Teaching preps, playing show his passion for the game

Brian Ancheta didn’t play racquetball until 1990. About that time, he got a job working at Cascade Athletic Clubs.

In 1994, the head pro left, and Ancheta seized the opportunity to get certified as an instructor and take over the club’s racquetball program.

Ancheta’s journey recently culminated with his selection as national high school coach of the year.

“We all coach for the kids,” Ancheta says. “But it’s nice to get recognized by your peers, especially for a national award.

“I felt good for everyone who helps me, the assistant coaches and all the staff at Cascade Athletic Clubs, who have always supported me over the years.”

Ancheta’s colleagues say the honor is well-deserved.

“There is no doubt he is one of the faces of Northwest racquetball,” club manager Bill Fisher says. “The kids he teaches and molds as long-term racquetball players look up to his love of the sport and passion to keep it alive in the health club world. 

“He has recognized that the lifeblood of the sport has been in its involvement with developing his juniors programs.”

Six high schools work under Ancheta’s umbrella: Barlow, Gresham, Reynolds, Centennial, Clackamas and Corbett. Ancheta was the head coach for Centennial for 12 years.

“His passion for the game was such that even before his kids were able to play he started coaching the Centennial team,” says Connie Martin, the retired program director at Cascade Athletic Clubs. “This, for the most part, is a volunteer position over a four-month period every year. It takes up to four to six hours a week of coaching time, plus full days on Saturdays during their matches.”

When Ancheta’s son became a freshman at Barlow, Ancheta moved over to coach the Bruins.

“I had to switch alliances,” he says.

Before he began coaching racquetball, Ancheta, 48, was a baseball coach at Reynolds. He says coaching is very similar across all sports.

“When you’re coaching high school kids, it’s more than how you hit a forehand or how you hit a backhand,” he says. “I had some background coaching JV and varsity baseball before I got here, and it’s kind of the same thing.

“I had some playing background in racquetball, but it’s a lot different being a player. Sometimes the best players don’t make the best coaches. It’s more just coaching the kids on the mental game and things like that. It’s all about life and sports.”

Ancheta says racquetball draws a unique athlete.

“We don’t tend to draw the mainstream sport athlete like the kids who play on the baseball, basketball or football teams,” he says. “We get a lot of the kids who don’t play those sports, who are looking for a sport to belong to, or who may want to try something new and get involved in a team sport.

“It’s a no-cut sport, which is huge. Everybody plays. It doesn’t matter what level you are. If you’re a beginner, we teach you.

“Oregon is a hotbed for racquetball. We’re on the cutting edge of youth racquetball.”

No matter what skill set players have, Ancheta encourages them to try playing, with the promise that they will quickly improve.

“Kids are going to say, ‘I’ve never played, I don’t know how to play, I don’t want to get hit by the ball,’” he says. “I tell them it’s fine. Everybody starts out at the lowest level. Once you start playing, you improve in leaps and bounds. It’s very fun. The high schools bring in a team aspect, and you belong to a team.”

Along with coaching, Ancheta has continued to improve his own game. Among his accomplishments: winning the 45-and-over doubles national championship in 2010.

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