‘Great Balls of Fire’ tournament makes noise

That familiar noise, that echoing pop that fills the atrium of the Patti and Alan Herbert Wellness Center can raise thousands of dollars.  It does every year.  For the past thirteen years, UM’s Club Racquetball Team has hosted their Great Balls Of Fire tournament, a fundraiser for both the club and charity, and an increasingly successful open competition.

 Lynne Olney, the coach of the team, began the tradition with two of her friends, originally holding an open tournament for around 25 people.  It has since become a campus and community-wide event.  “In the past we have benefitted Camp Keesem and The Children’s Miracle Network.  This year we have chosen the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.”

Olney has also instituted further charitable events associated with the Racquetball Team.  “Along with the one tournament a year, the Club hosts a silent auction and a raffle.”  Despite the tight budget most club sports experience, Olney proudly maintains they don’t see a dime.  “Every penny of that money goes to charity.”

Tom Ness, the Club’s president, is proud of the tournament’s philanthropic mission.  “The Club’s budget is tiny.  We don’t keep very much of the proceeds at all.  I would say around 80% of the profits go to charity.  We are hoping to raise around four or five thousand this year.”

Great Balls Of Fire is open to all players of all skill levels.  Andrew Corbett, one of the team’s traveling players, would urge even the least experienced players to participate.  “You have to start somewhere, and this tournament is a great place to start.  Plus, its for a great cause.”

 The Club itself is having its best season in recent memory.  Despite being at a size disadvantage compared to FSU and UF, the Racquetball Team is atop the standings for the Florida Cup, in front of UF, FSU, UCF, FIU, and USF.

 Ness says the strength of the team is that it is a “really tight community.  All the guys are super competitive, and it really pushes your game.  You always want to be better than the next guy, but that’s what makes for a good team.”  If the team wins the Florida Cup, they will be in great standing to go to the National tournament in New Mexico late next spring.

 The Great Balls Of Fire tournament takes place from the 23rd to the 25th of February on the Wellness Center Courts.  The bracket moves from round robin style, to single elimination, guaranteeing every player a five game minimum.  Sign-ups and donations are available through the Wellness Center, and online at r2sports.com.

 For more information on either the Racquetball Club, or Great Balls Of Fire, contact President Tom Ness as t.ness@umiami.edu.