At 34 years old, Alain Pujolar isn’t your typical undergraduate student. A former competitive racquetball player, he isn’t your typical club sport athlete either.
The president of UM’s racquetball club, Pujolar is the stuff of legend.
“When it’s Alain’s turn to play, everyone else lines up and decides who wants to get their ass kicked next,” said racquetball club member David Raps.
Indeed, lounging casually in the chairs across from the wellness center’s racquetball courts, Pujolar looks like he owns the place.
As a child, after moving to Florida from Cuba, Pujolar began playing racquetball at a local park with his friends just for fun. “When I noticed I was getting better, I started taking it more seriously,” he joked.
He competed on the amateur racquetball circuit in the open division, which is the highest level. His ranking peaked in 2005 when he reached number one in the state of Florida.
Out of his entire career, the game that he remembers most fondly is the 2006 Florida state singles tournament, in which he won the open division singles competition. Making the victory even sweeter was beating the three-time past champion in a self-proclaimed “commanding fashion,” winning the tiebreaking match 11-1.
UM’s racquetball club has been around for over ten years, and currently has about 25 members of all skill levels. Pujolar has been its president for the past year and a half.
“My goal is to leave these guys with a better understanding of the game,” he said of his impending graduation this December.
Pujolar started college right out of high school, but circumstances forced him to leave so he could work to help support his family. He attended classes sporadically until five years ago, when he decided to return to school full-time. He took up his studies again at Miami-Dade College before transferring to UM in the spring of 2008 on the pre-med track.
Though Pujolar’s favorite aspect of racquetball is the competitive drive it brings out in him, the camaraderie among the racquetball community is a huge draw as well. The club atmosphere is extremely relaxed, with Pujolar teaching and giving pointers when necessary. But members are there to have fun.
“What was the score?” club member Arsalan Wappi asked Thomas Ness after Ness lost a game against Pujolar.
“It doesn’t matter!” Ness jokes.
Despite being thoroughly beaten by Pujolar on a regular basis, club members are more inclined to rave about his performance than lament their own.
“He plays so smart,” said Wappi, pointing out that he makes his competitors do all the work.
Pujolar exited the court still looking fresh, while competitors stumble out, dripping in sweat.
One of the club’s favorite stories about Pujolar is how he once beat a club member 15-0 in 55 seconds of playing time.
“The only game I’ve seen him lose was against a pro,” said Raps. “And even then, he still won two out of three.”
This is no accident. Extremely modest about his accomplishments, there is one thing Pujolar is not shy about expressing. “This is it,” indicating the courts in front of him with a nod and a grin. “This has been my life’s passion.”
Darci Miller may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racquetball is played with a 22-inch racquet and a hollow rubber ball. The court’s floor, walls, and ceiling are all legal playing surfaces. After being served, the ball must bounce once before the competitor can play it. Fifteen points wins a match, and games are played to best two out of three.
When: Wednesdays & Thursdays, 6-8 pm
Where: Herbert Wellness Center, courts 2 & 3
Cost: $15 for a semester, $25 for the year
Contact: Alain Pujolar, email@example.com