By Ken Woodfin

Racquetball Encyclopedia

P – R

P

Pace —> soft contact, with touch and finesse, with an unstopped stroke, produces a delivery for an off speed shot result and soft “pace” or a soft-paced shot. Note that speed changes, when needed, can work as they negatively affect the prep and swing timing of the challenger.  Max power with full body pivot and stroking with your greatest racquet head speed whip arm motion and full acceleration and full follow-through develops powerful ball pace that can blow passes by the challenger or so you strike the ball powerfully enough to get your drive serve to bounce twice before the back corner before the receiver can catch up to it. Pace makes haste and pace can lay waste to your challenger’s attempts to even make good gets on your most powerful shots. Off speed pace can pressure the most bloodthirsty of challenger’s timing and patience. Also soft paced serves then require that the receiver must generate their own pace with their swing which may cause mishits or over swinging and that overhitting may generate back wall setups, left up kill-shot attempts or skips. One constant pace makes it easier on the opponent to cover the shot because the opponent gets comfortable and used to the timing.

Create Pace? …or counter punch? —> each ball must be played as you decide first do you add pace or do you counter punch and block back the ball with touch and control taking advantage of the incoming ball’s great pace. Of course a lollipop ball sets up for a collision shot where you must attack the ball and generate your own pace. For a driven ball where you have to react and return it quickly, you don’t have to develop as much pace, but you must grip down a little tighter and favor control. For example, for some powerful drive serves you may have to lift them to ceiling when you don’t have time to control a low passing shot angle. For others you may bunt the ball placing it tactically away from the server. For each ball, either “create pace or counter punch” by absorbing the ball and deftly placing it low with touch, with focus and trust.

Palm turn —> for both strokes, turning your palm over via forearm twirl while extending your arm and meshing that with wrist roll at the last second slaps the racquet face thru the ball, with grace, artistry and highly adjustable force. The racquet hand palm turns from palm up to palm down throughout the forehand contact zone. The palm turns from palm down toward palm up in the most flourishing racquet swing for a backhand cross-court pass or serve. With practice, it’s exactly how you imagine it, as you spiral the racquet face violently thru the ball closing the racquet face thru contact driving the ball in your shot shaping arc.

Panic free ploys —> based on continuously training up your well-evaluated and tweaked stroking form, your court positioning, your feetwork movements, and your right-shot-in-time tactics ideally they are all beyond uncertainty, anxiety, or ever hurried. Your mentality is to be quick, but never hurry. You set your own playing rhythm. “Panic free ploys” include competent stroking form; serves such as nick lobs and Robin Hood drives to either back corner; shots like deep target ceiling balls; passes into open court space; High Z shots; and other keep-away shotmaking which can consistently place the ball along both sidewalls into the rear corners or into the bottom board way up front. When you can make forcing and rally ending shots, you’re judging when to do what and how to place the ball where you see it being most effective and tough on the competitor. You play fear free and you will control what you’re trained up to control. You won’t panic because you’re a task handler and frightened by little because your experience and prep leaves you untroubled by the unexpected because you’re armed for it. You’re a calculated risk taker because you know which risks are worth taking, and how.

Paralysis by analysis —> there needs to be a beginning and an ending to every hitting situation. If you overthink it or you get frozen in analysis, you may get locked up and fail to start and act in time or fail to prep as much as you could or should or need to, and you may put on the brakes in the follow-through which causes under hitting and miss-angling your shots. You may under swing and try to muscle the ball or get stuck and have to weakly push your swing forward. Don’t over analyze. See it, pick it, hit it or see, pick, hit. Let score, opponent, and situation go and just see what you need to do and do what you familiarly do well. If you can be offensive, hit your best keep-away shot. If you must defend, be spontaneously ingenious keeping the ball in play with shots, like ceiling balls, High Z’s, back wall saves and even lofted lobs. Don’t suffer from “paralysis by over analysis”.

Partial closed stance —> when setting your low contact striking stance, one option is to set your front foot so it’s a half a tennis shoe out closer to the sidewall than the back foot (which is trailing in the court and away from the sidewall). That feet positioning produces the optimum hitting platform from this “partial closed stance”. There you’re able to call upon the optimum rotation of your feet–>knees–>hips–>core–>upper body which sums the greater than individual angular forces to add to your lateral sideways front to back force when transferring your loaded back weight from your back to your front foot. As you swing forward you’re able to peak your weight hitting a heavy ball right at contact, with fully optimized sideways AND turning forces from your partially closed stance.

Partial open stance —> when the front foot is set so the front foot’s toes are level with the heel of the rear foot, as the front foot is set further away from the sidewall that you face to stroke, that is a “partial open stance”. A partial open stance encourages lots of body turn as you swing. But, from a partial open stance, it is tougher to swing in to out and accurately hit targets out away from you, for instance, into targets on the sidewall you face without lots and lots of drilling open stance stroking shotmaking, while also using the technique of making contact deep in your stance or when the ball is back level with your body position or the side of your body that holds the racquet. Learning to hit straight from a partial open stance is a worthwhile training goal to add shot options the competitor must acknowledge with their coverage. 

Partner —> in doubles, 2 partners are on one team and there are likewise 2 partners on the opposing team. Those 2 partners play as a team where they try to blanket the court defensively and they try to take the best team shot when a difficult bounce for one partner may be an easier cover for the other or a stab volley for one may be a setup for the other; so team play rules. In a different kind of partnering when drilling, your hitting “partner” helps you elevate your game by how you take turns feeding each other balls that simulate patterns you routinely see in match play so you can respond to those patterns much more effectively in competitive rally situations. Even taking turns serving to each other and just returning helps with that most crucial part of competitive play, the serve and the return.

Don’t guess at what your struggling Partner is thinking —> for balls when you see your partner is struggling in a classic back peddling retreat about to try a weak overhead or they may even be going to reach up and hit a pokey shot and you know you’ve got a bead on the ball when you’re already headed behind them, don’t guess that they see you and they’re going to leave the ball because you can do more with it. Call them off. Very early clearly say “Mine” or “Me” or “I got it”, indicating you’ve got it well covered. A clear signal by them that they’re going to only reflex the ball back is when they’re full on facing the front wall and about to back peddle. Don’t guess that they’re going to leave it to you where they’re going to go with the “best team shot”. They may be stuck in the syndrome that any ball on their side is, by default, theirs. So “don’t guess what your partner is thinking”. Quickly read the play and respond just about as quickly so your team is not relegated to a weak, attackable return or no return at all because they block you when you could get in behind them and be the shooter and impose yourself upon the rally. Additionally, after you call them off, your partner should then try to center up to give you more options including straight in or sidewall shot options. If they can move to the middle, you’ll have any shot you want. Sometimes your partner may have to glue themselves to the wall because that’s the best they can do. Then you must get creative and pick the best shot you can, with cross-court often a more percentage play. A deep target ceiling is a (don’t hit your partner) backup shot plan. As a clear indication that they’re struggling, note when they’re caught up or too far forward in front of the dashed line.

Pass ’em by —> especially when your opponent is in front of you, sending a passing shot around them is solid shot placement goal. When they’re far up in the court and your contact is lofty or higher above thigh high, going for a shot where your intent is to “pass ’em by” will get you many more points in the long run than trying then for a kill-shot that risks a skip ball or a left up ball they can gobble up in the middle of the court and then hit a emotionally tough to witness, by you, re-kill.

Pass -to- show and pinch for dough —> the saying used to be pinch for show and pass for dough. Times change. Players at the highest level of racquetball and ALL LEVELS use the sidewalls much more prevalently than they ever have to outright win rallies or even return serves when the serve is vulnerable and it’s in the receiver’s wheelhouse of shotmaking patterns they’ve trained up and own. In rally play, the variety is amazing when players look to shoot various splat angles, tight or wider near corner pinches (sidewall or front wall first), reverse pinches into the cross front corner, sidewall Twooze shots from ball contact up close in along the sidewalls facing the other front corner and 3-wall kill-shot boast shots when facing the sidewall and driving the ball into that wall up ahead of you. Practice your sidewall near corner pinch shots when you’re out from the sidewalls from deep court all the way up until you’re in the front court, like when you’ve pursued a ball off the back wall or when you’re covering a left up (not killed) pinch or splat by the challenger. Also heavily drill your splat shots when you’re along a sidewall taking the ball at different contact heights and at varying distances from the sidewall out to almost 6 feet out from the sidewall in the backcourt and in to within mere inches from the sidewall when shooting all along that wall into felt, slightly lower targets up ahead, too. With success in that training, you will have those winning kill-shots for patterns you recognize when they’ll work well for you where the ball is drifting toward the front corner or the sidewall to “pinch for dough”. Now, alternatively, when a low contact stroke is better suited for a keep-away shot, drill and employ your reliable passing shots so you “pass to show” the challenger that they are miss-positioned, like too far up or too far over. By drilling you then have lots of options to control placing the ball in either rear corner while controlling the challenger’s positioning in the court where they must make contact with the ball. Then, after you’ve pulled them back, your sidewall targets will be wide open to attack with pinches, splats or 3-wall shots to go for the dough. Note that straight in and cross-court kill-passes are much less prone to capture the rally than a sidewall shot or front wall-sidewall crack-out winner.

Passing shot —> a shot that’s hit to the front wall so that the ball will rebound out and bounce first in the middle of the court to then potentially take its second bounce right before the back wall, when the ball is ideally not intercepted by the challenger along its path from the front wall to its target in the backcourt, is a “passing shot” in full. Basic angles for passing shots are straight in from where the player makes contact or cross-court from that same contact spot when hitting shoots at a 45 degree shot angle directly to the front wall which would cause the ball to rebound off the front at another 45 degree angle to end up in farthest rear corner away from the shooter. Other passing shots involve the sidewall. A wide angle passing shot is struck from along one side of the court (from about 34 feet on in to the front court) when striking the front wall a little more than halfway over from where the ball is struck to the far sidewall so the ball then rebounds out and strikes the sidewall about 25 feet back even with the challenger so the ball then angles toward the center in back bouncing harmfully twice before this wide angle pass (WAP) shot reaches the back wall. A near angle pass is like the WAP in that it strikes the sidewall in mid court. But a “NAP” or N-ear A-ngle P-ass is hit from one side of a court usually when shooting from in closer along the sidewall. The N-ear A-ngle P-ass contacts the sidewall one of two ways. A NAP may hit the front wall and then angle back to graze the sidewall on the way back to then ideally bounce twice before the back wall. Even more ideally a NAP strikes the front wall and then it bounces while angling up along the sidewall. Then the ball deflects off the sidewall to bounce again before the NAP ball finds the back wall. In both the WAP and NAP cases, the ball is intended and placed to go around the opponent and bounce twice before striking the back wall. The contact with the sidewall slows the ball down so it will take its second bounce before the 2-wall pass pops off the back wall. Note that when the hitter is shooting from deep court the angle to the front wall for a WAP doesn’t have to be allowed to the shooter by the cover defender. It’s wider angled than the must give V cross-court pass angle that, when left uncutoff, would make it to the farthest rear corner from contact. By D’ing up in center court between ball in the backcourt and the diagonally opposite front corner, the V pass and straight pass are fairly unblocked. Only when contact is made less than halfway back in the backcourt and throughout the middle of the court is a WAP a danger shot for the defender because it can zip around them and ricochet off the far sidewall about even with the dashed receiving line where the opponent’s position is in the center. Defensively spinning, stepping back and saving the ball into the back wall after the first bounce is the way to keep the WAP in play.

Pattern of play —> it’s invaluable to have been THERE–>before. As part of that, recognizing what this pattern or situation is and having an answer to this “pattern of play”, with either your best-placed offensive or defensive response, means you’re pattern-ready. On the other side of the ball, to move best where you place the ball and it bounces is pattern read defensively, too. How you return serves obviously is in response to a pattern you routinely see from this particular type of serve. But your return is also uniquely how you respond to THIS particular serve. Your return should NOT be predetermined by choosing early or before the server makes contact. That not deciding ahead is because of how the ball may bounce differently than expected or it could be placed in a complete other spot. Then you’d be stuck unable to produce that first pre-serve choice. Once you’ve seen the serve by the server or the return of serve by the receiver or you respond to a rally pattern as the opponent is prepping OR after the ball is bouncing and you see and recognize its bounce, based on (practice reps and points played) you have numerous viable optional pattern responses to choose from that you ideally have experience resorting to effectively when drilling, as well as in live rallies in buddy ball or competitions. Based on practice and match toughness you come to know what works for you and actually what else can work, too; so you add to your skill set to have multiple, highly productive, disguised complementary shot and tactic options. You even have adjustments to respond to slight variations in an incoming pattern’s angle, spin or pace plus factoring in the challenger’s positioning and really their potential positioning. Pattern recognition and patterned responses develop in drilling, practice games, even by studying tape of others and especially when reviewing matches played by elite players. That is how you learn “what” are your best responses, the small corrections you can and do make, and other trained compensations you can make realtime to make your game even more formidable and adaptive from pattern to pattern throughout a competition or during each game or even during one rally. Repeating miscues is not solid pattern play. Raising your game as you play so you finish playing at your very best while solving today’s patterns as the game climaxes is your playing goal. Playing well is based on accurate pattern recognition, quick parsing thru your shot and moving optional responses and then realtime picking and making good choices and effective, familiar plays with appropriate force, placement, spin and post contact moving. That IS what pattern of play adaption is all about or “how” it’s done by being highly observant, versatile and adaptive.

Pattern recognition (pays off) —> it’s massively important to be able to almost automatically observe and identify a known situation that you’ve encountered many, many times before. Then your relational parsing thru your options connects you to how to read the ball, track it down with your feetwork, approach the ball to set your stance, and select and shoot the right shot. There you’re reading and determining what will work most effectively to pressure the challenger’s positioning and skill set, while optimally matching your skill set to that pattern. That “pattern recognition” is a learned skill. Connecting recognizing the pattern to your options happens in game-like drills and live rallies you asses and evaluate to learn from them. Also it goes on in your game planning when you define your game aims and tactics to achieve your purposeful

strategies when responding to expected patterns with your rehearsed shots and moves that counter or impose your will upon the situation to come out on top in the pattern.

Penalty hinder —> a “penalty hinder” situation is when the player at fault…(a) disallows the other player whose turn it is to hit from striking the ball at all by preventing the shooter’s backswing; (b) moves and blocks the offensive player’s already being taken shot; (c) fails to move and blocks the shooter’s either straight in or cross-court angles (as well as the space between straight in and cross-court); or (d) moves across the line sight of the player about to hit the ball.

–> As a result of the penalty, the player at fault loses the rally. If it’s the receiver at fault, it’s a point for the server. It’s necessary at all times for the shooter to have those 2 angles, straight in and cross-court to the far, rear corner, even it’s the server who is in the way after their serve is sent back. Likewise, with their return and in any ensuing rally, the receiving player must get those 2 angles and the gap in between and likewise the server. In recreational play often cross-court shots are blocked, especially in doubles. Sometimes even straight in shots are taken away in rec play. There the offending player should make the call on themselves for the game to be played fairly. In rec play it’s often handled as a replay, although mentioning what shot you were going for is a fair way to play where perhaps next time that shot angle won’t be blocked. Calling it on yourself is a good place to start. That will encourage more players to make the call knowing they prevented the range of court between straight in AND crosscourt into the front wall from being available to the hitting player. Then perhaps more new players will join the fray the right way. Hopefully more legacy players will call penalties on themselves. It’s yet another step that will SAVE RACQUETBALL!

Pet shot —> you should have your own “pet shot” for those setups where you’re looking to end a rally with your kill-shot or for those balls when you’re looking to run your opponent scurrying after your passing shot or other run ’em pet shot, like a High Z, just for them to keep the ball in play. Your pet shot can be your go-to shot or signature kill-shot. Or your pet shot can be your pulling back High Z shot or deep target ceiling ball. For example, one of my sparring partners, a righty, when shooting from the deep left corner ALL the way in to the front court, consistently goes for a backhand reverse pinch into the right front corner. Or, as a run ’em shot, a well known player Jimmy Lowe is known for hoisting up a series of High Z’s to sap the energy of the opponent to wear them down when pursuing those perpetual High Z’s. That’s their pet shot. Develop and be able to count on your own pet shot. Better yet have a few pet shots so that when you can go with one of many pet shots the opponent won’t know which pet shot is coming next so they can’t camp on one just take it away.

Playing against player with Pendulum swing —> a player with a pendulum motion swings down on balls  by dropping the racquet head pointing down when swinging thru contact. The pendulum swing comes with a BIG C swing arc, a wrist pop at the bottom, as the racquet face points often straight forward when making contact. To combat the pendulum stroker, keep your your rally shots and serves near to the sidewalls where the pendulum swinger will have less room for their “pendulum swing”. Also give the pendulum swinger higher balls to hit by serving high lob serves and off speed lobs or nick lobs, as well as carving up deep target ceiling balls and touch ceiling balls. Avoid back wall setups where the pendulumer gets time to let the ball drop down extra low to catch it at the bottom of their pendulum arc; because you won’t like the ending.

Perceived challenge —> your mind plays tricks on you AND you can play tricks on your own mind, too. There’s a theory that, if you don’t see or conceive of them as challenging demands or tasks you face or if you don’t see a task you’re facing as a high value demand or highly perceived challenge, psychologically your effort to perform your skills may be dialed down too low. THEREFORE it’s very important that you see ALL “perceived challenges” or tasks or demands as high level obstacles. Your goal is for all demands=skills, as in the challenge equates to your skill set, including off the ball movement, optimum positioning, efficiently tracking and approaching, and setting and shooting all to respond to the challenge appropriately. Attack even low level tasks as if they’re high level, with full alertness, surgical moves, topflight mechanics and lethal shotmaking. Meet those easier tasks and even exceed them with your higher level skills and you will still play in your flow state or in the zone. Make the easy ones look hard, with your precise, clinical, complete, disciplined technique. Never take anything for granted. See your demand’s or the challenge’s perceived value as a high demand until you’ve met it or surpassed THAT task that’s right there in front of you. Then attack the next task ready to elevate its significance, when needed. ALWAYS ratchet up your focus, improvise as you move, track and attack when picking your shot on the fly. Shape a winning formula while depending on your high standards developed in solo drilling, practice games and confirmed in contests of skill (as well as noting areas to enhance before the next contest).

Perceived consequences —> with the aggressive quality of racquetball and the in a box confined playing conditions, nearly anything is possible bounce-wise and especially crack-out-wise. Risk taking is required to be successful, as you constantly try to hit-what-THEY-can’t-get. You can’t be too risk adverse. But “perceived consequences” must factor in to your read of the ball bounce, your moving potential, your read of the pattern or situation, and how you either pick the shot to take or, when defending, where to move into optimal coverage. Granted when you serve there’s less concern of loss because only you can score a point. Although then jumping out of your shoes to shoot hard must be balanced with making a wise shot decision of pass over kill-shot when you quickly judge a kill-shot undoable. Yet, for any doable shooting pattern, low shooting must become your priority. Directional placement away from them must be factored in, too. Although, when you quickly see you can’t shoot low, then replace even a passing shot with a High Z or deep target ceiling ball or even a lob shot or back wall save. Since the consequences are more telling or potentially scoreboard changing as receiver, attack only obviously attackable balls. Especially capitalize on setups, while playing an elevated game of keep-away from the opponent with all balls. Continuously gauge the consequences of your actions as a factor in all of your quickly made decisions. Be assertive and play in attack mode. Take that aggressive mindset into your decision-making. Timid racquetball doesn’t jive with winning rallies or the little battles within each volley exchange between you and the opponent. Committing an error beats an error of omission or not acting. If you judge wrong or make a tactical mistake, learn from the experience and the consequences. Solve the pattern and explore and learn better solutions by being adaptive and attentive in all game situations. Also take a mental note and design simulations of the pattern in your practices to design more winning options for you to call upon in the clutch. The drilling is so you can perform effectively when selecting from what you have available within your ideally well-developed, expansive, adaptive to ball bounce shotmaking and defensive moves.

Performance goals —> how you play, especially when compared to or measured against your routine standard best performance, is very worthy of tracking. There are categories of skill that are worthwhile keeping track of that will improve your play and your overarching performance, even during this particular day or in this match or, at a micro level, even in this very next rally. Track “performance goals” like…

(a) serve accuracy;

(b) return of serve effectiveness;

(c) shots from spots in the court in patterns you identify, while checking off your actual choices and their execution, as well as recognizing other complementary options;

(d) court movement into coverage in center court;

(e) movement FROM center court to track down and aggressively play each ball;

(f) stroke keys, like patience allowing each ball to drop low; and

(g) emphasizing where you move after hitting to position in coverage.

–> All of those performance categories reflect how well you’re playing and areas for improvement you can evaluate in your play even in the moment. In the now, fix what you can. Post play evaluate and then do practice reps to elevate your future performances and optimally your level of play. Do that assessing and revisit your game plan and strategies and tactical efficiencies that support your strategy. There you see what needs to be replanned and what needs to be different or tweaked to be better quickly. Add new serve? Slight trajectory mod? Realtime minor Shot compensation tweak? Lower? Slightly higher? New spin? New replacement shot? New court position? New feetwork efficiency action, like cross steps? New mindset? New performance goal? New aspect of the competition to track and address?

Pinch shot —> a shot into a front corner that’s taken from as close as 4-5 feet away from the corner when right in front of it hitting at a 45 degree angle into the corner all the way into the backcourt from the far rear corner and going for a sidewall target (or, at times, front wall target) in that front corner within inches out to several feet from that corner is a type of “pinch shot”. So the wall target for a pinch may be the sidewall. It could be the front wall first (or of course a crack or crotch when striking the sidewall and front wall simultaneously, too). It is a pinch when shooting from off the sidewall versus hitting when right alongside the wall which is a different sidewall shot called a splat. Normally when shooting from deep court pinch shots are normally intended to be sidewall first. But, from well off to one side of the court, a front wall first pinch into the cross front corner is a very doable angle AFTER it has been developed, practiced and rolled out or done successfully in competition. A pinch is meant to be a kill-shot that bounces twice before the challenger can get to the ball or where the pinch takes its second bounce before the first line, which is not too lofty a goal for a kill-shot placement, especially when your contact is made low and your low contact stroke is performed with a sweeping low-to-low forward swing motion. Note it wasn’t dictated which stroke is used to hit the pinch. A stroke to its corner is a near corner pinch. For example, hitting with your forehand into your forehand front corner is a forehand near corner pinch (NCP). That forehand N-ear C-orner P-inch could be struck cater-corner or all the way back in the backhand rear corner when shooting diagonally into the cross front corner, with the forehand stroke. A pinch into the other stroke’s corner is a reverse pinch. That’s when hitting a forehand pinch into your backhand cross front corner. Then the longest reverse pinch is catty-corner from your other stroke’s rear corner, like a forehand from your forehand side into your backhand front corner. Or a reverse pinch could be hit from right up in front of that front corner when striking either the sidewall or front wall first. Often a front wall first is taken from on the other side in the middle of the court when pinpointing the cross front corner, sidewall first because that causes the low reverse to stay way up in the front court.

Pinch THEM out of the play —> when the challenger is stuck along a sidewall back behind you (and the ball is between 3/4’s court and the front court), your pinch into the near corner up ahead of the opponent when striking the sidewall first makes the ball glance off the sidewall, ricochet off the front wall and angle far up toward the other sidewall in the front court, as a put-away shot placement in which you tactically “pinch THEM out of the play”. Now defensively, when you’re initothe player glued to the sidewall, you can still get to the pinch, when you hustle very, very hard. First, quickly recognize which stroke the shooter is using when THEY are in front of you along THAT sidewall. When the challenger spins to take the ball with their off stroke, like spinning and hitting with their backhand from along their forehand sidewall, then your choice is decided for you. You can’t scoot down along THAT sidewall and beat the pinch to its second bounce because their off stroke follow-through is out toward the sidewall which could possibly catch you (meaning hit you). Then their swing out toward the sidewall is a full deterrent. So before they commit by beginning their swing you can start, especially when you see them angled off to point at that targeted front corner on your side. There run in a tight circle around them thru the center of the court. Ideally you’ll be making your curving run around them all the way into the front court to ideally make a get and gobble up and re-kill their pinch before it takes its second bounce. Delay until they’re about to swing and then take off with their downswing arm motion. Now if they’re using their primary stroke, like when swinging with their backhand along their backhand sidewall, you have 2 cover run options. One, you can take the wide semicircle run around the shooter (vs. tight circle) into the center to honor their follow-through that goes into the center by giving them a logically very wide berth. That is a very long, time eating run. Also you better not be seen doing it because their possible change-up to a pass down the wall or as a WAP to the far sidewall can leave you stranded in the middle of the court. If you’re gonna go centrally, initially swing around part way in your movement where you get in their blindspot behind them before they uncork their forward swing. Then they can NOT see you there, meaning you don’t go all the way forward, yet. Delaying THERE you pressure them with your looming defense because they don’t where you’re headed next. Then, as they start to swing through contact with their arm swing forward, change gears and take off with a deep foot crossover step to reach full speed quickly ideally right as their ball is zipping into the near corner. Note that the hitter’s swing really commits as their arm and elbow starts arcing out to hit the expected near corner pinch. If you’re in mid flight BEFORE they make impact, you can cover the near corner pinch. Two, for the other cover run along the sidewall, you have to read their swing timing very accurately. As they are first getting set to swing, dash out following their racquet forward by running right along the sidewall. As you get to about the short line, make a decision. If they haven’t committed to swing forward because they’re still readying, read whether to make a beeline for the center. But, if there’s any chance they’re about to swing, hold off on cutting over into center court. Stay along the sidewall. When they start swinging start hustling to beat the pinch to its second bounce. As you dash into the front court for any cover run, ask yourself mid run, “What shot will I hit AFTER I make THIS amazing get?”.  Of course, that’s Plan C. The real plan is not being stuck along the sidewall behind them while they even consider that near corner pinch target. Here you have left them a mid court ball close along a sidewall on a ball they can pinch into the corner on that side up ahead of you. Avoid that by not leaving down the wall balls off the back wall or don’t leave an attackable wraparound ball angling off the back wall out toward that sidewall. Also similarly keep your wide angle passes from popping off the back wall. As a point of emphasis, after hitting any ball from along one sidewall, don’t stay there. Get yourself into center court where you should be after every shot you hit so you’re best positioned to cover; and don’t be caught behind the shooter in 3/4’s court or deeper.

Pivot —> you must be able to pivot. For example, you must be able to depend on knowing when to change from one strategy or one game aim to another one by pivoting your stratagem to outwit them THIS (other) way. One time you might hit a lob serve. Then you might pivot and next chance hit a drive serve, even from your lob serve start. Another kind of pivoting occurs when you’re setting a moving striking stance. It’s a technique done quite often in fast-paced rally play. As you set your rear foot, it begins to prepare to pivot on the ball of that foot. As you’re then also stepping forward and setting your front foot, press subtly back and then swing while pivoting on your back foot as you hit from this (moving) but balanced and force producing striking stance using the back foot pivot to first lean in and then add lots of turning force to your initial lateral move. Yet another “pivot” is when you first make your move after every serve as you turn to get out of the box. Shift from back to front foot, then… First, pop both feet to point back as the foot pad of the rear foot of your stance becomes the pivot point. Then cross step (with a crossover or crisscross) with your front foot to get you started getting back quickest and most efficiently into center court. That dual foot pop backwards pivot is a feetwork staple, as you also employ it to return serve by popping both feet halfways toward the sidewall on the side where the ball is served. There pop both feet in unison, while readying the near foot to take a 1/2 step jab step out to the sidewall. The far foot first slides along as a post, pause step. Then that trail foot ramps up into a crossover step, as you step out to cutoff the corner bound serve. ALSO pivot on the jab foot that’s now the rear or back foot of your returning serve stance, as you turn to return, with force, even super fast drive serves aimed deep into the rear corners. Finally, as the final example of a pivot, when you swing from either a partially closed stance, with front foot half a shoe out closer to the sidewall, or from a partially open stance, with the front most foot’s toes just behind the back foot’s heel, those turnable stances allow for leg drive that ramps up due to BODY PIVOT of your whole body into the ball. After the leg drive begins to turn you, flip your hips and spin your torso by pivoting on your back foot, which in turn transforms into a full “body pivot” when you swing from bottom to top potentially monstrously thru powering your stroke and blasting the ball.

Place with purpose —> for each rally ball, select your shot target with purpose. First, your shot must ultimately strike the front wall without hitting the floor on the way in and first you can’t allow the ball you’re returning to bounce twice before you shoot, of course. Second, you must quickly choose a shot. That selection includes your target height and which side of the court or less frequently placing the ball up through the center when, for instance, it’s between two doubles opponents; or it’s a straight in kill-shot on a ball contacted in the center of the court. Purposefully the shot placement is tactically what you can do responding to the bounce of THIS ball, your position, the challenger’s, and the basic premise you follow to make it as difficult as possible for the challenger to return your ball, if they’re able to return it at all. Purposeless placements means you’re not paying attention or trying to play keep-away with the balls you can’t put-away as kill-shots or you’re trying for put-away balls that should be keep-away

balls. “Play with purpose”. Pick purposefully when shooting and positioning…it pays off in winning the 3rd shot battle (serve-return-shoot), winning the rally battle, after (1) doing your best serving; (2) returning their serves; (3) moving after hitting to get in optimal cover position; (4) watching your ball placement and opponent set up; and (5) tracking down the their ball and selecting your best rally shot available.

Placement —> there’s always an argument over whether the rally shooter’s searing pace is better than a control player’s  precise “placement”. Even mind numbing pace will be ineffective if the hard hit ball were to bounce and fly off the back wall or if the overcooked ball went directly to the back wall on the fly or if you were to hit your howitzer right at your opponent or one of the opposing doubles partners and they can just bunt it back to the front wall, using your pace against you (and then even follow up by blocking your cover run to get their bunt, too!). Placement starts with directional control over whether you place your shot on your side of the court or do you place your shot on the far side of the court where the opponent normally is. Also simultaneously you decide, “How low CAN “I” go?”. Usually only either highly practiced shots, like sidewall splats or 3-wall kill-shots allow you to field a ball above waist height and go bottom board while you say to yourself, “It’s over!”. If you can’t let the ball drop low, look to place the ball primarily as a passing shot choice in a back corner. Your stroking and shotmaking can find one of those corners with your timing and prep that all starts with quickly setting your stance behind the ball. Your angle selection is geared to keeping your shot away from the opponent factored in, while also reading, “Where does THIS ball wanna go?”. For example, if you sense control is an issue, an overhit down the wall pass could just be a recipe for a back wall setup for them. Or an inability to control your passing shot angle could result in your shot deflecting off the sidewall and going into the back wall to pop out as a back wall setup. Likewise a left up sidewall shot can be legged out before it bounces twice in the front court or after it bounces once and deflects off the far sidewall as an attackable pattern back off and adjust to the action on the ball. When angle control is an issue, consider a cross-court placement. The cross-court is a bigger, more forgiving shot angle for your passing shot (or your drive serve). Also it’s tactical to look to angle the ball so your pass bounces and then catches the far sidewall very deep in the backcourt causing the ball to lose its inertia and take its second bounce right up against the back wall. A major purpose of drilling is to get on court and move around the court and shoot like you’re in the midst of a heated rally. In drills you learn how to shoot from different spots in the court. From THERE in the spot you’re in, place the ball virtually anywhere in the court. Add in to your drop-n-hit drilling feeding yourself balls off the front wall that bounce and you return them or let then bounce and pop off the back wall, while you model familiar rally shooting situations you see often. There you also acquire a true appreciation of what it’s like to move and hit your moving target, the ball, to a big target like a passing shot angle, as well as a very precise target and the precision it requires for a direct to the front wall kill-shot, or a sidewall pinch, or a sidewall splat target spot or a backup plan 3-wall boast kill-shot from along one sidewall into and off that wall into the cross front corner. For those 3-wall shots into the sidewall up ahead of your shoulder, let’s say the pattern wasn’t a setup because the ball was high or you were on the run and then those small targets would be tough to surely hit. Therefore trying them on the run builds the skill and the appreciation of that chance’s steep challenge in training. Then you learn how to  execute under pressure, as well as how to changeup with shots like a deep target ceiling or High Z to level the playing field. In competition when you are setup by the opponent’s shot, choose the kill-shot target spot you see is the one you feel you can bury and go for a bullseye. Oh, by the way, placement ALWAYS rules! Power is a result, not an end.

Plan; always have a plan —> you must play with purpose. Base the framework of your play on what strategy or strategies you want to execute that you plan in advance of your play for this opponent’s game. For those strategies have tactical plans for this type of ball, with quickly parsed thru responses to arrive at plan you feel most comfortable bringing into action. With those strategies, always pay special attention that you include your tactics that implement each selected strategy. Also plan what variations you’ve prepared in training for your shots or tactics. Consider what patterns of play you expect you’ll see. Then, in match play, look to recognize and optimize the patterns with the tactics you’ve prepared for that pattern. Of course, realtime you’re well prepared to perceive and read each pattern. There have preplanned tactical options matching the pattern to your skill set optimizing each pattern demand, task or challenge. That pattern recognition and skill matching is based on your decision making process when factoring in ball bounce, opponent, your location and the serve/return situation. Plans also have their own adjustments. Have alternative plans so that if one plan isn’t working out you have a fallback Plan B or Plan C or Plan D. For example, Plan A might be lots of pinches and splats to end rallies. Plan B would be kill-passes when you don’t have the perfect attackable sidewall ball. For example, plan your serves, including the attacking varieties, like drive serves, with Z drive serves and jam serves, as well as rear corner Robin Hood placements. Plan B serves would be high, soft lobs, like a nick lob and off speed serve deliveries, too. A neutralizing serve would be that nick lob or a tight to the wall lob looking for a wallpaper result. “Always have a plan, and a backup plan” or three.

Plan your practice —> in advance of every training session, map out what you expect to cover in that session. Include your goals for the skills trained, the schedule for each skill, and even breaks you’ll take. Don’t overfill your schedule so you keep your intensity level up very high. Go hard in 15 minute chunks. Grade your progress by keeping track of %’s. For example, if you can make 4 out of 5 of a certain shot or serve, you can go on to item 2. If you can’t do 4 out of 5, do it over again until you CAN make your 80%. Of course it could be out of 10 reps or out of 20 or even out of 100 reps. In between each rep evaluate your progress in a passive way. Assess and correct as you go with small corrections. Cover at least a couple key items or skills in each practice session. Warm up well getting your heart beating. Go hard for each protracted keep the ball in play drill. Then take a short break. In practice, focus hard so you mimic the intensity of actual match play. “Plan your practicing” as you prepare what you’ll use in your coming attack plan, with your strategies, tactics and improvisational play ground-rules, too. That means define when you’ll go with High Z’s, deep target ceiling balls and even back wall saves, like to respond to a WAP going around you. 

Plan to win —> when you have your gear, when you have a game plan, when you’ve done the work before the event, when you know your firsts, which includes your first serve, your first to be used second serve, your first swing thought, your first Plan B, your first thoughts about THEIR game and your first thoughts about your game…you get the idea…you have to “plan to win”.

Make Plans tailored to THEM —> every time you’re going to play competitively in any form, fashion yourself a plan of action. Your goal is to prepare thoroughly. That way you will have far fewer surprises. That readiness is when you “plan tactics specifically tailored to this competitor”. Then you have fewer decisions to make in key situations. Know your primary serves. Know your return of serve spot. Know your floating center court plan. Know your tactical game plan to counter this challenger’s strengths and your tactics to hammer on their weaknesses, including your aggressive attack moves, toughly placed shots and calling upon your off court-based training to enhance your coverage effort.

Play book —> have a play book that has plays showing how, as point manufacturer, you produce points when serving. Also have rally points outlining your tactics as receiver. Be alert as to your possible returns geared to capitalize on all attackable serves and keys on where you return, what floating center court plan you’ll use and how you’ll look to boss rallies from your return into how you rally as an assertive center court dominator. 

Play by the rules —> the “USA Racquetball Official Rules of Racquetball”, as introduced in a letter online by Otto E. Dietrich who is the National Rules Commissioner USA Racquetball, states, play by the rules”. That says it all. It’s invaluable to know the rules and how to play within them. There you may also see any opening revealed in them because they tell you so much about the tactics of the game by what must be given to your opponent (and what your opponent must give to you). By inference, they tell you what can be exploited, too. For example, from contact in the back corners (and really all over the court), the cover player or defender must give up to the player hitting the ball the straight in angle all the way over to the 45 degree angle cross-court on the front wall so the cross-court ball could rebound off the front wall and find the far, rear corner. Although YOU must give up those, you don’t have to give up the diagonally opposite front corner OR the wide angle pass because that WAP is greater than the mandatory 45 degree angles cross-court pass. On the other hand, if offensively that diagonally opposite front corner were to open up for you, take it in a heartbeat. The reason to exploit the opening is because that shot angle result from a reverse pinch with primary stroke or a long near corner pinch with the off stroke is nearly irretrievable by the cover player. Also, if the wide angle pass is open, that’s also a good option to shoot the ball a little wider to the other side of the court by striking the front wall a little over 1/2 way over from contact to cause the ball to carom out and deflect off the far sidewall. That makes the ball carom a-r-o-u-n-d the opponent causing the ball to strike the sidewall beside them putting them in a real pickle defensively having to catch up to a ball getting behind them that’s initially beating them to the back wall. There they may need to save the ball to the back wall (as you aggressively close in on the front wall to aggressively swing volley their save out of midair). Of course, while giving up the V cross-court from deep court to your opponent, defensively you’re lined up to take away that WAP angle because you’re between ball and diagonally opposite front corner. 

Play hard! —> there’s no replacement for hustle, heart and heady play. Once you get in match play you’ll quickly decipher your tolerance level for THIS pace of play. You may play and you should seek to play at YOUR own game tempo where you’re able to flow and produce your routine quality performance, wth shots of your choice, placements to attack certain parts of the court, and playing at the game tempo you prefer. However, at times things may be whirling around in your head. Then you must adjust. Too fast: slow it down. For example, too much front wall to floor to sidewall to boom by the challenger; adapt. Shorten your angles to the corners. Hit your shots just under targeting the rear corner with your passes and serves by giving yourself a little more margin. When you “play hard”, play smart, adaptive, familiar high standard (for you) play. As you play, be quick, but never hurry. Trust in your hard, cerebral, mindful play.

Level of Play —> your “level of play” includes the skill level of the basics… serves; returns; shots; feetwork; and court positioning. Your level is also adherence to the rules. Show you know the rules of the game by how you play by the rules. When playing within the rules, exhibit fair play in your positioning and understanding of the timing of the game by when you move to both clear and when to make your run when tracking the ball in attack mode. You are familiar with the calls so you understand what to give and what you can take away. Also be ready to tolerate others who may be less familiar (or unfamiliar) with the letter and spirit of the rules where, for example, they don’t know that the offensive player does get a straight line run to play the offensive ball, full vision of the ball, a full swing, and the angle range from straight in over to cross-court so the ball can angle to and off the front wall to go straight, as well as directly toward the far, rear corner in the backcourt.

Play keep away from them AND YOU! —> when you shoot the ball, hitting the ball away from the challenger is obvious. Oftentimes it’s also tactically wise to avoid striking a shot at yourself. That way you won’t create a collision or you won’t have to move and snooker yourself by squeezing down your own position off to one side of the court or deeper in the court which would place you out of favored center court position, while giving them an opportunity to pick a corner you have least covered; as that’s your primary plan for them, to pinch them out of the play. Granted you want to place the ball best so your opponent is strained in their coverage, but always factor into your hitting your movement after each you hit just after you follow-through. Shoot so you’re not in the way of the ball you hit or so you’re not going to strand yourself between where you’re placing the ball and the challenger’s potential covering run. It’s preferable to place the ball either behind you or in front of you. Hit and be about getting into proactive coverage position defending your serve or shot placement. “Play keep away from them AND you”.

Play with beauty and terror —> in rally play, there’s the spectrum from the perfect, easy setup to a ball rocketing right at you to a ball hurtling by you that must pursue. There’s the beauty of ease or the terror of being rushed and pressured. One mustn’t overwhelm or be overwhelmed by either beauty OR terror. Beauty is what you make of a pattern even in your hardest cover moves, as well as in your easiest shot executions. The terror, even in clearly offensive moves, is complacency and inattention; so then it’s all about concentration and complete form. In tough defensive spots there’s terror in timing, but beauty when you react with strength, awareness and resiliency. One of the reasons you train hard on court and off is so that when the going gets tough on court you can get going and make the hustling get and hit hard all day long. For example, you can hustle and lift up the rally saving High Z or you can either take the little steps to track down a tough ball or you can even stretch out along the floor and make the beautiful diving get that turns the tide in a match. With your trusted form, take all of the little key steps and make the shot you should because the terror of execution is well within your wheelhouse, so you make the beautifully placed pass or unplayable kill-shot or great, deep ceiling ball or, of course, the dart-like placed

drive serve. You must be a predator capitalizing on opponent weakness or any opportunity you see. You also must determine when it’s wise to wait for a lower ball and this time go with a stealthy, touch placement instead of driving the ball hard just hoping to rush ’em. You even need to know where to position yourself to pressure the hitting opponent so they see you and they must factor in, “What could they be doing next?”. Balance the beauty of your movements and shotmaking skills with hustle and ability to adjust to overcome terror or fear that you might miss or fail. As your balancing act, embrace the beauty of executing your form or handling the terror of pressure by keeping your nerve. How you keep your nerve is by knowing when to do what based on experience and constant attention to your perpetual learning curve of continuously honing and sharpening your moving and stroking form and tactical action taking. Know YOUR game and execute what you know YOU can do. Include making improvements where you see shortfalls in form or tactics, as well as continuously add new skills, like new serves, to your skill set. Self assessment and planning is how you form your to-do training list. Drilling and playing practice is where you do the homework to “overcome pressure terror and learn to play seeking beauty” when executing technically, tactically and resiliently in rallies, as you return serve, and when serving and battling to keep the serve.

Playing system —> first and foremost racquetball is a contest. It starts with deciding who serves first which is itself decided by a contest. For instance, with the referee overseeing it one player picks heads or tails if the official has a coin to toss, which the rules call for, but is infrequently observed because the ref has no change. Or the ref instead asks you to pick a color on the score card that they’ve circled; blue or green. Or the players are asked to pick a number between 1 and 10 where the winner is the one who gets closest to the number the ref of someone else was thinking or better yet wrote down. If the player who wins wants to, they may give the serve in the first game to the challenger; and then they would serve first in the second game. In self officiated play both sides lag the ball up high on the front wall to see who gets their lobbed ball to rebound out and bounce closest to the short line, with the winner of that preliminary contest getting to serve first. Once that’s decided one player (or one partner in doubles) serves until they lose their serve by dropping the ensuing rally that began with the receiver’s good return to the front wall. The server sends the ball to the front wall so it crosses the short line in the air directly off the front wall or after striking the front wall and contacting one sidewall. For the server, ideally their serve isn’t returned by the receiver who must start to return from behind the dashed receiving line. The receiver also must strike the front wall with their service return with any combo of walls plus the ceiling on the way (or none); and likewise the receiver prefers their return of serve be unreturnable by the server. As part of YOUR “playing system”, once the ball is successfully served and returned in the ensuing rally, your shared target is still the front wall, as you constantly place the ball tactically to hopefully strain the opponent’s coverage to the limit where they can’t get their return back to the front wall either going straight back or after hitting any walls or the ceiling without catching the floor on the way or by skipping it in. So those successor rally shots are also optimally meant to similarly prevent the opponent from returning the ball back to the front wall either with placement or finality. The contest comes down to your playing system being built on your good ball reading of its bounce, your deft ball movement tracking with both your eyes and feet, your percentage shot selecting shots that are makable and illusive, with your routine stroke prep and productive shot shaping stroking execution. Giving up as well as demanding the full range of straight in to crosscourt is part of positioning, moving, and shot picking. Off the ball movement from shooting to defending ideally initially starts flowing into center court. From center court, optimally you’re set to do the opposite or move from there to play their next ball, when there is one. Your efficiency action steps when moving, tracking down, preparing, and timing your strokes plus recovery from your forward swinging makes your playing system hum. Be all about elevating the system you play best in. Develop extremely high level stroking form, extremely efficient and effective feetwork getting from point A to point B, ball read clairvoyance, tactical, consistent shotmaking, and tactical, pressuring court positioning. Learn the sophisticated tactics and shots that give  you more viable options to respond to many more patterns imposed upon you by your challenger or those which you initiate yourself with your serve or shot placements. Your playing style is honed in drilling sessions and tested and proven in the intense fire of good competition. Develop your own familiar, favored, effective playing system skills and tactics and keep it fresh and tight with new skills, like shooting with variations in angle, additions in spins, or changes of pace via your routine repetitions and pattern practice at routinely scheduled training times and consistency. 

Playing thoughts —> like swing thoughts that boosts your shooting (like watch the ball), have reminders, sayings, affirmations and concepts that remind you of your game strategies and beliefs that keep you in the now playing your game and always competing hard. These “playing thoughts” could be as simple as saying to yourself “Come on!” or “Fight” or “Smart”. A playing thought could be a tactical reminder to “Follow your shot forward”…when shooting or returning serve from the backcourt. Or the playing thought could be directional, like telling yourself, “Leave the ball in the back, left corner”, as say you want to attack your righty challenger’s backhand. It could be a saying, like “Hit and move” or “Get out of the box!”, as in after serving focus on getting back into center court. After the opponent short hops the ball with their baby overhead your touch ceiling ball, say to yourself “Deeper” instructing yourself to go for a much deeper target on the ceiling next time. Most of these playing thoughts are in your mind as an internal monologue, but you could say when you’re serving right at match point out loud, “One more” to boost yourself and give your receiver more to think about. Design your own playing thoughts that are encouraging, focusing, useful, reminding, thoughtful and definitely routinely effective for YOU! If you have a less than pearly thought, clean the slate and move on to your next hurdle.

Playing with passion —> to be successful in racquetball it’s mandatory that you play with great intensity. That exhibition of dedication is a must-have to be all in physically, mentally and emotionally. Yet you are human and making errors is inevitable. But also errors are intentionally not to be duplicated because of your special spiritual commitment. That sense of belonging is to be demonstrated in your belief in “playing with passion”. It’s returning to your center. It’s playing for keeps. It’s playing a pure game up to your caliber where you don’t give any less than all out effort. It’s playing with barely controllable emotion because you care, but you also think. You constantly plot and plan to solve any problem and overcome any hurdle with resilience to spring back with enthusiasm to consistently try hard. It’s reflected in both your purpose and it’s shown in your effort. It’s why you train. It’s why you plan. It’s why you covet broad, elevated skills. It’s why when you play YOU play with true passion.

Play one point at a time —> forget the shot you just flubbed. Even let go of the rollout YOU just hit.  “Concentrate on the rally you are about to play”, right now. Let go of the bad call. Ignore their lucky shot. Forget the post rally discussion. Get ready to play this next point. The effect of no prior point is not going to win the next point unless you let it affect your focus. It’s about how you play and stay in the moment and continuously give your best.

Tracking Play progress —> as play progresses, you gather a fund of thought from the differences in the expression of both your shot choices and theirs, as well as where they are when you shoot and where you are when they shoot. The first 3 or 4 points having been played, you are in full possession of the contents of each shot the opponent tends toward, and thenceforward you track down their balls and you retort putting down your placements with as absolute a precision of purpose as if the opponent had told you in advance of their shot placement and where they planned their defensive position. So, as play progresses, “learn thru the play progressions” or rallies how to beat them as you respond with your own defense and offense. Learn and become more and more stingy with your opportunities you avail to them and more lethal in your shot choices with their accuracy consistently ending points funneled into the most vulnerable placements for them.

Run Plays —> with your serves, for that setup off the back wall, reacting to that serve or dealing with an on the run shot situation, you’ll have and be ready to “run plays” that routinely in perfunctory way end badly for the opponent because you either do what go in practice or you improvise wth a cagey placement that’ll optimize your challenging pattern and your situation.

Pliability —> the strength, flexibility and elasticity of your muscles is so big in playing racquetball. That’s your “pliability”. Your pliability allows you to swing fluidly, quickly, and fully, with knee bend and body turn. It also allows you to clear ground zero and move to be defensively positioned most dangerously. The better your pliability, which demonstrates your qualities of being limber and nimble, the better you move about the court, the smoother your silky swings with your big, familiar strokes, and the better your off the ball movement. When you’re pliable you may go full bore or you may dial it down and hit a touch shot finesse winner, while always finishing with full, YOUR graceful follow-through. If you’re pliable, you’re loose and flexible physically and mentally, too.

Plum —> the shooting situation in the middle of a rally when the shot the opponent struck makes the ball check up and hover in the middle of the court or even in the front court where there the ball is extremely attackable is a “plum”. THAT ball is a prime opportunity to go on the full offensive. Oftentimes you’ll hear a post rally description of the situation when someone will say, “That was a plumb”, meaning it was easy an pickings setup. And that’s often said when it’s chummed or missed by the plum shooter. Nothing is certain when shooting in a rally. A plum or bunny or fat juicy setup or ball that looks as big as a beach ball still must be struck well as a put-away kill-shot or as an unretrievable keep-away shot, like an untouchable pass into a wide open court space. By using your topflight stroking skills and highest level concentration, ideally handle the plum by shooting precisely (hitting it where they ain’t) so the opponent isn’t even able to make a desperate stab. Funnily the definition for plum is a highly desirable accomplishment. And granted when you get a plum you’re happy, and lucky. But, when you have a plum, you still have to finish it. Note a plum isn’t a skip or automatic winner. It still requires execution. Your focus and competent stroking form allows you to crush a plum. As the plumb shooter, pick your contact height and take a familiar shot, not one you invent today. When a player gets a plum and they flub it, it may be…they nonchalant it under doing their form; or they make up a new way to hit; or they wing it by making up a brand new shot they’ve never hit before here in this most routine of situations. When you have a plum, it’s time for your high standard performance where precise execution should be routine. Your expectation should be a strong execution response with great precision to any plum. Let the plum ball drop extra low and pick shot you visualize working best, right here. Although don’t get overconfident. Fill the time that seems to be surreally long with feetwork to approach, adjust to just trail the ball a long arm and racquet away, and then, in quick succession, touch down your trail foot as you’re winding up, and then slide your front foot forward, plant it, rock back, see the exact shot you’ve narrowed it down to precisely and transition from the coiling prep to flow thru the ball putting your platform strings on the ball flowing it on directly toward your Robin Hood bullseye target and flow after on to that wall unslowed. Kill it. After you shoot, D-up. If you miss a plum, immediately let it go and make the next plum first mentally and then literally. When you’re on the other side of the ball and your opponent has a plum, you’re not done. Go right as they commit with their arm flying forward to cover either what you see the ball going based on their feet point or past similar situations or anticipate with your own imagery, even when you’re imagery is telling you to guess with a mental coin toss a…”Do I pick left …or…right?”. Your hustle and pressure could pay big dividends. One electric get could give your game wings. Play with heart and hustle. Make plums you get and pressure all of theirs; there’s no gimmes in racquetball, even plums.

Point at overheads — > although baby overheads are one way you can hit balls just slightly above head level, when moving up and cutting off to return Z lobs or medium high Z lob serves or down the wall high lobs, full (forehand) overheads may be required when the ball is a full arm reach overhead. Then you must reach way up high and swing over the top of the ball to usually hit an overhead cross-court to the far, rear corner and sometimes down the wall when also following your overhead forward. So selectively you may hit your overhead down along the near sidewall. There, after contacting your down the wall overhead, slide forward placing pressure on the server to have to hustle around you behind you to try to get to your overhead passing shot ideally deep in the backcourt. Now, to greatly assist with your overhead accuracy, as you flow forward to take the ball on the rise after its first bounce as it’s quickly rising up, “point up at the ball with your off hand pointer finger”. That point allows you to accurately make ball contact… also, after pointing and as the ball nears, still keep your off arm up (but not all the way up) as you swing over the top in an arc with both shoulders rotating in a small, boosting loop over top the ball. That shoulder arc adds lots of extra oomph to your overhead, along with smoothness and consistency to your overhead stroking. Pick out a low, but not too low front wall target about 2-3 feet high, while you focus on producing the sideways shot angle you select, when shooting either into the across the court front wall target to angle the ball rebounding out to the far, rear corner or shooting along the wall toward the near, rear corner with a straight in sky hook kind of overhead. Also, with your point at the ball and shot accuracy, look to bounce the ball and catch the sidewall very deep along the sidewall of your choice for your cross-court overhead or down the wall overhead so the ball will drop right at the back wall. The cross-court is usually your go-to return of serve for lobs. Rally overheads should usually be replaced by allowing the high ball to drop as low as you can to shoot low to low or let some high balls bounce and pop off the back wall. Drop back and usually don’t try an overhead from the backcourt because it’s hard to control its height on the front wall, the competitor is in front of you and, if instead you wait a beat, you can shoot better at lower heights. So allow their high balls with extra carry to pop off the back wall as setups for you. Or, for high balls when your back is right up against the back wall, carve up ceiling ball vs. attempting an overhead from 40 feet away where it’s tough to avoid back wall setups or feeding the challenger overhead passes that DON’T pass them by. Also any very low placement overheads tend to bounce up due to the high to low angling, as the first bounce often pops up to be very vulnerable to attack. As a surprise option, after thoroughly practicing them, cross front corner overheads can be very effective when you strike the far sidewall low and close to the front wall. That shot option pops up or is available when the opponent is already retreating and the reverse pinch diagonal angle is there for the taking. That may be a once a match shot, so primarily return serve cross-court or go down the wall when you judge the near, rear passing shot angle is makable and open and you can slide up and pull them back behind you as then you slide into center court to attack whatever they scrape back.

Pop your feet —> when facing one direction and going to either your right or left side to either face that same way that you start or when you turn to run in that direction, FIRST start by popping your feet to point partway in the direction you’re moving. If you want to face the same way, after you “pop your toes” to point to the side, cross step in front or cross step in back of your lead foot and, in either cross step case, head sideways toward the direction you’re headed. That quick double foot point effects a faster…(a) slide sideways move to return serve; (b) to exit out of the box; (c) to cross step covering 6 feet or more to the side, with wound up legs; or (d) double foot pop and turn to turn and take off facing where you’re dashing to cover a ball potentially in a totally different quadrant of the court after a short sprint.

Position between ball in rear corner and cross-front-corner or WAP cross-court WILL be open! —> the same be-there-first logic goes for the wide angle pass cross-court shots as it does for getting between ball and diagonally opposite front corner when the ball is in the far, rear corner. That WAP crosscourt is the angle direct to the front wall that’s over halfway to other sidewall so the ball can carom off the front wall to angle to the far sidewall about dashed line depth. If you’re there on the diagonal BEFORE they shoot the WAP crosscourt, of course they can’t. However, if you’re late getting between ball and diagonally opposite cross-front-corner when the ball is deep in the back 6 feet and the shooter beats you to the spot by being at the ball before you’re in between, you give up BOTH the diagonally opposite front corner AND the WAP cross-court shot toward the far sidewall, again, near the dashed line. So the moral is get in between ball in deep court and cross-front-corner BEFORE the hitter arrives to play their shot in the back, rear corner. Note again that the WAP would strike the front wall more than halfway over on the front wall from contact to the far sidewall. When you’re there on the diagonal that front wall target is legally blocked. When you leave a ball up closer up than the back 6 feet, the WAP is one cover you have to factor into your defensive coverage because you couldn’t be THAT far forward to take away that shot because you’d be too far forward to cover DTL passing shots or ceiling balls.

Positive self talk —> whatever predicament you find yourself in tell yourself you can do it. You can overcome. Say to yourself, “I got this” or “I can do IT”.  Use your game experience and practice reps to figure it out and PROBLEM SOLVE. Simplify things down to your basic skills, your tools…good grip, smooth loop up, feet under you…and primary tactics. Depend on and visualize your well-practiced, reliable technical form you trained up to shape this shot right “Here!”. Believe. Speak to yourself in positive tones and words. Use “positive self talk” vs. ever being harsh or having protracted negativity in your internal dialogue. Chewing yourself out is counterproductive. Boost your morale. That helps you relax and focus so you’ll play well and familiarly. Sure sometimes you will chew yourself out, but address the problem and find solutions and call upon ways to boost your energy and optimism.

Post foot —> as you move about the court, being a biped optimally use both feet to move. As an opposite example, usually you won’t hop and land on two feet at once right in front to just hack at the ball. That jump stop in front of the ball wouldn’t prepare you to move into the ball by positioning behind the ball to optimally begin to prep back and then step up to wrap up your prep before you move into the ball and swing on balance, with potentially maximizing force. Ideally step in 1-2, back foot then front foot to set your feet into your familiar striking stance. As an assist to how you set both feet, as you swing at a rally ball or as you return serve (or when you serve), in a subtle key way, take a little controlled but hugely important “post foot” step as you set your feet. A post step is a balancing or pausing step. When taken or included, the post step makes all of your next steps far better. Here’s how “post” steps are folded into setting your feet to backswing…(1) first, as you loop your racquet back also step back setting your back foot while pointing your back foot toes at the sidewall; (2) as you take that back foot step, also draw along and post or pause on your front foot, as it trails by a 1/2 step your back foot, while it’s balancing and readying; (3) then step in place on the back foot where it actually acts as a temporary post itself which…(4) frees up the front foot to now step up low and sure to set the front of your striking stance; (5) then right away press back from your landed front to your back foot, as you wrap up your wind up. Then right away push off the back foot toward your connected, pulling forward front foot, as that ramps up your forward swing from the ground up as it’s also ramping up from the top down. Your downswing begins with tossing your racquet back in a casting back initial throw motion. Now push and turn from below and swing from above to peak your forces right at contact on your balancing, powering, post feet-enhanced striking stance. 

Power —> “power” is a resource vs. a product. Instead of it being automatic that you dial up your power to as much as possible or your max force decide how great your ball speed needs to be to shape the shot matching the purpose you’ve chosen for it with placement and stick. You dial up your shot trajectory with angle, helpful, deliberately imparted spin and power on command or with purpose.

Power; easy power —> when you swing with leg drive and light, timed hip pop, you will feed off that, as it prompts full body turn (or body pivot) to “produce easy power” when striking your drive serve or smoking your big passing shots. Power results from body weight transfer and spin translating to racquet head speed. A fast wrist also adds greatly to that body swing power potential. Swing speed results from full preparation, full body commitment to let er rip, a crescendo snap of your arm and wrist and an expansive, full follow-through. Note though that a player who places a high priority on every shot being hit with power may sacrifice some control. The perpetually hard hitting player is a power player. Power with a purpose is the better use for hitting the ball with great force. Sometimes, when it’s tactical, dial down your contact and often it won’t be expected. The shot may then be placed out of reach of the challenger that’s often positioned deeper ready for you to blast. A softer struck shot or serve may throw off the timing of the player who expects regular, great force and power. 

Power synonyms —> there are lots of words that mean the same thing as power, as in contacting the ball with great force. There’s pace, heat, stick, nailed, purchase, howitzered, ripped, or crushed, as some “power synonym” examples. Power can be produced with a big racquet swing, lower body balance AND leg drive into a hip and core spin and a lively wrist snap generating great racquet head speed. Power works well for drive  serves, passing shots and even well struck deep target ceiling balls. Yet even hard hit drive serves are less effective if they’re not well placed, which is especially the case when they bounce and pop off the back wall as back wall setups. Likewise passing shots that bounce and fly off the back wall are far less effective options. So angle control both sideways and critically vertically when sending the ball down lower on the front wall so the ball doesn’t pop off the back wall is a must have for both your serves and passing shots. A firmly hit ball by the opponent feeds YOUR power potential. Yet then there’s a tendency to overhit when your contact doesn’t control shot height angle or hitting your shot at a vertical angle. Over spin or Topspin helps keep the ball down lower popping off the front wall where the ball will take a first bounce closer to the front wall and then a second bounce before the back wall. Power with purpose beats just sheer blasting the ball around willy-nilly. Always plan shot direction and factor in control into all of your shot picking, prepping, and swinging with apropos power for shot-shaping.

Practice —> non competing time you spend on court drilling and training is “practice” time. It’s invaluable time and it’s actually cooperative with the better angels of your dedicated, competitive skills development. When that time is well organized and focused, it is indispensable. There you learn new strokes, you add new serves, you develop wrinkles in your current deliveries, you create numerous new shots, and you train up various court movements to respond to patterns you regularly encounter in competitive play so you can attack even quicker and better balanced. Practice simply makes you better. Drilling builds great self confidence and well seated self-belief in your skills, tactics and your ability to play in flow and stay in flow. Also in practice compete with yourself to raise your standards of play. 

Preparation —> a key facet of every stroke is the back part or its backswing which is the stroke’s “preparation”. How well you prepare defines how well you will swing forward. The same, disguised preparation can be used to develop force and powerful contact or your prep can also produce soft touch from the same preparation or racquet lift, weight load back, and windup. Then it’s a matter of dialing it down in your power level you see yourself needing for THIS particular ball in response to this pattern with your chosen forward swing for this shot shaping exercise.

On time racquet Prep —> timing when you take your racquet back is extremely important. If you prep too early, you insert a hitch or interruption in your stroke where it’s prep and then wait–>wait–>wait wave the racquet now. But if you fail to launch your stroke with much of a prep, you develop shot placements that are often undershot or likely to fall short of hitting their target or you produce softer struck balls that are vulnerable to being crushed. People have tried to stuff the racquet swing into one overly simplistic concept of early racquet preparation (ERP) as the be all end all stroke key. Stroking the ball is so much more than that. First it’s important you time your prep to begin AFTER you’ve read the bounce of the ball and you’ve established your stroke and both your contact height and the court position where you plan your contact point. So just before you could just about reach out and (begin to) snag the ball right out of midair THAT is the time to loop the racquet back and without a beat (as you’re feet start driving) loop it down, out and thru your contact zone’s flat section right as the ball is approaching your contact point. Swinging strongly thru the length of that flat section creates great momentum, as the back to front swing encourages powerful straight line force and it ensures consistent, on target shotmaking accuracy. If you were to just focus on early prep, 2 things could happen. One, the wrong stroke may be prepped for before the pattern, bounce, height and contact spot are all certain. Then there’d be no time to change to the other apropos stroke. Then even a back wall save may not be possible. Two, with too early prep there’s often an unintended, long delay or pause between racquet lift and downswing. Then it’ll be a miss-timed, herky-jerky forward swing. That method of moving and backswinging before you’ve established your contact point lacks a continuous tempo and rhythm to your swing. It inserts a hitch. It eliminates a smooth flow from prep to rip. And it encourages an arm-only punch or at best a whack at the ball. It’s best to focus on your “on time racquet prep”. When you’ve selected how (stroke and shot picked), when you’ve read where (contact point), and when you’ve selected and begun timing your contact height, then rhythmically loop your racquet back. As the prep windup peaks and the ball nears, shift gears right away to swinging thru. Ideally it’s a loop up followed by a smooth loop down, out and thru. For example, in a fast track rally pattern, with time squeezed down for you by your position closer to the front wall or the ball getting on you quicker, speed up your stroke. Thrust back your racquet arm elbow at shoulder height for your forehand or punch back your racquet hand across your chest for your backhand, as your quickest backup Plan B preps. Then, for those QuickDraw strokes, switch quickly swinging thru right as the ball is about to reach your contact point. Sure for a bouncing, hovering, attackable ball a full stroke with an exaggerated loop is your Plan A in a motion just like the one you’d use for your drive serve. Yet don’t get ready before you’ve read the ball bounce, begun to set your feet, determined your contact point and ideally planned super low contact. Use YOUR swing tempo and don’t be robotic. Be fluid and flowing. Time your strokes to YOUR rhythm and form. As a timing cue, as you’re initially setting your stance’s back foot, begin to loop your racquet up and back. That method provides a predictable, consistent prep experience. Running to the ball you’re pursuing with your racquet already lifted doesn’t support a tempo-based, wound up stroke. That allows you to only slap at the ball. Then you can’t set and windup a full body stroke. After setting the back foot, having picked the stroke, contact point and shot, continue looping until your front foot sets when you complete your racquet loop. Then, with the ball initially entering your contact zone, transition to attacking the ball with your tempo-based, familiar forward swing. When done with a smooth back and then smooth shift to right away flow thru, your stroke becomes poetry in motion. Finally, and here I may’ve buried the lead, when to transition from back to thru is just a nano second before the ball is off shoulder or out in front of your racquet arm shoulder. THEN unleash your swing thru the ball to meet the ball right there at your uniform contact point. Your legs will have gotten you there and balanced, as you’re driving forward, hard. So you’ll first start to uncoil from the ground up AND with shoulder spin BEFORE your arm leverages the peaking body turn to loop hard and attack the ball right thru THAT contact point with your racquet.

Pre-serve routine or pre-serve ritual —> before you serve go through the exact same “pre-serve routine” or “pre-serve ritual” each time before your serve. Each time go thru the 3 R’s or steps: Relax, Reload, and Ready. The little steps include: take a deep breath; shake out your arm; get your rhythm with a few dribbles or knocking the ball around the walls in the front court in a rhythmic way; pick your winning serve you routinely and effectively use; see yourself making your serve; then go into your routine service motion and send the ball back how you imagine it as you shape it flight; and then get out of the box! After your service ritual, do that same serve once again like it’s a video tape replay.

Primary stroke —> the stroke taken on oneside of the court where the follow-through flows directly into the center of the court is the “primary stroke”. For example, the forehand stroke is struck primarily on your forehand side of the court. The primary stroke backhand is struck on the backhand side. Those are their side’s primary strokes. The opposite is THE off stroke. An off stroke is done like when striking the ball with your forehand from on your backhand side of the court. Since the follow-through for your primary stroke is flowing into the center of the court it causes you to take up more space and finish with your momentum flowing into center court where you want to be after swinging. The forehand off stroke swing flows out to your backhand sidewall in the follow-through. Also, with the follow-through flowing outwards, body weight or momentum flows out to the sidewall, too. Because a primary stroke sends you moving into center court where you want to move next as the cover player that puts more pressure on the player moving to cover your shot, so primarily use your primary strokes to occupy more court. But, to squeeze down your opponent’s footprint on the court, like when trapping them behind you or against the sidewall, switch to the off stroke, which allows you to step in front trap them behind you or along a sidewall.

Principles —> the fundamentals for how you play are your playing “principles”. An example of a principle you might hear from others might be that you don’t repinch a pinch. But you may actually splat a left up pinch you run down after its first bounce and before it reaches the second sidewall. Glancing the ball off that second sidewall up ahead of you can be the best answering shot to the left up sidewall shot that contacted far sidewall, when popping off the front wall to bouncing and angle toward the near sidewall where it can be played as a trickle splat vs. a pinch. Another principle would be letting the ball drop consistently low before you attempt contact.

Pronate —> turn the racquet thru the ball so that after contact the racquet head keeps turning over until the strings face the court floor out in front of you along with your palm facing downward for your forehand, as you “pronate” or turn the racquet over and inwards towards you which creates versatile powerful to finesse contact on command.

Proprioception —> the movement and positioning of your feet and ultimately your moving and positioning your racquet face on the ball as you make effective contact when hitting the shot that you imagine first requires calling upon your perceptions, your

spatial relationships, your muscle memories of your feetwork and stroke mechanics setting your stance and swinging your racquet shaping shots you empower yourself to take and regularly make. That is your skill of “proprioception”. Note that proprioceptive moves are perceived and produced by how you perform your skills in response to each ball you play, as you move to play the ball and time striking the ball where you have decided it’s wise to contact the part of the ball and define its launch angle placing it in the court for your selected shot you imagine as you shape it.

Pro salute —> for your forehand, at the top of your racquet lift of the prep phase loop up, let your arm flex until you cock your racquet back toward your ear. It looks like you’re saluting. The racquet contact side strings point down slightly to the court floor at the top. For less than full backswings you’ll see the racquet point straight up. For the full prep, th “Pro salute” is a very advanced position where the racquet head tip points forward. The Pro Salute has a little flourishing swing start. This maximally elevated prep allows for a bigger full flowing forward loop. Initially arc the racquet head starting back thru pointing up, then acting pointing back. Then loop around and point out toward a big, potentially very powerful swing thru contact in your big finishing loop. The moniker Pro Salute stands for this full prep looping backswing and potentially resultant powerful looping forward swing.

Protecting your own well being —> by initially looking back over your shoulder after you serve as the receiver is about to return your serve or as your rally challenger is chasing down a ball you’ve placed in the backcourt, that studying them recon on your part gives you a really good jump start on where they could be placing their return shot so you can cover it optimally. Also you see where you need to be adjusting your position to your shot placement and how “you must cover up with your racquet head and turn to face front wall when they’re swinging through the ball to protect yourself from being struck” by their return. When the ball you’ve sent back is high or firmly struck and it has caught a sidewall on the fly or after one bounce, it’s going to pop off the sidewall or it could  carry and pop off the back wall as a very attackable back wall setup that angles more out into the middle of the backcourt. There you have to make a very quick decision. You’ve seen the ball going behind you. You’ve likely slid into the center of the middle of the court. First, you know you can’t take away their straight in shot. You also can’t occlude their cross-court shot where the opponent can contact the front wall about 1/2 way between contact and the far sidewall so their ball can go to the front wall target that’ll achieve angling the cross-court shot into the farthest rear corner. Your self protection options amount to basically 3 choices in coverage. One, you can give way and move even further over toward the far sidewall to give up the cross-court, but then you might be giving up the reverse pinch, as well, when you give up way too much. You don’t have to give up so much ground where you allow the reverse pinch along the diagonal angle into the cross front corner when you’re positioned there in between rear and far front corner BEFORE they’re shooting. Two, you could be in the way of both the straight in or cross-court angles, but you may be timing your jump up over the ball right as the challenger sends it scooting underneath you, as you hope to drop back down in time to move where you see they’ve hit the ball. Three, due to its counterintuitive quality it’s unexpected, but you could actually move over toward the sidewall where you originally made ball contact, as long as you give the challenger a straight in shot. There, on the sidewall, you could take away sidewall shots into that sidewall. There you can be on the side of the court where before it was about to be a Mack truck-sized uncovered passing lane. The main point is that not being in the way of the straight in and cross-court protects you from being popped or crushed by the opponent’s return shot by how you move to not be where you’re just taking it on the leg. Of course, ideally control your shot angle to avoid having the ball bounce and pop off the back wall, ever. But, it does happen. It’s key to always be aware of where the ball is when it’s being contacted behind you. As an example, when you pass the challenger as you contact the ball behind them, you need to move so the challenger can save the ball to the back wall without you being in their crosshairs of their direct to the back wall save into the back wall.

The human Psyche —> your human nature tells you a lot about how you’re going to do as a racquetball player. Your consciousness or perceptions and your unconscious mind or your behavior or “human psyche” have to meet in the middle for you to be mentally prepared to achieve in an environment of task and skill testing and ideally thriving in your excellence seeking, while staying grounded, modest and constantly mentally prepared for the battle at hand.

Pull tactic —> make sure you consider moving the challenger back into the backcourt when you’re…up and shooting and the challenger is also up too and you’re not predicting with your Nostradamus shooter instincts that you’re going to rollout your next shot. Instead you see on your inner screen a passing shot stranding the challenger, as it reveals itself to you as THE best option. When returning serve from deep court, a deeply placed pass (or ceiling ball) is a very solid “pull tactic” reversing the situation. There you pull the server back into the backcourt, while you’re allowed to dash forward into center court. Contra-intuitively when you’re back and they’re back, you may think  to hit the ball low to place it in the front court. But, when you quickly assess that you can’t send the ball low and away from where you read the challenger is likely to make their covering run, use the “pull tactic” to pull and keep them back hitting to their less covered side of the backcourt, the side where their stroke may be more suspect or the rear corner you surmise you can place this ball best.

Pump yourself up —> when you sense your energy levels or effort levels may be waning, “pump yourself up”. Make a little whelp Judo yell (Hai-yah!). Jump up and down. Sprint in place. Give yourself a light slap on the thigh. Blow out and take a really good, long, deep breath. Say some encouraging thoughts inwardly to yourself or even say them out loud between rallies to push yourself to give your very best.

Purpose —> have “purpose” or meaning in everything you do when you play by taking purposeful actions as movements that are well thought out and according to your pre-playplan. Know you will do some things purposelessly. Then, as you see it, note it. Consciously don’t repeat it. Be determined. Act based on reasons why you do certain things in certain game situations. For example, simply any ball popping off the back wall needs to be legged out and punished with low target shooting by doing what you do on purpose in that pattern…initially move back slightly with the ball; slide out; set behind where you’ll contact the ball; let ball drop low; and, as the ball passes your racquet arm shoulder, move forward and sweep thru with your smooth low to low stroke to hit your kill-shot (or passing shot). Swing striking the ball at your low, chosen contact height and pinpoint your wall target. Your purpose is good, quick shot selecting and solid stroke form when shaping routine kill-shots or your backup plan, pinpointed passing shots.

Purposeful shooting —> every time you shoot or serve it must be intentional. (Quickly) determine where you’re ultimately moving to contact the ball and then where you’re going to place this ball in the court. First, “pick your purpose to your shot”. Place the ball on either your side of the court when it appears the challenger can’t move to that side or decide when to shoot cross-court, even though the opponent may already be in part cross-court, but you read they definitely can’t blanket the angle; or they can’t handle the crisply struck V cross-court shot angle; or they can’t cover a ball angling all the way around them as a wraparound; or they can’t deal with a ball placed along the far sidewall, as a wider angled pass and they are positioned where a wide angle pass that’s meant to catch the sidewall next to them will strand them; or you have to hit THIS ball cross-court because it doesn’t want to go straight, so you buck up and crush it that-away. Those cross-courts work best when THEY are camped out on the line covering your down the line. By your shot purposing, you’re showing what you determine is the best angle in the court to place under attack. Although keeping the ball down is a no brainer, know that being purposeful is letting the ball drop very low and picking your best extremely low front wall or sidewall target spot with your purposed shotmaking. When you determine you can take the ball low, even then, ideally don’t send the low ball directly toward your challenger. Hit the ball into an angle they have uncovered or bounce the ball right at their feet or aim it at their forehand hip.   

Put-away shooting —> it’s like keep-away shooting where you’re hitting the ball where they ain’t, but it takes it a step further by going for outright winners when shooting kill-shots or crack-outs as your tactical aim for certain balls that you can let drop extra low or that are flowing right toward their low wall target spot, like there’s a sign on the back of the ball saying, for instance, “You got this”, “Hit me there–>”. As an example, go for a near corner pinch on a ball angling toward that near corner. Here you’re going for a kill-shot and it’s “put-away shooting”. Granted a put-away shot is also a keep-away shot, but the overarching intent for the put-away is for it to be irretrievably placed rendering the defender’s coverage effort totally moot. Although still expect that they might move up and even scape up your kill-shot attempt. There, when the tables are turned, you should move up and pressure their shooting. Every chance you have time to think, pick a purposeful combined sideways and vertical target.

Put match to sleep —> at crunch time in a match in the penultimate point, which is the second to last point. Especially at match point it is critical to be focused on taking the initiative to “put the match to sleep”. Serve one of your familiar dagger deliveries. Shoot as soon as you get a chance, but spray the ball around or pinpoint the least covered rear corner when you judge a kill-shot rollout isn’t possible. On the other side of the ball, often shoot your return of serve along the near sidewall when their serve is vulnerable to that angle of attack. Then, when you get in a mid court rally, choose between shooting along the wall, when you’re between them and the sidewall where the ball is attackable, or go cross-court when they’re crowding your line shot or when the ball is insisting it must go cross-court when it can’t be controlled down the wall. Of course, if you have a setup, shoot clinically. Be a finisher. “Put the match to sleep”.

Q

Quadrant —> there are 4 equal parts of the court. For example, you serve to either the right or left rear “quadrant” or the 1/4 of the court called a quad. You can go for a crack-out just past the short line or you can aim for the rear corner. Also, with your visualization, in a rally you canshoot the ball to place it in one front quadrant or you may place it where the stroke the challenger must use will be the one you want them to use in a back quad, like making them hit with their poorly gripped or poorly prepped or lacking in self belief backhand, as they exhibit that uncertainty by often running around their backhand to hit with their forehand. With the run um theory of playing keep-away with your placements, for example, as you see them contacting a ball in the front, right quad, as you’re covering their return shot placement ideally then run them furthest away from there by placing the ball in the back, left quad.

QuickDraw stroke —> in very fast paced mid court rallies, quicker strokes are needed to react with a very fast prep and a very quick swing forward to play balls coming off the front wall or off a sidewall directly into your position so you are able to play the ball effectively in a bang-bang rally by responding with your “QuickDraw stroke”. A QuickDraw stroke is quicker and initiated with an elbow thrust back forehand prep or low punch back backhand prep. QuickDraw strokes are shorter, often taken back lower and smaller prep usually to accommodate the reduced time you have to react, prep and then rip. Another term for a QuickDraw stroke IS simply a compact stroke. Here it’s important you still stroke with your own swing tempo and both solid and effective contact to strike targets you mentally see and make in the bang-bang fast paced mid court exchanges.  Even when reacting to balls robbing you of time in the backcourt, like jam serves or jam rally shots off the sidewall or balls bouncing bizarrely out of a back corner, use your QuickDraw stroke WHEN you read and know you can shoot in the time you have to prep and rip. The subliminal message there is NOT to prep until you select your stroke and contact point or you risk both being in the wrong prep and you put a delay in your ideally back and then thru in your very quick but rhythmic, hitch-free stroke. Practice hard your QuickDraw strokes. Position yourself right behind the short line so you drill hitting quicker shots, while using your QuickDraw strokes. Have your QuickDraw stroke at the ready for exigent, urgent, rapid-fire, don’t blink or you might miss them patterns of play when you’re in the front of the mid court 15-22 feet back. 

Quick fix —> there’s no one silver bullet or a single magic bean or just one “quick fix” that will turn your game into Kane’s or Paola’s peak game. First you’d better be loaded for bear with lots of tough first serves, several second serves that cause defensive returns, and a sheer slew of viable, very familiar shot options for every pattern you read as offensive ones that you quickly assess you can capitalize on or defensive replies where you recapture rally dominance. Finally, if some curve comes at you and your basic form is left wanting in a situation or because you left something out of your prep or your shot selection or shot trajectory is askew, have your own quick fixes and own your set of magic beans to remedy most your shooting situations. One session with a teaching pro, a YouTube video, a weekend camp or a season in the A’s (or a bunch of seasons in the B’s) isn’t gonna make you into an Open player overnight without your finding a whole slew of quick fixes yourself that are first based on honing your basic form, defining your knowledge of when to use what form, while also knowing where to shoot with your form, and why your form works HERE or THERE but it’s doesn’t work over there. When one of those skills that includes form, shot selecting, or timing is found wanting, you need a checklist of fixes to repair your form, decision making or stroke timing on the fly or in the now. Take note of the need so you know where to shoot what. And, as you keep working on why, you know when. A fulsome set of fixes to aggressively address any shortfall in skills effectiveness is important in the realtime during a match when correcting errors or misjudgments or mistiming of when to shoot what, where and how, knowing any of those could be fixed super-fast in the now for the next ball based on fixes you make more familiarly as you improvise with send guidance.

Quick-reaction play —> in 2 situations not so much reflexes as readiness plays the major role in fending off balls angled in on your body that come in on you in a heartbeat. First, in the front of center court (in the box and between there and the dashed line) the ball comes at you very, very fast, as you have less time to react because you’re closer to the front wall. There the ball is going to get to you faster than it would were you in back of the dashed line and in deep court. Although, were you deeper this ball might be taking its third bounce. Also, in rally play, when you’re positioned off a sidewall and more centrally located as the ball angles at you from off the sidewall, your time to react is squeezed down to just the blink of an eye. In both cases, up closer or out crowding a sidewall your “quick-reaction play” skills are going to be tested. Fast hands, really even faster thinking and shots at the ready are needed to make your choice to either flick a pinch (usually near corner vs. reverse because of its required diagonal angle) or to stab a direct kill-pass shot (ideally into a keep-away angle far away from the opponent’s coverage range). Quick-reaction play is predicated on watching the opponent closely to get clues as to where they’re hitting the ball. Next shift your attention to the front wall you’re rebounding off of while waiting from your body shield racquet position holding it strings out. There, in the shield, your racquet is held out in front of you, as you secure it in a backhand grip, as you ready for even a sizzler coming right at you or off a sidewall. As the ball rebounds off the front wall or as it caroms off the front wall and ricochets off one sidewall, it’s priceless to see your shot image before you hit it. There shape it first by seeing it in your mind’s eye. That’s what makes shots like these “quick-reaction plays” work before you even hit em. Also no fishin is allowed, which means no reaching out and smothering the ball. Don’t reach because you’ll lose control of your racquet face. Instead wait until the ball closes in on you. Then flick the ball using your racquet face control, while picking artful slice or Topspin. There count on your Top backhand grip to give you a very stable racquet platform to place your direct kill-shot or pass or sidewall pinch or splat kill-shot. To drill this situation, stand on one side facing the diagonally opposite front corner about 22 feet out from the front wall and hit shots front wall first and fend off the ball while attempting to not let the ball bounce twice. Up the volume with more pace once you get your rebounding and flicking rhythm down. Learn how wide to make contact on front wall to make the feed ball low but gettable, as the driller, and how to hit low shots with your racquet head mastery and spin control to return the ball so it’s irretrievable. When the shot you hit with your quick-reaction play is just too low to be playable, then just start up again with a drop-n-hit feed front wall first. 

Quick served —> in self-officiated and especially rec play it’s common to see servers calling the score even while they’re in the midst of winding up and serving. The server should call the score, which is both opponent’s score and the server’s and wait a beat before they start their service motion. If they serve while calling the score, that’s quick serving on steroids. The normal, garden variety “quick-serve” is when the server looks back and the receiver is doing their little sumo wrestler stomp from foot to foot, but their racquet isn’t up and their back isn’t turned so… the receiver is actually fair game for a quick serve into a rear corner before the receiver is really and truly ready, but they’re not signaling they’re unready. If the server serves while they’re calling the score or you’re getting in your ready position and that happens to you that you get quick served, that’s on you. If you’ve been quick-served once by this server, only let it be that one time. As soon as they’re stepping into the box, already have your racquet raised up. If you need to clean your “eye shields”, spin around and face the the back wall to dry them because holding your racquet aloft and drying your lenses at the same time just isn’t doable, well. Then, once you spin back around, as you’re taking on THIS quick server, have your racquet head up above head height and THEN get situated before you lower it. It’s really a highly competitive, unexpected ploy to quick serve the opponent. It’s not a way to make friends and influence onlookers, but you can score points doing a variation of it. One trick to doing it is after the score is called be looking right at the receiver and then simultaneously drop the ball while you’re still looking at them, and then turn and quickly serve before they may expect it. Another trick is to drop the ball in front of you so the receiver can’t see you dropped it. Then quickly move to the side and hit the virtual passing shot to pressure the receiver’s reaction time. Another serve that lends itself to the quick serve tactic is the overhead flyer where, as server, you bounce the ball very high and unleash your power overhead serve into a rear corner looking to ideally bounce the ball very deep right before it reaches the back wall in that corner so the ball then rockets off the back wall right along that sidewall as a “corner flyer”. Another form of quick serving is simply ramping up the pace at which you normally serve. Then you’ll make the receiver more anxious just due to seeing that you’re going thru your unexpected, quicker service motion, repeatedly.

R

Racquet —> your connection to the ball is…your bat…your stick…your frame. Your “racquet” that you use should stabilize your contact and add extra oomph to your hit. Your racquet should not vibrate where you feel it down through your hand into your arm. It should be easily swingable. It should have a good racquet handle that feels good in YOUR hand. Different manufacturers make their handles more round or more square and with a pronounced knob or just getting bigger at the end. It should have grip or handle material that adheres to your favorite glove. Borrow or demo with online equipment companies up to 3 at a time and pick one you like. Then shop on eBay or at online outlets and eventually find the frame you love. Once you’re sure, get its twin. Have at least 2 frames. If you’re competing in a multi-day tournament, you may need more than 2 racquets for competitions due to string breakage and it’s good to have one  strung differently to adapt to the conditions you encounter. Usually grip the racquets with the same handle materials and string a couple of them at the exact same tension. Also have one strung tighter for even more control of your shots, if you sense the need for that. When you’re going to play after school or work make sure to not leave your racquet in a hot car or your string job will suffer, as you will lose several pounds of string tension. Although your balls will get more pumped up in the heat.

Racquet complete qualities —> a little history…at one time the small head or part of the racquet that holds the strings was round. Its sweet spot was in dead center of the little round-headed racquet. That racquet’s handle was more tennis racket sized because it was a sawed off tennis racket. That racquet weighed a ton at about 300 grams. The length of that frame at 18 inches was far shorter than today’s versions. From top to bottom racquets are now 22″ long, which adheres to the max head to handle length rule. There are now 2 types of racquet frame designs. One design is the quadriform. It’s more squared off at the top, with its palm-sized sweet spot located a little under halfway between string center and the top of the frame. The other racquet design is a teardrop, with a more rounded top tapering down to a thinner frame toward the handle. The teardrop’s sweet spot is even further out toward the top of the frame. Both current designs sport a much wider, longer oval-shaped sweet spot. In addition to new, different frame designs, their handles below the strings and racquet throats are available as much smaller than the original racquet. And the handles are differently shaped by different manufacturers. There are slightly more rounded and more rectangular handles. Some handles have a more pronounced round knob at the very bottom of the handle. Some handles are bigger at the bottom and they taper down slightly toward being smaller at the top of the handle where you hold onto the handle with your forefinger and thumb. Handles are designed as 8-sided. As you point a racquet out at the sidewall with the strings facing forward, the handle has 4 flat planes starting with one plane facing forward or on ball contact side. And there’s also a flat plane in back, one on top and one on the bottom, as well as 4 beveled edges at angles connecting the flat planes in the octagonally shaped handle. Where on the handle you choose to place your hand importantly sets your racquet face as you swing thru making ball contact. How the handle feels in your hand as you grip down on it is extremely significant. Critically what contacts the ball is the string-bed. Side to side there are cross strings strung thru the holes that circle the frame. Those holes may have plastic grommets or the frame itself may be designed grommet-free. At the top of the frame the strings are woven thru holes into a bumper guard that protects the frame from damage due to possible wall or floor contact. Grommets and bumper guards will wear out. Top down the strings go all the way down toward the bottom of the racquet. Holding the racquet pointing up in front of you most racquets have 16 cross strings. Also there are usually 16 main strings strung down through the racquet from the tip of the frame down into the throat. Some racquets are even strung all the way down into the racquet handle. Some racquets are designed to allow you to optionally string the up and down main strings with either 16 or just 12 strings, which give you a springier, more lively string bed for more power at the expense of some control. A suggested string tension range, from min to max, is often etched on one side of the frame above the throat. Again, where you place your hand on the racquet is its handle and the smallest racquet handles are 3 and 5/8 inches around. Other handles designed for larger handed players are 3 and 7/8 inches around and some handles are available at 3 and 15/16 inches around. As long as your fingers don’t circle the handle with the tips touching your palm and there’s about one finger’s width between tips and palm, that’s a handle size that fits your hand. Generally the smaller the handle the more limber your wrist so you can snap thru the ball easier by rolling your wrist when swinging thru making contact. Modern racquets weigh between 150 and 190 grams. At one time the top racquet in the game was the 250G, meaning it weighed a staggering 250 grams and it was lightest racquet up to that point in history. Notice how much frame weight has been lost since then. Most racquets are made of very lightweight materials, like graphite. If you have a faster swing, you may prefer to play with a lighter racquet. If you have a slower swing, you may prefer a heavier frame to power your stroke. The manufacturers often offer a lighter and a heavier version of their top flight and 2nd tier quadriform and teardrop frame designs. By design, racquets are also balanced or weighted differently head to handle. Some players prefer head light racquets where they create their power by accelerating their lighter racquet head by swinging faster thru the ball. Some players prefer a head heavy racquet that adds more mass to work with their swing acceleration creating even more potential swinging power thru contact. It’s important you try out any new racquet you’re considering. You can go online and arrange to pay shipping to you and back when borrowing up to 4 racquets for a week of play testing them. There see if you like a racquet’s weight, handle design, sweet spot position, head heaviness, maneuverability and vibration. Note that a manufacturer string job may not be as good as one done by your personal stringer. Also a shared, frequently demoed frame may experience loss of string tension or loosening from demo use. Also the demo racquet handle cover material may show some wear. You can put in your own string dampener to test out how the racquet vibrates WITH your dampener. Playing some rallies is understandable because you’re play testing the frame. Just avoid racquet to wall or racquet to floor contact. Note that generally the more expensive the racquet the better its playability or the ability to hit with control, power, and minimum vibration when making ball contact. Still, for a new player, starting with not quite the top-priced frame gives you a good chance to learn the game before you invest in the state of the art, top-priced racquet. So play test those. As a new model first comes out, even master players haven’t converted to that latest and purportedly greatest frame. Those sponsored players must play with the newest model based on their sponsorship program that puts the newest frame in their hand for publicity purposes; and early on in the new season you will see them practicing hard to get used to it. Ask and they’ll be happy to let you hit with it. Some manufacturers continue a very popular frame for a couple years. You may buy a year old model from a player  as they upgrade, as they delve into what they hope is the newest, best thing. Used racquets are also available on discount bidding websites. Also less than full priced new racquets are available there from high volume sellers. Note that every frame eventually wears out from use and material fatigue. Once you’ve found the head style, weight, handle design, sweet spot and balance from head to handle that appeals to you, consider a second frame in case, for instance, you pop a string as you play; so you have a backup plan in your bag. In addition to the frame, your string material, string size or gauge, string tension or tightness, as well as your racquet handle grip material and your matching glove material all factor into how YOU will play with your racquet. Racquets made by the top manufacturers are all very good, although it’s important you test drive…serve with several models until you find the one that matches your game style and other key considerations, like, “Does it feel in your hand?” Your choice of racquet is a very important decision as you learn to play and compete with that frame. As you test an new frame, hit shots all over the court at different heights, paces and angles as you test drive each racquet.

Racquet back —> one of the tenets of prep is how and when do you lift your racquet. Too early and your prep is arrhythmic or antagonistic to the step and THEN hit, personal tempo-based swing that is optimal to time and attack each ball very effectively, without a long delay between your prep and forward swing. Ideally you step back (stepping in first with the back foot) and simultaneously lift the racquet. Then you finish prepping as you step forward and press back syncing up both legs while winding up your upper body. Then right away shift gears to swing forward in a sequential motion. The lift racquet also means “racquet back” because swinging across your body elongates your forward swing’s contact zone, creates greater swing momentum, enhances your stroking consistency and smooths out your swing arc, when you serve and when you are shooting rally passes and, of course, kill-shots. The higher and further back you draw your racquet, the more mass your racquet holds (and you hold) and the greater potential for velocity or punch in your longer back to front forward swing. Back in the day at racquetball’s inception the backhand prep saw the racquet lifted up only up above the racquet arm shoulder. Now, for the backhand, the racquet is drawn back at least until the racquet head is pulled even with your off shoulder (non racquet arm shoulder). Often the racquet and forearm are back up above shoulder height when you’re given time to wind back and rip a particularly pacy backhand or to power your big forehand shot or serve.

Racquetball Jones —> the satisfaction you gain from getting in your fix of racquetball is enormous. Many play nearly every single day. At a minimum they have regular days and times when they even have regulars they play with each and every time. Of course, solo drilling and playing a variety of players, as good as you are (or better), pushes and inspires you. Playing against a little less skilled player than you allows you try out your new stuff. Very importantly competing with more skilled players than you teaches you high level competition requirements so you’ll learn what to add and what to do advanced technique-wise and tactics-wise to succeed. That’s the beauty of the game and becoming a master at playing it by mimicking form you covet and training and working at your craft. Then you’re getting your “Racquetball Jones” by living your passion and getting better through a vast set of varied, rewarding experiences.

Racquetball therapy —> many choose racquetball as an avocation, a training program, a competition fix, or it could be a way to address your fears and deal with conflict to learn more about yourself and how you react and play well under pressure, with either low level task challenges or highly perceived demands that reflect your need to own powers of self control, self knowledge, and self physical management. The sport is, in its own way, “racquetball therapy”. Know thy game.

Racquet face mastery —> it’s invaluable to know your racquet face and how to control it or maneuver it so that you can place it on the precise part of the ball you designate will shape this shot trajectory laterally and vertically which you imagine, as you watch, read, track down, approach and aggressively play this ball for your shot. A major part of that “racquet face mastery” is how you grip your racquet so that when you stroke, punch, flick, chop, slice, cut or bunt you know how you’ll need to place your racquet face on the ball, with your forehand or backhand, so the racquet strings send the ball off on its initial angle toward your wall target, with assisting spin, so you ultimately place the ball in your selected quadrant of the court, with pace and spin control. How you bevel or slope the racquet face is infrequently straight ahead or flush to the front wall as you make contact. Your racquet face mastery decides whether you angle the racquet face slightly down lower on the front wall, more flush or flat or angled back for slice. Infrequently the racquet face leans back unless you are lifting a slice ceiling ball or slicing a lob serve. If you’re slicing too much, that grip may be too closed. See handshake forehand and Top backhand grips. Oftentimes the racquet face points in when you hit to the other side of the court behind you when swinging out to in across your body. The racquet strings face out when you’re missing your big toe and placing the ball along the near or faced wall so you send the ball angling back to that near, rear corner. Or the face points away from you works when you’re pinpointing your shot on the sidewall for your splat or pinch target. It’s real proprioceptive racquet face mastery when moving and placing your racquet head on the ball to shape the shot you imagine fulfilling your purposeful placement of each and every one of your shots.

Racquet head speed —> as you swing your racquet from the peak of your backswing down, while casting it initially back, driving it forward (trailing), arcing it out, around and then thru the ball that increases to peak “racquet head speed” at contact where your racquet head’s motion is at its fiercest and fastest acceleration. By optimizing your racquet head speed your shot or drive serve may go its very fastest as the pace will be at its greatest. Still 100% serves and slightly less or much less than max pace rally shots aid ball control to generate fewer skips, fewer back wall setups, and much fewer left up pinches and splats. In practice, learn to change speeds with your shots and serves. Also learn to generate your greatest or max pace with your optimal stroke for your 2-bounce drive serves and your rally power passing shots that take their second bounce very deep, while angling into the rear corners ideally far away from the passed opponent.

Racquet up —> first, keep your “racquet up” in front of you at waist height, as you read and track down the bouncing ball. Keeping it down (but up in front of you) aids your movement and balance and it doesn’t lock you into the wrong stroke. Then, when you have read the bounce you pick your stroke and conjure your shot, lift your racquet up as you prep. That looping back action gains a fraction of a second in your stroke’s forward swing adding greater potential momentum to your forward swing. When you loop the racquet head up, your forward swing is more arcing and fluid so it will be more consistently powerful. Save a fraction of a second when you move your racquet back early and well before the ball arrives, but only after you’ve read the ball’s bounce, picked your contact point, your stroke and defined your shot. This early (but not too early) prep allows you to time transitioning from taking the racquet back to swinging out, around and forcefully thru the ball. The key to more accurate and powerful shots is that auto transition from back to thru in the forward swing with no hitch or interruption. Without racquet prep you are forced to only use punchy swings which produce weak shots. With racquet prep, as you shift your weight to your back foot, you’re able to transfer forward and rotate your whole body into the ball as you swing. The combo back to front and turning motion results in producing a much harder and more solid contact. When you get ready too early, you produce an arrhythmic, disjointed swing. You also might be caught in the wrong stroke when the ball must be struck with the other side’s primary stroke, like when spinning out of your backhand back corner, as the ball arcs around you as you turn toward the center to hit with your forehand. Or you must be able to meet the threat and save a ball into the back wall because it’s gotten behind you closer than you are to the back wall. Having the racquet up gives you flexibility to pick among more options and produce more power, when it’s needed, like to crush your back wall save.

Rally —> once a serve is in play and the receiver has successfully returned the serve to the front wall a “rally” has begun. Then the

two sides take turns returning the ball to the target front wall until one side cannot return the ball back to the front wall. Rally play is a game of owning center court, selective shot picking, weakness finding and exploiting, hustling off the ball both to the ball and into and out of center court to field each ball, and playing a highly elevated game of keep-away from the challenger with your shots  ideally placing the ball out of center court with every rally return.

Rally cutoff —> cutoff situations occur in rallies when you’re in the middle of the court and you may choose to take a ball either right out of midair or right after its first bounce as a short-hop. There the ball may be blowing by you. You may be choosing to “rally cutoff” the ball instead of retreating to take the ball deeper in the court. You may be looking to rush the opponent with your cutoff tactic. If the ball is going to carry and pop off the back wall and it could be played as a setup, that has to be juggled with whether you read your cutoff will win the rally outright because the opponent won’t be able to get to your cutoff shot. If the cutoff is on a higher ball and rushing the opponent’s reaction time is the objective, note that it’ll be tough to fly kill the ball out of midair into a very low front wall or sidewall target. It’s best to work on letting the ball drop lower as you drop back deeper in the court to then shoot from there. And shoot almost every back wall setup. However, in bang-bang rapid fire rallies in the center of the middle of the court, you must be able to short-hop low balls that bounce right in front of you that you read are going to sprint by you. Also you should drill fielding hard hit medium height midair balls jetting by you at knee high up to chest high so you can hit a cutoff when they’re hit directly at you and you sense the ball will bounce twice before the back wall. Hitting with a training partner where you stand toe to toe fielding balls ripped at each other crosscourt helps you learn when a rally cutoff short-hop is the right play, when to let the ball go by to play it off the back wall, or when to swing volley the ball taking it on the fly. In drilling, learn what you need to work on when timing your QuickDraw or snapshot strokes using a quick stroke to take the ball out of midair or to take the ball on the rise right after its first bounce, with a hooded or closed racquet face. You also learn when it’s ideal to drive (or flick or shovel) the ball away from the source of the shot so you play an advanced game of keep-away with your rally cutoff response shot.

Post Rally hitting —> out of rage, anger or frustration, you cannot crush the ball willy-nilly around the court after a rally, even when you are controlling the ball. You definitely can’t do it when you’re NOT controlling the ball. You can’t “post rally hit” the challenger with that ball you hit after a rally is over. In competition that demonstrating a lack of control can be called as a technical foul and a loss of a point. When it’s a first offense, it may be a technical warning or it there may be no warning and a loss of point. If you hit the ball after rallies in so-called friendly games you gain a rep as a hothead and perhaps dangerous. A scream at the wall is okay. Avoid any form of profanity laced commentary. Also don’t hit a wall with your racquet head. Your racquet is far too expensive. Also factor in that you shouldn’t reveal any weaknesses be they mental, emotional, physical or temperamental to your always paying attention opposition. ALWAYS keep YOUR poise.

Rally play —> once a serve is put in play by the server and it’s successfully returned to the front wall by the receiver the rally has begun. The term “rally play” means everything that goes on from that point on, as the server plays the receiver’s return of serve and the receiver moves to cover for their return. Tactics abound. Those tactics include how you, as server or receiver, move, where you position yourself while they shoot, what shots you select or what shots select you based on the ball’s bounce, and what do pick and choose shots in spots on the court. As the server, ideally play 1-2-3 racquetball, which is serve-return-shoot, 3-shot ball. As server, you have little to lose other than the serve; although picking a shot poorly is a special example of an unforced error. The receiver’s movement, positioning and coverage must back up their service return by either moving into center court or, if their return wasn’t great, the receiver may need to head right for where you see the server’s shot is headed. The server may quickly shoot when the receiver’s return got a little too close to the server. There the receiver must move to cover the potential early put-away or keep-away shot by the server. The main focus in rally play is hustle and using perceptions of what your fellow challenger could be doing, as well as deciphering what they could be thinking based on what they’ve been doing up until now or up to this point in the game, match or your history with this competitor. Keeping that running mental history makes it easier to predict the challenger’s future choices. Of course, even then it’s important to not commit by making your covering run too early. It’s better to not be seen madly dashing when the shooter still has the ball on their racquet, which means they could change up and hit the ball where you WERE. In that situation, that early move would be tactical suicide because the shooter could change up and strand you, as the kamikaze getter covering too early. The rally in back and forth play is where you ideally play either put-away with kill-shots or keep-away with shot placements that move the opponent. For example, pull them back in the backcourt or pressure the opponent by how you hit the ball hit at them making it difficult to absorb due its pace or it’s awkward angle. As you cover when you’ve placed your shot tactically out of center court, like when you’re pulling the opponent back, move to defend tactically from a starting, defending spot in center court, while getting ready to blanket the court. There you’re prepared to make a dash to where you see the opponent’s ball is going or where you read they could be placing their shot when you anticipate based on observing their prep, contact point and feet point, and while reviewing your history insights into past, similar rally patterns and shots they’ve hit before. It’s a game of constant observation, keeping track of where to cover, readiness to move, hustle, and tactically shot pick. Select doable keep-away placements and emphasize recovery to defend your placement or to capitalize on their left up shots or setups, like any ball popping off the back wall.

Rally problem solver —> the main objective of rally play is to “be a constant rally problem solver”, with your positioning, moving, and ultimately with your shot picking and placements. That shot placing falls into 4 basic subcategories. One, you rollout the ball direct to the front wall or into a corner when playing off a ball you can let drop extra low, as you sweep your racquet thru with your great looking low-to-low stroke. Two, you drive the ball into the open court where you can blow the ball by the opponent taking advantage of their hedging over to cover one side of the court, which is often the side you’re on. Three, you solve the “rally problem” when you don’t have a setup or you can’t hit into an open court as you blast the ball into their hip or at the feet of the challenger causing them to miss or come up with brilliance. Four, in the toughest conditions your relaxation response is invaluable; as you pick among quick reaction options to… (a) flick the ball ideally harmfully where the opponent may be surprised by your crafty passing shot’s placement; or (b) you hit a 3-wall boast crack-out or an unexpected Twooze shot angle; or (c) you hit a well placed back wall save; or (d) when you’ve caught them too far forward guarding the front court, your rally solution is a lifted deep target ceiling ball that catches them out and having to sprint back to hit on the run as they’re going away from both their and your perpetual must-hit target, the front wall.

Ranking —> U.S. Racquetball National “Rankings” are tracked and listed for all members. All tournaments that are sanctioned must submit their results within 30 days after the event. You can vault up the rankings if you best a player ranked above you in an event. There’s no breakdown of skill divisions of play in the rankings. Although logically, if you win say a regional C level event, you’re ready for the B’s in your next local event.

Read the bounce —> after the opposing challenger strikes the ball with their serve or rally shot or their return of serve, the next step for you is to “track down THAT ball as you READ its bounce”. That’s ideally done by seeing how it’s struck by the challenger by watching them approach the ball and then that read is extended by the ball’s reaction how it…(a) travels to the front wall; (b) how it may react to other walls on the way to the front wall; (c) how the ball rebounds off the front wall going back directly in the court; (d) how the ball reacts to hitting the front wall and then striking one sidewall; (e) how the ball reacts after the ball rebounds off the front wall and bounces on the court; (f) how the ball reacts after carrying on the fly (in the air) to go all the way to contact the back wall and angle forward very rapidly; or (g) how the ball caroms off the front wall, bounces and rebounds off the back wall, with or without and also with contacting one sidewall on the way. As the ball travels back after striking the front wall, the bounce of the ball is how it reacts caroming off which determines how you will track it down, where you will choose to play your shot, how you move toward where you’ll intercept it, what height you will make contact, how you prep, and all while you continuously “read the bounce of THIS ball”, which is its angle, pace and spin. Critically it comes down to your ball read of its bounce and action on the ball when finalizing where it’s best to intercept it or where you must play it as you play each ball with your chosen response shot and it’s dialed in, rehearsed, and then executed stroke.

Ready —> it’s a continuous requirement that you stay “ready” to compete. Warmup well so you hit the ground running in game one. Don’t use the first game as a know excuse “It was just a warmup”. When you return serve, be ready. Get in your return of serve stance. There, as you return, bend your knees and be up on your toes. Take a little hop to get going into get in your toes. Watch the server and be ready based on any tell that reveals their serve direction, like out front contact or a special toss for a certain serve, while factoring in their service history of what you’ve seen previously. Next best act on what you see as the ball caroms off the front wall; but you to be bent down low to watch the front wall. So if you see no tells, study the front wall. Get down very low to see the front wall with some back bend and then pop up. Be ready when you see the side where the serve is heading. Similarly your own readiness, as server, goes with your selected serve and game aim to attack the challenger’s stroke or a spot or to go for an irretrievable ace. Then after delivering your corner attack, drop back to defend. In rallies, from center court you are ready to leave center court and cover the ball you see or what you read, in advance, based on anticipating through watching them set up to hit or your predilection in their placement. As you track down and arrive at each ball, be ready to adjust to its bounce to shoot your BSA=best shot available. After shooting, recover and move into coverage where you get ready to cover the next shot, when there is one.

Rebalancing —> after you extend into a long lunge or as you project yourself along the floor to dive or as you run to stroke on the run or as you attack a setup or after you hit a drive serve or as you loft a lob serve, in each case “rebalancing” yourself needs to be done by rote because you practice it. With reps you’re totally familiar with YOUR move to rebalance, for instance, after you drive serve. There, and in all cases, a press back from front to back foot gets you back on balance. Also mentally, for example, as soon as you finish striking a shot that psychologically was one you think maybe you didn’t strike as well as you think you could have hit it, then your recovery mentally includes still the routine changing gears to your choreographed push from more weighted front to your back foot to release and move into center court to D-up and defense your placement. That defense consistently starts with rebalancing after that last shot, last move or last get. And, when you rebalance, by habit, flow into coverage as you read the challenger’s shot from a ready but not floating or drifting move. Then, when they’ve committed swinging forward, you track their ball. Note that you’ll rebalance easier when you focus on controlling your balance as you stroke. Only a little over half your weight should be forward after contact in the follow-through. If you’re more forward than that, you’re lunging. Now, after stroking, be all about recovering so you play better defense. Due to your shot placement, it’s ideal when the challenger’s rebalancing is basically, consistently harder than yours. Note again that you finish slightly more forward on the front foot of your striking stance. When you must retreat or go sideways, recenter yourself by pressing back to your back foot. Then step off with the foot that gets you going most efficiently, factoring in the distance you must cover. When you swing and then need to make a longer run forward, the press back is very small. then roll over your front foot routinely stepping past it with the BACK foot to more quickly cover forward. When you have to retreat a ways, rebalance and then step with the front foot passing the back foot. Work on rebalancing yourself and then moving in different directions. It’ll make you quicker getting to your next shooting opportunity or to make a good get when your movement form is consistently optimal and well drilled just like your stroking. By swinging, rebalancing and recovering well, you gain the upper hand in each ideal serve capturing rally.

Rebound —> a shot or serve that strikes the front wall to “rebound” or carom off that surface is an angle reading challenge for you as the returning player or cover player or defender now turning into offensive player. And don’t be there where it’s hittable when you just hit the ball as YOU convert to defender. A ball bouncing and then angling to rebound off the back wall creates an easier rebound reading situation because the ball bouncing and popping off the back wall is already flowing toward your ultimate target, the front wall. But you must move with the ball vs. guess by moving to a spot or wait like it’s going to come right to you. Flow back and then out with the ball. On the practice court, rebounding the ball off the walls and reading the bounce when drilling becomes more effective via reps with predictive accuracy. There you forge efficiency actions you take to react to the rebound off the front wall with your feetwork, your eye tracking, and ultimately with your racquet skills, when you prep and swing to taking shots you read will effectively respond to each rebound. Give yourself a massive number of different rebounding challenges in practice. There develop your own exceptional set of movement and shotmaking responses to difficult rebounds and simple rebound patterns so you may confidently call upon them in rally play where being a good rebounder makes you a better shooter and formidable challenger.

Face front to Receive —> keep your “toes pointed at the front wall when you receive” serve until you KNOW which side the ball is headed toward. In doubles one receiver turning to face one sidewall as they return makes it harder for them to cover serves to the other side of the backcourt that they don’t face. There when waiting for a jam fly or wraparound serve to bounce toward the back wall and carom off toward the sidewall they’re facing or staring at… requires that that receiver must take their eye off the ball and pick up the ball late after it pops off the back wall to show up hopefully in front of them as they either reflex the ball to the front wall the best way they can improvise or they hope an easy ball and shot will pop up. It’s better to face the front wall and spin WITH the ball adjusting to its bounce by moving to swing WITH the ball.

Face front wall to Receive in doubles-2 —> in doubles when you receive serve and you angle your feet toward the sidewall on your side, you are limiting your returns to only balls along that faced sidewall. The server on your side could attack you these ways…(1) they could jam you off the unfaced sidewall angling the ball to come in behind you; (2) you could be passed right down through the center on your non faced side; (3) a serve deflecting off the faced sidewall in front of your position could angle behind you quicker than you could turn and reflex it back. Now jams off the far and near sidewalls and a screamers up through the center are unusually angled, but all the server needs is one serve to catch you out and unable to return it well and that’ll be the steady diet of serves you WILL see until you return it passably. The serves you’re there and set to hit from your sideways facing position are limited to drives down the walls.  There your returns of drive Z’s will require your angling off to toe the diagonal the ball takes as it veers off the far sidewall toward you. To improve your response ability and flexibility, “face front to receive serve”. There bend your knees. Keep the balls of your feet flat on the court and raise your heels slightly up, with your racquet out in front of you up about waist high. A body shield or with the strings facing forward is best. From there you can fend off a serve coming right at you from any direction. Even for a ball coming directly at you off the front wall or a serve jamming you off a sidewall, you can use the body shield racquet position to flick the ball back or even lift the ball up to the ceiling to pull the opponent back. When standing already partially or full on facing the sidewall with the racquet already pulled back for the primary stroke for that side you’re like a baseball hitter in a batter’s cage. But what if the machine goes kablooey and the ball…(a) comes at your front shoulder; or (b) what if the ball gets past you along that sidewall and you need to ideally move back to shoot; or (c) what if you must save the ball to the back wall with your off stroke? The unexpected angling balls can leave you stranded and unable to even reflex back a weak return, when you’re caught facing one sidewall with that side’s stroke ready. This angling off to face the sidewall return of serve is usually seen more in doubles when that receiver’s side is being served to. It’s sometimes seen in singles when a receiver has a staggered stance with one foot further forward. That receiver is banking on being ready for a howitzer coming back along the sidewall they partially face on the side where the leg is extended. They’re showing they’re uncertain they could face forward, pop their feet ball side, jab step with their near foot and cross step with the trail foot (or skip the jab and just cross) to play the expected howitzer or even lob along only THAT sidewall. If the serve they’re awaiting is so daunting and demanding, they’re in a pickle already. Of course, if it’s singles and the receiver is already turned to one sidewall, a serve into the other rear corner or off the other sidewall at the receiver’s back will give them fits reflexing it back. When the doubles receiver full on faces the sidewall in anticipation of a jam fly serve that will angle off the far sidewall to bounce behind them, spring off the back wall and veer out toward the sidewall they face, they’ve got a couple things to overcome. One, they’re going to temporarily take their eye off the ball. Then they’ll have to pick it up again as it bounces and ricochets off the back wall out toward the near sidewall they face. Two, for this jam fly serve they’re dealing with, they’d better be ready to scoot in case the ball flies farther out while angling along the sidewall they face. Taking your eyes off the ball as it bounces and ricochets off the back wall makes it tough to re-pick it up and move with it to set your feet and return offensively. Consider turning with the ball. Here check out returning jam fly serves. Ultimately make sure to train up returning serve starting by facing forward, with spring loaded legs ready to react and turn WITH the ball using your highly practiced feetwork.

Receiver —> the player who initially stands back a very long stride away from the back wall facing front in the center of the backcourt when receiving the singles server’s serve is the “receiver”. The receiver’s job is to return any serve off the front wall after no more than one bounce and without their return contacting the floor on the way to the target front wall. So, after making ball contact, the receiver’s return must not strike the floor on its way directly toward the front wall or before contacting one sidewall or after making contact with one or two sidewalls before it contacts the front wall. Also a ceiling ball or a back wall save must make it to the front wall contact without touching the floor first. Even though the receiver’s #1 goal is to return the ball to the front wall, secondarily the receiver wants to move the receiver out of center court so they can move and capture center court. Then the receiver can boss the rally themselves from THEIR center court. If the serve isn’t a good one, the receiver’s job is an easier one. Then they should hit the ball where the server can’t get it, like as a keep-away passing shot completely by the server or as a put-away kill-shot the server can’t scrape back and keep in play.

Against Receiver who steps directly to sidewall into wide open stance —> use soft, off speed garbage serves into the deep corners “against receivers who step directly to sidewall” automatically with their near foot sidewall to return most every serve from a wide open stance. Also disguise your contact, like when dropping down from a more upright lob stance and making a quick low toss and glide into a quick strike drive serve to send the ball into your the chosen rear corner. Sprinkle in jam serves that deflect off the sidewall into the receiver’s body. As the server, when serving to the expected open stance positioned receiver, be ready to maybe get popped by a receiver who doesn’t close their stance because most returns will tend to go across the court. There the return may veer diagonally into the opposite front corner which is caddy corner right along the exact angle you’re standing on (and you should be) on defense in center court. Use your racquet to shield your head while looking back to watch them and turn to face the front wall right before they’re making contact to watch where you think the ball is going to rebound off the front wall. Even from a fully open stance, they may be able to hit a V cross-court pass or a difficult down the wall return with a deep contact point and artful racquet control. Hint: if you get caught open, it’ll be good if you’ve practiced hitting cross-court to the far rear corner only hitting the front wall halfway over or hit down the wall cut bunts shots. 

Receiving line and returning serve —> as rule states, “The receiver may not break the plane of the receiving line with the racquet or body until the ball either bounces in the safety zone or else the ball crosses the receiving line. For example, if the receiver steps on the dashed receiving line with either foot (with any part of the foot contacting the line) before either of the two preceding things happen, a point shall be called for the server.” Here the point is, as receiver, you may position yourself behind the receiving line, but you can’t cross the “receiving line” with your foot or racquet until the served ball either bounces in the safety zone or until the ball  completely crosses the receiving line in midair. On the other side of the ball as server, ideally bounce your lob further in front of the receiving line so it’s tougher to cutoff the serve right after the bounce by the receiver without having to attempt a very high, way over their head overhead swing.

Recognition —> “recognition” is not just just taking in information. Recognition is relating that information to previous similar situations you’ve seen before and then recalling how you respond to them best. That “pattern recognition” allows you to know how the ball will bounce, how best to play this ball with your feetwork, when it’s best to intercept it where you’re best at playing THIS ball aggressively and effectively. From the initial pattern recognition, you may have a few options to call upon, so continuing your ball read and keeping  track of the challenger’s movements should be factored into your final approach moves and your final return choice for your rally shot or your return of serve (ROS). Work on your recognition and response relational skills in drilling, when playing training matches, and when watching film of yourself or others. That study will improve your quick recognition, your read of the bounce, your countering moves and your responding shot choices when selecting your shot, as well as giving you insights into contra pattern coverage options as the defender. 

Recovery —> post stroke rebalancing is massive. That’s why swinging on balance and not being all on your front foot nor not all on your back foot is part of proper, balanced stroking. Ideally your forward swing places about 60% of your weight on your front foot, even from your hastily required open stance stroke. When you make contact on balance, it optimizes your weight transfer into the ball. Then, after swinging, shift from front to back foot to recover your balance and move to cover in center court or to move directly to play the next ball. Another meaning to “recovery” is how quickly you conclude a tough rally and recapture both your optimum breathing and how fast do you get over being either elated and risking over confidence or how do you get over disappointment when risking being less than fully committed to your cause to be all in for the very next rally. Finally in-between matches or during a multiple day event, you must institute your recovery plan to prep and re-reach your top form for the very next match. Also, in events, post play at the end of the day it’s critical to take recovery steps with stretching, ice, nutrition, massage, hydrating, formulating things to work into your future game plans, and mental and spiritual recovery so the next day (or next match) you’re ready to come back like gangbusters.

Recreational —> playing at the club with your regulars is considered “recreational” play. But unfortunately infringements like penalty hinders or “avoidables” are not called because it’s “recreational” play. That makes it tough, in that format, to prepare players for real tournament play where penalties are called. It also makes it hard for golfers to watch or for the sport to draw new players to a game where they can’t comprehend how offense can be taken away from one player, but not another when it should be all about respect for the game and fair play. If it’s going to be recreational or rec play, then don’t keep score. If you’re going to keep score, play by the rules. Once shots cross-court or even straight in are taken away the game is less than being played at its very best and it’s actually more dangerous and a lot less fun. On your part as a fair minded player, if you hit a left up crack-out serve or a ball that bounces to go sidewall-back wall that ricochetes behind you and you’re struck by a cross-court shot, just say, “Your serve”. Hit a lower crack-out or a drive down the wall that stays along the sidewall next time, or jump over their return; or shelve that serve until you can do it better and not block the receiver’s return angles.

Redirect attention —> get your head back in the game if your focus ever wanders or you’re allowing the challenger to score too easily. “Redirect attention” to the task or demand at hand, which includes…(a) this return of serve; (2) this move into center court coverage; (3) this ball tracking to be effective with your return; or (4) this shotmaking when you focus on your shot selection, prep, swing, contact and shot shaping. Your attention needs to be on the details, like where you need to position yourself to return serve, where you D-up in center court, and even where you serve from so you’re able to move more centrally after sending the ball backwards into a back corner. Also, if you sense you’re being myopic in your shot picking, open up your shot option list to one you haven’t used that could be just the wrinkle they’ll have difficulty covering because they’re not expecting it because it looks like another one you’ve been using that’s been marginally successful. For example, instead of that near corner pinch they’re now camping on, hit a down the wall. Instead of the V cross-court, hit a cross-court WAP catching the far sidewall even with them. Emphasize redirecting your attention to the tactic you judge will work on the fly that’s still on your tried and true besties list.

Re-kill —> when the challenger attempts a kill-shot, but their shot is left up, your aggressive move is to hustle to the ball to “re-kill” the left up ball. What shot you pick to hit your re-kill is important. If they hit a pinch or splat, often a re-pinch into that very same corner is ill advised, as that reply often leaves up your re-kill. Likewise a re-pinch into the other front corner will be tough to put-away unless the ball wants to be hit into that corner because the spin needs to be just right for a tight corner pinch on the move. However, moving onto a left up pinch or splat after one bounce, as the ball and you near the OTHER sidewall, when hitting a splat into the sidewall you and the ball are both nearing together by selecting a deeper sidewall contact at a slightly lower than contact spot just up ahead of you is VERY doable. There selecting that deeper sidewall target near you and using an in to out, smooth stroke motion can put the ball away with your re-kill. Note that their left up pinch or splat carries with it lots of spin. A far sidewall shot that you catch up to as you approach the near sidewall also makes it tough to hit a down the wall re-kill super low or straight in unless you were to draw the ball far in on your strings which would remove the spin, as you swing very strongly thru the ball with solid contact. Often the percentage play is to re-kill the ball cross-court when you can hit the ball solidly. There use the wider angle to ensure your shot goes in low and the ball angles to the far side of the front wall away from you, while you look to veer the ball into a wider angle to catch the sidewall beside the opponent or so the ball bounces and deflects off that far sidewall. Or hit a cross-court pass deep to get the ball to take its second bounce right at the back wall.

The relaxation response —> the more you exhibit your ability to accept the challenge, to minimize your anxiety level, to play through the pressure, and to employ your relaxed moving and striking techniques, the better you can perform at crunch-time in a competition. As you play, seek this optimal “relaxation response” to the situation you find yourself in while going back to a similar situation and repeating how you best respond. There use your calming skills and your reasoning to realtime select a composed, reasonable, doable response that’s well within your wheelhouse. Relaxing in a frenetic sport like racquetball is a challenge. Your being tense can’t help. Smile and avoid being anxious and wound up. You have to have your wits about you to play with your ideal relaxation response.

Relax your face —> I heard a golfer say that when you “relax your face” before you strike the ball you hit more fluidly. By translating that relaxation to a loose racquet arm and hand you swing far more freely and without tension. Relaxation is attainable and a good goal as part of every pre-serve ritual so you’re ready and relaxed with your smooth, untethered repeatable stroking form. In rallies staying relaxed is a laudable goal, but it’s not quite so easy due to the pressure of adapting to the many types of bounces of the ball and when going for a wide variety of shots. Don’t over squeeze the racquet or tighten up your shoulders, arms or legs. It makes no sense to be tense. Bend your knees and swing with a rubber arm.

Relocate —> “relocate” into center court quickly after serving, after returning the challenger’s serve or after hitting your rally shot. For example, when you’re pulled back in the backcourt by a rally passing shot or ceiling ball, hit your best response and then emphasize your move forward to relocate into center court. Likewise, when you shoot from along one sidewall after you hit a pass from mid court or after lifting a High Z from the front court, relocate by dropping back or sliding into center court to pressure the challenger’s next rally shot and position yourself to cover more angles from that optimum, center middle of the court. Even when you leave your shot in part of center court, relocate in the part of center court that’s left while you offer some pressure on their shooting. There be prepared to move out of center to cover at least one shot angle. When relocating in a crowded center court, ideally position yourself behind the shooter in their blindspot where they can’t see you. That’ll make your next move mysterious to the shooter. It could pressure their shot decision making and even pressure their form when they shoot. Always keep in mind the unknown can be very daunting. Make it so for them.

Relocating into center court —> it’s been reported over 65% of shots can be retrieved from center court. Center court is just behind the dotted line. Your odds go way down when you start in other locations outside of center court trying to get to the opponent’s shots. When you are consistently “relocating into center court” you give yourself a fighting chance to cover many more of the opponent’s shots.

Just a Replay —> it would be great if there were to be a saying in the racquetball lexicon “JUST A PENALTY” to indicate that being called for a penalty hinder is not such a bad thing. Instead there’s a stigma attached to self-calling or being called for a penalty hinder. Penalty hinders are very under called by referees and hardly ever self-called in either refereed or self officiated play by the player who obviously caused one. Refs often make no call. Instead they leave it up to the player being hindered, as they let that player take their shot, if they want to, even when it’s potentially bee dangerous. The no call occurs even when it’s obvious the hitter’s  swing is partly hindered or all or part of the band of front wall from straight in to cross-court that must be open is unavailable and blocked by the opponent’s positioning or they’re moving into that blocking positioning. Often penalty hinder situations are called by refs as “just a replay” when there was an obvious penalty hinder infraction by the cover player and there they stop play for just a plain hinder and a replay. The stop it by saying stop or hold up or by ticking on the glass wall when that irritating ticking may never stop the hitter. In part it’s to avoid conflict for the ref, so the rally is just replayed vs. the ref judging a swing, shot, covering run or obscuring vision of the ball as being blocked by the offending player. No one wants to be the bad guy, but, should you get a chance to ref put yourself in the hitter’s shoes and empathize. That might help you see and say to yourself, “Wouldn’t I want THAT shot? If so, isn’t it a penalty hinder? Also safety should rule. By letting shots be taken when the straight in to cross-court shot range is clearly being blocked or a racquet attack might happen, it’s endangering the hindering cover player. Calling a hinder would prevent them from being tagged or crushed or at least suffering a nasty circular bruise. The ref should act… (a) when a player who just hit the ball places the ball near themselves and they fail to move; or (b) when a player clearly blocks the opponent’s run to hit the ball that can be played ostensibly offensively; or (c) when the player doesn’t move to unblock the straight in to cross-court band of front wall; or (d) when the player moves and blocks the angle range from straight in to cross-court; or (e) when the player moves and blocks a shot after it has already been struck by the offensive player. That last one occurs, for instance, when the hitter is set up to hit a long diagonal shot from one rear corner into the diagonally opposite front corner. There the cover player either realizes it late or they are oblivious to the fact that they’re about to get popped by the ball the hitter has struck or worse yet they may want to take it on the leg. In any case, when they move, they do take it on the leg when that angle shouldn’t be blocked either because it should be given as straight or crosscourt or the shot being taken was NOT blocked so it can’t be blocked late after the hitter is already set to take their shot. Probably a lack of understanding those “when’s” is in part the culprit for not making the call. It’s also a little bit of an any means available mindset by the hindering player where they cut it too fine and they leave it up to the referee or the kindness of their opponents to decide their fate. For example, by funneling the opponent’s shot selection only into the straight angle, the cover player has squeezed down their coverage and the hitter’s alley to hit into. Then the hindering cover player can, by design, be fed an attackable straight ball by the hitter that the cover player has well covered because they’re encamped on that line and taking away everything even a little bit cross-court. In another situation, the hitter places a low shot along the sidewall or into a corner in front of them and, in either case, the ball is left up where it feeds to a spot just on the other side of where the hitter is positioned. There the hitter freezes and they don’t move. Then their argument often is the cover player couldn’t get to it. There the player who left the ball up is taking away an offensive play and it’s often wrongly called just a replay. Were that hitting player to dive and not get up in time it’s an automatic penalty. Here the same offensive shot is being taken away from the cover player. The player who just hit the ball and has completed their swing MUST CLEAR or they’re blocking the opponent’s deserved and rule-mandated straight line run to play the ball. Right after hitting the ball the hitter should either clear diagonally backwards toward the sidewall or diagonally forward into the front court. When the hitter doesn’t move, they risk being bum rushed in a collision with the defender. The simple way of looking at it is that once the swing and follow-through is done, moving is the hitter’s follow through responsibility. In the rules it’s stated as, “While making an attempt to return the ball, a player is entitled to a fair chance to see and return the ball. It is the responsibility of the side that has just hit the ball to MOVE so the receiving side may go STRAIGHT to the ball and have an UNOBSTRUCTED view of and swing at the ball.” A final example demonstrates this and gamesmanship, too. As a player contacts the ball and they can see the ball is going to come right back by them AND their moving opponent is coming right in behind them, that unmoving player freezes obstructing the view of ball by the cover player by not clearing. They’re intentionally making it tougher on  the cover player. But, when the cover player does get a glimpse of the ball and they hit it, the hindering player, as the gamesman they are, blocks cross-court and even straight in. Instead, as the hitter, hit and move. Don’t cause -just a penalty hinder-. When you ref, call it like you see it. When the covering player is blocked from moving, seeing, swinging or taking shots into the band of the front wall between straight in and cross-court, call it a penalty hinder and don’t blink. You’re honoring the game. Then we’re all playing by the rules. Then a penalty hinder call is made so we abide by the rules. And it’s NOT an admission of weakness when it’s self-called. It’s the honorable thing to do and it’s then the infringing player’s to correct the error and Play Fair at All Times.

Reps or repetitions —> to learn something by heart, like the alphabet or the piano scales, you do it over and over until it becomes second nature to you. Then you can do it (almost) instinctively. Similarly your stroking and moving skills, when repeatedly done correctly, become grooved and then they’re done without even thinking about them. When you do the “reps” or multiple repetitions, you build strong muscle memories. Those memories allow you to repeat the form without thought, just how you designed it. Then you’re able to do it with greater consistency and reliability. With multiple reps, while ensuring you produce effective results, the many skills required to play can be perfected and added to your trusted tool chest of racquetball skills. Here’s a list of skills where it’s good to do multiple reps as you drill…(1) low contact strokes for shots direct to front wall and into sidewall targets; (2) service motion, with one or two step delivery; (3) return of serve feetwork; (4) escaping the box after serving; and (5) long range moves to cover the most court in the least amount of time with grooved cross step feetwork. Get out there and drill 3X1, which means drill 3 times to 1 time playing per week. Or at least shoot for 2 X 1 (two drilling sessions to one playing session), when you have less total time. Keep a tally of your progress as you drill. Out of 5 be able to do 3 of each skill correctly. Build up to 4, and eventually demand of yourself you do 5 in a row or you repeat the skill. There you work on your demands so you work up to tougher actions and raise your goals to increase your proficiency at performing each and every individual technical skill from positions all over the court emphasizing good feetwork, on time, full prep, patience letting the ball drop shooting, full follow-throughs, and recovery moves to clear and cover to get to hit again. Do the reps so that when you play you make the hard ones look easy and the easy ones look hard.

Resiliency and grit —> the make it take quality of racquetball scoring requires you be resilient if the server scores or when the opponent may get on an early run of points or if they have a long mid game “inning”, which means they string together a good chunk of points. Ideally you’re going to get your own chance to get on a run. But first “you must be gritty”. You have to recover quickly from any point or points against you. Here’s how…(a) self correct the reason, if known; (b) evaluate the pattern to open up your best options; and (c) rededicate yourself to first stingy receiving and likewise being stingy giving up points or losing rallies as the server. If you drop your own serve, let that go. Then go to work. Returning serve is “resiliency” personified. It’s quickly letting go of the past. It’s hustle, auto replies or reflexive returns, and it’s extraordinarily quick thinking. It takes grit. You’re at a decided disadvantage when you’re back in the back returning serve and the server is there in the box. You’re back behind the 25 foot receiving line or much, much deeper. As an example of resiliency, you have to defensively blanket the rear corners by taking action steps to cutoff any ball angling directly into a rear corner. And you have the have down the technique to back off and then move in to attack a sidewall-back wall setup (bounce-sidewall-back wall-pop off). And you must fend off a sidewall jam or a crack-out past the short line or a any crack-out up to 10 feet from the back wall, with gritty determination and asbestos, fast hands. Be resilient. After the prior point is over and you aren’t serving, spring back into action to return any delivery by being ready, using effective feetwork, picking from among keep-away shots, and executing your best, tactically executed return moves and your chosen best keep-away shot countering THIS serve.

Respect —> part of sport is “respect” for the game of racquetball. There’s respecting its movement difficulty, its positional challenges, its tactical intricacy, its physical commitment, its observational demands, its shot-shaping brilliance and its confounding bounces and crack-outs. Additionally you should respect yourself to dedicate yourself to learning the numerous skills and strategies of the game and being physically fit so you can adapt to most any situation in the struggle of rally play. The next thing is to take into your encounters with your challengers is respecting them and that they’re tethering the racquet to THEIR wrist, lacing um up to play (shoes) and respecting their struggle to compete no matter what their ability or knowledge level may be. The ultimate form of respect is for playing racquetball as a sports person who plays fairly, equitably, and with respect for the safety and organization of the rules of a sport where players play with 22 inch long racquets in a confined court space they share together where one objective is to ideally be in front of the challenger’s position to ideally win the rally. But, as the cover player or defender, you also must allow the challenger to hit half the front wall so from where the ball is hit both a straight in and a cross-court angle to the far, rear corner is a given or allowed to your hitting, well-respected challenger. 

Retaliatory hinder —> as sort of an ugly and very unfortunate part of rec play or unofficated matches and sometimes even refereed matches, players resort to frustration-based bizarre actions that literally keep some away from the game. An example is when a player intentionally hides a setup ball popping off the back wall from their opponent by not moving to give them a clear, fair view of the setup as it pops off the back wall, while they either stand there and shield the ball or they contort themselves unnecessarily because it’s anathema to them to give anything for free to the opponent, even though they caused the setup. Another example is when a player hits a pinch that the challenger can leg out and offensively play, but the hitter doesn’t clear at all and non incidental contact may occur. Sadly players sometimes don’t move in the next rally after they’ve been hindered by the challenger in the previous rally, even when the original hinder was unintentional, like due to a shot placement miscue. That next hinder is a “retaliatory hinder” and a black eye on the sport and bad karma for the retaliating hinderer. Let it go. Move on and play fairly.

Return —> in rally play or when a player is receiving serve, the responding shot by the player hitting the ball to the front wall is a “return”. Making a good return to the front wall is the cover player turned offensive player’s purpose when playing the challenger’s rally shot (or serve). Returning the ball to the front wall extends the rally. When returning the challenger’s shots, other than your return striking the front wall, playing keep-away from the challenger is a very close second goal because a soft return right to the challenger is almost as bad as NOT successfully returning the ball to the front wall at all. That’s because giving them a setup and then their bunny crunching instills more confidence in the challenger. So good keep-away or better yet put-away returns are your objectives, as opposed to just getting the ball back with a weak return or returning it weakly when your choice of shot is unfairly blocked.

Return of serve —> when the server puts their serve in play past the short line either directly off the front wall or off the front wall and one sidewall, the receiver or returner of the serve must return the served ball to the front wall after no more than one bounce. The “return of serve” may strike any combination of walls or the ceiling, as long as the return is struck before the serve is bouncing twice and so it strikes the front wall without making contact on the floor on the way. Secondary to striking the front wall with your return is moving the server out of center while straining their coverage ability ideally with your tactical return away from them, like when placing your return of serve deep in a rear corner of the court pulling them back, while you move tactically into center court. Look for those deep court placements unless you have a bunny you can routinely put-away.

Return; pre-return ritual —> when you’re the receiver, still play at YOUR own game tempo or pace. If you like to take your time, raise your racquet or show your back to the server. Always make sure your goggles are clean. Don’t start to play a new point with fogged up or streaked lenses; nor start to play with a wet glove. Start when YOU are very ready. Note that it’s your 10 seconds between serves, too. Have a “pre-return ritual”. For example, take a deep breath and relax. Start guessing at their serve as you look for tells in their service motion, like ball drop, feet point or based on similar past deliveries. Focus yourself on getting their served ball back in play by striking the front wall with your reactive vs. pre-planned return. That means don’t mandate your return until you read the bounce and see and understand the action on the ball. If you predetermine a return, you may be stuck and unable to produce that specific return because of an unpredictable bounce or angle or action on the ball. There’s no sure thing in racquetball except when you serve. Even then you could be off a millimeter and the angle and placement may be askew.

Return; rally return —> after the serve is returned to the front wall by the receiver, the rally begins. The receiver’s return must then be returned by the server. From then on each side takes turns with their “rally return” until one player cannot return the ball to the front wall either without the ball bouncing twice or when the ball contacts the floor on the way to the front wall directly or after striking one or more surfaces, i.e, walls or the ceiling.

Returning jam fly (or wraparound) serve —> “how to return a jam fly or also called wraparound” is with well choreographed, well-practiced feetwork and very solid shot picking. The unusually angled serve can be returned with your efficiency actions when you quickly recognize its action and react by making your second nature move. First step off to face the far sidewall where the ball is striking to start. There, as the ball is popping off that first sidewall and it’s going toward the back wall, you must -begin to turn WITH the ball-. The ball is still going to bounce before it strikes the back wall. It’s like how you would take a served ball with your off stroke coming out of a rear corner by basically allowing the ball to circle around you while you step in and turn with it in your long spinning shot. But, for a wraparound, the ball is angling off the back wall at a much bigger angle. From facing forward, step in to the court (forward) with your far foot to start to use that leg to pivot on with the ultimate objective to turn and hit with what is that side of the court’s primary stroke, like when stroking with your forehand as you turn to face your forehand sidewall when tracking a ball that defects off your backhand sidewall to bounce and carom off the back wall around you. There, as you step off to face the ball, you initially you look like you’re going to hit with the other side’s stroke. But you’re still spinning. For the jam fly/wraparound bounce, after you step off with the far foot, lift the other foot to start to body spin with the ball. The first foot and leg acts as your pivot point, as it adjusts a couple of times as you body spin with the ball coming off the back wall as you watch it and as the ball heads out toward the near sidewall that’s now behind you. Facing the other sidewall, the deeper foot in the court is also going to touch down a couple times, as it acts as a post foot or balance point or pausing step, helping you spin around while you track the ball circling around you. As the ball bounces and heads for the back wall on the way to the other sidewall, as you turn temporarily face the back wall as you’re spinning around. Continue spinning until you face the far sidewall where you’re going to adjust to the ball’s spring off the back wall with live feet to set your feet to make your optimal return. After spinning you have to be ready in case you must skip along that sidewall either a short distance or quite a ways. While that first foot that stepped into the court touches down a couple times while you pivot around it, it adjusts until IT is the back foot of your return stance. Acting as the pivot point that further forward foot allows the other leg to swing around it toward setting that trailing foot as the front foot. However, when the ball springs far enough out you may need to either skip to the side keeping your spacing between your feet OR you need to do a little grapevine move to move further forward. The grapevine starts with one step behind your frontmost foot that was the one spinning. That’s a crisscross step. So the first foot has pivoted around and the other leg has swung around it into your sidewall facing position. Then take a crisscross step with that original foot passing behind the fully spun lead foot. Then cross step with the front foot that was crossed behind now crossing in front so you’re back in your hitting stance. How far you move sideways depends on how far off the back wall the serve circling the backcourt springs out. When the ball comes off the back wall and it’s going to spring out a short ways and it’s not going to make it to the second sidewall before bouncing twice, that is prime time to ATTACK! Step into your shot and be aggressive. There a deep sidewall splat can be a great choice for your kill-shot return. That or a cross-court are Plans A and B. To hit a down the wall ball, the ball would have to be drawn way in on your strings to kill the spin for you to muscle a straight in angle. If the ball is going to catch that second sidewall before bouncing twice, you must keep your feet moving to field a possibly highly erratic bounce. There you want to play it optimally with active feet, creative shot picking and improvisational prep and shot trajectory shaping. There a crosscourt could be your plan A and plan B can be a ceiling ball.

When Returning, SEE their serve angle —> get down low. Bend over at the waist to “see their drive serve strike the front wall”. That view gives you a big jump start on which way to ideally move to cutoff the angle of their serve on its way back into its targeted rear corner. After picking up the serve’s angle, straighten up and make your move to the corner under attack. Pop your feet to point that way. The use your jab and cross step or just a cross step if you’re pressed for time. Alternatively staying upright or not getting down low you’re looking to (hopefully) depend on picking up the serve as it’s passing the short line. Good luck with that. A well struck drive serve to a back corner can rocket back so fast it’s too late to play it AFTER you only see it (or partially see it) as it’s jetting right by the server at the short line, which is the minimalist rule for screen serve. That would put you in a  very challenging position attempting to see it on either side of the server to pick up which side and THEN move to AND effectively cover that side in the shrunken down, minimal amount of time a drive serve allots you. 

Returning; how to SEE their serve angle —> bend over at the waist and take in the whole front wall. Look between the server’s legs trying to see the server’s drive serve strike the front wall. When you see where the serve strikes the front wall means you’re ideally picking up the ball telling you which way to move to cutoff the angle of the serve on its way into its targeted rear corner. That getting down lower is the recon way “how to see their low serve’s angle”.

Return of serve choreography —> your initial address position, your posture and feet placement followed by the sequence of steps you take for each type of serve you’re receiving defines your ability when moving efficiently with your feetwork to make your return of serve (ROS). Your initial position depth is personal, but where the wall is too far to be touched when reaching back gets you set to cover both corners. There knee bend and set your feet slightly wider than shoulder’s width apart, with your weight over the balls of your feet. That all combines to set you ready to move most efficiently. First, be ready to move mentally. Too often players hunker down in the back. It may be their expectation that the ball will feed out of a back corner right to them. More often balls stay along the sidewalls when you play good servers. From there in your spot in the center in back, the optimal move to either side is first to pop both feet pointing them at the sidewall just up ahead of you on the side where the ball and NOW you are heading. Then take a small 1/2 jab step out with the near or lead foot. That jab step gets your momentum going to the ball and it moves you out closer to the corner you’re defending. The jab gets you that half a step closer to the sidewall so even a ball right along the wall is now just one more step and an arm’s reach away… in just a sec. The jab step is followed up by the innocuous draw along posting step with the balancing trail or far foot that may touch down halfway along the way to where you’re stepping. Now, when the serve is very quick, that trailing foot can get going right away into a rolling start with an immediate lunging crossover step to defend against, for example, a photon drive serve. Now for a sneaky quick one that’s destined to angle into the rear corner along an angle that you can cutoff, a jab and cross is doable. For a drive serve that is fast, but not a rocket, your front foot is able to get grounded when you swing thru making your return contact. For the fastest drives you may actually contact the ball BEFORE your crossover foot lands; and that’s perfectly okay. You’ll still make good contact, if you focus, and know you will then land. When not executing these basics you’re either trying a different method or you’re taking the ball with just a long lunge with either the far foot first or even when a lunge with the near foot first. Or you may even be diving to the corner to save the fastest drive serve. Train up and then “use the 2-step return choreography” and you’ll see much better results.

Return of serve optimally or expeditiously —> there’s an optimal form to return serve, there’s the backup plan, and then there’s a necessary evil that’s the least desirable way you still MUST move to return in the worst of times. To do the optimal steps to return serve, do the 2-step. Although, before the 2-step, first pop both feet ball side, pointing your toes at the sidewall just up ahead on the side where you’ve read (their) serve is heading. Then step 1 is to jab step with the nearest foot. That jab step foot will be the back foot when you’ve fully set your moving returning stance. That jab is a half step out to the sidewall. Then, with step 2, crossover with the far foot. Float it across the court touching it down lightly en route, if needed, toward setting your front foot of your return striking stance. That sets you to cutoff the angle of (nearly) any ball making a beeline for the rear corner you’re covering. Prefacing those steps with that double foot pop toward the side where you’re moving makes any step you take better after that. With a little less time, but enough to move both feet, pop your feet. Then right away crossover with your far foot lunging over, as far as you possibly can, and reach to try to get to any super human drive serve you read is about to Robin Hood that rear corner. Here either you didn’t have time to jab step first or you may have picked up the ball too late to jab step first. For other worldly serves, all you may be able to do is step right away out to the sidewall with your near foot. There push off the far foot to project your near foot out further to the corner. There you’re going to swing from a WIDE OPEN stance to make your return. That occurs when you’re very rushed. When doing the near foot lunge you probably haven’t had time to pop your feet or do both steps or even time a cross step with your far foot first. Note that with the near foot lunge, you may not be able to get as far to the sidewall; so step to the sidewall and reach to the side across your body and focus on getting the racquet on the ball and the ball back in play. And say to yourself, “Next time I pop, jab and cross”. In any case, “adapt to return” with 2 steps or one, as you step and prep by pulling your racquet back and quickly transition into shooting your best shot available (BSA) when looking to place your keep-away return away from them or shape your put-away no one can return.

Return of serve receiver starting deficiencies —> the ball isn’t your only point of concentration. Your return of serve stance or starting point for your feet and body posture defines your starting line moves to cover any ball in a rally and especially here, as you return serve. “Return of serve starting deficiencies” and how to fix them include…(a) if your feet are too wide apart, first, you have to bring your feet back together to be able to get off the mark, with your feet set slightly wider than shoulder’s width apart optimal; (b) if you’re standing up too tall, first, you have to bend your knees or drop down in height to move; (c) if you’re back on your heels, first, you have to rock forward and get up on your toes to move (which means get up on the balls of your feet or focus your weight on the balls of your feet); (d) if your non racquet holding hand is resting on your thigh, like you’re sumo wrestler before making your charge across the “ring”, you’re hunkered down way too much, your anchor is dropped, and, first, you’d have to push down too hard into the court to move off, if you can move off at all, in time, so unhunker yourself; (e) if you start with your feet a shoulder’s width apart and then you spread your feet further apart, and then move, you slow your roll; (f) if you step first backwards with one foot before you go forward to cover say a crack-out past the short line, that dead step backwards takes you away from where you want to go and it slows you down a lot; (g) if you see you have to go to say your left, but you first step to the right with your right foot, you’re slowing down your sideways move going left; and (h) if you take a little tennis hop up off the court, first, but you land AFTER they hit, you’re at a disadvantage starting late to move. When you hop up, land BEFORE the server contacts the ball; ideally alighting right before they make contact. When you hop up, spend that half a tic in midair trying to decide where you’re going to go based on your study of their angle tells in the server’s toss, stance or key form variation for THIS specific serve, which gives you a heads up when you recognize it. The little hop let’s you land on spring loaded legs on your toes or balls of your feet. If you haven’t picked up an angle clue, you still land on springs, as you search for the ball coming off the front wall. Worse case, after you land and as you look for the ball passing the short line, ideally you see which side to move and you have the energy to bolt. However, when you land too late in your miss-timed hop, you’re not as quick getting off the mark as you’d have been had you landed BEFORE they made contact so you could go any which way you choose.

–> Simply put you can’t move when you’re in midair. Land right on time right before racquet to ball impact to optimally get off the mark when you anticipate the serve’s direction or go with what you spy as the ball is passing by them. You land, they make contact, and you move either where you read they’re serving based on tells (or guessing) or you land, they hit, and you go for what you see. Hint: don’t be screened. If the ball is too close to them and you can’t see it and, for instance, it angles to be more than 2 feet out from the rear corner, you’ve most likely been screened. Either when you hop and land or when you rock up on the balls of your feet; in either case, from there you’re ready to bolt to cover their serve.

Reverse pinch —> a shot struck with the stroke primarily used on the other side of the court for a shot that’s angled into the cross front corner is a “reverse pinch”. For instance, a reverse pinch is hit with your forehand stroke into your backhand front corner. The reverse pinch may be hit even when you are over close by that backhand corner and striking the ball with your forehand stroke. Your reverse pinch ball may strike either the sidewall first or the front wall first. The target for a reverse pinch is usually very close to the front corner. Sidewall first reverses stay furthest forward after coming off the front wall because of the physics of the walls of the court, the across your body reverse pinch stroke with its pulling in, outside in swing motion, and the gravity of the ball dropping off the sidewall lower into the front wall. Note that a backhand reverse pinch from your backhand rear corner may be shot diagonally into your opposite cross front forehand corner, WHEN the challenger is NOT there first blocking that diagonal angle before you’re there already setting yourself to shoot the reverse. In this case, angling your body to point your feet into the corner you’re attacking with your reverse pinch is okay, even though the challenger may see your shot angle based on your feet angle. That revealing stance angle is okay ONLY then because you’re intent is to hit a reverse pinch as a kill-shot where their moving from out of position in coverage would be a moot point because the reverse would be ungettable because they’re starting too deep in the court or too far over on the far side of the court.

Reverse your field —> when say you’re going to the right side of the court and you need to completely turn around and go back the complete opposite direction to move to your left to cover a cross-court angled shot, that move requires you to “reverse your field”. To reverse your field you first must put on the brakes when going one way by bending the outside knee or lead knee. Then bend the inside knee or knee of the trailing leg. Then you press back shifting your weight, pivot both feet, and crossover with the far foot to go in the opposite direction quickly ramping up to top speed. That first step crossover with the trail foot or foot furthest from the direction you’re heading covers the most court and it gets you going quickest wherever you’re headed in the court.

Reverse Z —> the drive Z serve where you’re hitting the ball into the corner you don’t face so that the ball will come out of that targeted front corner to go right in front of you as it angles diagonally across the court to head back into the diagonally opposite rear corner is called here a hidden Z, and it’s listed under letter Z for Z serves. It’s called by some a “reverse Z” because it’s hit into the cross from corner like where a shooter directs their reverse pinch with their off stroke. There, for example, you’re hitting with your backhand into your forehand front corner from as far over as the center of the box or you’re shading over toward your forehand corner with your back to your forehand corner. See more details under “Z; Hidden Z”. Do note the inconsistency in the term reverse Z in that a reverse pinch is primarily done by hitting the sidewall first, while a hidden Z MUST hit the front wall first, as it’s must or it’s a non front serve for hitting the sidewall first and it’s a side out.

Rhyme or reason —> if you find your post shot shaping review reveals your shot pick was left wanting or done without rhyme or reason, next time use good sense and reason through your shot choosing based on ball bounce, opposition cover range, and picking the best shot you feel you can pick and make from your options matching this pattern. Shot selection means you’re involved and you’re in rhythm with the ball with your moves and racquet prep (stroke) as you parse thru your options while you finalize on the ball bounce and your shot selection almost simultaneously. Your reason for picking this shot is it’s where the ball wants to go or where you can make it go and it makes the best choice you can make in this tester of a ball action, ball read, adjusting steps, natural shot choice, flowing stroke and on to next ball via center court.

Rhythm —> you have your own personal playing “rhythm”

or natural timing. You have a tempo to your court movements, your racquetball swings both back and forth, as parts of your full stroke. That’s done with your routine backswing prep and your unfettered, rhythmic flowing downswing. You have a rhythm in how you play the game by how you use time between rallies, between games, when timing how you start playing after your warmup, and timing how you transition from seeing, tracking and rhythm recapturing to developing your rally stroke or your service motion. Finding your playing rhythm or tempo where you play at your very best helps you figure out how you compete and how you need to control the timing of the game as either fast or slow or whatever is at your pace. Being able to play at different tempos is also important because other players may play at a different tempo than yours and you must be able to adapt and overcome theirs. What’s your favorite rhythm of play?

Break (their) Rhythm —> mix up the pace of your shots for the opponent to have to adjust their timing to your changing, apropos force for each ball. A steady diet of one speed gives your opponent better timing and gets them comfortable with that constant pace and then they can use it against you. Change speeds and spins and, of course, vary your angle placements to craft shots to spots and “break their rhythm”.

Create a Rhythm —> it’s huge to swing with flow and at your own personal swing tempo or swing pace for each stroke you take. The timing of how you play the game, the tempo of your backswing and your own unique thru downswing establishes the entire rhythm of your game. Make it your own inimitable harmonic flow. “Create YOUR own rhythm”. Finding and keeping your rhythm is part of training and part of owning and playing in your own rhythmic flow when moving and shooting. It’s the personal tempo of how YOU play YOUR game best. Create tempo.

Get your Rhythm —> in-between serves or matches and even in-between your separate swings, “get your rhythm”. Flicking the ball around the forecourt walls or dribbling the ball with your racquet bouncing it on the court or dribbling with your off hand or just rocking from foot to foot sets you in your optimal rhythm to serve the ball right when you’re ready to go. When you’re about to get into a torch or touch rally, when returning serve, first crouch, with racquet up, and get ready to get off the mark…and then they serve, as you control the timing as your very own. As you’re tracking down and approaching each and every ball, your final approach to set your feet is first about getting in tune with the bounce of the ball. It’s key to play the ball when it’s the best time for you because you’re in rhythm with the bounce of the ball as you move with it and time your approach, stance set and stroke backswing and shot shaping downswing.

Ricochet —> when the ball hits the front wall and then angles right away into the near sidewall, it “ricochets” out diagonally angling across the court toward the opposite rear corner. That’s a Z angle shot or Z serve. As another example, when an overhit higher cross-court or down the wall ball bounces and deflects off the sidewall deep in the court it can then carry back and ricochet off the back wall into the middle as a very attackable back wall setup ball for the hustling cover player. The ball can be played as a setup WHEN you act efficiently with both your feetwork and your racquet moves by moving in rhythm with the bounce of the ball and timing your stance setting, shot picking, and setup shotmaking. There the move is to back off the ball as it ricochets off the back  wall into the center of the backcourt. First a drop step back with the deepest foot in the court, a post on the lead foot and then another adjusting drop step with the rear foot backs you away from the sidewall which clears you away giving you space. Then adjust your feet until your striking is set WHEN you can play the ball right as when it’s off shoulder or out in front of your hitting shoulder. Let the ball drop extra low and, when it’s where you want it, attack. As it’s passing your racquet arm shoulder, sweep your racquet thru aggressively. Here these overhit, angling balls that bounce, graze the sidewall and angle back to ricochet off the back wall counterintuitively are custom made for a near corner pinch struck sidewall first targeting the sidewall up ahead with that side’s primary stroke, like your forehand on your forehand side. The spin and angle on the sidewall-back wall feeds the near corner pinch for a kill-shot winner and for the opponent’s mental distress and silent or audible, “Oops”.

Rollout —> when a very low shot hits the front wall first right at bottom board level, it causes the ball to “rollout” off the front wall. A rollout hits the front wall FIRST and THEN the ball strikes the floor. A front wall crotch serve or crotch shot hits both the wall and floor at once and the ball pops up, as it takes a squirrelly bounce. If it crotches on the front wall, that’s a skip serve and a side out. If a shot hits the front wall crotch in a rally it’s a rally skip shot and it’s then a a chance for the skipper to receive serve.

Root causes —> the basic source or origin of your stroking form is belief. Timing your fundamentals should be tailored to your familiar full version of your routine stroke with your in the now adaptive actions to accommodate each ball bounce and your adjusting, optimizing feetwork to set your stance to shoot your best available shot. Sometimes, when you miss your shot or you take the wrong shot or you don’t move effectively, you need to quickly diagnose the “root cause” for why you err. First consider your belief and timing. Go back to your relaxed form to see if you are optimizing your standard, trusted ball tracking, stance setting and stroking form. Play with belief and match each swing to your routine swing rhythm. Size your form to the time you make by how you read the bounce and move to match your best case stroke form, as you play in your flow state always looking to maximize your form to produce topflight shot placements. If it’s your feet that are the cause, stay lighter on them and move them matching your optimal form to track, approach, and set your feet. If it’s your racquet getting ready too early or too late, time your racquet loop back with when you set your back foot right when you could almost reach out and snag the ball right out of midair. If the root cause is you leaving up your shots, allow the ball to drop lower and make contact off shoulder. If contact must be higher, select a higher passing shot from wall target and add a little highly controlling Topspin with your flowing stroke. Always get down to the root cause when you can and make immediate corrective actions to enhance how you field and play future balls in each game or as you defend between shots. 

Rotation —> synonymous with angular is “rotation”. Angular is the many turning actions of your feet, knees, hips, core, shoulders, elbow, arm, wrist and ultimately your racquet head. The final arm swing is produced by your combo of rotation at your shoulder, spinning rotation of your elbow and angular wrist and arm roll turning over the racquet face thru ball contact. Angular rotation also includes the types of spin placed on a ball which may include over spin or Topspin which spins back to front on a ball flowing forward where after it rebounds off the front wall the ball rotates front to back going backwards. Or there can be outside in sidespin as the ball rotation spins in toward you as the ball flows across in front of you. You may impart inside out sidespin causing the ball rotation out away from you as the ball goes forward. And there’s spiraling spin which combines both over spin or top with either inside out or outside in sidespin causing the ball rotation to corkscrew into its target wall creating a strange rebound result off the front wall. With more spin added, greater angular acceleration occurs which can creates some bizarre shot and serve spins to saddle the opponent with having to solve them just to keep from dumping the ball into the floor as a skip or creating a mishit and off angle shot. Both the flow of the racquet toward your wall target and pinpointing the part of the ball you’re selecting for strings contact develops the rotating ball action that the opponent must absorb by drawing the ball in on their strings to remove or control the incoming, often considerable ball spin. 

Find a Routine —> for the key pitcher -hitter-like battery, the game is based to a large degree on the quality of your pitch, when you serve, or, on the other side of the ball, the effectiveness of hittingyour return, as you are receiving serve. An aspect shared by both you as server and when you are the receiver is that there should be a routine or ritual you practice prior to the kickoff of each new serve–>return encounter a game. Conceptually here’s some tag points… get your bearings. Relax. Focus. Build your rhythm so you can deliver consistent effort and machine-like execution as server OR as receiver. Almost identical pre-service routines include dribbles or flicking the ball against the front court walls preceding ideally nearly identical serve placements. Using that routine to create confusion and make THEM struggle is in part why you do this battery routine repeatably. “Find a routine” and often drill your routine. Use it virtually every time your serve, with a shorter version for 2nd serves. Also do your own return of serve routine in singles and in doubles, too. Having a return routine separates you from the majority of players who just stand back there and try to hit the ball when it pops kindly out of a back corner toward them. Get spring-loaded with a little hop in place, a split step or just pop up off your heels on your toes, with all those designed to get you physically ready on springy legs up on your toes. The next part is belief that you can get back or return even the near ace or crack-out or corner flyer that’s jetting out off the back wall out of that back corner along a sidewall. The next thing is getting yourself pumped up to give full energy to your effort for this return of serve play. Hustle pays big dividends. Make quick, sure decisions, while not waffling or bailing or being stuck because you were being hindered as THEY (the servers) were caught unawares (or they may be fully aware that they are in your way). Sometimes, on offense, you just have to take your shot. Other times you have to hold fire and ask for a safety hinder. Often a ball wants to go straight and if your opponent is blocking straight, you’re being pressed into a bad choice having to go to the ceiling or obviously forcing a ball that doesn’t want to go cross-court into that forced angle. The same goes when say you’re receiving a ball angling off the sidewall in to you where a cross-court is your best angle and THERE the server (or rally opponent) is completely blocking your cross-court angle. Unusually there they’re not blocking the reverse pinch. What do you do? First, it’s up to you. You can hold up because cross-court is the best plan, but it’s hard to think and do that when it’s such a bang-bang play. You can take the cross-court knowing that would be your best shot by putting on your blinders as to whether the server is repositioning, as they should be. Then you’re hitting your percentage shot you’d hit were they to move and not be THERE or were they to jump and let you shoot under them. You could lift to the ceiling which would probably give them a chance to shoot or to move you with their next shot and then they may get to shoot your next, more pressured return ball; which means you can play into their hands, or not. You could take what they do give you which is the reverse pinch, even front wall first, as you become a fully rounded shooter. First, as usual, go thru your return routine. As you flow into the returning part of deciding what’s your best return and it’s what return you get based on your movements, as well as the server’s post serve moves when picking from your options. Obviously it’s usually tougher returning when you don’t initiate the pattern, as the server sends the challenging serve back. But you should recognize, react and respond how you routinely do to this exact type of serve. You decide if you can’t shoot without the high probability that you will whack ’em and you decide…(1) hold up and ask for a replay; (2) adapt and pick another shot angle often that’s either to them and less effective tactically and technically; or (3) you take your optimal straight in or cross-court shot and let the chips fall where they may. If you choose to hold up or hold fire, look at it as you saved their leg today. But did anyone learn anything from that mercy? Will you be hindered the very same way the next time, too.

Rules to be fair —> the rules of the court are worth reading and understanding so you are able to play within them and picture why they’re designed to level the playing field or make it fair for both sides and keep the players safe. “Rules to be fair” are designed for safety and so players don’t take advantage with hinder positioning or rushing their unready receiver by serving early or intentionally distracting their foe or funneling the ball to one doubles partner to avoid giving the other partner a fair chance to hit the ball.

Rules —> there are 2 kinds of “rules”. First there are the USA racquetball rules that are designed to foster safe, fair, reasonable play. Becoming very  familiar with those rules and understanding them makes you a viable competitor in singles or doubles games where YOU can be assured of not being a danger to yourself or others. Now the other rules are important too because they go to how you conduct yourself on court. You could be a player who says, “Good shot” or “Good game”. Or you could be a grouch wearing a perpetual scowl. Also, you could always hit forehands on your forehand side and backhands on your backhand side so you occupy more court space with your swing. When swinging with both primary strokes on their side’s of the court, you end up flowing your follow-through into center court. As another tactic, you might be a passing shot specialist with your forehand and you might tend toward pinching a lot with your backhand. You might hit second serve nick lobs every single time your first serve is a fault. You might hit all of your ceiling balls pinpointing deep targets on the ceiling to avoid having your touch ceiling ball short hopped in the forecourt by the ceiling poacher after the ceiling’s first bounce. If you deviate from your tactical rules you may be deviating from your game style, your strategy, and your game plan. Defining and developing your rules of the court or your rules of play for how you optimally play is an abundantly worthwhile activity as you practice, plan, play, study film, post play assess, evaluate, enhance and strategize to prep for next time. Formulate your rules of the road with their stimuli that steer you toward or prompt you to do actions that you’re very familiar with that you do very well which produce reliable, repeatable and historically trustworthy results for you to score points and achieve side-outs.

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

713-557-3176

KenRB54@Gmail.com

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