USRSA Worth Keeping An Eye On
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
An organization closely aligned with the sport of racquetball, the United States Racquet Stringers Association (USRSA) has its sights set on raising its level of play a notch or two in the year 2000. If they pull it off, the USRSA will likely become a very useful checkpoint on the radar screens of serious racquetball players.
The USRSA is a for-profit association of dues-paying racquet stringers with 6500 members throughout the world. The goals of the organization include certification of members' competency in and knowledge of racquet strings, stringing equipment, and stringing technique; and conducting on-going research to ensure their information base is always on the cutting edge. In addition, the USRSA would like to be a conduit of information on these subjects to serious players.
I recently had an opportunity to talk with the new president of the USRSA, Pat Curry, who recently sold his own software firm to renew his love affair with racquet sports. Pat is very enthusiastic about the growing popularity of "lifestyle sports" in the age of the Internet. Rather than encouraging more of us to be couch potatoes, he sees the Internet as a tool for getting more out of our racquetball experience. According to Pat, the Internet will play an important role in improving the quickness and flexibility of the USRSA.
Coming from the computer industry, it is not surprising that Pat envisions an expanded role for the World Wide Web in the organization. The organization plans to expand and redesign its web site to provide members with more rapid access to the vast amounts of information the organization has collected. This will allow them to become a better resource to their customers, as well as to racquetball players, Pat said. The new web site, which will debut later this year, will also have large sections open to players themselves, providing information on such subjects as new string test results, and recommended string tensions. At the same time, the association is increasing its research staff so the quality and quantity of information available should be even better.
The association will still continue to publish its member magazine, Racquet Tech. Although the publication is primarily of interest to professional racquet stringers, Pat says there are a considerable number of hard core racquetball enthusiasts who subscribe because of their thirst for technical information. This subscription opportunity is still likely to remain open, but much of the information germane to racquetball players will also be retrievable from the web site. (Pat confessed that one thing that turns racquetball players off about Racquet Tech is that most of the information is about racquet sports in general, and not racquetball per se - although one issue a year does have a racquetball focus, and many items apply to all racquet sports.)
One of the broadest areas the USRSA has targeted for improvement is its certification program. There are currently two levels of certification-Certified Stringer and Certified Racquet Technician (CRT). Certified Stringer is a one-time only certification that assures the stringer is familiar with materials and best stringing practices at the time of his certification. There are currently about 2000 certified stringers. Certified Racquet Technician is a stricter standard that requires yearly re testing to ensure consumers that the CRT is up to date on the latest techniques and technology. There are only 500 CRTs in the world today.
The USRSA is replacing CRT with a new higher level of certification called Master Racquet Technician (MRT). The association will make it easier to obtain MRT certification by increasing the number of testers. There are currently 22 testers in the U.S. and three located internationally. Over the next two years the association hopes to triple the number of testers, with one located in each major city.
In addition, MRT certification will not require the holder to work for a retail store, so MRTs can operate independently if they choose. Pat says the Association will also provide members with more user-friendly study materials that will be more effective in helping them prepare for the tests.
Although certification does not apply to players themselves, he stressed the importance of the USRSA as an educational organization. He said, "As far as advice on what machine to buy or how to teach yourself, we have all the materials anyone would ever need, if they have the interest."
Pat said, "I am enthusiastic about the future of racquet sports, here and internationally, or I wouldn't have jumped into this endeavor." (He mentioned that racquetball in particular seems to have bottomed out but is showing signs of renewal.) "I am focused on the association side and making sure we continue to deliver the highest quality of independent observation. But the idea of having it spill over into the MT is exciting to me."
So with all of these enthusiastic plans, the USRSA bears watching. We racquetball players would certainly benefit from better and more readily accessible information and higher levels of service from the organizations that aspire to serve us. Good luck, Pat.
This article previously appeared in Racquetball Magazine.