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Paola Longoria, #1 WPRO Pro Player, Hires Fran Davis

March 14th, 2010 Comments off

I cannot tell you just how excited I am to be working with Paola. I have been watching her for years through her junior career and now as the #1 Women’s Professional Player in the World. The one thing that impresses me the most about her is her intensity level on the court when she is competing. She is totally focused and her level of concentration is incredible.

I actually commentated the Finals at the 2009 US Open, Memphis, TN, for Racquetballonline.tv featuring Paola Longoria, the defending US Open Champion, and Rhonda Rasjich, the 2008 US Open Champion. This allowed me to watch her match with a new set of eyes. When you are commentating you must watch and critique each and every point as the play develops and unfolds and you CANNOT miss a beat. The public is relying on you to analyze the game in depth such as serve, the return of serve, court position, shot selection, footwork, the players emotional state, and their EVERYTHING. By doing this I felt I knew Paola BETTER than I did before.

When she approached me after her match with Rhonda she was quite upset and VERY disappointed that she lost the match…understandably so. She told me if she had a coach she felt she could have won the match. She felt she was playing very inconsistent and needed another set of eyes to assist her and help keep her focused and in the match. Her parents and friends were telling her what to do, but there was too much input from too many people so she was overwhelmed. At that point when she asked me if I would coach her I KNEW I could have helped her by tweaking a few things because of her tremendous talent.

When Paola returned home to Monterey, MX after the US Open she e-mailed me and asked me again if I would consider coaching her as she was VERY serious about working on her game and fixing the weaknesses in her game. I graciously accepted. Before we could get together in the middle of December she asked me to give her a few tips as she was getting ready to play three more tournaments. I gave her four critical tips that would make an immediate difference in her game. They proved to work as she proceeded to win ALL three events having to beat Rhonda Rajsich on her way to victory. At that moment she became more of a believer in me.

Her goals are to remain the # 1 Women’s Professional Player in the World, win the World Championships in Korea in August 2010 and win the Pan American Games in her home country, Mexico, in 2011 and she KNOWS she CANNOT do it alone. On December 14th, 2009 we joined forces and started to work together to make her dreams come true.

Let’s hear from Paola.

Read This Exclusive Interview With #1 WPRO Paola

Why does the #1 player in the world WANT and NEED a coach?

For me it’s very important to have Fran who will help me improve my game. A Coach is necessary for any player that wants to be the best player so they can continue to improve their game. I always want and try to be the best player I can be and I know that I need a coach to help me achieve my goals. Coaches work hard to help players achieve everything, that’s why some ot the professional players have the support of a coach. Fran is the person I know that will help me correct mistakes, learn new things, and give me the support in difficult games and tournaments.

Most importantly WHY did you choose FRAN DAVIS?

I choose Fran because she knows a lot about the sport that I love. She is a person that has achieved a lot of goals herself and she always gives her best coaching to every player. She helps people in this sport to be the best players they can be like Sudsy Monchik, Jason Mannino, and many others. Everyone knows that Fran is one of the best coaches that exist in this sport. She was a player years ago and she has a lot of knowledge that will help me to improve my game and of course, she is a positive person that understands what each player needs to be their best.

NOW that you worked with Fran in Seattle for a week….WHAT did you like about working with Fran and what new stuff did you learn that will ENHANCE your already GREAT GAME?

I really loved being in Seattle working with Fran. She taught me a lot of new things to improve my game, especially drills, new serves, returning serves, more shots, better court position, mental toughness and footwork. We were able to watch a lot of video and analyze my game which was hard, but fun. We covered a lot of things that I can’t explain here, but I was there to work hard on my game. I had a great week there because we also had the opportunity to hang out and learn about each other in other aspects that complete the coach-player relationship. I like when she coaches me in every tournament and she is able to tell me the things that I need to hear to motivate me in each game. It’s things like that with time we are going to learn even more about each other.

How IMPORTANT is it to you for your coach to KNOW you as a person NOT JUST as a racquetball player?

For me it’s very important to have a good relation with my coach. I need to trust them and I need to know that they trust me too. When I have a coach I really treat them like part of my family. It’s good to have a good relation with your coach because when you really have a problem that affects your game the coach knows what to say that is going to help me forget the problem so I can focus on my game or in many times probably help resolve the problem. It’s important to have a good relation so the player and the coach can work better in the game.

THANK YOU FRAN!

I just want to thank Fran for all the new stuff she gave me in order to improve my game. I know that these are going to help me to achieve the goals I have in my head. I want to also thank you Fran for the great things you organized when I was in Seattle. I met new friends that treated me very well and I’m sure that you are the coach I was trying to find before. I can’t wait to see you again to continue working hard on my game 🙂

* Women’s Professional Racquetball Organization: www.wpro-tour.com

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Jessica Munoz Released out of the Hospital and Walks away a Double “Gold Medalist”

March 14th, 2010 Comments off

I am so proud of Jessica because she is the epitome of a “true champion”, which is someone that can find a way to win in spite of the obstacles in their way. She overcame one obstacle after another and NEVER once looked back on her way to winning two Gold Medals.

Jessica came to me after securing a spot on the Jr. National Racquetball team by winning the Girls Doubles 18 and under division at the Jr. National Championships in June 2009. Jessica and her partner, Amanda, were going to represent the USA at the Jr. World Championships in the Dominican Republic in December 2009.

Jessica worked extremely hard with me and the physical trainer week after week leading up to the Jr. National Team Training Camp in Colorado Springs, CO at the OTC in the middle of the summer. She was in phenomenal shape and completely surprised all the coaches by being one of the most prepared of all the athletes. Unfortunately after she returned home from the Jr. National Team Training Camp she left immediately to go to Columbia. It was tragic what happened to her from that day forward which took her away from training (see interview below) and she wound up in the hospital.

There is one thing I know she NEVER gave up….never, never, never. When I visited her in the hospital she had one focus in mind ALL the time….get well so she could make the trip to the Dominican Republic and win a medal for the U.S. We ALL worked together, her parents, doctors, psychologists, trainers and me to help make her dream a reality. I cannot say there weren’t ups and downs, but NEVER once did I hear her say, “I CAN’T”. I ONLY heard her say, “I CAN and I WILL” and that is exactly what we focused on.

LOTS of hard work, dedication, commitment, focus, concentration and “never say die attitude” is what stayed with her all the way up until she stepped up on that podium in the Dominican Republic to WIN Double Gold.

Let’s hear her story:

How does it feel to be a World Champion?

Becoming a world champion was the most unbelievable feeling you can imagine! I was so emotional after the win that I could just stand there in tears, I mean, the realization of overcoming many obstacles in my life just to show up was big, but this was so much more.

When you qualified for the Jr. National Team and knew you were going to go to DR how did you feel?

I felt good. There was a feeling of accomplishment, but I was not sure how I would be received by the U.S. team after competing against them for Colombia. I saw a lot of social barriers that I wasn’t sure about.

What did you do to prepare?

I trained daily at a very high level. I would work with you about 4 days a month for skills training, I would use Steve Laslo with H.P.I. for my core strength training, and my Dad would bring all the elements together daily to motivate and push me beyond my limits. Later on, after my accident, I brought Dianna McNabb into the picture as a supporting sports psychologist.

You overcame a HUGE obstacle to win…tell us the story BRIEFLY?

Well, a brief look into what happened with me after the Colorado Springs training camp in August. I came home from Colorado Springs and left two days later for Colombia. This was to help my Mom take care of my Grandma after her back surgery. While in Medellin, I witnessed several tragedies and experienced one of my own. On November 5th, I was involved in an auto accident where my vehicle hit a tree head on doing 55 m.p.h. I came out of the accident with only minor injuries, but with head trauma spent the next two weeks in the children’s hospital. After coming out of the hospital and trying to get moving toward world’s again, I had to overcome many individuals that did not think I was ready to function at a world level competition. My mom and dad stayed right beside me encouraging me to stay positive and focus on my goals. Doctor’s wrote letters, money came for tickets and hotels, and I was on my way!

Why do you think you NEED a coach?

Someone needs to be there to bring out the best in your abilitities, and having a coach that is involved on a world level of play allows you to optimize everything you have inside you and combine it with a structured plan for success. Everyone has an opinion, but not many can structure the plan the way a good coach can.

Most importantly WHY did you choose FRAN DAVIS?

Fran was chosen because of her unique ability to connect with me in a way that would demand perfection, but in a true compassionate way to bring out the best in my personality. She finds me where “I live” and connects with me there.

How is what you are learning from Fran ENHANCING your GAME?

Fran has given me the opprtunity to believe in myself and not let me get by with “I can’t”. She demonstrates through our training that all things are possible if we put the right plan in place. I am going into every match now with a true belief that the game is mine to win or lose and that I am in control of either result.

How did Fran and Diana get you ready for Jr. Worlds?

Fran was with me at Children’s Hospital in Seattle and very supportive in my rehab. This gave us a special connection bringing me to a new level not only in my game, but also where I was in my life. My training following the accident was now with someone that had been there for me in my personal life.

Dianna helped me realize some very important techniques for maintaining mental focus during a time where my mind was really wanting to be all over the board. The skills she taught me allowed me to become a world champion.

How IMPORTANT is it for your coach to KNOW you as a person NOT JUST as a RB Player?

This is priceless! As mentioned above, Fran was there at a very important moment in my life and that developed a strong bond between us.

Anything else along those lines would be wonderful.

Fran is a great coach, great mentor, great friend! If my life in racquetball were to end today, Fran would always remain in my thoughts because of her unselfish kindness when a friend was hurting.

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Mannino commits to do it all…Commissioner, Player, Instructor

March 14th, 2010 Comments off

It is very fitting having one of the most exciting and well versed players on the tour, Jason Mannino, wearing MANY hats giving back to a sport that he began playing at the ripe old age of two.  Jason has dedicated his life to playing amateur tournaments, juniors, and for the last 15 years played professionally on the International Racquetball Tour (www.irt-tour.com) where he captured the #1 ranking as well as 2 US Open Championship titles.

That wasn’t enough for Jason as in 2000 he and I joined forces. I began coaching him and in just 3 years helped him achieve a lifelong dream of becoming the #1 pro player in the world. We also began teaching together running a series of camps worldwide called, “Building Your Racquetball Dream House”, which is today the MOST SUCCESSFUL and LONGEST RUNNING camp program in the industry. Our clients were bugging us for a video and in 2003 we developed and produced “Building Your Racquetball Dream House” video that is the #1 selling video in the world. Presently we are working on a book, “Championship Racquetball”, published by Human Kinetics, to be released in Fall 2010. Hopefully this lets you know just how DEDICATED and COMMITTED Jason is to our camps and the educational component of our business.

Now in 2010 Jason begins with yet another promising fresh start for Racquetball. After nine years as Commissioner of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT*), Dave Negrete has retired. Jason Mannino was named the new Commissioner of IRT. Jason plans to retire from professional competition at the end of the 2009 – 2010 season (see IRT press release on www.irt-tour.com).

Jason has been Commissioner for only a few months, and already he has a very clear vision about what he wants to accomplish.

He has a lot on this plate balancing his new responsibility as IRT Commissioner, with Family, Camps, Lessons, and still being a Professional Racquetball Competitor on the IRT circuit as well. When I asked Jason how he felt about his new responsibilities here’s what he said: “As of right now, I am working all day and most nights to make sure the IRT is successful. I’m unable to train as much as I’d like, so my play will immediately be impacted. There’s nothing I can do about that. My focus right now is to work on IRT governance, strengthening and stabilizing our base, and building a value proposition for all IRT constituents, e.g., players, fans, and partners.” He provided this IRT Vision and Mission Statement:

IRT Vision Statement

Men’s professional racquetball will be recognized as the fastest, most athletic and exciting racquet sport in the world.

IRT Mission Statement

The IRT is the governing body of men’s professional racquetball. Our mission is to:

  • Showcase the world’s top racquetball talent at the best venues
  • Create greater public awareness of the IRT and its players
  • Facilitate revenue generating opportunities for professional players
  • Operate with a foundation of strong governance and financial conservatism
  • Relentlessly pursue the elevation of the game

All I can tell you Jason is a very tenacious man and anything he sets his mind to accomplish he does….I DO NOT think this is any different. The professional side of racquetball is in for the ride of its life.

Please join me in wishing Jason the very best with the challenges he faces for 2010.

* IRT: the governing body of men’s professional racquetball. The IRT hosts professional men’s racquetball events worldwide in conjunction with USA Racquetball. For more information visit www.irt-tour.com

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Taylor Knoth…..Following His Dreams

March 14th, 2010 Comments off

Who wouldn’t want to be in Taylor’s shoes as he is following his dreams of becoming a professional athlete. I met Taylor when he was 12 years old and for the last 7 years we have been working together to perfect his game. When I met him I knew he had what it took to be a National Champion, but we had to refine his game. Together, one aspect at a time, we built his game from the ground up and now he is #41 on the IRT (International Racquetball Tour-Men’s Professional Racquetball Organization) rankings. Since we began working together he has won every age group at the Jr. National Championships starting with Boys 12 and Under, 14 and Under, 16 and Under and this year he will be going for 18 and Under, which is his last year in juniors. By winning his age divisions at Jr. Nationals he earned a spot on the Jr. National Racquetball Team allowing him to represent his country at the World Champions each year. He has also won the H.S. National Championships 3 years in a row from 2007-2009, not an easy feat. All in all he has won 14 National Championships, 4 World Championships and 3 H.S. Championships. Now he is testing the soils and playing Open Tournaments and Professional Tournaments, trying to qualify into the main draw.

All of this DID NOT just happen. It has taken allot of hard work, dedication, commitment, support from parents/family, desire, passion and the will to be the best. Let’s see how it all came together:

Fran – “What does it mean to you to be able to “Follow Your Dreams” of being a National and World Champion and now trying to turn pro?”
Taylor – “What it means to me to follow my dreams would be doing what I love to do for the rest of my life. My dream would be to continue to play Racquetball at the highest level and be able to make a living off it. Becoming a national and world champion was great, but my true dream has always been to play with the pros of whom I’ve idolized my entire life.”

Fran – “What are your goals…school and racquetball?”
Taylor – “My number one goal would definitely be to get a solid education so that I can lead a stable lifestyle when I get out of college. I want to get through 4 years of school and focus on that before going all out focusing 100% on Racquetball. Right now it is very tough to juggle both Racquetball and school, but I am definitely doing the best job I possibly can being gone almost every weekend for a Tournament and missing almost every Friday of classes. I continue to maintain a very high G.P.A yet still compete in the highest level of Racquetball. After getting through school or even my last two years of school my goal would be to play the pro tour all of the time if my financial situation will allow it. I am definitely looking forward to traveling around the country competing with the top pros and seeing if I will be able to excel at that next level. My number one goal in Racquetball would be to crack the top 8 by the time I’m 24.”

Fran – “Why do you think you need a coach?”
Taylor – I need a coach to see what I can’t out there on there court. There is so much going through my mind each rally and I miss a ton of things that even spectators are able to notice. A coach is definitely necessary to have outside the court for me. I tend to not want to take timeouts when my opponents get on rolls of four or five points and that momentum is usually which causes me to lose the matches that I do.”

Fran – “Most importantly “why Fran Davis as your coach”?”
Taylor – “Fran is so important to have outside my court because we have been working together for numerous years now and no one knows my game better than her. She knows when I need that timeout and she can analyze the game so critically and has such a high racquetball I.Q. that she can play out how the entire rest of the game will go if I tweak my game just a little bit during those timeouts.”

Fran – “What changes in your game have you made in your game since working with Fran?”
Taylor– “I have become an overall smarter player since working with Fran. I have incorporated more passes and higher percentage of shots than ever before. I have learned to force my opponents to be the ones to make the mistakes by shooting the higher percentage shot including ceiling balls and passes. I have rarely made unforced errors since having Fran as my coach.”

Fran – “How important is your fitness level and being mentally tough?”
Taylor – “I feel these two parts of my game are the most important aspects to get my game to that next level. The only thing that is holding me back is my mental game. At junior worlds every year I have lost to the same guy not because my game was weaker but because I was not mentally strong and in as good shape. I knew I had the shots that this player had but I just lost it mentally and gave away too many points that should not have been as easy for him to win. I have been increasing my stamina and fitness level as of late and I feel that I will be more than ready next year to win my first and last junior worlds.”

Fran – “How important is it for your coach to know Taylor….on and off the court?”
Taylor – “It is extremely important for my coach to know my game-style and my personality on and off the court. I am a very humble player as well as person. When I’m on the court I rarely show any emotion, and off the court I am a very quiet person. This is important to know because although I may look on the court as if I don’t care because I am very straight faced and show rare emotions I really am fired up inside and just focused on the match at hand. Outside of the court I am also very quiet, but I make up for that with my diligent work habits. I take everything I do and complete it to the fullest. I never give up and will continue to work at anything until I get what I want accomplished done.”

Fran – “What about your support from Mom, Dad and rest of family and friends?”
Taylor – “My family is the most supportive group of people I could ever ask for. No matter how far the tournament is or how busy they are with work, they still manager to get me to any tournament I have ever wanted to go to. They are always right outside the court cheering me on and have rarely missed a match. They are not only supportive of me but also very good role models. They have developed me into not only a successful athlete but also a successful human being. I owe everything I have ever learned to them and I couldn’t ask for better parents. As for my brother, he is my motivation and what drives me to be the best person I can be. At a very young age, he developed a disorder called cerebral palsy, which affects the brain stem and the brains ability to function correctly. The day he was diagnosed with the disability the doctor said he would never be able to speak or walk. To this day he is doing better than ever. He not only walks and runs but also is learning many words and is even putting some sentences together. He is a huge inspiration to me and comes to every one of my games with me. Hes what keeps me working as hard as I do and I want to succeed for him because I know he wishes he could play. I realize how lucky I am with him as my brother and never take anything for advantage because I know how hard he has it and it just kills me to see him with his disability because he has the biggest heart ever and never lets any moment of his life bring him down. He lives every moment to the fullest and he is what has driven me to become who I am today and will continue to be. I am a much better person because of my brother. He is everything to me.”

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