MAC Open

Rockford-area resident continues to persevere, inspire others

June 30, 2011 // 0 Comments

Passion for sport drives athlete to world level competition by BETH ALTENA Michael Stephens continues to prove that passion and perseverance can overcome many obstacles in life—he is a living example. Stephens is a racquetball enthusiast who is still going strong at over 60 years of age and many surgeries and replacements that might well have ended any athletic competition. The athlete thought his days of competitive sport were over when, 10 years ago, he had both hips replaced, a knee replaced and a shoulder surgery. The Rockford Squire reported on his “comeback” two years ago when he achieved what many would consider impossible. After taking time off because of his surgeries, Stephens decided he wouldn’t let his physical challenges take him out of the game he so loves and came back with a vengeance to win the gold at the national racquetball tournaments three years in a row. Each year Stephens advances to a more difficult level, but he puts his best effort into his competition and continues to achieve and advance. Stephens found his passion in racquetball in 1980. He was the club pro at the 29th Street Fitness Center that year and ran the leagues, taught clinics and gave private lessons. In 1984 he received the Most Improved Player of the Year award, and from 1983 to 1999 was sponsored by Ektelon, Rosie’ s Diner on Reeds Lake and Mark Henry’s Insurance Agency. This enthusiastic athlete is a favorite among other players and is known both for his intense energy and being well-mannered and fair during matches. In 1985 he joined the MAC in Grand Rapids, where he became their racquetball pro until 1998. During that time he also taught racquetball for Grand Rapids Community College and Cornerstone College. In 2000, Stephens was forced to stop playing his beloved sport because of his first hip replacement. In 2001 he had his right hip replaced and in 2002 he needed additional surgery on his left hip. Also in 2002, he had his right shoulder totally redone. In 2003, he had a knee replacement and two weeks later had to have the surgery repeated because of a serious infection. Despite this series of serious replacements, he never regretted the toll his sport took on […]