After an eight-year hiatus, Jim Juron, one of Western New York's all-time greatest racquetball players, has returned to A League competition. Juron's last competition was in a regional tournament in Ohio a few years ago.
Due to the fact that he hadn't played any tournaments outside of Buffalo in quite a few years he wasn't seeded. However, his outstanding play, even at almost 35-year-old in open competition, resulted in his defeating two of the top seeds, before he lost in a close match to a player who was a touring pro.
Why then, did he stop playing, except for a few occasional practice matches?
"My wife Pamela and I were starting a family and I was very busy at work for Price Waterhouse, where I worked for six years," Juron said. "Shortly after I started working for Commercial Metal Center, where I am presently vice president of the company."
Juron and his wife have a 7-year-old and a set of 4-years old twins.
However, Juron, who still stays in phenomenal shape by working out six days a week in his basement at 6 a.m., started to get the urge to play again. He also started thinking about how supportive and wonderful his own parents were in regards to his racquetball playing. They had a great love for the game and got Juron involved in his hometown of Niagara Falls.
"I loved playing racquetball from the day that I first stepped on the court, when I was 12 years old," Juron said.
He was hooked to the sport and readily admits that he practiced as much by himself more than any other player in the area. He was getting free court time at a local club in Niagara Falls by doing maintenance and folding towels as a 13-year-old.
As he started to play better he began to enter tournaments. In the 16-and-under National Singles Championships he finished third in the United States. He and another local racquetball star, Tim Doyle, who was a little older, had a tremendous rivalry, in Western New York.
The question has always been asked, could Juron have made it on the professional racquetball tour? Jim Winterton, who resides in Syracuse and the former national coach for the United States Racquetball team, says yes.
"When Jimmy was 13, he stayed with my wife and I for three weeks, and would come down occasionally after that," Winterton said. "We would spend many hours at the club working on his strokes and refining them. Jimmy was one of the finest kids I have worked with. He came from a wonderful family and his father taught him values, such as outstanding sportsmanship and respect for your fellow players, that are admirable attributes.
"I have rarely worked with a player who was so dedicated to working out by himself and improving his game. As for making it on the pro tour -- absolutely. Jimmy had all of the tools and would have made a great pro. He's not only a great racquetball player. He is also a great person," he added.
How has Juron done since he has been back playing competitively? He currently is already up to No. 2 on the A ladder and has defeated the No. 1 player in competition.
"What I really missed from the game were the great people I played against and met years ago and the people that I am playing against now," he said. "You will play a tough, brutal match against your opponent, and then you're sitting and talking with him like best friends after the match. The camaraderie of the game is unbelievable and the workout is second to none."
Juron feels badly that racquetball has greatly diminished in this area. Years ago, the big fitness wave came in and the clubs didn't capitalize. He still feels that the game could come back locally if promoted properly.
John Moshides is a former New York State and city racquetball champion. He has also been one of Juron's closest friends for over 30 years, and they train occasionally together.
"It's unbelievable," Moshides said. "Jimmy hasn't missed a beat. He's playing almost as well as he did 10 years ago. No one has worked harder to perfect his racquetball skills than Jimmy did. He has virtually no weakness. Most players play a combination of offense and defense. Jimmy is all offense and never defeats himself. He is always a gentleman on the court and is one of the finest people that you will ever meet."