Junior Team Illinois (JTI)
US National Junior Team News
The 2021 National Junior Championships were held recently in Iowa. Several of our own Illinois juniors were able to go and compete. Each one had a unique experience and have decided to share what it meant to them to be there. Check back to see new experiences.
My first Junior National Championship Experience was something extraordinary and something that I will never forget. Going to this tournament helped me get a different perspective on Raquetball. It didn’t only do that, but it also made me meet new friends. I realized that you would never be ready for a tournament no matter how much you train. Because going to tournaments is what makes you a better player because you get to play with people who have a different type of game and other strategies. Whether you get a medal or don’t, I feel that you are still a winner because you had the courage and confidence to go to a national tournament to compete against outstanding players. And you were ready to compete and overcome any obstacle that was in your way. That is how I see it. What I enjoyed about my whole experience was that I realized what I have to improve on and work harder on, and not only that but also seeing what is working for me. I loved seeing all the great matches and spending time with my family and enjoying the games with them. After going to this tournament, it gave me more inspiration to train harder and be a better player. I would not be at this point in my life if it weren’t for any of my amazing coaches, who all believe in me and always push me to be better because they know I can. Also, thank you to my parents, who drive me to all my practices and are always there for me. And even though I might not have qualified for the US Team I am still ready to qualify next year. I am thrilled with my whole experience and excited to play again.
When I first decided to go to junior nationals, I was extremely excited while also being a little nervous. All my friends who had been before and even won the tournament had said that it’s the greatest tournament that they had ever been to and it was extremely important to go and enjoy it. As the tournament came closer, I became more and more nervous playing in a large national tournament like that. Once we arrived in Des Moines, I was more nervous than I had ever been before a tournament. My first match was against an extremely good player from California. I knew that it was going to be difficult, but I just wanted to do my absolute best and make a good showing. The match was very difficult, Trish was a fantastic player and I played my best but couldn’t pull the match out.
After I dropped into the red division I became much more confident, my showing in Golds was good but it was a massive confidence boost coming into my next match in Reds. My match was against a player with much more experience in junior nationals but I wasn’t going to let that get into my way of trying to win. This match was very tough, I lost the first game 14-15, Won the second 15-14, then in the tiebreaker I lost a little steam losing with 6 points. This match was almost perfectly matched between me and the other player. We both made good shots, but it turned out that his experience outperformed mine. Even though I lost that match, I was extremely proud of how I played and gained a new respect for a player that I hadn’t met before.
Going into my semifinal white match, I played a player from the St Louis high school team. This was an important match and I won handily because I played very well. A great confidence booster going into the Final for whites. In the first match, I beat the other player fairly handily. But the second match I struggled a bit, fell behind too far to come back. Although at the end of the match I did manage to gain a few good points which motivated me even more going into the tiebreaker. The tiebreaker was back and forth all the way till 10-9 with me in the service box. A good rally and some drama with the ref ended the final with me in the lead 11-9. I am extremely proud of both myself and my teammates on JTI. And I’m very glad that I had attended the tournament.