How to Move
Feetwork for Racquetball Court Movement
How you move on court greatly affects how well you play.
Here we’re going to go over movement techniques for your feet or feetwork and how to build these skills. We’ll also cover tactical feetwork movement and how using certain feetwork skills and tactics in specific match situations will raise your game. We start with simple principles or basics and we progress through the more innovative, tactical movement skills.
I. Feetwork Skills
Stay Active —
Keep your feet alive. And always begin from the center!
Keep Moving —
To close in on the ball take longer strides at first and then shorten your steps by taking little a minimum of adjustment steps as you track down, close in on the ball, read its bounce and make your final approach to set your leg-involved stance to shoot. Keep your feet light and moving so you may adjust to the bounce of the ball. Play the ball instead of allowing the ball to play you. Think of it this way: when your feet stop moving, your brain stops, too! And, when your feet quit moving, your stroke tightens up, too. Also avoid taking too many steps. That may sound funny, but it helps to take big strides until you approach the ball and then only shorten them up as you make your final approach to set your feet to in a stance with which you’re familiar to move into the ball. You want to be balanced and use a strong stroking stance. So keep your mind open, your feet alive and react and stay active right up until you can just about reach out and pluck the ball right out of the midair. Then set your back foot and wind up as you step into your stroke, and confidently swing toward you well chosen wall target. A mindset is the better your balance and stance, the lower and more precise will be your target.
Go Middle After Every Ball Strike —
After you stroke the ball, make it *your* tendency to constantly move into center court. Even in a slower paced rally, like a nick lob game or ceiling ball exchange, move middle. Simply *take a walk* or a couple strides to get back to center court between your turns to hit the ball. That movement gets you in prime coverage position both to cover and to be seen covering. When the rally is faster, more quickly get back into center court. If you stay on the fringes of the court, such as against the back wall, against a sidewall, or locked in the service box after you serve (or stuck on the wall after your partner serves), you leave yourself way out of position. Take a proactive, tactical approach and seek control of center court. Move there after rally hitting or returning serve and every time after serving. Also move up as close as you can without hindering when your doubles partner is shooting from deep court, but you must give way to the opposing defenders to be in front; so one tactic is to get between them and half a step back. In singles or doubles, you still need to cover sidewall and cross-court shots coming your way. From the center, you may move where you see the ball is going and you may adjust your spot to allow the required straight and cross-court shots owed to your competitor. Now let’s explore faster ways to move about the court and always return to the center between hits.
Athletic Body Position —
How tall are you? Play a little bit shorter than your full height. Why? Know that when you stand up too tall, you first have to drop down to move, which burns up moving time. Also, when you bend down too low, especially at the waist, you first have to rise up to move efficiently. Get in your athletic body position. Bend very slightly at your hips. Flex your knees and ankles. Keep your arms bent and hands up at almost waist level which helps you be better balanced. This slight body coil spring-loads your whole frame to be ready to move about the court easily, smoothly and quickly. It also avoids placing undue stress on your lower body and let muscles.
Be “Ambi-footress”; Be Able To Start Out On Either Foot —
Choose to avoid being, for instance, just right-footed like you may be right-handed or right eye dominant. Learn to start out equally well off either foot and you’ll be able to move about the court even more efficiently and quickly. You can teach yourself to be “ambi-footress”. Here’s how: place your heels flat up against the back wall. Step off aggressively with your left foot. Sprint off the wall a short distance. Return. Switch and sprint off the wall starting by stepping off with the right foot first. This exercise is done for two reasons. One, by learning to take short sprints off the wall, you train yourself to eliminate any possible backwards step, while you step off strongly with the lead foot to begin your short sprint. That forward only move makes you faster because you don’t start going forward by first taking a false step backwards with the other foot. Two, by switching feet and drilling with both, you teach yourself to be able to step out equally well off either foot first as you move about the court. That duality makes you a more versatile, efficient mover so you can take off in any direction to cover the court. When you’re in center court, you must be able to step off in the direction you read to track the down the ball by starting on either foot.
How to Shuffle Step —
Most players are very familiar with the shuffle step as a form of court movement. Here is a short primer: start near the back wall facing the right sidewall. Drop down a little height-wise, push off your trail, right foot that’s the one closest to back wall and slide sideways with your left foot as your lead left foot. To complete a shuffle step, as the first foot is just about to land, be pushing off and slide the trail, right foot sideways, bringing it up very low and next to the lead landing foot without clicking your heels together. As the trail foot is landing continue your side step sideways shuffle by lifting your lead foot reaching forward with each low side step.
Power Down to Stop Shuffle Step —
As you shuffle sideways and you reach the service line which is the first line, put on the brakes. Here’s how to brake: Bend your lead left knee and then flex your trail knee to lower your body slightly to power down. This knee work gracefully stops your forward momentum. This braking action lowers your center of gravity. Bending your knees uses their natural shock absorption to slow your body down whenever and wherever you move about the court. Bend as you arrive. The ability to stop puts you in better, lower position to: (1) perform a balanced stroke; (2) *freeze* in coverage right just as your competitor is about to make contact; or (3) stop so you can change directions and bolt off in the direction you read to track down the ball. Now, how do you *bolt* best?
How and Why Use Crossover Steps? —
A crossover step quickly gobbles up ground from the get-go. To teach yourself its value and how to crossover, here’s a test. First, to show the crossover’s benefits, here’s the control method. Again do the shuffle step from the back wall toward the service line. When you approach that first line, again put on the brakes by bending the outside, lead leg and then flex the trail, inside leg. As soon as you stop, push off the lead leg and step off with the trail leg in the opposite direction toward the back wall. That is a step with the trail foot which is the inside leg furthest from the service line where you stopped. As you’re making the trail leg stride, be turning and take off in a short controlled sprint towards the back wall. Slow down well before you reach the back wall by braking and bending both of your legs. That is actually the SLOW way! Now here’s how to learn the faster way, the crossover way.
Crossover While Learning Its Starting Potential —
To incorporate the crossover step, repeat what you did before by shuffling toward the service line. When you get to the first line, bend that outside, lead knee and brake with the help of bending the inside of the trail knee. This time open the gate by popping both feet to point the toes back. This turns the knees back to where you’re headed. Then push off the lead leg as you’re pivoting on both feet (on the pads behind the toes). Stay extra low while turning your hips and shoulders as you crossover aggressively with the outside, lead leg. Make it a big crossover step reaching well past the trail foot. Use your momentum by driving hard with your arms, even pumping with the one holding your racquet, as you dash your very best to the back court. Again slow down with your braking knees several feet from the back wall. The big crossover step simply makes you faster. When two players do this together, the player crossing over gets a big head start on the player just stepping off on the trail or inside leg. The crossover step works for several court coverage movements, such as …
Dash Forward with Crossover —
When you find yourself stuck in the backcourt almost right up against the back wall and you see the competitor about to place a low kill-shot short in the front court, crossover to get going quickly with a big first step. Or, in a rally when you see a ball going up high into the front wall that’s going to carry all the way and fly way off the back wall, use the crossover as your jets to dash forward and play the ball offensively. How? Pick a side, turn to face the sidewall, open the gate popping your feet. Do the crossover with the trail leg and run forward as the ball is flying off the back wall. Keep the ball in the corner of your eye and you’ll avoid allowing the ball to run up your back. Use the racquet in your hand and pump both arms as you run to where you’ll intersect with the ball. Stay low and run quietly or avoid stomping your feet on the court. On the way decide, “Which shot should I hit?”. When running and tracking down a flyer off the back wall, catch up with the ball making sure to keep the ball slightly away from you. Pull the racquet back briefly or with a very compact take back and let the ball drop extra loooooow and shoot low to low for either a kill-shot or shoot a well-placed keep away pass that avoids where you see the competitor. Only attempt a drop shot if you’re very close to front wall at ball contact. And only drop shot if you have time to open your racquet face, almost catch the ball on your strings and sort of toss the ball very low into the front wall with deft touch.
Just Jump to Move —
An advanced form of the shuffle step is a flick off both feet into a small leap or low jump and soft springy landing. The jump is used to begin your move or it’s used to jump to a stop or call it a slight pause BEHIND contact. Jump back, sideways or forwards off both feet at the same time. Use the jump to instantaneously adjust your positioning so you can: (1) clear out of the way to avoid hindering your competitor; (2) approach the ball quickly from a short ways away; or (3) start your run to the ball, with a little leap, as you jump, land and then bolt. The landing of the jump is ideally very soft and springy, as you’re ready for more movement after you touch down. Little adjustment steps may remain to get you in the best position to cover the opponent’s shot or to flow into a ball with your stroke as you’re shooting and the ball is still reacting to the walls and collected ball spin. Here both an analogy and a metaphor of the little, low leap may help explain the ease of the jump and the importance of moving after landing and not landing like you’re dropping an anchor with both feet which is often overdone …
Leap to Start Analogy —
Watch a game of basketball and take special note of the players standing along the free throw lane as the free throws are being taken. Watch one of the players after a 2nd made fee throw and note how when standing along the lane they do a little rising up leap in place. That little pop up gets their engines running before they pivot and head down court to switch ends. That leap on the racquetball court can be a little more plyometric or a rapid leap to move over a short distance or it can be right in place. Learn to emulate a b-ball player by getting yourself in motion to move right before the player hitting the ball makes contact. Land before the opponent makes contact and then you’re ready to move as they begin to swing forward when you anticipate or recognize their shot placement.
– Mighty Mouse Swoosh Landing Metaphor —
Oftentimes players land like the animated character Mighty Mouse. They leap up and land directly in front of the ball as if to say, like Mighty Mouse does, “Here I am to save the day!”. But Mighty Mouse really has lots more to do. By landing a little bit behind contact, you allow yourself to build up momentum in the post landing step up, subtle press back to load your back foot, and stroke. First, set that back foot and begin the coil back. Then slide step into the ball, load back, and work both legs together moving forward into your stance. Always start from behind, as you step back. Then step up, load your weight back, fully prep your body and then uncoil into the ball. Avoid just jumping to a stop right in front of the ball and whacking away with an an arm only, knee locked swing. Keep the ball ahead and away from you. Keep the ball ahead and away. Land beside and behind the ball and use connected leg drive and body turn.
• The Split-Step’s Great Movement Potential —
A technique well known in tennis is the split-step. In serve and volley tennis, as the server approaches the net, at the “T” formed by the center line and the back line of both service boxes, the net rusher steps in with one foot and then spreads both feet apart into a two-footed, pausing landing type hop versus coming to complete stop. As the net rusher approaches the T, he reads the situation and takes off toward the angle where he sees or *expects* the ball to be. Apply the same principle of using a split-step to racquetball, too.
– Split-Step, the Tactical Feetwork Cover —
After stroking a deep pass or ceiling ball (or after you serve), dash toward the dashed line. As the opponent is preparing and just about to swing, step in with one foot. Draw forward the trailing foot, while spreading both feet apart a little wider than shoulder’s width into a balanced, on your toes, split-step ready position. Land partially facing the competitor while reading his shot by how he sets up, as your body partially faces the corner ball side. As you land, you’re ready to take off toward any one of the 4 quadrants of the court. As you land, you’re reading where you need to bolt. When your shot makes your competitor retreat deep to a back corner, move to center and split-step angling off partially facing the competitor, while you pause on the line between ball and opposite front corner readying to take off to cover the shot you read. When you see where they’re hitting the ball by watching them set up to swing, take off when the hitter commits to swing forward with their racquet. Or, if you pick up no clues, take off when you see the ball traveling toward its wall target.
• Opponent’s Starters Gun To Cover —
Take off when the shooter’s racquet has looped to drop down and it’s just starting to fly forward. Then you can move to cover the opponent’s return of serve or rally shot, like a down the wall ball when you read that is their shot. Or, when you expect a low shot in the front court based on their very low contact, you can take off and hustle into the front court. Once the shooter has committed by driving their elbow forward you can take off with a crossover step to gobble up the most court you can with your first step. Stay low and run into the passing lane or front court and power down as you track down, close in and approach the ball. That first step is so important from out of center court. Timed right the split-step is taken right before the player is about to make contact so you’re back on the court right as the swing forward starts and your starter’s gun to move goes off. That’s the value of watching the opponent by picking up on that timing and then, when they’re prepping, you time your split-step and then land and take off.
• Block the Reverse in Coverage —
Move and split-step ON the imaginary diagonal line between ball in deep court and opposite front corner. On the diagonal you have a very good view of the competitor, while you partially face the front corner ball side. You get to legally block the possible reverse pinch or diagonal shot angle by the competitor when you get there before he can get to his spot and begin to set up to shoot. On the diagonal you’re ready to cover first the shortest shot, the down the wall. You’re also ready to move into the front court for a low shot. Or you’re ready to cover the cross-court when you read that shot. You’re also always ready to field a ball that goes right up through the middle. If instead you were to totally face the front wall, wider balls along the sidewall as a DTL or V cross-court may be just tantalizingly out of your moving sideways lunging reach. Starting in a diagonal position you can take two steps and cover a majority of your opponent’s shots. Read on and we’ll cover how.
– Little (in place) Jump Split —
You won’t always have a chance to step in and then split-step to get your legs spring loaded to move. Sometimes you’ll be starting in more of a stationary position waiting to make your move to track down the ball. Then, as the opponent is winding back, take a little leap up, separate your feet slightly and land in a split-step-like landing right in place, while flexing your knees as you touch down. Then you’re coiled and ready to go. Land and go!
• Crisscross, a Football and Basketball Feetwork Staple —
When you move sideways, for instance, while moving along a sidewall (moving forward or backward tracking the ball) and you see the shuffle step is just not gonna cut it to get you there because you need to move a little further a little faster and you also want to spring loaded legs, take a crisscross step. Cross step with the trail foot BEHIND your lead foot, land close to lead foot and then stretch the lead foot forward. The crisscross step gets you there quickly and on balance. As you crisscross, the lead foot that’s being crisscrossed behind acts as the post. That post foot is being crossed behind and it is your temporary balance point supporting you until the other shoe lands. The crisscrossing foot touches down just even with (or beside) the posting foot. As the crisscrossing foot touches down, the posting foot flashes ahead to complete the crisscross step and you’re in a sidewall facing, balanced front foot/back foot stance. Crisscrossing is sort of a skipping behind maneuver. The object of moving about the court is to move as efficiently as possible. The crisscross step allows you to have many more options when you need to move sideways lickity-split. As an example, many top flight players serve and then they crisscross with their front or plant foot behind their back foot as they retreat out of the box to get back to cover their receiver’s return, with their back foot finishing stepping back to move into coverage. Crisscross when serving the ball in front of you. It’s all about the way to most quickly move and clear the box to cover the receiver’s options by being further back behind the short line. A crisscross is much faster than the side step shuffle out of the box.
• Crossover After Serving —
As another option, a full crossover step with the far or front foot crossing in front and over the back foot can be used. But a crossover step commits you more toward the side where you step leaving you more vulnerable or open to a cross-court return angle. So the crisscross step is often the cross step of choice when escaping the box, especially when serving toward the side you face. The crisscross is an example of a transition to tactical feetwork. Now let’s look at more tactical feetwork examples. And like all things feetwork, get up and try them out. See which one works best for you in different situations. Like reps swinging, practicing your feetwork makes you a better player and shooter.
II. Tactical Feetwork
• Banana in Approach to Stroke —
Ideally stroke the ball from a light, springy, slightly closed stroking stance. After your step back or set the back of your stance with your back foot, step up with your front foot landing ideally half a sneaker closer to the sidewall than the back push off foot. As the front foot lands, press back lightly and that connects your legs together. The partially closed stance allows you to turn your entire body into your forehand or backhand. How do you get into that ideal stance off BOTH wings (for your forehand and backhand)? Ball ahead and away: once you’ve moved behind and to the side of the ball so that it’s about an arm’s distance and step away, you’re ready to take the final “banana in approach”. The back foot of your stance sets the big end of your imaginary banana. That will be your push off foot. Then slide step up in a curved pulling in stride with your front foot. Then press backwards and pull in. This is the banana in approach, stem in. Stem in means pull your weight *in* toward where the stem points or in toward you. This flow of force and body weight in toward your center gets your legs very involved. Pulling in force is very powerful. That force then works up through your hips, helping turn your torso and finally catapulting your shoulders and whipping your arm as the upper body synergistically connects to your lower body for a greater sum of the forces of your legs, hips, core, upper body, shoulders and finally arm.
• Return of Serve Feetwork Options Include:
– Jab and Cross to Return —
The jab and cross will allow you to return a moderately paced ball when you have time to execute two steps. When the serve is going into a back corner and early on you recognize its direction, use the time you have when the ball is on its way back to first open the gate and turn both feet and jab step with the foot closer to the corner where the ball is headed. Then crossover with the trail foot to both close your stance (facing sidewall) and apply better weight and force into your return. The crossover step offers the best balance, while ideally allowing you to take the ball out in front or ahead of your stroking shoulder. Here’s how: first start with a two foot pivot toward ball side. Then push with far foot and step or jab to the sidewall with your lead foot. As the jab foot is moving sideways, be lifting and crossing over with the trail foot to step diagonally and be on balance as you attack the served ball out front. As the jab step lands, be placing the cross step’s landing. As you cross also draw back your racquet. Land the crossing foot, press back and then push off the jab, back foot. If rushed, block the ball down the wall. Usually go cross-court less often with your return because that’s where the server will be. For quicker serves you’ll have to find faster feetwork moves, like …
– Crossover Lunge to Return Photon Serves —
When you visually pick up a super-fast “photon” serve early as it either rebounds off the front wall or worse case when you see it right as the ball is passing the short line and rocketing by the server, crossover with the far leg and lunge low out toward the sidewall. Be purely focused and doggedly determined to get the ball back to the front wall. Know that you may make contact BEFORE your lunging leg actually lands, but fear not; you WILL land! As you crossover step, coil your shoulders and flare your racquet naturally back, too. Use that natural prep and look to go down the wall with your return of serve (ROS) or even lift to the ceiling to push the competitor sideways and back. Know the main object is to get the ball back to the front wall. The secondary objective is to get the competitor out of the center. Even a cross-court pass or cross-court ceiling may work because the photon server many times moves your way pursuing the flight of their ball and blanketing the line (down the wall), which is the most dangerous return due its shortness. Often making good, strong contact will be enough because you can use the server’s power against him to often bunt or flick the ball away from the server before he may be in position to react. Know that a near foot lunge with the foot closest to back corner under attack is both going to be a shorter step than a crossover and it’s going to give you little opportunity to prepare the racquet to swing forward. Now know that neither the first step crossover nor closest foot lunge is going to get you all the way to sidewall. Next we’ll discuss how to adjust your position in the middle to get closer into the corner where you read the served ball is headed before you make your final move to the ball …
– Use Hop, Skip and Jump into Crossover Lunge to Return —
When you read the drive serve is headed into one deep corner, take a skipping double step sideways toward the corner you see is under attack. This is a little, low hop sideways to change your position to be closer to the corner where you see the ball is going because covering a direct line serve into the corner is very close along that sidewall and you have to close your distance to the sidewall. To hop the far foot pushes to the side, the near foot flicks to the side and the trail foot goes along. After the low hop, be spinning both feet to point them toward the sidewall ball side. As the ball nears, crossover diagonally with trail foot, loop the racquet up in compact backswing, while you pick your return shot: (1) straight to front wall; (2) cross-court as a pass; (3) lift to the ceiling; or (4) go low board less frequently for a kill-shot. As the crossover step is extending diagonally, be looping your racquet down and out to take the ball out in front of your body. Use server’s serve pace against them and your strings to absorb the pace and control your shot by flowing your racquet head thru the ball and on toward your often last second selected wall target. Although a last second pick is better than a preplanned choice because it’s based on everything you have been able to see and calculate into your reaction return before you make contact. A preprogrammed return is often forced and not the right shot for every return.
• 2-Step Serve Feetwork —
Paint the edge of the back line of the service box with the tips of the toes of both sneakers. The foot that will be the lead, front foot in your serving stance starts ahead of the other foot. The feet are slightly apart and you’re in a very slight crouch or balanced knee bend while not squatting down or leaning over at the waist. You still want to drop down into your stroke and starting too far down to then rise up makes it very hard to time going all the way back down again to swing in a low to low stroke. The racquet is out in front of you in a threatening position. The ball is in your off hand resting, for instance, against the grip or strings of your racquet. First, step up with the back foot toward the front foot. Land the back foot just inside the front foot and behind it, as both sets of toes now point directly at the sidewall ahead of you. *Recommendation: as you step up, draw your racquet back and also spread your off arm as you toss the ball sideways toward the front of the box. The arms spreading apart is like you’re a tightrope walker holding in to a balancing bar by beginning the step up with the toss of the ball forward and the countering pull back of your racquet arm. For a backhand serve, the arms cross, with the arm holding the ball under the racquet arm and moving forward with the ball toss, for the two-step drive. That timed arm motion promotes balance and readies you for the violent attack at the front of the box thru the ball and on toward its front wall target.
– Crossover to Step Up and Then Serve —
Here’s how to attack the ball with your legs. After the back foot step along with arm spread (or backhand arm cross) immediately crossover with the front foot toward the front of the box. Land on the arch of the foot on the front line (or just behind it). There’s still more to maximize the swing … Press back immediately off the front foot and begin working your front leg back against your push off back leg to superpower your drive serve. Pop your feet into more open or toes pointed toward the front wall. Right away double drive your knees like you’re throwing an ultimate frisbee toss way down field. Use your legs and turn your hips and your serve will be far more powerful and consistent than just an arm only swing. The knee move and then flowing upwards hip flip adds greatly to the sideways powerful turning force that travels up thru your core into your shoulders and out thru your racquet arm. Work the legs first sideways with knee drive and then build into hip and core squeeze or twist into torso turn. That body turn flows up thru your shoulders that just trail and build off the hip turn. The racquet arm whips thru finishing off the 2-step drive serve on the two-legged turning, stroking platform. Without using the step up and then press back to complete your hip load which is the catalyst for back leg release on up thru hip pop you’re just plodding forward all at once devaluing the contribution of your legs and hips. The best way to picture it is, “Don’t just step and hit”. “Step, build (connect) and then hit.”
• Get Out of the Box After Serving —
AFTER you serve and complete your full follow-through, your next step is to get out of the box. When you stay in the service box you strand yourself making you very vulnerable to being passed by a ball you can’t reach or a ceiling you can’t retreat in time to cover well to return as a ceiling or shoot even if it’s a bad ceiling. Sure you’re closer to an attempted kill-shot, but if he, the receiver *sees* you, his return may pass you by. So clear the short line, even by just a step, which improves your chances considerably of covering the receiver’s return anywhere in the court so you can shoot vs making just a stab get or self defense midair volley.
– How to Get Out of the Box —
The best way to get out of the box is to first regain your balance. More weight is ideally on your front foot after you serve (or stroke a rally shot). So quickly backshift your weight from your front toward your back foot. One trick is to draw in your back foot a little forward right after your forward swing and post on it as you pivot on both feet toward the backcourt. Turn your body and take a cross step with your front foot toward center court. The cross step may be in front and over the back foot as a crossover step. Or the cross step may be with the front foot behind the back foot as a crisscross step that’s finished off with the balancing post back foot that’s now the lead foot reaching back in the direction you’re heading. With either cross step, partially spin toward the ball as you flow out of ”no mans’ land” which is the service box. Only body spin enough to get a clear view of the receiver while peering at them over your back shoulder. For protection, you may use your racquet head to look through your strings and watch the receiver while looking for clues as to their return revealing hints where you should go to cover their return shot. As you cross step, get back into the spot you can reach and defend from in center court.
– Retreat with Either a Crossover or Crisscross Step —
The cross step is the fastest way to retreat out of the service box. The front foot cross step may be in front of your back foot as a crossover or it may be a crisscross step behind your back foot. The main point is to avoid a stretch back step with your back, trail foot toward where you’re heading. A big step with your back foot spreads you out, slows you down, exposes you to a loss of balance and an inability to be able to quickly reverse your field should you need to dash right back into the front court for a possible low return that’s left short up in the front court. First, pivot on your back and front foot and cross step. After an in front first crossover step you may do another crossover to cover more ground even faster, as you run a couple of strides back. After your crossover step, you may finish with a side-to-side shuffle to flow back into center court. A crisscross first step behind may also be used and the crisscross step is completed with the follow on sweeping step back with the post or back foot that’s now leading. A second crisscross would only be needed to get further back or due to a misread requiring you quickly cover a little more court. For example, in a rally a ball dropping deeper toward the back wall might require a couple crisscrosses and with the second one you finish in stroking position with your feet. Compared to either cross step, the shuffle step is in slow motion. With a shuffle you retreat out of the service box at a plodding tempo just because it covers so much less court in the same amount of time as a quicker, further back cross step. Practice the crossover and crisscross to see which one works best for you when you move from different serving spots in the box back into center court when serving to either back corner. Cross step to get into center court to get ready to track down the receiver’s return, as well as to clear out of the way to avoid preventing either their shot straight in or cross-court, while getting ready to cover both of those two possible angles or other shots you read while studying the receiver’s stance and swing prep.
– Practice Getting Out of the Box —
As part of practicing your serves, also practice the crossover and crisscross steps to get into center court. The ultimate objective is to get close to straddling the dashed line. At a minimum, make your coverage goal to get out of the box and touch the dashed line with your back most foot. That’s especially important when you hit your drive serves. After your fastest drive serve, there’s much less time to get back before the receiver is able to make his return because the ball gets back quicker. As you move back, make it a point of emphasis to position yourself to ALWAYS BLOCK THE REVERSE pinch diagonal angle. From there you can cover most all ROS’s. Finish by angling off to partially face the corner ball side. Be ready to blanket that line, which is your primary and most vulnerable cover because that shorter down the wall shot can get by you so fast.
– How to Crisscross Retreat After Serve —
One use of the crisscross is to clear the box after you serve. After you serve, draw in your back foot and shift your weight back to recenter, begin to pivot off both feet, and crisscross, with the front foot crossing behind the back foot and then stretch the back foot back to initiate your quick slide into center court, while occluding the reverse pinch return as you go. After you get it down, crisscross step behind with the front foot, finish with a smooth, balancing second step with back foot that is now leading you into center court.
• When Serving Behind You, How Do You Move After Serving? —
Consider the serve that has dominated men’s racquetball for the past 8 years where Kane Waselenchuk serves back behind himself with his lefty forehand into a righty’s forehand back corner daring the righty to return with his forehand which is normally his major weapon. After serving, Kane does a key rebalancing act. He does a draw in move with his trail back, left leg that rebalances him. He draws in the left foot a little less than half his stroking stance width as he draws up to his athletic body position height. Now he’s ready to clear the box. Kane pivots his body to his right and he takes a long, low, but quick crossover step with his right foot toward that back, right corner. While retreating, he delays in center court in coverage being all about blanketing the right wall in case there’s a down the right wall bunt return. That’s the most efficient, fastest cross step when serving toward your the corner behind you, like when a righty serves across his body into the left, rear corner. Kane’s first step is to draw in the right foot followed by a pivot and turn to the left while crossing over with his left foot and curling into center court, while angling off to face the right front corner.
• When Serving In Front, How Do You Move After Serving? —
When you serve in front of you, like a righty facing the right wall and serving into the left, rear corner, after a small right foot drawn in, you may take either cross step. Your first step crossover may be with the left foot over and past the right foot. With the crossover step, you more quickly move ball side and out to the sidewall. Although you commit more to the sidewall you face with that crossover move. With a crisscross step you drop back more directly into center court to cover more options and right away block the diagonal angle into the opposite front corner, while facing that side’s front court corner. It’s well worth your time to drill and practice both your serves and also to find and drill your best escape route feetwork to get out of the box into different locations in center court when serving from your different spots in the box.
• Get Off the Wall After Partner Serves —
After your partner’s serve passes the short line, be itching to get out of the box and beat your partner back. Quickly cross the short line to get back into coverage in center court. Both partners need to move into center court and defend the shots they’re positioned to cover. If the opposing receiver catches you still in the box with his return of serve, you haven’t gotten off the wall and made your move into center court. Likewise, if you can’t retreat in time to cover, for example, a cross-court ceiling, you were caught way too far up. Routinely you should have the game pretty much all in front of you as your partner serves along the far sidewall. You’re partially facing the far sidewall and keeping an eye glued on the receiver in case they shoot a near corner pinch or sidewall splat which will be your covers by taking a crossover step into the front court (sometimes with a first short drop step forward with the front foot). V passes and cross-court ceilings will also be your covers, while a wide angle pass around you will be the server’s run and cover. Now what’s the best way to get off the wall and move into center court?
– Begin to Crossover to Get Off the Wall as Partner Finishes Serve —
As your partner is making contact with their serve, begin freeing yourself from your little box on the sidewall. As soon as your partner’s serve crosses the short line, be in the midst of using your legs and the foot closest to the front wall to crossover and step into the safety zone. Follow up with the foot that was closest to the short line taking a cross step behind the foot that did the crossover step so that you initially face the far sidewall. Flick your feet into facing the far front corner and watch the receiver hitting the ball. Always angle off and try to get between the ball in the deep court and the far front corner standing slightly behind your partner who should also be blocking that same diagonal angle. Your partner should be behind the dashed line and you may be in front of it, straddling it or touching it with your back foot. It all depends on what returns the receiver on the far side normally hits. Watch the receiver and see if you need to: (1) cover a sidewall shot, which would mean you’d cover from closer to the front wall and make a crossover step with the far foot to hustle into the front court; (2) be ready to drop step to cover a cross-court pass hurtling toward you by turning sideways to face the closer sidewall and take the ball out front, while picking your best response shot; (3) cover a cross-court ceiling by taking a drop step with your front most foot toward the backcourt and pivot and follow up with a crossover step with the trail foot to start a sprint to the back wall and beat the ceiling back and look to be very aggressive with your return; or (4) if the receiver were to hit a ceiling ball return straight along the far sidewall, a double foot pivot, front foot crossover and diagonal dash to the far, rear corner would many times cover for your partner who may struggle retreating and at best only be able to defensively go to the ceiling or reach up for a lob shot, while you could be in position to shoot any overhit or dropping short ceiling because you’d be there much more quickly and you’d have a complete view of the rally and both of the opposing players’ defensive positions.
– Positioning Tricks to Escape the Wall as Partner Serves —
Here’s a couple more little tricks to speed up your retreat out of the box from off the sidewall: one, cock both feet to point them backwards (at 45 degrees) so your first crossover step is easier and quicker. Two, push off the wall with your off arm to help you move more quickly off of the wall and into center court away from the wall. It would be bad to be hugging the wall if a return ball comes to you while you’re still too close to it, even if you got off the wall partially with just the crossover step. Keep moving to get in the best position you can based on your partner’s serve placement and your expectation of the far receiver’s return based on this serve and his other returns this match.
• Move Back With Ball for Back Wall Setups —
Skip or flick your feet to move back with the ball as it heads to the back wall. Then flick your feet to move off the back wall with the ball as it pops off for each back wall setup. This is honoring the bounce of the ball. Actually it’s a double skip move because first you skip back behind the spot where you estimate you’ll contact the ball, and then skip out or flick your feet to get into the optimal position behind where you’ve read to be to shoot a winner or a very aggressive forcing shot. “Skipping” on the pads of both feet gets you back behind the ball as you read the ball’s rhythm (timing and arc), while the ball is going to the back wall and then dropping off the wall. With the ball projecting off the wall, skip out to get in prime position to shoot. Skipping beats moving to a spot, planting, and hoping against hope you’ve magically predicted exactly where the ball is going to be for you to make contact. Often that early predicting leaves the ball either behind you or out in front of you affecting your stroke timing and shot accuracy. By guessing and being just a little off you’ll have to either reach back or reach forward to catch up to a ball you misread. Instead always move back. The skip maneuver is a little hop and then a side step with both feet. To skip, elevate, land softly and then side step along the line the ball is taking on its way back by side stepping with the lead and then trail foot. Always skip back behind where you sense you will make contact. Then flick your feet out *with* the ball to react to its curving, readable path as it arcs off the back wall. As the ball is passing your stroking shoulder, let the ball drop extra low and shoot with your very low contact stroke …
• Feetwork Covers When Toeing the Diagonal —
Here’s how to cover the receiver’s rally returns while toeing the imaginary diagonal line between ball behind you and opposite front corner. Toe the line and angle off to face the corner in the front court ahead of the ball. As you angle off, pick up cues as to where the competitor may be shooting. Check out how their feet point. For example, feet pointing decidedly cross-court mean cover a shot across the court to the far side. Check out whether their contact point reveals their type of shot. Far out front contact also usually means cross-court. Deep contact often means sidewall shots. Very deep contact means a 3-Wall shot; so take off! Run forward to cover the diagonal front corner. Contact height often tells you court depth of shot. Higher contact often means pass. And, from higher contact, even when going for a low target it may still mean a left up ball that could come back deeper into center court. The hitter’s racquet prep height indicates potential force or shot pace. Sure there are change ups and players who use shot disguise, but that’s why you watch them for this time and also factor in what you see now for next time, too. Even when the player hitting the ball is closer to center court, still angle off to face ball side to cover shots along that sidewall and keep an eye on their prep to see where they’re aiming their shot. Wherever the player hitting the ball is spotted up to shoot get in center court position to cover and be ready to move to where you read the ball is going as the hitter commits when their racquet head flies forward.
– Primary Cover: the Line —
The return shot straight to the front wall or down the line (DTL) is so dangerous because it’s both the shortest shot to the front wall so it could pass you so fast and the sidewall might fight you for the ball when you try to battle it to return the ball on its way to the back corner or even after the ball comes off the back wall, too. To cover the DTL, preprogram your feetwork to be able to cover it. Learn and drill your feet just like you do your strokes. Here’s how to cover the line:
– Lunge and Optimize Coverage for the Toughest Straight Shots —
Worse case, for low bullets, time a crossover lunge. When really rushed, even a back foot (closest foot to sidewall) lunge may be what you have to do. For a diagonal crossover lunge, pick your intercept point for lower balls by lunging ideally at less than a 45 degree angle forward and out into the passing lane. Or lunge backwards into the back quadrant for a high pass or a super fast down the wall pass. It is easier to intercept the ball moving diagonally backwards versus going straight at the sidewall. When going directly to the sidewall it is the least advantageous option because your perception of the ball or how well you see it is at its very worst. Going backwards buys you time to better see the ball. The ball also slows down a little for you, as you move diagonally back. And importantly you have a more time to prep your racquet and pick your best option to optimally return the pass by having a fuller view of the whole court situation.
– Two-Foot Cover for Shot Straight to Front Wall —
A more ideal situation is when you have time to step twice. First step with what will be the back foot of your stance, as you jab step out toward the sidewall. Then step diagonally with your front foot to finalize your stance (or make contact before the foot has a chance to land). For low, trackable balls, ideally the two-step is finished off diagonally moving forward intending to make contact out in front of you and your racquet shoulder. For higher, manageable balls, a diagonal two-step move backwards buys you time and provides you a better view of the situation including: (1) competitor coverage; (2) shot options based on ball speed, angle, spin; and (3) a diagonal drop buys you more time to prepare and select your shot based on more and better information. The object is to get to the ball, prepare as best you can, and shoot your best shot available (BSA). Use your diagonals to cover the line.
– DTL Risk Cover with Ready 2-Step Cover —
From the diagonal starting line sometimes you may appear to create time by stepping out and attacking the oncoming ball. Situation: you feel certain the opponent’s return is going DTL. You see the hitting player starting their arm forward. You’re going to move diagonally forward because you’ve read it’s going low DTL. Jab step and then diagonally step and have laser-like focus on the ball. If you make good contact and a good shot, act like it was routine, a walk in the park. If you miss or you were fooled by the competitor’s shot. Still act unfazed. In any case, the competitor has to factor into future rallies and shot decisions that you do anticipate and move, while you take chances to be assertive in your coverage.
• Cross-Court Shot Cover —
When you position yourself on the diagonal between ball in deep court and opposite front corner, you may also cover, through observation and controlled feetwork, shots that happen to be going behind you into V or less cross-court angles, too. Through observing the ball going cross-court based on tips, like out front contact, open stance stroking or feet clearly pointing cross-court you should *flow* to cover the wider angled shots. Here’s how:
– Cross-Court Drop Step Cover —
Your drilled feetwork allows you to *drop step* into the 2 quadrants, front or back behind you to cover cross-court shots, as you initially face the corner in the forecourt ball side. With your front most foot, drop step forward for an observed low cross-court shot, like a low cross-court kill-shot or sidewall shot. Or, for an observed higher cross-court passing shot, drop step diagonally back behind you to protect the deep quadrant behind you. Or you can drop for a ceiling which, when you cover it extremely fast, turns into an attacking situation for you. The follow-on step after a drop step into the up front quadrant is a crossover step with the trail, far foot to cover the forward quadrant under attack. The follow-on step after the drop step back is also a crossover step to cover the back quadrant, too, when time is of the essence and contact must be almost immediate by cutting off the pass. When you have more time, drop step, crossover and run back with the ball to adjust and attack. Pursuit, hustle, efficient feetwork and racquet work allow you to make a balanced attack on a cross-court ball. Note that it is your observer dynamics that allow you to react to the ball in an offensive or defensive situation when your full attention is given to the opponent’s prep. Keep track of your positioning in past matches and especially in the current match to allow you to adapt best in ensuing rallies. Observe the opponent and react to be the best cover player you can be in each rally. With proper motivation and practiced feetwork, you may track down the ball and respond with your best-shot-available (BSA).
• Drop Step to Counter Ball Off Sidewall —
A bugaboo of many a player is a ball coming at them off the sidewall. This is a ball they face after the ball has bounced before it caroms off the sidewall and it pretty much comes directly at them, as the ball parallels the back wall in a Z serve action. At times uncertainty may be due to ball read or really more accurately ball misread. Or it could be due to the distress caused by that one time when a drive Z serve looked like it was gonna come off the sidewall fat and juicy for a setup, but instead the ball came off funny. It hit the sidewall and the back corner at the same time
only to squirt out right along the sidewall, the dreaded wallpaper shot. Or it popped out of the back corner and zigged diagonally past them. Traumatic. So a player may suffer feet lockup, even when the ball is clearly coming off the sidewall as a setup or at least a very attackable ball. Those bad bounce shots they’re tormented by are physics gone wild balls. Let it go. That’s an aberration. Play what you see. Give yourself space. Drop step back with your back foot away from the sidewall this time to back up and get behind the ball. This little move opens up your shot selections to almost anything you may want. Often your competitor may initially hug the line so an inside-out DTL pass would appear to be the shot option by shaping the ball around them, like a cursive *i* curving off the front wall into the near back corner. That shot may be the early option because at first your cross-court pass would appear like it’s going to pop them. Take your time. Let the ball drop. Take your shot. The main point is buy yourself room and time by backing up with your back foot first. As you drop step, you get a much improved view of the court, of what’s covered by the opponent and what your best shot option is. You may then step in with your front foot and stroke the ball assertively and solidly toward your extra time bought to decide *best* shot target. Do avoid stepping back with your front foot first because then you would have to take two more steps, a step back and step up to swing.
• The Bermuda Triangle Back Corner Feetwork — For a ball popping off the back wall in the back corner, the drop step is a strong first move to give yourself space you need to play the ball offensively. As you read a ball going into the back wall after it has bounced and it’s going to first catch the sidewall, back off to make room to shoot any setup. Backing off buys you space and time to save a too tight to the back wall ball by whacking the ball up against the back wall. For that reason focus and move your feet intent on shooting, although do so without drawing your racquet past your midline until you’re sure the ball is going to rebound off and be attackable. To get your bearings and to not strike the back wall with your backswing, you may use your off hand on the backhand side or racquet tip on the forehand side or you may use your back foot to find the wall or keep your spacing. Start with the drop step and keep your feet alive as you read the bounce of the ball. After you drop step your objective is to get inside of the ball or behind it so you can shoot aggressively, but most of all with control. As you study its *bounce* keep pumping your feet so that you are where the ball will be in front of your hitting shoulder at contact. As soon as the ball is dropping off where you’ve read its arc, set your feet. Once it’s obvious that the ball is going to bounce enough off the back wall, first set your back foot well behind contact. Keep your racquet take back compact and sized for your task, a low shot left way short in the front court. Right after the back foot is set quickly slide your front foot forward to set a low contact stance and kick back off the front foot to connect your legs. This isn’t a super powerful swing you’re looking for. You’re looking for maximum balance from your stance so you can sweep your racquet through very precisely. It may be more of touch shot for some sidewall kill-shots. For a ball that pops off nicely and gives you an easier setup, a more powerful stroke may be used. In any case, go about your preparation like you’re an automaton. The more repeatable and basically mindless your feetwork and racquet flow, the better your results. Don’t let the situation be any more than routine. For some reason the closeness to the corner and the back wall, the movement required of their feet, the shot being a setup, the distance of the shot and the losing sight of the competitor while prepping causes players to freeze up and under achieve. This is a setup, a prime opportunity to take the rally. Focus. Move your feet energetically and set a partially closed or partially open stance. Choose your target and allow your mechanics to create it with confidence. Pick out a wall target and concentrate on: (1) a shot straight to the front wall; (2) a pinch tight into the near corner; (3) a cross-court very low kill-shot; or (4) a deep glancing ball off the sidewall for a splat and, for any shot, visualize an irretrievable result. Follow-through completely and follow your shot forward just in case the competitor makes a stabbing get so you can rekill their save. It’s isn’t the Bermuda Triangle. It’s a back corner setup.
• Escape the Trap in Ceiling Ball Rallies —
When stroking a ceiling ball straight along a sidewall from a rear corner, make it a point of court coverage emphasis and movement to follow your ceiling shot forward along the wall toward the front wall. Then, as you approach the dashed line, make a beeline to your picked coverage spot in center court, while turning to watch the opponent field your ceiling ball. The point is to avoid the tendency to retreat back along the back wall to clear out of way. Should you retreat, you risk being backed into the opposite, rear corner and trapped there while your competitor selects how to creatively put the ball away catty corner into the wide open opposite front quadrant furthest from you. Use your follow-through and weight moving forward to boost your run along the wall. Technically step on to your front foot, as you rise up into your ceiling ball stroke and then you’re ready to flow forward by stepping forward with the back foot. After contact, rebalance and make it a crossover step forward with your trailing, back foot. Hug the sidewall until you almost get to the dashed line. Then shuffle or, for more speed, crossover with the foot closest to the sidewall to move into coverage positioning on the diagonal between ball and opposite front corner. Granted you must give room to your competitor to take a straight line to play your ceiling ball so sometimes you may not get out by moving along the sidewall. Although, don’t allow the trap to be fully set by using your own assertive, forward flowing strokes and modified escaping feetwork. You’ll be clear if you’re not where ball and opponent intersect. So when you start to get trapped (and it will happen), go far enough away to clear their stroke radius and then quickly semicircle around your competitor to get back into the center. When nearly trapped, you still might pressure the front quadrant you initially left open. The key point is to avoid the trap completely, whenever possible, by following your ceiling shot to the front wall beating feet along the sidewall and zagging out into center court.
• Running Strokes, Finishing with Draw In Step and Crossover Recovery —
At times you only have time to step to the side or run to the side and step with the front foot of your normal stance (or even back foot if your stance) and stroke on the move. Step and focus on staying balanced and keeping your weight under control. Here you’re running toward a sidewall to stroke. Step, stroke, and then allow your momentum to carry you into a follow on step toward the sidewall with your trailing foot. For one option, you may draw up the trail foot and land it not quite as far as the step to the wall. Then the trail is taking a balancing follow on step. Or, when you have even more momentum, your trail foot may land even further out toward the sidewall to help slow you down. Land your second foot (after contact) and then push back working both feet to get back into the center of the court. The object is to quickly get balanced and move from the side to get back into center and get into your best spot in the rally. After you step and hit and your trail foot comes up just short of the first stepping foot, crossover with first foot that stepped which is closer to the sidewall to move back toward center court. After stepping and hitting and when the trailing foot crosses past the stepping foot, adjust your feet and recross the trail foot back over. In either case, this crossover recovery step move helps you easily and quickly get back into the center of the court. Practice the step, hit, balancing follow on draw in step with the trail foot or follow on crossing step. After that second step drill the crossover recovery step to get back into center court as fast as you can. Work on this technique when stepping to the side with the front foot or back foot and taking the follow on draw in step short of the first step or when crossing past the first step after contact. Push off the foot farthest out and crossover with that far foot to move back into the court.
• Open Stance Feetwork —
Sideways sidewall facing strokes offer better balance, form, and generally more and better shot opportunities. However there are many times in rallies when you may be unable to turn to fully face the sidewall to stroke. Then an open stance stroke is very doable. You may find your feet initially face the front wall. Due to the ball’s pace, you may be just rushed and robbed of time to turn and face the sidewall. It’s okay. Make lemonade out of the lemons that you’ve been dealt. Here’s the feetwork to stroke from an open stance:
– Open Stance Stroking; How to Do It —
First, pick a side or which stroke you’re going to use. Then, as always, slightly turn your shoulders to that side. That subtle upper body turn helps build weight up on what will be the back foot of your open stance. Your front foot is usually a little ahead of the back foot which is even with your body. Turn and point your toes out slightly to the stroke’s sidewall or side where the racquet is drawn back in prep. Keep your knees bent and your eyes riveted to the ball. Draw the racquet back to your off shoulder for your backhand or throw your elbow back behind you and lift your racquet head for your forehand. Your front foot aids in and finishes off the press back loading the back foot. As the ball is about to reach the front of your racquet shoulder contact zone, push off your back foot toward your resisting, rotation encouraging front leg. The push off the back foot begins to turn your knees and hips to build flowing turn up thru your body. As body turn peaks, throw the racquet to make contact with the ball off shoulder (or out in front of your racquet shoulder) to shoot toward your chosen wall target. Often a cross-court target is easiest and most makable from an open stance. Emulate a very common tennis player tactic by using lots of body rotation for its angular or turning force. With deeper contact and a little more patience, an inside-out shot is doable. For example, an open stance, inside-out forehand from your backhand side of the court may be turned into a cross-court, as a forcing pass or winning pass. Or an inside out motion may be used to stroke a touch, off speed near corner pinch winner into your opposite, forehand front corner, with practice reps.
– In Place Open Stance Stroke Drilling —
Like your regular sideways facing strokes, practice your open stance strokes and you’ll be ready when the open stance *opportunity* opens up for you. Choose which side you want to practice your open stance stroke. Face the front wall. Place your feet so that they’re spread a little wider than shoulder’s width apart. What will be the front foot of your open stance should be slightly ahead of you and the back foot should be even with your upper body, with both feet pointed at the sidewall up ahead of your ball contact side or racquet side. With your non racquet hand, bounce the ball a little bit in front of you and off to your side. Put some backspin on the ball so it draws back toward you. As the ball is bouncing be doing the final turn of your shoulders and loading up your back foot. Keep your knees bent. As the ball draws in close to your contact zone near the front of your racquet arm’s shoulder, push off the back foot toward your bracing front foot. From the ground up, turn up thru and into your shoulders keeping your balance throughout. Swing smoothly flowing the racquet head through the ball and work on your shot placement and develop control over the ball with your open stance stroke. Practice a cross-court shot first because it’s easiest to control and easiest to power with your easy body rotation. Then work on deeper contact and inside-out strokes. Use a drop-n-hit backspin ball to back you up a little farther back or a sidespin ball to push you a little sideways. Flick your feet to get behind the ball simulating fielding a ball that forces you to retreat or flick your feet to move sideways in an open stance stroking situation. Practice those little last second adjustments to set your feet and flow your swing thru the ball.
– Drill Feeding Yourself Balls In Open Stance Situations —
As soon as you have begun to master the drop-n-hit open stance situations by hitting accurate DTL and cross-court passes, inside out near corner pinches and across your body, as well as trying outside in reverse pinches into the opposite front corner, expand to facing the front wall from center court in front of the dashed line and flick feed yourself balls to the front wall that pop off the front wall toward you where you’ll hit from an open stance. Flick balls off the front wall directly toward you or so you must move sideways. Also feed balls to the front wall that glance off a sidewall toward you to practice more game-like, time pressed open stance shooting situations. Of course, even in the midst of this open stance specific drill, when you see you have plenty of time, still turn and face the sidewall, get behind the ball, and stroke facing sideways to keep that good habit primed for playing games. However, when confronted with open stance situations in games, this drilling will be invaluable in preparing you. Train to be successful with your open stance shot selections, preparations and stroke taking shotmaking.
• Hit and Move to Clear and Cover —
Like a boxer, hit and move. After you stroke any ball move to cover the opponent’s possible return, but also move to clear out of the way of the ball and the opponent. Shooting from the middle, after you stroke a low shot looking to leave it short in the front court, but it’s coming toward and close to you or when you hit a pass that’s going to go close by you, factor in movement to clear ground zero where you’re making contact. Make a curving run after you make contact. If you go low, like a straight in kill-shot or shoot a reverse pinch that may come right back toward you, take note of the opponent’s position and give him a straight line run to the ball no matter the line he wants to take to run down the ball. Shift back, recenter yourself, drop step back toward the center and start a semicircle run to get into your recognized spot in center court ready to cover his possible next shot. If your shot is a pass, after you can complete your second my and follow-through allow the opponent to go straight to the sidewall to try a high risk cutoff because that’ll be his worst cover option. As outlined earlier, a diagonal drop back move buys you more time and is a better cover angle, but allow the opponent to pick his cover angle. So, after you hit the pass, rebalance and step forward or move sideways toward center and curve back into your best spot in center court ready to cover the line in case the opponent answers your straight in shot with one of his own. Then don’t be boxed out by his not clearing to give you a cover run, while not crowding his follow-through in your coverage positioning. The idea is once a player strokes and completes their swing they can’t remain in the way. Here’s the specific hinder rule: “(c) Responsibility. While making an attempt to return the ball, a player is entitled to a fair chance to see and return the ball. It is the responsibility of the side that has just hit the ball to move so the receiving side may go straight to the ball and have an unobstructed view of and swing at the ball. However, the receiver is responsible for making a reasonable effort to move towards the ball and must have a reasonable chance to return the ball for any type of hinder to be called.”
Balls that are left up and hittable near the shooter fall under that rule. Now you know to step away and curve as you move to get into good coverage position in center court. It’s a hustling maneuver. Move, avoid the opponent or let them play the ball where they choose. So that means usually don’t hit the ball back to you. But, if you do hit the ball close to you, move to clear and cover. Use a drop step, crossover step or little low hop, whatever works best. A side step won’t usually be far enough away.
• Optimizing Your Whole Body Stroking Stance Feetwork —
Like the form used to stroke from an open stance, how the feet and legs connect in a sideways facing stance both stabilizes your lower body and adds valuable lower body power to your bottom to top, full body turning stroke that peaks in arm acceleration thru explosive ball contact. It’s ba-dam, 1-2, step back, then step up and press back and then push off and turn for every serve, return of serve and ideally every rally shot when you have time to approach the ball and optimally work your legs together to stroke. After you set your solid back foot, without going forward all at once, slide step your front foot forward sizing your stance according to your planned ball contact height for this low contact waist high down to ankle bone low stroke. As soon as the front foot touches down, subtly press back connecting the two legs. That motion and weight back catalyzes the back leg final load and auto drive from behind as you begin to work the legs together to move you sideways AND also turn into the ball with your whole body. Here’s how. Immediately after the front foot touches down, press back completing the connection and final hip load back on the back leg. That action starts the back to front leg drive that’ll become full body turn. It’s back, front, back and push and turn to swing. It’s an inertia building choreography. After the step back, step, and rock back, the back foot responds pushing off toward the bracing front leg, as dual knee turn ideally flows into a little innocuous but massively peaking hip flip or pop or twist right before the torso, shoulders and then arm whips the racquet head thru the ball. The front leg keeps resisting as the back leg, though set securely on the floor, keeps pushing and turning thru to keep fueling your stroke on thru contact. One final noteworthy item is how the feet are positioned in the stance. If the feet are set so the front leg is extended out much further toward the sidewall than the back leg much, much more than a half a tennis shoe (or at most one shoe length), the sought after lower body turn is blocked by that over closed stance. Then It’d only be a forward plod into a less connected front foot. Get up and set your feet in different positions. After you step up, attempt to press back from the front to back foot and see how well you move forward and turn smoothly with your lower body into the ball from different stance angles. An open stance allows plenty of body turn, but less balance and fewer shot options basically because of your body angle at contact. A feet side by side golfer’s stance is imbalanced and encourages leg lock and an inability to turn your knees or hips into your swing. An old school 45 degree angle stance is too closed and it makes it hard to hit anything cross-court with pace or accuracy or to turn your body into your stroke, as the closed front leg blocks the turn and the overreaching step disallows the cooperative press back to release body turn. Try the partially closed, front foot half a tennis shoe out closer to the sidewall stance that allows you to press back, load back, set free and move into the front of your stance, as driving knees funneling turn up thru your flipping hips loads and then unloads them into both lateral (sideways) and angular (turning) of your lower body up thru your core and synchronized with your rotating upper body and optimized arm/wrist snap for a full body turning, swinging, committed ball projecting body/arm/wrist/racquet flowing untwist motion.