sponsorship. $6,000 gets your state up first/next.
2) Branding on my vehicle. I’ll be parked in front of hundreds of racquetball courts. What message would you want sent? I’d get a wrap done by Gulf Coast Graphics (Gary Durbin) in Corpus Christi if needed as he owns the business and is an excellent racquetball player.
3) Branding on my shirts. I have Daily Racquetball on the back of all of my shirts today, and that could move to be the shirt pocket logo, or to being a smaller logo on the back if the company you owned should be on the back. I’d likely need 20ish shirts, replaced every calendar year, to look the best for you at all of the tournaments. I’m 6’3″ so I have a broad back and make an excellent billboard. 🙂
4) Patreon. If the first year got funded, I would start a Patreon account (or alternately a YouTube Member account) so that players could donate a small amount every month, get to see the videos first, and see some out-takes or additional content that didn’t make it to the daily videos. This would help finance the equipment replacements / upgrades. There are people traveling full time (and not covering racquetball) that are able to do it with about 30,000 subscribers. I’m not sure that there are enough players that would want all of the daily videos that the YouTube channel would get that high. None of the pro tours or other organizations appear to be over 7,000 subscribers as of 3/10/2021. (IRT 6.6k, IRF 4.9k)
Why don’t I pay for all of this myself?
Shouldn’t this be done faster?
Yes, it would be ideal to have 50 racquetball players tackling this project just for their own state. I would certainly love to see state boards sponsoring their own version of this if my version can’t get off the ground.
TL:DR – Utilize $290,000 to make a hundreds of commercials for facilities with racquetball courts, touring the US, visiting clubs daily and posting interviews and tournaments on YouTube.