MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — By the swing of a wire-strung paddle, a rubber ball was whacked against the front wall of the racquetball court and bounced in front of another player just to be back-handed right back, echoing throughout the fully enclosed rectangular box.
The competitors went at it for a few minutes, applying precision and athletic skill, moving forward, backward and around one another in an effort to keep each other from scoring a point.
After the winning point was scored, they smiled and shook hands, sighing to a friendly match played fair and square.
Local service members and Japanese nationals came together to compete in the Invitational Racquetball Tournament at the IronWorks Gym here Feb. 6.
The tournament consisted of matches between two players at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of competition so that players had the opportunity to compete against their own skill level.
These types of recreational competitions help to build strong community relations between service members and local civilians by inviting them to come on base and participate.
“What we try to do is get players from out of town to compete,” said Andrew Porche, sports coordinator here. A small number of resources, including television spots and Web site updates on base for service members, were used to get the word out about the tournament and to get locals involved.
The Japanese nationals invited to compete were recruited from out in town, some of whom compete regularly every year.
“We had about four Japanese nationals competing in the racquetball tournament and about every last one of them won first place,” said Porche.
Yuuki Nakano, a young racquetball enthusiast from Fukuoka, competed for the fifth time against service members and walked away with first place in the advanced racquetball division.
Nakano used to play all the time but has recently had to drive two hours to practice racquetball because the club in his own town had closed down, he said.
According to Nakano, he was only able to practice two times per week but does it because he loves to play for fun.
He managed to beat out all competition with back-handed strikes, sharp technique and quick reaction to the ball.
Ebisu Tomomi, a first-time competitor on base from Foukuokashi, managed to take away first place in the intermediate racquetball division.
Nakano is a friend of hers, and she was invited by him to come along, test her skills and enjoy the action, said Tomomi.
Like Nakano, she also plays for the enjoyment, she said.
“They play in racquetball tournaments throughout Japan,” said Porche. “So they’re pretty good.”
Through the Intramural Sports program on base, service members have the opportunity to compete in a number of sports competitions as a way to stay active and have fun.
“On base we have basketball, soccer, tennis, football, volleyball and dodgeball,” said Porche. “It’s pretty competitive and
For more information on intramural sports or upcoming tournaments, contact the IronWorks Gym at 253-3067.
Originally published: Marines.mil