With all due respect to the great champions of yesterday, I write this. Kane Waselenchuk is the best player ever to play the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). Many people have their fans, and their rationale, but
nobody in the history of the game has won 113 matches in a row. Why the arguing now over who was the greatest? Because of Kane, that’s why. By the way, if you want to see who was the greatest, watch one of his matches, live or online. Nobody has ever played this low to the floor since Steve Serot. Nobody has dominated the way Kane has. What makes this guy great?
1. Mental makeup – It has been written that champions forget their defeats. Kane forgets his wins. He takes everyone seriously and prepares meticulously. He is a smart player who can see weaknesses where others cannot. He has an ability to do the champion things of press conferences, interviews, and still show up to play well. He can game plan with the best and morph from a power game to control in a second.
2. Conditioning – With all due respect to the fitness guys who get the accolades, Kane quietly trains at home running hills and lifting weights with his trainer. He is as strong in game five as he is in game one and as strong on Sunday as he was on Thursday. People often do not consider this, but he plays more matches than anyone because he wins tournaments. While others rest with early upsets, he plays on.
3. Attitude – Kane is willing to share his success. He gives credit to his wife, Kim, his children, and his coach instead of being a me guy. At the US Open he is famous for sharing his success with friends from home in Edmonton, Canada, and his neighborhood in Texas. He thinks positively in terms of what he can do, and does not compare himself to others.
4. Family – He is a family man and a great husband to his wife, Kim and his two girls, Kennedy and Kendall. His days are spent training for racquetball and watching the girls and dogs. He and Kim are involved in Austin Pets Alive, a sanctuary for rescuing and adopting pets.
5. Thirst to improve – Kane is not satisfied where he is right now in racquetball. He knows he is at about 70 percent of where he could be. He strives to get better. He wants to know more about his craft.
6. Student of the game – He has respect for the champions who have gone before him. He respects the young kids coming up fighting to take his place. He studies the champions and loves to talk ball with any former champion.
Below: taking care of the PR
7. Creativity – Shakespeare with a racquet was a term that I used to describe what he does on the court. Because Kane learned by himself, he learned to use his imagination to create shots. Often the crowd does not know how to react because they cannot believe the shot they just saw executed by Kane. Shots behind the back, over the shoulder, and between the legs are not done for show, they are executed for dough.
8. Power – Easily the hardest hitter in the game today, Kane seldom is thought of in those terms. He hits with power only when he has to, and usually uses controlled power during rallies.
9. Control – It can be argued Kane is the best control player ever. This author has seen him out ceiling ball players, some of whom are legendary for their own ceiling games. He can out lob the lobbers, and out dink the dinkers. Kane has changed the game with the introduction of the drop shot, a shot once thought to be outdated.
10. Coachable – Kane is extremely coachable. This does not mean the traditional coach-athlete relationship however. It means he wants another point of view, but is strong enough to make his own decision. True story and a glimpse into our world: at a tournament a few years ago against an athlete since retired, he asked me what serve at match point. I said the X serve will work. He agreed and he went on the court and hit a different serve, not an X serve. It was an ace and someone from the crowd yelled to me, “Nice call, Coach.” Yeah, right! Kane had felt the other serve would work as soon as he walked back on the court after the time out. His take was the X serve would have worked but he felt and correctly so, the Y serve was the one to use.
11. Adversity – This guy has had more comebacks than Rocky Balboa. As a youth, he left racquetball to play hockey and came back. He was forced out due to injury when he dove into a wall in Bolivia early in his career. He was suspended from playing racquetball for two years. Each time he came back with a vengeance. Nobody has handled the adversity and problems better than Kane has.
These are qualities of a champion. How long will this historic run last? Consider this: Since last February when everyone forecast Kane’s demise when he was taken to a five-game thriller in San Diego, he has not lost a game. That is for Florida, Salt Lake City, St Louis, Tijuana, and Fullerton. That’s 20 matches played and not one game lost. After awhile, words like amazing aren’t enough to describe someone like this athlete and his accomplishments.
Photos by Jim Winterton, who coaches the number one male and female pros, Kane Waselenchuk and Rhonda Rajsich, and has worked with them for over eight years. He also coaches other athletes, such as three of the top four collegiate males in 2011, and four athletes on the WPRO besides Rhonda. Check out www.coachrball.com for more information about Jim’s athletes and his online coaching programs.