SARASOTA, Fla. - One of the reasons sports are popular is the camaraderie they build. Two young men were adopted by the Sarasota YMCA racquetball community, and it was a win-win situation.
When Robert Koontz and Ricardo Paz walk into the YMCA nowadays, they walk in as if they own the Y. It wasn't so long ago that they were on the outside of the Y looking in.
"They came in off the street one day. We taught them how to play. They got good and now they kick everyone's butt," says Bob Kulscar, a racquetball regular at the Y.
Both Robert and Ricardo had strong mothers in their lives, but for young boys, a father figure is key. Neither had one, and that is where the Y community came through.
"A single mom household. I always loved sports, and this family provided me with manhood," says Ricardo.
“My mom and dad never finished high school. The guys here are lawyers, doctors, successful people who guided me in life," says Robert.
Kulscar was one of the racquetball gang, and he is tireless in his promotion of racquetball, so he was like a kid in a candy shop with 2 boys. "Racquetball is such a great sport. It's a lifelong sport, and you make lifelong friends out of it. These two will be friends forever."
"It’s a game that develops skills, skills that you need in life as well," says Robert.
One serendipitous moment with 2 boys looking through a window into the world of racquetball that has grown into a lifetime of enrichment for everyone involved. “Both are now in college going for their engineering degrees. I can't explain it; to see how they have grown…so proud, so proud," says Kulscar.
"Robert and I have had great life experiences. It has taken me to find myself. I would be nothing without racquetball," says Ricardo.
A lesson in giving that was paid forward, and now will be repaid many times over.