Published: Jan 29, 2013 06:03 PM
Modified: Jan 29, 2013 06:04 PM
Editor’s note: Billy Barnes was among those players who recently met with YMCA board and staff members to discuss plans for ending racquetball and handball activities.Here are his remarks as presented at that meeting.
I joined the Y the second week its doors were opened at its current location. For a few years I was a swimmer. I found swimming very beneficial but it was so boring that one day I went to sleep while doing the backstroke, and whacked my head hard against the end of the pool. Shortly afterward, I took a friend up on his invitation to play racquetball.
Today I’m the oldest rat in the racquetball barn. Best health move I ever made. I have the legs and the balance of a 60 year old. A year ago, I had a stress test over at the hospital. The doctor looked at my chart, saw my age, and said, “Now you let me know when it’s gotten too fast for you.” He kept juicing it up and I kept walking. I wasn’t even breathing hard. After awhile he decided to stop the machine. Looking at the printouts, he shook his head and said my recovery time was phenomenal for a man in his eighties.
I believe that if it weren’t for racquetball, I would weigh 140 pounds and I’d be getting around in a motorized wheelchair.
But racquetball has to do with much more than physicalfitness. Older men need to get out of the house and have social contacts, make new friends. Our racquetball group gets together for lunch every Wednesday. At the Y, we chat about health and beer and share lame jokes while we wait our turn to play. When I was facing prostate surgery, a fellow racquetball player offered to go with me to Fosters for coffee after racquetball, and tell me about his surgery and what to expect with mine.
A few weeks ago we were told that soon there would be no more racquetball at the Y. We were disappointed and, yes, angry. We understand that cost is a principal factor here. I want to talk about that.
You probably don’t want to know how much electricity it takes to heat a zillion gallons of water in a swimming pool area that has a two-story ceiling, and an outside wall that is a thin pane of glass.
Then there’s the cavernous room with two basketball courts. During the hours we’re at the Y, that enormous space with its two-story ceiling sits empty most of the time.
Take a look at the huge exercise room, crammed with two-three-four thousand dollar, state of the art machines, that use a lot of electricity and incur considerable maintenance costs. And how about that bank of four wide-screen TVs on the wall, with their FM radio transmitters attached — well, they’re a Godsend for bored treadmill users.
Let’s look at the racquetball area. Two relatively-small, empty rooms. We do not require one nickel’s worth of equipment; we bring our own. All we ask… is that you turn on the lights.
If and when you close the racquetball courts, I guess I’ll have to go back to swimming. There’s a larger, newer pool about a half mile from here, that’s open from eight in the morning until nine at night, and a membership costsway less than half that of a YMCA membership.
I love the YMCA. I’ve loved the Y since I was a kid in Winston-Salem. But today I feel jilted by the organization I love.
When I drove into the Y parking lot this morning, I saw on the façade of the building a large banner that bears this message: ALWAYS HERE FOR YOU.
I couldn’t help thinking. “Yeah, that’s true, unless you’re an old man who wants to play racquetball.”
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