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JC Racquetball Club’s Snyder, Bearfield among nation’s best

Tanner Cook • Updated Jun 15, 2017 at 8:56 PM

Last Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama, in front of 10,000 people at the Senior Olympics, Jane Snyder and Rick Bearfield stood tall.

The pair took silver medals in the mixed doubles’ 65-69 age group competition in racquetball while Snyder went on to win gold in singles in the same age group.

Also, Steve Fox was a Tennessee state champion in his age division and Bearfield took second in his age group. These are just a few of many accomplishments the Johnson City Racquetball Club, which has produced its fair share of Junior Olympic and now Senior Olympic medalists, has seen over the years.

“This really isn’t work for us. It’s just a lot of fun,” said Bearfield. “It’s a hobby and a sport. If you’re lucky enough to qualify from the state level, you get to go on to the national level.”

For Bearfield and Snyder, who practice about six hours a week, playing racquetball with their friends is an outlet away from the office. Snyder is a pharmacist and Bearfield a lawyer. Both say that racquetball is also a stress reliever.

“Being a pharmacist, I see a lot of folks that are younger than I am that could not do this on a daily basis,” remarked Snyder. “Being active at our age sure beats the alternative. I am so thankful that I get to come out and do this a few times during the week.”

Playing in singles or even doubles, Snyder and Bearfield both say that they burn over 1,000 calories in the course of a match.

Both Snyder and Bearfield have been playing racquetball since the early 1970s and the continuous play has helped them stay healthy for many years. The Johnson City Racquetball Club has been owned by Steve Miller for 38 years and continues to churn out age-group winners at multiple levels, including national champion Wes Miller.

“We’ve watched the game evolve from starting out as wooden paddles with holes in them to now where we’re playing with something bigger,” Snyder said.

Racquetball is a very popular “baby boomer” sport and in order to win an age division at a high level, a player must have experience and many years of playing under his or her belt. Beginners, Snyder said, want to chase the ball all the time, but the truth is that you’ll never catch the ball. The fun part is learning all of the angles to hit the ball from.

“We encourage everyone to come out and play because this is a sport where you can play for many years,” Bearfield said. “There are guys here that are over 70 years old.”

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