Racquetball great Serot earns induction into Hall of Fame

2012-06-06T06:00:00Z 2012-09-25T07:59:52Z Racquetball great Serot earns induction into Hall of FameBy Mary Shapiro stltoday.com
June 06, 2012 6:00 am  • 

Steve Serot loves donuts, but not the glazed kind with sprinkles.

In racquetball parlance, a donut means the opposing player scores no points.

Serot, 56, of Des Peres, never had to worry much about putting up zero points.

"It wasn't often where I didn't score a point when I was playing," he said.

He was inducted May 26 into the National Racquetball Hall of Fame in Fullerton, Calif.

"It's an honor to be recognized as a player who has achieved the highest level of recognition for what you've done as a player," he said.

In fact, Serot was the first St. Louisan to become a racquetball superstar, said Shari Coplen, director of player and community relations for the International Racquetball Tour.

In 1973, at age 17, Serot upset Charlie Brumfield to win the first ever professional event, called a pro stop, and took home the top prize of $1,500.

"Really, that was the first income I had had in my life," Serot said. "But I didn't play for the money. I loved the sport and wanted to win. Winning the first pro stop ever was more important than any financial reward."

Serot grew up in University City, but his parents later moved to West County to be near what was then the Jewish Community Centers Association so Serot could be close to the racquetball courts where he played. He graduated in 1974 from Pattonville High School.

Serot holds the title of the youngest player ever to win a pro racquetball tournament for his win in 1973. His first time on the national stage actually was in 1971 at the invitational singles held in San Diego. At age 15, he was the 16th player in invited to participate. He finished in the top four in that event.

Serot said his father, Rudy, was influential in pointing him in the direction of racquetball.

"He was a retired baseball player for the Cardinals and the Browns, primarily in the minor leagues," Serot said. "When he stopped playing baseball, he started to play softball, and, when I was eight, he started at handball. I'd tag along and watch him play."

At age 8, Serot got a solid wood paddle from his father for paddleball, the game from which racquetball originated.

"I'm left-handed now, but originally I was right-handed," Serot said. "I was pitching in Little League baseball, and, one time, I was a primary pitcher and pitched a no-hitter, but hurt my right arm really bad."

He continued playing paddleball, however, using his backhand instead of the more common practice of switching the paddle between both hands.

"When I was about 10, they came out with a wood frame racquet with strings, and most people went to using a backhand so I was ahead of the game by accident," Serot said.

As a teen, racquetball became his life. Every day after school, one of his parents would take him to the JCCA and he would play until the building closed.

Serot held the No. 2 singles ranking from 1973 to 1976. He teamed with Brumfield to win multiple doubles titles. Serot won the Sportsmanship of the Year award from the International Racquetball Association in 1978.

Serot's backhand was one of the best, said Coplen, who is also curator of the Missouri Racquetball Hall of Fame. Serot was inducted into that hall of fame last year.

"That was nice as well, the first year of that particular induction, and I was inducted with Marty Hogan and Jerry Hilecher, who are already in the National Hall of Fame," Serot said.

Now president of Steve Serot and Associates, a financial services company, he's enjoying life at home with Debbie, his wife of two years, and stepsons Jeffrey, 16, and Connor, 11. His daughter, Julie, 27, is working to earn a doctorate in marine biology at Hong Kong University.

Serot doesn't play anymore due to a bad knee. He retired from the sport when he was 25 to be able to start a career in business. He continued playing as a hobby until about 10 years ago.

"Racquetball is a great sport," Serot said. "When I taught the game and had summer camps in Colorado and elsewhere, what I told people is that the sport is so nice, anybody can do it. You don't have to be the best player, but anybody can do it and have fun and get some exercise." The best part of playing for Serot was enjoying the people he met throughout the country and the opportunity to travel.

"It was a great experience and made me grow up fast, all thanks to racquetball," Serot said.

Coplen said she's thrilled Serot will be in the National Hall of Fame because "Steve is a very humble human being, though he had a very illustrious career, and it's so well deserved."

Although Serot's wife never had the chance to watch him play, she has found people remember his playing career.

"One thing that happens anywhere in the country, as often as twice a week, someone will see my name and ask 'are you that guy?'" Serot said. "And Debbie will say 'yes, he's that guy who plays racquetball.'"

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