By Sarah Tone, Communications Coordinator
Kurtis took over coaching the Brandon Racquetball Association Junior Program in the fall of 2018 when only seven junior players were registered. His knowledge, infectious enthusiasm, and love of racquetball have since grown the BRA Junior Program to be the largest in the country, with 45 juniors registered this spring. In addition to coaching at the introductory level, Kurtis began coaching one of his junior players at the competitive level in Provincial and National competitions in 2020.
On top of coaching, Kurtis continues to be involved in every aspect of the game – as an accomplished player and official. He is certified in multiple NCCP courses and has led workshops for Racquetball Canada. Kurtis is a certified Level 3 Racquetball Official, which is the highest certification available, and has officiated at numerous International Racquetball Federation events.
Growing the Game
With growth of the sport a top priority, Kurtis completely re-wrote the NCCP Community Coach workshop and created two non-NCCP workshops to assist Community Coaches in their programs. He developed these programs so that minimal-to-no racquetball experience is required to run them, an approach that expands the pool of resources so that racquetball programs can be started anywhere there are courts.
Kurtis has also been instrumental in the creation and delivery of two programs that increase racquetball exposure and athlete development. Along with Racquetball Canada, he sought out and acquired multiple inflatable courts that are taken to various locations including multi-sport camps, schools, malls, and community events.
Realizing that player retention is important for growth, Kurtis wanted to give players the opportunity to be rewarded for new skill development, so he took it upon himself to rewrite the Racquetball Canada Badge program. He expanded the program from 5 to 10 levels allowing for smaller steps and more frequent rewards and incentives as the athletes develop, similar to other sports such as swimming and skating programs.
Kurtis’ dedication to growing racquetball across Canada is also reflected in his participation on numerous boards and committees. Kurtis is also a Certified Personal Trainer and uses this designation to ensure his athletes are practicing safe training practices both on and off the court. He is currently assisting five of his junior athletes in off-court physical training, helping them to develop strength in their on-court performance and skills for lifelong health and fitness.
Kurtis is a positive role model who leads by example, by showing his athletes the importance of respecting the officials as well as their opponents and fellow competitors. He instills the values of good sportsmanship and expects nothing but fair play from his athletes. Kurtis is always reminding his athletes that it isn’t always about the result – but about continuing to become better than you were before.
Making sport safe
Kurtis does an excellent job of making racquetball a safe and fun sport for everyone. Anytime he sees someone around the courts he is quick to introduce himself, offer to help, or share his experience and advice. Safety rules and procedures are always the first instructions given to new players. All ages, genders and races are always welcome, and he is always reaching out to diverse organizations in the area to get them to come try out the sport. With all the technical expertise he has to offer as a coach, he always keeps his lessons fun – like using Blaze Pods, hitting tees, a ball machine, and a radar gun to help teach skills that provide entertainment at the same time. Each 12-week racquetball session ends with a windup where he incorporates exciting racquetball and non-sport activities to bring everyone together.
With as much time and effort that Kurtis has put into growing the sport, he also had his most successful season as an athlete in 2023 as well. He is the top racquetball player in Manitoba, the fifth-ranked male player in Canada, finished 3rd in singles at the National Championship, and won his 1st national title in Men’s Doubles.
Kurtis makes excellent use of all his skills, knowledge and qualifications to provide exceptional instruction to his junior athletes, but by far his greatest contribution is his tireless desire to grow the sport of racquetball in Brandon and across Canada. His past and current success on the court has made him more than just a coach to his top junior players. His willingness to share his experiences and knowledge makes him a true mentor to his athletes.
Sport Manitoba Coaching Awards presented by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries
The Vince Leah Memorial Award for Fundamentals is awarded to individuals who coach grassroots athletes of any age. The coaching environment at this level is primarily non-competitive, with an emphasis on participation and having fun.
National Coaches Week – September 16 – 24, 2023
National Coaches Week encourages Canadians to say thanks and celebrate the tremendous positive impact coaches have on athletes and communities. This week is an opportunity to recognize coaches for the integral role they play by simply saying #ThanksCoach.