By Ken Woodfin

Racquetball Encyclopedia

M – O

M

Major weapon —> it’s huge having a particular shot or a certain serve that you can count upon or go to to capture a key rally. Having that big service delivery or a special shot makes your offensive game a formidable one. Usually it’s obvious to the challenger that your “major weapon” should be avoided and there’s either a sense of dread or resignation or both when you get in that situation about to strike the ball as you take that certain stroke to serve or to shoot that very certain (gulp) shot. Now ideally have more than one major weapon or more than one serve and more than one shot. Also it’s good to have 2 powerful, intimidating strokes. Although a touch ability with those strokes can be a powerful skill, too. Also, your counter move to the opponent is to quickly recognize how to avoid the place where that opponent has their own major weapon routine where they shoot extra well or serve challengingly. It’s a point of emphasis to decipher how to neutralize their major service weapon. That’s because, when returning or in rallies, major weapon defense counts, too.

Make-it-take-it-game —> as one of the last bastions of the format of street basketball that’s based on fully rewarding the player with ball in hand who scores, you get to serve yet again when you win a rally in racquetball when you put the ball in play and win the rally. Then your job is a simple one. Select a highly pressuring 1st serve OR tough 2nd serve. For you it’s ideally serve–> return–>shoot. Every serve is attack city. Because it’s 2 serves go for 1st serve aces. When you hit a short 1st serve (because short is better than long or leaving the serve off the back wall), send back an aggressive 2nd serve that you practice hard to use when it’s your 2nd and final chance to attack. As examples, attack-minded 2nd serves include deeper sidewall crack-outs, direct drives to the back corners struck a little bit higher, and crisply struck drive Z serves. The deeper crack-outs won’t come up short like when going for crack-outs just past the short line. After serving the deeper crack-outs, you must move and give up the cross-court V pass return to the far, rear corner by how you clear and cover. The slightly higher drive to the corner doesn’t come up short, but ideally it should Robin Hood the back corner. Otherwise it could pop out of the back corner as a juicy setup for the receiver. So take a little off it. Drive Z’s need to be well disguised so they can’t be camped on and cutoff by the receiver. Make them look like a regular drive serve is coming and then that makes it tougher for the receiver to step up early to cutoff your drive Z. Keep an eye on the receiver and if they step up early be ready with a Plan B serve away from that corner. One example of a hard to read 2nd serve is serving from off center into the near front corner behind and beside you as a hidden Z which causes the ball to pass in front of you going diagonally back. Or another option is to serve from off center and early in the game when you toss in a 2nd serve down the line in front of you or behind you cross-court from there to the far corner. Then later roll out the drive Z into the front corner to diagonally angle the ball to the rear corner behind you as a Plan B that ideally won’t be expected when they’re covering the direct drives to either back corners. Optionally loft up a high nick lob as a 2nd serve Plan C that can generate a low percentage attackable return. If a rally ensues, more chance taking is called for, but not when taking wild hair chances. No overhead rollouts. Lots of balls require responding shots like deep target ceilings and running High Z’s that still place the onus right back on the opponent to keep the ball in play or for them to take big chances to shoot the ball as a kill-shot. Still, as the server, your overarching tendency is to attack. Take put-away shots when you get ’em and hit keep aways shots when you can’t. Although, due to ball bounce or your reaction time, you may have to hit the ball at the receiver. Then quickly judge how. Decide whether to bounce the ball at their feet or roll it out to their feet or blast it at their backhand hip which is often the hardest side to defend for a player when fending off a ball at their body or try to ricochet the ball off the nearest sidewall into them if you have an angle open into that closest sidewall.

Manage your expectations —> as you play, there’s enough pressure without imagining the outcome of the game or to think about winning or losing even points let alone the game. Thoughts of how the game will play out shouldn’t even enter your mind as you serve or as you return serve. Your expectations should be about performing your skills on command and giving your routine high standards effort. Hustle should be a given. Effort in your movement and thinking should be consistent. You can’t control everything, especially things like bad bounces and crack-outs, but you can control your steady effort and rededicating yourself before each and every rally to play hard and smart and let go of the past rally, except as a boost, like, “I gotta do THAT again!”, due to its great effectiveness. “Manage your pre-match and in-match expectations” and focus them on what you can control, what you’ve done to prepare, and what you’ve planned to implement in this game. Then, in live play, adapt how you train based on your strategies to the changing conditions and even the unexpected, with your backup plan adaptions. That means expect to do what you do well, stick to your basics and tactics, and adjust when you encounter hurdles or curves from the opponent or even bad bounces or unexpected playing conditions, like wet walls when perhaps hitting fewer sidewall shots and anticipating bad deflections when the ball hits the slick sidewall. Steady and driven effort and self belief keeps your momentum going forward. The results will take care of themselves.    “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment; full effort is full victory.” Mahatma Gandhi

Manage YOUR game —> “manage your game” and emotions so you start each rally (and each match) cool, calm, and collected. Make sure you’re engaged and that you’re all about keeping yourself fully involved by returning to your calm, cool, connected state in between every rally and every game. Manage your time by taking time as a factor you can and do control as your very own. You play when YOU are warmed up. You serve when you’re ready. The challenger serves when you’re ready; i.e., you never allow yourself to be quick served or, for instance, to start a rally with foggy goggles. You hit the ball when you want to in a rally, not when the opponent would like for you to field it by squeezing you down to a part of the court when you want to go over THERE to make contact. You also want to play the shot you want, not the shot over there. You also want to play at your pace, tempo, or timing within your own comfort zone. Manage your spirit. Play fully excited and pumped while playing calmly and all in. Manage what YOU know. Your knowledge is your best and safest treasure that you reflect in your playing decision making, in your self belief and in producing your technical forms. No one can budge or take that knowledge or make you forget what you’ve experienced and know. Manage what you feel, time, express, shape, and ultimately show what you know.

Manage your Time —> how you use time as you play is very important. “Manage your time” throughout each game. Why players and especially servers are so impatient is kinda confounding; unless it’s nerves. Yet having unstreaked goggles outweighs sensing the server’s ire or displeasure. It’s your 10 seconds, too, as receiver. In competitive play where you’re playing for something more than just bragging rights, it’s tactically useful to not let the server serve until YOU are good and ready. Being quick served is just on you. As receiver, first let go of what caused you to be receiving. That is important because what caused it you can only learn from, not change nor allow to affect this next iteration. When you serve, it’s obvious you hold most of the cards. And, although you can’t serve until the receiver isn’t indicating “not ready”, you can still start to get ready or ignore their raised hand or back side. Get your rhythm tapping the ball around the front walls or dribbling it or subtly just move your weight from foot to foot. Also, to avoid their not ready signal, check the receiver just as soon as the score is called when you call the score or as soon as the ref calls yours and their score, which is when you check out their off hand of which side of them you see; which when their back is to you they’re not ready. When the receiver is not signaling, then it’s completely your game clock and whole 10 seconds to use, as you wish. If they are signaling, reload, get ready, begin to go through your service ritual and THEN recheck them. After checking them, then serve. Note that when you serve you should have your own full 10 seconds service ritual and then service motion and you should also have a shorter service routine that’s mostly just a deep breath and going forward with your service motion. You need the shorter service ritual for 2 purposes. One, you need to serve with just seconds left when the receiver has signaled not ready for a majority of the 10 count interval. You should still get about 3-4 seconds to serve to go through your steps and stroke mechanics. The second purpose for the shorter ritual is to have that hip pocket quick serve of your own that picks up the volume of the match to make sure where you’re able to get set and go with your serve much more quickly, in attack mode. Perhaps you’ll look to rush the receiver’s own timing or to put pressure on them after a tough, tiring rally. In rallies, timing in the rallies is also very important. After you stroke any ball, how you move to defend and how you use both the time you have and the unoccupied court space left by the challenger defines how well you’re able to defend and even attack their return ball. From coverage, make your ball read-based run fast and yet under control so you keep your spacing, as you get behind the ball, so you can attack the ball on balance after you’ve tracked it down with your final approach, optimal feet set, backswing, and by flowing right into your sweeping familiar forward swing. The earlier you get to that final approach, the more prep, the better your balance, the better you take in the whole situation and the better your spacing and shot shaping. Oftentimes the odds are you’ll catch your challenger bitting and making their run too early, if you’re keep them in your rear view. Then one option is to wrong foot them by hitting behind them with an easy placement into the open court they just vacated. So there managing your timing is being patient and constantly observant and deciding, “In front or behind?”, for your shot placement.

Maneuvers —> your skilled court moves that are  carefully planned and prepared are your trained “maneuvers”. Your drive serve motion, with its feetwork and racquet work is one of your maneuvers. Your escape off the wall after your doubles partner’s serve passes the short line is another maneuver (where there you crossover step with your front foot to get into defensive position). Your proven moves you make to field a ball that bounces, deflects off a sidewall to ricochet off the back wall as a back wall setup is a key maneuver you make with your feet to counter back away from the corner to aggressively play the setup. After you strike your serves, how you clear the box is one maneuver that depends on where you serve the ball and what serve striking stance you use, as you take a cross step to move back quickest. If you must cover along a sidewall, good coverage starts with a crossover step in front of the back foot. If you need to move centrally but away from the sidewall, you must crisscross step behind the lead foot to D-up. Now all of your maneuvers could be done extemporaneously or done without preparation. Although it’s far better that they be based on well-practiced, perfected and prepared skillful maneuvers trained up in drilling versus just making it up in the spur of the moment or winging it. Practice your maneuvers like you do your straight in kill-shots and you’ll be very, very glad you did, as you efficiently maneuver around the court.

Match —> a match is a best of X number of games. It’s usually 2 out of 3 games. In ladies Pro racquetball it’s 3 out of 5 to 11 points, with each game win by two points or more, of course. Most full born tournaments are 2 games to 15 and a breaker to 11 in a “match”. Some round robin events are two games to 11. Some of those events are just 2 games so everyone plays the same number of games for simple comparative scoring. In grueling one-day shootouts, when splitting the first two games the third game is then just to 7 points. To prepare for any event get some practice playing the same scoring format that you’ll face in an upcoming event.

Match conditioning —> when playing, you learn quick. You must adapt. You roll out new skills. You change tactics. You change the factors affecting your performance according to what you see and know is your best, familiar, effective response. You condition your actions and decisions to what you see and experience picturing “What do I do HERE best?”. As you play hard, “match conditioning” prepares you to adapt when you’re competing to play good ball.

Match play —> drilling, practicing, hitting, playing without keeping score and just having a hit differs significantly from a game that starts at 0-0 when you’re keeping score. Some say of non tournament games that it’s just recreational, but once the score is called it’s a serious game. Then the rules should be strictly observed by the parties involved; ah wouldn’t that be refreshing (that’s rhetorical). As a simple rule of thumb, if unintentionally a player takes away an offensive opportunity from their opponent, they should call a penalty on themselves. This playing it over malarkey keeps the game from growing and improving. In “match play” is where you set in motion what you’ve practiced and planned for this match. Match play is where you check out under the intense heat of competition whether a serve, shot or tactical movement is ready for the competitive challenge you have today. There’s really nothing to replace match play.  However, along with pick up games and  some arranged matches, the more you solo drill and ideally practice with a training partner, the better you’ll perform in match play because you’ll have more skills and more options to call upon so you’ll be more versatile and better practiced.

Match the challenger —> if the game is being ramped up by the challenger’s effort and aggression, match it. Meet their challenge. Maximize your own hustle and belief in your shotmaking. “Match the challenger” and their aggressive play with your own. Respond to their shot selections by neutralizing them with hustle and moves to cover what they’ve been using as their shots, especially by both covering their placements and trying to change where they take their shots. On offense, consciously choose cagey placements of your shots that will intentionally strain their coverage or tempt them to shoot over-ambitiously high to low shots when they’re on the move. You needn’t hit as hard, but you need to hit low enough so the ball bounces twice as a pass before the back wall or ideally twice before the service line when you choose to go for that selective kill-shot opportunity. Shoot aggressively. Defend assertively. Keep figuring it out.

Match tough —> as you play be calm and collected on the outside and focus on what you can do. Recapture your cool quickly if you ever get rocked. Then be ready for each new task, hungrily. Recover after any slip. Constantly make smart decisions. Have constant self encouraging thoughts. Demonstrate recuperative skills. Be strong minded. Match play makes you “match tough” from the experience and how you react and compete and battle and play with resiliency throughout each game on either side of the ball to defend or attack.

Matchup —> who you play is particularly important at is relates to the style of play you’ll use against that particular player. Often a player who mirrors your game can give you fits. Then you must give them curves or unexpected serves or shots. There you may need to slightly vary your serves and shot angles and pace. Also a completely different player like a rabbit facing a turtle gives the quicker player special challenges. The rabbit will have to make the turtle cover distances and keep that plodding player out of the middle to make them hit on the run, as rabbits are won to do with their run em placements. Pay particular attention to your “matchup” and quickly define the challenger’s tendencies and what you want them to do and what you don’t want to see them doing. Continually study the rallies and see if you’re staying on top of your tactics that work or if you’re the player being manipulated. If you’re being schooled, it’s time for you to make small, key adjustments. Sometimes it’s as simple as instead of hitting at them low and hard you hit the ball higher and softer. Or it can be consciously placing the ball away from them to capitalize on their too far forward defending.

Speed up the Match —> sometimes you get on a roll or you want to play the points faster. When you’ve got the serve, you can step into the box and serve as soon as you drop the ball to quickly serve to “speed up the match”. All you have to do is make sure the receiver isn’t signaling unready by making sure to check them as soon as the score is called and confirm their location in the backcourt, as you announce the score, yours AND theirs (or as soon as the ref calls the score while you’re headed into the box). If neither their racquet is lifted above their head nor is their back to you, they’re indicating they’re ready. Then you can roll into the box with the intent to quickly get into your stance, bounce the ball and hit with your best up-tempo service motion which would add pressure onto the receiver by rushing them, even though you’re rushing yourself a little, too. Although ideally you’re doing what you regularly practiced at quick-step pace when drilling and in practice games. Also to speed up the rallies, employ hard angled passes, High Z’s, overheads instead of ceiling balls and ALWAYS consider power deep target ceiling balls when you must lift the ball to get them back where you can move up. All of those tactical shots speed up the rally game. At any apropos opportunity, attack their serves by upping the volume of your selected rally return by using on the rise cutoffs, overheads, High Z’s and well-placed, high-pace passes. Of course, shoot low to low on balls you can allow to drop low. Only go for kill-shots you routinely take and make. Don’t force winners. Instead pull the challenger back deep, as you can orchestrate the faster paced game. Take actions to speed up the match, but don’t go for wild hair winners. An early DTL is tactical but don’t force it. A late DTL is often tactical suicide because the defender is ready for it. Move THEM and dominate center court while you drive the ball aggressively looking for complete keep-away angles and optionally shoot bullseyes as kill-shots when you get big setups. Keep on playing keep-away, along with selectively playing put-away, when you read you ought to put away this ball.

Me” —> in doubles, communicating whose ball it is to hit whenever it’s in any way uncertain is invaluable sharing between partners. Then one player says “Me” or “Mine” or “Mio” (en español), which clearly signals they’ve got this ball. If there’s any question, when both players call out that it’s theirs, the last “Me” or “Mine” rules out. That player should take the shot. Calling “me” early also helps alert your partner that you have it covered and that partner can center up usually just behind and between the 2 opposing challengers at 2/3 court, as they’re defending, which normally gives the partner who said “Me” more shot options. If you take up position that’s NOT on the far sidewall away from your partner, almost any shot for your hitting partner is available for your team. You can also be surer yet when you jump as your partner is shooting from behind you in the backcourt. Me is recommended because it’s most clearly heard, but “Mine!” can work, too.

Mechanics —> the term used to describe how you swing your racquet, including how you set your feet, prepare your racquet and body and then switch gears to swing thru or take your forward swing is all together your stroke “mechanics” or form or technique for your forehand, backhand, overhead, ceiling, swing volley, and short-hop. Also your QuickDraw and snapshot which are your more compact versions of your low contact stroke mechanics.

Weaponize your plans and tactics with your elevated Mechanics —> good intentions don’t feed the bulldog. With your actions, as you move off the ball into and out of coverage to approach and attack each offensive striking pattern, ultimately depend intentionally on how you best perform your moving and stroking form. How you design your form and how you manipulate your body and racquet as you shoot determines your shot and serve accuracy and consistency. Although accuracy only means you make an isolated shot or serve, a one at a time. From your mechanical arm and wrist motion you CAN produce precision, which means you can have a reliable stroke that produces consistent ball placement accurate results. There you must have tolerances or the ability to adjust your form realtime due to the specifics of ball bounce, time, depth of contact in relation to your shoulder, contact height, and adapting to shoot the shot desired or the one that chooses you. So in reality you use versions of your fullest form with interchangeable parts of your lower and upper body and your arm loop up prep, your body turn and down and out arcing swing so you can adapt and still produce the same shot or serve over and over, even from shortened versions or via compact strokes. The ultimate concept is to perfect your craft so you weaponize your plans and tactics, as reflected in your elevated, reliable, adaptable stroke and feetwork mechanics. Today’s highly aggressive style of play demands highly evolved form in the modern game that continuously upgrades and experiences nuance. Thank goodness for YouTube, pro league websites and fb where you can see that evolution in motion. “Engineer to weaponize your own skills mechanics and their attendant tactics” and game planning unique to you by optimizing your abilities (training) and developing your mechanics to place the ball and move about the court efficiently. With work you put into your precision mechanics, you maximize your ability to achieve your tactical intentions with your stroking form and feetwork maneuvers.

Meditation —> drilling becomes like being in a trance. Even when you play, at times it’s trancelike. That’s racquetball “meditation” where you’re all in, you’re mindless, you’re centered, and you repeat by rote what you train up and have grooved to a fine edged point. It’s part of zoning. It’s freewheeling, free flowing, treeing, trusting and having a strong feel for your skills and how to implement them, keep doing them and resurrect them if they wander, in the now.

Mental focus —> be mentally focused. Keep your head in the game. Then stay mentally focused. There are so many things that can make you lose your “mental focus” in racquetball. Here are some examples…getting mad at your last shot–>getting frustrated with your partner who ignored your “Mine!” call when they had time to back off but then they say they didn’t have time–>being miffed at the partner’s stab at a ball obviously headed back to pop off the back wall–>being confronted by the challenger when they took away your shot you should have been permitted to take and them pointing to a whole different part of the court where the ball didn’t want to go that they could have easily covered if you’d have shot it there. The key is that despite all possible distractions keep your mental focus. Keep battling, including mentally and emotionally. 

The mental game —> your “mental game” is…

(a) a struggle for psychological one-upsmanship;

(b) determining whether to use aggressive behavior as the attacking shooter or to demoralize the challenger as a shot placer; and

(c) sadly some resort to ulterior motivated actions like hindering the opponent or not making calls

of their own volition on themselves, like waiting for the opponent to call 2 bounce gets or skips.

–> So… when you can overcome all of that (and more), stay the course and believe in yourself. Depend on your purposeful tactical efficiency actions that support your strategic aims vs. playing head games, which are very hard ways to score points when depending on charity from a buffaloed, mind-gamed player who might be dupable. Pick the high road of showing your skills and favoring fair play both in a mental and tactical sense.

Mid court —> another term for the middle of the court is “mid court”, which is the band of court extending from the service line to 5 feet behind the receiving line. That 15 feet of court is the attack zone when a ball goes through that band of court and it’s attackable. It’s the prime zone to capitalize on any left up low shots or overhit balls popping off the back wall. Defensively the mid court is where you position yourself in the floating center court to cover when the opponent is shooting the ball from the backcourt or back 10 feet or when they’re getting to your shot in the front court or when they’re shooting your pass or left up ball in the mid court and you’re sharing the center court with them. There in the mid court you float in your coverage to occupy the best spot you can to cover more angles or to cover the area you sense is under attack. Training in the mid court and shooting balls coming at lots of angles toward you in the mid court to hit the ball into numerous keep-away angles arms you for rallies where many shooting situations occurs and you can respond. Not practicing there leaves a hole in your attacking and defending game. Many spend a preponderance of their drilling time in the back corners so they’re prepared for return of serve situations or passing shot and ceiling ball rallying or back wall setup shooting. Practicing in mid court will pay huge dividends for the rally situations that happen so often there. 

Mid-court exchange when you’re toe to toe ripping strokes at each other… —> there are times when you’ll be there on the left and they’ll be there on the right (or vice versa) in an volley exchange of big strokes with your fellow combatant. There in a “mid-court exchange” you’ll often blast a cross-court kill-pass at one another literally trying to hit the ball through them. Due to angle and spin, it’ll be difficult to change up those cross-courts into a down the wall angle without involving the sidewall in your shot’s trajectory which would cause you to leave your shot up. It’ll also be tough to dial it down and feather a pinch. Although a reverse or cross corner pinch every once in a while may be doable, especially when you go front wall first, meaning your shot hits the cross front corner front wall first then sidewall. Also, sometimes a surprising curve to throw is to lift a cross front corner High Z shot front wall first which will pull the challenger back into the backcourt. Counterintuitively it’s very difficult to find the a-r-o-u-n-d the opponent angle because even that angle could be cutoff by the challenger who is stationed firmly on the other side of the court where even the wide angle is just a 1/2 a step up, lunge and reach away from volleying the ball. The main thing is to stay focused on the ball and move your feet as best you can. On your forehand side, if you can, thrust your elbow directly back in your QuickDraw compact or snapshot racquet back stroke prep. On backhand side, punch your racquet hand back across your body for your QuickDraw compact or snapshot racquet back fast backhand compact stroke. Ideally each time turn your chest to face the sidewall, even if you can’t point to the sidewall with both feet or even when you don’t have much time based on the ball speed. Know that these hot potato mid court exchanges are often done from an open or partially open stance. These are reaction time tests. Experiment with adding Topspin to your contact. That top will make it tougher for the opponent to scrape back your low shots to the font wall and it’ll keep your shots consistently down lower. Key: get in the moment and learn to enjoy being in the fray. Optimize your backswing and your downswing can be much more effective for solid, powerful contact for penetrating shots.

Middle —> the “middle” in some cases is synonymous with center. And center can be the same as middle. In one case, the middle is a specific part of the court. The middle is the band of court from the service line at 15 feet out from the front wall to 5 feet behind the dashed line or from 15-30 feet. In rally play center court is a big oval court space where you constantly adjust where you are in that center in the middle of court while watching the offensive player play the ball you placed, while you also busily figure out where they could be shooting their response shot. As they move to contact the ball, from center court you ideally are ready to move to cover their shot placement. A ball that is in the middle of the court in the band of court from 15-30 feet back is in a very attackable area for you to shoot. When the challenger is shooting in the center, get in the center with them. There fill the gap between them and the wider side of the court to pressure their shooting and to get ready to cover. Also another center is a receiver receiving serve is back in-between the right and left sidewalls in the center of the backcourt. An entire area of the court from 20-35 feet back is the primary offensive or shooting area of the middle of the court. From shooting there, you want to practice placing the ball throughout the whole court. The center or middle of the service box is 10 feet from either sidewall. When serving from there in the center, you end up closest to center court after you’ve sent your serve back into the backcourt. There you’re closer to center court which is just behind the dashed line and stretching a little ahead of it, too. A ball struck cross-court from one side of the court to the farthest rear corner optimally strikes just short of the center or the middle of the front wall. There by feel you’re measuring from where the ball is contacted on one side of the court to pick out your front wall target spot as you intend to achieve a cross-court placement into the far, rear corner. In position in center court ideally you’re balanced over your center, which is your center of gravity, as you balance on spread feet, knees bent and centered on the balls of your feet. From there you’re set to move to track down and get to most any ball in any of the 4 quadrants of the court. As you drill make sure to practice throughout the middle of the court from the service line to a huge step behind the dashed line. Pay particular attention to development of a wide range of shot placements when shooting from the center selecting either rear corner or either front corner for shots with either stroke. Most players practice little there, as they concentrate of the deep corners and out along the sidewalls. But many shots  opportunities are available in the middle of the court into the center to pull the opponent back into the backcourt or to place the left up ball by the opponent as a near corner pinch in either corner or as a reverse pinch when shooting across your body or a direct shot straight or at an angle to either rear corner.

Mind games —> players sometimes try to get in your head by doing things like giving you looks when you make a call they want you to think they think you imagined. Stay in your own head; it’s already probably pretty crowded in theirs. You have to control your phobias. You have to believe and boost your ego. Let your superego control your own conscience. You have to meter your own conscience, effort, decision making and your making and ensuring there are fair calls. Much of the game is played above the shoulders. Play only “mind games” with yourself as you control what you think and manage what you can control. Then you will control more of the patterns of play you encounter in competition.

Mind re-centering —> your mental centering is a constant activity to go back to centering yourself, to staying centered and to re-centering when you lose focus. At times, you must consciously return to being centered. Check that you’re being engaged by starting “mentally re-centered” after every single rally, at the outset of every game, and even between your shot shapings in a rally. Also re-center as each of your training days begins on or off court and even between your different drills and exercises. Why are you there? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you dotting every “i” and are you crossing every “t”? Are following through with your plan for this evolution? Are you forgetting anything? Are you ready for what’s going to happen next? Are letting go of what just transpired? Re-center by habit.

Wandering Mind —> protect yourself against the advent of “wandering mind”. Your focus and determination to stay in the now is HUGE. Use little reminders, like saying “Stay strong” or “Focus” or “Fight” or “Now”, “Strong” or even “Easy” (when it’s not), as they all can help. Inevitably your mind WILL wander and it’ll do so for any number of reasons. Recapturing that ideal concentration level is an irreplaceable skill. Staying strong mentally is part of why you play lots of training matches. It’s also why you work so hard in training. It’s why you learn how to get in the right frame of mind and how to stay in YOUR right frame of mind where you play at your very best ideally for prolonged periods of play. Disallow outside distractions or  uncooperative thoughts to dissuade you from your full focus and drive. No getting mad at anything. No arguing. Even protracted discussions aren’t useful. Keep to task and to setting your puppies (feet) to do your best in every situation that you face. If you ever sense your mind is wandering, get your head back in the game.

Minimalist tourney ball —> just like an NBA coach shrinks his playing rotation down to fewer players in the playoffs you should do the same thing for tourneys. Reduce your numbers of serves and shot selections down to just your most trusted few. You’ve got to play with only your very best, most productive skill set in a true contest of skills. First, that ensures your decision making is more direct because there’s fewer options that you have to pick from. Second, your execution is more reliable because the limited skills are so well drilled. In your contest preplanning, as you develop your game plan and your strategy game aims, with their tactics that’ll implement your aims, parse down to your very best. Decide “what to leave out and what to leave in”. Base that streamlining on your recent drilling and not so long ago competitions. As an example of what to shelve, perhaps give up wild-hair shots, like…4-wall Z shots; overhead reverse pinches; 3-wall kill-shots (unless you’re confronted with just the perfect or necessary ball to crush into the near sidewall to hit the far front sidewall/corner); behind the back or between the leg shooting (when) you can turn and face to execute a routine forehand or backhand; back wall saves when you could take a setup off the back wall; and touch ceilings when you could hit a deep target ceiling to avoid an opponent short-hop of a softer ceiling ball. As part of your “minimalist tournament ball”, even mid match consider which serves are producing and definitely go with them. Also you could tweak others that aren’t as effective to hopefully increase their effectiveness by changing their speeds or angles. For a shot that isn’t producing pay-dirt, go with another option. Later work on that shot for next time rather than keep stubbornly shooting it until it works. Seek perfection. Although it’s not always attainable, be a challenge seeker and self demanding.

Miseducation —> avoid drinking the kool-aid. Only hitting your shots into one wall, never repinching a pinch, only sidesteps when cross steps rule, setting yourself directly in front of the ball to swing, (too) early  racquet preparation, only side to side wrist pop (not rolling snap), and contact in relation to your feet are all examples of racquetball myths. Those are all examples of miseducation. There you’re being misinformed. The game is still growing and evolving and it’s really in its infancy. Be open to new ideas, fresh techniques, and nuanced tactics. Show us what you know.

Model —> in your practices use models of how you want to play. “Model” your movements. Design model strokes. Model your game style. Models your court movements. Then imitate that behavior in match play. In your play and pattern responses, keep track of what models of your play work where. Self correct when you must fill gaps or tweak to enhance your play. You also want to be the model of the sports person, as an example, for impressionable people that may be watching you play or even those playing with you.

Momentum —> in racquetball’s you-score-you-serve or its make-it-take-it format gathering “momentum” from a run of points can be huge and difficult to overcome for the opponent (or you!). When it happens to you, slow down any challenger’s momentum by judiciously calling a timeout. Or indicate you’re not ready to return (by raising your racquet above head level or by turning to face the back wall). Ideally change the challenger’s momentum by shooting high quality returns of serve that pull them back, as you follow up quickly by moving into center court. Also, hit high standard rally shots that move the server, while allowing you to capture or retain center court, as you give the server a tour de court outside of center court. Those are tactics that work to keep your impetus positive. As an example of momentum when serving, keep the receiver off balance by altering your serve angles, the spin you impart on the serve, and by using differing ball speeds. In ensuing rallies, focus on targeting low shots that keep the ball away from the challenger, as you do your routine picking, imagining, and then shot shaping the shot you mentally see first. Then hit it how you imagine it, as your best shot available placement that’s meant to strain the opponent’s coverage positioning most or to attack their weaker wing or to blast the ball at them with a vapor trail following after the ball. Keep the momentum by constantly pressuring the challenger, with great purpose.

Stroking Momentum —> by prepping fully and building into a peaking swing, with leg drive, hip flip and core turn, the  commitment to swing and its rhythm builds your “stroking momentum” from prep to rip and from the ground up. The higher, deeper your racquet lift and the more body windup to then express it or translate it into the forward swing right when the ball is approaching your contact point defines your stroke’s full momentum. The push off the back foot and downswings of your arms catalyzes the progressively peaking, growing, driving force that develops in momentum thru to peak at contact and swing on beyond. By having a matching follow-through to your backswing, your stroke momentum optimizes itself in contact from fierce down to tactically feathering. Having a routine lower body turn and repeating arm action, including key moves to loop and drive your elbow, point your racquet back at contact plane height, and then swing out straightening your arm right as your elbow and wrist snap rocketing the racquet head thru at peak stroke momentum climaxes in consistently solidly striking the ball.

Motivators —> why players play and why YOU are motivated to take on racquetball as your physical activity or competitive struggle or fitness challenge is highly personal. The sport is such a good test of your mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and visualization artistry and skills it’s easy to comprehend why you play. Playing is vastly rewarding and quite addictive. Do it for good and use it’s fitness benefits and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to keep you mentally sharp so your life is a very full and gratifying one. Design your own self “motivators”, like playing racquetball.

Move —> in the game be ready to “move”. Be constantly on the move. When you constantly move you are a tough out for the challenger vs. being a stationary passing cone the challenger only has to hit around or away from. Also, moving means you’re moving off the ball after they begin to swing. That gets you moving from center court gives you more opportunities to set yourself to place that little bouncy ball to move your challenger here or there, as you move to show off both your best defensive and offensive moves.

Move as you allow the <dual> DTL and V cross-court pass —> The “<dual> DTL and V cross-court” returns by the service receiver (or cover player in a rally) must be honored or allowed for every ball the hitter plays. As you’re making your coverage movement into center court, as you dash, circle, back up, slide, sidestep, cross step, hop or walk into coverage, first be making sure the opponent is neither directly behind you nor are you blocking them from placing the ball they’re hitting straight in or as a cross-court angled ball into the farthest rear corner from where they make contact. When the ball is back in a corner behind you and you’re in center court, simply get between ball and diagonally opposite front corner. That “cross front corner” is a deadly-target the opponent just doesn’t get when you beat them to your spot in the center before they are at the ball. But, for in the offing when you’re the shooter, practice hitting diagonal shots for just the chance to make THAT play, when the cover player sets themselves too deep in the court or actually when they’re late getting there. That’s tactically huge. That shot is so hard to keep in play. Now defensively, first, when you’re in-between deep corner ball and cross front corner, you’ve allowed the opponent to have the <dual> angle, as you play by the rules as you position yourself. Secondly, you’re tactically, wisely blocking the diagonally opposite front corner from the opponent being able to hit a reverse pinch or a long near corner pinch. Those are both kill-shots that are very tough, if not impossible, to leg out and get to when starting from deep in the middle or backcourt. When you begin positioned deeper than on that diagonal line between ball and front corner, you allow a chance for those diagonal shots. When the ball is NOT as deep in the court, defensively there gets to be a point where you’d be too far forward were you to still be keying on blocking that cross front corner. Were you to position yourself (that) far forward, you’d be too far up to cover a down the wall pass, any cross-court V pass, and probably any hard hit deep target ceiling ball. Since you know center court is not ONLY a step behind the receiving line, you’re ready to adjust. Center court is a flex cover area that’s adaptive to where you’ve placed the ball, how the opponent is setting their stance and their body language plus the most recent history of their movements and shots from there. The overarching purpose for your being in the center is it allows you to cover MORE shots when you START from center court. But you’ll also need to be ready to move to make that positioning most meaningful. When you’ve left the ball further forward, as the opponent moves farther forward in the court to shoot it, you get to a point where you shouldn’t block that diagonal angle. Then position yourself on or slightly in front of the receiving line where you say to yourself, “Far enough”. There you’re still giving up the <dual> angle, but you’re giving yourself a fighting chance to cover the shooter’s down the wall, their crosscourt angle and, with hustle, any left up low shots into the front corner on that side. Although your job is a tougher one closer in to the front wall as the hitter shoots. There that diagonally opposite front corner is open. And a very low shot there can produce nearly irretrievable results. Yet offensively it’s still a tough shot to accurately hit and keep down unless the bounce of the ball being fielded is just right or a setup. Remedies to your situation include hustling down left up balls. Also, next time DON’T leave your shot THERE! …deep court or front court, not middle court for your shot placements.

Move; hit and move —> after shooting your rally shot, after striking your return of serve, or after sending your serve backwards, move into the best position you can in center court to cover the challenger’s return of your ball. Hitting and not moving won’t get you any ball unless the challenger’s shot goes right to you or they skip in their return. Also, hitting and not moving is often a recipe for getting popped by the ball. “Hit and move” to get a chance to shoot again from a good spot so you can be an offensive shooter or make a good, rally extending get to, in either case, ideally get to serve next when you take this rally.

Move opponent —> an overarching tactic with your shots, service returns and serves, in addition to the routine keep-away and put-away shooting tactics, is your mindset to “move the challenger”. Keep them off balance to make them hit on the run and to tempt them to try many circus, one-off shots to win rallies. Mix in that with your complete keep-away targeting where they (the opponent) is not sure: “Is this high to low or is it a dash and get?”, as they should hear S-i-m-o-n say it and then “FREEZE!”. When they don’t freeze, consider a placement to wrong-foot them by hitting behind them.

Move your feet —> as the ball goes back into a back corner,

oftentimes you’ll see a player become lead footed once they’ve moved back into that rear corner. Actually that is THE one time to float on your toes so you can…(1) take advantage of a back wall setup and a back corner setup in particular; or

(2) flick a tough ball forward to the front wall trying to pull the opposition back when the bounce of the ball is most difficult to cover for you and you turn it around to make it tougher on them; or

(3) whack attack the ball back into the back wall to save the ball that gets behind you.

–> It’s a highly effective habit to keep your feet light and moving or active until you fully read the bounce of the back corner ball (or any ball). Also, keep your racquet arm loose and ready. Again, that’s especially the case in the rear corners when the ball may pop off friendly like as a back wall setup that you want to shoot very aggressively when first you “move your feet”, which will give you the best offensive chance to get your feet under you and attack the ball. The ball could take a terrible bounce where you’d want to save it to the back wall or just flick it forward with a touch shot. Or you may visualize lifting the ball up as a deep target ceiling ball. But, if you freeze back there, you might be unable to get in position to attack or even defend. By moving your feet, you give yourself more options. And because moving or adjusting let’s you set your feet better to shoot shots you want to shoot vs. shots you’re forced to hit or relegated to play completely defensively. In addition to in the back corners, all over the court don’t let the ball play you. Move your feet. Get in rhythm with the bounce of the ball with your personal playing tempo or playing speed. And, as one last key, resist the urge to raise your racquet until you know for sure what stroke you’ll use. If you bite too early, you’re unable to changeup and you will have great difficulty saving the ball into the back wall when the ball gets behind you.

Muscle memory definition —> after you learn a skill, then develop a muscle memory of it. “Muscle memory” is when a specific movement is repeated often enough over time so that you may perform it without conscious effort and with exact, precise repetition. Drilling builds strong muscle memories. Drill your serves and  shots to build and seal in your muscle memories.

Good Muscle memories —> once you do something numerous times it becomes a trained motion. Sometimes it’s in the worst possible way, like when you find yourself stuck in the service box after you serve, when by habit you should routinely escape the box each and every time you lob serve or drive serve or Z serve or jam serve, but it could be that instead you get stuck in the box. Better yet turn ball side and cross step with the the frontmost foot to cross the short line and do on more cross step passing the first foot that crossed. Move to tactically get between challenger/ball and cross front corner. There release as their arm swings and look to attack left up, ill-advised kill-shot attempts by the opposing hitter or fill the passing lane they pick. Especially look to cover their down the wall return. And don’t be snookered by a ceiling ball beating you back to the back wall. Another example of “good muscle memory”, like dropping into center court, is learning how you stroke best with your tempo-based looping backswing in concert with your leg setting stance. Then it’s important you transfer directly into your free flowing forward downswing so that the downward movement of your racquet is ideally optimal, consistent, repeatable and rhythmic, and without a hitch or delay. There, with your reliable and familiar muscles and mind together, pick, imagine and shape your chosen shot or serve based on your deep muscle memories that are developed by drilling and have become, by habit, your very own.

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Near foot —> the closest foot or lead foot that’s the foot closest to the ball as you return serve or as you begin to move to cover a ball to shoot or to defend in a rally is your “near foot” or lead foot. There, when you return serve, the near foot is the one you step with first as you take a short jab 1/2 step out to the sidewall into the corner where you read the server’s serve is headed. In your court movement, the near foot or lead foot is the foot closest to the direction you’re heading. That includes…

(1) when you just returned serve and you follow your shot routinely forward by countering from front to back foot and then crossing over with the back or trail foot passing the near or lead foot;

(2) when covering a ball being struck from behind you when you’re in center court, then your initial or primary cover is their down the wall straight in danger shot. There stand with the front foot closer to the front wall than the back foot, which at that point is the near or lead foot, as you face the front corner in part on the side of the ball or ball side. That means you angle off facing the near, front corner. Then, to cover the down the wall angle, jab step with the trail or far foot. Then crossover with the lead or near foot, as your feetwork to cover the near wall and shots down along that wall;

(3) When the ball you’re covering is in the front court, then the near or lead foot is the foot closest to the front wall. To move a very short distance say when the ball is up ahead in the service box, move with a sidestep starting with your near foot sliding to the side and follow up with a sidestep with the far foot. Optionally you may “crisscross” which means step behind the near foot with the far or trail foot and then cross step with that near foot passing the foot that took the first half of the crisscross step. But, when you have a far greater distance to cover, like when you must zip forward into the front court to aggressively play the challenger’s barely left up kill-shot, first pivot on both feet. Then crossover step with the far or trail foot stepping past the near foot to begin to hustle into the front court, as you to turn and dash facing and running forward to track down the ball;

(4) as another example, the near and far foot reverse as you finish your serve. To get out of the box after serving, your serving stance front foot becomes the far or trail foot and your serve stance rear foot becomes your near or lead foot, as you prepare to move back into center court out of the box. There your first objective is to escape the service box. First, recover your balance pushing from front to back foot. Then pop both feet pointing them partially backwards. Then move the far or trail foot, which is the one that starts at the front, as you move back toward the service line. Take a cross step with that far trail foot passing the near foot to most efficiently get back into your floating center court. That cross step may be in front and over the near foot (as a crossover step) or it may be in back or behind (as a crisscross step) depending on your service stance, your closeness to sidewall and where you’re moving into center court;

(5) when returning serve, the foot closest to the rear corner where the ball is heading is the near foot. Ideally first double pivot both feet. Then take a 1/2 step jab step to cover ground moving out toward the sidewall. The trail foot may post or move along with the near foot beginning it’s own move out to the sidewall. Right after the near, jab foot lands, crossover step with the far or trail foot diagonally passing the near foot to move out to intercept any serve to the rear corner. Your timing dictates when to cross and meet or intercept the serve before it reaches the rear corner;

(6) for a return of serve bouncing and involving the sidewall and back wall, first double pivot both feet. Then drop step AWAY from the sidewall with that near foot moving away from the ball. Then use the trail foot to post or balance and then step back in playing the ball when it pops off the wall. So, when a ball bounces and then catches the sidewall to then pop off the back wall, drop step quickly away with the near foot and post on the also pulling back front foot. Adjust both feet and step in with the far, trail foot crossing over and setting the front foot of your stance to attack the back wall setup from a solid adjusted stance;

(7) after returning any ball, when headed quickly to center court, repeat your fast escape move like when serving, but with a twist. Shift back and then crossover with what was the back foot of your striking stance passing what is lead, front foot, as you quickly head into center court or in to chase down a ball you already see the opponent placing out of center court;

(8) anytime when you must move a greater distance from out of center court to track down and play a ball up in a front corner or back in a back corner use cross steps. For instance, crossover with the trail foot passing the near foot in the direction you’re heading and dash into the front court;

(9) whenever you’re in center court and you have to make a long run to go way, way back deep into a back corner, first pivot both feet in that direction. Then crossover with what is NOW the far or trail foot that’s closer to the front wall so it’s passing the near or lead foot that’s further back in the court so you get going very quickly to cover the most court. That’s because you can always go furthest fastest with a first step crossover step in front and over the lead foot by starting with the further away foot as you body pivot and dash backwards.

–> In training, work on moving and using the near or lead foot and the far foot or trail foot to move short and long distances in different directions and to hit the ball. Drill by starting going sideways toward one side with a sidestep or shuffle step. Then drill crossing over while still facing the same way with a cross step in front (crossover). Also cross step behind the near foot (crisscross) and then cross step with the trailing foot to still face the same way. Drill the crossover in front of the near foot, while you turn to face the new direction you’re heading and then bolt off in a short forward facing sprint. These feetwork maneuvers should be given as much attention as swinging your racquet back and forth thru the ball, as you practice both your strokes to shoot the ball and moving your feet because your feet must (and can) get you there first so then you can shoot offensively vs. flick or so you can lunge and swing vs. lunge and stab or step and dive (or come up short of reaching the ball). Also moving your feet gets you out of tough positions so you can clear the box after serving or clear away after you hit the ball back near you.

Near corner pinch —> a stroke to its corner or a ball shot into the corner that is THAT stroke’s corner, like when you strike the ball with your forehand and you shoot a pinch into your forehand front corner is a “near corner pinch”. Near corner pinches are shot usually sidewall first (but a front wall first near corner pinch may be your Plan B target). A near corner pinch may literally be shot from all over the court as long as you’re a short ways off that corner’s sidewall. It’s a pinch shot from 4-5 feet off the corner’s sidewall on out. It is shot into the stroke’s corner, except when the ball is glued right up against the sidewall and close in along THAT sidewall from middle to deeper court. There the close sidewall that shares the front wall with the corner would make any sidewall shots into THAT sidewall a “SPLAT” vs. a pinch. A near corner forehand pinch may even be struck catty corner from your deep backhand corner that’s furthest away from your diagonally opposite, far, front forehand corner. There the near corner pinch is being shot diagonally into the cross front corner, again, usually sidewall first. For example, from your backhand rear corner, you may spin with a ball deflecting off the sidewall and then popping off the back wall, as you rotate in the corner WITH the ball as it’s angling out into the center toward that far front corner to shoot with your forehand as a long near corner pinch diagonally into your forehand cross front corner, IF (and that’s a Big IF) the challenger isn’t already there first blocking your near corner pinch, as you spin to take the shot; when they aren’t there as you complete the spin. Here the ball bounces into that rear corner so the ball angles off the sidewall and then caroms off the back wall in a routine readable attackable bounce. It can be tracked by stepping into the corner with the far foot as a crossover step, as you start spinning toward facing forward and then you spin with the ball adjusting both feet taking a couple adjustment steps as you get your feet under you to use your off stroke or far side’s stroke, as that far foot now is the back foot of the near corner pinch off stroke stance. The off stroke is the primary stroke used on the other half of the court where, when it’s used on its side, it’s follow-through swings into center court. When using the off stroke from the other rear corner, the swing for a near corner pinch flows toward the targeted cross front corner. That’s like hitting with your backhand from your forehand rear corner to pinch into your backhand cross front corner. Note that as you spin out of say your rear backhand corner brandishing your forehand and taking a bead on the caddy corner forehand pinch target, you must be ready to adjust should the challenger cover player beat you to the spot. If, as you spin, the challenger is already in between you and the cross front corner before you finish spinning in the rear corner, you need a back up plan. You’ll need to have replacement shot options. One option is a V cross-court pass with your off stroke to your forehand rear corner. But don’t aim too far over on the front wall where the ball might catch the far sidewall on the way back or the cover player might get grazed by your wide angle pass (WAP). Another option is to spin a little more and shoot down the backhand sidewall with your spinning forehand. That’s a very tough shot to avoid striking the backhand sidewall going in or coming back out off the front wall. Often the far side spinning long near corner pinch is an all or nothing shot option. It can produce winners or mystery placements. So drill that longest near corner pinch and other near corner pinches from all over the court (from off the forehand sidewall even 4-5 feet from the corner’s sidewall) with lots of ball tosses and when tracking balls you feed yourself or your training partner feeds you. Feed balls that you toss off the sidewall so it will glance off that back wall and then bounce. Also, from there, in addition to near corner pinches, try to spin and shoot diagonally inside out cross-court kill-passes, as well as inside in down the wall shots along that that nearest sidewall. Also just drop and hit the long near corner pinch from the cater corner angled off to point your feet into that cross front corner. Note an inside out swing and a follow-through toward your sidewall target helps keep this long near corner pinch shot down or bouncing twice way up in the front court ideally before reaching the first line. 

Nerves free —> arm-only swinging can be the culprit of nerves when the feet quit moving or the racquet doesn’t get drawn back as part of the prep. Although it’s not good to be robotic, it is good to be repetitive and prepped. The objective is to hold your nerve or play “nerve free”. Don’t play the score. Swing within yourself and don’t muscle the ball. Let your whole body swing. Swing easy and depend on the big muscles of your legs, back, core and shoulders to fuel the fine, small muscles of your arm that fire your precise arm and wrist snap action. Make the final finish to your arm swing your routine best. Make it a normal, flowing, personally tempo-based arm action, with a full flowing follow-through. Think where do I need to serve or where do I need to hit this shot? Forget about the scoreboard. The score won’t change without your intervention. The ball doesn’t know the situation. It’s just going to go where you hit it or shape your shot or place your serve. Get lost in the moment playing this ball by moving quickly to it and with it to get yourself best positioned to optimally play the Ball effectively. Just play ball. Although it’s easier said than done, your experience and belief will carry you through and they control any tendency for you to be nervous or tethered. Keep your feet on the ground and your head on the court not in the clouds.

Neutral stance —> a neutral striking stance with the front foot in front of the back foot closer to the front wall  and both parallel to sidewall elongates your back to front swing through your hitting zone. That’s as compared to an open stance’s shortened contact zone, with the open stance’s optimal deep off shoulder contact. From a neutral stance, it’s easier to exercise timing loading back and forwardly transferring your weight turning thru contact in a very fast stroking maneuver. That’s as compared to an open stance where if you’re slightly off with either your prep balance or contact point you could spray the ball virtually anywhere side to side in the court; hence the situation where a receiver in an open stance often crushes the ball into the cross front corner as wild reverse pinch virtually THROUGH the server. A neutral stance recruits more of the large muscle groups to initiate the kinetic chain of power, which makes full body stroking work very efficiently. You must take an extra step to the ball to set your neutral stance. So in the first place you have to run a little harder to get there to set your feet, one in front of the other. Another MAJOR key to a neutral stance is to open your front foot toes to point forward, as you swing, so you can turn your knees, hips and importantly turn your back, while swinging freely forward. In a neutral stance, set your legs and feet initially parallel to one another, as you face the sidewall. Then THE big key is not to leave your front foot toes pointing at the sidewall, which would block off body turn. A neutral stance encourages shots to either side of the court by swinging either in to out away from you to hit away from yourself or hit out to in across your body at a cross-court angle. An open stance works most efficiently for a cross-court angle because of the open stance’s easy rotation. Open stance shooting accuracy is harder to control when hitting straight or in to out away from your position along the sidewall you face or into that sidewall. Although it’s doable from an open stance to hit with the off stroke cross-court from one side of the court to the far, rear corner, its drawback is it’s easily seen and therefore coverable by the defending player. When ideally timing receiving serve or when moving forward to strike a ball, the neutral stance is a strong position to swing back to front thru the ball. When utilizing the neutral stance forehand or neutral stance backhand, initially set both feet perpendicular to the front wall. This is different than stepping across your body, which should only be done out of necessity when needing to step into an extremely closed stance to retrieve a ball far out from you to your side. Moving up and setting the neutral stance quickly allows you to move forward and take the ball early and effectively. Therefore, when you have to move forward to attack a short ball, the neutral stance is recommended. When moving forward your momentum already is moving linearly or forward, and the load back in prep or set up will take less time than an open stance forehand or an open stance backhand that requires you set yourself facing forward to then rare back to prep. So sliding forward and using the neutral stance allows you to take the ball earlier, which, when you also shoot earlier, robs reaction time from the defender.

Never up, never in —> when you hit a put in golf, you must get the golf ball to the hole to hit it in. In racquetball you must hit slightly up with your low drive serve to get the drive serve to pass the short line. When you hit a drive serve one tactical objective is to  bounce your serve right past the short line so the ball is more likely to take its second bounce before it reaches the back wall. The problem is hitting the serve on a rope straight in to the front wall and hoping the serve will come straight back out it’s so tough to get that flat ball to cross that short line. Similarly, when trying to hit down into the front wall, how will the ball grow legs and project itself out and upwards to pass the short line unless you were to be hitting overheads? With those methods, on a rope or high to low, you’ll hits loads of short serves. Instead the physics of it works far differently. As you make very low contact with the ball with your very low ball toss, using your low contact stroke and employing your sweeping, flowing racquet head, your arcing swing thru impact must veer your serve so the ball goes ever so slightly up into your front wall target spot. Then, as the ball rebounds back out primed by a little Top you add, the ball actually angles slightly downwards towards your past the short line target area. So the saying to remember is “never up, never in”. To get your drive serve to cross the short line, hit up into your ever so slightly higher than contact front wall target. It’s very useful to add that little bit of Topspin as you make contact, too, because that helps the ball veer downwards to your past the short line target. Get on the court with a bucket of balls. Place your racquetball bag just past the short line in the angle you’re attacking with your drive serve. Pepper the bag with your drive serve in that direction and you’ll see how to find the angle into the front wall to nail your bag. A little above ankle bone low contact with a smooth low arcing Topspin stroking motion (swinging over the top of the ball) gets the ball past the short line and bouncing while retaining lots of Topspin which causes the receiver to have to deal with angle AND dipping overspin, not to mention your possible pace and slight angle variations.

New racquet mania (or carrot mania) —> buying yourself a new stick (racquet) is sometimes that players do to kick off a new season or to reinvigorate their interest in the game. Similarly players buy new shirts, new shoes, new gloves or they buy into a new training program. “New racquet mania” and new equipment sports mania in general is sometimes a fix for motivation to rededicate yourself to playing. Hey, whatever it takes. But, as you shop, also get all the skills you need by studying tape, playing lots of sparring partners, drilling on court starting simply and work up to, for example, complex 3-wall kill-shots, multiple splat targets, front wall first pinches, High Z’s and sidewall crack-out serves and shots. Fill out your techniques like you do your playing equipment. Also, fill up your playing calendar.

Nick drive serve —> as somewhat of a misnomer some call a well struck ball that passes the short line and ricochets low off the sidewall a “nick drive serve”. Here, in the encyclopedia, those serves are called crack-out drive serves because that’s what they do when you ideally hit your serve very low on the sidewall. These aren’t like lofted nick lob serves. Crack-out serves (and rally balls) are hit on a rope to your (felt not seen) front wall target. Then, from there, the served ball caroms out making a beeline at a very low angle to a very low spot on the sidewall just past the short line. They can hit on both the sidewall and floor where the serve ideally cracks out and results in either a rollout off the sidewall or it catches the sidewall-floor crotch to take a very squirrelly bounce and two quick bounces. See crack-out drive for more information about the crack-out ball bounce and the across the short line and the deeper crack-out sidewall targets, along with their front wall targeting just over halfway to sidewall from contact in the service box.

No one knows… —> …”the trouble I seen”…that’s a rendition of a blues lyric…while truly “no one knows” the hours you put in, the effort you put in, the drilling you do forging your skills, the off and on court endurance and strength training, and the dieting and even rest that all are what others don’t know about YOU. That preparation has developed you to be a successful, resilient, confident, highly resourceful player armed with gobs of skills for movement, shotmaking and tough serving. As examples, in preparation you develop a wide variety of serve options to make your offensive game hard to camp on or defend against. Similarly, when drilling, you create more shots, with versatile strokes. You train up feetwork to get into tough spots and feetwork to get you out of tough spots. YOU alone KNOW what you’ve done to develop your well-rounded game. When no one’s watching, you know.

Norms —> your playing performance and attitude, as shown in your effort, dedication, and even your patience level should all reflect your high standards of behavior. The “norm” for you IS typically high level effort. When you’re all in, you’ll receive your just rewards.

Not ready signals —> to delay the server, the receiver may indicate they are not ready by a “not ready signal” with either a raised racquet above their head (obviously) or by turning all the way around to show their back to the server. The server must check the receiver or the receiver may not be showing the nit ready signal or the server is assessed a fault serve when the receiver is signaling and they serve. Note that the server and receiver share 10 seconds between them after score call before the serve must be put in play by the server. As receiver, it’s okay to delay about 6 seconds, when you’re so inclined. As receiver, if you’ve tuned to face away from the server, as you turn back around, ideally already have your racquet raised so the server can NOT quick serve you. Then, when you’re set, lower the racquet and let them serve when you’re ready vs. being quick served or allowing them to serve when THEY are ready. Don’t play receiver when your goggles are streaky, your glove is wet, or when you’re not mentally centered. Don’t try to dry your goggles with one hand while holding your racquet aloft. Turn around and do it easy. Turn back around racquet aloft and get in an athletic body position, ready.

O

Powers of Observation —> first, don’t look at the front wall right when you’re hitting the ball. Then, in a rally if your attention flags even for an instant, an oversight, like a mishit or skip, is committed, resulting in defeat even on a small scale in the loss of that rally. After contact, switch to being moving observer. The necessary knowledge is that of WHAT to observe when your attention is called powerfully into play. Pay very close attention to your shot (or serve) placement and THEIR moves (the opponent’s). When the opponent is hitting, don’t stare at the front wall. Initially, importantly track the ball you’ve just hit to see where it’s headed and to check out how the hitter initially sets themselves to hit it. How they set up with their feet often reveals much including possible horizontal shot angle. Contact height often defines vertical angle. Prep height and depth predicts pace. Along with which wall they face revealing shot possibilities, note that an open stance can create a badly off-angle shot; so be ready. What you see and what their body language reveals is how you will often move to play each ball. And you do move. After they’ve swung to make contact and you’ve either seen a tell revealing them or you’ve seen the ball you’ve turned to watch coming off the front wall, what you look for, as you observe, are those things that will make your shot picking and shooting optimal. Right away pick up and key on the ball’s angle off the front wall, as that determines your first moves. For emphasis, note that the ball is (nearly) hit and THEN you move because, when you start too early and THEY see you, you’re often going to be beaten by a ball going in the direction you’re not. So…as their arm fires forward, you go. After picking up its angle and starting to rebound it off the one front wall or multiple walls, while reading the ball’s pace and spin and determining its best intercept point, that is how your observations mixed with opponent coverage reading disentangles each ball bounce, as you go for each shot with best case aggression. Once you’ve read the ball and observed attentively, you reason and remember distinctly what the opponent’s options are coverage wise. Then depend on your multiform skill set to select shot, the form to achieve it and you advance actions to produce its placement and heat intent on straining the opponent’s coverage. To be able to blast is matched by your ability to feather. To occupy lots of space by swinging into the center is matched by your ability to spin in front of the opponent’s position behind you to follow-through out to the sidewall pinning them behind you. Your possible shots being not only manifold but involute, as your situational shooting or pattern solutions are developed in drilling court time when taking on many bounces, positions, timing, and varying stroking forms to be ready come combat time to attack the ball with either relish and your recherché, improv moves or just routine, reliable, moves and shot shaping perfection. Your drilling prepares you and play TELLS you thru observing whether it’s effective and repeatable. As you play lean on your great and powerful “powers of observation”.

Off court training —> in addition to countless hours playing practice matches and drilling your skills on court, which ideally includes feetwork drills and extending hitting drills, fill in the gaps with your “off court training”. Off court training is fitness training. It may loosely include watching tape, like watching matches on the internet or watching past archived matches or definitely watching videos of yourself playing. Off court training provides often a much-needed break so you will be very hungry to play again. Core or abdominal and back training is very important. That part of the body between the legs and the shoulders or between your hips and upper, upper body connects and powers your body turn, supports or stabilizes your arm swing, it provides very key body balance and it allows you to contort yourself to get some balls, as racquetball requires. Resistance training with both free weights and machines, along with your own body weight exercises and elastic bands allows for moves that avoid injuries and rebuild sore or weakened areas. Being stronger, having more endurance, and being more overall powerful fuels your stroking power and ability to harness that power for your fastest drive serves, your most crisply struck shots, your power deep target ceilings, your overheads and your touch shots all the way down to powering feathering your most delicate of finesse shots. Aerobic exercise, like running, biking, rowing, elliptical machines, swimming and running stairs builds up your breathing capacity. Other sports, like basketball, tennis, and even ping pong, keep your eye hand coordination, movement, and competitive skills finely sharpened. Stretching avoids little pulls and strains and makes you more supple and able to get down lower to get the ball or swing low to shoot low. Always warm up and stretch.

Offense —> “offense” or attack in racquetball is the epitome of wearing a twin-billed hat. One bill points forward when you serve. When you serve, it’s all out attack. It’s okay at times to take big chances that are very lower percentage ones because the worse thing that can happen is you will return the challenger’s next serve. Still there are tactics that raise your percentages so you have a better chance of reaching your goal of scoring points, including game point. One tactical example is serve so the receiver must wrestle with the sidewall just to return your serve. By lobbing a serve right along the sidewall ideally the receiver must scrape the ball back to the front wall just to keep the ball in play. Similarly a well struck Z drive serve causes the receiver to have to compete with the back wall to ideally have to squeeze the ball into the back wall just to keep the ball in play. A drive serve struck with tough to decipher sidespin causes the ball to almost wallpaper the sidewall ideally forcing a weak return that gives you an offensive opportunity as you attack their return. Optimally a cross-court serve could appear to turn and head right along the far sidewall, as if it were glued to that sidewall, after it’s struck with sidespin and it hits a smidgeon under halfway over to the far sidewall on the front wall. A down the wall serve struck with cut or inside out spin can make the ball angle off the front wall to go out to the wall, catch the wall and then seem to be drawn like a magnet back in to the sidewall again as it angles right back along the wall into the near rear corner. Your offensive shots ideally have similar qualities of exceptional difficulty when fielding them based of your placements where even making returns by the opponent are a struggle. Granted there are times when the ball you’re playing is a challenge or your time to play the ball may be shrunken for you. That’s when, as even server, you must switch to more conservative choices. Then your offense could be in the form of a High Z, a deep target ceiling ball or even a well-placed back wall save. Then your objective is to redirect the pressure right back onto the receiver. Then the object is to move them where they have to hit on the run. Now, on the other hand or on the other side of the ball, when you receive serve switch the bill on your cap to defense. You’re going to get your offensive chances when the server muffs a serve and leaves you a bunny back wall setup or your return moves the server and their return shot leaves you a clear offensive chance. Also, during a rally, as receiver, your well placed pass, ceiling or overhead could earn you, with their return, a setup or passing shot option that turns the tide giving you the upper hand in the pattern. The server could go for too much, when shooting high to low leaving up their low percentage attempted kill-shot. Those times must be balanced with when you’re given high to low chances of your own. You may have a tough return of serve pattern, like where the server may block part of the straight to cross-court band of court you’re supposed to get. When your balance, timing, or shot selections are suspect or limited, as receiver, turn your offense into placement first. First decide if you keep the rally going or do you hold fire. Note that, as receiver, a good, deep ceiling ball or a passing shot allows you to move up where being more offensive is much easier by starting when well-positioned in center court. When you’re positioned ahead of your challenger and closer to your shared target, the front wall, shooting is always offensive when you have your feet under you, time to lift your racquet and low ball contact. Switching positions with the challenger’s, it’s always an offensive game aim to turn the tables so you can be in front of them and go for your put-away shot. Offense is selective shooting. Offense is being mentally strong and situationally, aggressively proactive, while freewheeling or taking calculated chances as best you can. Receiving is caginess and feel and court sense and common sense. 

Off hand —> your non racquet hand or “off hand” is not just there to drop or toss or bounce the ball for you to serve or to do your drop-n-hit or toss and hit pre-game and practice drilling. For your forehand backswing, flare your off hand out palm out in front of you as if you were signaling, “Stop” or don’t go in front of me, as you prep to crank your (time is my ally) big, power forehand stroke. As your off hand extends out you’re also drawing back the racquet where both arms work in tandem, as if you were loading a bow with an arrow, when performing your fullest forehand racquet loop for a drive serve or for a rally shot you can crush. Then moving that off hand fuels the forward swing in just a sec… For your backhand, pull your off hand back along with (but separately from) your racquet arm, as you prep, so you turn your shoulders (both) and you don’t restrict your backswing with the off hand. For both strokes, were you to put your off hand on the frame as you prep you simply might not let go. Keep ’em apart and learn to use them to get the racquet back, as well as use a one hand grip switch m, if you have one (or more) for each stroke. For both strokes, as you begin to swing forward, subtly but importantly draw in your off hand to your side about rib height. At the same time, push off your back foot as you lean in AND begin to turn and loop the racquet from pointing up to initially pointing back (as you cast it back in the beginning of your throwing or tossing racquet swing motion). Drawing in your off hand contributes to spinning your shoulders as one strong unit. That very strong UNIT SHOULDER TURN is big. By drawing your off hand in, it supports strongly turning your upper, upper body and shoulders throughout your forward swing. For the forehand, the off hand draws in and stays in tight as you complete your forward swing. For the backhand, the off hand draws in as you initiate the cast back forward swing. Then, as you flow into the forward sideways upper body drift and shoulder spin, the off hand and arm follows the racquet arm until it finishes out front in a balancing finish that encourages rebalancing to get ready to move to right away play defense.

Off shoulder contact —> when striking the ball with your forehand or your backhand making contact out in front of your racquet arm shoulder is your planned “off shoulder contact point” uniform or universal contact point. It’s a good objective to move about the court getting yourself initially lined up slightly BEHIND that off shoulder contact point so then you will move into the ball to hit it THERE, as Plan A in your pre-contact court movement, when fielding (this) ball. Where the ball is as you make contact is huge. Make sure it’s out in front of your racquet arm shoulder so you extend your arm as you sweep your racquet head arcing out, around and thru the ball, while making consistently reliable impact at your “uniform contact point” or “universal contact point”. So, again, as you move about the court, get yourself lined up behind your off shoulder contact point as Plan A in your pre-swing court movement. Line up about a half step behind and then step in with both feet, back then front. Setting yourself initially behind the ball then you WILL move more solidly into the ball as you swing. Be all about lining yourself up behind that off shoulder contact point as your reason for being in your pre-stance setting court movements or ball approach; that and keep your spacing so you may reach out to extend your arm to swing thru the ball.

Off stroke —> an “off stroke” is the stroke usually reserved for use on the other side of the court where, when striking the ball there, with that side’s primary stroke, your follow-through flows into the center of the court so you take up more room or court space with your full swing and you end up closer to the center of the court than when swinging with the other side’s stroke or off stroke out toward the sidewall. On the other side of the court, as an example of hitting with the off stroke, use your forehand when positioned along your backhand sidewall. There, when striking the ball with the off stroke that’s primarily used on the other side of the court, it’s tactical to primarily go for winners, like straight in kill-shots or reverse pinches into that side’s front corner. Note that inside out cross-court angled shots with the off stroke are going to be clearly seen by the opponent. Although, when stepping in front of your challenger to hit with your off stroke, you can pin them behind you in the backcourt. There your off stroke follow-through flows out toward the sidewall, which is a major deterrent to them moving along that sidewall. Again, your primary stroke or, for instance, your backhand on your backhand side flows toward the center of the court. On the other hand, after swinging with the off stroke, it leaves you further from the center court with your weight and momentum moving away from where you’ll want to go next, which is normally center court to defend. So that means hit and quickly move. It also works to shoot with your off stroke from the other side of the court as a down the wall shot, with your in to in swing flow. But, if the opponent is behind you that squeezes you down to a very low straight in shot. Also, the off stroke works well for that reverse pinch into the near front corner up ahead of you along that sidewall going sidewall first with a flowing across your body swing motion and a little higher sidewall target than you may expect which will keep the reverse pinch down low coming off the front wall, but not skipping in. Those off strike situations often happen when the ball comes at you from off the other, far sidewall or as a cross-court shot. For instance, when you pop off the sidewall and out of the box right after your partner serves and you’re immediately confronted by a ball coming at you, then an off stroke may be your best response in this on the fly, fast reaction, QuickDraw stroking situation. Turn and face the far sidewall, move your feet fast and prep according to time you make by how you hustle. Pick shot quickly and shoot with your off stroke confidently picking the best shot you can make. 

Off the ball —> more than half the time while you’re playing racquetball you’re not hitting the ball. Movement after serving, moving after striking a rally shot and centering up balance-wise and moving to center court after returning serve is “off the ball” movement. How well you move off the ball into your best spot in center court or when moving directly to where you read the challenger is placing the ball you just struck defines how well you’ll track down and hit your next ball either aggressively on offense or, when you must be creative, defensively by placing the ball, while still looking to strain the challenger’s coverage and test THEIR own off the ball moves or at least making them hit one more ball that they might flub. Always focus, as you compete, on your off the ball movement. Think of it as your off ball movement always could’ve been better, like how a coach often says of their team after the game, “Our defense could’ve been better”.

One-armed bandit —> in singles, you may run into a player who hits the ball almost exclusively with just one stroke. That one stroke may be just superior or their other stroke may be weaker due to a poor grip on the racquet handle, a low racquet lift or poor self belief in that weak link stroke. This “one-armed bandit” may even stand with their back right up against their weaker stroke’s sidewall to hit with their other stroke or off stroke. How to attack them is carefully. You may serve directly at the weak side with low drive serves or off speed lobs. But don’t be surprised when they passably return the serve with their weaker stroke. That’s because they’re so used to being served to their weaker side and they’ve had to adapt and learn to keep the ball in play. Another option is to serve hard and wide to their strong side and then, when they give you an attackable ball, hit the very next ball to move them to their weaker side so you’ll force them to hit with their weaker form while on the dead run. Once the rally begins, play normally by playing keep-away and move them as you would any other opponent. If you’re ever uncertain which side to hit to or when you’re off balance, it’s a no-brainer to attack their weaker side by placing the ball along that sidewall. But, in general, hit the best shot, not just the forcing shot. Just avoid the inclination to think like you would when playing a slow or hobbled player. Avoid asking yourself, “Why is this such a struggle?”. It is because you’re overthinking it and judging their ability vs. how to play the balls THEY do hit. Don’t bend your game to only attack your opponent’s weaknesses. Play the court AND the player. Now tactically, if you want to attack a one-armed bandit’s say lefty backhand, hit down the wall passing shots right along the right wall, cross-court passes from the left side to the right sidewall, and deep coffin corner ceilings cross-court to the right, rear corner. But don’t be surprised when they return them with their forehand. Just play on. Definitely don’t allow them to hit with their one-armed bandit stroke long diagonal shots from either rear corner into the cross front corner by being in between ball and corner first before they’re set to hit. Do expect a lot of down the wall shots from along their weaker side. There look to step in front and pin them behind you with your own off stroke trap preventing their moving along that sidewall due to your follow-through out to it. 

One-step drive serve —> a completely stationary plant of your feet and serve is counterproductive to optimally striking the ball from an ideal, balanced and then moving stance in hopes of producing a forceful drive serve or effective lob serve (or rally shot). A “one-step drive serve” starts with setting your back foot, as the front foot posts comfortably either trailing the back foot away from the sidewall faced or slightly ahead of the back foot or much less frequently initially level with the back foot on the same line to the front wall. Where that post (front) foot pauses or balances or posts before you step forward with it is your server’s choice and pre stance stance. Where the post positions usually relates to the service motion. For the backhand, the front foot usually initially trails the back foot away from the sidewall. The one-step service motion optimally includes next a step in place action on your back foot, as you start looping your racquet back, too. That frees up the post to move and be set as the front of your serving stance. After stepping on the back foot, then step up setting your post front foot. As soon as the front foot touches down, immediately press back off the front foot to your back foot. That key move invaluably engages both legs together, as you also wrap up lifting high your racquet in your prep or wind up. That press or light rock back and full prep is optimally followed up right away by moving strongly into the ball with dual leg drive. There your forward swing begins with the push off the back foot, your off hand fold in, and beginning your racquet arm looping downswing toward making contact. Swing thru powerfully and then counter back onto your back foot to rebalance and then quickly move into center court facing n pursuit of the ball.

One-wall racquetball —> many espouse the don’t re-pinch a pinch dogma. Actually off a left up pinch or splat after it takes its first bounce THE very best response then is a trickle splat. There the splat is a sidewall shot targeting the sidewall deeper and closer to where you, the ball, and the sidewall are getting together as you move to intercept the left up far sidewall shot. With the one-wall shooting tactic, the probability of inadvertence (skips or off angle shots) is diminished. But to only put the ball away with direct passes or kill-passes is much tougher, as those angles are easier covered with the opponent’s or your defensive sideways moves. When you have a sidewall target set up by how the ball is veering out toward that wall or toward a corner or as a ball pops up ready for added spin and control of its angle, it makes a sidewall target work for you. Covering sidewall targets requires more than just filling the lane the one-wall ball takes off the front wall. Sidewalls require forward and often unusual angled movements. Granted they are rally ending put-away choices so they’re not so much rally shot as they are rally curtailing shot. Take ’em when you got ’em. The major value of the down the line shot is preached as the be all end all strategy and as THE foundation of offensive play. That’s being way too simplistic. Granted, when you return serve, you can often strand a slower retreating server before they drop back out of the box with an early down the wall pass. Also, you can step up and cutoff a lob serve or even a rally ball and sometimes crush the ball down the wall and make the challenger run around you, as you step forward, so they must field the ball deep in the backcourt. That’s a great one wall shot opportunity. Trying to go down the wall mid rally when you make contact from way back deep in the backcourt is often a much less effective tactic. First, their defense is set to cover your DTL. It’s THE shortest shot and it’s often covered by the opponent’s coverage grooved move to step out to the sidewall. Second, straight in rollouts are just rare. Third, for a higher contact ball or when hitting on the run, it’s tough to not catch the sidewall with your down the wall shot on the shot’s way coming back out or even on the ball’s way in to the front wall. Fourth, your well struck down the wall shot could bounce and pop off the back wall as a bad setup because, again, it’s a shorter shot angle and so harder to keep down. Fifth, when the DTL is covered, the opponent often steps in, hits and plants where you’re unable to cover a ball bouncing right in front of them or even passing by them as they hide their DTL, too. So it’s important to be very selective. Plan B for “one-wall racquetball” is a cross-court shot direct to the front wall and angling off the front wall directly into the far, rear corner. When that cross-court shot is wide enough and pacy enough, it can be very effective. However, factor in that a regular cross-court shot is to THEM where they are in center court. The opponent is already somewhat positioned cross-court so a V, 45 degree angled cross-court pass goes right by them. There you must either spank the V shot, while possibly bouncing it at their feet, or you catch them out when they’re tending or shading over to crowd your line. Note that positionally, when giving up the straight in shot AND the V cross-court, the preferred wider angled pass isn’t given up by the shooter, nor is it required to be. That’s what happens for your deep court shooting. You must use disguise and emphasize moving them back so you can move up. When making contact further forward in the court in the middle, that wider angle IS routinely available to you to hit and it should be selectively chosen. Of course then it becomes a 2 wall shot AROUND the opponent. The wide angle pass or WAP is struck to contact the front wall a little over halfway between where you make ball contact and the far sidewall so the WAP will rebound out and strike the sidewall NEXT TO the opponent to then ideally bounce twice behind them in the backcourt before the back wall. When the ball you’re playing is headed from off the back wall out to the sidewall a straight in or even a cross-court shot angle is very tough to do. Then a splat or low pinch is THE shot that should be factored into your shot options. Those sidewall shots should be practiced and then you’ll have them in your artillery of shots.   If you use them, your one wall game will open up when the opponent has to honor and cover your sidewall shot options, too.

One way traffic —> if it’s getting to be just “one way traffic” where your challenger is scoring points in bunches, it’s time to make some big changes. First, if it’s a 4 points lead or more, call an actual or virtual timeout. For an example of a timeout without actually calling one, turn and face the back wall between rallies. Even go on a walk about back there and ruminate…consider your other service return options and where you could position better to return and where you could make return contact. If your return isn’t problematic, sort through what in the follow on rallies needs changing. If it’s shot selection, consider other options. If you are being buggered by where you’re hitting the ball, see if your positioning could be better. If you have a big prob, like one serve slaying you, go for a T.O.. If you’re partnering in doubles, perhaps switch sides. There you’re giving the other partner a try returning the opponent’s very challenging serve. In between rallies, in that valuable interim, discuss with your partner options. In singles, have a little inner dialogue. Address the serves that are eating your lunch. Also powwow about your positioning between hits or shot selections or serve selections of your own when you note one of them isn’t being as routinely effective as it normally is. Assess what shots of theirs are giving you such fits and giving them such an upper hand. Also, what court moves and positioning could improve your lot. A basic concept is to not just take it on the chin. In RB, fight tooth and nail to prevent an onslaught of points and serves. Be gritty. Be a rally fighter. Be a comeback believer and be a comeback expert. And don’t be a bad shot taker, like when reaching above shoulder height to make contact. Move back. Let the ball drop. And definitely take the ball off the back wall as a setup.

On the fly —> when you intercept a ball off the front wall or a ball like a nick lob dropping off the sidewall, contacting it right out of midair or “on the fly” you’re taking the ball before its first bounce. For on the fly swinging usually attempt to make contact about waist high or slightly lower. Making over your shoulder contact usually means you’re not retreating to let the ball drop low to shoot low to low. On the fly shooting at medium to low contact height requires that you lift the racquet up high in prep, that you intensely focus on the ball, that you turn your chest to the sidewall as you prep, that you ready for off shoulder contact and that you’ve got lots of practice reps under your belt getting down your on the fly swinging technique or your compact “swing volley” swing to make solid contact. Another definition for on the fly is quick thinking decision making when you’re playing a ball that’s right there in your lap in a blink and you have to pick a shot very quickly. Or an on the fly decision is when you let the high ball fly by you and you DON’T take it on the fly. Instead you let the high ball go on by to pop off the back wall so you can let the ball drop super low to shoot it as a back wall setup into your kill-shot sidewall or front wall target spot. That’s smart on the fly thinking. Cutting off a ball above shoulder height is not so smart, unless you’re playing outdoor racquetball (without a back wall). Your on the fly thinking is you’re just sure you’re going to put away the ball with your swing volley at medium high contact to shoot downwards into an unreachable passing shot or kill-shot angle away from the opponent.

On the rise —> taking the ball right as it pops up off the court after its first bounce is done when moving forward and stepping in to ideally make low contact right after the bounce, like for a lob serve or off speed ball after it bounces up to about knee high or up to even waist high, with practice reps. Or contact could be even as high as an overhead return of a bouncing up high lob or high lob Z there at the back the back of the safety zone. Those are all examples of taking the ball “on the rise”. When taking a ball early as your return of serve, time moving forward, placing your lead foot just behind the dashed line. Then move in right after the served ball bounces, which is a real timing challenge. That cutoff move to take the ball on the rise is a skill worthy of many, many practice reps when returning serves with a training partner and as you play in both ref-free and competitive, officiated matches. In rally play, taking a ball either on the rise or out of midair are ploys to rush your challenger or hit the ball as a put-away kill-shot. Although often it’s best to let the higher bouncing ball drop when you read it’s going to pop off the back wall to slow you to make lower contact to hit a lower shot away from the challenger, including put-aways into sidewall or front wall targets. Usually on the rise rally hitting is out of necessity because the ball is right there on top of you on one side of your body and you must interrupt its flight or risk being passed. Another on the rise challenge is when you’re returning the “Alvaro” high lob serve that flows right along the server’s forehand sidewall or when you’re returning a high lob Z. Then the receiver’s motivation is to take the ball on the rise and hit a forcing overhead, which would beat retreating and returning the high wallpaper lob serve or Z lob ball very deep in the backcourt where attempting scraping the ball off the wall for a long ceiling ball would be, at best, a return of serve adventure.

On the run —> swinging while in flight, which means while you’re on the move or “on the run”, when your balance, perception, and swinging to make good contact are all tested and tougher is a non optimal or suboptimal situation. Still on the run hitting must be done very, very often in fast paced racquetball rally play. First, overzealous shotmaking then isn’t (or should NOT be) Plan A. Practice hitting on the run passing shots, High Z shots, deep target ceiling balls, and even flick up high, bouncing deep lobs. Even an on the run return of serve when lifting the ball to your deep target on the ceiling must be drilled and perfected. That’s because that or any other chosen serve return is a key pattern when moving and intending to pull the server back as your good, tactical, shotmaking return of serve efficiency action, when you recognize and accept you are ON THE RUN. On the run hitting makes it tough to hit your wall target. Therefore pick a bigger target. That way you won’t miss and catch the sidewall with your passing shot or ceiling ball. Leave the ball off the sidewall giving yourself a safety margin. 

Open stance —> full on facing the front wall starting with your waist and toes pointing forward with your feet on a line nearly parallel to the front wall is a very “open stance” when that’s where you are when first setting yourself to contact a ball. If time allows, quickly attempt to close that open stance by stepping forward and turning to face the sidewall. Do that turning, even if it’s only just a little turn to chest up to the wall. In any case, even from any open stance, you can still Wang Chung the ball. That means you can crank a very, very hard hit fast shot. Your placement from full on facing the front wall has cross-court written all over it as your primary target range because of the very rotation friendly swing from that stance. When pressed, to open stance stroke, first press back and load onto what is your back foot and leg, as you begin to prep your racquet by lifting it, too, loading back foot side. That back foot is the foot closest to the sidewall where you’ll make contact and it’s usually the foot that deepest. That back foot is the foot for that stroke, like your forehand has a routine back foot for a closed or an open stance. Then, after loading that back foot and flaring back your racquet, transition into turning onto your front foot to swing by pushing off the back foot toward the anchored front foot. Maximize the superior rotational force from your open stance stroke, which is the open stance’s major strength. Also, again, cross-court angles are much easier from an open stance. But THEY, the challengers will know that, too, and you should know that they know that, too. When you see the challenger caught in an open stance, be ready to cover their cross-court angles (or cover up if they’re returning serve situated that way because a reverse pinch may be coming). To add more options, practice hitting inside out away from your open stance. Those reps will increase your options and keep the challenger honest in their defensive positioning. Even when swinging inside out from your open stance, try to swing with a lot of body rotation and with very deep ball contact. To practice open stance inside out and cross-court hitting, stand in the center just on the other side of the court with your back to the back wall in an open stance and drop and hit with your off stroke (or other side’s stroke) cross-court into the far, rear corner. Once you can hit into that big angle move over closer to center court and repeat. When you can do it from the middle, then stand along the sidewall and hit straight in, as well as work on near sidewall shots with an inside out racquet flow from your open stance or from your partial open stance. Note how deeper contact from your open stance back by your hitting shoulder and taking something off your contact allows you to better control your open stance stroke’s shot trajectory. From your open stance, work on your straight in and your in to out swing for DTL shots angled directly into the near, rear corner. Also work on your sidewall shot placements, for splat targets. From off the wall about 6 feet, work on inside out near corner pinch targeting the front corner on that side of the court. Also, from those different spots work on your open stance cross-court howitzers to the far rear corner, too. Try to keep your open stance hitting to a minimum, but be prepared to do it because the speed of the game is going to demand it of you a few times a game. And, if you’re prepared by having practiced, you’re able to do it better that passably to even do it proficiently with versatile shotmaking.

No Order of serve in doubles —> at the beginning of a match when the first serving team goes up to serve, either partner may serve first. After that first server’s team loses a rally, it’s the second teams’ chance to serve. Then the next time up that first team may switch who serves first or there is “no order of who serves first in doubles”. The switching who serves first can be very confusing for the opposition and it can be done throughout a match. Tactically for the team serving it’s often good to go with the hot hand or the partner holding the most momentum to carry that over from the previous rally to take advantage of their intensity by allowing that partner to be the first server. Also, if one receiver has been struggling, serving to that player first can pay big dividends by having the server who routinely serves to them be the first to serve to go for a run of points. As the receiving team, just take note of who serves first. If one player serves first, loses their serve and then tries to serve again, its a side-out for that team.

Ostrich —> 2 ways offensive players often drop their head down too low as they swing. One, as many players address the ball when they’re about to strike their drive serve they actually get down super, super low. They won’t even be THAT LOW when they actually contact the ball for their drive serve. Plus the head way down position is counterproductive to swinging fundamentally with your best form. With head down address, the server must then rise up to then drop back down low again to swing with optimal leg drive, a head up position and a low ball toss for contact about 6 inches up. However way too often the initial “ostrich” posture by the server never sees them go back down as low particularly with good knee bend. In a very similar way, sometimes, when lunging to contact the ball low, the hitter also often drops their head way down too low. With your head down too low it distorts your perception of the ball so that hitting the ball cleanly on your sweet spot is at risk and your contact may be muffed. This dropping your head down too low is “ostrich hitting”, or head down too low hitting. Simply don’t drop your head. Bend your knees while you keep your head up, chest up and body balanced. When your head is down too low as you swing, seeing the ball well is much tougher and rotating with your hips and core is at risk, too.

Outcome goal —> tracking game wins as an “outcome goal” places way too great an emphasis on winning or only on tracking your results. Then you’d not be keeping track of how well you perform at key facets of your game that should include important items like…

(a) serving accuracy;

(b) second serve picking and effectiveness;

(c) taking your time when you serve;

(d) tactical movements off the ball, especially when moving to center court after each hit;

(e) good positioning in the center of the backcourt and to return serve;

(f) shot picking and placing;

(g) return of serve placements;

(h) effective striking stance setting; and

(g) composure or poise.

–> Just playing to win places way too much pressure on the outcome of play. Outcome pressure or guarding against losing can be counterproductive, especially in tight game situations when a player may think about losing instead of figuring out how to play smartly, tactically, and familiarly well. As a result, they may play tentatively. Instead hit out. Focus on the ball. Don’t look ahead. Play in the now. Play to your own best standards. Perform as well as you can without judging yourself or dwelling on a possible outcome.

Out serve —> one prime example when a served ball is beaten out of the back of the box by the server or the server’s partner in doubles is that is not just a fault serve; it’s an “out serve” and the receiver or receiving team takes over serving. Another out serve is one that hits the front wall and leaves the court without bouncing and going over the back wall or out an opening deep on the sidewall. A serve or shot that bounces and goes out is a rally replay. A served ball that hits the crotch of…(1) the front wall and floor; (2) front wall and side wall; or (3) front wall and ceiling is an out serve. The crotch serve did not hit the front wall first; it hit both walls at the same time. A serve into the crotch of the back wall and floor is a good serve and in play. A served ball that hits the crotch of the side wall and floor beyond the short line is in play.

Outside in —> when you reach out and make contact with the far side of the ball (or you may think of it as you draw the ball in on your strings) and you swing across your body while flowing your racquet head decidedly cross-court, your shot will go crosscourt. That swing motion also adds “outside in” spin, which turns or spins the ball in toward you as the ball flows across in front of you. And the spin in combo with the swing angle conspires to send the ball toward the far side of the court. Rule-wise that angle must be allowed by the defender for the hitter to place a shot as far as the furthest, rear corner from contact. With the outside in spin, the ball rebounds out off the front wall and veers back at what appears to be an ever increasing, breaking away angle, as it appears to fade away from the challenger further and further, while heading for that far, rear corner, as the opponent scurries after it in desperate pursuit.

Out to in —> out to in is another way of saying outside in where the forward swing is “out to in” or reaching out to make contact and then pulling in as the swing motion flows across your body, with a long, accentuated follow-through across your body in front of you until you point the racquet at the sidewall behind you, as an out to in swing motion for both your forehand and backhand strokes. Out to in swinging works for cross-court V passes and for sidewall first reverse pinches in the other front corner, like when hitting with your  backhand a pinch in your forehand front corner sidewall first where that out to in spin causes the reverse to hug the front wall after the ball ricochets off the sidewall.

Overcome impulses —> the tendency to act on impulses is usually due to tending toward a little bit of an urge that you haven’t reflected upon vs. a reflection of patterned responses that you HAVE planned and developed over a long period of time in training and when thoughtfully playing. Playing non impulsively you play strategically and you go with your reasoned, logical, albeit at times improvised, though guided improvisations, versus impulsive, totally creative winging it or wing and prayer responses. Examples of not “overcoming impulses” are…(a) hitting shots through the center of the court where then you can’t be and then the opponent could hit a shot to run you and then get to stay where you want to be in center court; (b) cutting off higher balls going through the middle of the court that are going to bounce and pop off the back wall or they’re going to strike the back wall on the fly to be a setup; and (c) hitting passing shots too high or too hard and usually from too high contact so the pass bounces and pops off the back wall as a back wall setup for the opponent. Those are all impulses you want to overcome by making better, quick tactical decisions to pick the right shot or right place to make contact.

Overhead stroke —> when returning lob serves along your forehand wall that don’t completely wallpaper the sidewall or lob Z’s that angle toward your forehand rear corner and bounce high in front of the dotted line, stepping up and taking the ball on the rise above your head is the time to go with your “overhead stroke” to hit a passing shot return. An overhead is a very aggressive return of serve option. Here form rules heavily on its proficiency or accuracy. First, turn sideways to face the sidewall. That helps make the swing easier, the motion more rounded and over the top, and the contact zone bigger. When you face the front wall, you get one get chance to make underpowered contact. Facing forward your angle control of your swing for your more limited contact zone for your overhead (or any stroke) is suspect or less effective. To make contact for your overhead, pretend there’s a big clock out in front of you with 12 o’clock straight up overhead. Make contact at the first hour past 12 o’clock as a right hander (1 o’clock) or one hour before 12 o’clock as a lefty (11 o’clock). Swing up and over the top of the ball making contact above the middle and go for about a 2-3 foot high front wall target. For your overheads, when going for too low a front wall target, splinters are possible meaning you might skip the ball in before it gets to the front wall. Too high a front wall target and a back wall setup could result. Primarily a cross-court target is your first choice for your overhead because it’s an easier angle to find because it’s a bigger angle. There contacting the front wall halfway over and placing the pass along the far sidewall is your goal. It’s difficult to angle the ball to contact the far sidewall on the fly without possibly catching the opponent with your shot on its way in to the front wall. They must allow only an angle off the front wall so the ball could veer into the far, rear corner, not a wider angle (or they must give up half the front wall). It is tactical to bounce the ball on the far side of the court so it then will catch the sidewall deeper in the court. Another option is a down the wall overhead. The down the wall overhead needs to be angled toward the near, rear corner without catching the sidewall going in to the front wall or on its way coming back out after making front wall contact. The straight overhead also needs to be controlled height-wise so the ball doesn’t bounce and pop off the back wall because it’s a shorter shot. After striking the down the wall overhead, make sure to quickly follow your overhead ball forward to allow the server to circle around behind you to cover your overhead in deep court. If you back up after hitting your straight overhead, you take yourself out of position. Technique-wise the overhead motion, along with the sideways facing, includes a quick step up court to take the ball ideally on the rise before the ball gets too high over your head. Pointing at your target ball with your off hand is a good accuracy promoting method. With the racquet arm, take the racquet back into a back scratch elbow bent position gets you ready for the flowing up and over the top swing motion. Your contact point is slightly out in front of you. Reach up and make contact. Finish by pronating or turning your wrist inward to add more pop to your contact. Recall this is a controlled motion where placement trumps sheer pace. Follow-through toward your low front wall target, move forward initially and then circle into center court to defend your shot and be ready to ideally shoot their return with your low contact stroke.

Overhit —> hitting the ball too hard or too high so that it will carry and either strike the back wall on the fly or in the air or bounce and pop off the back wall or hit the sidewall, the front wall and then bounce and catch the far sidewall are all situations when you “overhit” the ball. Controlling your target wall height is easier the lower you make contact with the ball. Turning and facing the sidewall to swing also makes it easier to control your shot trajectory angle to hit lower and control your shot’s sideways angle, too. Also control your shot power, too. Match power to shot or your shot’s purpose. A pinch or splat doesn’t have to be crushed; but it had better be low. A big, routine backswing can be dialed down to hit with control and even touch vs. an untethered over swinging approach with a late backswing or just an arm swing only that can cause your serves, passes, overheads and even ceiling balls to bounce and pop off the back wall or for your rally or return of serve to contact the front wall and carry to contact high on the back wall to fly out or to bounce and carry to pop off the back wall and be attackable in the middle of the court or even the front court. Those and overhit sidewall shots make the control your pace list that emphasizes always dialing in apropos force.

 

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

713-557-3176

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