Rocky Carson is living his dreams – both of them. This dedicated family man plays professional racquetball on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), a job that allows him to combine his work and home life, his two greatest passions. It also presents him with his biggest struggle: being away from his family.
“Even after all these years I’m still passionate about racquetball, but not as much as being with my kids and family, who are number one behind the Lord.” When he’s home, racquetball gives him the opportunity to set his schedule around theirs, so he can spend more time with his wife Jenn, daughter Jasmine, and son Christian.
While racquetball brings him together with his family, it also takes them apart. He loves the sport he’s played for decades as much as ever. On the road, he’s living his racquetball dream, competing at the highest level. When we spoke during the midwinter break, he was pleased with how he’d been playing.
“I feel like I’ve had a strong season for the most part… a few inconsistencies…a few tournaments when I wasn’t playing great ball, but I was able to get through into finals. Whereas the last two or three tournaments I felt strong, more consistent. I feel really confident with my game right now, like a couple of years ago.”
He’s made it into all three finals in the second half of the season, including last weekend’s Lawler Sports IRT ProAm, when he was the first person to take Kane Waselenchuk to five games this season.
“You have to give Kane credit for playing at level he has so consistently and for so long to put together such a long winning streak. Playing him is different than anyone I’ve played in my career. I’m just starting to figure out how to play him. For example, there’re certain shots he doesn’t miss too many of. His serve and serve return are as good as any that have ever played the game. You can’t start behind. If you do, you’re going to get pummeled. If I get into a rally, I feel that I can keep up with anyone.”
Even after playing two decades on the pro tour (The Boss Consulting/IRT database shows his first match in 9/95), he’s still working on his game. “Having one bad tourney really forced me to analyze my game, figure out what to work on, and put the time in. Without a doubt, I’m always working on things and making tweaks.” He felt like what he’d done in the month-and-a-half before the break made the biggest difference he had in a long time.
For part of his success, he credits the addition of hall-of-fame coach Fran Davis to his team. “Fran’s opened my eyes to a couple of things. I’ve always worked with my dad. Fran’s been good at showing me some things. I’m getting back to the fundamentals, with two great coaches who see things differently. The way they go about it and coaching me is a little bit different. My dad knows my game as well as anyone. Fran knows the players in the IRT. It’s a little different point of view from the different coaches. I love that.”
It’s that outside advice on how to go about attacking opponents like Waselenchuk that have really become a big asset for him. The strategies are similar; the goal is exactly the same. “The one goal I have in mind is to win. If I execute that, then I’ll be happy.” He went on to explain that while everybody seems to have his focus on this or that, his is to have a successful game. He’s very interested in getting there, not so worried about looking at any one individual aspect of his game at any given time.
That’s probably a good thing, since he has so many tools to bring to the court. He’s been known to toss in a few outdoor shots, catching the unwary player off guard. A fist pump might follow, all while he’s wearing “the coolest clothing — surfer with an edge to it,” reflecting the shots and a lifestyle he’s picked up on the way to seven outdoor titles between surfing off of California’s sunny shores.
Sponsored by Head Racquetball, One Shot clothing, and Racquetball Warehouse, his sponsors take care of him. He feels lucky and grateful for their support, along with that of his family, friends, and fans, many of whom he connects with on Facebook. A fan favorite on the tour, the racquetball community embraces Rocky, too.