Michael Stephens, a Rockford resident is a racquetball enthusiast and has yet another fantastic start to 2019.
Michael was a physical education teacher Ed for Community Education through the Grand Rapid Public Schools. He was asked to teach a racquetball class in 1980. He knew nothing about the sport so he went to the library and checked out a book on “How to Play Racquetball” He got in a court and started practicing what the book had taught him. And that’s history, he fell in love with
Since then Mike has competed in Racquetball tournaments. He started at the beginner level C. He worked his way up quite quickly to level B, then A, then the highest level called Open. Every year in every level in every age group he has won the Nationals.
At age 53, in the year 2000, Mike had a hip replacement and his doctor told him to stop playing racquetball. Six months later he had a revision on his hip that had a faulty part. In 2001 he had his other hip replace. In 2003 he had a knee replaced. That knee got infected so he had to have it redone. He almost lost his leg. In 2004 he had a shoulder reconstructed.
Ten years later in 2010 his racquetball friend, Rich Westerbrink, asked him to go on the court and just hit a little with him and have some fun. Mike had so much fun he said to himself “I can do this again.” He started training again and drilling to improve his skills. He started competing beginning at level C, then B, then A and has been competing in Open level now for 7 years all over the nation
In 2018 Mike won 3 World titles, 5 National place titles, 3 State titles and a 3rd in a Military division, in which you play all ages. His opponents were “ the young guys”
So far in 2019 Mike has won 6 National titles, 3 State titles and a Regional title. He has 2 World tournaments coming up and the US Open National in which he won all three last year. He is going to try to defend his titles.
In February Mike and his partner, Robert Lattanzio from San Clemente California took first at the National Doubles Tournament held in Tempe Arizona in age 70 Open division.
In March Mike took 1st in Singles in age 70 Open division and he and his partner Mitch Milewski from Nashua New Hampshire took 1st in age group 70 Open in doubles at the National Masters held in San Antonio Texas.
Mike’s most recent tournament was the National Masters in Chicago. He and his partner Dennis McKee from Chicago Illinois, won 70 Open in doubles.
This year Mike was awarded the National Sportsmanship award for displaying outstanding sportsmanship by, playing fair, treating his opponents with respect, by being gracious whether he wins or loses and for being admired by other players and tournament directors. In 2011 he was inducted into Michigan Hall of Fame. In 2013 he was awarded the World Sportsmanship award at the World Seniors tournament.
Mike trains at MVP in Rockford. His workout regimen is 2 to 3 hours a day 6 days a week. He swims a half hour a day, walks on the treadmill, lifts weights, practices his racquetball skills on the court and plays racquetball twice a week.
Mike is currently training for his upcoming tournaments. His next tournament is the World Seniors held in Albuquerque New Mexico at the end of August. Then he has the US Open held in Minneapolis Minnesota at the beginning of October. Then he has the World Senior Games held in St George Utah in the middle of October.
Mike says “What I like most about playing racquet is that you meet so many people that become lifelong friends!. He says He is living his dream!”
Mike is seeking a sponsorship to help with entry fees and travel expense.