By Ken Woodfin

Racquetball Encyclopedia

A – B

Ace serve —> any untouched serve that the receiver doesn’t return or even touch with their racquet, even when they may fan or whiff at the ball, is an “Ace serve”. An ace is a point for the server. An ace is also  an opportunity for the server to serve again unless it’s game point, in which case it’s the winning ace serve. An ace also captures valuable momentum for the server and it puts a little fear in the heart of the receiver that yet another ace may be coming.

Act —> as best you can, “act” impervious, unflappable, and even unbeatable. Much of competitive play is giving off an air of invincibility. Ideally it’s genuine. Some of it may be just acting, but it can be powerfully convincing, especially inwardly. Always act focused and you will concentrate better. Act like nothing bothers you and little will. Act like you always believe you will win and your belief spurs on your effort, discipline, and drive to play your greatest. Bounce around and stay lively and your energy level will stay high. When you act like you’re having a bad time, you probably will. Act like you’re having a good time and usually that results in your having fun playing, by even playing in the Zone or at your peak performance level. Lots of rallies and points are decided by how you approach how you play. Before each rally return to acting engaged, determined and disciplined to your tactics.

Adaptable —> recognizing and addressing what your game needs is adapting. Be “adaptable” to the bounce of the ball, the server’s serve placement, or the receiver’s return of your serve, the opponent’s positioning on defense, and to picking among your shot options. Adapt your assessed skill performance in the now. Also adapt to accumulated fatigue which can make cowards of us all. Be adaptable to changes made by the challenger in the form of curves they throw at you. Your realtime skill assessment is what allows you to raise your playing level to both get better and to adapt to what you’re experiencing vs. not adapting and just succumbing. Always adapt. Never succumb.

Adjustments —> constantly make tiny little “adjustments” in your play. That gives you the ability to react to changes and fix minor blips. Also the ability to make little adjustments makes your game unreadable, with your disguised court moves, altered shots’ angles, paces or spins and varied serves. Making adjustments allows you to call upon your ability to constantly change up. If the challenger figures it out be it your shot, serve or tactic, adjust. Even minor mods or adjustments in your timing, angles, pace, spin, or ultimate placement in the court works wonders. Make constant, measured, familiar adjustments that you routinely effectively make. Practice while making adjustments as you drill in your shot angle curves, pace changes and spin mods. Also, spin in place where you are. There adjust and hit with your other stroke. Then a whole new set of angles, spins and shot placements becomes available to you that now THEY must adjust to!

Dig for your burst of Adrenaline. You have about 3 good bursts of “adrenaline” per day. That burst charges you up, raises your energy level and makes you feel no pain. It’s invaluable to practice with that adrenaline burst to know how to use it once you’re in a scoring contest and you feel that surge because you dug for your adrenaline or you just got fired up, with a yelp or often a verbal confrontation. Learn to control the adrenaline you get to take advantage of the increased energy and enhanced alertness. To call upon an adrenaline burst, either a guttural shout or slap on your thigh will get it going. Note that the adrenaline burst lasts about 20 minutes. The burst may be followed up by a feeling of fatigue. And, again, you have about 3 good doses of adrenaline per day. So if you burn it all up in game one, you won’t be able to tap into it later in that match or later in the day. 

Afraid –> Are you ever Afraid? Fear of the unknown, fear of the test, fear of being popped by the ball, fear of losing… do any of those make you (almost) too “afraid” to play? Often, when you are afraid, you hit the ball more violently. Being afraid may cause you to make mistakes. There you lose control over your ball placements in the court due to fear-based substandard stroking. Fear makes you tighten up and straighten your legs. Depend upon the wisdom of your past experiences and the realization of what works well when and your knowing how to respond to each pattern of play you face with…smooth feetwork; timed prep; proper use of force; tactical shot placement; and follow on court movements to back up (or make up) for your choices or accuracy, after you shoot or serve. Know that being afraid stifles your thinking and natural tendency to take action. It can create situations where you don’t make your decisions quickly enough or your decisions aren’t good, effective ones. Be unafraid to risk failure. You’ll look back and hate the lost opportunities when you didn’t show up, you didn’t try hard or you didn’t take risks. When you feel unready to re-enter the fray, you may become gun shy, as your confidence suffers. Avoid any downward spiral before it begins. Work on what you fear. First, get back on the horse. Get out there and take your lumps. Always, always be about the mindset that you’re going to figure it out. Develop and then trust in your skills. On the training ground learn and come to know more skills technically and tactically. Then, with that knowledge,  there’ll be far less to fear. If you do sense fear, know that everyone does. Take a nice, deep breath. Think about your plan, your effort, your past and your indomitable spirit. Just play hard and always be tactically aware.

When playing against a player with perfect mechanics… —> use a variety of serves and passes “against the perfect stroker”. A strong stroker gets used to what they’ve seen before. If they get comfortable, that’s to their advantage. Often change speeds with your serves and rally shots. Make them try to stroke perfectly while they’re running. Make them hit high to low (unless their perfect stroke happens to be their overhead game!). No back wall setups, as usual, but emphasize avoiding back wall setups against the stroking phenom with your serves, passing shots and ceiling placements. That will then force them to hit from deep court while they’re on the move.

When playing against poker player who pokes the ball around… —> a poker uses your power against you. Hit softer, off speed drive serves and off speed lob serves. Hit more touch passes. “Adjust against poker player” and make the poker have to generate their own pace. They’ll often float their shots. Then you can pounce on their softly hit hanging balls and then crush them with pace they can’t touch.

When playing against receiver who steps directly to side wall when returning serve… —> against a player who moves directly to the sidewall with their near foot stepping into a wide open stance use soft, off speed garbage serves that angle directly toward the back corners. That’s one serve “against player who steps directly to the sidewall”. Also disguise your contact. Sprinkle in jam serves which deflect off the sidewall into the receiver’s body as they move toward the sidewall in an open stance. That will pressure their body jamming returns. Also expect to get popped sometime because an open stance means a lot of cross-court angled shots and some that will go diagonally toward the opposite front corner through you because that’s you optimal defensive position giving up the straight in and cross-court to far, rear corner, but taking away the diagonal shot.

Agency —> release your own “agency”. Give yourself permission to do that voodoo that you do so well. Based on knowing your own skill set and based on your skills mastery, learn and come to know what to do and what you do best. That is agency. With agency you know how to do what you do well and when and where it’s most effective. And you know how well you are doing by measuring this particular performance of your individual skills and tactics against your norm or your own known high standards. Always do that. Evaluate your skills and tactics performance instead of worrying over the outcome of points or games. A game’s outcome doesn’t happen without reaching many, many key performance goals. Ideally improve upon your performance throughout each and every, well, performance by giving your agency wings. As you improve while you play, you finish stronger by playing at your peak level as you close out each game.

Aggression —> it’s natural in the keep-away and put-away game of racquetball to play with force and to depend on overtly assertive actions you take toward the ball and tactically toward your fellow combatant. Primarily focus your “aggression” on the ball and your shot placement. Decide whether you should end or extend the rally by how you strike the very next ball. Save your aggression for the ball versus ever directing it at your challenger.

Aggressor —> as an “aggressor” game style, you are a home run hitter. You spend your time primarily in the back half of the court, winning most of your points by shooting very aggressive kill-shots and very offensive passes. You are not afraid to take big risks with your shots, even when you only sense a slight opening. As an aggressor, you are armed with a very big serve, which helps put the competitor receiver immediately on the defensive. You have incredible lateral mobility that augments your backcourt side-to-side shooter game. If the opponent draws you forward, you’re less effective because you’re out of your element or court comfort zone and you may overhit when striking your shots from further forward in the middle of the court. When playing against the aggressor, change speeds of shots, make them run and hit, and capitalize on setups they leave you off the back wall or left up, overzealous kill-shots.

All-Court’er —> when you are an all-court player, you are a very tricky racquetball player because your game style is so versatile. As an “all-courter”, you don’t have just one shot that you use as your major weapon. You rely on a variety of big shots. You incorporate aspects of every game style into your chameleon style of play. Your goal as an all-courter is to keep your competitor guessing by using many different shots and changing your approach to contact the ball as you manufacture points and manage the rally looking to constantly catch your adversary off-guard. As an all-court player, when you face an aggressor, you adopt a counter pusher style. There adapt into the situation with a counter puncher style negating the aggressor’s shooting style by making them hit difficult shots just out of their wheelhouse or comfort zone. When you play against a more passive defensive player, you adopt a more aggressive approach, but you don’t take wild hair chances, like would an aggressor. You hit shots that throw your opponent off by where you place the ball, by how you spin it, and by how you use vertical up and down placements throughout the whole court and not just the bottom 2 feet of the front wall. As an “all-courter”, spot your competitor’s weaknesses and adapt to take advantage of them with your shots, positioning, serves, returns, and court coverage. You just seem to see so much more than does your opponent. Continuously change your game style and always keep your competitor guessing. As an example, you consider a lob an effrontery to you. One time you execute a cutoff, as their lob gets punished. Next time you might carve up the perfect deep target ceiling ball. When playing against the all-court player, shoot drive serves directly into the corners. Against the all-courter, solve what you can, do what you do best, and be a sponge picking up cues as to their serve placements, their returns and their rally tactics they’re running on you. That way you can react better, play more assertively against them, and win more rallies. Although don’t just enjoy the experience against the all-courter. Take in their strategy and tactics that they implement and note how the all-court player uses time, score, location and great deception. Take advantage of their lapses and anticipate their shots by moving as they swing to take away some of their favorites shots. 

All Out —> to play winning racquetball in its demanding competition format, you have to be able give your very best from the first ball drop to game point. During rallies or from the served ball being put in play on to the exchange of shots that starts as the receiver’s return is being attempted, it’s an “all out” effort as either server or receiver while you’re thinking, strategizing and just purely hustling. You have to build your base strength in progressive resistance and interval training and in on court rally-like extended rally drilling. You develop the endurance to go hard rally after rally through playing tough rallies and by doing sprint work and feetwork training on the court, running stairs, hard spinning on a bike, and even doing sprints in a shallow pool, which builds up your leg power. Build up your wind by doing some aerobic, extended-time endurance training. Also do breathing exercises to learn how to control your breath, how to get your wind back, and how to relax and reload into full lung capacity between and before each new rally. Go all out in each rally.

Anaerobic —> playing racquetball rallies is so strenuous that breathing hard is a requirement. Racquetball has been categorized by some as an “anaerobic exercise”. Like boxing, wrestling, or fast-paced circuit training, you breathe hard in rallies and you’re often short of breath or you play in oxygen depth with less than full lungs. Some theoretically see racquetball as exercise that doesn’t improve transferring and absorbing oxygen. Instead the theory here is that racquetball DOES require LOTS of oxygen exchange and it is very good at developing and increasing your VO2 max or optimum rate at which you use oxygen. Racquetball is great training for any sport, as long as you play wearing goggles, you don’t body check each other (or run into the walls), and you know the rules about what shots to give each other. Play by-the-rules and monitor and control your breathing. Take a few good, deep breaths between each rally to keep your breath or your wind. Don’t let your challenger see you gasping for air. Be subtle.

Angle —> each of the challenger’s serves that you receive, their returns of your serves that you field with your rally shot #3, and rally shots that you track down and play have a dual “angle”. The ball that is served or return shot that is struck has an angle as it first goes to the front wall (and sometimes into the sidewall for rally shot pinches or splats). Then the ball also has an angle coming back out off the front wall (or sidewall when a ball is angled front wall-sidewall). Angles may occur, like after a ball hits the front wall when it may catch one sidewall to then angle off that wall. There, as cover player, you must return the ball before it takes its second bounce. Offensively, when you’re the one hitting a serve or returning a serve or when you’re the one tracking down and taking your rally shot, as you contact the ball you produce the initial angle of the ball off the face of your racquet. That initial shot angle off your strings or the launch angle defines the trajectory your ball takes toward your initial wall target.  Ultimately the launch angle determines your ball’s placement in one of the four quadrants or 1/4’s of the court. Therefore angle control, as you serve or shoot, is one skill set your training checklist must check off. Constantly fine tune your angle control and keep it extremely sharp. Initially selecting the side of the court for your shot (or recognize their shot’s side when they’re shooting), which is BIG. In addition to simplistic one-wall racquetball, like straight in or cross-court angling, sidewall shooting opens up the court to go from pulling the challenger back in the court to pushing them forward, with low sidewall shots. Although, when you shoot low, your intent as you push them up is for their effort to be in vain or moot and to go for naught because your plan for your low shot is for it to be too low to be retrievable. You’re going for a kill-shot as a rally ender. On the defensive side of the ball, it’s invaluable to add to your playing a wide variety of players lots of solo drilling. There feed yourself balls off the front wall and read the many angles of the ball as you move with the ball as it angles back…

(1) off the front wall when taking the ball right out of midair;

(2) off two walls, the front wall and one sidewall;

(3) off the front wall and then back wall on the fly to bounce toward the front wall, when you start at the short line;

(4) off the ceiling, front wall, and bounce on court floor;

(5) off the front wall, one sidewall and a bounce;

(6) off the front wall, bouncing and popping off the back wall;

(7) off the front wall, bouncing, deflecting off one sidewall and then carrying and popping off the back wall, as that’s often a setup for the actively moving shooter.

–> Those are a majority of ball bounce angles you see in patterns of play. Of course, a practice partner can help you train up even more angle reading than you could replicate on your own. Then you can react by developing responding shot angles to the incoming angles with your ball reading,  feetwork, ball tracking, ball approach, stance setting, stroke preparing and shotmaking. 

Angle off on D —> if you place a ball in one of the back quadrants of the court and off to one side, with your…(a) serve; (b) passing shot; (c) High Z shot; or (d) deeply placed ceiling ball…first move quickly into center court. Ideally position yourself between ball in deep court and cross front corner. That blocks the very dangerous diagonally opposite from corner shot. There in center court “angle off” to partially face the front corner up ahead of the ball. Face partially forward with your toes pointing at the front wall and the sidewall between the corner and the service line. Why you angle off is multi-purposed. First, from there you are again positioned to take away the dangerous diagonal angle into the cross front corner because those shots can be irretrievable for you. So toeing that imaginary diagonal line between ball and cross front corner blocks the danger shots, the reverse pinch or long near corner pinch with the off stroke (e.g. forehand on backhand side). Also there you’re well positioned to cover most of the court. You’re primarily positioned and ready to cover THE shortest, quickest, straight in shot or down the wall shot angle by the challenger. Third, you are still able to drop step with the lead or most forwardly placed foot toward the far side of the court. There, as you body pivot, crossover with your trail foot to cover their cross-court shot angle, too. Full on facing the front wall greatly limits your side to side coverage ability. Also, when facing the front wall, it hurts your ability to quickly retreat into the backcourt for deep passing shot or ceiling ball returns into the rear corners. When facing forward, the down the wall is open for the opponent. Were you to full on face the sidewall ball side when the ball is being played cross-court behind you, you’d be locked up from getting to the cross-court ball behind you. Also, when facing the sidewall, it also makes it tougher to go forward in the court. Additionally, when you face forward while standing with one foot extended forward and toes pointed forward that position locks you up from covering the ball on the side where that foot is extended forward. If you’re not angling off and pointing your feet at the front court corner, you’re not optimally angled off to defend in coverage. For an example of the feetwork to cover, when angled off in center court, you can jab step to the sidewall with the rear most foot to the sidewall. Then you can crossover with the lead foot to blanket the dangerous down the wall angled return shot by your challenger.

Angle off to shoot very selectively —> another form of angling off occurs when you may point your feet toward where you shoot your shot. This feet point isn’t recommended when you serve or when you hit almost any of your rally shots because, when, for example, you point both feet in a line pointing at the center of the front wall you’re showing you’re hitting cross-court or when you point at the corner on that side you’re revealing your near corner pinch target. There you are revealing your shot angle to the grateful, alert opponent. Although for one shot it really helps to make that particular angling off to shoot work on your behalf. When you recognize you can shoot a reverse pinch into the cross front corner with the stroke primarily employed on the other side of the court, “angle off to shoot”. Point your feet AT that cross front corner. That feet point along with your decidedly outside in swing makes your reverse pinch stay down very low giving you a very good chance of bouncing the reverse pinch twice before the ball can reach the first line as a kill-shot. Ideally a reverse pinch strikes the sidewall, the front wall and then the pinched ball angles across the front court bouncing twice before reaching the other sidewall. Angling off and revealing your reverse pinch shot angle is less of a risk then because, when you place your reverse pinch low enough, it won’t be tracked down by the angle reading, opposing cover player, even if they try. Now remember that goes for when the challenger is shooting, too. If THEY angle off and point where they’re shooting or serving, pay heed. But know that they could be playing possum, too. If they angle off to point crosscourt, be ready to cover crosscourt, but don’t go too early because they could be throwing you a fake. Your early move could alert them to your plot. Then they could switch up and strand you with a shot along the side they’re on. Now if they angle off to shoot into a front corner as a near corner pinch or reverse pinch, take off with their arm swinging forward to cover their pinch. Sometimes, when they angle off with their feet, it’s revelatory or they’re raising a signal flag saying “I’m hitting it there–>”. At times an apparent angling off may either be just an over-closed stance or they may be hitting from an overly open stance. Serve stances are more deliberate. For yourself, when shooting other than reverse pinches employ primarily straight in stances where then you can shoot straight, crosscourt, or shoot into your near sidewall targets for your sidewall shots, including near corner pinches and splats. In all of those cases you hit with the unrevealing stance with a neutral motion.

Practice different Angles —> it’s big tactically to have the ability to broadly “vary your angles” when you serve and when you hit your rally shots. First, you want to be hard to read. Second, you want to be able to place the ball with versatility so you have more options to choose from to respond to the many varied patterns of play that you encounter in match play. Third, by developing angles you concentrate on shaping your shots vs. just hitting the ball with no plan in mind. That mental then physical shot shaping helps you make fluid, purposeful swings to make shots you first and continuously picture as you shape your shot. You want to initiate patterns of your own that are favorable to you where the angles are hard for the challenger to cover. Obviously the ability to face either sidewall and serve in front of yourself so the ball veers into that near, rear corner along that sidewall places intense pressure on the receiver to compete with the sidewall just to keep your serve in play. To achieve the down the wall angle, shape it with a slight inside out swing motion and front wall targeting just under halfway between ball contact and the sidewall you face which sends the ball into that near, rear corner, while nearly paralleling that sidewall. Add to that down the wall serve the ability to angle a serve to “crack-out just past the line” where your serve rebounds off the front wall to strike the sidewall very low just past the short line. That versatility leaves the receiver stranded in the backcourt primarily concerned about guarding that back corner. In rallies, when facing the sidewall, the same kind of down the wall angle for a shot into the near, rear corner forms a cursive letter “i”. From contact, with a sidespin inside out swing motion the shot curves in to the front wall and then the ball curves coming back out off the front wall angling toward the rear corner. That shot placement tight in along the wall makes the cover player challenger have to assume a very defensive role. For serves or rally shots they have to deal with the sidewall to scrape back your down the wall ball. Cross-court serve and shot angles also include placing the ball so it will Robin Hood the far, rear corner right in the corner. In addition, it’s possible, when serving, to go for the short crack-out behind you when swinging across your body. But, with the swing motion crossing in front of you, even just a little bit of a left up attempted crack-out can place the ball directly behind you. Then you’d be in the cross hairs of the receiver’s cross-court return or possibly even their straight in shot, when the ball pops of and ends up right behind you as they’re making their return. That’s the case unless say you time your jump over their return. It would be very tough for you to clear quickly enough to the far side. So your objective is a crack-out rollout off your crosscourt targeted sidewall as your Plan A. As a different, artful option, when you hit either behind yourself going cross-court or in front of you going down the wall, look to bounce the ball deep along the sidewall (at 2/3’s court) so the ball then glances off the sidewall. That slows down the shot (or serve) causing it to takes its second bounce right up against the back wall ideally just short of popping off the back wall. That angle option gives you one more delicate angle in your repertoire. Now all of those are placements are when angling the ball off the front wall. Additionally there’s a huge number of shot angles into the sidewalls.

–> Notice that all of these angles and angles off the front wall are NOT straight in and coming straight back out to your big toe. Instead you’re angling the ball to pressure the challenger to have to move and hit on the run, as Plan A, where you want to hit and then move to your best position in center court. NOT hitting the ball back at yourself is part of your keep-away shot angle placements so that when you hit the ball it is not placed right next to you so you’d be in the way, having to get out of the way and possibly having to give up tactically favored center court  positioning.

Sidewall shot Angles —> sidewall shots include…

(1) extremely tight pinches when hitting with a stroke into its corner, like shooting a near corner pinch with your forehand into your forehand front corner going sidewall first or less often front wall first;

(2) add to those pinches near sidewall splat shots into multiple sidewall target spots on the sidewall you face. The splat sidewall target depends on how far the ball is from the sidewall and how high you choose to make contact, as your splat hits the sidewall well back from the corner and lower than where you make ball contact with the target on the sidewall up ahead of you;

(3) also, when hitting into the cross front corner with your off stroke, like when you shoot into your forehand cross front corner with your backhand, that is a reverse pinch that’s a tougher angle to cover, but it must be hit very low with outside in spin and an across your body stroking motion;

(4) additionally there are the 3-wall shots when you hit into the near sidewall just up ahead of your racquet arm shoulder so the ball boasts to carom into the opposite cross front corner. 3-wall shooting is as an elevated skill requiring great power and lots of reps to learn how to keep the ball low when it comes off its last wall. If the 3-wall shot is not low enough, it hovers invitingly for the defending player to get to and re-kill.

Give 2-shot Angle range —> as the challenger plays each ball, you have 2 responsibilities. One, you have to get to the ball to return the ball to the front wall to continue the rally and ideally exert your influence over the rally’s outcome with the shot you choose and accurately shape. Two, from where the ball is being contacted by the challenger, you have to give up the range of straight to the front wall over to the cross-court angle so the ball could rebound off the front wall and angle toward the farthest rear corner. That cross-court is a V 45 degree angle which means the ball can strike the front wall about halfway between contact and the far sidewall. So basically you give up half the front wall with your positioning in coverage. Think of it as a band of the front wall you must allow the shooter at all times. It’s the “2-shot angle range” from straight to cross-court. Either you must move over toward the center giving up that range or you must elevate over the ball as the competitor shoots under you. But know that when jumping up a good kill shot or pinpointed pass under you is going to be tough to get to while you’re hanging up there in midair. So, as you jump, draw your knees up to be able to drop your feet quickly to cover their shot. Also know that when the ball is in a rear corner and you’re in the center before the opponent shoots from that rear corner, you don’t have to jump over their shot into the diagonally opposite front corner. You will have given them their deserved straight to cross-court 2-shot angle. They don’t get the whole front wall unless you’re late getting into center, which just shouldn’t happen. And the ball you hit simply shouldn’t be behind you in the center of the court. If the ball is directly behind you, you may step in and jump or you may bail to one sidewall to avoid being tattooed. Next time no left up shot in the center of the court.

Angular —> turning force is a major source of force among all of the forces of an optimal racquetball stroke. That turning is rotational or “angular” force. You produce angular, revolving force from your lower body thru your feet, knees and hips. You also rely on your twisting core and upper body plus your shoulders and, of course, culminating in your turning arm, too. That lower and upper body turn adds to your optimal arcing arm, wrist and racquet head in your strongly angular forward swing.

Antici…pation —> when you take a preemptive action, as the defender or cover player, it ideally forestalls a later action by your challenger. With your active move into coverage or when you move to receive a serve or when you move to cover their shot placement, you are acting based on either what you see with your eyes or what you see in your mind. That’s done by observing and reading their shot selection based on where they hit it, how they set themselves to hit and what their track record is there. WHEN is a big part of “anticipation”. If you move right as their arm flies forward when they’ve already begun arcing their racquet around into contact, they can’t change their mind and cross you up. You can fill the court space you read where they’re placing the ball to cover many of the challenger’s possible shots. So that’s why your perception of indicators of the challenger’s shot angle is so huge in anticipating and covering their shots. For example, if you see their feet point in the direction across the court or you note they’re making far out front contact, those are both clear indicators a cross-court shot (or serve) is coming that you can anticipate and move to cover. Also, if they’ve hit one shot over and over previously, that’s also indicative of a time for you to proactively move because you read and anticipate that same shot angle may be coming again. If you see the ball they’ve hit, that’s not anticipation, but you should still take off upon seeing where you need to head, but recall what you saw and maybe next time you’ll pick up a tell that gives you an earlier jump on their shot placement as you anticipate and bolt to cover.

Apparel or equipment dropped on court —> if during the serve and return or in the ensuing rally a player’s equipment, like their goggles or a vibration dampener or their apparel, like their headband hits the court, the call is penalty hinder and a stoppage in play, unless the dropping was caused by contact with the opponent. Here’s the rule: “If a player loses any apparel, equipment, or other article, play shall be immediately stopped and that player shall be called for a penalty hinder, unless the player has just hit a shot that could not be retrieved. If the loss of equipment is caused by a player’s opponent, then a replay hinder should be called. If the opponent’s action is judged to have been avoidable, then the opponent should be called for a penalty hinder.” That penalty hinder results in a loss of rally by the dropsy player.

Approach the ball —> after tracking down each ball to shoot, how you “approach the ball” or specifically how you make your final approach on the ball with your feetwork determines how effectively you will set your feet in your striking stance to prep your body and hit that ball. By approaching with your familiar feetwork form, you select from one of your familiar, historically effective stances that you routinely use to produce effective shots. That final, effective approach allows you to organize your feet, maximize your balance and generate force based on full-body prep, including timed racquet loop up. Get there a little behind the ball and a long reach away. That’s maximal because then you will move into your shot as you also reach to swing thru the ball. Approaching the ball on balance and setting a strong stance allows you to set a balanced, reliable striking platform which encourages a smooth back to front racquet swing where you may control your racquet head flow and how you angle the racquet face thru contact, as you shape the exact shot you plan, imagine, prep for, and optimally execute starting first by how you aggressively, familiarly approach each and every ball.

Appeal —> in matches officiated by a referee and supported by 2 player requested line judges, you have 6 eyes on the play and each player has 3 (incorrect) appeals per game. You have unlimited appeals when one of the line judge disagrees with the referee’s call that you are appealing. That means, when one line judge disagrees with the official, as you “appeal”, by signaling thumbs down to the ref’s call then you still have THAT appeal. If both line judges agree with thumbs up or two flat palms indicating no opinion or one of each, you lose the appeal, the decision goes against you and you have one less appeal unless your appeal is for the final game point appeal when you can make (almost unlimited) appeals. You may appeal anything except technical fouls and forfeitures, which are the sole purview of the assigned referee. Thumbs up could be your signal to the ref that you appeal X infraction. A cagey way to signal is to swing your thumb up to thumbs down so it’s clear you’re thinking it’s a thumbs down situation. If the ref doesn’t understand with just your thumb signal what you want to appeal, you may have to calmly, verbally explain what you’re appealing. Then it’s up to the referee to query the line judges to get their unbiased, observation-based opinion with…(a) thumbs up, when one or both are in agreement with the ref, and with just one thumb up the ref’s call stands; (b) thumbs down when one line judge disagrees and the call would stand, or, when both signal thumbs down it overrules the ref’s call and the call goes in the favor of the appealing player; or (c) palm to floor, meaning that line judge has no opinion or they didn’t see it; and a signal by one judge of palm down and another signaling thumbs down means replay the rally. Two palms down means the refs call is upheld and they may need to pay better attention or the level of of the rallies may be above their skill level. One palm down and a one thumb up still means you lost the appeal.

—> In a make up own mind way, the lines shouldn’t look at each other so then they’ll make their own calls. Again, 2 thumbs up and your appeal wasn’t successful and you lose one of your 3 appeals. One thumb up and one down and you still have that appeal, but you lost that specific appeal or the ref’s call stands. Again, one thumb down and a palm down and the rally is repeated. 2 thumbs down and you win the appeal, the call goes in your favor, and you keep that appeal, too, which is your optimal outcome. Commonly the referee asks spectators to be line judges. Be careful if you see a friend, a doubles partner or a relative of your challenger volunteering to be a line judge, although honesty and integrity are the expectation, right?

Appeal; the final appeal —> in a refereed match, a “match point appeal” allows you to appeal any number of things, even when you’ve already exhausted your 3 appeals. You can appeal things like short serve, crotch serve, skip shot, 2 bounce get, rally repeat hinder, penalty hinder, screen serve, or even whether you or the opponent wasn’t ready to return serve.

The Great Arc —> how you set your feet and loop your racquet back sets you up for lower body forward body arc that starts at the same time as your upper body arc, as the crunching core connects in the middle. Your racquet arm arc feeds off of your one unit body arc that peaks at contact. Timed in sync with the “great body arc” your arm arc climax is epic and demonstrative of the effect of a full body stroke peaking in a potentially highly explosive wrist and forearm snap firing the racquet thru the ball, as you finish with an ugh to add great oomph and continue swinging on well after contact first to target and then on around behind you.

Arm-only —> get your legs into it. By that I mean use your legs to do more than just get them under you. Use your legs to prep and hit, as you ideally swing from a very solid, familiar, routinely effective striking stance. After first facing the sidewall for the stroke you choose, use your legs to initially prepare as you wind back. Then use your feet, knees and hips to generate sideways lateral movement. Building out of that, turn your lower body calling upon rotational force from your knees and hips to boost your rotating arm in your best on balance full-body swing. If you don’t use your legs or you don’t work them the best way you can right before and thru contact, you are most likely an “arm-only” swinger from an imbalanced or just tagging along, unproductive stance. Your ball striking platform could be hips on down a turret armed with a ball firing canon or slice drop shot making emplacement when you still get your whole body into it, enabling it and making your shots surer and more repeatable.

Arousal level —> in a game like racquetball where you literally share the field of battle with your challenger, like when you’re coexisting in a boxing ring WITH your fellow combatant, it’s important as you play to protect yourself and to play with high level of alertness to the bounce of the ball, your court positioning and critically the location of your challenger (or challengers in doubles or cutthroat play). You must even be aware of your own doubles partner to avoid collisions and definitely to avoid anyone being struck by a racquet (or a racquet to racquet clash). Have your own personal “arousal level” where you play your very best. At that level you’re focusing mentally, you’re visually perceptive, and you’re as nimble as you can be movement-wise because you’re ready to move with bent knees and a hustle mentality using your good feetwork that you’ve practiced and you own.

Artistic shot placement —> create a picture in your mind of the trajectory of all of your shots (and serves). That imagery helps you artistically shape the flight of each shot placement. There you’re playing the shot vision you already have fixed in your mind. Then your eyes, body and mind collaborate to produce the flight path of your shot by how you swing and how the racquet face is aimed to send the ball toward its target. Shots, especially like pinches and splats, are ready made for an “artistic shot placement” to create the angle, spin and dialed in pace required to make those shots you initially mentally see, imagine, internally perform, and then craft with your racquet swinging art matching your vision of the shot. Similarly spinning serves and precise service placements are also based on imagery and artful placement just like your shots.

Assertive —> ideally play where you’re imposing constant pressure on your opponent. Instead of just keeping the ball in play, force the issue by making the opponent move. Move them side to side and up and back while ideally not letting them get set to hit their shot. Look for offense versus looking to be defensive. Play inside the court or further forward instead of playing only deep in the backcourt. Make your shot parsing and picking tend toward the aggressive placement that’ll run the opponent with passing shots, High Z shots, and ceilings balls or ideally render their running moot or useless as you hit a put-away kill-shot direct to the front wall, into a front corner as a pinch, when finding a sidewall angle for a splat, or less frequently going for a 3-wall boast shot. Force the action and impose your will upon the rallies from the get go. Be very “assertive”.

Athletic body position —> in a partial crouch with your feet a little wider than shoulder’s width apart while balancing your weight on the balls of your feet, with your knees flexing and holding your hands down low about waist level and your chest up in a slight lean forward, you’re in an “athletic body position”. There you’re ready to spring like a cat. You’re ready to take off from there to move in any direction in the court by starting in that spring-loaded athletic body position. From there you can get to and crush the ball or get there just in time to flick the ball out of range of the challenger. Standing straight up is the opposite of being in “the crouch”. When you’re too upright hoping to move, you first have to drop down and bend your knees to move. Play shorter than your full height in your athletic body position and you’ll start faster, get to the ball quicker, and play each shot more aggressively and accurately.

Attack! —> “attack” by serving off-speed junk lobs or extremely high lobs that bounce far up in the safety zone or high nick lobs that graze the sidewall deep on the sidewall or extremely accurate back corner aimed drive serves. All of those serves work against even the most aggressive and bloodthirsty receivers. Soft lobs not close enough in along the sidewall, off speed drive Z’s, jam serves, and lob Z’s that bounce deeper in the safety zone all beg for the receiver to attack with aggressive returns, as those feed the more eager and assertive receiver vs. containing their aggression. Better placed serves tempt the receiver’s overhits and overly ambitious kill-shot attempts when fielding serves that pressure where they must attempt to attack the ball ideally deep in the back corners or very high overhead at the back of the safety zone by the receiving line.

The Attacker —> as an “Attacker”, you are the pirate of racquetball. You go for lots of winners using a frontal attack relying on your weapons rather than looking to exploit your competitor’s weaknesses. You often hit the ball extremely hard. You also swing volley a great deal, when going for a fly kill from midair contact. After serving, you have a tendency in the rally to stay up far in front in center court where you look to swing volley or even volley, which differentiates you from the aggressor who plays mostly from in the deep middle and backcourt. After returning serve, you quickly rush the dashed line. For returns of serve, you hit lots of kill-shots. Your special favorite is the down the line kill-shot. Or you go for the near corner pinch into the sidewall on the same side of the court where you return serve. You may get frustrated and make errors of commission, like skips. It is important to understand that you hit lots of winners during the match, but you are also very streaky. While making winners, you are also prone to hitting shots into the floor. You may run out of steam when the opponent consistently extends the rallies. You’re not shy about shooting high to low = game style definition of attacker.

Focusing your Attack —> attack as you play the opponent’s ball as you prep to stroke deciding where to place the ball in the part of the court by how you pick your shot and make contact. For example, shot pick and jam the opponent’s backhand angling the ball off the sidewall into them. Alternatively you could serve right down the center of the court to jam their body (and cloud their mind…). Jam serves establish order by ideally insisting that the receiver be defensive. There you set up your chosen pattern of making them deal with your jam serve or shot. With other patterns, you may move the opponent. In rally play, optionally play keep-away with your shotmaking ball placements when put-away rally enders aren’t available. Also a Plan B is to make a frontal assault on one specific stroke or even on one certain part of the court where they’ve shown they’re weaker. Here you’re “focusing your attack” on… (a) a court space crowding their swings;  or (b) hitting to a stroke weakness; or (c) placing the ball in a certain part of the court where you’ve noted they struggle; or (d) perhaps avoid one stroke giving deference to the other stroke where you’re not hitting the ball because it’s considered superior and say a shotmaking monster. Do you have one of those monster strokes? Or do you have two! If you have one stroke they want to avoid and you have another stroke they want to attack, work hard to fortify that weaker or say softer hitting stroke to make it more powerful and versatile. Initially build that softer stroke into being a more than passable placement stroke to return serves when that stroke is focused upon.

Attack mode —> play in “attack mode”. That means, when you’ve got the shot, take it. Attack mode is also placing passes in deep court when you sense, in the now, a rollout isn’t in THIS ball’s immediate future. Attack mode is going to your premium spot in coverage quickly enough where it pressures the opposing shooter just due to your looming coverage (while you give up the straight and crosscourt, too). Attack mode is getting down and ready and then breaking to the ball, as soon as you (see) it visibly or as soon as you read and anticipate its placement when they swing forward. By making an early move as they initially start their swing forward, you can make a great get, or get to the ball and drive a direct pass, or move, set and best case shoot a very low kill-shot or re-kill their left up shot. Attack mode for you could include hitting a second serve drive serve or drive Z serve to avoid a possible offensive return by the challenger off your regular lob second serve. Attack mode extends to every facet of your play. Yet you have to know when to use your attacking force to defend, as well as attack, with well struck passing shots, deep target ceiling balls, High Z shots, and even back wall saves. Even a nick lob could be an attack mode serve contra-tactic which exploits an overly attack mode geared opponent who doesn’t know when to use their attack mode to also play forceful, attacking defense. As receiver, when receiving a nick lob, it’s required to suck it up and often hit, at best, a pass and, at worst, a deep target ceiling ball. Going for a kill-shot after the nick lob drops off the sidewall and bounces up very high when you’re right up against the back wall would be folly. Only an over hit nick lob that bounces and pops off the back wall or an under hit nick that comes up well short of the back wall calls for a kill-shot response. It’s a constant attack mode meter you need to have on your force meter where you choose how to dial it in for each pattern. Sometimes you have to dial it down and exhibit great control over the more challenging of patterns. Going for too much or ramping up your aggression when tamping it down is what is needed is overzealous attack mode. Going for too much would not reflect control over your attack mode game and its powerful, purposeful actions, even defensively. Attack mode is playing mentally sharp, alertly, and aggressively when attacking the ball and even when you’re having to defend and place the ball accurately in a keep-away mode where the challenger has to move to return the ball ideally when on the dead run deep in the backcourt.

Attention to details —> like anything of great importance, details really do matter. Racquetball is the poster child for “attention to details”. From everything beginning with having proper equipment to knowing the rules to understanding the plethora of shots, serves, spins and angles of the game to being aware of where you, the ball and (they) are at all times and where you may move and be, racquetball has it all… rules for safety and fairness; special equipment; and special skills for serving, shooting both offensively and defensively, and to a lesser degree moving because that’s a newly evolving skill set in racquetball. Pay particular attention to the details of the bounce of the ball, the movements of the challenger, and starring my from your center court positioning in coverage with ball tracking movement or from in center in back when playing as service receiver. In all of those facets it’s a matter of knowing the details about how to do them. Those details include: how to position yourself in court coverage, including your body posture and position angling off ball side; how to track down, approach, and play each unique ball; plus how to clear or move after contact to avoid being at ground zero where the ball is going to be struck again. That moving away from the spot where the ball will be and where it is going to be attackable or defendable by the challenger is so you will not be there when you must allow a straight line run to the ball for the challenge, a full swing at the ball, and straight in or cross-court shot angle. When you pay attention to the details of moving, watching the opponent, reading the bounce of the ball, and then tracking down and preparing to move into the ball, you may shoot either aggressively or effectively place the ball defensively to strain the challenger’s own defense, as you D-up in center court allowing and being ready to cover the straight in on over to cross-court angle to pinpoint the far, rear corner, as well as to capitalize on any left up kill-shot or setup ball, like a back wall setup, by the opponent.

Attention to task at hand —> it’s critical you only focus on this ball, this coverage situation, this court movement, this ball tracking activity, this approach to hit the ball, this setting of your feet, or this prep to swing and this immediate gearshift to forward swinging thru the ball. It’s all about “attention to only task at hand”. Thinking back or thinking ahead takes your mind off the task at hand. Taking special care with each action ensures your movements, shot selection, and then defensive positioning will routinely be at their very best.

Fretting Attitude —> don’t let a negative, “fretting attitude” cost you points by dwelling on a past situation. Let it go. Reload. Also don’t get over confident or ever feel like you’re entitled. Every thing in racquetball must be earned or performed or acted upon. Also don’t fret about the next point. Concentrate on the ball. Play immersing yourself in tactically playing your game and let go of any fretting. Don’t worry or doubt. Do.

Outstanding Attitude —> you give your best. You’re dogged and determined. You’re driven and focused. You’re the epitome of an athlete warrior. You’re boosting, stirring, and you want to shoot THIS next ball. You are a self correcting mending coach of your own. You’re a Nostradamus shot predictor of their shot. You battle tooth and nail. You’re all about figuring it out. You’re a problem solver. You’re a shotmaker. You’re a trajectory shaper. You’ve got a great, “outstanding attitude”, as you compete and play.

ATWB —> there are 2 types of around the wall balls (“ATWB”). They are both worthy of learning how to do (so you may field them defensively and so you may hit them offensively). Actually hit an offensive ATWB sparingly because it can be attacked several ways by the challenger. The classic ATWB is struck from deep along one side of the court when targeting up high on the cross front corner sidewall first. There lift the ball up 12-18 feet high shooting it diagonally across the court so your ATWB strikes the far sidewall up near the front corner 6-8 feet out from front wall. That makes the ball angle into the front wall to then carry toward (your) near sidewall in the air. By design the ball then caroms high off the sidewall diagonaling back into the far, rear corner away from where you made contact (as you get to take a breath while sliding into center court). The other ATWB is a hard hit rally shot driven into the closest sidewall just up ahead of you when you shoot the power ATWB from along one sidewall. From about 3-6 feet off the sidewall your target spot is up ahead of you about 6 feet and up about 8 feet high on that sidewall. After your power ATWB strikes the sidewall near you it ideally angles into the cross front corner striking the front wall first close to the corner. Then the ball ricochets off the far sidewall to quickly diagonal back toward where you struck the power ATWB ideally back deeper in that back corner. One liability of either ATWB shot is they may pop off the back wall when they’re overhit. Another liability may be that could  be potentially cutoff in center court after the ball bounces. A cutoff commonly occurs in play with aggressive players. Also, miss directed ATWB’s that hit too close to the front corner can cause the ball to get hung up and pin ball around the front court where the ATWB is very vulnerable to being routinely put-away by a hustling forward opponent. As a defender of an ATWB, one option is to drop back to the corner where the ATWB is headed. There hitting a ceiling ball return or sending another ATWB is possible. Of course an ATWB that pops off the back wall should be aggressively attacked. Often moving up quickly, spinning, readying with your off stroke while facing the ball coming toward you from out of the opposite front corner, the move is to tactically attack the ball right after its first bounce or on the rise is THE attacking play. There a reverse pinch is often a good choice. There any low shot is a good backup plan. With drilling, an ATWB cutoff stroke from mid court is very doable. The key is to very aggressively step up. Unpracticed, like many skills, it’s an adventure to cutoff an ATWB as it angles off the far sidewall heading diagonally back into the opposite rear corner. Practice the off stroke cutoff and it’s very doable; hence that’s why YOU don’t hit an ATWB shot very often. So don’t hit your ATWB shot unless you’re isolating and attacking one side like when attacking one player in doubles. Say you’re attacking a player’s backhand or one doubles player in the backcourt then it’s okay. In singles the hard hit ATWB option allows you to drive the ball very hard rather than say try to hit an off balance 3-wall hope and a prayer boast kill-shot attempt or a last ditch running flick lob shot or an on the run deep target ceiling ball when, in all of those cases, your angle control may be compromised by your being on the run and not being perfectly on balance. Like any skill, practice hitting ATWB’s when you’re set or when you’re moving and fielding a moving ball, as well. After hitting one, play the ball. You’ll note their difficulty and it’ll impress upon you the drill for skill aspect on both sides of the ball.

ATWB drill —> the around the wall ball drill or “ATWB drill” is done by standing facing the cross front corner with your back to sidewall when standing back by the short line and off to that side of the court. There you’ll use your off stroke to angle the ball into the sidewall beside you just up ahead of you. For the drill, target the sidewall just under halfway between you and the front wall. There your sidewall target is about 2-3 feet high. That shot angle into the sidewall near you causes the ball to compress and spring off toward the front wall close to that far sidewall in that diagonally opposite front corner. The ball then ricochets into and off the far sidewall to head right back toward you. That causes the low ATWB to feed out of that far corner right back to you as a feed for you to shoot the ball. There you could repeat the ATWB, as warmup drill. Coming off that second sidewall your choice could be to keep the ball going into the sidewall beside you with your off stroke to hit another low ATWB or another shot. Or you could switch to hit a near corner pinch in that cross corner with your off stroke. Or you could spin around and use the primary stroke when hitting a reverse pinch into that cross corner. That’s like spinning and hitting with your forehand into the diagonally opposite backhand front corner. So choose optionally optimally to pick from among several shot choices. When hitting with the off stroke into the cross front corner as a near corner pinch you may hit the sidewall or front wall first. That’s like when hitting with your backhand from along your forehand sidewall shooting into your cross front backhand corner. Or, when you spin, angle off, and point your feet into the cross front corner, as that forehand reverse pinch may be hit sidewall first or front wall first. There you’re switching to your primary stroke for that side of the court with your forehand on your forehand side. A front wall first reverse is preferable because it causes the ball to feed right back to you so your may continue this low shotmaking, training, warmup, and continuous hitting drill to practice your racquet control. That reverse pinch is one choice of shot and stroke and it may be picked in lieu of continuing to keep hitting with your off stroke as an ATWB into your near sidewall. The object here is to continue feeding the ball around the walls back to you, as you move your feet and pick the shot you sense is the ONE for this ball. In the drill, at any time switch from the ATWB into a near corner pinch or reverse pinch into the cross front corner that’s diagonally opposite you. In all cases, it will result in the ball angling back toward you from out of that far front corner whether your ATWB or other shot hits the front wall or sidewall first. You may keep this ball feed going ad infinitum in your solo rally drilling. This drill teaches you lots of lessons about ball control and racquet face maneuvering. It also drills moving after hitting, as you ready for the very next ball to return it as an another ATWB, reverse pinch or near corner pinch. It’s a good constant motion warmup drill. There are very few of these types of constant action warmups in racquetball that aren’t done from almost 40 feet back in the backcourt, like when striking continuous ceiling balls or hitting pinches in either corner from the deep center of the court. Even a passing shot straight in drill is a tough drill to make the ball come right back to you and then rinse and repeat. There’s one other shot to hit in the low ATWB feed and its a Twooze shot. That’s a T-hree W-all OOZE shot. The ball may be hit into the sidewall very close beside you so the ball heads into the cross front corner, like a very tight pinch, as a kill-shot that hits very low in the corner. The Twooze may hit the opposite front corner front wall first, sidewall first or directly in the cross corner crotch. After the Twooze hits low in the corner, it comes  oozing out of that corner toward you where you may return it (unless it’s a rollout) with one of the many options to keep the drill going. If the drill gins up a ball you can’t keep hitting, just corral it and drop and hit to start up the drill again.

Avoid playing too far back or too far up —> stay just behind the dotted line until your opponent commits by beginning their forward swing. In rallies, quickly return (THERE!) into center court after every rally shot you hit. Get ready to fly from there to track down and hit the ball again. Hitting or returning from deep court and not sliding forward into center court leaves open the middle of the court for even weak, left up low shot attempts by the challenger. Serving and not getting out of the box leaves you too far forward to cover passes or ceiling balls, especially deep target ones. “Do NOT play too far back nor too far forward” on defense while you attempt to cover the challenger’s shot.

B

Baby overhead —> a stroke hit when making contact just above head level and swinging high to low on your forehand side as you partially face forward while hitting toward your wall target low on the front wall (or low on the sidewall and then front wall) is a “baby overhead”. The baby overhead is optimally taken as you’re turning forward from initially facing sideways. A baby overhead stroke is struck with control where placement is of paramount importance. Ideally, when you can, drop back and let the ball drop to contact the ball lower. However, when needed, a baby overhead is a stroke that works well for a short-hop attack of a lob serve or when attacking a soft ceiling ball on the rise right after its bounce. With your baby overhead you may look to strongly place the ball as a passing shot or flick it low into a front corner when making head high contact. Like all movement and stroking skills, practice your baby overheads to have this hip-pocket skill ready where then it can produce greatness on command, even when it’s infrequently required or let’s say when it’s infrequently tactically needed and used. When interrupting and attacking lob serves that are going to angle deep or moving up to attack soft ceilings, it’s a viable tactic to take the ball on the bounce or right after it bounces up. In rally play, if you can, let the ball drop lower and shoot low. That’s usually better than just looking to rush or run the opponent with your baby overhead.

Back —> there’s lots of meanings for the term “back” in racquetball. First there’s get back after serving to capture center court. Uses of “back” include…

(1) the “back” 10 feet of the court is the “backcourt”;

(2) the “back” part of the stroke is its prep phase or its the “backswing”. That’s when you take “back” the racquet and also it’s when you load your “back” foot and hips;

(3) there’s the “back” corners of the court or rear corners where so much activity occurs because almost all serves, ceiling balls and passing shots are all directed there;

(4) there’s the step “back” where you set your rear or “back” foot when starting to set your striking stance, as you initially point the “back” foot’s toes at the sidewall when starting your “backwing”. That sets the “back” of your striking stance with your “back” or rear foot. The “back” foot does readjust slightly before you step up with the front foot to set the front of your striking stance);

(5) there’s the “back” wall that you almost always avoid with your serves after the ball bounces, passing shots bouncing twice deep, or ceiling balls that drop down low on the “back” wall. The “back” wall is uninvolved unless you were to send a wraparound serve to spin the opponent around. Or a deep bouncing power serve ideally bounces the ball right in the “back” corner to then hit the “back” wall causing it to explode out along that “back” corner’s sidewall;

(6) offensively the “back” wall is your friend, as a ball that bounces and then pops off the “back” wall, in addition to going the right way toward your must hit front wall, its parabolic arcing path off the “back” wall is very predictable so you can routinely MOVE and read the bounce to aggressively capitalize on that “back” wall setup by initially moving “back” with the ball and then moving sideways out with the ball to take it where it drops very low just as it gets in front of your racquet arm shoulder;

(7) after serving and making a get on a ball the receiver places in the front court, your tactical thought should first be, “Get it!”. And then the second thought should be, “Get “back”!”, which tells you to get “back” in position in center court to cover the challenger’s next shot;

(8) the stroke where when you face the sidewall and your racquet arm shoulder is on the frontside of your body as you swing forward is your “backhand”;

(9) when you have a lob ball or ceiling ball where you can retreat and aggressively play the ball, quickly “back” up to shoot the ball from “back” deep in the “backcourt” to shoot a low keep-away shot angle;

(10) each stroke flows from “back” to front or from starting the racquet “back” behind your racquet arm shoulder, where initially the racquet flows from pointing up to casting the racquet head pointing “back” to arcing out, around and thru contact and on past contact to initially point toward the front of the court away from the “back” court. After pointing the racquet at your target, keep turning it around in front of you until it points “back” behind your body;

(11) when you catch the opponent sneaking over early to cover and the ball is still on your racquet, hit “back” behind them to wrong them and catch them out of position.

(12) GET IT “BACK” has 2 meanings. One, admonish yourself to get the ball “back” to the front wall when you’re confronted by a tough serve or tough rally shot. Two, coach-speak when you’ve dropped the serve is to then, “Get it back”, meaning return the ball to the front wall and play the rally out to recapture the serve. It’s also means get it “back” through striking a good, move ’em return of serve. That’s lots of meanings for the word “back”.

Back and Thru —> depend on the simplicity of your stroke motion. Make sure you swing contains both a “Back and Thru” phase to stroke completely. The back phase or backswing or take back of the racquet builds momentum and rhythm. That back phase preps your body and it provides (very familiar) racquet prep for THIS stroke. Without that prep you’re playing with half your ball contact stroke motion missing. Although it’s important to note it’s not just lift up racquet and you’re done. It’s optimally set and wind up your feet, legs, hips, core and shoulders. At the same time, prep with your ideal, repeatable, tempo-based loop up of your racquet arm, while your body winds up, too. Then the back phase must be connected to the thru phase or forward downswing by a smooth, hitch-free transition. That’s where too early racquet preparation comes back and bites you. When you prep TOO early, there’s an extended pause between the back phase and when you swing thru. That creates a break in your natural stroking rhythm. A discontinuous motion lacks fluidity. It can produce undershot placements, meaning skips or weak contact. It causes a hitch in your swing and a choppy swing. Only start your back phase or prep when you’re sure WHERE you’ll make contact and WHAT stroke you’ll use. Timing-wise, WHEN your swing back peaks, right away switch gears into your smoothly flowing thru phase downswing, along  with a push off the back foot and arm throw motion. The building momentum creates loads of angular turning force in the swing that’s transferable into the ball. The shoulders turning feeds off the lower body and your core-based full body pivot. Adding that ground up turn into your shoulders rotation flings your racquet arm out optimizing its leverage or arm extension, with its centrifugal force flowing out away from you. Ultimately the forearm and wrist torque or snap calls upon centripetal pulling inwards force at the climax of the thru phase that finishes in a potentially ball crushing contact, with maximum peaking forces. After contact, continue the racquet head on toward your wall target. Flow your arm around in front of you until the racquet head points back behind you raising it slightly in the thru phase’s full, no braking allowed follow-through.

Back corner play —> the 2 back corners on the right and left in the backcourt are a hotbed of activity when returning serve or in rally play when passes, ceilings and overheads are aimed for those back corners. Serves are aimed there. Left up passes and ceilings in those back corners pop out off the back wall as a major shooting opportunities for the offensive player. Learn to be that offensive player in back corner play. For a ball left up out of the back corner, the server still has a setup when they hustle back and ideally shoot their best kill-shot option. Note that the back corners are a square that’s about 8 feet X 8 feet. Learn to actively move WITH the ball in the back corners to get behind and beside the ball which will make your shooting game vault up in playing level. Drill there in the corners often. Hit yourself balls off the front wall into those back corners or toss the ball into the corners to learn how the ball bounces and how to expertly move and play the corners in match play. When a ball pops off the back wall out of a back corner, it is a major setup in a rally that needs to be regularly capitalized on in rally play because the ball is already going toward the front wall as it pops off the back wall. Be an expert at “back corner play”. Learn and develop the back wall setup shots straight in as kill-shots, out into the sidewall as trickle splats, cross-court into wider angle passes, along with long near corner pinches by turning with the ball in the far, rear corner and cross front corner front wall first reverse pinches. You see there are a wide variety of shots available to a versatile back corner set up shooter. 

Backcourt —> the back 10 feet of the court is the “backcourt”. The backcourt is where you want the receiver returning your drive serves, your Z serves and your variety of lob serves. It’s also where you want your challenger playing your deep court passes and rally ceiling balls when making them have to return the ball all the way back deep in the backcourt. Of course, the backcourt is where the back wall and the back corners are, too. That’s where lots of activity takes place with the funny bounces that the ball can take in those back corners. It’s where a ball bounces and pops off the back wall as a back wall setup for the offensive player and defensive situation for the covering player. So train how to leave your serves and shots just short of coming off the back wall. That will pay big dividends in your serving and rally play. Of course, practice situations where your challenger leaves a ball off the back wall which will allow you to make back wall setup shots in rallies where you can score points, when serving, or recapture the serve, when you receive serve and your back wall set up shooting successfully captures the rally.

Backcourt player —> a player whose tendency is to play a lob game and hit lots of service returns to the ceiling is primarily a “backcourt player”. A backcourt player can also be a player who likes to shoot when they’re given back wall setups. Their ceiling balls, High Z’s, and passing shots all make the odds of getting a back wall setup or an offensive opportunity in the backcourt go way up from the opposing player as opposed to when the backcourter is just shooting kill-shots. Ideally you are a well balanced player where you play both ends of the court. If you’re only a backcourt player, you may not follow your rally shots forward from deep court or follow your service returns forward when striking the ball from deep court to then move into your optimal spot in center court. Don’t be a door guard. Drill the skill to hit and move forward. Optimally develop your mid court shooting game and move there very diligently after backcourt shooting, serving or receiving serve. Make it routine to flow into center court every time after you make contact, while focusing on not leaving any ball you hit there in the center.

Backcourter —> as a “backcourter” you are a very patient shooter. As the “backcourter”, you may serve with pace or touch and you may prefer to play long, extended, tough rallies. You counter attack very well when their shot feeds you in any shooting opportunity. When playing against a very solid backcourt player who moves quickly side-to-side, in turn you must be very patient against them. The primary contra tactic against the backcourt player (and coincidentally the opponent of the backcourter) is no less than total domination of center court. When the backcourt passer/kill-shot artist begins shooting from the middle and center court when retaining center court, their opponent is going to have a long, long day. On the other side of the ball, when the backcourt player is outside center court when you’re shooting you’re either there in center or they’re caught out of position in the wrong corner. There pick the best corner of the whole court to lay siege with your shotmaking placement. Note that because of their propensity to shoot from deep court the backcourter positions very deep in center court a full yard or more behind the receiving line. So pinches and 3-wall shots may be too far forward and out of their coverage range, especially when they start in deep backcourt.

Backhand —> the stroke taken when you face the sidewall and your racquet arm shoulder is on the frontside of your body as you begin your backswing is the “backhand”. There draw or pull the racquet across your (chest) body until the racquet head is even with your back shoulder. As the ball enters your contact zone, then push off the back foot and drive your knees and your elbow to swing forward to make contact in front of your racquet arm shoulder. Similarly, when your racquet arm shoulder is closer to the back wall and the ball is closer to the back wall than you are, you’re saving the ball into the back wall and that is also a backhand stroking situation. At that time, were you to have already committed to hit with your forehand, you’d wish you had stayed neutral by holding the racquet out in front of you before playing the ball until you were sure which stroke you’d need. Neutral means not up and not drawn back. Waist high out in front of you is neutral. So neutral means not up, not drawn back, not too low and not too high. Waist high in front is neutral. From neutral you can quickly loop the racquet across your body to draw the racquet head back and up to your non racquet shoulder for your backhand prep.

Backhand overhead —> the stroke that’s the toughest one to produce as a down the wall angle or to even make a diagonally angled shot from say the backhand rear corner when sending the ball diagonally into the cross front forehand corner while reaching up over your non racquet arm back shoulder is your “backhand overhead”. I see a lot of players taking the ball at low and some high contact and practicing long cross front corner reverse pinches. When asked, they almost all tell me that if they can make that circus shot, all other shots will come easy for them. From there, players should practice their backhand overheads down the wall and into that cross front corner. Along with those make sure to drill low contact shots into many more angles. In addition, practice ALL over the court ALL of YOUR shots at different heights. Your practice should include hitting  from the middle of the court (18 up to 35 feet back) along either sidewall and down through the center where you’ll get the opportunity to hit many more shots in games than you will from deep in a back corner as a backhand overhead situation. Players often overhit shots from closer up maybe in part because they don’t practice from their enough. Having that impossible dream shot or getting down that circus shot is okay. But also have lots of routine shots you drill and can make like clockwork from ALL over the court from spots you are in more often in rallies to be a more well-rounded, well prepared, and dangerous offensive shooter.

Back peddle —> retreating as you still face forward and doing so with little skipping steps going backwards is “back peddling” and it’s not optimal. When facing forward and having to back peddle quickly, stepping back with one foot and then taking a little skip step back gets you positioned a short distance back to, for instance, hit a sky hook overhead. Or could back peddle for a rapid-fire open stance stroke. Back peddling is not the best, preferred way to retreat and get yourself in position to make low contact and aggressively shoot ANY ball. If you have time, turn ball side (so the ball is on the side where you want to make contact) to move and position to stroke with your low contact either forehand or backhand stroke. There a crossover with your far or trail foot over your lead or near foot to retreat or go back in the court is your and fastest way while turning and facing sideways. Turn and sidestep only for easy balls where you only have a very short distance to move where you can turn and slide back with your feet to play with time to spare and (still) prepare completely. When going back one step for an overhead, back peddle in that one step drop. That should happen very infrequently when instead you can allow the ball to strike the back wall or you can retreat with cross step, turn sideways and use a low contact stroke.

Backswing —> the prep part or back phase of your stroke is your “backswing”. It’s when you set your feet and initiate your racquet lift up in a loop preparation for your forward swing. Once you’ve set your front foot and you complete your backswing and connected your legs drive forward with your weight you’ve loaded back onto your back foot. Learn to move your feet your way to set them and loop your racquet back at your own tempo so your backswing may right away switch gears into your forward swing to stroke rhythmically and shoot very effectively. It’s not back and pause, pause then swing thru. It’s step, set, back and then thru. Leave out the hitch.

Snowflake fusion Backswing —> your prep is a fusion of each shot opportunity plus your familiar stroking form muscle memories. The size of your form’s prep or backswing is geared to the type of ball you field and time you make by how you read the ball and how quickly you move to set and prep. You may have heard early racquet prep when in reality you get to the ball early. “Each backswing is a snowflake” in that the take-back for every ball isn’t identical. Your drive serve preps are fully under your control and they may be nearly an exact copy of each other because you define when and where and how you’ll serve. As an example of a tailored form, your huge WAP or NAP forehand backswing rally stroke can be drive serve-like, with, for your forehand, a Pro salute high hand, high bent elbow and forearm level with court at the top. There you’re trying to blast the ball around the opponent by either contacting the far sidewall next to them or by contacting the sidewall behind you when you shoot from in along a sidewall for your near angle pass (NAP). Yet alternatively for a mid court exchange when you’re going for a front wall first sidewall crack-out shot, when making contact from just a few feet off that sidewall, your quicker forehand British Salute prep with a 90 degree elbow bend and pointing the racquet straight up and tipping the head toward your ear, palm facing the sidewall, like a Gunga Din movie British soldier salute, matches your shot’s backswing to THAT circumstance, as you go for a rollout off the sidewall or sidewall crotch-out. Or, for your Twooze shot, an elbow thrust back forehand prep or fist punch back backhand prep keeps the elbow low, as the arm flexes and the elbow is thrust back low. But, when facing the far front corner, even that low backswing still transitions to a crack the whip of your arm and wrist unleashing your racquet for your Twooze 3-wall boast shot into the wall at your back when hitting with your snapshot off stroke compressing and springing the ball off the near sidewall at your back to send the ball diagonally into the opposite front corner, which causes the ball to ooze out of the opposite front corner bouncing harmfully way up front. The bottom line is to fuse moment and form to make your unique backswing work at THIS time for THIS ball. It’s key to own the ability to adapt and maximize your form to each game pattern you encounter and size your unique backswing to it.   

Backup —> have a backup plan, backup tactic, backup shot, whole new “backup”

game strategy, backup court movement, backup serve, or even have a backup mental concept that you can call upon when your original plan is foiled by the challenger or you are having an off day with any one of your skills or tactics. Also be ready to change up if your original plan is just not possible in the unexpected pattern (or patterns) of play you find yourself in. Having a backup or reserve technique or tactic is invaluable. Here are a few examples of backups

…(a) when you find yourself retreating along the back wall after hitting a ceiling ball and that long way around circling to center up move may be getting exploited by the challenger as they herd you into the far rear corner and you need a backup play. They may be using your retreat to keep herding you into their trap in the far, rear corner. From there, they may dink the ball harmfully down the far sidewall which is at this point now a long, long way away from you–>so next time instead follow your ceiling ball forward by moving into your shot along that near sidewall and see how their plot will be foiled; (b) if your 3-wall kill-shot that was working so well earlier in the game or match is now being camped on, that shot can be backed up by changing up with say a deep target ceiling ball that is fired up to your deeper overhead target and perhaps the ball drops like a rock almost right on top of them as they’re in the midst of their mad dash forward to get to your expected 3-wall shot; (c) if your lob serves down the wall aren’t “on” that day, consider lifting a high lob Z serve, while making sure to bounce the lob Z well short of the dashed line so it angles to bounce up high and crawl up the sidewall deep in the backcourt to frustrate the receiver’s return attempt, well, twice because they can’t cut it off early or late and they must return it right at the back wall; (d) if the challenger is shooting everything, move further forward in your coverage and be ready to make a trail foot crossover step to hustle into the front court to vacuum up any left up slop by them. Then their low shooting may become less effective. They’ll pass more and you can start running them side to side; (e) if your Zen approach to being calm, cool and collected is not working against this berserk opponent, still keep your composure, although up the volume with your own deep target ceilings, High Z shots, keep-away hard-hit passing shots and still use your artful, delicately placed deep sidewall grazing lobs that subdue even the most berserk of receivers. In fact that may even make them more frenzied.

–> Having backup plans makes you bulletproof when you encounter the unexpected, the bizarre or when you see your own skill is off and needs sharpening or correcting in the now. At that point, change on the fly or shelve that skill for another battle. Instead substitute the backup plan you trust because you’ve practiced it and it either complements or departs from your initial skill or tactic, as it’s one of your trusted replacements.

Back wall —> in an indoor court, the wall at the back of the court is 40 feet away from the front wall. It’s 20 feet high and 20 feet wide. It’s the “back wall”. There are 2 sides to back wall play. One is how you hit serves and shots intending to NOT leave the ball off the back wall after the ball takes its first bounce; so no back wall setups. Two, it’s how you should attack if the opponent does give you a back wall setup, like when you see a ball heading back to bounce and then strik the sidewall with their serve or shot where it then carries to pop off the back wall giving you a very good offensive chance. If your own offensive shot bounces a ways away or even close to the back wall and then it pops off that back wall, know that you are about to setup the opponent. At that moment you should adjust or try to adjust to cover their low shot by optionally first positioning a little closer up in center court, while even straddling the dashed line. Secondly, in future attempts, control THAT shot so it doesn’t pop off the back wall again by using height-controlling Topspin. Other than your wraparound shots and wraparound serves the plan is NO ball strikes and pops off the back wall. Learn that short drive serves are better than long ones that bounce and pop off the back wall.  Leaving nothing off the back wall is why you drill hard with your serves, like you do with your strokes when training up all of your many favorite shots. Design your ceilings, overheads and passing shots shaping them to bounce twice just short of the back wall. To learn to control the ball, use full bore, full pads, adrenaline flowing drilling and practice play to learn to keep the ball off the back wall with all of your shots and serves. There you’re learning to control the intense game energy which comes with live play. Also practice imparting Topspin and notice how that slight bit of over spin keeps the ball down lower coming off the front wall and lower after its first bounce so your ball takes its second bounce earlier before the ball pops off the back wall. Offensively pretty much everything about the back wall should be geared toward capitalizing on any of the overhit opponent ceiling balls, drive serves, nick lobs, high lobs, passes, overheads, or High Z shots. To emphasize that first one, ceilings, it takes guts to shoot an overhit ceiling ball as it pops off the back wall dropping just a couple feet from the back wall where you pick from a down the wall kill-shot, a sidewall splat, a near corner tight pinch or a cross-court kill-pass. When you can shoot overhit ceiling balls that pop off the back wall, it makes your game jump up echelons. Train up your back wall setup shooting patterns for all of your optional shots. When fielding a ball popping off the back wall, MOVE back WITH the ball to a spot behind where you’ll make contact. Be reading the ball’s bounce and tempo. As you read and settle on its key arc popping off the back wall, move out ahead of the ball to a spot right behind where you read the ball will drop. Then move strongly into the ball and shoot very low right as the ball passes in front of your racquet arm shoulder. Back to that ceiling ball example, go back with the ball a little behind where you expect to hit it, bend your knees and rock back. Then, as the ball arcs out, rock forward to swing smoothly thru. There the back wall is feeding you a setup; so exploit it. In fact, EXPLOIT ALL BACK WALL SETUPS!

Keep your ball off the Back wall —> as you hit your rally passing shot or ceiling ball or when serving your drive serve, nick lob, off speed lob, high lob, high Z lob or junk Z your #1 priority for all of them (other than not skipping) is to “keep the ball off the back wall”. The idea is don’t leave the ball off the back wall where you would make the challenger’s job a much, much easier one to return your shot or serve. If your ball pops off the back wall, you’re in a very unfavorable position. To control the ball, use slice to hit your touch ceiling balls. Add some dipping Topspin to keep your passing shots and drive serves down and from carrying and popping off the back wall. Control your shot height by consciously allowing each ball you can to drop lower before you make contact so your shooting is easier when shooting low to low or medium to low (like when shooting from thigh high contact). For higher contact (like from chest to thigh high), practice performing your strokes and beveling your racquet face thru contact, while, again, adding overspin. There are times when you’ll have to shoot high to low or medium to low (from chest high down to mid thigh down to passing shot 3 feet high down to under 6 inches high). The main objective is to control your shot or serve trajectory and avoid dreaded back wall balls.

Back wall crotch —> when a ball hits the floor and back wall at the very same time, it’s a good serve and not a long serve. Then the crotch ball will often make a sticky sound. If the ball rolls off the back wall, it hit the back wall first. It’s a long serve and a fault. If the ball hits the floor a short ways from the back wall, it will bounce more upwards into the back wall. Balls that hit the two surfaces simultaneously will pop up just a little because it hit the “back wall crotch”.

The back wall is your friend —> first, don’t hit your friend. For a ball hit by the challenger that pops off the back wall, make every attempt to get behind each ball caroming off the back wall so you can swing forward toward your must-hit front wall vs. swinging away from the front wall into “your friend, the back wall”, as a back wall save. Only in desperation should you hit a back wall save. Every save you make to the back wall puts you at the mercy of the opponent’s shot choice and placement, while you must defend, as best your back wall save placement will allow. On the other side of the ball, when the opponent either saves the ball to the back wall or when the ball off the front wall goes directly and rebounds off the back wall on the fly or when the opponent strokes a ball that caroms off the front wall, bounces and pops far off the back wall, hustle forward and look to immediately go on the offensive. For example, when they save the ball to the back wall and it isn’t going to contact the ceiling on the way to the front wall, slide quickly forward and look to take the ball right out of midair or out of the air as it drops off the front wall. With your swing volley stroke, go for a fly kill, like a touch sidewall pinch. That’s a solid tactical approach to boss the rally and have a very good chance of winning the rally with one shot, while the opponent is still following through in their back wall save. If instead you were to drop back and take the back wall save after its bounce when you’d be deeper in the court, you’d be playing into the plot of the back wall saver. They could move into their best case defensive position in center court up ahead of you. For a ball that bounces and pops off the back wall after either going directly to the back wall or after the ball bounces and grazes a sidewall on the way to the back wall, like as the result of an overhit Z serve that bounces, deflects off the second sidewall and then pops off the back wall, all of THOSE back wall setups (and any back wall setups) are a prime opportunities to answer the question, “How low can YOU go?”. The focus then should be on moving your feet and shooting the setup. First, get in tune with the bounce of the ball as it’s popping off your friendly back wall. Initially make your move back toward your friend, as you read the ball both going in to the back wall and also read, as you move in the ball’s rhythm, the ball carom as it arcs out in a predictable, coverable curving arc off the back wall. But guessing and just moving to point A where you think the ball is going to pop off may often leave you either too far forward or sometimes you’re left behind the ball where you’ll have to lunge forward to play the ball. Instead the little counter move back or retreat step back with each back wall ball gets you into the timing of the ball, as you read its coming parabolic arc path popping off the back wall. Then, as the ball is springing off the back wall, spring yourself out ahead of the ball with a dual feet flick getting you where you read you need to be before the ball passes you. There you’re set a little behind where you’ll make contact. Even there, be light on your feet just in case, at the very last instant, you might need to adjust slightly in your position or worse case adjust your contact point. Then right as the ball arcs toward you and as it’s passing your racquet arm shoulder and a reach away, flow thru the ball and attack your contact point with your low to low sweeping swing thru the ball. Go for your adjusted to the ball bounce, your location and the opponent’s position when shot shaping the ball path to your selected wall target. Focus on going for winners when your back wall friend feeds you a fat, back wall setup. Then the ball is going the right way toward the front wall and it’s a prime opportunity for you to shoot the ball as low as you can go with shots you routinely take, trust and make. 

Back wall save —> know that sometimes you must save a ball to the back wall. If you have to save a ball to the back wall, you’re definitely defending, but save tactically. When the ball gets behind you or as you’re running toward the back wall or as the ball has gotten too close where you can’t get your racquet in behind the ball to flick the ball with a decent shot forward, then it’s time to commit to your back wall save. Take a quick, compact backswing AWAY from the back wall followed up by a very forceful upwards swing into your back wall target spot. With your hard upwards motion it ensures your “back wall save” ball will rebound off and make it to the front wall while avoiding hitting you on the way. The optimum angle up into the back wall causes the back wall save to go up and ideally strike the ceiling on the way to the front wall. There aim up to a target about 7 feet high on the back wall. Also, a back wall save should ideally be angled so after the ball strikes the front wall the ball bounces and it’s placed in one of the back corners. To accomplish that feat (back wall save placement in a back corner), first, when you have any time, pull your racquet back away from the back wall so have plenty of power to crush the ball into the back wall. Second, when the ball is off to one side in the backcourt and you want to leave the ball on the other side, aim for more center back wall to place the ball ideally in the other rear corner, after it angles off the front wall. If you want to leave the ball on that same side in the closest back corner, save the ball up and straight but give yourself some margin because you don’t want your save to catch the sidewall on the way in or on the way coming back out and you don’t want for it to ever catch you. If, for instance, you were saving a wide angle pass by the opponent that’s more centrally in back, pick your back corner by how you angle the ball into and off the back wall to find that back corner you choose. Whack attack crushing your back wall save hard, but not so hard that your back wall save ball goes to the front wall and then goes on to bounce and carry to pop off the back wall as a setup for your challenger. Always shoot with control, even your back wall saves.

Back wall setup —> a ball bouncing and popping off the back wall is doing most of the hard work for you. The back wall ball is heading back toward your must hit front wall target. There just help the ball along on its way to your front wall or sidewall target. Capitalize on any “back wall setup” with active feet. There read the angle of the ball as it’s rebounding off the front wall. Then honor the bounce of the ball by initially moving back with the ball. Then move out from the back wall while getting into the ball’s rhythm and on its angle by springing out when flicking your feet and moving sideways to get in position. Set yourself a little behind contact and let the ball pass your racquet arm shoulder and drop extra low. Then move into the shot and swing right as the ball is passing your stroking shoulder. That low contact allows you to answer with a very low target spot on the front wall or sidewall. Ideally shoot a kill-shot. When needed, your backup plan is to hit a passing shot. Sometimes, when needed, you could lift the ball off the back wall up to the ceiling when you’ve misread it or at the last second it takes a bad, unpredictable bounce.

NO Back wall setups! —> as a warning or as a reminder or as a tactic or as a tactically understood playing thought or swing thought, avoid hitting balls that bounce and very vulnerably pop off the back wall. Make sure that your serves, passing shots, ceiling balls, around the wall balls, and your High Z’s bounce twice before they ever make contact with the back wall. The self warning or mindset is “NO back wall setups!”.  For serves and passes, adding Topspin aids in keeping the ball from popping off the back wall. Drilling builds your feel. Develop ball control via racquet head control. Thru reps build consistency and belief.

Bad bounce? —> if you’re confronted with a ball that takes a bad bounce and unusually speeds up or a ball that slows down or checks up after its bounce, your response is the same. Once you’ve got a bead on the ball adjust and accelerate your swing thru the ball at contact. You can’t play careful. You can’t push the ball. You’ve got to go for for shot. Don’t back off. Don’t freeze. Step up. Lean in. If the ball does check up, take an extra step into the ball as you attack your contact. A mistake often happens when you take the hovering ball as you are spreading out or lunging and hitting when reaching to make contact. Also, if the ball is a flyer like a ball squirting out of the crotch in the sidewall or a ball bouncing deep into n a back corner and jetting out along the sidewall, speed up your movement, and prep enough to control your contact. As you zero in on the ball, steady up your contact with a firm grip, a smooth, fluid swing and super focused contact.

Balance —> a major component of ball striking is good body “balance”. With good balance, you have taken the steps to set your feet, prepped to swing, and you’re ready to stroke more effectively more often. Then, after you swing thru contact, when you finish on balance, you’re able to recover better by quickly shifting from front to back foot to then move into your optimal defensive coverage (or you may be moving right away to cover the challenger’s return of your shot). In coverage, good knee bend, head up, feet a little wider than shoulder’s width apart and hands waist high starts you optimally balanced to move to offensively play the next ball. Or on balance you can move defensively to clear out of the way of the ball to give the challenger’s straight in and cross-court angles, while you position yourself to get ready to hustle down the next ball on balance ready to once more shoot while retaining ideal center court.

Good Balance —> Keep your weight on the outside of your feet. As you’re poised to move from center court with your feet a little wider than shoulder’s width or likewise when you’re returning serve, keep your weight on the outside of your feet. The resulting “good balance” readies you to move more quickly and aggressively to play each ball. 

Balk serve —> A partial service motion and then a delay before swinging is a balk or a feint, as in a fake serve. Either can be called as a side out by the referee. Here’s the rule: “Any movement of the racquet toward the ball during the serve that is non-continuous and done for the purpose of deceiving the receiver (to fake them out) is balk serve. If a “balk serve” occurs, but the referee believes that no deceit was intended, the option of declaring “no serve” and having the serve replayed without penalty can be exercised.” If you hold up, when say at the very last second you notice that the receiver is signaling not ready, you may get a second chance. But don’t make a habit of it. Check ’em early and then, when you commit, take one continuous swing motion. Don’t fake anything, except faking THEM out with ALL of your rally shots (and serves). That means use disguise and deceit with your form and placements by looking like you’re shooting straight so the opponent doesn’t have a clue WHERE any of your shots are heading.

Ball —> as individual as a player’s racquet or shoes or gloves, the “ball” they choose to play with IS also a very personal and important choice. The red, orange and pink balls are made to be pretty fast. The black balls are the slowest designs. The blue balls are faster than the black balls. The moderately bouncy purple ball is used on one Pro tour. On another tour a black ball is used. The green ball is used on the ladies Pro tour and it’s also used in some USA amateur events, along with the purple ball. Senior events are often played with a black ball. The green ball has a little thicker feel or heavy feel to it. It was voted out by the men’s international pro tour and replaced by the purple ball. Training with the ball you’re going to compete with in an upcoming event is good planning and a way to start to adapt to the conditions you’ll be facing.   

Ball bounce —> as a ball is put in play with a serve, the way the ball bounces or the bounce of the ball or “ball bounce” starts by how the server strikes the ball and then how it goes to and how it rebounds off the front wall. Here are a few examples of ball bounce…

(a) note that it’s not even super easy to take a served ball (or rally ball) right out of midair as it’s rebounding off the front wall when looking to hit the shot accurately and very low as your return shot;

(b) after a ball rebounds off the front wall and bounces how it takes that first bounce is read by the cover player turned offensive player in order for them to effectively return the ball back to the front wall by how they move, match the ball’s retreating angle, track the ball, approach the ball and prepare to shoot BEFORE the ball bounces a second time;

(c) a faster moving ball off the front wall often goes further back to take its first bounce;

(d) a very low ball with its first bounce further up that is moving very fast ball can drive back very deep where it’s playable, but challengingly in the backcourt, even as it’s popping off the back wall;

(e) after a ball rebounds off the front wall and contacts one sidewall, its bounce is affected by the angle the ball takes into that sidewall, as that angle off often matches the angle coming off the sidewall. Also the spin the ball took into that sidewall is compounded by the spin it may pick up from contacting the sidewall. How deep on the sidewall the ball makes contact will combine with the angle and spin to determine when the ball will take its first bounce and second bounce in the court and how deep it will angle back into the backcourt;

(f) after a ball rebounds off the front wall and bounces to contact one sidewall, its bounce is affected by the ball pace and height. If it’s well struck, the ball may go on to pop off the back wall as setup for the opposing player;

(g) after a ball bounces to go directly to the back wall to pop off, it often caroms off in a predictably very vulnerable and attackable way for the offensive player, IF they move to attack the ball while reading its arc off the back wall;

(g) a different bounce occurs how a ball off the front wall that goes on the fly directly to the back wall rebounds out off the back wall jetting toward the front wall where the offensive player must commit quickly to hustle forward;

(h) how a shot bounces after the ball strikes a sidewall and then the front wall depends on the height of the shot going into the sidewall, the shot angle into the sidewall and any spin imparted on the ball by racquet action at contact, and there a sidewall shot usually should be matched by a move forward in defense;

(i) a ceiling ball that is struck up to ceiling so that it then strikes the front wall to drop off and bounce backwards is different based on how far forward or closer to the front wall on the ceiling the ball makes ceiling contact. A deeper targeted ceiling, with ceiling contact closer back to the ceiling baller, drops down much lower on the front wall to take its first bounce further out from the front wall. That makes that deep target ceiling bounce very hard and go back into the backcourt much faster. And the type of spin on a ceiling ball effects its bounce, too. For instance, under spin causes a livelier, often higher bounce off the floor. So the sliced deep target ceiling by the opponent causes a hotter, faster moving ceiling ball. A read of that bounce off the ceiling by you should be answered by your quicker move to retreat backwards;

(j) a rally shot or return of serve that strikes one sidewall near the shooter and then diagonally angles into the cross front corner, especially when striking the other sidewall first in the far corner makes the ball angle to and rebound softly off the front wall as a 3-wall boast shot, which will not come back as far in the court as would a regular one sidewall shot, like a pinch or splat. However, this attempted 3-wall kill-shot may hover or hang there for any challenger who hustles hard to get to the shot after making a long run forward to defend when the 3-wall shot is higher and hanging;

(k) another example of the bounce of the ball is how a lofted ball that bounces and carries to pop off the back wall, with or without contacting the sidewall, gives you a ball bounce that’s a big time back wall setup for you that’s a very makable attacking situation once you learn how to move back and then out with the ball as it pops off the back wall to attack the ball, as it ideally drops very low to where you move to contact the ball very low when swinging with your low to low sweeping swing.

–> Ball bounce is a key factor in how ball read starts for the receiver with their return of serve. That ball bounce read goes on into reading every ball in a rally for the defender or cover player turned offensive player, including the server after the receiver’s return is in play.

Don’t make your opponent your Ball kid —> after winning a rally, make a move to go get the ball to serve. After you hit your shot where it’s irretrievable by the opponent or after they skip in their shot, just go pick up the ball and take it to the box to serve. Don’t make your challenger into your “ball kid”, unless the ball is right there between their feet. For example, if after the point is over the ball ends up in a back corner, go get the ball and take it the box to start your service ritual. Don’t turn and make a beeline for the box or don’t walk all the way into the front court and leave the opponent back there ferreting around in a back corner to fetch and feed you the ball so you can serve like they’re your tennis ball kid. The point is to not play arrogantly. It’s unbecoming, disrespectful, unsportsmanlike and it could give your opponent just that little bit of motivation they need to whoop you if you make them play fetch for you. Make it a point of emphasis to follow up winning the rally by making a consistent move to go get the ball to take the ball to the service zone to begin your service routine or ritual. Say the score on the way in official free play on the way to give yourself the whole 10 seconds to use while making sure you check the receiver as you call yours and their tally.

Ball read —> a very key facet of defensive and offensive play is “ball read”. Ball read is your ability to observe and determine the flight of each ball as is moves…

(a) through the air to and off the front wall;

(b) after the ball rebounds off the front wall and bounces;

(c) after a ball off the front wall bounces and contacts one sidewall;

(d) after a ball off the front wall bounces and rebounds off the back wall contact directly or including sidewall contact on the way to the back wall; or

(e) after the ball strikes the ceiling, the front wall and bounces.

–> Get on the court and hit yourself numerous balls to teach you about the bounce of the ball and how to make your ball read. That ball bounce training and knowledge gained is transferable into reading the bounce of the ball in competitive rallies. Ball read tells you how to react to each ball with your movement to get behind and beside the ball. Often that movement is to read the ball’s angle and to get on its angle coming off the front wall or adjusting to its angle popping off one wall or more. Also ball read tells you what shots will work to respond in response to that ball bounce that you’re reading, as you move with the ball to ideally play it with the objective to shoot aggressively. On the other side of the ball, ball read also tells you how to move defensively to not get in the way of the offensive player to avoid a hinder and especially one where you take away either an offensive straight in shot or offensive cross-court shot by the shooting player, which are angles you must allow or lose the rally in officiated matches, as well as not be there with the ball where they could be swinging. And those rally blocking situations don’t have to necessarily need to be when they’re hitting super low shots. A pass or an overhead also must be given into straight and cross-court angles. In coverage, ball read, as you cover, also tells you how to intercept the opponent’s ball angle to hit a more defensive shot, like a ceiling ball, a High Z shot, a lob shot or to whack attack a ball into the back wall as a back wall save. Finally, in doubles, ball read tells you best team shot and how the non shooting partner should clear to give their partner the most shot options they can. One key is the partner shouldn’t ever leave the ground or reach up to stab at a ball that their partner could cover or the ball could carry and pop off the back wall as a very attackable ball for the non poaching partner. 

Ball side —> when the ball is on one side of the court, angle off to face that side which is “ball side”. That means the ball is on that side where you face (only) in part. Angling off ball side places you in a position to better watch the shooter behind or level with you so you may cover more shots on that side. Even when a ball is deep in one rear corner, angling off ball side sets you to be out of the way of the band of court from straight to V cross-court. Turning ball side and watching ball and challenger behind you returning your serve (or when you’re in a rally and they’re returning your rally shot from deep court) that observation first helps you to not be in the way. Also it allows you to watch and see where the receiver appears to be hitting their return due to how they’re setting their feet and where they appear to be making contact height-wise and in relation to their body (out front, level or behind them). Then, as they swing forward, you can turn and better read the ball, as you react to cover their expected return and pplay offense vs. playing defensively or playing totally reactively were you to just turn and stare wishfully at the front wall hoping the ball you’ll pick up late is coming right to you or within your reach.

Ball texture —> the grain or contour or cover on a new ball causes it to play much truer and better than a ball that’s well worn and slick. That’s especially the case when hitting shots that contact the sidewall or sidewalls or balls that go into any one the 4 corners of the court. After the “ball texture” wears off, retire that ball and use for solo drilling only. Play games with a ball that gives you a true bounce.

Balls to the wall —> maybe it’s the long racquets or the fast balls or the big strokes or it’s the aggressive attack mode mentality, but from the serve on it’s “balls to the wall” in racquetball. Players shoot virtually everything or nearly anything. The regular high lob serve is nearly extinct because receivers interrupt them all. The nick lob, quicker junk lob and wall paper lobs are all meant to neutralize the receiver’s attacking returns, while keeping center court control for the server. Then, as server, ideally YOU can shoot early and often. Drive serves are mean to pinpoint the back corners or to crack-out off the sidewalls to generate no return or weak returns. Returns of serve and returns of rally shots are predominantly attempted kill-shots in the zeitgeist of balls to the bottom board on the front wall aggression or balls to

the wall play. Passes and ceiling balls are seen less and done less effectively in the pace makes haste game style of today. Hitting and planting is seen more than hitting and consciously centering up. Going for winners means going for put-aways as rally enders. Even higher contact and high to low shooting is de rigueur or in current fashion. Surprisingly overheads are shot extra low even from great contact heights.  This all out play begs drilling, yet most just play. It’d behoove YOU to drill your shotmaking for kill-shots. You’re going to need to make setups. Also training reveals how to take some doable risks with your pattern of play drilling and how to translate that into your reactive play shot-taking. To differentiate yourself from others, work on your wide angle passes and near angle passes that bounce and glance off the sidewall deep in the mid court or spin in the backcourt. Or another option is for the shot to go directly off the front wall to deflect off the sidewall in deep mid court or in the backcourt to bounce and ideally drop right at the back wall taking its second bounce. Additionally work on touch, slice ceiling balls, as well as powerfully struck, deep target ceiling balls so you can attack the back corner with your lifted options. Add in High Z shots, 3-wall boast kill-shots, and Twooze shots. Also, be a dyed-in-the-wool killer…cold-blooded, methodical, and calculating. Practice, Practice, Practice all the shots at multiple contact heights, as well as all of your killa serves. Figure out what shots work where, when and how, and place an extraordinarily high value on shot shaping creatively by owning your racquet face control. Prioritize letting every ball drop as low as you can. Don’t be a skips to riches player. Be an artful shotmaker. Be a great ball striker who covets ball bounce problem solutions, as you become a drilling-based front wall rebounder/shot shaper savant.

Banana in —> as you set your stance, use your legs to swing by calling upon the substantial inward pulling forces from your feet, legs, and then upper body and finally arm. As you begin your looping backswing, step with your back foot onto the back of a big imaginary banana cutout on the court, as that cutout points forward and slightly inwards or “stem in”. Then draw along and post or pause on your front foot that, at this point, is still off the banana. Follow up by stepping in place on your back foot on the back of your banana. Then swing your front leg as you step up low with your front foot in a curving stride onto the tip of the banana, as you “Banana in” doing your stance setting. And, as you complete your striking stance, do that step up in tune or along with wrapping up your racquet backswing, which helps connect your legs, too, to join in knee drive (in just a sec) as you wrap up a light full body windup spring loading you for the coming forward swing phase. Right away transition into your forward swing as you push off your back foot into your pulling inwards front leg as you downswing your racquet arm and draw in your off arm. Use the very considerable centripetal inwards pulling force to supercharge your leg drive and superpower your full body stroke, with its always inward pulling finish, as you complete your forward arm swing with a full follow-through.

The basics —> there is a core set of requirements to play competitive racquetball. They are your basic playing skills. You must have captivating serves. You must be a keep-away artist service receiver. Your must be a dynamic rally shooter when you get an attackable ball, including being an aggressive kill-shot shooter of setups, with dialed in speed from torch to touch. You must play with elevated effort off the ball, with your movement feetwork into and out of coverage to track down the ball your opponent returns. You must have powerfully efficient movements, like when making a simple 2-step return of serve (prefaced by a dual foot pop ball side) to cover a corner bound drive serve. After popping your feet, you must jab and cross or step to side with near foot and then crossover with far foot to return serves and down the line rally shots. Additionally you must retreat out of the box after every serve to defend in center court. You must be a tactically adept coverage player by positioning the best you can in center court as the opponent plays the ball you hit. That positioning is in the in-between time from when you strike the ball to beating the challenger, as they track down the ball, so you’re in center before they address the ball; and then you give up what you should, but not what you shouldn’t, like you don’t allow a shot from deep court on one side into the diagonally opposite front corner by being late in coverage. From center court, you must have anticipatory mind reading skills to read where the challenger is shooting their shot in concert with closely watching so you move based either on your educated guess of where they appear to be shooting or where you see their shot is going, and, in either case, you react to the ball by perceiving where and how the ball is bouncing so you can optimally move to play the ball in attack mode. The ability to read where to intercept the ball is an acquired skill that maximizes your timing, racquet skills and shot picking. Finally you must have great resiliency to adapt to serves that are giving you fits, upgrading returns when they must be better, as the game progresses, and adapting and improvising placements to the point where it looks like it was planned. Continually raise your level of play so you keep improving and adjusting so you are playing your very best at crunch time closing out games. Look to improvise effectively balancing that with clinically making familiar shots. You must have very high level “playing basics”.

Factors affecting Behavior —> the way you conduct yourself in a particular situation and in response to certain stimulus is based on your recognizing this pattern of play or situation and reading and relating to the action on the ball so you may respond, as you’ve mastered, with options you’ve developed in practice and used at play, especially while doing many patterned drills and used them responding in competition as fits with your tactics. To learn more patterns and what the stimulus of each evokes defines your “competitive behavior” and your skill execution competence in the many patterns shows up in your rally results. To not give your best effort is not a behavior that is acceptable. You need to define the factors that are your impulses for action. You must learn how YOU respond with versatility and efficiency to answer each and every pattern. Then, even when you react in a less than exemplary way, you can recall from your options a better way how to act next time. You often learn those better ways when no one is watching, which means when you are on the practice court and sparring with your playing partners.

Behind the back —> sometimes you don’t have time to turn and hit a ball that’s passing on the other side of your body, on what’s your backhand side. To hit those balls behind you, drill swinging “behind your back” just for such an occasion and you’ll be very glad you did. This may sound funny but, in addition to striking the front wall, attempt to hit a pinch into your selected front corner as low as you can manage. Practice shooting the ball into both front corners swinging both across your body and out away from your body while making contact behind you, as if you have eyes in the back of your head.

Behind and beside —> get “behind and beside” each and every ball as you initially set yourself to shoot each ball. Moving into the ball is very important in generating force and controlling the ball with your stroke. Starting behind and a reach away (plus the racquet) ensures you will move into the ball and reach to swing smoothly, while extending your arm and making productive contact.

Belief —> it’s extraordinarily valuable to have “belief” in your game. There’s very little that can’t be done on a racquetball court. The extraordinary ability to place a return virtually anywhere in the court is unrivaled in racket sports. From extremely low kill-shots, to passing shots aimed for deep court or to angle suddenly off a sidewall, to lifting ceiling balls that drop off the front wall like a ton of bricks to jet to the back wall, to rocketing High Z’s that parallel the back wall almost glued to it, to splatting balls that roll flat off the front wall, to cranking even high balls off the front wall that carry and fly off the back wall running even the most fleet footed and shocked challenger (as a rec game tactic), to balls that bounce right before the back wall to explode out off the back wall to even pass the short line… all of those shots blanket the court with placements that may either strain the challenger’s coverage or render their defense untenable. So having a vast selection of shots so any one of them can be dialed up gives you belief you can improvise and accommodate tough bounces, positionally challenging situations and virtually any familiar or as yet totally unknown pattern that you can still respond to as you improvise w-i-s-e-l-y.

Bend knees out over toes —> the better you bend your knees the better you’ll play. When your knees are bent you can get off the dime or get off the mark much quicker. When you stand up too tall, first you must drop down or bend your knees to move. When you’re hitting your shots, get down to the ball height by bending your knees, as you push forward and turn into each ball. There ideally “bend your knees out over your toes”. If you stand more upright, you’ll have a tendency to golf the ball or reach straight down dropping your racquet head pointing it down where you’ll have far less control over your racquet face. Get down there where your swing will be the same as how you swing when the ball is at waist high. With knee bend, you are better balanced and able to transfer your weight forward. That is a key objective where, with knee bend and turn, you get your weight behind the ball. Take the elevator down to each low ball as you bend into your swing. Then set your racquet face and crank winners.

Best shot available —> make it a good habit as you approach each ball to parse through your shot choices or shot options and quickly narrow your decision tree down to pick your best shot for this moment, this ball, this bounce, as your “best shot available” (BSA) for this situation or pattern of play; all characters considered, including players, walls, and where you can best spot yourself up in quickly. Answer the question, “Which is my best shot available for THIS situation?”. Note that the BSA is often where-the-ball-wants-to-go based on its incoming angle toward you and it boulder be it’s  based on its outgoing angle flowing away from you, as well as its spin, and judging it as you are optimally tracking it down and setting your feet to play this ball AND control your racquet face. Sure you can overpower some tough or strangely bouncing balls and force the angle you choose (or improvise and take the angle that chooses you). For example, spinning in your movement with a wraparound serve where you catch up to the ball along the near, second sidewall as it’s angling off the back wall when say you power a down the wall shot factoring in the angle and spin, while factoring in that tactic would require killing the difficult spin, as well as overcoming the wraparound’s outwards bound angling force toward its 2nd sidewall requires you draw the ball in on your strings and crisply strike it. Mishits or overhits can occur then. Skips often occur when going DTL. A crosscourt pass-kill is more doable or let’s say manageable. A splat may be THE most adaptive and a makable reaction shot countering the outward bound spinning wraparound. There a straight in shot is tough to hit and keep from skipping it in. There drawing the ball in on your strings and a solid grip and solid contact can shape the down the wall, but practice reps would need to be done before it’s a best shot available. A plan B approach is to spin part way to face the ball as it angles off the sidewall and bounces. Here, when trying to force your shot to be a down the wall shot as the ball comes back and angles off the sidewall and bounces to angle sharply into you when receiving the opponent’s jam serve, wraparound (or jam passing shot) an in to  in would be very challenging choice. The ball is already partially heading across the court and there a DTL would probably NOT always be your BSA or your best shot you can also take and make. Perhaps the straight angle is attempted then to avoid popping the opponent who may be blocking the deserved, more doable cross-court return angle. Then one optional play and BSA replacement is to hold fire and ask for a safety hinder. Being squeezed down into a bad shot and feeding the opponent a bunny or easy put-away shot shouldn’t be anywhere in your BSA plans as shooter. The BSA should be the shot you quickly decide will answer THIS pattern that you can take AND that you have a high degree of certainty you can make. It’s first ideal to pick sides. There decide on which side of the court or up thru the middle to place your shot with this ball. Also, based on contact height and racquet prep, picking the height of your shot takes you to a new level of shot shaping which determines basically whether you’re going for your shot placement in the front court or you’re looking to place your shot in the backcourt, not anywhere in between and not off the back wall. So no placement near them is your first thought. Where you send the ball it’s important to factor in the coverage range of your opponent. Change up based on where the opponent is moving or where you read they could move, as well as it’s usually not planned to hit the ball right to where you see them unless that’s the best plan. If the cover player takes off early, your BSA could be to hit the ball behind them where they just were when you read that they won’t be able to change directions to effectively cover the shot behind them without a weak defensive lunge, maybe even a dive, and at best a shoveled save.

Between the legs —> sometimes you full on face the front wall and you have no time to turn and face the sidewall to swing. Sound familiar? You can improvise. As the ball comes right at you off the front wall, you must contact the ball by swinging from behind and in “between your legs”. There you’re looking to contact the front wall (period). If you jump up, you can swing and look for a good shot placement to win the rally, if possible. It is recommended you practice this technique to avoid contacting your legs or ankles with your forward swing. One option is to jump up and swing between your ankles versus between your legs and one target to go for is to hit into your forehand front corner.

Beveling —> sloping your racquet head as you swing thru making contact with a certain part of the ball causes the angling of your ball’s trajectory based on how you bevel or slope or angle your racquet face when you flow thru contact. “Beveling” the racquet face down directs the ball in a controlled downwards shot trajectory, even just mere degrees of declination producing a pass or much lower when you go for your bottom board kill-shot target spot. Like all skills to develop them, drop and hit, TOSS up and hit and flick yourself waist high balls and work in beveling the racquet face as you flow thru making contact until it’s in your muscle memorized skill set.   

Bigger targets —> when you shoot cross-court passes or cross-court ceiling balls and your balance is a little suspect or your prep has had to be a little quick and short or you’re on the move, -pick a “bigger target” spot- as your front wall target spot. Don’t go directly for the rear corner placement. Instead go for just short of the back corner or inside the corner. Pinpoint your front wall target UNDER halfway between ball contact and the far sidewall so you shape your shot to be short of sending the ball directly into that far, rear corner. That way, if you’re just a little off, your shot won’t bounce and catch the sidewall risking causing the ball to pop off the back wall as a very attackable ball for the covering player.

Boast —> another term for a 3-wall kill-shot is a “boast”. The term boast originated in squash. A boast is a shot directed into the sidewall just up ahead of where contact is made. Given time and a good windup, ideally the boast you strike rebounds out off the faced sidewall just in front of your racquet arm shoulder causing the ball to compress and spring off diagonally angling into the opposite sidewall first just feet or inches from the front wall and low enough so the ball barely has enough energy to make it to the front wall. There you’re looking for the ball to quickly bounce twice way up near the front wall. Of course, the ball could angle diagonally and hit the crotch of the front wall-sidewall and crack-out to squirt out bouncing twice just inches from that corner. When a boast 3-wall diagonals and contacts the front wall first, it can work IF the shot is very low on the front wall so that it rebounds out to strike very low on the sidewall. If the front wall-sidewall boast is too high and IF it contacts the sidewall too far out, it will bounce out deep in the center of the front court or it could carom out into the center of the middle of the court more than 15 feet out very vulnerably. Sometimes when the boast rebounds off the front wall and strikes the sidewall a little farther out, you could get lucky with a crack-out, but that shouldn’t be your Plan A. Practice your boast going for the sidewall first, but try some front wall first boasts when going for your initial sidewall target further out just in case your initial sidewall targeting must be farther ahead of where you make ball contact due to the ball bounce, your positioning, or your timing. Note how it’s tough for the opponent to get the near you sidewall-front wall-sidewall boasts when they’re very low. But it’s harder to hit that front wall first option and make the ball crack-out low on the sidewall and, when it does, that’s often a lucky bounce. So the % play is to go for sidewall to sidewall first or that means to hit into sidewall near you so the ball diagonals into far sidewall and then to intentionally catch the front wall for your boasts.

Body language —> walk like a champion, shoulders back, head held high. You’re as cool as a cucumber. Your “body language” matters to you, and them, too.

Feet, knee and hip Body Pop —> with a partial closed, a partial open stance or from a neutral, parallel foot stance, with open front foot toes pointed forward, weight is initially shifted back and hips cocked in prep, as you’re prepped to set your lower body in motion into your forward swing. Then Tri-start your forward swing. Simultaneously fold in off hand, begin loop-downswing casting racquet head back, and, 3rd, use your feet and especially push off your back foot into an initial sideways sway. From up above focus on shoulder de-rotation and on target line elbow drive. From below, build back knee lean into knee turning drive and front leg pull and catch acceptance. As the catapult of your arm is unleashed at the shoulder and the chest is pulling, your flexed arm is about to do reach its whip cracking climax. Right before your squeeze your front foot down into the court and turn your back knee releasing your coiled hips into the tri-parts feet, knee, and hip drive in a synergy “body pop turn”. That body pop feeds, ramps up, fuels, instigates, promotes, stimulates, balances, sets up, creates, grooves, powers, makes happen and just barely precedes the climactic racquet arm whip crackin’ final kaboom or scythe of your arm/wrist snap of the racquet head thru the ball. For serves, higher setups, 3-wall boast shots and Twooze shots, unleash the monster with the innocuous, subtle, invaluable, optimal hip flip and body pop that should never hurt anything but the ball. That means don’t wrench your hips or lower back. Just let your feet and knees smoothly flip your hips for body pop, especially when you drive serve and rip passing shots. 

Body shield —> when returning serve or when standing at the ready in center court in coverage or when you’re in a back corner before you pick the right stroke for (this) ball, hold the racquet handle so the racquet head is out in front of your belly button strings pointed out. That “body shield” gives you the ability to fend off any ball angling directly into your body. With that backhand shield (and backhand grip), you can block back balls that are sizzled at you to your right or left from center court or when returning a jam serve hot potato coming right at you off a sidewall or right up the middle off the front wall. And, when you have time, thrust your elbow back for a quick forehand prep or punch back across your body for a compact backhand prep. When in center court or when returning serve, if you were to hold the racquet in your dominant hand on your dominant hand’s side of your body, you’d be limited to only fend off balls hit to your dominant hand’s side or only to your forehand. Then a ball at your backhand hip or even your forehand hip would handcuff you and jam your return.

Work your feet into the court fueling your full Body stroke —> capitalize on your combo lower and upper body boost, with both feet working into the court to synergistically gin up far greater force than could be mustered on just one foot. A “full body stroke” is optimized and undergirded by both (1) moving sideways AND (2) building body turn peaking in (3) arm+wrist turnover snapping magic. A full body stroke produces balance and power that’s far greater than all 3 parts separately (with sideways and turning multiplying your arm arcing wrist snap). A full body stroke potentially develops a blinding fast racquet head and sheerly electric, thrilling and versatile torch to touch shotmaking. 

Bottom board —> a very low shot on the front wall that produces a kill-shot is when the shooter is going for and strikes the “bottom board” which is an extremely low target on the front wall. With their shot targeting they are answering the question the ball is asking of them, “How low can YOU go?”.

Bottom board shooter —> some players are just extremely aggressive and pretty much everything they shoot is intended to be extremely low into the front wall. Less frequently does this “bottom board shooter” hit their shot initially into a sidewall target spot. Usually front wall first targeting is favored. Playing against this type of shooter comes with tactics that you should employ to negate that aggressor behavior. First, position yourself closer to the front wall in center court. Perhaps straddle the dashed line replacing being a full stride behind that broken line. Also make sure you make the all out shooter take shots on the run or from deep court or from high to low which puts the onus on them to make extremely tough kill-shots. When they make tough shots, let it go. When they miss, capitalize on the setups. Repeat the pattern if they skip. Still shoot shots you routinely take and make yourself. Stay strong and stay the course. In response don’t try to rollout everything yourself. When they make one, don’t get dazzled; get ready. Move them.

Bounce the box —> after you complete your service motion, you then become the  cover player or defender who is all about ideally attacking the receiver’s return of your serve. Attacking that return becomes your main concern. First, you have to “bounce the box”. Tactically that means you must get out of the service box or service zone by turning ball side and retreating out just as fast as you possibly can (as long as you don’t beat the ball out), while studying the receiver’s initial actions. Other ways of saying bounce the box include: get back; retreat; D-up; center up; get into center court; or get out of the box. Note that the goal for center court positioning is to be able to cover more angles for shots by the receiver from the center of the court just behind or on the receiving line. Note that for your faster drive serves you won’t be able to get back as far into center court because the receiver will be confronted by your serve sooner, so you’ll have less time before they could be returning your fastest drive serve. Get back as far as you can, as quickly as you can, while watching the receiver closely for any clues as to their return placement so you can get a jump on your optimal serve-return-shoot equation which is ideally a serve-return-kill-shot play. Also don’t block the full cross-court through straight in angle from your position in coverage. Do factor in that if you leave your served ball off the back wall you could be required to go the other way into the front court to ideally cover their left up low shot that your serve contributed to with its misplacement or overhit pace. When you leave your serve off the back wall, then you’ll be able to get out of the box further into center court. But then you would have more court to cover and they may go bottom board, so expect you might have to reverse your field and head in front of the first line.   

Box —> a shortcut name for the “service box” or the rules named service zone, as heard in the admonition, “Get out of the BOX”, means its tactically wise to move out of the box where you stand between the first 2 lines to toss the ball to serve the ball to strike the front wall so it will go past the second line, the short line, with or without striking one sidewall first. And the admonition “Get back” means retreat out of the service zone after you serve so you don’t get stuck in that box and caught unable to cover a ceiling ball return or a coverable pass, were you to be out of the box. That’s because out of the box you have a better chance to cover more returns by the receiver. Then you can both retain center court and ideally you can retain your domination of the scoreboard by shooting the receiver’s attackable return and their rally shots. Again, the box is in between the first line, which is the service line, and the second line, which is the short line. Even when you practice serving, which you frequently should do, make your move to get out of the box after sending the ball back so it’s a habit that you take into live play. (In fact practice lots of things to rehearse their for actual games). That way getting out of the box becomes an act you consistently do as second nature, like lifting the racquet to swing at the ball or first setting your stance with your back foot “step back” to swing best.

Brave —> courageous behavior is taking the easy as well as the tough shots, facing the game points, managing key points, and shooting with the defender right there looming and waiting while you play the ball often for you to either execute and eliminate their get or even their move, as you bravely execute. It’s when you give the challenger a tougher opportunity when you’re “brave” and full of self belief, even when you must play defense. It’s heroic and brave when acting on your self belief when you have the nerve to do what could be frightening, in part just because it’s yet to have been done. Advantage you. Be braver. Take your shot. Execute by doing what you regularly do. If you miss one, buck up and do it again, better. If you do something tough and miss and it’s outside your comfort zone, train up and do it better next time.

Break it down —> in many ways the way to develop your strokes, serves, shots, movements and feetwork and how you tactically play is all about how you break it down–>and then how you rebuild it into your game that you then own, as your improved skill or enhanced tactic. The “break it down” and rebuild may even be done realtime in the midst of live play. Of course it is often done in training. The break down and rebuild is all about forging skills that arm you to play at your peak performance level for all of the categories of patterns of play by responding with your  skills that your breakdown tells you the game requires. Those skills are many, like serving, returning and rally covering and shooting. When breaking down a skill, get back to basics. Assess what are your fundamentals and how this relates to them. Always do your complete form. When addressing a new method that you’re adapting into your skill set or a new tactical efficiency action that will support your strategic aims, break down the skill or tactic and build it back up making sure it meets your own high standards of refined basics that are repeatable, versatile and competitively effective.

Breath control —> in match play keeping your wind is big. Sneaking, unseen to your challenger, gulps of fresh air or taking a deep breath while keeping your VO2 max at its max for ideally the duration of the game is your objective, as you monitor your breathing and breathe well in match play. That way you’ll have that “breath control” to exert hard in the long points, to hit harder longer, and especially to serve with a powerful expulsion of breath, although silently as distracting grunting isn’t allowed when powering your drive serves or hard-hit rally shots. Breath control is part of off court training. It’s also a product of playing tough training ground rallies and doing lots of individual, protracted, challenging solo keep-the-ball-in-play drilling.

Breath control-2 —> when you watch basketball players who sprint or jog or chug up and down the court, notice when they get a break to shoot free throws, they are ALL breathing heavily. Yet, after the last free throw is taken and it’s good, they pop up on their toes as they pivot their feet, hop up, land and then they dash down court. Although due in part to their fitness level they get their breath back in a hurry. We get a maximum of 10 seconds between each rally. Use that in between time to “catch your breath”. You can get in a few deep breaths between rallies. You can get a breath after getting into center court. You can take a breath as you prepare to hit and breathe out as you forward swing. Then you can take an in breath as you recover to move. While expelling out you add some extra oomph to your swing. In all cases, it behooves you to have breath control. Use your skills to increase your lung capacity and keep your capacity high in match play. Play tough rallies and do some on court sprints. Off court do some aerobic, endurance training, like jogging, biking, ellipticals, running stairs or swimming,

Breathe; take a deep breath —> lightly blow out of your mouth first to make room. Then take in a nice, long, deep, calming breath first through your nose and finish with your mouth (without being seen doing it by the challenger). Then hold your breath for a sec and then exhale and repeat. “Breathe by taking a deep breath” and focus on the now. Relax. Focus on playing smart and on being strong. Remember this is hard fun.

Broken ball test —> when a ball takes an extra obvious bad bounce, don’t pick up the ball and hit it again. Center it in your hand and squeeze it. That is the ONLY “broken ball test”. If the ball is broken, it won’t hold up to your grip pressure. If that proves the ball is broken, get a new ball and replay the rally. If you were to swing and hit a broken ball no matter how softly you hit it, the last rally that was just played with that broken ball will still stand and you will have egg on your face.

Bunny —> don’t just feed your opponent a “bunny” or easy put-away shot when they are blocking either the straight in or cross-court shot angles either of which you determine you should be hitting into. Another example is when an opponent cuts across your line of sight blocking your vision of the ball. Then, if you take the bad shot, you’d just be feeding them a weak shot or even a ceiling ball that the hindering opponent can attack. Look to hit YOUR shot. If you can’t, take a safety hinder by raising your off hand and let it be known you were blocked. Don’t fall for the okeydoke.

Butt cap to target —> as you start your forward swing in your downswing, first cast your forearm and racquet back, as you temporarily point the racquet head back. Then continue to drive your bent elbow forward. As the elbow catches up to the front hip, arc the flexed arm and racquet out away from you, with chest and back flex. In the interim between arcing the racquet out and your contact point, there at the beginning of the contact zone your butt cap of your racquet flows thru pointing at your target wall right before you spin your elbow and turn over your forearm. Then, to make contact, roll and turn over your wrist right as both the elbow AND wrist snap, like the crack of a bullwhip, with a climactic SNAP! On the other side of the ball, when you see the challenger’s elbow driving forward and the racquet “butt cap points to target” by your challenger, you have carte blanche to  take off to cover their shot. Don’t worry; you can’t beat their arm motion. When you can say, “I spy their butt cap”, you may use that as your visual cue starter’s gun to release and take off to cover the opponent’s shots.

Butterflies —> jitters, the yips, uncertainty, anxiety and a case of “butterflies” in your stomach can plague anyone’s game. When starting the first game  of the day having a case of nerves is natural. After moving around and getting your adrenaline flowing those nerves should give way to both analytical and creative thinking and taking your second nature moves, like your feetwork moves to return serve, to serve or to prep and then take your rally strokes, in the range of your developed tactical play. If you routinely suffer a slight case of butterflies, just bring a big net and corral um. Then get into your best playing state of mind, as you warm into playing with your skill-based courage. A good, ramping up in activity pre-game warmup helps you give over your pre-play jitters.

Butt to target —> an interim part of your forward swing is where you flow your racquet into pointing the butt cap of your racquet at your wall target. The butt cap is the very bottom of the racquet where the wrist tether is attached. That’s a key interim swing milestone. But note that “butt to target” position is a fleeting moment, an in-between as you loop the racquet down from the top of your backswing to leveling off with your plane of contact ball. As you swing forward, first you point the racquet tip or top of the racquet head back. Then you swing thru toward straightening your arm and making contact, as the tip points at the sidewall. Then you swing on forward after contact into your follow-through, as your tip points at the target. As you swing out and thru with the racquet held at butt to target only briefly, you then flow on a curving level plane reaching and turning with the racquet head at your chosen fierce down to finesse swing thru contact. Flowing thru butt cap to target, you then drive forward and turn your racquet over and thru. From pointing the racquet head back to swinging thru, again, you point the tip of your racquet head at the back wall, then at the sidewall at contact, and then you swing on to pointing the racquet head forward after contact in your completely untethered follow-through. Note the racquet rotates in a spiral motion turning over, as well as swinging side to side, too. You decide how to time turning over the racquet face to angle the racquet face sending the ball side to side and generally downwards slightly for passes and even much lower for kill-shots.

One on One Lessons
Ken offers one-on-one lessons to true students of racquetball. Based in the Houston area, Ken can assist you with your game and strategy.

713-557-3176

KenRB54@Gmail.com

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