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World Outdoor Racquetball Hall of Fame | Class of 2022 Electee: Jim Carson

by Brett Elkins & Todd Boss

World Outdoor Racquetball Hall of Fame | Class of 2022 Electee: Jim Carson

WOR Hall of Fame Electee Jim Carson

The WOR Hall of Fame Committee is proud to announce that it has elected Jim Carson to the WOR Hall of Fame. Carson comprises the 2022 Class and joins an illustrious group of players and pioneers who helped make Outdoor Racquetball what it is today. At various points in his racquetball career, Carson was a top-level player, a teaching pro, a tournament director, and a leading coach to some of the sport’s top players, both indoor and outdoor. 

Jim Carson was born January 12, 1948, in Brooklyn, New York. He made his way west and attended Orange Coast College (OCC) in Costa Mesa, California, graduating in 1969.[i] Carson resided in Los Angeles during a formative period in racquetball’s history as the sport was beginning to gain traction with handball and paddleball players. Two of the sport’s bigger early proponents, Charlie Brumfield and Bud Muehleisen, were San Diego-based and would frequent clubs in Los Angeles to meet up and play with other early top players. Carson heard about the sport and visited some of the same clubs, where he met racquetball pioneers such as Bill Ivey, Ron Starkman, and Brumfield and saw some exhibitions of the leading pros of the day.[ii] 

After graduating from OCC, Carson took a staff job and started working for the college. In the early 1970s, a friend bought Carson a racquetball racquet for his birthday and he gave the sport a try.[iii] As it turned out, two professors at OCC (Bob Wetzel and Barry Wallace) were handball converts and had started to build a large outdoor racquetball community at the college. OCC maintained a number of 3-wall outdoor courts initially designed for handball, and the pair began coordinating racquetball play in the evenings on the courts. Carson joined the professors and their growing player base, and he began competing on OCC’s courts. By 1974, Carson was one of the top outdoor racquetball specialists in the area and was helping to run shootouts and “out of the hat” one-day tournaments at both OCC and the neighboring Golden West College (which also had a slew of outdoor courts and would eventually take over as the Outdoor Nationals host site in the mid-1980s).[iv]  Eventually, Wallace and Wetzel decided to host a larger tournament and organized the first-ever “Outdoor Nationals” event during the summer of 1974.[v] 

Carson teamed with Rich Wagner to enter the first Outdoor Nationals event in 1974 and made it to the semifinals before falling to eventual champions Brumfield & Muehleisen. Carson continued to improve his outdoor game, and in 1976 he teamed with Rick Kossler to win the Outdoor Nationals pro doubles title. The pair defeated two of the best teams of the era along the way, topping RO & Rich Carson (no relation) in the semis and then the defending champions, Wallace & Wetzel, in the final. Carson made one last run in 1980, teaming with Bill Chadwick to make it to the pro doubles semifinals, losing to fellow Hall of Famers Steve Fey & Dave Trenton.[vi]  He also competed in Singles throughout the 1970s with his best finish in 1976 where he made the semifinals of Outdoor National pro singles, losing to eventual champion Barry Wallace.[vii]

By the mid-1970s, Carson was working as a racquetball teaching pro and began a Sports Promotion business. He ended up being a full-time coach to several pros of the era and made his living as a teaching pro until the late 1980s.[viii]  While he was best known as long-time coach to Lynn Adams, at various points in his career he worked with players like Terri Gilreath, Bonnie Stoll, Marci Drexler. Cheryl Gudinas, Bryan Hawkes, and also Egan Inoue when he was briefly #1 in the world in the late 1980s.[ix]

When Wallace & Wetzel officially relinquished control of their Outdoor Nationals event in 1980, Carson took over and ran the event for most of the decade before passing the reigns along to Mike Martinez (now the owner of Pro Kennex) [x]. Carson was instrumental in keeping the tournament running and in maintaining the OCC player base as the sport shifted gears from its growth stage in the 1970s to more of a stabilization phase in the 1980s. Thanks to his visibility on tour and his background, he also served as the commissioner of the Ladies pro tour (then known as the WPRA: Women’s Professional Racquetball Association).[xi]

In 1977, Carson met a young OCC student at an outdoor racquetball tournament named Lynn Adams.  Adams attended OCC on a track scholarship and had little prior racquet sports experience but had been introduced to racquetball by a friend and was interested in learning more. Carson took a liking to Adams. He was impressed by her athleticism and offered his racquetball instruction services to her. Their lessons led to two important life events: they began dating and eventually were married. Adams decided to forgo a track scholarship at UCLA and turned pro in racquetball with Jim as her coach. The two were married for nearly nine years. Even upon their separation, Jim remained Lynn’s coach as she began dominating the WPRA in the 1980s.[xii] [xiii]

In 1990, Carson retired from racquetball and from the sports industry altogether, and his life pivoted in a completely new direction. He sold his home in Irvine, closed his Sports Promotion business, and began creating programs services for children who were being sexually trafficked locally and throughout the state of California. He began a second career in service to this cause, working for nearly 30 years for various organizations that served troubled youth in southern California, including the Covenant House, Crittendon Services, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, and OC Safe Homes.[xiv]

In 2019, Carson founded a non-profit organization called Survivor2Leader whose mission is to provide support for sex trafficking victims and survivors, draft anti-trafficking legislation, and spread awareness.[xv] 

In the summer of 2022, Carson returned to Outdoor Nationals for the first time in decades and delivered a brilliant speech honoring 2021 inductees Dave Trenton and Mark Fey. It was a special occasion for all and a celebration of Carson’s life. 

Carson served as CEO of Survivor2Leader until his passing on October 25, 2022, from complications after a heart attack earlier in the month. He is survived by the hundreds of lives he touched during his years of service. His Facebook page remains a fitting tribute to his work, as the people whose lives he touched freely posted after his passing what he meant to them in their personal journeys.  Carson will be honored for his WOR Hall of Fame induction posthumously at the 2023 Outdoor Nationals event in July at the Marina Park Courts in Huntington Beach, California, the tournament he helped build from the ground up and that he helped run for more than a decade.[xvi]

Some quotes about Jim Carson from his time in the sport, courtesy of Brett Elkins [xvii]

Jim Carson did what the leaders are doing today; promoting and sacrificing for the love of the game. Without you guys and guys like Jim, this sport goes nowhere. Jim Carson was also a great player.  Smart player and loved the game. Enemy on the court and always laughs off the court.” – Steve Fey, WOR Hall of Fame Class of 2021.

He was a special man who impacted the lives of many, mine included - he made me a better man. Jim saw opportunities when others saw barriers, doing things not necessarily by the rules, but always for the greater good of the game. He was humble, not judgmental and a man of his words.” - Brian Hawkes, WOR Hall of Fame Class of 2012 and USAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014

One of the most amazing things about Jim was that even though he was a tough competitor against you while playing, he was by far the most generous person in racquetball with his time and coaching insights. He coached my sister Jacqueline, and she became a great player because of him. But I had the best benefit by becoming his friend.” -- Mark Harding, WOR Hall of Fame Class of 2020

Jim Carson and Lynn Adams were there at the grass roots. They were around at a time when handball transferred to racquetball at the competitive level. In the black ball era, the undisputed coach of the courts was none other than Jim Carson. “ -- Dan Southern, WOR Hall of Fame Class of 2021

 “It is a tremendous honor, to honor essentially one of the game’s true pioneers, one of the founders of outdoor racquetball, in a sense who was there at the beginning and perhaps the greatest coach whose two-star players Lynn Adams and later Brian Hawkes who both dominated outdoor racquetball. It is an honor to induct this special pioneer and in honorarium.” -- Darold Key, Co-Executive Director WOR, and Co-Chair of the USAR Outdoor Committee

Our records may be light on details, and our memories are fading, but per fellow Hall of Famers who watched the game being played in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Jim Carson was a legendary figure, player and coach who coached Brian Hawkes and Lynn Adams, which tells it all. He was respected, revered and I am grateful I got to meet him on a few occasions and let him know that he had been nominated. Ironically, until this past year, he was insistent that he would not consider being inducted. However, after his spell-binding Trenton and Fey speech and Lynn’s talk to him about accepting, he finally relented. He was among the best of the best, during racquetball’s heyday and his personality was legendary." -- Brett Elkins, Co-Founder & Chair, WOR Hall of Fame

NOTE – the WOR HOF is once again accepting public submissions for the class of 2023.  Be sure to include dates, facts and figures of your favorite outdoor racquetball stars, personalities, coaches, and contributors to brett@trafficeducation.net.  Our motto is…“Who’s Next?”

Jim was an even better human being than the game he so graciously represented. We lost the only time we played against him and Lynn Adams, and we never faced a better team again. Jim promoted racquetball for his love of the game.
Martha McDonald

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[i] Biographical information from Jim’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jim.carson.5209/about

[ii] Interview with Jim Carson July 2021 by Chelsea George: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4jZeIlV7uQ

[iii] Ibid July 2021 YouTube interview by George

[iv] Jim Carson biography and interview compiled by Brett Elkins in mid-to-late 2022, which included quotes from both Carson and other players from the era.

[v] interview of Barry Wallace conducted by Todd Boss on 6/18/20

[vi] Jim Carson Outdoor Doubles known match history from Proracquetballstats.com https://rball.pro/lfg

[vii] Jim Carson Outdoor Singles known match history from proracquetballstats.com: https://rball.pro/ywg

[viii] Jim Carson Linked in page; https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-carson-72105384/

[ix] Ibid Elkins interview/biography

[x] Interview of Mike Martinez by Todd Boss on 6/25/20

[xi] Ibid July 2021 YouTube interview by George

[xii] “It’s Been a Match Made and Sustained on Court : Jim Carson has coached Lynn Adams to national championships. Their relationship has included marriage, divorce, and a serious injury.” By Erik Fair, Los Angeles Times, 2/1/1991.  https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1991-02-01-vw-325-story.html

[xiii] Also ibid July 2021 YouTube interview by George

[xiv] Ibid linked in profile page, YouTube interview

[xv] Survivor2Leader Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/survivor2leader/

[xvi] Ibid Jim’s Facebook Page

[xvii] Ibid Elkins Bio


PC: Survivor2Leader Instagram Page

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