Liz Colon Paddleball Profile No-38 By Mike Melendez & Dave Siegel
In just two short years, Liz Colon has made an amazing impact on the sport of paddleball. Not only is she one of the top women players, but more importantly, she has shown a true passion for promoting the game and has big hope for its future growth. Her most visible impact is her live streaming of one-wall games on her Facebook “Liz Live” page. But her biggest contribution is as a loving, caring, helping friend to everyone she touches in the paddleball community, and the paddleball world loves Liz! Her close friend, Maritza Alicea tells us, “She is a genuine loving person with an easy smile who will help anyone who really needs it…… as long as you ask her by text, she hates talking on the phone!” So, you heard it here, text her, do not call!
Liz was born and raised in the Fordham Road/Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. She is the youngest of four children, with two brothers and a sister. As with many paddleball players, she started in handball, playing at Aqueduct Park under the tutelage of her long time mentor, Master Web. Through her hard work and passion for handball, Liz developed a strong game and became one of the best women players at Aqueduct. As we now know, Liz is driven to be the best she can be at whatever she puts her mind to. She knew that in order to move to the next level, she needed to play with stiffer competition. So she packed her bag and went out looking for better games. Her first stop was St. James Park, not far from Aqueduct, and later on to West 4th Street. Liz became an excellent player and though she didn’t compete in handball tournaments, she dished out plenty of #PowPows!
Many paddleball players transitioned from handball, but in Liz’s case, at the age of thirty, she switched from handball to racquetball. Then one day at Van Cortlandt Park, paddleball legend Robert Sostre introduced her to Big Blue paddleball, which Liz took an immediate liking to. But Big Blue games were hard to find, so she tried small-ball for a year, playing in a regular indoor game with a great group of ladies. Then the racquetball boom came along and her small-ball paddleball ceased as she joined the racquetball wave.
Liz’s paddleball story really started two years ago when she started playing it consistently at Zerega Indoor and Marathon Park and it didn’t take long for her to become one of the top women players in the game. Undoubtedly, her experience in handball and racquetball, as well as her dedication and natural athletic ability, were all important factors in her rapid ascension. She is a dynamic right-handed competitor with one of the most powerful forehands in the ladies division. Liz is like a lioness stalking her prey, patiently waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack and put her opponent on the defense. When she gets a set-up, her eyes look like they’re about to pop out of their sockets and she goes into BEAST mode on the poor ball! Her favorite shot? But of course, “Drive shot to the body. I like hitting the ball hard, it feels good! I love the sound of the ball slamming against the wall.” And like every successful athlete with the drive to rise to the top, she works hard, playing 2 to 3 times a week to improve her game. She says it’s a great workout and a great way to let off steam! How does she describe her game? “A work in progress. LOL. I’m still learning. Every time I play, I learn something new and I try to focus on improving that one thing!” Ladies of paddleball, are you listening?
Liz is not only an excellent player and a helpful, popular friend to the paddleball community, but also a very thoughtful person who has many insights about the game and how it can flourish. What does she think the sport needs for it to grow? “I have so much hope for this game and I only wish to see it continue to grow. We need more people who give of themselves selflessly to make great events and promote the game. Charlene Gilio is a great example, constantly organizing games throughout the year and coming up with fresh new ideas for events that keep people interested and wanting to come back. People like Kathy Guinan, Mike Waters and Cindy Figueroa, who always offer themselves in any capacity just for the love of the game, GENUINELY! It’s heartwarming. And of course people such as you, Mike, who dedicate their time to introducing and teaching the sport to our youth and keeping up with it.”
What advice does Liz have for her peers? “Appreciate the time that others dedicate to putting tournaments together. RESPECT the time they are taking away from their lives/families to put on these events, while looking at the bigger picture. Also players should think about not just what the event can do for you, but what your contribution and participation can do for the event. I know lots of players choose not to participate because they feel they have no chance at winning. Imagine if everyone thought that way, we’d never have tournaments! I enjoy playing and participating in whichever events I can, just to add to the pot! I’d like to see some of the Pro/A players go out of their comfort zone and pick a player whose skill level is a little less than theirs for an open tournament, just to make things interesting and give more people the opportunity to win.
Is there something she would like to change about the sport? “I’d like to make it more difficult for people who behave poorly during the events. Like with any other sport, there are immediate consequences (technical fouls accompanied by fines, suspensions, etc.), make these punishments on-the-spot and stay consistent with it so players are not so quick to argue with a ref, lines-person, spectator or each other. That type of behavior is not tolerated anywhere else and should not be tolerated here either.” This writer agrees with Liz 100% and this is something the PFA has organized with the help of other tournament directors and put in place during the past year.
Liz says the sport of paddleball is very dynamic, no two players play the same way. She loves watching and playing against all the different styles of play. But when we asked her who is her favorite player, we got more than we asked for. “OMG there’s so many. Of course Robert Sostre and his ability to pick and place almost any shot he wants. Maira Rosario-Ramos as well, she’s aggressive and can kill the ball from anywhere on the court and has excellent court awareness. My mixed partner Dave Blatt and his aggressiveness and quick hands. Carlos Espinal and his shot arsenal is ridiculous, spiking, powering the ball from anywhere on the court, it’s just insane. But my new favorite is newcomer Suly Ruiz. She’s very smart with her shot placement and has carried over her handball skills right to the paddleball side. It’s amazing how quickly she’s advanced. I’ve learned so much from each of these players and so many more.” You would think with all these paddleball greats that she marvels, one of them would be her sports hero, but no, it’s Michael Jordan. “Whenever he played I felt like I was witnessing greatness. He’s a true example of a “GIFTED” person.”
If you would like Liz to expound on these insights, or for her to help out in any way, just ask her, but don’t call her, TEXT! SHE HATES TALKING ON THE PHONE!
Jazz Jimmy Paddleball Profile No 37 by Mike Melendez
He has a low-key quiet demeanor, but don’t let that fool you! He is a music promoter, a paddleball promoter, loves to travel and can be found shopping in many of the high-end clothing stores around the city. He loves to eat out, as reflected by the tons of photos on his Facebook page of gourmet meals at restaurants around the city. I think the guy is working on his Gourmet Chef degree! But, like many of us, John Cherry, Jazz Jimmy as he likes to be called, feels most comfortable on the paddleball courts.
Jimmy’s paddleball story started thirty-five years ago at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn NY, where he was born and raised. The famous Carmine Street paddleball courts in the Village is where Jimmy fell in love with the sport back in the 80s. Jimmy recalls, “I used to go down to Carmine’s and watch the players from the gate and it was just the excitement that got me interested in the sport.” At Fort Greene there weren’t any top players, just regular locals playing, hanging out and having a good time. One winter Jimmy decided to take his game to George McFadden’s Paddle Sports indoor courts, looking to upgrade his skill by playing stiffer competition. At this facility he played with the likes of Jimmy Gibson, Godfrey Brown, Pineapple Eddie, Jimmy Hoey and Pete Pilarte. The next summer Jimmy came back to Carmine, this time not to watch from the gate, but to compete with the top players such as the late Clarence Davis, Andr’e Hopkins, Freddy Diaz and many others. Jimmy had arrived to the big league of paddleball!
He has always been a fan of most of the seasoned players, but the one player he looked up to was Robert Chielli. He said, “In my opinion Robert was the best right-side player and that’s why I love playing that side so much.” Jimmy is a very good player with pop in his right and a very good left hand. But the essence of his game is based on placement and smart shot selection. His favorite shot is down the right side and a deadly right to left cross-court. Not surprisingly, these are two of the shots Chielli was known for.
In the late 90s, like most players, he transitioned from paddleball to racquetball. The switch was primarily due to the lighter racquets and the lack of tournaments in paddleball. But, like the majority of players that made this transition, he has returned to the exciting game which he fell in love with back in the days of Carmine. Presently Jimmy plays paddleball twice a week. During the summer season, his home park is Colucci Park in the Bronx, where mainly big ball is played, and in the winter, it’s Zerega Indoor.
On the personal side, he is obviously a food lover and his favorite is West Indian cuisine. When it comes to sports role models, he has no favorite individual but he loves his football Giants. His other sport is basketball, which he also loves to play.
Back to paddleball, Jazz Jimmy is one of the paddleball players today actively promoting our beloved sport and is very well liked by the paddleball community. I asked Jimmy if he feels paddleball has a future. “I think the sport still has room for growth, we just need to promote it more. I think if we can get more organizations involved and pitch a group story about the game and keep getting the youth involved, it would grow.” I asked him how do we get there? “More players must volunteer and go out and work with the younger generation and teach them about this amazing sport.” I hear you Jimmy! He also said that “It would be great if we can continue to work together to support each other and recruit new players.” This writer agrees with you 100%, Jimmy! His advice to his paddleball peers is, “Continue to play paddle and enjoy what you know best and that’s Having Fun!” About the PFA, he said, “I think the PFA is doing an excellent job promoting the game, it is well organized and lots of information about the sport can be found in its paddleballfamily.com website.” Our sport needs more individuals like Jazz Jimmy!