Petaluma racquetball player tries to reach the top of his sport’s world
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.
Petaluma’s Sawyer Lloyd is no stranger to the World Junior Racquetball Championships, but this year it is special. For the first time, Lloyd will compete outside the United States, traveling with the U.S. team to play in Bolivia. The Petaluman reached the world plateau as a 12-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old. Now 18, he and partner Adam Manilla will compete against the best players in the world for the doubles championship. The two friends came very close last year, reaching the semifinals before having to withdraw because of Manilla’s leg injury.
Lloyd who has already played in a lot of big competitions, says the World Championships are special. “It is an incredible experience,” he explained. “There is a lot of excitement. The stakes are a lot higher.”
Before flying to South America, Lloyd and Manilla are training with the U.S. team at the Olympic Training Complex in Colorado Springs.
Although the tournament in Bolivia will be Lloyd’s first world tournament in a foreign country, he is no stranger to travel and is especially looking forward to visiting South America because he speaks Spanish fluently and has added to his vocabulary during trips to Spain and Mexico.
He is looking forward to wiping away the disappointment of having to withdraw from last year’s competition. He said he and Manilla, the No. 1 18-under singles player in the United States, play very well together. “Most countries take their top two singles players and have them play doubles. We play as a doubles team. We have a doubles expert as our coach and we work on team play.” Lloyd said. They are also best friends. “I visit with him at his home in Colorado all the time. When we had to withdraw last year, the first thing he said was ‘We’re going to win World’s next year.’”
The duo has already lived up to half that promise by winning the USA National championship to earn their trip to Bolivia. Next step is to win. Even though the Americans believe they had the best team last year, Lloyd knows it won’t be easy.
“Racquetball is big in South America,” points out Brian Dixon, coach of the juniors program at the Petaluma Valley Athletic Club and Lloyd’s coach since he was 9-years old. “They go all out. They have two or three coaches at each match. They are pretty intense.”
Lloyd points out that at the Worlds, the focus is on the team, unlike in many tournaments where players compete mostly for themselves. “You are really fighting for the team,” he says. “The coaches make all the decisions on what is best for Team USA. We are there to help the USA win the world title.”
It goes without saying that Lloyd is one of the world’s best young racquetball players. To be on the USA team is ample proof of his skills and reputation, but he says he can be better.
“I haven’t reached my potential yet,” he says, explaining that while in high school at Summerfield Waldorf School he also played basketball and soccer. “Now I can concentrate on racquetball and spend more time working on my game.”
Lloyd enters UC Davis this fall to begin his college career, and he will definitely continue in racquetball and possibly begin a professional career.
“Last year when I started applying to colleges, I realized that is what I wanted to do. I want to keep playing. When I stop playing, I feel like I’m giving up.”
Dixon says plainly, “He will make it as a pro.” His longtime coach explains that Lloyd not only has the athletic ability and skills, but he works hard at his sport.
“He is willing to put in the time to drill and practice, and is very comfortable taking advice. From the time he was 10-years old, he would call be up and want to play against me.”
He has one other attribute that Dixon says is essential — he is very competitive.
“When things go against him, or something happens to upset him,” he just kicks it up a couple of notches,” the coach explains.
Lloyd is the son of Jamie and Nikki Lloyd and has one grown sister, Madison Reynolds.
Unlike in many sports where travel expenses are covered, Lloyd has to come up with his own transportation, lodging, uniforms and food costs. To help him with the expenses, a website has been set up at http://www.gofundme.com/3tmmb8.
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