By Ken Woodfin

Racquetball Encyclopedia

F – H

F

Fair play —> the expectation of “fair play” shouldn’t be a big ask in a sport where you’re playing together on one court with racquets that are almost 2 feet long (22″ max) while sharing court space in a confined 800 foot square box (20×40) when hitting the ball back that-away at your shared front wall target often as the ball passes extremely close by the challenger (coming or going). So, when a player serves or hits a rally shot and they don’t move to give up even the straight in shot (not to mention the cross-court), it can be tormenting. Then it’s not an opportunity to tee off on the opponent. There was a day not so long ago that when returning the ball to the front wall there wasn’t even a cross-court angle that had to be given up. There’d be time when a player would block off the rest of the court while actually camping right on the line straight ahead. Then they’d point cross-court and give the palm up signal saying “What do you want?”. They’d know with the smaller racquet and slower balls they could even cover the cross-court angle. Sometimes TODAY the opponent even stands on the line. And then they still point at the rest of the court as if to say, “Look you can hit it anywhere over THERE”, even though you know that right then the ball wants to go straight AND (you) want to send the ball straight in. Often Z drive serves or miss-angled drive serves pop out off a sidewall, while noting there’s an opportunity to move, the intent by the server then is to force only a straight in angle or ceiling ball return when a cross-court is where the ball and you want to go. That’s not really fair play by the server. If you mess up, own up. Another example of an expectation of fair play is when a player knows they skipped in their shot; then THEY should make that call and not have to be called on it. Another is when a player gets to a ball clearly on 2 bounces. Those both should be self-called at all times, in games played without refs or officiated by them. Fair play is rule following, respecting fairness, honoring the challenger’s right to get to shots and hit shots. Basically the band of front wall from straight to cross-court or about half the front wall should constantly be open to the hitter. When positioning between a ball in the backcourt and the cross front corner you give up those angles and that positioning takes away the dangerous reverse pinch angle diagonally into that cross front corner. Play fair and encourage others to play fair. It’s a lot more fun that way.

False sense of security —> big leads are often very illusory. Once you’ve have a big lead in hand it’s big to close out the game vs. eking out points at the end or depending on errors or charity from your challenger. One serve may be hitting pay dirt at the outset of a match, but it may be less effective as the match wanes on. Then you must get over that sense of security with that skill and find a way to change it with say a minor angle change, speed adjustment or spin addition to give the receiver something new they won’t expect or haven’t seen. That same theory goes for shots that NOW the challenger’s movements are covering. Then you must be ready to go for Plan B. For instance, place the ball in a different court quadrant. By keeping your mind active and not being complacent, you’re ready to constantly adjust and also take note of changes being made by the challenger. Avoid allowing your run of points you make or some success with a certain serve to give you a “false sense of security”. Keep making minor variations. Have a wide variety of options with your serves, shots and returns of serve that you may call upon and switch up to a new one when you sense it’s time to throw them a curve or adapt to the incoming ball’s new bounce.

Far —> there’s several meanings for the word “far”…

(1) from when a ball is being played on one side of the court the defending or cover player must allow the hitter or offensive player to strike a cross-court shot to the far side of the court. The height of that cross-court can be from ankle bone low up to head high. A cross-court is a shot directly to the front wall at an angle that would cause the ball to rebound directly to the far, rear corner farthest from where the player is hitting the ball. That far, rear corner is your target for many of your cross-court passes, your cross-court overheads, your cross-court drive serves and your cross-court ceiling balls;

(2) another use for the word “far” is when returning serve or when moving from one direction to another from where you are in coverage. There your far foot is often the one you move with first as a cross step in the direction you’re heading to move furthest fastest on the run, like when your serve is going into the left rear corner super quick. There you complete your serve swing motion, push from front to back foot and start turning to the ball side. Pop your feet to point back and cross your frontmost far foot over your back deeper foot and dash back into center court.

(3) as the service receiver, ideally pop your feet ball side pointing them to the side where the ball is heading. Then take a very small jab step first step with your near, left foot. There your far foot will tag along posting and then crossover step with your far, trail foot to establish your moving return of serve striking stance to cutoff most any serve;

(4) when you’re in center court and, for example, the ball is deep in a back corner, crossover with the far foot first which at that point is the foot that starts closer to the front wall, as you partially face the sidewall ball side. By doing the crossover stepping in front of the back foot, you can turn to face the back corner and bolt and make up ground quickly tracking down a ball all the way back in a rear corner to adjust to the bounce of the ball and set your feet to attack it and shoot;

(5) when you’re in the center and your challenger is a bottom board shooter, then your foot furthest from the front court is the far foot. With that far foot, crossover first to literally spring into the front court to leg out their direct to the front wall kill-shot or their selected sidewall targeted shot; note how much tougher it is to leg out the sidewall targeted shot because even when they’re left up they’re far up in the front court.

The Fascinating game —> the last 2 things to take onto the court before you play are a sense of readiness to give full effort, especially mentally and emotionally, while you demonstrate composure. AND also take a readiness to let go of being dazzled by even monster talent a player exhibits on court with no less than 100 feet of cracks along each sidewall and the back wall and that’s not to mention the 4 corners themselves where bizarre bounces abound when balls hit cracks in or even near to those corner. Balance those funny bounces with your own shot and serve angle placements and lucky bounces that you produce, including going for crack-outs of your own. And you must appreciate playing on both sides of the ball. Soccer or futbol may be the beautiful game, but racquetball is “the fascinating game”, especially when it’s played fairly. There’s so many ball bounces, cracks, corners, spins and possible angles; it’s with sheer fascination that you (should) play.

Fault —> a “fault” is when your serve is defective because it’s…(a) long, as after it contacts the front wall it then carries and strikes the back wall on the fly without being cutoff (or caught subtly meaning don’t try to catch it even with a high contact prayer shot);

(b) short or it strikes the front wall and then it doesn’t cross the short line in the air either directly or after striking one sidewall);

(c) 3-wall where, when the serve strikes the front wall and one sidewall, it diagonally angles on the fly to strike the second sidewall without bouncing on its way or being cutoff by the opponent’s midair return;

(d) screen serve when the receiver is unable to see the served ball as it is passes by the server at the short line. The receiver alone may call screen in unofficiated play. Also the screened player signals a screen to a referee by raising their off hand in an officiated event; or

(e) a foot fault occurs when the front foot of the server completely passes the first, service line where even the heel of the front foot has completely crossed the service line. By the way, when stepping past the short line before the serve passes that line, that’s a side-out not a foot fault.

–> After a first serve fault a second serve is put in play. If there’s a second serve fault, it’s a double fault and a side-out, and then the receiver becomes the server. And a double fault is a mental error.

Fear —> to play you must risk. You compete when it could be painful, both the struggle and the outcome. Is it that you overcome “fear” to play or is it that you play and overcome fear? You overcome the unknown and the possibility of loss, failure, or even embarrassment. You weigh the risk of shooting against the likelihood of an unpleasant ending for your shot, like a skip or the opponent crushing it. Competition is self fulfilling and the reason you prepare is so you have more control over your performance and, through its effectiveness, the outcome of rallies and games. Yet it’s not allowing the performance to be affected by possible thoughts or fears about the outcome. By training, your reaction to the threats and challenges you face (will) be overcome through improved skills and your recognition of what to perform when and how and why. Then ideally you play (more) fearlessly or you overcome fear by performing well or to spec.

Feed —> in addition to stationary drop-n-hit, toss up and hit and doing your service motion drilling, as the best model for rally play, “feed” yourself lots of balls…

(a) off the front wall at different depths and angles, including a ball popping off the back wall after a bounce;

(b) off the ceiling and front wall to bounce; and

(c) after saving the ball to the back wall, as you return the saved ball coming back off the front wall. In the back wall save feed, you get to pick and drive your shot as a kill-pass shot or into a sidewall target. In all cases, focus your practice on your movement to the ball, setting your stance, your shot picking, and bringing it all together in your prepping flowing into shotmaking when shaping your shots.

–> Feeding yourself balls simulates the bounces you routinely see in rally play. It trains your ball reading, ball tracking moves, ball approaching, and setting your feet to swing and make your pictured shot. As you select your shot choice, also determine what would be the best stance and best swing in response to this particular pattern you find yourself in. The more you practice this situational shooting by feeding yourself lots of balls, the better prepared you are for a pattern like this one in live play. In practicing a certain pattern, while even imagining there’s a challenger there covering your shot taking, you prepare for a wider range of situational responses. By doing the various feeds and selecting and drilling different response shots, you develop better judgment when to go for what, as you come to know why based on observing your results. Of course, practice helps show you when and where and repetitions teach you how. Focus on letting the ball drop, but also train up taking the ball between thigh and chest high, too.

Keep your head in the clouds and your Feet on the ground —> watch a tennis Pro hit a tennis ball and whether the Pro’s stance is open or closed note how they’re all about starting well grounded. They set their feet, prep routinely, and there they’ll stay when they drive through a ball to hit flat and hard with minimal Topspin. Now, in their Plan B swing mode, the Pro may literally jump up off the court as they hit. Starting grounded they then either have to rise and play a very high ball or they sense the need to literally project themselves up off the court to ensure their ball will clear their impediment net to ideally place the ball super deep in the far backcourt with their looping swing. Luckily WE have no net in racquetball. In OUR earth bound warrior game, we have an opportunity to set our feet and work ’em hard back to front as we swing. From feet set, first load back on your back foot as you prepare your racquet. Then transition into swinging forward. As you swing, a key is to ALWAYS retain some weight on your back foot. Holding back some on your back foot as you to swing forward allows you to build weight a little bit at a time onto your front foot until your weight moving forward peaks at contact. Also, with both feet still grounded, you can move best after contact. At best, the weight distribution at impact ends up about 60/40 front to back. So a key is don’t drag your back leg around behind you. Definitely don’t lift your back foot completely off the court where your weight would be all-in on your front foot as you hit. That would minimize your lower up thru upper body turning motion. Lifting the back foot would de-power what should be a full body stroke. It would turn it into just a racquet throw. When throwing all of your weight forward at once, it turns your stroke motion into an arm-only racquet toss. Instead optimally use your back leg 3 ways…

(1) initially lean in (forward) as you begin to swing forward, while your arms start their downswings, too;

(2) be pushing off, while retaining some weight back, as you progressively transfer weight forward building it smoothly onto your accepting, pulling front foot working it toward peaking right before contact; and

(3) drive and turn both knees bending them out over your toes, and allow your knee turn to smoothly uncork your hips subtly but powerfully, with a simple little hip flip that spirals turn flowing up thru your core. That core turn joins and peaks along WITH your upper body’s shoulder-based spin. Then the joined full body turn just precedes your final arm arc and massive trebuchet (catapult) releasing wrist SNAP. Now were that back foot to swing around behind you and lift off it would reduce your move into just a lateral “leaving the mound” type stride forward while “pitching” the racquet forward. Also picture how poorly pitchers in baseball defend the mound after pitching when landing on their front foot. That would not be comparable with the magnitude of an anchored back foot working into the court maximizing your finishing one unit body rotation. That then climaxes with arm extension and turnover of the arm, wrist, hand, AND racquet head projecting the ball off your racquet strings. There your full stroke comes with both a prep swing (backswing) and full, climaxing, body buoyed, leg-powered, turning downswing. So “keep your head in the clouds (believing) and keep your feet on the ground”, as you drive hard with your legs thru each ball. Focus on your lower body turn meeting up with your upper body turn to turn in unison right before your arm explosively swoops out and thru the ball. Also, by finishing grounded on both feet, you’re able to quickly shift your weight back to recover your balance and move to clear, as you defend your shot placement and best cover the court. 

Feetwork —> how you motor around the court efficiently and effectively is using your court movement skills by how you move your feet with many designed “feetwork” maneuvers which allow you to cover the court by how you…

(a) track down the ball;

(b) approach the ball;

(c) set your feet on the fly, as aggressively as you can, to shoot the ball where it will least attackable;

(d) then clear out of the way after shooting by recovering your balance, to move to get into coverage; and

(e) use your feetwork to take cross steps, split steps and sidesteps to cover the court the best way to ideally get into center and then to move out of center court to shoot as best you can.

–> Those are the whole skill set of feetwork skills that will make you a champion when you work on them as hard as you do your shots, serves, and stationary stroking. That’s because how you move before you swing, when done best, produces optimal attacking at it’s very best, and great feetwork gets you into coverage and then to track down more balls to get to play offense vs. defense, and still moving well makes you able to play aggressive defense, like when you wang-chung up a High Z.

Feetwork; move your feet —> as the ball goes back into a back corner, that is THE very time to actively exhibit your feetwork skills and “move your feet”. Oftentimes you’ll see a player become lead footed once they’re in a rear corner dealing with the corner bounce of the ball. They’re uncertain so their feet turn into cement. That is actually THE time to float on your toes so you can take advantage of setups to shoot very low or lift up a deep target ceilings or to drive vulnerable, higher balls as passes or defensively flick back tough balls or whack attack balls that get behind you to save them into the back wall to extend the rally. In the back corner, try to hit any ball popping out off the back wall flowing toward the front wall. Drive balls that are more than a foot off the back wall and requiring of yourself or allow for patient, low contact when possible.

Fight-or-flight; how NOT to have a fight or flight response —> you’re not here to just forcibly resist or run away. Your goal is to play when controlling and measuring your application of force in…(a) your off the ball moves; (b) your serves, especially your most powerful deliveries; (c) apropos force to pass the challenger by; and (d) how you develop ample force and adaptive contact to absorb and overcome the opponent’s offensive shot heat. Of course giving in to flight or punching out is not a realistic response, even when it may be manifested in rushing thru the process by underperforming. “How to not fall into fight or flight” is based on keeping involved at a higher level while controlling the situation your way. You’re dedicated and just a bit possessed. You must play a thinking man’s game. A fight response to just resist with force takes out of the equation thinking and controlling, as you judge how much force to apply in each situation and each ball contact. The objective of having your own playing attitude is not to tend toward fight or flight. It’s to play in peak performance, while meeting all tasks you face by perceiving ALL demands as high demands no matter their level of challenge or difficulty. Meter your force, as appropriate, because your force can be controlled and efficiently and proficiently produced to make shots and to own a vast arsenal of serves that can be very effective ways to initiate the rallies, with an objective of winning the ensuing rally with attacking shot #3 whenever it’s within reach after they return your serve. After serving, move and look to go on attack at each opportunity when going for a put-away, if possible. If a put-away is undoable, then hit a keep-away pass or ceiling ball. Always fight the good fight! You know the moves how you subdue THIS saber tooth tiger.

Final appeal —> in a refereed match, at match point you may appeal any number of things, even if you’re totally out of your 3 allotted appeals per game. It’s your “final point or match point appeal”. The only things you can’t appeal then are technical fouls and forfeitures. The appeals you make to all other rules infractions are through the ref to the line judges assigned to the match (or volunteering), when one player requests line judges and they’re available. For your match point appeal, make sure to go thru all the possible infractions. Of course you’re appealing when you think the ref got it a little wrong. Raise your off hand to denote when it happened and  be prepped to explain to the ref your position on the call so they can pass on the decision or vote to the line judges. Turn and signal with a thumbs down to show you want the situation reviewed and you think the wise judges should signal thumbs  down, too. It’s hypnotic.

No Fishin allowed —> no reaching forward to make contact. Sometime you might have seen a sign next to a lake or river saying “No fishin’ allowed”. That means no casting a line there to get a bite. Here we’re takin about another form of fishin. A major reason a player skips the ball is because they make contact way too far out front of their striking stance and really their routine contact point. Out there the player is already shutting their racquet face causing them to smother the ball into the floor just out from the front wall. That too far out front contact is often due to the speed of play and swinging quickly at a ball coming rapidly at them directly off the front wall or off the bounce or off the front wall and one sidewall. There the player is less than ready, and mostly they’re being anxious. They just flinch. Patience is the key. Take the ball a little deeper in your stance. Let the ball get back closer to racquet arm shoulder depth. There you won’t skip or you’ll skip much less.  You won’t reach for the ball and you won’t fish by closing your face too much thru contact. 

Fist pump —> after you do something particularly effective or even truly brilliant, it’s okay to give yourself a little “fist pump”. Although you don’t need to do it right in your challenger’s face. You can fist pump the front wall. Also don’t over do your little celebrations by exerting too much unnecessary energy; you may need that energy very soon. Showing passion is good though.

Fitness level —> maintaining a high level of personal fitness is very important to playing at your level best in a game where playing all out each and every rally is expected and required to perform at your very best. Training with sprinting (on court is good), plyometrics (jumping), resistance (weights and machines), and figuring out how you reach your own peak “fitness level” is what you do in those weeks that are spent in between events by training to peak for the event or during the off season when you build up your strength base. In more prolonged breaks between events or before key events, work on peaking your fitness for the event through a method called “periodization”. Periodization is training to a peak for the event. It is why you drill on court and train off court to increase your base strength, develop your lung capacity, and ultimately build up your endurance, especially your speed, power and long lasting effort as the event nears. You’ll have to be trained up of course. That intense training results in your capacity for fluid, pliable movement. Work on both your endurance and on your speed training as you move and power the ball wth back your swing, too.

Flat face myth —> at ball contact at an extremely low height, the racquet head strings or racquet face may be completely flush or level with the front wall. For contact above that level to shoot to a very low front wall target, you close or slope your racquet face to point down lower on the front wall as you’re turning the racquet over when making contact. The higher you make contact and the lower your wall target, the more slope or bevel to your racquet head and racquet face strings when you swing the racquet thru contact. Note that it’s a moving slope, as the racquet head mirrors the arm, wrist and hand when they spiral in a constantly curving swing throughout the contact zone. The racquet face turns from, at full backswing, pointing slightly down, to up to out to at your target in your downswing, as you point the racquet head at the sidewall at the peak of the contact zone, to pointing the head at the target wall right after contact, to the strings pointing at the floor out in front of you as you follow-through afterwards. Your shot or served ball shaping mandates how the strings should point to form this ball’s trajectory toward your wall target. There’s a “flat racquet face myth”. At no time is it mandatory that at all contact heights should or could the racquet strings be flush to the front wall to make shots to target spots selected from near the bottom board of the front wall up to your passing shot target spots a half a foot up to about 3 feet high. The ability to turn the racquet head thru as if it were spinning within a cone when whipping thru contact is timed so the strings’ slope is based on feel and your eyes and arm and wrist muscle memory controlling the racquet head spiraling movement timing so the strings point intelligently for the shot you pick.

Flick shot —> often in rallies the ball comes right at you and you can’t back off to shoot or you can’t get out of the way to take the ball on one side of your body or the other for a normal forehand or backhand stroke. Or you may have made a long lunging move to track down the ball. Again, time is very short for you to prep even when taking only a little take back backswing. Then secure a grip change as you read ball. Often you’re already in a backhand grip, but just grip down a little tighter. Use a very short take back usually no more than pulling the racquet back across to your off side ribs. Flick your shot to… (a) place the ball away from the challenger; (b) flick a re-kill to ideally put the ball away in a front corner or into an uncoverable angle directly to the front wall; or (c) even hit the ball right at the challenger, as your on the fly improvised shot plan is to jam up THEIR stroke with your placed “flick shot”.

Floating center court —> when occupying the middle part of the court that’s between one big step behind the dashed line and a half step or at times a full step inside the dotted line, you’re, for instance, ideally positioning yourself so a ball in deep court is blocked from being hit into the cross front corner as a primary stroke reverse pinch or long off stroke near corner pinch. When you’re in your spot, you’re in “floating center court” early enough giving up straight and cross court angles and you take away everything else you can, like the diagonal shot and wide angle pass angles. You get there in-between by adjusting according to where you place each ball, by where you read the challenger is making contact and by how, where and when you observe they’ll make contact, as you judge where it’s your best spot to be in coverage to get ready to move to cover their potential shot. As an example, when you’re the far side doubles partner playing defense, you may station yourself ahead of the broken line. That makes sense then because you’re positioning to cover the opposing offensive partner’s shots into the far sidewall, including splats and pinches, as well as you must be ready to cover a V cross-court pass that’ll get to you in a heartbeat. Tactically in a rally play, when you’re trying to influence the challenger’s shot choice, you may position yourself closer up in coverage nearer to the front wall. There you could sway them to hit a pass which is a shot you CAN cover much better than the kill-shot they could take and you’d have great difficulty covering. Worse case, when you leave your shot up in part of center court, set yourself to occupy the part of center court while not getting in the way of the hitter’s follow-through. In the center or when they’re in the middle of the court hitting, it’s tactical to get in their blind spot behind them to keep them guessing as to where you could be next. You can still move from where you start in floating center court, and YOU SHOULD be ready to do so. When they commit to shoot by beginning to swing forward, move to where you read they’re hitting their shot. If they face one sidewall to address the ball, again, when positioning behind them in their blindspot, make them have to guess where you could dash, as you get ready to move to cover their shot you picture going there and shooting the ball… and then moving back into floating center court.

Flow —> your state of mind that’s optimum for playing at your very best, when you’re fully immersed in the game, fully engaged, very enthusiastic and calm or relaxed, as you move about the court and rhythmically swing your racquet you’re in YOUR “flow” state. You are playing “in flow”. Your quest, as a flow player, is to find a way to get in your flow state and to stay in flow. Or, whenever you briefly wander from it, you figure out how and you know ways to get back in flow. You use calming thoughts. You stay focused and keep in mind it’s a process. When you do familiar, comfortably known actions, you

return to being in flow for longer and longer periods of optimal play.

7 Flow conditions —> here are “7 flow conditions” to aspire to as you play…

1. You know what to do (WHAT)

2. You know how to do it (HOW)

3. You know how well you are doing (MEASURE)

4. You know where to go next from here (NEXT)

5. You see all tasks as highly perceived challenges (VALUABLE TASK)

6. You know and use highly perceived skills (WELL-REFINED SKILLS)

7. You are free from distractions (IMPERVIOUS FOCUS).

Fly kill —> when playing a ball out of midair as a swing volley, you may earmark that ball for a kill-shot. That non bounce shot on a ball caroming off the front wall or, for example, when fielding a nick lob dropping off the sidewall and considering shooting from chest high or lower down to either your kill-shot target on the front wall or sidewall is a “fly kill” technique. A high to low trajectory for the fly kills is produced by sloping or beveling your racquet face slightly as you flow thru the ball and ideally add a little Topspin to your kill-shot shooting to send the ball down low on your target wall. The overspin helps keep the ball low coming back out off the front wall and the ball stays down lower after the first bounce, too. Lob up some balls on the front wall to field the ball as it arcs off going for low kill-pass targets low on the front wall of sidewall. Drill fly kills until they’re doable controlling the shot height.   

Focus —> the ability to concentrate all of your attention on one thing, like the ball, or one tactic, like following your shot forward after shooting from deep court, is “focus”. Mental focus is sought by players especially when their mind may wander or when their decision making may at times become suspect. Re-finding focus between rallies is a key part of using that break in the action to keep your focus or to refocus when you sense your concentration may be at a lower than your optimum level of mental effort than where you optimally perform. What’s YOUR perrrrfect focus level?

To re-Focus is no -hocus-pocus- —> successful players maintain focus no matter what is whirling about them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than on their past failures. Center on the next action steps YOU must take to get you closer to the fulfillment of your goals rather than all of the distractions that competition presents to you in the very busy game of racquetball. “Refocus” on what you have to do right now; what you must do next.

Follow-through —> “follow-through” on everything you do and plan. After contact still flow the racquet on toward your wall target. And allow your racquet arm to continue to flow on around out in front of you and to rise up slightly finishing pointing behind you at shoulder level. Release all built up energy in your stroke. The energy is stored up in your prep and vented while putting forth your form-based forward swing. As you swing through, allow your arm, wrist, hand and racquet head to turn through and over. For example, shoot down with an over the top racquet flow from above waist high. After contact the racquet face should go on to point at the court floor out in front of you. Also follow-through when you make a training plan or game plan. Go through with your training by sticking to your workout plan. Follow through with your game plan by how you do your in game tactics. Also follow through on any promises you made to yourself to add new skills or tactics or when you’re reaching for your new fitness goals both on and off court.

Follow your shot forward —> after you shoot a deep court rally shot (or hit your return of serve or even when lifting a ceiling ball you strike from deep court), “follow your shot forward”. Pause in center court if your shot has pulled the challenger deep or pushed them off to one side in the middle of the court, especially when they’re having to move hard to play your ball. If you see their shot appears to be going low, continue your run all the way in to the front court stopping about back of the box depth. So when the challenger goes into the front court to hit your ball, follow them in, almost, by pausing behind the short line. Let them feel your pressure on their shot choosing decision making and their shotmaking precision. If you pause in center court, read the challenger’s intentions when their spot is outside the forecourt. Check out their stance angle, contact height and backswing height. Be ready to move to cover their shot you read based on having observed tells like feet point or out front contact. When you don’t get any visual or you don’t have any past rally reconnaissance to call upon, then move to the spot where you SEE their ball is now heading.

Force —> multiplying the mass of your racquet and body by

acceleration via your   body’s motion boosting your climactic, torquing, whip-cracking arm and wrist snap results in full “force” or optionally dialed down to less than maximal racquet head swing speed for touch shots.

Sources of Force —> there are several “sources of force” for your strokes. First, how you set your feet and prep is HUGE. One force is based on being behind the ball so you move forward into the ball weighting your stroke with (lateral sideways force). Then (turning or angular force) takes over first with feet, then knee and then hip spin spiraling up thru your core rotation. As you swing and extend your bent arm out to make contact, that (leverage) produces (centrifugal outward bound force). As you work your legs and you swing out to in especially as you (always) finish in thru your follow-through, you create (centripetal inwards pulling force). Finally great force results from the speed with which you (loop the racquet) thru the ball. You ramp up or dial down that racquet head speed to define your swing’s force.   

Forcing shot —> at certain times the pattern you’re in calls for you to go bottom board or to go for a very low kill-shot. Other times the play is to strand the opponent as you pass them by. At certain moments you just have to hit a ball where your intent is to “force a weak return” by the opponent by how you place your shot. In the forcing pattern, many times you must angle your shot close by the opponent or even right at the opponent. Optimally because of the sheer pace of shot you’ll hit through them. Or optionally your shot’s unusual angle will force a weak return. Sometimes aim into their body rebounding right off the front wall. Other times look to ricochet the ball off a sidewall into their body. Other times strike the ball so it bounces right at their feet. When serving, a low jam serve off the sidewall about halfway back from the short line to the back wall, it’s meant to similarly force a weak return by the receiver. In rally play, either a little higher, crisply struck ball or, in doubles, a shot closer to the sidewall where that side’s challenger must fight with the sidewall for the ball can be Plan A. Too low a shot at them and that low ball may be tailor-made to be crushed. With your intended higher ball, still avoid the situation where they could allow your ball to go by them, bounce, and pop off the back wall; as they may dodge your shot and then be gifted a fat, juicy back wall setup. Ideally aim the ball either at the opponent’s hips because it can jam up their stroke or look to bounce the ball right at their feet. The opponent’s tendency may be to dangle the racquet down on their forehand side. Then jamming their backhand hip generates a poorly reflexed return because they can’t move their racquet fast enough to their backhand side. Were it you fielding a “forcing shot”, in center court or when returning serve, shield your body with your racquet set about waist high and the strings facing forward, while sporting your backhand grip. That body shield racquet position gives you the best chance to reflex back shots offensively. Then, at worst, you can flick a low keep-away return. Or, at best, you may even place a low put-away kill-shot direct to the front wall or into your preselected front corner.

Forecourt —> the part of the court in front of the service line which is 15 feet from the front wall or the first 15 feet of the court is the “forecourt” (or front court). The forecourt is your ideal kill-shot zone for 2-bounce kill-shots. If the ball bounces twice past that first line, it’s much more likely to be tracked down and aggressively played by the challenging cover player. Recall a kill-shot is not meant to bait the challenger to run forward or push them forward. A kill-shot is meant to be an outright rally ender because the shot you select is meant to be irretrievable because of the height you can take it and the stroke form you have dialed in to go bottom board.

Forehand —> the stroke used when the racquet arm is on the trail or back side of the body in preparation and then the forward swing is across the body with the palm facing the target wall at contact is the “forehand stroke”. In the forehand handshake grip the palm is held against the side of the racquet handle furthest away from contact. Generally the forehand is THE most powerful stroke ahead of the backhand because the forehand can incorporate so many sources of force. It’s key how the forces interrelate and potentially creating more inwards pulling snapping force or turning over your forearm and wrist thru contact. Boiling it down, a sidearm forehand throw swing is simply more potent than a frisbee backhand toss motion.

Good Form —> set up and use YOUR “good form”. Make it a habit to shift your feet into your good position or striking stance as you loop your racquet back before each and every form-based racquet swing. Then swing smoothly and completely with optimal form thru contact with the ball and on into your full, unfettered follow-through.

Use good Form in all things —> “use your good form” every chance you get. Good form is done your particular way that YOU perform when you produce your high standard, familiar, level best technical and tactical performance. In the now, when things get tough, go with your fall back plan. Always go back to YOUR basic form. Use your form at your own tempo, while shaping shots you routinely take and make that you know work. Use your efficient feetwork good form to hustle around the court and cover the opponent’s shot and then track down and shoot aggressively and effectively with your good swinging form.

Know your Form and you can reproduce your form —> once you develop, experiment with, tweak, correct, perfect thru drilling and play with and come to intimately know your stroking process you establish belief and ideally, by design, trust in your stroking form that’s able to be copied or repeated with success. That process goes from shot choosing to stance setting with its backswing prepping, while using continuos vivid imagery of planned shot to transitioning into the contact phase so you can reproduce or capture lightening in a bottle as you become the best contact hitter and shot shaper you can be. The difficulty arises when you don’t know your form. You have to have developed a defined form for all of your strokes including low contact stroking, overheads, high contact ceilings, low contact ceilings, lob serves, drive serves, back wall saves, and High Z stroking, with its unique upwards launch angle. That series of strokes shows there’s a lot to know. When your strokes are well known, they can be reproduced in patterns spanning thru the spectrum from quick-step, rapid-fire mid-court rallies to balls you can let it drop super low in setup patterns. So the advice is know your form so you can reproduce your known form in a versatile meet and exceed pattern response challenge. Then, with reps, your form is ideally copyable and copied with a specified degree of success.

4-corner racquetball —> as the offensive player one way of each conceptualizing shotmaking is determining in which corner of the court you are going to place each shot. By being able to spread the ball around the court into any one of the corners, “4-corner racquetball” places great pressure on the cover player to have to cover every corner vs. just one or two. You serve into one corner. You return serve or hit your rally shot into one of the 4 corners which is ideally the one where the opponent will have the most trouble covering it. Spend lots of drilling time practicing hitting drop and hit balls and feeding yourself balls you field and shoot to place the ball into one of those 4 corners. You may hit passes, ceiling balls, High Z’s or ATWB’s into a back corner. You may hit low into a front corner, as a …pinch shot; 3-wall kill-shot; splat; or kill-shot tight in along one sidewall. For the ball you field, pick the best corner and the best shot and stroke the ball to get it there.    

4-wall Z shot —> a shot seen being hit more and more often in match play is when a player uses great power and angle to shape a shot that replicates the High Z, with one more wall. The shot may be struck from along one side of the court facing the sidewall on the ball side or you could be facing the other sidewall and contact the far sidewall up ahead of contact. When you’re close in along a sidewall, contact is usually made in the back 1/4 of the court, but this shot can be attempted from the middle third as the shooter literally smashes the ball into the closest sidewall just up ahead of them about 10 feet at a very steep upwards angle. The ball then rockets off that first sidewall to angle diagonally upwards into the cross front corner, front wall first. From that point on the ball will act like a High Z. It ricochets into the near sidewall to then ideally head diagonally back to the opposite rear corner to again contact the far sidewall near that opposite rear corner behind you. Then it’ll be deeper than where you first struck that initial sidewall. Ideally the ball parallels the back wall like a High Z in this powerfully struck “4-wall Z shot”. A time to use it is when you can’t make a 3-wall kill-shot or lift a good ceiling ball or your high contact options are shrinking. Then rip your 4-wall Z shot and get the pinballing ball as deep as you can in the backcourt while you get ready to deal with the uptick in rally pace you’re imposing on the rally by following up and dashing into center court or at least sliding there alertly watching the ball and opponent. Now notice when off balance or on the run the second kind is when contact is made on the far side facing the other sidewall or even in an open stance. There crushing the ball into the far sidewall about halfway between contact and the front wall at a very steep upwards angle. There the objective is to angle the ball off that far sidewall into the front wall near the far corner. There the ball ricochets into the second sidewall. From that point the ball reacts like a High Z across the court diagonally. It’s more difficult with this 4 wall High Z to place it deep, but it’s going to cross the court to angle straight off the far sidewall going very fast, even if it comes up shorter than the near, faced sidewall type of 4 wall High Z. Note again this shot must be blasted so Big backswing and powerful upwards racquet flow like that for a High Z is required. Practice these after warming up thoroughly.

Framing —> how you see things or how you view them or how you frame your impressions of both your play and how you’re being treated, as well as how you see yourself adapting to change is all extremely important. “Framing” things optimistically is invaluable, even if it’s in part self-hypnosis. By seeing things in a hopeful and confident way that can allow you to comeback from a score deficit or let go of a tough call or even forget a traumatic rally. Also framing it that you’re the underdog would allow you to be the challenger, even if you are the lead sled dog. Then you can use the energy of seeing it as YOU need to give your all for every point.

Free yourself —> when playing a ball in the midst of a rally, “free yourself” to move your feet unhindered by outside pressures or even from within, as well as from the looming, crowding challenger. Swing freely unencumbered by pressure other than performing your routine best right HERE. Take your smooth, looping backswings that shift gears immediately into your free-flowing, arcing, forward contact swings. Play free. Although it’s make it take it like street ball (basketball), in that when you score you have ball in hand able to score again; there’s also no defending of your shooting with a hand in your face. So your shots can be very influential on the rally’s outcome and whether the opponent can keep up. Learn to shoot with great versatility and you’re able to free yourself to dominate rallies. 

Front court —> synonymous with the forecourt is the “front court” that is the part of the racquetball court from the service line on in to the front wall. That service line is the first line on the court that is 15 feet back from the front wall. The service line is also the front of the service zone. The front court is where players dash to make saves on attempted 3-wall kill-shots, very low direct kill-shots, corner pinch kill-shots, or splat sidewall kill-shots. When you’re the defender attempting to cover the challenger’s shot before the ball can bounce twice the front court is the most difficult coverage area. Also the front court is where an errant ball that’s hit upwards into the front wall that then carries and strikes way up high on the back wall projects way out to bounce and go way forward there into the front court. After reading that bizarre bounce off the back wall, pursue the ball by quickly hustling forward. Ideally hit it very low. Or hustle it down after your long sprint and keep the ball in play with a flick. After a shot is caught up to in the front court after one bounce, a low kill-shot or drop shot are the usual, preferable choices, although a passing shot around the closing in opponent is a plan B.  Note that a ball that hits very very high on the front wall to hit very high on the back wall can carry to bounce and contact the front wall. It doesn’t have to be caught up to after that bounce or before it’s going to strike the front wall again. You can let the ball hit the front wall and then return it before it takes its second bounce.

Front court player —> the term “front court player” is a bit of a misnomer. The front court player doesn’t really play in the front court, except when dashing forward to play left up pinches or splats. This type of player may be very adept at tracking down those balls in the front court, they’re also very proficient at depositing low shots straight in or into the sidewalls when shooting from close up to the front wall and even when shooting in the middle of the court. A front court player is known for their fast hands and highly aggressive game style. To counter this front court player, pull them back with passes or deep target ceiling balls (still angled away from them) to make them try to still shoot low shots from deep in the backcourt. Also, when the front court player is covering one of your low shots, follow them in because most likely they’re going to shoot low, even if your shot is tougher to get to or they’re hitting when on the run because that’s-what-they-do.

Frontier justice —> in tournament play the way the game is called by referees can be quite challenging for the players because of “frontier justice”. While a referee should stop dangerous situations, as they have the best vantage point of the whole situation and where a dangerous pattern could be unfolding, many times it’s left up to the fellow combatants. When the offensive player is spinning in a back corner or taking any ball off the back wall, they often lose sight of the opponent in front of them. Definitely if that opponent is in danger or being struck by a racquet it should just be stopped. That should also go for when they’re about to be blasted by a straight in or cross-court shot, the ref should just yell thru the mike “Stop!” (NOT by ticking on the back wall with a pencil or clipboard! You can’t hear that as a player like “No!”). They should make the call audibly versus letting it play out to see what’s going to happen next. The offensive player, if they pick up the opponent late, often short arms the shot or flicks the ball weakly giving the blocker an easy put-away shot. The offensive player usually can’t hold up in time without actually risking injuring themselves and especially they’d arm. The ref needs to take a more active role and prevent injuries to both players by making the early, obvious call. Leaving it up to the players and particularly the unsighted shooter just isn’t a fair interpretation of the rules. Also it demonstrates too laissez-faire officiating where the ref is letting things take their own course when, in addition to keeping score, safety should ALWAYS be of paramount importance and its THE #1 purpose for a referee. One call in particular is frontier justice at its most bizarre. As the player hits a ball with just a light flick to show they couldn’t take the full, deserved swing, the referee doesn’t allow the obvious hinder despite seeing it clearly being to the obvious disadvantage of the shooter. The referee will often say “You took the shot”, when it’s obvious they did NOT take the shot. They had no shot. They took no full, unimpeded swing and they couldn’t hold without risk hurting themselves. Similarly, a getter role, their needing to just barely touch the ball is often needed just to show to the ref you could get to and hit a ball or you get NO hinder call. As ref, more empathy or putting yourself in the shoes of the player helps you realize the situations and where the players are NOT being given a fair shake. Make calls for safety and just because they flick at the ball doesn’t mean they weren’t clearly hindered. Basically it comes down to having the gumption to make the call when the band of front wall from straight over to cross-court is NOT allowed the offensive player. That and blocking runs to the ball, blocking complete swings, blocking vision of the ball right before they swing and moving and getting ripped after the ball was already hit are all penalty hinder situations, not “Let’s see what the buffaloed offensive player does with this one?”. This ain’t rec play.

Front wall —> the ultimate target wall and goal for every serve and every return shot hit by the competitor is the 20 by 20 upright surface at the end of the hall, the target “front wall”. Deciphering angles for all of your serves and shots is your practicing quest. Coming to understand the dual angles for your drive serves and shots to define their path (up and down and sideways) both to the front wall and as the ball is rebounding back out to, for example, Robin Hood either back corner or bullseye the sidewall crotch crack just past either short line is all about defining your ball trajectory or launch angle and develop your feel and self belief in your shot-shaping art stroking. Your kill-shots direct to the front wall or off a sidewall into the front wall are meant to hit your target 6″ high or lower so the ball bounces twice no further back than the first service line. Also it’s finding the wider angle into the front wall for the deeper sidewall body jam or WAP shot hitting the ball around the opposing player. Or it’s the even wider wraparound angle. Those deep sidewall shots are feel targets on the front wall and then sidewall to make the ball zig off the sidewall which can be either at them OR around them. Finding the front corner spot for Z serves that engineer a quick ricochet into the near sidewall for an enduring diagonaling ball into opposite rear corner makes your drive and off speed Z’s both first AND second serve worthy. Your lofty front wall target for a High Z shot reflects your imagery to find that diagonally opposite rear corner just inches from the back wall. Only your off speed junk lobs and off speed Z’s find front wall targets between your rally low shots 3 feet high and below and your 12 to 17 feet very high lob serves and High Z shot targets. The front wall target for your ceiling ball depends on how far back from the front wall you target the ceiling, with further back for the deep target ceiling equating to a lower front wall ricochet and a much more difficult proposition for the opponent hoping to short hop the ceiling dealing with the challenging, fast retreating ball at passing shot speed. A shot from the front court for a front wall first ceiling ball should strike way up high on the front wall to then catch the ceiling close to the front wall and drop like a ton of bricks in the front court to exploit the opponent’s run forward to pressure you. The ball will bound up high and head for the backcourt quickly.

Front wall first pinch —> a shot into the front wall towards the selected front corner with the intent of (or accidentally) hitting the front wall first very low and then striking the sidewall very low is a “front wall first pinch” kill-shot attempt. Front wall first pinches often crack-out on the sidewall a short ways out from the front wall. Or a slightly left up front wall first pinch may ricochet off the sidewall and bounce twice farther out at the back of the front court. A too high front wall first pinch can catch the sidewall and veer out into the center of the middle of the court even beyond 15 feet as a very attackable left up ball for the challenger to be able to potentially re-kill it. So the moral of the story is practice your pinches, including drilling your front wall first pinches until they’re makable with either stroke. Reverse pinches are taken when aiming from either side, but taken as a pinch into the cross front corner, with the other side’s stroke, like a front wall first reverse pinch. And work on your touch reverse pinch sidewall first, too, with stroke to diagonally opposite front corner. 

Hard Fun —> racquetball can be very amusing and entertaining, and it can be very enjoyable. Yet, to be played and enjoyed, our game requires a price that you must pay. You must develop the techniques to…(a) stroke the ball; (b) move well to offensively play each ball or to defensively keep a ball in play; and (c) understand and select tactical shots and moves that optimize the noted or recognized pattern of play.

–> Also it’s selecting and executing serves that impress the receiver, while your serve allows you to retain center court, as well as ideally generating a weak return from the receiver. Racquetball is not intended solely for amusement though. That’s because it’s played to win. It’s a sport that requires great dedication and perseverance. To play you must be fit. Also you realize quickly when you have a dearth of a required skill. It takes breath control, ball control, emotional control and the ability to shape a wide variety of shots and serves that strain the challenger’s position, timing and skills. “Racquetball is HARD FUN!”

Fundamentals —> it’s big to have the basics that make up the core of your game. You must have strokes, feetwork to move into coverage, feetwork to track down and feetwork to approach the ball, numerous optional shots, versatile serves or all of the basic “fundamentals”. Essential decision making and tactical awareness is also part of the core principles of a fundamentally sound and strong game.

G

Game —> in USA Racquetball amateur rules, the first 2 contests in a full match are played to 15 points win by one. Those contests are games. The 3rd “game”, when there’s a tie or different winner in the first two, as the players split games 1 and 2, is a tiebreaker game played to 11 points, with win by one in amateur play. The breaker is also to 11 in men’s and women’s Pro and in international play. The lady’s professional racquetball tour (LPRT) is the last bastion of the 3 games out of 5 format with all games played to 11 points; also with win by 2 points the rule in every game. Now Men’s pro and International “open” play is two to 15 and an 11 point tiebreaker when the first two games are split by the two opposing sides. Rec games are often played to 11, as are the first two games of one-day shootouts, with tiebreaker to only 7 when tying games 1 and 2.

Game aims —> your strategy goals are your “game aims”. A game aim gives you direction. It’s formation blocks of your game strategy. A game aim is a result you obtain through tactical effort or efficiency actions. A tactic achieves your objective or aim, with your action. An ambition is an aim you seek, while a tactical objective is the action you take to attain that aim. The game aim is the-what. The objective or tactic is the-how. Aims are often ambitious, but not beyond doing. As you game plan and define your strategy, write down your game aims. An aim example would be make them hit lots of backhands from deep court. Define tactics how to reach your game aim, like deep drive serves to that backhand side or selecting from straight or cross-court passes toward THEIR backhand. The what-how decision is the way you approach each situation or pattern of play that you face in a rally. You see what the pattern is, what it calls for and you quickly define what your aim is and how your tactical response will optimize the pattern, in the now, to attain that aim.

Gamesmanship —> there’s a fine line between playing fairly and using ploys that are suspect and could be construed to be playing far less than sportingly. One example is consistently taking extra time beyond 10 seconds to freeze out the server or receiver, like when the receiver is not drying their goggles or, as server, you just make ’em wait extra time. Another move is like where a player hits a ball back by themselves and then they delay moving so they hide the ball from their hard charging, hustling challenger who should still get a chance, when they’re able to catch up to the ball, to take a full swing to hit both a straight in and cross-court angled shot. If either of those angles are blocked (or the space in between them), the player hiding the pass would get their comeuppance or deserved fate were they to be called for a penalty hinder in an officiated game. “Gamesmanship” IS part of the game. It’s best to play through it when it’s exhibited by the opponent because that’s part of why a player does it, just to get in your head. Just be impervious. Just consider the source and play on, as you play (your) game. However, if it’s not clearing or funneling the ball to your partner, you may hold fire and take a safety hinder, or you can swing away if you sense you can strand them out of position.

Game plan —> the going in strategy you set in advance of play is ideally tailored specifically to this challenger’s weaknesses and strengths and factoring in your strengths plus your perceived best responses to expected patterns of play that are geared to outplay this challenger, which is your overall “game plan”. It’s your game aims. In that planning you may have a several plans: a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C, and wrinkles, tweaks, or change-ups within each plan. Plan A tactics might be, for instance, a nick lob serve game where you plan to shoot their bad ceiling returns and any left up, overzealous shots the receiver may attempt from very deep court, while you’re in the catbird’s seat in center court. Plan B might be off speed lobs that angle back to your target on the sidewall 36 feet back, as well as blanketing the receiver’s DTL angle, while being intent on shooting everything left up by the challenger either by shooting into the sidewall or into an open cross-court angle. Game planning is done in advance of play. It’s setting your game strategy to paper (or drawing board) to prepare for most anything you anticipate might occur against this opponent. Adjustments to your game plan are made realtime in the match to accommodate changes made by the challenger or noted less than totally effective tactics or skills by you, as you asses and correct in future rallies.

Game style —> you should (or will) adopt your own personal “game style”. That game style usually matches your physical abilities and your personality. It’s good to also develop in yours the qualities of several different game styles used by other players. It’s not as simple as power player or control player, although you will need power with purpose and control over your racquet head and control over your shot pinpointing and serve placements. At a more sophisticated level, your own racquetball strategy revolves around a certain game style that’s all your own, although you are always free to change your game style on a whim to respond to a game situation or to counter a recognizable pattern of play in a rally. You may (or at times you must) change to adapt to the competitor’s tactic or game style. The most common game styles in racquetball include: (1) counter pusher; (2) turtle; (3) aggressor; (4) attacker; (5) cutoff artist; (6) backcourter; (7) all-court player; and (8) complete player. Which one are you? Look um up here and see what qualities from each you’d like to add to your own game style to make yours even more formidable or reflective of your playing physicality and personality. In reality these categories are not all inclusive. Everyone has their own completely unique game style. Develop your own game style in drilling, practice games and fire forge it in contests of skill with a varied, broad swath of player skill sets.

Get —> a very low shot in the front court or a deep court shot passing by you when either one is getting away from you must be answered by hustle, grit and determination to make THAT “get” to keep the ball in play, extend the rally and ideally place the pressure right back on the challenger based on your get placement, where sometimes your fortuitous bounce surprisingly wins the rally and many times it’s due to the unexpectedly keeping the ball in play, in part, due to your hustle and often just a little luck. A get on a ball making contact with the far sidewall and then running on to it to glance the ball off the near sidewall up ahead of contact is less luck than skill. Not similarly covering a High Z shot that almost wallpapers the back wall and you either get in behind it to flick the ball forward or your get is to whack the ball strategically up against the back wall (always above the height of ball contact) keeps the ball in play. Another get situation occurs when you, as the serve receiver, are fielding a drive serve that’s beating you to the rear corner and you must literally lay out in a dive to the corner. Or you take an especially quick jab step and follow up with a diagonal crossover step to cutoff the angle to give yourself the best opportunity to get your return of serve in play. Rally gets are based on starting in the center court or, when receiving, in the center in the backcourt, but at their foundation is that hustle and gritty determination to leave the center when you must to pursue the balls with cross steps, quick feet, and ball read acquired genius to adjust to its bounce and intercept it where you can keep the ball in play and the rally alive. A good get can turn a match completely in your favor. Be a good getter; hustle.

Get out of the box! —> have a little voice in the back of your head saying to you, “Move!” after you complete each and every service motion and its full follow-through. ALWAYS make a special effort to “get out of the box” or escape the service zone asap. The first thing to do is to recover your balance. Push from front to back foot. Then, double pivot your feet simultaneously, as you also begin to lift and cross step with the front foot back toward the short line. That’s the start to the quickest way to get back into center court. Begin by taking the crossover step to cover more distance knowing well you can cover more shots from center, even if you’re only able to almost get deep in the safety zone or to only straddle the dashed line. That inability to get completely back behind the dashed line is because your drive serve may just beat you back and there’s just not enough time to get all the way back behind the dashed line before the receiver contacts your fastest serve. It’s just timing, not lesser movement. Still getting trapped in the box is not in any way gonna help your chances of coming out on top unless your serve is an ace, they skip in their return, or they hit a softball right to you. So ALWAYS get out of the box! To move behind where you serve, crisscross. That means start with a cross step behind your back foot to clear to the center away from the sidewall. The crossover step is in front of your back foot which can be used to slide sideways quickly or to turn as you crossover to turn and sprint a longer distance by turning to face that way as you gobble up court in a diagonal run.

Prep as you Get out of the service box —> if you don’t quickly move just to in front, on or just behind the dashed line, you risk getting passed or jammed with a ball off the front wall or sidewall. After serving, recover your balance, turn ball side (side where the ball is headed) as you pivot both feet, crossover with front foot, and then take big, quick steps to cover more court or short, choppy steps for balance moving sideways backwards for slower serves until you’re straddling or ideally behind the dotted line (but close to the dashed line works). If you’re the non-serving doubles partner, step across your deeper foot with the foot closest to the front wall as you’re crossover step to get quickly into center court. For server or partner…first, pivot on both feet and then cross step with the frontmost foot. Move to angle off and partially face the sidewall in the front court in front of the ball when it’s deep behind you. So to retreat, given time take little short steps backward until you are just in front off the dotted line or on it or perhaps slightly behind it. Note that your faster serves come with faster returns by the receiver which means you may not get as far back into center court to D-up. Also, after you serve, especially drive serves, your body is more committed or more forward so you must rebalance first. Then once you cross step with front foot then cross step with the trail foot behind the foot that crossed over in front and you’ll usually be back as far as you can get partially facing the same side as the ball, as the receiver addresses your drive serve, while you “body shield yourself with your racquet out in front of you, as you get ready to aggressively attack their return where you gotten to out of the box”. For a ball along that sidewall, you’re ready to cover with a jab step with your back (deeper) foot and front foot cross step out to the sidewall to interrupt a down the wall ball. You may even go for a 3-wall kill-shot if no other shot jumps out as THE shot to return this ball that’s rocketing by you.

Get the ball back to the front wall —> when you return serve or when you hit your rally shot your first impetus is to “get the ball back” in play to the front wall. But the getting it back should be more than just whacking it or batting it that-away toward the front wall. It should ALWAYS be tactically placing the ball as best you can ideally AWAY from the opponent. Yet still, in a mid rally running, while in the midst of your hustling play, think, “Get it back”.  Also, when you lose the serve, your mindset should be “Get it back”, meaning get the opponent’s serve back starting with your good return of serve to the front wall as tactically well as you can manage.

Give a hand up —> for new players to the game or any player interested in higher level competition, lend them a hand or “give them a hand up”. Show ’em what you know. Donate a used racquet to them. Tell them where to get equipment they’ll need by getting it locally and on the Internet. Teach them the rules. Give them the link to USA racquetball rules. Connect them to racquetball organizations. Tell them about watching live and archived racquetball online. Make ’em feel welcome. Volley around with them. Talk about feetwork, grips, center court and how to time their racquet work. Show ’em it’s lots of fun to play racquetball, with well-refined skills, strategic tactics, and by playing by the rules. Have a hit with ’em when you see them they’re training, by joining their drilling. Show ’em some drills to enhance their skills, including feeding themselves balls with bounces, flicks to front wall or ceiling balls.

Gloves —> what’s between you and the racquet is THE most important connection there is because it’s about how well you hold and grip down on the racquet. Under a separate topic we’ll cover the BIGGEST part, your hand’s placement or grip on the racquet handle which is how you hold the racquet, which is MASSIVE. And, although a small number of players go glove-less, it’s much more common to see players wear a glove because most hands perspire when a player moves and swings the racquet. Like how you hold the racquet or set your feet or stroke the ball or pick your shoes or select a racquet, “your glove choice is very individual” and very important, too. Leather usually beats faux leather. Make sure to match your glove to your racquet handle material, too. It’s too bad you can’t demo gloves like you can racquets, but check out what gloves other players use. Once you find a model you like, buy in quantity what you’ve determined is good quality and feels good on your hand, while sticking to your racquet handle material. Have a couple “gloves” per game with you; so bring backups. Never play a rally with a wet glove (just like you wouldn’t play with completely streaked up goggles or a broken string or an untied shoe or hitting a mind-less serve without picking serve). To extend the life of your leather gloves, use mink oil or a leather care product to soften them up. After lots of use, hand wash them in cold water with a gentle detergent and then try them on as they dry, which brings them back to size and that care makes your gloves last a lot longer.

Goggles —> you’ve gotta have strings in your racquet and a glove that’s dry. For safety, sometimes to correct nearsightedness, and to follow the rule “All players must wear lensed eyewear…”. You must have eyewear or eye protection or eyeguards or “goggles” that are unfoggy or not streaked with sweat as you begin each new rally. In between rallies check your goggles by looking up at the lights or by holding them up and looking through the lenses at the lights. Make sure they’re clear. If you need to, dry them off. If they’re not dry, use your shirt or shorts or a towel to dry them off so you have a clear view of the ball for that very crucial part of playing: seeing the ball at contact. Cotton dries ’em best. A croakie holding onto the ends of the goggles makes sense, too, so you don’t drop them and lose the point, as losing any equipment during rally is loss of rally. Between rallies, as receiver, it’s very hard to face forward and raise your racquet as you simultaneously wipe off your goggles. Instead just turn and face the back wall. In rec play, as you turn, let the singles challenger or doubles challengers know by saying “Just a sec”, because they might not check you (ever). It may irritate them if you test their checking you, and their serve could fly back and pop you off the back wall even hitting you in the eye–yes, it has happened; so just let them know you’re toweling off your goggles. Then turn around raring to go. If they’re tournament players, you might be more about testing that they abide by the rule to check their receiver or suffer a fault serve. If you’re nearsighted, you can get a pair of prescription ready goggles and they’ll help you pick up the ball at a distance and help you move and read where you’ll make your best racquet to ball contact.

Grateful —> be VERY “grateful” for the opportunity, the challenge, the health benefits and the competition of racquetball. If you ever get upset out there, just think how you should be grateful to be playing.

Grip —> the way you hold the racquet is massively important and very personal. A limited number of players at the highest levels of play use only one “grip” on their racquet handle, and that is possible, with some allowances for where you make contact height-wise. Note that using a forehand grip for your backhand is going to mean you dial down your backhand swing and you may slice a lot backhands when using a palm against the side of the racquet handle grip where the palm is then facing the back wall at contact, which places your wrist in an awkward position at contact for a backhand, with the racquet face angled backwards at contact if you don’t educate or majorly adjust your wrist to manage your racquet face in a slightly awkward wrist position. So one other key thing that makes the grip critical is how your grip allows you to make contact at either multiple heights or a limited number or range of heights. Some grips limit your contact zone, especially to hit the ball down low. For instance, your contact range could be from mid thigh down to just below knee height for your limited grip and that would mean at higher contact you’d play more defensively lifting ceiling balls, as you’d be taking big chances from waist level up to shoulder high when attempting to shoot down to low targets. Also, for low contact below say shin high, due to some grips, your racquet face may be closing too much when swinging thru contact and you might smother the ball for a skip. It’s important to develop a versatile, wide ranging grip or possibly a couple grips for both strokes that you know how to change to quickly while ideally doing so without touching the racquet with your off hand. Using your other hand to adjust your grip could slow down your grip change and you might not let go in time with the off hand so then you won’t get in a good backswing and the forward swing would be rushed and weaker. Ultimately the purpose of your grip is to know or feel your racquet face so you know how to control it to make good contact on the ball to control both your vertical angle (up and down) and your sideways angle (shots to your side or across court), by how you bevel (angle) pointing your racquet face down or in or out receiver for as you’re swinging the racquet head thru the ball. Under “handshake grip”, for the forehand, and “Top grip”, for the backhand, are the recommended most productive, versatile grips. Another meaning for the term grip is the cover you put on the racquet handle. There’s leather, rubber, a clear vision grip and overwraps like those used on tennis rackets.   

Grip or squeeze racquet handle like it’s a live bird —> don’t squeeze too tightly as you’re making contact with the ball or you shut down the little, key muscles in your arm and hand and you tighten up the joints that motor your fluid snapping swing motion where the forearm turns over as the arm straightens joined by the wrist rolling in its own turnover action thru contact. Hold securely, but lightly and you can swing thru making flowing contact. “Hold on to the racquet like it’s a live bird”. Don’t bruise the bird.

Grow —> it’s ideal to develop and progress or “grow” as an athlete and tactician in the game of racquetball. The better you can rebound or field THEIR balls as they’re coming off the front wall and place them strategically to boss the rallies, the better your play and the more you want to develop as a player and take on bigger and greater challenges. Look to continuously grow and mature as both player and person, as you become a shooter.

Racquetball continues Growing —> keep learning. In your playing life, continue to evolve as an athlete and player. Keep up with the game’s new serves, new shots, new feetwork, new court positioning, and any new tactics and strategies they foster. By keeping up, you are able to play at a very high level and keep up with the best of the best of our ever evolving racquetball game. Like all evolving sports, “racquetball continues growing” and improving; make sure you grow with it.

H

Habits —> those things you do that reflect your auto reactions or conditional responses that you have learned are your habitual methods or “habits” that you do uniquely, have done routinely and you can do by rote, and that you return to if ever one of your reactions is off kilter. It’s your habitual norms, your rituals and routines, and your habitual forms that keep you in the now and playing YOUR game instead of your challenger’s. For those habits they also have habitual timing. Develop good, working “habits” and stick to um and do them,as they work in your behalf.

Hand-eye coordination —> the coordinated movement of your eyes and hand or your proprioception skills allow you to guide your racquet head by how your eyes read the bounce of the ball and how your whole body swings the racquet by maneuvering your racquet head to place your strings on the part of the ball you see shaping the shot you select, imagine and then make with your “hand-eye coordination” or eye-hand coordination.

Handle —> to find a racquet you like, including its “handle” or the part where you set your hand to grip it that handle in that demo’ing, and it also needs to feels good in your hand. That is very important. Some handles are more rounded. Others are more rectangular. Some have bigger knobs at the bottom. Also how that handle is covered is big, too. There’s a few types of material with which to grip your racquet, which means the material on the handle to help you hold it or grip it. There’s leather you wrap, rubber you pull on, and sometimes players cover the handle with overwraps or even something like a tire tube. Finding one handle material that works for you and your favored gloves that adhere to that handle is of great significance. Keep mixing and matching until you find your Goldilocks ‘just right’ pairing of racquet handle material and glove wear.

Hand on racquet Handle position —> like how you grip down on your racquet handle with your hand to control your racquet face thru contact for each stroke, as you make contact at multiple heights for potentially a vast array of shots, WHERE you place your hand on the handle is also highly personal and very important. Some dangle their smallest pinky finger completely off the end of the handle which gives them extra reach or leverage; but that’s obviously a less secure position because there’s just less hand on the racquet. Many place their pinky on the knob at the very bottom of the handle. Some choke up on the handle so their pinky and hand are inside the knob or racquet bottom, which gives them better control over their racquet face. Some choke up on the handle even further as they lob serve. After lofting up their lob, then they switch to their routine grip as they begin to drop back and play out the rally. You could catch that choke up lobber mid grip change with an early passing shot return of their lob, by moving up early to overhead or short-hop the serve right after its bounce. In practice work on your own “hand on handle positioning”. See which position works best for you for your different contact heights with different possible grips.

Hand out —> …at the beginning of a doubles match, after the first server loses their serve at the beginning of each game by that team dropping the rally in which that server serves, it’s a side out and the other team takes over; and then both partners are up. When and if that first server of the second team up drops a rally, the second server takes over and that’s called a “hand out” or some call it a half out and the second server takes over. From then on, when the first server loses a rally, it’s a hand out (as the second doubles partner’s hand is in to serve). Note that either one of the 2 servers on a team may be the first server up from that first serve by the one server as the game goes on. There’s no order of serve mandated in the rules. If the first server wins the rally, a point is scored and that server keeps serving. So when both are to serve and the first server drops their serve it’s a handout and the other serving partner or second server takes over serving. That second server keeps serving as long as their team keeps winning rallies. After the second server loses a rally, it’s a side out. If either server who has already served and lost a rally attempts to serve again, that team loses their serve or it’s a side out and the other team assumes the serve. So it’s important on both sides of the ball to keep track of who served first and also who has already served.

Handshake grip —> the grip used for the forehand is referred to as the “handshake grip”. It’s based on the “Eastern” forehand tennis grip. To find the forehand grip, simply slide your palm down your strings and place your palm up against the racquet handle on the flat plane of the eight-sided handle completely opposite contact. Place the underside of your index finger knuckle (palm side) on that plane opposite contact ideally placing it at the bottom of that flat plane, again, opposite contact. Although it’s suggested you rest the underside of your index finger knuckle on the lowest part of the plane opposite contact or on the other side from where you contact the ball with your racquet strings, you can move that knuckle to middle or high on that flat plane. Lowest is suggested because that sets your hand to swing most effectively and with best control over your racquet face for wide ranging ball contact from ankle bone low to chest high.

Happy place —> go to your “happy place” when the going gets tough. That will return you to that happy place comfort zone where you play at your very best. There you can be balanced, (acting) happy, under less duress by controlling pressure from your competitor with your assertive decisions, efficient actions, resiliency and serve and pre-serve rituals you use and enjoy for their rhythm producing and recapturing and their reloading qualities so you’re ready and loaded for bear for the very next serve.

Head cover —> as you serve the ball back behind you, and you’re turning and looking over your back shoulder while watching the receiver struggle or attack your serve, it’s a good safety measure to raise up your racquet head and look through your strings to spy the ball, the challenger’s movements, and to take notes of how they prep to hit. It’s especially big to use a “head cover” up, for instance, when you serve a lob Z or high lob to the receiver’s forehand side and you sense a cross-court overhead may be the return that’s coming. Covering up is particularly the case when you stay close and both you and the receiver are sharing the same area of center court. It’s one of those “It’s better to be safe than sorry” moves to take in rally play. If you look back and see the receiver or rally hitter in an open stance, a head cover is just a good play. Also a head cover is the manufacturer provided zipper compartment for your racquet head where you place your racquet in between workouts. Should an opponent ask you what’s in your head cover, calmly answer “Your doom”.

Head on a swivel —> wrapt attention on the challenger as they’re tracking down the ball and as they’re initially addressing the ball to hit is accomplished by keeping your “head on a swivel”, while watching the challenger intently and most importantly reading in hopes of anticipating where they’re going to hit the ball. Also by swiveling your head around you make sure they’re not directly behind you where you’re in the way and you must clear unless you’re jumping up timing their hitting the ball underneath you right when you’re hovering up above the court. When watching temporarily, with your head on the swivel, look over your back shoulder and optionally look through your racquet head strings if the concern is you’re in their possible off angle target zone because of your tough shot or challenging serve placement. Also it’s a good idea to always cover up and turn your head to face the front wall when you see they’re in an open stance, swivel your facing forward right as they hit the ball, somewhere.

Heavy ball —> to swing with great weight or body weight, shift back first loading your back foot and lightly turning your hips, as you prep finishing as you step forward. Then, when you swing forward, push off your back foot. There that transfers weight into the ball as you body pivot into it, which allows you to hit a “heavy ball” that your challenger must absorb with their contact via a strong grip on the racquet handle and how they adjust placing the ball on their racquet sweet spot to control their outgoing shot angle. If they don’t grip down well on the racquet handle, swing crisply, and control its sweet spotting they risk mishits and even skips. Likewise countering the challenger yourself, to absorb a heavy ball, you must add some strength holding your racquet and placing your strings tactically so your sweet spot contacts the ball, while often drawing the ball in slightly on your strings, as you drive your racquet head crisply thru the ball.

Helicopter swing —> as a result of a straight front leg in the hitting stance, players often step away from contact toward the far side of the court away from contact after hitting the ball. There the leg re-lands in a pirouette into a huge, open stance where, as a result, the racquet head takes an unnaturally massive circumference swing. With that oversized swing, especially with the swinging around front leg, the opponent is at risk of being contacted with the follow-through in this oversized “helicopter swing” motion. Bending the front knee helps avoid the overly exaggerated leg and arm swing. The routine 8 foot swing circumference from back to thru is big enough already. That need to control the follow-through is particularly the case for a backhand swing which already has the largest full forward swing of the two strokes with the largest follow-through, even without stepping cross-court with your front foot as part of your post contact, overly flourishing follow-through. As the hitter is setting their feet, check out their knee bend to see if they may swing their front leg around as they swing and then you’ll know whether to give them a wider berth or more space for their exaggerated follow-through. 

High Z shot —> the shot when lifting the ball up very high and diagonally into the cross front corner so the ball strikes the front wall 12-18 feet high and 4-8 feet from the front corner or close enough to the sidewall so the ball then ricochets into that near sidewall causing the ball to carom out quickly heading diagonally into the opposite rear corner to strike the far sidewall up very high and ideally within just a few feet or inches of the back wall so the ball parallels the back wall is a well-shaped “High Z shot”. That shot angle will ideally make the High Z ball parallel the back wall forcing the challenger to have to quickly retreat and struggle just to keep the ball in play. The defender often has to save the Z ball up into the back wall to save it or keep the ball in play. This shot forms the letter “Z”, as a very high High Z. It’s a must have shot in your vast arsenal of many shots. It’s especially useful for when you’re on the run and dashing out towards a sidewall and you’re looking to shoot the ball from the forecourt or mid court or even as far back as 3/4’s court. There you’re targeting the cross front corner to diagonally send the ball up very quickly to dump it into the backcourt when you determine the High Z is your best keep-away shot that you can manage. A High Z is for when you’re on the move or when you’re not optimally on balance. It’s very important your High Z be high enough so it won’t be cutoff on its way back diagonally through the middle of the court because the challenger would much rather cut it off in the middle of the court than retreat and most likely defend it from way back deep

near the back wall almost 40 feet from their must hit front wall target. One other time to consider the High Z and be glad you have it down is when returning high bouncing lob serves to either back corner when you can move up and take the ball on the rise and lift it up swinging across your body into the cross front corner front wall first way up near the far sidewall with that side’s stroke, e.g. forehand on your forehand side. This is a shot well worth the minimal (but maximal value) practice time it takes to learn it. As you learn and then mentally see your High Z, swing up to contact the far front corner to make the ball zig into the sidewall and then zag across the court to the far sidewall close to the back wall. It’s a good feeling to lift one and a good chance for you to slide into great position in center court while the opponent scurries after your High Z shot placed deep in the backcourt. If they try and they can cut it off, duck and get ready to run.

Hinder —> in self officiated play, a rally may be repeated due to the offensive player calling a safety holdup or “hinder” when that player about to strike the ball senses they’re even possibly going to injure the challenger or when there’s incidental contact between the 2 players that throws off the shooter. In competitive play, the ref must agree to the safety hinder call. A hinder called a penalty hinder may be called by the referee (or it may be self-called by the offending player even though they lose the rally) when they…(a) fail to move to give the other player both straight in and cross-court angles; or (b) they interfere with the hitter’s stroke; or (c) they move and block a ball already shot by the hitter; or (d) they block the challenger’s movement to play the ball especially when an offensive shot is clearly doable had it been unblocked; or (e) they move through the line of sight of the hitter with the angle the ball is taking toward opponent. Understanding both the rules and the practical application of them in competitions and ideally that understanding also in non trophy games, too, improves your level of play, and it encourages fair and safe play. A little time reviewing and visualizing the rules is very helpful for you and every player. Most players haven’t read the rules.

When do you call Hinder in doubles? —> in club doubles or even tournament doubles there’s a lot of close calls where you must decide in just a moment’s notice or in a blink, “Can I see this ball?” or you may have to quickly decide, “Do I settle for THIS shot?”…for example, a wimpy down the wall shot that’ll be gobbled up

when clearly the cross-court angle is blocked THEN it’s best to say, “Hinder!”. In self officiated or officiated play raise your off hand, in any case. You must quickly decide. If you can’t see a ball as it’s going back by the non-hitting doubles partner or even when it’s passing by the hitting player and you know you’re at a distinct disadvantage, call hinder. Or, if you have a shot angle blocked you know you should hit the ball into, call hinder. Don’t just feed the opponent a lollipop. The objective is not just to keep the rally going. Keeping your opponent’s heart rate up is not your job or really the point. Fair play is. Note that the “blocking” rule states that “…in doubles the offensive player who is not returning the ball hinders or impedes either defensive player’s move into a position to cover pending shot…”. That means the non returning player is supposed to clear and allow both defensive partners to cover the shot by allowing them to move into center court vs. boxing them out or jostling with them for position. Obviously a straight and cross-court angle should be given at all times and that means in doubles, too. If one or both is blocked and you lift a ceiling ball, you’re surrendering. Battle on and call hinder.

Hinder player —> a player who way too often for it to be accidental gets in the way blocking the opponent is a “hinder player”. A hinder player gets asked to play practice games when the asker is looking to practice against a hinder player. There’s lots of ways to hinder…(1) the player can say “Aw shucks” (or something equivalent) right in the middle of their challenger’s swing or even as the challenger is still closing in to shoot, when that distracting, verbalizing player just missed their placement or say they’re telling their partner where to cover; (2) a player hits a pass up through the middle right by them and they don’t even budge or deign to clear out of the way as the challenger closes in behind the hinderer; (3) a player hides a back wall setup they obviously caused by hitting a ball popping off the back wall and they stay there in between the attacking opponent and the back wall hiding what should be an easy setup so the hinder player hides the ball; (4) a player serves a ball that contacts a sidewall and then, when the ball pops off the sidewall, the server doesn’t clear or they even step into the cross-court angle that the receiver should be able to choose to hit into; (5) a player hits a deep nick lob and moves back and very close to the ball to take away anything cross-court from the receiver knowing they’re expecting the server to not pop them out of concern for their well being… then, when they do get popped, they don’t want it to be called as a penalty hinder; or (6) the player hits a soft pass down the wall from making contact along the wall in the middle of the court say 25 feet back and, as the challenger is moving to gobble up the bunny behind them, the shooter stays on the line preventing the shot, taking the ball on the leg or even preventing the challenger from even getting a chance to hit the ball at all.

–> You might ask how do hinder players sleep at night. Since most of those hinders are done with malice of forethought, know the hinder player plays that way and they may see it as part of the game when really it is not. The object is to play and compete fairly and within the integrity of the game that’s played in tight conditions where the expectation is that the challenger is playing by the same rules or on a level playing field with you. That’s why it’s sad when the hinder player resorts to gamesmanship or gaming you or gaming the rules and the ethics of fair play. At a simple level just play your game and they can take care of themselves. Shot’s like reverse pinches often open up when hinderers block the cross-court. Be ready to think fast and hit out or hold up, but don’t hurt yourself.

Hit and clear —> it needs to be emphasized that a player is tasked to move AFTER they hit their shot. That moving is so the defending player may…take a direct line to the ball you just struck; they may have an ability to see the ball clearly as it angles off the last wall it hit; clearly see the ball to strike it; and once they get there they should be able to turn offensive and have an unimpeded swing at and thru the ball. One penalty hinder racquetball rule states that Failure to Move is where, “A player does not move sufficiently to allow an opponent (shooter) a shot straight to the front wall as well as a cross-court shot which is a shot directly to the front wall at an angle that would cause the ball to rebound directly to the rear corner farthest from the player hitting the ball. In addition, when a player moves in such a direction that it prevents an opponent from taking either of these shots.”. Additionally the rule for Stroke Interference states that, “…when a player moves, or fails to move, so that the opponent returning the ball does not have a free, unimpeded swing. This includes unintentionally moving in a direction that prevents the opponent from making (taking) a shot.” It goes on to call out Blocking. There a player “Moves into a position which blocks the opponent from getting to, or returning, the ball; or in doubles, the offensive player who is not returning the ball hinders or impedes either defensive player’s ability to move into a position to cover the pending shot that comes into play.”. That doubles reference means once one partner takes control to hit the ball the other non returning partner should not hinder or squeeze down the opposing 2 defending players’ ability to move “into a position to cover”. That obviously refers to allowing the defenders to move into center court AHEAD of the non returning player. The next rule about “hit and clear” concerns basically taking it on the leg by how the non hitting

player is caught Moving into the Ball where a player “Moves in the way and is struck by the ball just played by the opponent.”. That could happen anytime the hitting player strikes any shot and the defending player moves late to block the hitter’s shot after the hitter is already set and swinging. That points to a player moving late to block a straight in shot when the ball is being taken by the hitter as a setup off the back wall. Or it’s also when moving late to block a reverse pinch when the defending player gets there late to get popped, even though that defender could have been in-between before the hitter was shooting and then the hitter would have had to take a shot into a different shot angle because a shot into the diagonally opposite corner is not a rules-mandated must give angle. Finally hit and clear relates to View Obstruction when… “A player moves across an opponent’s line of vision just before the opponent strikes the ball.”. Moving across an opposing hitter’s line of vision occurs in situations when the ball is…(a) coming off the front wall back toward the hitter, coming straight out or even cross-court in doubs; (b) diagonally coming out off a sidewall, like off the sidewall as low Z shot; or (c) when the ball is bouncing and popping off the back wall and the now defender player just happens to delay on the line the ball is taking off the back wall thus taking away the juicy setup to avoid taking their medicine for having setup the hitter. In any of those situations, the opposing player is moving across (or hanging out on) the line the ball is taking on the line of sight of the offensive player as they’re hitting hoping to see and deserving to see and read the ball they’re trying to hit. Here are some rules examples that spell out what can’t be blocked that the explicit rules show ranges from giving up the 2 shot angles and what’s in between to allowing the opponent a direct move to see the ball to getting a full swing at the ball to NOT moving and blocking a shot already being taken by the hitter to NOT blocking the ball from being seen as it’s coming off the last wall it hit because the opponent moves through or delays on that critical line of sight, like a “hinder player” would. Here are scenarios that explain the basic movements showing how to avoid many blocking situations. After striking your shot, hit and clear by moving off the ball away from the possible run by the now offensive player. A striking example of that is crushing a passing shot say down the right wall and then anticipating the opponent could be about to whack the ball into the back wall to save the ball right where you…were…because…YOU hit AND move! That way their save to the back wall doesn’t hit you. Here are some patterns to explain clearing. If you are in mid court say 25 feet back along one sidewall and you see the shot you’ve hit is medium high or crushed and going back by you, after your swing you must move laterally toward the center giving the opponent a straight line run to cover the ball passing behind you. That usually would include a slight diagonal move forward to not block the defender’s straight line run to the ball, as you then curl back into center court to defend. You’d be setting a block were you to move directly to the central front tter or were you to drop back diagonally which would block the line they’d want to take to cover the ball deeper along that wall. In another pattern when hitting from along one sidewall, as you hit a shot that goes low and straight in to the front wall or low and into that side’s front corner, after your swing you must move to give the opponent a straight line run in front of you to cover either along the near sidewall side (covering your tight to the sidewall shot) or to allow the defender to go into the front court (covering your pinch or splat). Those are 2 low shot situations. For the shot you place low along the sidewall, you may move to the center allowing for the angle of the run the opponent WANTS to take from their defensive position to run down your shot in front of you. There you might angle diagonally back and curl into center court. However, if they’re right there on top of you behind you in the center, it might be necessary for you to zig toward the front court to give them a straight line run to your low shot tight in along the sidewall. Then you could back up into center court. Or there you might have to retreat quickly toward the backcourt to give up the run in front of you and then circle into center court. If you can’t move, you might have to jump as they swing under you. If your low shot is a tight pinch that leaves the ball up ahead of you, you might have to initially move out to the sidewall and then curl back around into center court to give the opponent a straight line run into the front court, while you follow them around into center just in case they cover your pinch or splat and leave up their responding get shot. In those hit low and clear situations, you are doing the right thing 2 ways. One, you are not hitting and planting right there where you are leaving up the ball near you. Therefore you avoid losing the rally that the ref could take away from you by calling you for a penalty hinder. Two, you are not hitting and delaying to make it tougher on the opponent and then moving, which again could and should be called as a penalty hinder. You’re not hitting and freezing like a proverbial deer in the headlights and the ref calling hinder where if you had moved you could’ve won the rally that now you’ll either have to replay or worse case you could lose the rally were it to be called as a penalty hinder. And add to that you could get bum rushed because the opponent may be saying inwardly to themselves, “They’re moving, right?”, and you might be run into. One more example explains the scenario where one offensive doubles partner is hitting a cross-court kill-shot or a cross-court passing shot and their partner is positioned right on the line the ball is taking as the ball angles off the front wall passing by them way too close. There the defense and especially the player on the side where the ball is heading, when they’re unsighted, clearly is being hindered by the non returning opposing player. It could be called as penalty hinder for not clearing because that offensive player who is not returning is impeding the defensive player’s ability to move into a position to see and cover the pending shot. There it’s simple. As the non returning partner, when your partner is playing the ball and both of you didn’t originally get drawn like a magnet to both hit the ball, you, as non returning player, MUST clear. When one partner assumes the shooting, the other partner should allow the defenders to get in forward defensive position. If the non returning player holds their position, they are resorting to gamesmanship and creating a possible dangerous situation. They should be clearing and defending. A simple slide over more centrally and a short step back would be all it takes to best back up their partner’s shot. If they move, they’re not taking away their partner’s successful shot due to hindering by blocking the view of the ball or by even blocking the run to cover their partner’s shot were the non hitting partner to stay in the way. Staying in the way you could be taking away your hitting partner’s winner because the rally may have to be replayed or you could be called for a penalty hinder for blocking and your team loses the rally the hitting pair would’ve, could’ve, should’ve won. Moral: hit and clear, by habit. After your sufficient follow-through, beat feet. If you leave up a ball near you or you’re about to hide one passing by you, don’t; MOVE! If your partner is hitting, don’t hinder the defenders. Move.

Hit and move —> “hit and move” after shooting your rally shot, your return of serve, or your serve. Move into the best position you can to cover the challenger’s return of your ball. Hitting and not moving won’t get you any ball unless the challenger just happens to hit the ball right back to you. Make it a good habit to copy a boxer’s technique where a boxer will take a swing and then move to avoid being counterpunched by the opposing boxer. Similarly the optimum move is to swing and then center up by first recovering your balance, while pressing from front foot to back foot. Then either go where the ball is going or move to center up in center court to defend, while you avoid staying where you hit the ball, especially if you hit the ball close by yourself. The move part is then about occupying your optimum spot in center court so your odds go way up to get to strike the ball offensively again.

Hit ‘em where they ain’t —> play perpetual keep-away with your shot selections to avoid hitting the ball to the challenger. “Hit ‘em where they ain’t”, like the baseball hitter truism where batters hit between the fielders.

Hitting —> striking, cranking, crushing, howitzering, mashing, smashing, bludgeoning, blasting, demolishing, creaming, smoking, decimating, shooting, and dialing it down to bunting, feathering, flicking, touching, and finessing are all ways of saying you’re returning or “hitting” the ball by making contact with the ball with your racquet head (not your racquet handle), as you do so at different racquet head speeds. When you hit, don’t hit like your hitting a nail on the head with a hammer. You’re hitting THROUGH the ball and swinging on past contact into your full follow-through.

Hit out  —> you’re gonna immediately know whether or not you can drive THIS ball. When you recognize you can hit with power and purpose, maximize the situation by efficiently moving quickly to set your feet to attack, as you fully prep the stroke you’ve picked to rip this ball finishing with your step up with your front foot. First, quickly assess type of shot and side of court. Pick kill-shot or pass shot and side (yours straight or cross theirs commonly). Then your timed, full prep, shot image, and mindset should be matched by switching gears to attack the ball when it’s arriving in your contact zone. Right as the ball enters your contact zone… accelerate thru the ball driving the racquet thru. No half measures. No let up. Commit. “Hit out”. Strongly drive your racquet thru the ball and on to target. No putting on the brakes or under hitting. Lash thru the ball and on to target to go bottom board, to either pass them by or to hit a kill-pass that, if it isn’t a kill-shot, it’s hit into the open lane or least covered or easiest area found for this passing shot.

Hitting shoulder —> your racquet arm shoulder is a placement key for where you set yourself behind the ball to start when approaching each ball. When you’ll make contact is when the ball is just in front of your “hitting shoulder”. Initially start about 2 shoulders behind for each and every ball so then you move into the ball to shoot. Moving forward into the ball not only generates solid striking power. By always being in position behind the ball you move in producing consistent, repeatable, familiar, reliable swings for accurate shotmaking results. Setting the ball in front of your racquet arm shoulder is THE recommended place to line up as you’re making contact with the ball as opposed to prepping to make contact in relationship to your feet or legs when the legs may only be just right or that may only be consistently done right when hitting your drive serves. Even then, you’d be revealing your serve angle to an astute receiver were you to change the depth of your contact. Produce your shot angles by flowing your racquet head in the direction you’re sending the ball and additionally angle or bevel your racquet face to hit into usually a slightly downwards angle or infrequently up angle. Making contact in front of your hitting shoulder or off shoulder allows you to do that same racquet flow thru that same universal contact point each and every time. That beats changing your shot angles based on where in your stance you make ball contact. Sure, by contacting the ball well out in front of you, you could hit cross-court, but your challenger would also know that and they could camp on that across the court angle by sliding over to the far side of the court early negating your undisguised angle. When making contact at the same contact point, the challenge is for the opponent to read your shot direction. You disguise your angle intent, as YOU define your angle with your consistent contact in front of your hitting shoulder and by how you control your shot shaping racquet face angle and how you flow your racquet swing toward your wall target.

Home base —> After striking the ball, move into center court not as a way station but as a temporary stopover in your journey to move and go get the shooter’s ball to ideally play it offensively or to keep the ball in play when you must make a good defensive get. Touch “home base” there in the center court. Then you can dart off in the direction you think (based on tells) or see the ball and you know where you need to move to cover their shot. Just staying there in the center is spectating, while hoping somehow their shot will funnel right to you. That’s too wishful thinking and not an example of playing assertively with efficiency actions you routinely, tactically do to play off the ball at your very best. Be proactive moving to where you read by anticipating when closely watching the returner or by seeing the ball and moving where they place their shot.

Homoeostasis —> the quality of the game’s overtly aggressive serving aspect is where and when you have to return the attacking serve, as your overriding need is to neutralize the challenger’s power or well placed softer serve, while keeping in mind you can’t let them win that rally and a point with their third hit in the rally; so you avoid hitting a ball thru the middle of the court. Maintain the equilibrium between playing offense when you’re the server where the worse thing that can happen is you lose serve, but you also don’t want to hit unwise, wish and a prayer shots as the server then rallyer. In your role as receiver, you want to initially defend the backcourt and the back corners with the overarching goal to hit the front wall with your return of serve. You also ideally want to move the server out of the middle so they can’t boss the rally from the middle of the court (from 15-30 feet back). After a serve is returned successfully by the receiver, the rallies that start there are also an exercise in equilibrium where either player with the opportunity to strike the ball balances what shot they want to hit with what shot they (can) hit because you don’t want to force shots you can’t make. So in the key serve-return battle and the protracted rallies that follow, both players or sides are involved in a “homeostatic struggle” where, in either role, YOUR shooter discipline is balanced against your skills and awareness of the pattern of play or game situation options. Your homeostasis rally playing capabilities are based on your perceptions and both your practice-based and intense fire of competition-honed technical skills when

moving and stroking.

Hop —> take a small jump up that allows you to pop up off the court in a little “hop”. That hop lands you on springy legs with your feet spread a little wider than shoulder’s width apart. From there you’re ready to bolt off in any direction to run down the challenger’s shot. You may hop when you’re in center court. Then make sure to land before they make contact. Then run to get the shot the opponent hits. Or you may hop right before the server is about to send their serve back past the short line where then you land, they hit and then you move to cover the serve placement either where you read the ball is going (based on server tells) or based on where you see the ball is going. There you  cover it, as best your springy legs can get you there to them set your feet and play your return.

Horizontal —> shooting “horizontal” or sideways angles is your first or second shot choice along with key shot height to factor in, as you track down to play and return each of the balls the challenger hits. Ask yourself, “Do I hit down the side of the court I’m on?”. Or, “Do I hit the ball across the court at a cross-court angle?”; which logically would sort of be to them unless… do you sense you CAN pass them by putting the ball right along the sidewall? Sometimes you must hit the ball cross-court because you can’t control the straight in angle or the challenger is camping on and covering the straight in angle or the ball clearly wants to go cross-court due to its angle and spin. Then commit to it and ideally hit a wider angle pass around THEM, when doable and when it’s not blocked by the challenger. If the wide  angle is legally blocked either go for the V cross-court angle or hit a deep target ceiling aimed to place the ball horizontally cross-court or pick either rear corner, which is always your hip pocket backup shot. 

How low can YOU go? —> as you track down and field each ball, for contact heights from chest high on down to ankle bone low, ask yourself is…”How low can YOU go?”, as you read the ball, the situation, including the challenger’s positioning, and you factor in your practicd shotmaking capacity. It’s amazing to have that confidence to let it fly and shoot that super low shot even from contact above waist high when shooting down to a bottom board low front wall target or your crafted sidewall target for a pinch or splat to produce, in either case, that ungettable low front wall result. Practice instills the belief you can take those high to low (or medium to low) shots under duress and reliably make them.

How not to fall apart —> stay strong. Stay the course. Stay ever diligent to your principles to fight the good fight and stick to your principles, personal rules and familiar responses. Let go of any temporary lapses. Forget about bad calls, bad bounces or bad decisions you made (or your partner made). Become a self corrector. Avoid succumbing or giving up. Consistently give your level best. Continuously analyze your effort, performance and tactical thinking which all affects your moves, shot choices, serve picks, and your key use of time. A major facet is the attitude that you’re there to fight. Keep your sense of sticking to plan, while being flexible, and practicing your familiar, improvising, adaptive playing style. At no time should you become desperate or self destructive. Don’t skip balls that you shouldn’t, when the ball is contacted too high, by shooting too low, or when moving your contact point or when swinging with an undersized prep or when you don’t have your feet firmly placed underneath you. If you’re put under extreme pressure, don’t lose the string or the direction of your game plan’s strategic aims and their tactical objectives with your efficient actions that make your game aims and game plan successful. Keep at it by analyzing each rally, ball bounce and each pattern or situation. Solve the problems you confront seeing them as routine and familiar challenges. Or, when they conflict with your expertise and they provide new challenges, recognize the NEW tasks. Work your way through them mentally. You shouldn’t wing it. Figure it out as best you can, while falling back on your basics, in the now. Only when you not so much run out of ideas as when you quit trying to relate to what you do know and can do does the battle get out of YOUR control. The battle is always about how to adapt and, “how not to fall apart”. It’s not ever about how to take a good whoopin’.

How to make an appeal to ref —> “…A player, who believes there is an infraction or missed call by the official to appeal, should “bring it to the attention of the referee and line judges by RAISING the NON-RACQUET HAND at the time the perceived infraction occurs. The player is obligated to continue to play until the rally has ended or the referee stops play…”.  That obligation is the complete opposite of tennis where the player must immediately curtail play or no “challenge” may be made. In reality, continuing play is totally up to the appealing party in racquetball rallies. If you’re absolutely certain about the call or that it’ll be overruled by the line judges, stop. If you’re less sure the line judges will see the situation your way, win the rally, if at all possible, by righting the mental wrong in your mind via playing extra hard to win the rally. One risk of playing out a long rally after one or more hand raises is can the ref and especially can the line judges really remember the actual situation you’ll appeal. More proactive calls by the ref would make the game a little cleaner and that goes to the stipulation that the referee should stop play when an obvious call should be made, like a penalty hinder where the band of the front wall from straight to cross-court is totally blocked or in part blocked by the opponent or your racquet swing could catch the opponent. If there’s any question about the call, do make sure to explain to the ref exactly what you’re appealing by explaining in your most calm and collected way despite the situation that may be highly frustrating. It does no good to vent. Save venting for when you strike the ball.

Hubby-wife —> in doubles, playing against a mixed doubles pair is not the only time when it’s tactical to hit the ball between the 2 players when trying to brew discontent between that pair. The “hubby-wife” serve is down the center between the pair. That’s especially the tactic when it’s a lefty-righty pairing where both backhands are in the center. Similarly shots down the center between the pair require one partner to communicate who is going to take the shot. That communication is critical. A hubby-wife shot or serve is by definition down thru the center where it could be left uncovered because of uncertainty. Between you and your doubles partner predetermine who takes balls down through the center between you two. That is big and it’s a very good pregame discussion item and team decision. For a righty playing the left side, that right handed forehand generally rules.

Hula-hoop contact arc —> for both your backhand and your forehand stroke, the final part of the racquet head forward swing arc mimics tracking the bottom of a hula-hoop circle placed on a 45 degree angle down and out to ball contact from your shoulder where at contact your arm dangles down at at a 45 degree angle at your shoulder. From a bent arm lifted position, you initially spin your shoulder joint to cast the racquet head back. Then flow the elbow out and forward and begin to spin your elbow joint in the forward swing thru to extend and turn over your arm into its dangled down position at contact lining up the forearm and turning it over and in toward you thru the contact swing. At the very last moment, roll your wrist meshing with the forearm spiraling them both together setting the racquet face for the shot your grip allows and your mental image sees to shape your ball’s flight. Turning thru the racquet face closes or turns from the racquet head pointing back to the strings facing forward and pointing slightly down for chest high contact on down to almost floor level when achieving your low shot targetry. The lower you make contact and the easier your setting the ball in your preferred off shoulder, out front contact point the higher the probability of your target acquisition for solid purchase on your low wall target. Flowing along the “hula-hoop contact arc”, with arm extension, forearm turnover and overlapping wrist snap should be practiced until it’s on autopilot for both your forehand and backhand strokes. Wind the racquet back as you wrap up your prep. Then push off the back foot, cast your bent arm back and then start on the hula-hoop curving arc down and out so it’s repeatable, effective and trustworthy. It should be able to be done with great speed or as a smooth passing shot (or drive serve) pace and placement for higher contact and higher front wall targeting. The final back to front swipe of the racquet head thru the ball, from the head pointing back to pointing forward, is THE most important part of the stroke. That stroke actually starts with selecting which stroke and shot. Then it flows to prep backswing and into the racquet head forward swing toward the hula-hoop arcing ending. The smoother the arc the better you swing thru making great contact. The more committed the final phase of the contact arc, the surer and potentially more effective and faster racquet face maneuvering thru contact, with variety for each visualized shot shaping arc.

Hustle —> your efforts to move off the ball after hitting your shots or after you return serve or after you serve, in every instance, are efforts to get into coverage and ultimately cover the returns by the challenger. That off the ball movement is all about “hustle”. From coverage, hustling quickly to the ball gives you more options often lower balls to hit, and better prep and contact. Acting, thinking and moving quickly is all hustling. It’s one facet of your game that can’t be controlled or affected by your opposition. You control your spirit, your self-belief, and your hustle. The effort you expend to get to the ball is also about hustling to get to more balls to offensively play them versus only defensively. By hustling hard into center court it puts extra pressure on the challenger’s efforts to shoot shots you can ideally cover because you’re in the best spot to cover more angles and more shots. Of course, after getting to center court, also get ready to take off from there when their stroke flies forward based on where you read they appear to be shooting or where the ball reveals its going for you to hustle next. Also, hustle especially hard to take advantage of back wall setups instead of cutting off a high ball in center court and not moving back with the ball. Shooting setups outright wins more rallies and it places more pressure on the challenger to not leave their serves, passes and ceiling balls up or off the back wall as back wall setups or to attempt an off balance or too high to too low shot that turns into a misplaced kill-shot and left up ball. A re-kill specialist and an effective back wall setup shooter puts extra pressure on their opponent. A cutoff player depending on cutoffs alone as their tactical plan is just a human passing cone, a huge risk taker and a non tactically hustling player.

Hydrate —> be very well hydrated. Sip water all-day-long. Take in about 64 ounces of liquid (ideally water) per day. Sip as you’re playing at every break you get in match play and during the day off court. Make sure to rehydrate after you play. And “hydrate” especially well when you’re carbo loading before you play big events that are one day or multi day events.

Hyper focus play —> your first impression of each rally situation is really big. Package what you see to decide if it fits into what you already know. When it’s familiar, respond familiarly. Use “hyper focus play” to look for things that are what you already know or have experienced before so you can relate and choose…

(a) an appropriate move off the ball;

(b) a matching shot to pattern;

(c) an apropos tactical move to clear and cover; and

(d) an adaptive position in coverage.

–> Know that your inner dialogue may have a dissenting opinion where you could be of 2 minds, like do you go cross-court to attack the opponent’s weakness or do you shoot into the less covered down the wall angle? You think you’re right, but listen to your opposing point of view, too. If the second thought doesn’t pan out (even in your imagination), revert to your tried and true in this case down the wall. For example, more conservatively, go for the plain pass over the 3-wall circus kill-shot. Also, don’t beat yourself up if you choose poorly. Don’t  punish yourself by trying to force that same shot a second time thinking “I’ve gotta make it THIS time!”. Consider it differently by timing the ball and hitting a more familiar and known to be makable option vs. a Herculean shot, which is a shot you’ve yet to perfect (or even try) in practice.

Hypocrisy —> if a player claims to have beliefs yet they don’t reflect them in their play, it’s okay to just file that away, but still make sure to do the right thing yourself when you’re in the same or similar situation. Don’t NOT do the right thing just because THEY do the wrong thing. It’s always unfortunate when players retaliate and do unto the opponent what they think was just done to them. When say the server hits what they’re just sure was the perfect serve and your call was short, then they may call your clearly in serve short, as well. Then you’ve both lost the string of fair play. Just always guard against “hypocrisy” yourself by being a consummate sportsmanlike player. It’s not cool when an imaginary call is made, but it happens. Let it go. Play it over. Then move on. Just hustle more and always call it like YOU see it.3