Kane Waselenchuk had to fight back from an injury during the 2014-2015 men’s professional International Racquetball Tour season that has followed him throughout his career after the UnitedHealthcare US Open in order to regain his top ranking on the IRT.
“This year [2014-2015 IRT season] came down to the last match,” Waselenchuk said about his tenth #1 season ranking title. “I had a lot of work to do from November  until the last tournament in the end of May . I can easily say it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in season to get myself in shape and ready to try and get my #1 spot back again. That was so gratifying at the end for me to win.”
Waselenchuk slowly worked himself back to health and continued to increase his intensity after suffering from an inner ear injury at the US Open. In mid-November, he saw his doctor who did the procedure again to remedy his problem. Waselenchuk returned to the tour in January 2015 while approaching tournaments as a training tool in his quest for the top spot.
This wasn’t the first occasion that Waselenchuk had to battle to finish the season because of injury. “He had a bad knee one year and we limped our way in the last couple of months, then pulled it off,” Jim Winterton, Waselenchuk’s coach since 2003, said.
Waselenchuk wasn’t always a workhorse and admitted he relied on his talent a little too much early in his career before changing his habits at age twenty-six or twenty-seven.
“When I won my first world title, I played a lot but I didn’t train a lot,” Waselenchuk said. “I did practice and I did put time in. It’s just I didn’t put as much time in as I put in now. I reached a certain age where I realized that it wasn’t about now it was about building for the longevity. I started to get in better shape, started doing more sports specific training and it has kind of just trickled on from there.”
A typical workout for Waselenchuk begins with weight training in the morning followed by a midday run or sprints and racquetball at the club later in the day.
“If I start playing badly, I’ll just stop playing,” he said. “It’s not even worth it to me to just keep playing. When I leave the court I want to be positive about it and always feel like next time I go it’s going to be positive. When I leave negative, I’m going to come back negative.”
After his one-to-three-hour session on the court, he returns home to stretch and finishes with a light run. Waselenchuk follows that all week except Sundays and doesn’t play racquetball on Tuesdays or Thursdays.
“Nobody sees the work he does,” Winterton said of Waselenchuk’s training. “No one sees the self discipline he has. People don’t realize how hard he works. He has some intense workouts. He works out harder then people ever know.”
An example of his self-discipline occurred eight years ago after Waselenchuk was on the winning side of his match. “We were at a tournament and he beat someone like 11-1, 11-2, 11-3,” Winterton recalled with a chuckle. “Something was bothering him. He came off the court and said, ‘I can’t play like this. We have to go to the club.’ From 10 at night till one in the morning we were at the club. Its not like I was on the court telling him what to do. He knew what he had do, he got on there and worked out.”
Waselenchuk typically hits the court with University of Texas Longhorn Open Advisor and Fundraiser, Soly Kor, about eight hours per week together. “Soly was the best guy in Austin, hands down,” he said. “I needed someone to play and I wanted to play the best player. He’s gotten a lot better too since we started to play. From my side of things that’s cool to see someone get better playing me.”
Besides practicing with Kor, Waselenchuk isn’t picky in who he faces on the court during practice unless he is preparing for a tournament. “For the most part I really don’t care who I play,” he said. “There is times where I play a high B level player, an A level player. In my case in practice, its just practice, it’s not about winning, we don’t keep score. Other then that we just go out and have a good time.”
Waselenchuk also incorporates in his court time suggestions made by Winterton, his USA Racquetball Hall of Fame coach who has previously coached #2-ranked Rocky Carson and #3-ranked Alvaro Beltran for their respective national teams. In 12 years together the two have been on the court a total of six times with only a few sessions lasting longer than an hour because Waselenchuk continues to self-coach himself.
“People have this idea that I’m the coach pushing him and I don’t like this or I don’t like that,” Winterton said about their unique relationship. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We are more like collaborators working together. I’m writing in the book things he needs to work on. Things that I see that he could get better at.”
“When Winterton brings something to my attention about a swing thought or anything he runs it by me, I go try it, if I don’t like it we move on,” Waselenchuk said on the proposal of changes to his game. “It’s not like hey this is what you need to do.”
Sometimes Winterton will have a change in mind and Waselenchuk will propose the idea before he has the chance. “11 years ago we talked about something and this year I thought it might be time to change it,” Winterton said. “Before I could suggest it, he suggested it. He’s a great one at figuring things out and seeing things that other people do not see, myself included.”
Another key to Waselenchuk’s success is his nutrition off the court, which he tries to keep very simple with meats, fruits, vegetables and water. Sponsored by Onnit, he also takes daily supplements including Alpha Brain and Shroom Tech Sport specifically for racquetball.
After persevering through an injury in the first half of the 2014-2015 season, Waselenchuk entered this offseason feeling strong and healthy which hasn’t happened to him in years. “It’s the best I’ve ever felt so far in all of my racquetball career,” he said. “I run 6 miles a day, I can do a bunch of stuff that I wasn’t able to do back when I was younger.”
That doesn’t bode well for the other players on the tour for this upcoming season and for the future.
“As long as I can evolve as an athlete that’s all that matters to me,” Waselenchuk said. “Evolve my workouts, my training, my on court stuff. As long as I can keep evolving and getting better, I’ll continue to do it. As long as I can feel like I can be #1, I don’t have to be #1, but if I feel like I can still be there and it makes me work a little harder I’m okay with that too.”
By Eric Mueller
Eric Mueller started working with the IRT after joining the 2014 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships Media Team, where he garnered coverage for top racquetball pros and amateurs in their hometown media while also helping to provide updates to the racquetball community during the tournament. With a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, Mueller also brings experience in sports reporting and news writing for newspapers like the Pioneer Press in St. Paul as well as the Southwest Journal and the Downtown Journal in Minneapolis. He has also worked in marketing for the St. Paul Saints professional baseball team and for Gopher Athletics at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Mueller currently works as a Public Relations Intern for the 2015 Cowles Cup Champion Chicago Bandits professional softball team.