FL senior makes national team

In two weeks, Forest Lake senior Sam Bredenbeck is meeting up with teammates from around the country in Miami, where they will venture further south to Bolivia to compete in the world championships.

The sport? Racquetball.

While even Bredenbeck’s closest friends are a little unaware of the details and complexity of the non-mainstream sport, racquetball played a part in the Bredenbeck’s life from the start.

The Marine on St. Croix resident began playing competitively at a young age. His parents, Bill and Karen, owned and operated a racquetball center called Central Courts in Colombia Heights for 14 years while raising their children and playing competitively.

As Karen puts it, Sam grew up with a racquetball court as a living room.

“My husband is a carpenter and did all of the maintenance, so we were there a lot,” Bredenbeck said. “Our kids didn’t stand much of a chance.”

Both Sam and his older brother, Jake, made the most of their time at Central Courts.

Jake is a senior at Colorado State University-Pueblo and plays for the racquetball team, which has won 16 Division I National Championship titles, the latest in 2012. As a junior-level player at 14 years old, the older sibling competed for Team USA at the International Racquetball Federation’s Junior World Championships in La Paz, Bolivia.

Sam is now following in his brother’s footsteps by qualifying for one of just two spots on the USA Racquetball 16s Junior Team for 2013.

Sam made the cut last year after taking first place in singles and second place in doubles at the national tournament in Iowa – a favorite memory of Sam’s to date.

“I remember being really nervous, but it was fun,” Sam said. “It’s that feeling of getting the gold medal. It’s just fun.”
According to Karen, who played competitively for 10 years, one of the appealing aspects of racquetball is the ability to play both a physically and mentally demanding game.

“It’s a game of math,” Karen said. “You have to know your angles and know where the ball is going to land.”

For Sam, it’s the rarity of the game.

“It’s unique, since not a lot of people play it, so they don’t understand how competitive it gets,” Sam said. “Sometimes the balls are coming back at you at 160 mph.”

Both mom and son agree that Sam’s skills of quickness, agility, adjusting to different speeds and experience in playing against bigger, stronger athletes since a young age should give him a chance to play college racquetball, and possibly professionally.

“My brother is playing at the pro and open level now,” Sam said. “I think that’d be fun to try ­— fun to travel around just playing racquetball.”

For now, Sam looks forward to the challenge in Bolivia, where the opening ceremony of the International Racquetball Federation Juniors World Championship takes place on Saturday, Oct. 19.

While the trip is an honor, the Bredenbecks and other USA Racquetball parents are responsible for nearly all expenses down and back. For those interested in helping Sam compete in Bolivia, visit his donation page at http://www.gofundme.com/3lizm0.