By Sarah Warhaftig
It’s no surprise that Jen Saunders’ first sport love was ice hockey. In Thompson Manitoba, Canada, kids often learn how to skate before they walk, and Jen was no exception, learning how to first play ice hockey before any other sports. However, after a one day racquetball clinic at the courts attached to the ice rink, Jen entered her first racquetball tournament and has been playing the sport ever since. Reflecting back, racquetball was the first individual sport that Jen tried, and after being on team sports with all boys, she was excited to have the chance to be the one to, “take all the shots.”
Jen received the nickname “Cool Spice” from her fellow competitors for her casual and even keeled demeanor off the court. On the court, however, that demeanor changes, and she becomes fierce competitor, battling for every point.
Currently, Jen works for the Racquetball Manitoba, whose support she greatly appreciates, recognizing their support of her training and touring for Canada as well as with the WPRO. She has to bring work on the road but says it’s a very fair tradeoff. According to Jen, playing for Canada has been the greatest honor in her life, and her training focuses on winning Canadian Nationals and representing Team Canada in international tournaments.
Jen said that during her first World’s competition in 2002, she made the finals against Cheryl Gudinas. She recalls it being a highly competitive match, and it instilled confidence in her to move forward in her racquetball career. From there, Jen made her first semi-finals in Dallas and was thrilled to be playing in front of cousins who made the trip to see her. And what’s more, the tournament was Keely Franks Kennedy’s tournament, a close friend of Saunders.
Similar to many of the other top touring WPRO players, Jen is excited to see the WPRO become a consistent and exciting tour. She would love to see both the WPRO and IRT have the capabilities to pay their athletes, especially so young racquetball players can aspire to play racquetball as a career.
Jen spends her time off the racquetball court adoring her nieces and nephews, and she stays active with golf and slow-pitch softball—of course, when it’s not snowing. Jen is a huge sport fanatic and probably can come up with any statistic you may need one day. She holds season tickets for the Winnipeg Jets and enjoys the WPRO travels, often taking time out to see live sporting events in many of the cities that host tournaments. The list is quite long, but she recalls seeing the Vikings, Broncos, Bulls, Padres, Wilds, Diamondbacks, and Coyotes games all during her travels. Her one modest request? Jen has asked that if you are reading this article, please host a tournament in a city where she has yet to see a professional event.