Racquetball 101 by Ken Woodfin
The Basics Of The Game
Studying up on Racquetball 101 is your first step toward getting really good playing racquetball.
• Exercise and Mental Diversion – Racquetball is a very fast paced and challenging game. That’s why many make it a big part of their fitness program and many more should. The game provides a great cardio workout and it burns gobs of carbs, too. Racquetball also provides compelling strategic challenges, as fellow competitors share the field of battle together, while occupying the same court and battling for central position. The reason many find racquetball a great way to get exercise is because it keeps you motivated by pursuing and returning a bouncy little ball to the front wall target. It’s alternating skillfully swinging often as hard as you can for purposeful shots, while also playing defense while your competitor return the ball and you either try to keep the ball in play by making lunging gets or you do so by hustling and stretching to spontaneously control the ball with your racquet and, via your shot placements, you seek to turn the flow of the rally and game in your favor.
• Enjoy the Learning Challenge – Learning to play racquetball should NOT be one of the most intimidating things you ever do. The game looks fast from outside the court looking in. Once you are aware of reading and timing the ball and efficient court movement technique or good footwork that intimidation factor will dissipate rapidly. Do know that at full speed in a tournament match, the game can leave even the most athletic person wondering if they are really in top shape. It takes good fitness and efficient footwork to run and move effectively to shoot and it calls upon versatile, highly-efficient movement skills when recovering and covering between shots, after serving, and when returning serve, as well. Without moving well shooting is not the primary focus. First, footwork skill will have to become second nature before shooting becomes the determining factor in winning rallies.
• Racquetball Learning Curve – The learning curve goes a little like this: The first time you get in the court you are there to learn how the ball bounces off the walls and floor and where you need to be when serving, returning and rallying. Your early competitors will gladly give you a free tour of the court, as they hang out in the middle running you. You’ll dash around feverishly returning what you can to the must-hit target, the front wall. You may seem to always be in one of the 4 corners or scurrying up and down along one sidewall.
• You Learn to Adapt – You will learn about the speed of the game. You will learn how the ball rebounds off the front wall and you’ll be glad there’s a back wall so you won’t have to run back any further. You’ll also be glad to have the back wall to shoot setups when your competitor leaves a shot off that wall for you. And, if the ball gets behind you, whacking a well-placed save into the back wall is a good Plan B to protract the rally. In the game are multiple stroking and movement skills and dynamics or variations in those skills that you will add to your skill set, like different sized strokes (which are all shorter versions of your full stroke form which contains the always present, key ball contact snap motion). You must morph your strokes into becoming second nature and almost automatic for you. Then your shot decision-making becomes intuitive, appearing to be almost preternatural due to your stroke’s shotmaking consistency and versatility. Knowing when to use what stroke size and being precise dialing in your form for a specific shot is due to how you see in your mentally imagery your form working for this situation by playing lots, practicing patterns of play (POP), and augmenting visualization as you play and even as you see yourself playing, moving and stroking with your form off court, as well.
• On the Court Training – In the first few games, you will gain some confidence as you learn to extend the rallies by returning the serve of your competitor and getting into a rally. You may even secure some points when you serve with your hustle and thinking your way through the rallies. You begin to understand being patient or waiting for your attack. And you learn the value of strategy, like playing to your strengths, while attacking what you recognize as weaknesses in your competitor. And you recognize weaknesses of your own that you need to improve which you will mask or cover for now until you can make them into strengths. You learn when and how to anticipate or take chances and move. You learn when (and how) to move to get to serves you see (or believe) are coming; as you see returning by just staying in the middle is just wishful thinking. And you read by watching the competitor set up to make ball contact where their rally shot is going to be placed. And, as they release their arm to swing, you make your covering run to occupy that spot and defend or, when able, go in attack mode shooting the response you mentally envision as your best shot available (BSA) for this ball’s POP.
• Things You Must Understand on Court – The full set of official USA racquetball rules is at this link: (http://www.teamusa.org/usa-racquetball/how-to-play/rules). The basics rules are simple and intuitively obvious. You and your competitor take turns hitting shots back to the front wall and giving way to one another to make straight line runs to get to the ball the competitor just hit. Full swings thru must allow both a down the line (DTL) or straight shot and crosscourt angles to the far, back corner on all shots. And a voluntary, “My bad”, when you don’t, followed by, “The rally’s yours, your serve”.
• Game Formats – Racquetball is a game that has 4 formats:
(1) singles or one-on-one competition with one serving, the other returning, the rally winner serves next and only the server may score when the rally is theirs;
(2) doubles where 2 teammates compete against another pair of players where the biggest difference from singles is both players on a team get to hit the ball on offense, but once one partner commits to hit their other partner must give way and let the other team play defense VS block them out;
(3) cutthroat where 3 players are competing for points against each other and in rallies 1 player serves while the other 2 players play 2 on 1 against the server. The server wins rally to point and serve again or loses the rally to return, as another player rotates in, and the former server takes their place to return in back; and
(4) in-and-out where 3 players are on court, with only two playing a singles rally, while the 3rd player stays out of the way by hustling back and forth across the back wall. The rally winner serves and the rally loser is replaced by the 3rd player who then returns serve.
• Basic Rules – The rules of racquetball are simple. Serve when you win the previous rally. When you lose the rally, you return. To serve, you stand between the first 2 lines crossing the 20′ wide court. To put the serve in play, face one sidewall and bounce the ball on the floor in front of you as you also prep or take your backswing for the stroke you use when facing that way. When your racquet arm is away from the front wall, it’s a forehand stroke and when the racquet arm is closer to the front wall, it’s a backhand stroke. Then to put the ball in play, as the ball reaches your contact spot, you swing thru directing the ball to hit the front wall in the air or on the fly. Hit thru the ball so that it carries on the fly to pass the short line which is halfway back in the court (20′), while directing the ball toward your target in the backcourt. Then move to get back into coverage in center court close to the third dashed line. Note that the short line is usually the middle line on courts correctly marked with 3 lines. The first line, the service line is 15′ back from the front wall. You may step on but not completely over the service line as you serve. Again, the second line is the short line and, as server, you can not pass that line until your served ball does first. The third line is broken or dashed and it is the encroachment line or safety zone line. It’s 25′ back. The receiver of the serve may only cross the broken line when the served ball bounces in the five foot wide safety zone between the broken and short lines. Also, a served ball that on the fly carries beyond the broken line can be returned or hit in midair, but the receiver cannot cross the broken line with their feet, arm or racquet before the ball crosses, as they are setting up to swing thru the ball in midair right as it crosses that safety line. A serve may be returned after it bounces or it may be returned right out of midair. A legal serve must strike the front wall and be able to bounce past the short line and before the back wall. A served ball may not strike the ceiling. A served ball may strike one sidewall and, if it does, then the ball must be able to bounce before the back wall. Also, a served ball striking one sidewall must be able to bounce past the short line and before it could carry across the court and strike the other sidewall on the fly. Those 3 examples of serves they could bounce are moot if the ball is returned in midair before it bounces or strikes a wall.
• Return of Serve Rule – To return serve, the receiver must start in the backcourt more than 25′ back behind that broken line. Quite a bit further back is a more effective spot to return because the receiver must protect the corners where the serve is often aimed.
• Return of Serve Positioning – Starting within a stride out from the back wall in the middle while facing forward is a good spot to cover the backcourt when returning even the speediest, most precise of hard drive serves shot into the comers. It’s the serve receiver’s option where to be to return, but hedging over to one side gives the server a green light and opening to attack the least covered side. Taking a step over to one side after the server turns away is a tactical ploy by the receiver.
• Rally Rules – The receiver must return the served ball before it bounces twice. The receiver’s return may reach the front wall by contacting any combination of walls and the ceiling, but once struck it must not strike the floor before contacting the target front wall.
• Skip Ball Result – A struck ball hitting the floor before it strikes the front wall is called a skip ball. The player who skipped the ball returns the next serve. A skip is a point if the player skipping the ball is the receiver of the serve when they skip either their return of serve or, after their successful return, they skip a shot during the extended rally. If the receiver returns the server and then the server skips a ball during the continuing rally, the receiver becomes the server, no point is tallied and the server becomes the receiver. Skips are particularly bad and indicative of poor stroking form or poor shot decision making, like picking and shooting too low when shooting on the dead run or when making contact with the ball at a very high point of contact and attempting to hit an extremely low front wall target.
• How to Score – The primary objective of the game is to win by getting the most points. You win points by hitting either a served ball or shot in the extended rally that your receiver competitor is unable to return to the front wall.
• Scoring Points, Winning and Repeating Rallies – Points are only scored by the server who is the player starting the rally with the ball in hand. There are several ways for a rally to end. Examples include:
1) If the ball bounces more than once on the floor before being hit to the front wall by the service receiver who is offensively playing the ball, the other player (or team) wins the rally and a point as the side serving. If the server allows the ball to bounce more that once after the receiver’s return or after the return in the rally, the receiver wins the rally and takes over serve. That is called a sideout.
2) If an errant or miss-angled shot by the shooter happens to strike the competitor on the ball’s way to making it to the front wall, that is a hinder call and the rally is replayed.
3) If the ball strikes the competitor when the ball is shot and the competitor is blocking the ball from going either straight in or across the court to the far, back corner, that is a penalty hinder and the shooter wins the rally and a point if they’re serving or a sideout and the serve if they’re the receiver.
• Playing Culture – Like touching and moving your golf ball when setting your club down behind the ball before swinging, penalty hinders, two bounce gets and skips should be self-called. Note that there’s no dishonor in causing a penalty hinder. It happens. However, replaying the point is bad for racquetball. The basic premise of the penalty hinder is the hindering player must not take away an offensive opportunity from the shooting player. Penalty hinders are discussed throughout Racquetball 101.
• Game Scoring – Matches are won by taking 2 out of 3 games. Games 1 and 2 are played to 15 points. When the first two games are split, a 3rd tiebreaker game is played to 11 points, with player scoring most total points serving first in the breaker. And, just like in games 1 and 2, it’s win by one in game 3. Professionals play all games to 11 points, with a 3 out of 5 game format, and winning each game must be by at least a two point margin or play continues until one side is ahead by two.
• Basic Strategy and Rules of Play – The games’s strategy requires strength and finesse to move effectively and control your stroking of the ball with repeatable form, intelligent shot placement and smart movement after swinging thru the ball to clear out of the way AND move to cover the competitor’s possible return. As mentioned earlier, the rules mandate that the shooting player be allowed 2 shots at all times from their court position. Those include one shot straight to the front wall and a second shot across the court to the farthest back corner away from ball contact. Movement to give those shots, to allow a full swing and to not move to block those shots is the rule, and it goes for the server after they serve the ball, too. A diagonal shot across the court into the opposite front corner is NOT an angle required to be left open. In fact that’s exactly where to stand in coverage, between the ball and the opposite front corner, while actually toeing that imaginary line between the ball in backcourt and the front corner. From there coverage to all 4 corners is doable. Although taking away the shot into the comer must done by getting there *before* the offensive player is in position to shoot. If the shooter gets in position to shoot first or before the coverage player is in position to defend, it’s illegal to move in late and block the shot into the opposite front corner or any corner if the defensive positioning is too late. If the coverage player gets there second, that blocking of the shot is a penalty hinder.
• Techniques – The sport of racquetball requires a unique set of techniques to contact the ball with body balance which supports the ability to turn and simultaneously swing the arm to a climax of the stroke at ball contact. A large part of mastering racquetball is returning your competitor’s stroked serves and shots and then placing the ball with your own accurately placed shots which ideally your competitor can’t return or must return weakly or defensively. You need not hit the ball faster and harder than your competitor, but you must return their heat and attempt to place your shots so the competitor is:
(a) ideally out of the middle;
(b) rushed to react in their coverage;
(c) straining to reach the ball; or
(d) shooting the ball on the run VS shooting when their feet are set under them.
It should not be regimented that one predetermined shot be taken, like, for instance, all shots must go down the line (DTL) or straight in. The exception to deciding a shot or ball’s direction early is, of course, when serving. Clearly predetermine your serve’s flight by picking your serve before you begin your service motion that starts with the continuous motion to drop the ball and then deliver the ball to your front wall target, while looking to place the ball in your ultimate target area in the back half of the court.
In rallies it’s very tough to mandate one shot or even have two in mind when possible action (angle and spin) on the ball, your competitor’s positioning and a combination of your reaction time, your success tracking down the ball and your stroke preparation all should play big roles in your shot picking and shooting success, while not being distracted by pre-programming any shots or movements either. It’s a spontaneous sport and adapting is a huge part of effective moving, shooting and coverage that takes place when returning serve or after serving or after shooting in rally.
• Strokes – There are basically 2 kinds of strokes that are chosen according to ball contact height. They are strokes for *High Contact* above the chest up to the shoulders and even as high as above the head and *Low Contact* strokes for ball contact from very low at just above the court up to about chest high.
• Low Contact Stroke Basics – A low contact stroke begins with the back swing and setting the back foot. The back swing is with the feet, arms and whole body. The back swing includes lifting the racquet up to shoulder height or even higher above the head for higher ball contact and more potential for power generation in the forward swing. After the back swing, the uninterrupted arm forward swing flows right into the downswing to produce rally shots (and serves) when making ball contact from as low as ankle bone low all the way up to chest high. The 2 low contact strokes are the forehand and the backhand. The forehand is like a sidearm throwing motion that’s begun by pulling the arm cocked back behind you in the same motion used to hurl a ball. The backhand is like a frisbee toss at a fast speed, with the arm drawn or pushed across the body for lots of shoulder turn action in both the prep back and then important shoulder return to ensure solid ball contact while swinging forcefully thru. For either stroke, the final racquet flow thru the contact portion is on a horizontal line to a slightly declining line. The parallel to court swing for low contact and a low wall target or low-to-low is preferable. The racquet takes a slightly declining line for high ball contact (above shin high) down to produce a low wall target. In any case, after contact the arm swings thru to point forward and then flow up to follow-through around you.
• Low Contact Address, Prep, and Swing – For either stroke, the first move after tracking down the ball to is turn-and-face (the stroke’s) sidewall. That turn and face keys the stroke, with facing your forehand wall for your forehand and backhand wall for your backhand. Also, for low contact, start by spacing yourself, for low balls, a 1/2 a step behind the ball and always an arm and racquet reach away when initially setting the back of your 2-step stance. Simply step back setting the back of the hitting stance with the back foot, while also lifting the racquet and also initially drawing back the off arm for balance. Also, begin turning your body away from your wall target. Then, as the ball gets closer, step up or forward with the front foot landing it a half a tennis shoe closer to the sidewall than the back foot. For higher contact, the hitting stance is narrower and a step up may not be necessary. The narrow stance is set as the back foot steps and the front foot is tugged along posting and helping transition to finalizing the stance width. For high contact, that’s where the front foot stays, where it posted. After step up toe first or light touch down on the post, right away press back, piston down on back foot, while loading back and completing your racquet backswing and spreading the arms apart. As the ball is just about to reach your picked contact point (that you set up behind so you’d move into your shot), push off the back foot toward the front, draw the off arm in and loop the racquet arm down in your downswing until the racquet head that was pointing up in prep now points back. The loop out and thru ball contact is just about to occur. About a foot before ball contact, when passing thru the racquet butt pointing to the target and just as your knee drive and resulting body turn is peaking, turn over your arrowing arm and mesh and blend with your wrist, and, in the blink of an eye, whip SNAP the racquet head back-to-front spiraling the elbow, forearm, wrist, hand and racquet head quickly, fluidly thru in a windshield wiper finish projecting the ball off the moving and pointing strings.
• Rally Target Shooting – How the racquet flows and turns to point the strings at contact determines what wall and where on the wall your shot targets. Ideally point the racquet face to place the shot far away from your competitor. Also, usually place the ball away from you, too. You do not want to be where ball and competitor’s racquet may converge. Know that as the competitor seeks to return your shot, you are NOT their primary concern. Consider that for a down the line (DTL) even the slightest of changes in shot angle avoids causing the ball to unsafely come right back at you.
• For Low Contact, Let Ball Drop —> Contact-wise it’s usually best to let the ball drop as low as you can and take the ball lower rather than when it’s higher, especially above the waist. As the ball descends, a low-to-low swing thru contact has a better chance of producing a low target result than say a chest high ball and seeking a low wall target or, again, even waist high contact and shooting down to produce a very low kill-shot target. Note a kill-shot is a ball that bounces twice before the first line. Also, allowing the ball to drop means it’s usually going slower and you’ve had a longer time to take in the situation or pattern of play, while noting: (1) where are you; (2) where is the ball shootable; and (3) very importantly where is your non target, the competitor positioned and where could they be after moving. Of course who’s serving, what’s the score, what’s been working up until now and what tactical shot options do you have all factor into your shot selection, too.
• Low Contact and Require’d High to Low Shooting – Sometimes you’re up closer to the front wall in the mid court and ball pace prevents you from retreating to allow the ball drop lower. Then a truncated backswing powers your compact QuickDraw stroke as a good plan B. Here higher contact after the ball bounces up in front of you is your challenge and high to low shooting is a skill you must develop and own. Another high to low stroking situation is when you’re deep in the court and you can’t back up any further. Say you select a low passing shot 1-3′ high front wall target, an angled down trajectory to your desired wall target to place the ball away from your competitor. Eventually you may develop the skill to shoot high to low and shape a shot for a very low front wall target with an over the top, spiraling, windshield wiper arm and wrist motion, a beveled racquet face flowing thru the ball that’s dropped slightly lower on the strings at contact, a big follow-through first pointing right at target and resulting in an angled down shot vector, with over spin placed on the ball.
• Low and High Contact Strokes and Shooting – First High Contact strokes are listed and then Low Contact strokes:
• High Contact Ceiling Balls – One high contact stroke is the ceiling ball when you swing up and contact the ball usually at shoulder high or higher with the racquet head pointed up (NOT out). Slice up through the lower half of the ball by dropping the head back thru contact and send the ball up to a target on the ceiling about where the first row of lights are located on most courts about 10′ feet out from the front wall. Another option is a faster ceiling where you strike the ball much harder, with less spin, while pinpointing a deeper ceiling target further from the front wall and behind the row of lights closer to you. The fast ceiling will get to the backcourt in a big hurry, running the cover player back. Care must be made to not miss-target the hard ceiling and contact the ceiling too close to the front wall. That would cause the ball to rebound off the front wall at a more acute angle, bounce and rise quickly sending the ball deeper so it pops off the back wall for a fast moving but still dangerous setup situation for your competitor.
• High Contact Overheads – High contact strokes include an overhead which is much like the motion used by a tennis player to serve the ball. An over the head motion is used less in racquetball as a serve, although recently it’s become more popular in club play where serving an overhead is done when looking to bounce the ball very close to the back wall so the ball then rockets out off the back wall from the corner causing the ball to scoot right along the sidewall, too. Overheads are used to return lobs or lob Z’s to quickly pass the server or pressure their reaction time. They’re used much less in rallies because overheads passes are hard to keep down or from popping the hard hit ball off the back wall. Players usually choose to let the ball drop lower before they swing to make contact. Note that contact for an overhead is very high.
That means the overhead stroke for a kill-shot must angle the ball down very low when shooting for either a front wall or sidewall target. The sharply angled trajectory can cause the ball to strike its wall target (or targets), rebound out and then bounce near the front wall and pop up quite high, as well as come back further into middle of the court due to the shot’s angle and pace. An overhead, like the reverse pinch, when shooting across your body into the reverse pinch corner for your forehand (into your backhand side corner) can keep the ball lower coming out of the corner, as the action created is more like a low contact sidewall/front wall opposite corner reverse pinch.
An example is a left-handed overhead pinch into the right front corner. There will be more on the reverse pinch later under kill-shots.
• High Contact Lob Serving – High contact as high as eye high or chest high down to as low as hip level is used to lob serve. For a high lob, for instance from chest high contact, loft the ball up softly to your 12-15′ front wall target looking to bounce the ball behind the short line and ideally well short of the dashed line to avoid the ball being attacked after the bounce. Optionally an off speed lob or junk lob is earmarked for a lower 6-8′ front wall target, again, with ball contact. Again chest high contact is routine and the junk lob is struck with a little faster pace than a high lob. The junk lob is intended to bounce further back in the backcourt than the lob causing the ball to either rise up into the sidewall short of the back wall or the junk is sent directly into the back corner. For high lobs and junk lobs the offensive objective is to pressure the receiver into lifting a weak defensive ceiling ball return or tempt a desperation very high to low return shot.
• Low Contact Passing Shots – A main purpose for low contact is to shoot passes that are meant to bounce once in mid court and take their second bounce right before the back wall. Most passes are aimed for a back corner. Although in doubles a ball up the middle between the two competitor doubles players is a tactically solid shot choice.
• Low Contact Kill-shots – A second purpose for low contact is for several different types of low targeted kill-shots. Again, kill-shots bounce twice before the ball gets to the service line which is the first line back from the front wall. Kill-shots include:
(a) a straight in kill or down the line (DTL) is a shot that must be very low or, in a heartbeat, it rebounds right back into the shooter’s lap;
(b) a near corner pinch hits the sidewall close to the corner in the same side as that stroke, like near corned forehand pinches into the corner on the side where the follow-through flows toward the sidewall behind the shooter. Sometimes the near corner pinch will hit the front wall then sidewall. Note that a near corner pinch is taken when the ball is about 6′ feet off the sidewall shooting into that corner and, for example, a backhand near comer pinch hits the backhand side corner. It’s a near corner pinch even when it’s backhand shot taken from all over the court all the way over in the far, forehand side back corner;
(c) a splat is a shot taken from close along one sidewall with a sidewall shot target just out ahead of the shooter dropping the ball down just a little lower than ball contact height on the wall. The close sidewall contact, the inside out swing motion out toward the sidewall, the ball compressing upon impacting the wall and the ripping action added as the ball deflects off with extra spin all cause the ball to make its very distinctive s-p-l-a-a-a-t sound. A splat ball angles off the sidewall and contacts the front wall retaining its sidespin. That unique spin causes the ball to stay up further in the front court, as the ball angles off and moves sideways almost paralleling the front wall;
(d) a 3-wall shot strikes the sidewall very close to the shooter at about where their front shoulder is and a couple feet up on the sidewall. That’s just in front of the racquet arm shoulder for a backhand or in front of the off shoulder or non racquet arm shoulder. 3-walls are hit extra hard to make the ball angle completely across the court and either strike the other sidewall and then front wall or crack out directly in the corner. A 3-wall shot is less effective if it crosses the court and strikes the front wall first because the ball then hits the sidewall and pops into the center of the front court; and
(e) the reverse pinch is the one shot where it’s okay to say, “Here it is, go get it”. Angle your feet and point them at your sidewall target to make the ball hit close to front wall on the sidewall in the comer on the opposite side away from your stroke’s near corner pinch. Now that sounds like a lot to it. You’re hitting across your body and that stroke motion is your most powerful one, but you wanna hit the planet with your shot. So form is everything. Line up the sidewall in your sights.
The stroke need only be a 3/4’s forward swing after routine racquet lift. After racquet prep and stance work the your smooth, solid contact swing and accentuate the follow-through pulling inwards thru contact by centripetally moving the racquet head in toward you with pronation, via forearm turn over added to wrist to spiral racquet starting before contact and windshield wipe the arm, wrist and racquet face corkscrewing thru the ball controlling both to the front wall and a down shot vector.
As an example of the forces and spin, hit a forehand reverse pinch into the front corner on your backhand side. Due to the physics of the court and the out to finish stroke used, the ball strikes the sidewall, caroms low into the front wall and sidespin keeps the ball way up closer to the front wall in the front court. The ball bounces and veers toward the other sidewall VS angling out more into the middle like a left up (too high) near corner pinch would do. This is the reverse pinch. It can strike the front wall first, but that’s usually when the shot is taken from over on the other side of the court.
In rally play, a reverse pinch may be attempted more often when the pattern is clicked to, as the shot is more often available from over close to the far sidewall to shoot a the way across the court into the far front corner, again, ideally with the feet pointing at the target wall. At times a more closed stance is what you are in, and still the across your body motion works to create the moving to center centripetal action.
Another reverse that can be effective is taking the shot with the off stroke from over on the off side of the court; that’s, for instance, taking a backhand stroke from over on your forehand side and shooting the reverse into the comer on that same forehand side. An angled stance, low contact, a low target and a big follow-through with the exaggerated racquet point into the corner after contact helps add the inimitable reverse pinch spin. Know that, if this off side reverse is left up, your follow-through out toward the sidewall behind you leaves you at a coverage disadvantage both further from center court and finishing the stroke by moving away from center court. So positionally plan A is shoot forehands on the forehand side and backhands on the backhand side. But the reverse is nasty and it can get you a big winner when the ball is right there to execute your inwards pulling reverse pinch stroke.
All of these killshots, when practiced, can be lethal options to be turned to when you have opportunity to shoot them. If they’re not practiced, you’re left with just a passing shot attack. Passes do move your competitor, but they don’t often take the racquet out of their hand.
• Low Contact Serve Drilling – That same reasoning goes for training up your serves, including your Z, jam, crack-out, of course your multi-angle drives and your lobs, too. Not practicing relegates you to hitting drive serves where you say to yourself, “I hope this is good”, as you can only go for a back corner. And, if the first serve is fault, your unpracticed off speed second serve lob may look faintly like just an effort to put the ball in play. Moral: PRACTICE! Drill your serves like you do your shots and the strokes that make them both, while making placement accuracy the primary objective to make your serves and shots trustworthy.
• Low Contact Serves – Low ball contact is used for harder hit serves called drive serves. Simple drive serves are meant to cross the short line and bounce twice before the back wall in a back corner. Also, low contact may used for off speed drive serves which are struck more softly or with finesse. These off speed drives are meant to throw off the receiver’s timing due to the speed change. The main intent is also to keep these touch type serves from bouncing and popping off the back wall for an easy shot or *setup* for the receiver. Their placement and dual corner targeting makes them difficult to return.
Most low contact drive serves are hit directly to a back corner. A drive Z serve is directed into the front wall in one of the front corners to a target about 4′ from the sidewall causing the ball to then angle across the court into the far, back corner bouncing on its way. A drive serve motion is also used for a jam serve. The jam strikes the front wall a little over halfway between ball contact and the far sidewall causing the ball to carom off the sidewall closer to mid court and then veer directly into the receiver’s body crowding and jamming up the receiver’s stroke. One slightly more demanding serve on placement accuracy is the crackout drive. Most crackouts are served from over close to the sidewall targeted. An inside out swing motion and an attempt to angle the ball so that it strikes its front wall target that’s just a smidgen over halfway between ball contact and the near sidewall causes the ball to cross the short line and hit the crack between sidewall and floor. Hit right a crackout rolls out or just bounces way up near the short line. Crackouts further back along that sidewall are rarer. Crackouts behind you on the sidewall can also be effective with drilling and across your body action. A liability of the crackout behind you is it leaves the ball behind you causing you to block the legal crosscourt pass to the back, far corner. Being either quick to move or accurate are reasons to practice hitting the serve and how to clear out of the way as a tendency you want to acquire via many self correcting repetitions .
• Low Contact Swing Volley – Sometimes you must swing thru with your compact motion contacting the ball right out of midair as the ball shoots thru the middle of the court almost passing by you as you turn sideways or as the ball is dropping more softly off the front wall before bouncing. The 2nd low contact stroke for midair contact is called the swing volley. A swing volley is a very short, very explosive Quick-draw (fast prep and faster swing thru) motion producing countering pace and spin, with topspin being a good result, but accuracy being most important. A swing volley is usually used for a one-wall shot playing the ball toward one back corner or the other.
• No Tennis-Type Volleys, But Flick Re-kills Work – The swing volley isn’t like a tennis volley where you see a player at the net knocking off an angles volley. A tennis volley motion is not as effective because a racquetball doesn’t react well to a short, stiff-wristed punch volley motion and the smaller, lighter racquet doesn’t volley effectively except over a very short distance within just a few feet of the front wall. On the other hand, a low, very short flick swing for a re-kill of a left up kill-shot by the competitor is very doable. The flick re-kill skill is worthy of much practice. To drill, get up closer to the front wall, bump the ball low into the front wall or sidewall, move and you take a very shot backswing and flow thru the ball with a short, but solid swing looking to re-kill or roll out the left up missed kill-shot.
• Low Contact Short Hop – A very challenging 3rd low contact stroke is the short hop. A short hop is the very short motion of taking the racquet back very low right behind where you see the ball is about to bounce. Then, right as the ball is bouncing up off the court you hood or bevel the racquet head to angle and close the racquet face to point it down to the court out ahead of you. Take the ball right after it bounces with the short, but non stopping swing thru. A short hop is used in a mid court rally. It’s also used when moving past the broken safety line right after a lob serve bounces to very aggressively attack the lob and short hop your return to place a pass or pinpoint a low killshot.
• Being Well Equipped —> You realize the importance of having your own gear and being very comfortable with your equipment. You must pick your own racquet, glove, court shoes, and goggles or eye protection. You’ll find that beyond the local sports stores there are several racquetball equipment websites that allow you to order gear and also request loaner racquet’s to try out up to three at a time to check out how they feel in your hand and how the racquet feels when swinging and making ball contact for your shots. Also, local, experienced players and teaching pros are an excellent source for equipment advice. Later in Racquetball 101 there’s lots more advice on picking the right equipment.
• When To Practice And Who To Play -Clubs are usually busy right after work weekdays, at lunch, early mornings and on Saturday mornings when it’s tough to get to play other beginners or more importantly, to get court time to practice by yourself. Other times of the day, like weekday afternoons, afternoons Saturday and all day most Sundays courts are more available. By routine on court practicing, investing in a lesson or two, and lots of Internet study you can get ready in a few weeks to start playing. First, you’ll start by playing the club regulars. Try to play players at different levels. Even topnotch players who travel and play other elite players, as well as compete in local or bigger tournaments, will play you, but get ready to take your lumps and learn a lot. Try to avoid it, but don’t be surprised if you hear yourself say, “Take it easy on me”.
As you face tougher competition, you learn lesson in the value and power of playing experience. In the early games that you’ll play you’ll get many tips from your competitors. Be a sponge. Take notes. From the valuable information, begin to build your training plan, your own swing thoughts or keys like, “Watch the ball”. “Move your feet”, and also collect tactical reminders to yourself, like “Get out of the box” (after serving). Also build game plans with strategies you like such as, “Hold in to the middle” and the tactics, like key shots and positioning, to put your strategies into good effect. One biggie often overlooked is practice your serves. Most players don’t. And, if you drill a few serves and get them down pat, you may count upon your deliveries in games and their accuracy will be better. Practicing beats trying new serves or hoping to take and make your regulars with slight tweaks when only under the intense broiler of competition.
• Off Court Train, Too – Racquetball can become your answer to quality exercise and staying in pretty good shape. Additionally, off court training avoids injury from overuse, a common ailment of very frequent play. Also, certain body parts still don’t get fitter on court. Examples include your core, back, the arm that doesn’t hold the racquet and the non racquet side of the body that gets less action from one-sided swinging. Also, additional aerobic exercise augments the anaerobic qualities of racquetball that provinces demanding short bursts of intense activity.
• Game Tactics Scenarios – Here’s how the game works. This is a description of singles where 2 players are pitted head-to-head against each other. Player one (P1) serves the ball while standing between the first 2 lines from 15-20′ back from the front wall. Player two (P2) waits behind the broken 3rd line to return the serve. Once P1 serves the ball, the ball may only be allowed to touch the court floor one time (and that’s optional as midair contact may be made after the ball crosses that broken line on the serve). P2 is responsible for returning the served ball to the front wall. Once P2 connects with the ball their return can hit any combination of walls and the ceiling as long as it touches the front wall before hitting the court floor.
• The Rally – Once the serve by P1 is returned to the front wall by P2, the rally has begun and P1, the server is now responsible for returning the ball to the front wall. P1 may only allow the ball to touch the court floor once (unless, again, P1 optionally hits the ball before it bounces or take the ball right out of midair).
• Scoring – Only the server can score. If the server, P1, faults, a second serve remains. Faults include: 1. (short) serve is where the serve on the fly doesn’t cross the 2nd line, the short line midway back in the court; 2. (3-wall) is when the ball strikes more than one sidewall before being able to bounce in the back half of the court; 3. (long) is when the served ball carries on the fly from the front wall all the way to strike the back wall, including after contacting one sidewall; 4. (screen) serve is when the served (or rally) ball is unseeable due it to passing so close to the shooter that the competitor behind them is screened from seeing the ball until it’s well past the short line. A screen is solely the receiver’s call in a match officiated by the two competitors; 5. (drive serve line violation) is when the racquet, body or ball being served cross the line that’s 3′ out from the sidewall. —> After a first serve fault, should another fault occur, like, for instance, the server not checking the receiver’s readiness before serving, then P2, the receiver serves. With the change in servers, during the ensuing rally, if P1 fails to return the ball to the front wall, P2, the new server earns a point and keeps serving. Now that you know the basics, here’s what it takes to thrive in a rally.
• Where to Position Yourself – Racquetball is a game of much strategy. Geometry, physics, athleticism, and quite a lot of mental intuition all tie in together to make a great player play great. To tap into all of these facets, you must first position yourself well to allow you to cover the court and perform at your very best.
• Favored Center Positions – The two center positions in positional play are center court in the middle of the court during rallies and center deep in the backcourt when returning serve.
• Rallying Positioning – The center position or center court or center is the spot to move to aggressively, as the competitor moves to shoot. After every time you shoot center is your home base and your next stop. Center is between the shooting competitor in the back 1/4 of the court and the opposite front corner into a position which allows the required straight in shot and the shot across the court to the far, back corner, while legally, strategically taking away that cross corner shot that would be very difficult if not impossible to cover. If a player is too deep and off to the far side, that would mean the cross corner shot is open. Getting between the ball and the opposite front corner is a movement high priority.
When the competitor is shooting a ball further up in the court your coverage plan is to move into the part of center court that’s available to be closer to the front to cover the shot by the competitor and to pressure their shooting, top. From center you can move to and reach most any part of the court quickly. As your competitor commits to shoot the ball to the front wall, you release to cover the shot you see happening by watching them cover and get ready to shoot. When 2 players are in the midst of a rally, it is a constant battle to hold on to center. After it’s wrested away by your competitor, your object is to move and shoot to place the ball in the least covered corner of the court and to also move to retake center court.
Every opportunity to shoot is both to keep the competitor from covering your shot and also avoiding shooting shots that are easily covered from the center of the court. That’s why passing shots to the back corners and ceiling balls are tactically chosen to keep the cover player out of the middle. Then, when opportunities to shoot winners arise, the front court should be attacked with your kill-shots or passes pinpointed to pass the competitor by.
• Positioning to Obscure the Reverse -The central position is not just in the middle of the court equidistant from the right and left sidewall. It is between the ball being played by the competitor and the opposite front corner. Simply stated, “Take away the reverse pinch”. The central position is very close to the dashed line at about 25′ back from the front wall in most rallies. If the ball is deeper or the shooter is a power player, positioning just behind the broken line is center.
• Rallying Depth – Because of the velocity the ball usually has when it hits the front wall and rebounds out, being too close to the front wall in the center or too far in front of the broken line reduces by too much the amount of time you need to react as the ball comes back into your field of play. Being slightly back from the middle of the court increases the amount of time you have to react, read, track, shot pick, prep and forward swing. Yeah, that’s a lot to do. Stand at about the dashed line and be ready to dash to where you read the ball is going as the competitor commits to swing by starting their forward swing and then break to the spot you read as where their shot is headed.
• Rallying While Circling to Center Court -> In match play, return to center after each time you hit the ball by moving in a little semi-circle, even to share a part of center court with your fellow competitor when your shot ends up in part of center court. It is best to position yourself to counter the competitor’s next shot by being as close as you can to the center, but not so close as to be within the competitor’s racquet follow-through, especially for the bigger potential swing of the backhand. A 4′ radius swing from the shooter’s body is a good guideline for keeping your safe spacing.
• Controlling the Center – Rallying and good shot placement – Being in central position is how you position yourself to win a rally. Know though that you’re not the only one trying to win the game. In order to execute your keep-the-center strategy you have to be able to make sure you’re the one doing it more often or the one able to consistently take and keep central position. Assume your competitor is tactically experienced and every time you hit the ball expect that they’re in your central position, as you make contact. Your goal is pull them out of that favored position with your purposeful shot-making. Racquetball players covet control of center court. The moment they leave the center, they are no longer in strategic control unless they’re going to the box to serve. Of course when you’re setup to shoot a winner, even with their being in prime position in center court, you can render insignificant when you make-your-kill-shot.
• How to Move Competitor Out of Center – To pull someone out of the center, in the simplest terms: (a) hit a ball that pushes them way forward; or (b) hit a ball that moves them sideways; or (c) hit a ball that jerks them back in the court; or (d) move them sideways AND deep, as just sideways may be too easily covered and punished. —> If P1, the server, has to run to the back of the court to take their shot and they remain in back, where would you think P2 should hit the ball next? … If you answered, shoot a low shot placing the ball in the front court, you are correct. Not only does this cause P1 to take an on-the-run, ideally tougher shot because they began by being out of position in deep court, they also are making their long getting run forward for another benefit for them to have to run more. Once a player runs enough they begin to tire and their level of play may suffer dramatically. As athletic as a player may be, if they run more than their competitor, it’s highly likely they are the less experienced player and they may become the tireder player, too. An exception is when you have two very skilled players playing each other on the same level. At that point, it may seem that nothing either player does will work for one to get the upper hand over the other. Is it now time to get physical? Or is it time to play by using their minds and tactical movement and shooting.
• Change the Rally Dynamic – As an example of controlling the game, think about an experienced player standing in the center controlling the ball while the less decorated player runs to every corner of the court chasing down the placed balls. Are you beginning to see how pure athleticism may just get you a fuller tour de court, as that tourist player, if you play without a strategy other than grip it and rip it? Every shot you take should be designed to pull your competitor away from their comfort zone, even when you are able to just gently tap the ball into an open lane or corner or when cranking a heater up the middle looking to rush the center camper. Know that balls angling off a sidewall into the body of the competitor is a good Plan B. It’s not about sheer power. It’s about strategy and shot placement to use the tactics promote your strategy.
• Attack Weak-link – Every racquetball player loves an opportunity to draw back and give the ball everything they’ve got. To be on the receiving end of a blasted ball is not a lot of fun. Since the ball is moving much faster it decreases the cover player’s reaction time to think and prep. Even if the blasted shot isn’t perfect, the pace alone is numbing for the receiver. It’s mentally daunting to play a flame thrower shooter. One of the best ways to keep your competitor from delivering monster hit after monster hit is to constantly hit the ball to their weaker side which is often their backhand. For example, a right handed player would prefer the ball be to his right where he has the most power to swing his forehand. If the ball is on his left, he has no choice but to reach his right arm across his body and then bring it forward in what is for most (or way too many) a much less powerful stroke. Now, with the Top grip and other nuances, including a bow-shaped arm looped back across the body and the spiral windshield wiper snap form, the backhand can become a vaunted weapon where players will have to spread their shot selections around and go for more move um tactics while using all 4 corners VS an all out isolation attack on the backhand.
• Spread Out Attack – Keep your competitor out of the center, constantly on the run and forced to return balls that jam their backhand (because it’s more jam-able) or moving them to their least covered spot in the court. Optionally move them to a spot in the court where you’ve noted they miss more than make as a result of your paying attention, observing, making mental notes and saving that key knowledge for just the right moment to go to it and place intense positional pressure on the competitor.
• Returning Serve from Deep Center – The central position to return serve is just a step out from the back wall. It’s facing front from the middle where you’re able to turn and almost be able to touch the back wall with your extended arm and racquet.
• Return Positioning – Being deeper behind the broken line increases the time you have to protect and defend the corners as the receiver of even a photon, Super fast drive serve. When returning lobs, sliding forward to attack the lob is tactical aggression and can be balanced with dropping back into the deep corner under the ball and deciding:
(1) lift to the ceiling;
(2) shoot high to low; or
(3) if it will, allow the ball to pop off the back wall to shoot the back wall setup.
• Natural Shot Selections – A factor often overlooked is, “Where does the ball want to go?”. Here are 4 examples of natural shot choices that work:
(1) When the ball hits high on the front wall, bounces, carries to the back wall, pops far off the back wall and floats along an angle directly at say the right front corner, a corner shot into the right corner or near corner pinch is very doable and a natural choice. It’s more natural than say trying to force that ball down along the right wall as a down the line (DTL). It’d similarly be tough to impose a crosscourt passing angle to the far, back left corner.
Also, know your competitor is most likely hedging over crosscourt to your left as you move forward on one side. Simulate the shot by striking a ball that hits a few feet high on the front wall, bounces, then hits the back wall and pops of all the way into the middle of the court and floating toward one corner or the other. Run with it, while picking your shot to shoot. Try the pinch, the DTL and the crosscourt and see which one is natural for you.
(2) Another situation is the ball hit by the competitor crosscourt with considerable pace. It would be much easier for you to move to cover and hit the crossing ball back across the court to where it originated rather than completely change the ball’s angle and force a DTL. You would have to muscle the ball and do some special racquet head control to redirect a very challenging crosscourt into a DTL angle, while keeping the ball from contacting the near sidewall on the way in or coming back out. Tactically the player shooting the crosscourt to you is most likely moving to the center court after shooting their crosscourt. A V crosscourt or 45 degree angle shot across the court to the far, back corner could work. And a wide angle pass (WAP) shot that would hit the front wall and then strike the sidewall beside the crosscourt shooter now turned defender would definitely wrong foot them. Wrong foot means it’s hard to reverse your field or go back the other way after moving in one direction and then having to stop and change direction to go back the complete other way. With a practice partner or a racquetball machine feeder, move from center to field the crosscourt vectored ball and try responding with both crosscourt and DTL shots and learn to do both and note how much more natural it is to send the ball back where it came from.
(3) Another natural shot selection and a stubborn mindset to overcome is to adapt while moving and covering a pinch VS preselecting your response or having a canned go-to shot. The adjustment could be made when either catching up to the competitor’s pinch after:
(a) the pinch hits the initial sidewall, then deflects and caroms off the front wall, and then bounces where you catch up to it as the covering player before it reaches the other sidewall; or
(b) the pinch stays up and after the bounce it carries to and pops off the second sidewall and it’s tracked down by you, as the cover player, by backing up away from the ball coming at you off the sidewall.
The response that works in both situations is to shoot for a sidewall target just ahead of ball contact and a little lower on the lower on the sidewall. In either case, the natural feel choice is to go for this trickle splat. The ball wants to go into a slightly lower, just out ahead sidewall target, with an inside out stroke motion that will make the ball curl into the front wall with sidespin into the front wall causing the ball to hug the front wall. And it’s not repinching a pinch which is a real bugaboo for many 20th century mindsets. The canned response is to shoot an unnatural, forced down the wall shot for a highly probable skip. The spin to overcome is substantial. A backup plan is a crosscourt pass. A reverse pinch into the other front corner is plan C. Drawing the ball in on your strings and powering a DTL pass is a risky, last choice option. Try it and you’ll see by having a practice partner hit pinches you cover.
(4) One more example of a natural shot that sets itself up very nicely for your success is a high slower moving ball popping softly off the back wall and angles to fall invitingly toward one sidewall. Many would say go DTL. That’s possible, although the potential for catching the sidewall on the way to the front wall or on the way back is a very real possibility. A well-practiced, glancing shot deep off the sidewall is very much make-able shot which is very difficult to cover. When your competitor is back deep closer to you and hedging over to cover your possible DTL, the deep court splat is ready made to place the ball far away from their coverage positioning. An inside out stroke motion and selecting a target a few feet in front of contact and a little lower on the sidewall than contact makes the splat action work in your favor.
The moral for natural shot selections is quickly read where the ball wants to go while determining if you’re going to allow the ball to get its way or based on the competitor’s positioning you see they’re covering the natural shot and you adjust and change the ball’s angle with solid contact and racquet face control by angling the strings and adjusting where the strings strike the ball to change the incoming shot’s angle. It takes practice.
Drilling examples include:
a) from over on one side in the middle of the court hit yourself a ball that angles to you from out of the far front corner. To do this, shoot front wall first pinches back toward you; or
b) from mid court on one side, hit a low around the wall ball (ATWB) into the sidewall just out ahead of you so the ball angles into to far, front corner, front wall first and then caroms into the sidewall and then angles towards you bouncing on the way.
c) Fielding either the front wall first reverse pinch or low ATWB requires quick feetwork movement and just as quick mental reactions to produce improvised shotmaking with either that side’s primary stroke or spinning and using the off stroke, like a backhand on your forehand side. As soon as you feed yourself the ball, get on your toes and get ready to move and pick your shot, your stroke, and then prepare the stroke for that shot while you position yourself behind the spot where you plan to attack the ball at your contact point.
Assess your shot and then repeat the drill. Try some trickle splats, 3-wall balls, near corner pinches, reverse pinches, cross-court passes, and changing the angled, spinning balls into shooting DTL’s.
• Choose Your Gear Very Carefully – One of the most important things you can do to be a topflight racquetball player is to invest in good gear. Typically your racquet gets the most focus, but other things play a vital role as well, like a sticky glove (or gloves), sticky shoes, a pair of goggles that help your vision and confidence, and clothing that stays dry and makes you feel good when you’re styling it.
• Picking a Racquet – Racquets come in all weights and grip sizes. They’re all 22″ according to the rules. Racquet weights are measured in grams. It’s important you find a weight that is best for you. If you’re a big power player, a 180 gram racquet may be your stick. If you’re a will of a wisp junior player, a 170 gram may be your best racquet weight. If you’re a fast swinger, and you like a head heavy option, maybe a head heavy 160 gram racquet could be your solution to the equation of racquet mass times swing acceleration = power.
Weight distribution plays a big part in how a racquet works for you, too. Players with very strong wrists may be comfortable with the weight mostly in the bottom of the frame or the sensation of weight in the grip handle or a bottom-heavy racquet. Control players may like a top heavy racquet with the weight more out toward the top of the strings. The weight up in the racquet head allows a little quicker swing to generate more power due to the heavier part of the racquet being in the head when ball contact is made. As plan C, some players use an evenly balanced racquet. Finally, for the grip size, the smaller handle usually allows a quicker wrist motion than a big bulky tennis racquet sized handle.
• Racquet Pricing – A top quality racquet can run over $200. For a brand new recreational player, starting less expensively you can get a starter kit with a racquet, goggles or eye protection, sometimes a glove and a ball for about $50. There are numerous racquets made by a little more than a handful of racquet companies to choose from with a wide range of prices and a few racquets in each of their current product lines. Know that, like most things of quality, you get what you pay for. Request loaner racquets from a website retailer or borrow a racquet from a player you know to find the best choice for you and your game.
• Racquet Butts Vary – One little thing that actually is BIG is each company make their racquet handles and especially the very bottom or butt very differently. Try them out. Of course, one aspect of gripping is where your hand is placed on the handle. You may dangle your pinky finger completely off the bottom of the handle. There you’d have more leverage, but also a less secure grip on the racquet. You may place your pinky on the very bottom of the racquet butt. Or you may place the pinky inside the butt. Some handles are thinner running from the top of the head to the bottom and parallel with the strings. Others are more rounded in their shape. It’s ultimately a feel thing, although the grips you use to hold your handle also is significant in determining how the handle feels best in your hand and fingers for your two grips, the suggested handshake forehand grip and about a 1/4 turn grip change to your pointer knuckle on top backhand.
• Eye Protection – Note: Don’t ever open the court door without donning your eye protection. Also, have an extra pair of goggles with you. Hand your spare over to a player without goggles who wants to play you. Just say you can’t play against anyone not wearing eye protection, even if the competitor claims they’re made of cement.
• Peripheral Vision – The best kind of eye protection to buy has a wide field of vision. Thick plastic borders around the lenses tend to cause distractions as the speed of the game increases. Find a pair that allows you to see with your entire eye socket without picking up any plastic borders in your important peripheral vision as you pan your head around tracking the ball with both eyes and your moving feet. Also, it’s good if your eye protection has ventilation holes where the lenses meet the frame. This keeps your eye protection from fogging up once you start moving around and sweating a little.
• Goggles Pricing – For less than $20, you can have quality eye protection that won’t interfere with your vision and performance. For a bit more you can get goggles with prescription lenses to correct nearsightedness were that to be a concern for you. Perfect vision, even corrected perfect vision is huge in a game where seeing, reading, tracking and playing the ball is so important.
• Use a Glove – Play with a glove. Gloves come packaged individually. Leather gloves work with leather handled and rubber grips, too. The importance of a glove is to create strong friction between your hand and your racquet handle. When you take a swing, it is imperative that the racquet remains sturdy as you make contact with the ball. If there is not enough friction between your hand and the racquet, the racquet handle will rotate in your hand. The ball will adjust accordingly, as the racquet head will tweak or angle at contact causing possible mishits, miss-angled shots and real personal frustration. Also, as you prep and begin to forward swing, have a looser grip and bear down or tighten your grip slightly right before contact.
• Racquet Grip to Order – When Internet purchasing a racquet, you can also have your racquet re-gripped to a grip material that experience tells you increases friction between your gloves and handle.
• Glove Pricing – For around $10, you can get yourself a glove for a good palm grip. For a little more you can buy a softer glove that’ll last longer, too, and give you an even better grip.
• Shoes Made for Racquetball – There are a few shoes made specifically for racquetball. Those are available on the racquetball equipment websites. There are also really good shoes for other court games like squash, badminton and volleyball that are also available on the Internet and found by searching by those sports.
• Shoes with Gum Rubber – Gum rubber soles or bottoms is a common feature of top quality court sport shoes. It makes the shoes more sticky on wood floors where squeaky little adjustments steps, hard pivots, and fast stopping are a must to be a great mover and shooter.
Shoes cost from $50-$150 and it’s useful to know how the shoe maker sizes their shoes so you order the right size. You don’t want to play with a shoe with edges like a training or running shoe. And you want a shoe that gives you good support for cutting and stopping.
• Maintain Match Equipment – Playing with a wet glove is a brain dead move. It reduces friction and that’s bad for a good grip at contact. Change gloves when the one you’re wearing gets even a little bit wet. And wipe your goggles when they fog up or you get drips of perspiration on the lenses, even if your competitor seems put out by your short, although necessary delay.
Leather care your gloves by drying them out after playing, wash them very gently after a couple months of constant use. Mink oil the gloves with just a dab to keep them supple and also do the same for your new leather shoes and they’ll last much, much longer.
Don’t wear court shoes into or out of the club. You want them to last and you want them to have their best traction qualities.
Help Goggles Stay Dry – A headband keeps sweat out of your eyes. If you perspire heavily due to your hustle, invest in a headband. The headband helps with drippage. You don’t have very much time between rallies to remove your goggles and wipe your lenses. Also, if your hand also catches sweat from your arm, wrist bands control that, too.
• Self Pep Talk Before Playing —> Racquetball is a game of many strategies and tactics to bring those strategies to life. Also, it’s tactics to rip the competitor’s strategies asunder. And racquetball is a game of vast experience, both good, when the lessons are well learned with adjusted tactics and form to apply those lessons, and less good, when a bad experience causes avoidance of a similar experience or when repeating a disaster shows little was learned from previous struggles because zero was practiced in preparation for that next time. Prepare yourself as best you can before each battle mentally reviewing your game plan and the strategies you plan to use and your tactics that experience tells you will make those strategies successful.
• Be Thick Skinned —> In order to get good, you have to be ready to take your lumps. If you learn to play with your buddy who has no intention of every mastering all of the skills of the game, that’s fine. Know though that you must move up to better competition to get the greatest benefit of the mental battle and the best in exercise qualities available from the game.
• Be Challenged with Different Situations —> The key to becoming a better racquetball player is to face more unfamiliar situations or different patterns of play (POPs) and invest in learning how to adjust to the unexpected. It’s a matter of how to compensate or correct your responses, tactics and shots with just little wrinkles, like pace changes, added spins, angle tweaks, and court positional adjustments to make a situation easy for you; notice I said easy VS easier. On the practice court try to match or simulate match POP’s to practice how to respond and find the best tactics and shots to call upon when the score is called and that POP pops up.
• Playing the Grass Cutter —> If you have never played a person who consistently manages to keep the ball no higher than a half a foot off the court floor, you will never learn to counter those types of players and shots. And you want to know how to make even the grass cutter player uncomfortable when they’re fielding slightly higher passes, ceilings and higher serves which all will require higher contact making the grass cutter low to low shot undoable and requiring a high to low shot vector be done. And high to low is tougher for anyone to make than a low to low, sweeping stroke motion.
• Facing the Wizard —> If you have never played against a sage senior player who barely moves, but alternates between feathering touch winners and swinging like Babe Ruth, you will never learn how to hit the ball to prevent him from being in position to take and make such devastating shots. Basically nothing thru the middle and well placed DTL’s and primarily wide angle passes crosscourts avoid, again, the wizard’s mid court cutoffs. Serve directly to penetrate the back corners or hit extremely crisp drive Z’s to take away the wizard’s poaching returns. Simply, move um.
• Playing Experience Is Invaluable —> The more challenges, adversity, and variety you face on the court, the more experienced and able to improvise you become. With experience comes thirst for knowledge which encourages training, which provides preparation, which eventually leads to intuition or the ability to react with second nature skills that are almost automatic and foster spontaneous tactical brilliance and effective consistency.
• Be Ready, Welcoming the Unknown —> Once you can predict what will happen next, while also being prepared for even the unknown, you brim with confidence and express your skills with readiness and bravado.
• Long Live the Rally —> Now that you have an understanding of what you’ll be getting yourself into, tick off developing the basics of the game …
1) perfect your grips –>
2) then track down the ball –>
3) then approach the ball –>
4) then set stance and prep –>
5) then push off –>
6) then full body downswing and off arm fold in –>
7) then pivot into ball pulling trailing racquet –>
8) then loop swing out —>
9) then impact zone snap and produce shot shaping magic –>
10) then post stroke recover –>
11) then flow on court with your feetwork –>
12) then center up –>
13) then counter competitor’s shot, as well as their serve, with your contra intuition, using antici-pation and feetwork –>
14) then contraflow competitor (against their druthers) thru stratagem, court savvy, action, patterned repetition, and devastating thoroughly practiced and fire-tested shotmaking, returning, and serving to control the ball, the rally and the game strategy —»» • Be Inspired —> Play Hard! Play Smart. Keep learning and improving. Reach and teach others to share and also to confirm and reinforce your always evolving skills.