S – Z
Safety first —> sometimes a player focusing on the ball popping off the back wall will spin around and the opposing player is not there, in the way, any more, but still the hitter holds up as a safety hinder. “Safety first” is the point. It’s better to be safe than sorry. In un-officiated play, it’s a replay. It’s up to the referee in an officiated match if the hinder is allowed when the player didn’t take note of the opposing player’s off the ball movement (often with the eyes in the back of their head that are issued to you in the goodie bag at tournament desk check in). As you spin taking a ball off the back wall, do try to peripherally also try to pick up the opponent to see if they’ve cleared and you can take the shot you’re supposed to be given.
Safety IS exciting —> in a game that’s played by swinging racquets in a confined space where both sides want to occupy the center of the court and both must hit the ball to the front wall, safety is huge. There’s a shared responsibility to keep track of first the ball and secondarily the challenger (or challengers in doubles) and, oh yeah, to keep track of your own doubles partner, too). Just the sheer number of racquet to racquet collisions and resulting breakage that occurs between partners should give you an inkling into the danger of the racquet swing. An important aspect that must be given great weight is the pattern when a ball gets behind you in the backcourt. As the player who hit the ball into the backcourt, defensively watching long enough to know where the ball will be so you’re not blocking the straight in and cross-court while you’re definitely not in the circumference of the challenger’s swing. That’s why it’s very wise to sneak a peak back. Looking over your back shoulder, you may optionally cover your head with your racquet head while you look thru the strings, while you move quickly between ball and cross front corner which helps you be out of the way and not be struck by the ball or their racquet. At the optimum level also check out their stance, contact height and prep for an inkling into their shot placement. On the other side of the ball, when you’re the player in back tracking down the ball, consider where you saw the opponent or opponents last. Also consider that cross-court shots may be blocked unintentionally (or intentionally). So, when you’re going back to take a ball off the back wall or definitely when you’re turning with the ball in a back corner, peripherally pick up the challenger to make sure they’re not blocking your swing or intended shot angle. Sometimes you may look to hit diagonally into the cross front corner as a reverse pinch or, on the same angle, you may spin around to take the long near corner pinch with your off stroke which is the other side’s primary stroke. However if they’re already there, you must go with a plan B shot, like an inside out V cross-court to the far, rear corner. If they’re blocking both that cross-court AND the straight in shot angles, you’re in a quandary. You can hold fire, but sometimes you can’t because you’re already swinging. You can lift up, but a ceiling ball is a sucker play then because they could short hop it or retreat and cream it. Calling hinder and repeating the rally (usually) beats tagging them or feeding them a bunny setup. “Safety IS exciting”, isn’t it?
Scheme —> constantly scheming or plotting and planning as you play is good and an ideal routine. Adaptions are not totally unplanned. Your large-scale plan for putting particular tactics into effect when looking for pre-arranged results, with caveats (limits), wrinkles (variations), curves (angle and speed deviations), and backups (reserves) includes all of your efficiency actions of YOUR playing “scheme” and your strategy. Those efficiency actions are intertwined and in concert with your court movements, playing thoughts, stroke form timing and rhythm swinging back and thru without a hitch that’s geared to shape shots you choose adapting to each pattern. Also there are no premature, way too early Statue of Liberty backswings in good scheming. There are versions of the full stroke to adapt to changing conditions timed with the bounce to swing back and thru interruption free. In advance and even as you play, plot with intent to attack a specific opposition weakness or to play into one of your major strengths. Your scheme is an ordered arrangement where everything has its place with individual details that you follow that can be assessed realtime and can be adapted to this game’s progress, when needed. One facet is how you position the objects. The objects include you, your challenger, and the ball which you intentionally take, as you swing, at its correct contact point in each offensive pattern. Ideally see ALL patterns as offensive from a variety of deep target ceilings, High Z’s, passes, or kill-shots. You have conditions attached to a self agreement or proviso, with limits where certain actions cannot be taken without certain things happening first, as precursors. For instance, the ball must be low to consider pinching. The primary idea is you’re NOT just winging it. It’s craftier where you shoot extremely low only when you can let the ball drop extra low–>and you can get your feet under you–>and you read you can displace the challenger’s position first, meaning they’re out of position, by design, due to your serve or prior shot placement. For example, hitting kill-shots right toward the challenger’s position would be tactical suicide and outside your scheme. Contact eye high or even chest high, unless you’re splatting, is beyond your kill-shot limit unless it’s say a well-practiced, overhead pinch rollout. Hitting a kill-shot when falling away as you’re moving away from the target front wall exceeds your pre-agreed preset limits. Scheming gets down to the details. If this, then that. If that other thing happens, instead you do–>else. Perform depending on recognized conditions that you select this specific curve, like your wider angled shot, that will catch the sidewall deep every time. Everything is purposefully done. Even post bad rallies, or-else plans are put into effect in the very next rally that matches that same pattern of play. Schemes by design preclude repeating errors because a different shot or another serve is teed up and done, like a deep sidewall crack-out that’s left up and is too high is replaced by a Robin Hood drive serve aimed directly for the back corner. Or a hard Z drive serve is switched out for a higher, off speed Z serve that’s designed to bounce closer to the far sidewall and ricochet off the sidewall to diagonal back and die right up against the back wall. Schemes have backup Plan B’s and adaptions into Plan C’s, D’s or E’s.
Scoring system —> you only score when you serve. So be a bigger risk taker when you start rallies ball in hand. When returning, although you can get the serve back with a circus shot, know mistakes donate points and bad decisions may give the server wings. Play smart as the receiver. Play a highly evolved game of keep-away. Be very selective with your put-away shots. Be intent on leaving the server high to low shots or forcing them to have to hit on the run, as your shots pull them back or push them to the side. By playing tactically, as receiver, you play within the “scoring system”, which is unique to racquetball; no easy points for the server.
Screen call —> a served ball that, as it passes the server, is hidden by the server may be called in ref-free play by the receiver as a “screen serve”. In self officiated play, it is the the sole responsibility of the receiver to make or not make the screen serve call. Then the server can’t call or signal screen, which may distract the receiver. In officiated play, the ref must agree if the receiver signals with their off hand raised that they were screened. When you serve over close along one sidewall and you keep the ball inside the 3′ drive serve line on that side of the service box, it’s a good chance it’s not a screen serve. In officiated play, the referee may either wait for a raised off hand signal by the receiver before they make a screen call or they may call it early, when it’s clear the ball almost came out from between the server’s legs. Establish how it’s called with the ref before you start. Sometimes you want a chance to shoot the (partial) screen when it’s going to bounce and pop off as a back wall setup. Often the perspective of the referee is off when they’re positioned way off to one side in back when the serve is taking place on the complete opposite side from where they’re reffing. Plus it looks easier out there behind the glass or up above the court than it does in the center in back when receiving a ball zipping by the server, especially when the serve is heading more into the center of the backcourt rather than within two and a half feet or less from the back corner.
Screen call signal —> a served ball that first hits the front wall and then on the rebound passes so close by the server (or server’s partner in doubles) that it prevents the properly positioned in the center receiver (or doubles receiver centered on their side) from having a clear view of the ball is a screen serve. A screen is a fault serve. In self officiated play only the receiver may make the call of screen. The server isn’t allowed to call screen or distract the receiver with a signal that they think their serve was a screen. In self officiated play, when the receiver judged it a screen, the receiver waves their non racquet hand in front of their face, to signal screen to the server. Then it’s second serve. In matches with an official, the referee will often wait for the receiver’s “screen signal”. There the receiver’s signal is to raise their off hand indicating they couldn’t clearly see the ball as it was passing by the server. The ref will wait and if the ref judges that the receiver can cutoff the serve before it gets to back wall or if it appears the receiver can allow the ball to bounce and pop off the back wall and take it as a back wall setup, the ref will often allow the receiver to make their return rather than penalize the receiver by calling a screen serve. When the receiver signals by raising their hand quickly, the referee will usually go along with them and call screen. However, if the receiver first attempts to make the return by swinging at the ball and THEN they signal they were screened, that’s OFTEN too late and the point will stand for the server. A screen is a fault serve even in one serve racquetball where after hitting one screen server the server gets one more serve. So there and in all play when it’s the first serve you get one more serve. A second serve screen is a double fault and a side out in all scoring formats.
Legal Screen rally hindering —> when the hitter is in the center of the court or out from a sidewall 5 feet or more when hitting the ball and its obvious the defender is NOT directly behind them in the backcourt, the hitter may take advantage of that situation. They may hit a ball dangerously close by themselves as a “legal screen” which makes it very difficult for the opponent to see the ball as it’s passing by the hitter. However, once the ball gets by the hitter they had better duck and cover. If the hustling defender is able to catch up to the hard to see ball and they’re able to hit a straight in or cross-court ball but the screener stays frozen and gets popped, THEY are penalty hindering the opponent they’ve already buffaloed. Instead were they to simply slide to the side they’d get to gobble up the left up crumbs, they’d not damage their racquetball karma, and they’d avoid the less than complimentary moniker, Hinder Player.
Second nature play —> there’s very little instinctive play other than sticking the racquet up to protect yourself when maybe you’d knock off a lucky volley winner. Trained, orchestrated, highly familiar skills like court moves, strokes for shots, getting back after serving, and even service deliveries become “second nature play” after being drilled so that they ALMOST become instinctively done or automatic after they’ve been perfected, practiced thoroughly and done reliably under competitive fire. The skill is then “second nature play” and it can be counted upon, as long as the execution of the skill is given it’s proper respect where you don’t do it nonchalantly or with overconfidence. Develop more skills that are done so they become second nature as a goal of your drilling and repetitions meaning doing the skill repetitively until it becomes second nature. Plus constantly evaluate your results to make sure the skill is done right, done best in the now, and done with high effectiveness when it’s performed against live competition which differs from solo drilling because of the factor of the unexpected or unpredictable, like their early bolt to run down the ball earlier than you may anticipate.
Self conscious —> there’s a learning period where a player in competition learns to just put on blinders as they practice and then they take it on court as they play, too. Eventually you play and you just don’t mind who’s watching. As they evolve a player learns to like to show off and demonstrate their wares, skills or talents. You can’t be “self conscious” and play at your level best. Undue awareness of yourself is unnecessary. Awareness of your actions coupled with being a thinking cagey, savvy player make you a bit of showoff, but in a very good way. Being conscious of your effort, its effectiveness and exhibiting poise and addressing anything less than your best keeps you focused and driven to succeed and perform optimally.
Self-taught —> most players are “self-taught”. That self taught quality extends way up into the upper echelons of racquetball competition. Although it is possible to learn many of the basics in solo practice or even in recreational play when competing with lower level players, it’s much more effective to study form online, to take advice from top flight players, to take a lesson or two from a professional instructor, while video taping yourself and see what you look like and consider what you’d like to look like. The goal is to do whatever you can to round out your game and learn all of the basics of the highest level strokes, shots, serves, positioning, feetwork court moves and tactical actions. Effort and dedication makes your self-taught form, tactics and strategy uniquely your own and potentially fearsome. Another set of eyes speeds up your learning curve and it gives you another perspective with ideas for improvement or just minor tweaks that’ll make your game even more formidable and hard to predict.
Sense of urgency —> it’s big to be ready to take quick action to be effective in conditions even when rallies start quite slowly. The rally may begin when they lift up a lob and say you initially meet it by lifting up a touch ceiling ball return. But then it can turn in an instant. Say they attempt to short hop your ceiling. Or they may return your ceiling with a hard hit overhead pass. Or they may return your ceiling with a deep target ceiling ball or an unexpected, crushed High Z. You may need a quick gear shift right into your top speed. YOU never know what’s next in the rally because virtually anything is possible in racquetball. So you must play and be ready with a “sense of urgency” and always a sense of full readiness. Additionally a sense of urgency means you play extra hard, attack mode racquetball to decide the outcome by how you play hard, smart and assertively vs. allowing the opponent to dictate the rally and, by doing so, your fate. Bottom line is attack when you can and force the action in lieu of waiting them out hoping for errors or even waiting for that perfect setup when instead pull them back with a pass may get you in the driver’s seat shooting the next ball for an outright winner.
Serve —> when you stand between the first 2 lines in the court and you drop the ball to put it in play by taking a cut at it with your racquet contact, you are in your service motion hitting a “serve”. As server, to put the ball in play you hit it to the front wall so that on the rebound off the front wall on the fly the serve will cross the second line, which is the short line, with or without the serve contacting only one sidewall and without striking the ceiling, yourself, or, on the fly, the back wall. The serve is an opportunity for you, as server, to score a point when the receiver is unable to return your serve to the front wall without the ball bouncing twice or without the ball striking the floor on the way, even after contacting one or two sidewalls, the back wall or the ceiling on the return’s way to the front wall. The server can also win a rally, after the successful return of serve to the front wall by the receiver, when the receiver cannot return any server’s rally shot to the front wall. If in the ongoing rally the receiver prevents the server from hitting the ball either straight in or cross-court that can also give the server a point in officiated play (or ideal self penalty called self officiated play). Those two shot angles (and angles between them) must be perpetually given by both players to the player hitting the ball. That band of court must be given up by the server, too, when the receiver is returning serve and in rally play when it’s the receiver’s turn to return the ball to the front wall. So the serve starts with the server striking the ball so it crosses the short line where it’s then up to the receiver to return the ball back to the front wall, with straight in to cross-court their allowed return angle.
Get back!… after you Serve —> quickly get out of the service box. Make that a habit. Have a mental reminder every time you serve or your partner serves in doubles to “get back”. “Get out of the box”. There get into center court close to the dashed line. Although you may not get to retreat as far when your fastest serve is cutoff by the receiver before it gets back to the rear corner. Or, when the receiver is very aggressive and they step up to attack your lob serve or to take your drive Z after the bounce, you may just get back in back of the safety zone in front of the dashed line.
Serve–>Defend —> After you serve, first quickly turn ball-side. As you wrap up your low ball or high ball serve by completing your post-contact follow-through, take your next steps as the defending cover player. After your follow-through, first, spin toward the side where you just sent the ball back to THAT rear corner. NEVER turn around the other way to full on face the receiver. If you did that, you’d be facing backwards. There you’d be open to being hit by their return and you’d also be out of position to play their return of your serve as it would be coming off the front wall which, at that point, would be behind you. So once you turn ball side look over your back shoulder as you’re moving into center court coverage to defend your serve and the receiver’s return, while your overarching goal is to win the rally so you can point. However, first move into center court and get ready there to move to track down and shoot or make a get of their return. After the receiver returns your serve and you return their return of your serve, you both take turns striking the ball. In between your rally returns, you defend their returns from the center watching them while you look for opportunities to capture the rally with a shot your challenging receiver can’t successfully return to the front wall. When needed, based on their challenging placement, you need to place a defensive shot, while you keep the challenger moving as you hustle into center court to defend and you get ready to cover ANY of their shots. As soon as you swing, you’re defending again. It’s “serve–>defend”.
Serve onslaught —> if you have a bunch of killer serves you can go to, it places extreme pressure on the receiver to figure out where your serve is headed, what it’s got on it action-wise, and what’s their best, often defensive responding return vs. panicking and trying to do something too ambitiously offensive. Therefore, allot a good amount of time to training up a slew of serves that can…
(a) attack either corner disguising your intentions;
(B) ricochet off either sidewall into the receiver’s body;
(c) crack-out just past the short line on either side.
–> That wide serve selection combines to make your service game a formidable one, as you attack them with your “serve onslaught” of “What’s coming next?”, ponders the receiver.
Serve; order of serve in doubles —> when the second serving team goes up to serve after the first time when just the one server served and that team was sided out, “either partner may serve first”. The next time up for the first team either player may serve first. The same goes for the second team next time and so on. So, when both players are going to serve, they may switch the order of serve or keep it the same. It can be very confusing for the opposition, but for the team serving it’s often good to go with the hot hand who just finished the prior rally strongly, as that partner is holding the most momentum. Then you’re taking advantage of their intensity and readiness to serve first. At key times attacking the weaker receiver is tactical to force a weak return. Other than just weaker returns that could mean that particular receiver goes for too much giving the opposing team a better chance to play off their overhit return. There the server who normally serves that weaker receiver could start first. Also both servers may serve the weak link, as long as the ball isn’t placed behind the non serving partner where the partner on the wall would be taking away the straight in angle and maybe the cross-court angle, too.
Turn into your Serve —> start with your back foot parallel to the front wall as you “turn into the ball” when you serve (and when you strike your rally shots, too). When players do the 2-step drive serve motion, they sometimes walk through the motion without connecting both legs together, driving their knees or subtly rotating their hips into the ball. Step and turn into EVERY ball you can, as one more little balancing key and major power booster.
Use straight arm ball toss for your Serves —> for more consistent serves, an identical ball toss works. “Extend your off arm forward and release the ball”, with a straight arm, palm down sideways toss or flick forward. That option is a sideways flick of the ball forward, as you toss it to the front of the box or even beyond, while you drive your legs and body toward the front of the box to catch up to the ball and attack it at or slightly in front of the box. The caveat is the front foot of your serving stance cannot step completely out of the box past the service line. You must leave part of your front foot on the service line, even though you may contact the ball past the service line.
Server —> the player with the ball in hand in the service zone who initiates a rally by bouncing and striking the ball to the front wall so that the ball will fly past the middle short line to put the ball in play is the “server”. The server is the only player who can score a point should they come out on top in the ensuing rally when the receiver returns the serve or after they serve when the receiver can’t return the ball to the front wall without it bouncing twice or striking the floor on the way in to the front wall as skip ball.
Service line —> the very first line in the court that at the front of the line is 15 feet from the front wall is the “service line”. It’s key importance is that, when serving, you can step ON the service line, but you must leave part of your frontmost foot on it while extending most of your foot past it; but you can’t completely step past the service line or the call is it’s a foot fault. Note that it’s a double fault when you foot fault on your second serve. Usually those foot faults happen on direct drive serves or drive Z serves when a big forward step is taken as part of the server’s service motion. When returning serve or during rallies, a shot low enough to bounce twice before that service line has a very good chance of being a kill-shot meaning it would be ungettable by the opponent. If the kill-shot attempt takes its second bounce past the service line, it’s more likely to be covered by the cover player or defender and then it could be re-killed.
Service motion —> the continuous motion a server takes as they begin to serve beginning with their ball drop or toss and it goes thru to making contact is called the “service motion” or serve. The serve must be put in play before 10 seconds go by after the score has been called.
Service ritual —> practice YOUR same “service ritual” each and every time you serve. Although you may have a long and short version of your service ritual. You may have a first serve ritual and a different, often shorter second serve version. When you have the serve, use the 10 seconds (or less) to go through these steps:
(1) crucially pick a serve that’s a winner, which is a serve that is routinely successful for you based on your good past results with this serve, especially today; and then DON’T change your mind mid motion;
(2) to pick one, review your serve arsenal, your success record today, and what you want to exploit from the receiver’s known weak links in their returns or tactical chance taking… then, while deciding on your serve…
(3) prep by shaking out your racquet arm;
(4) take a relaxing deep breath;
(5) get your rhythm by batting the ball around the front court walls or dribble the ball or move your feet;
(6) narrow down your choices to one good serve;
(7) imagine your serve being awesome.
–> When you’re ready and you’ve checked them (the receiver’s readiness AND where they are), and you’ve visualized your serve and swing, then go into your service motion definitely sure of your serve choice and also how you’ll follow up your serve by extricating yourself from the box to defend the court from
center court. Post point review that serve situation to even enhance it for next time you serve that serve or another very similar serve that you see working as well or even better.
Nervy Serving —> there are 2 basic types of “nervy serving”. One, you may be standing ball in hand with a possible game point where you wanna serve out the game. You may have been there before in this game and you came up short OR this time, as you step in the box you are deadlocked, tied up with the opponent, and you KNOW you don’t want THEM to serve for possible game point, again. Two, you may have just chunked your contact and you badly missed your last serve. Before you hit a 3-wall second serve or you bounced an overhit drive serve into the back wall leaving them a fat setup off the back wall or you literally skipped in your last drive serve. So those 2 types of a nervy serving must be overcome. There you’re either overthinking it before you take on the challenge or before you just lost focus and you chummed your last delivery or contact. If you hit that nervy serve last time and this time, as you’re about to serve, you sense your mind drifting to pressuring thoughts, you’re missing the main point. YOU have the ball in YOUR hand. The ball is in your court. You get to send back a serve when picking one from among all of your all time faves; one that routinely delivers for you in the clutch in just such a situation. First see your serve being successful. Get into your routine timing. Don’t rush into your motion. Don’t change your mechanics by leaving something crucial out; i.e, don’t rush or go when you’re not ready. Get your rhythm by going thru your ritual of dribbles or bumping the ball off a wall. Take that key deep breath. Visualize an image of your serve doing exactly what you desire. As you begin your service motion, after checking the receiver’s readiness, make that great, routine ball toss as you take your familiar steps and preps that work best just as you practice them in your serve and make the move to retreat drills that’s how you routinely perform them in match play. Attack the ball and follow-through untethered. Even if you mess up, let it go. Focus immediately on getting their serve back in play so you can get another chance to hit the third kind of nervy serve: the bold, fearless serve.
Serving is winning time —> when you serve, how you initiate play is how you unite your plan to action. When you serve, you are then the total master of your fate. Ideally you battle from a position of strength based on your pre-serve ritual, readying prep, ball drop on into your effective service motion, AND then your retreat out of the box, like you’ve done dozens of times before. You seek to influence the receiver from soup to nuts, from ball delivery into the back half of court to rally bossing personified in tactical court domination to capture the rally to serve again. Often little attention is paid to training and perfecting serves by racquetball players. Yet it’s how you decide your fate when you start each and every rally ball in hand. By how you control your serve’s delivery method including its angle, pace, spin and court placement, you decide where the ball can be returned, with which receiver stroke, and often at what contact height. After sending the ball back, the last thing you have complete mastery over is how you get out of the box. That retreat is how the nascent (fresh) mini contest kicks-off. From where you are behind the box and from then on, the receiver has their own direct input into the burgeoning rally unless your serve is a rollout off the sidewall past the short line or your serve happens to be an unreturned ace. When the receiver gets the ball in play with their return, you become improviser extraordinaire still seeking to decide your fate by bossing the rally with shot placements and court position domination. As you serve, keep your overarching mindset that “serving is winning time”. Shoot low when you can and move them trying until their return gets a put-away opportunity for a kill-shot. Be highly aggressive but don’t go for off balance or on the run winners. Make THEM do that. Hit penetrating passes, rum ’em High Z’s, and drop like a rock deep target ceiling balls.
Serving against doubles receiver already facing sidewall —> I’m sure you’ve run into and had to “serve against a receiver who angles themselves off to face the sidewall” on the side where they expect they’re going to being served. They may angle off to full on face that sidewall or they may only partially face the sidewall with their front foot further out from the sidewall and usually the toes of both feet pointing up ahead along the sidewall. This angled off receiver may be waiting to cutoff of your drive Z serve or they’re planning to hammer your down the wall serve or they’re hoping to keep in play your power serve that’s been buffaloing them into that corner they’re in partway facing. This receiver needs to be attacked with 2 types of jam serves. First one jam may be hit from a position in the service box close in along that targeted sidewall or over to on the far side of the box. In those spots, picking out a sidewall target about 25-32 feet back by angling the ball off the front wall a little over halfway to the targeted sidewall from contact facing so the ball caroms off the sidewall just in front of the receiver. Then the ball ideally veers into the receiver’s frontmost hip. Randomly the jam may even pass by in front of them into the center, as a hubby wife pattern where the 2 receivers then say to each other, “Is it yours…or mine?”, in their inner dialogues. Finding that angle directly off the sidewall takes quite a few reps so the jam will hit low and angle into the doubles receiver’s front hip instead of going deeper where it would pass right by them and it could be fended off by this sidewall facing receiver. The second type of jam serve is struck from the side of the box where your doubles opposing receiver is behind you. There angle the ball off the front wall so it strikes the OTHER sidewall in front of your doubles partner. The then jam ball veers in literally behind the receiver who is facing the other sidewall. Although this jam does bounce it doesn’t have to necessarily angle back and carry to carom off the back wall behind them. But that’s a good result where the ball will bounce, carom off the back wall and angle toward the sidewall the receiver faces, as a jam fly serve or wraparound serve. Hitting the jam into their front hip makes it a real challenge for the receiver. If this jam does bounce and angle to the back wall just past the center to pop off the back wall and head to the sidewall they face, the receiver will lose sight of the ball as it pops off the back wall, which increases its difficulty being returned. In both jam serve cases including when either angling the ball directly off the sidewall into them or after the ball bounces and pops off the back wall, the objective is to attack the sidewall facing receiver with serves coming at them at very difficult, challenging angles.
Non Serving partner position —> in doubles, from when the server strikes the ball and until the ball crosses the short line the “non serving partner position when their partner is serving” is on one sidewall where they must stay with their back to that sidewall standing upright UNTIL the serving partner’s ball passes the short line. Although their back doesn’t have to be right up against the sidewall they must be pretty close to it, and they can’t face backwards or forwards in the box.
Serving and returning under pressure —> along with taking and making rally setups and controlling placements of your rally shots that, when selected, should be, for example, hit as passes without leaving the ball off the back wall and wisely picking the angle of the pass to not find the challenger’s position or the position where they’re on the run moving. The way a rally starts is also a key placement metric. The serve-return may be THE most important one to measure your player performance. The “serve-return heightened pressure” on the receiver is obvious in the last couple points of a game when distracting thoughts run afoul of clear thoughts and good shot decisions, along with unfettered movements. Tightening up and overthinking it needs to be guarded against, as receiver (OR as server). As receiver, never pick a return before the serve is sent back and until you’ve read the ball’s bounce. Treat the receiving situation as if it’s routine yet worthy of your full alertness and all out hustle, meaning you’re committed as soon as you get in your service return ready position. Don’t ever throw up the white flag. Instead instill greater confidence in these make it break it moments when the tide may turn on one return or one rally shot. In a moment, as receiver, you may make a last ditch stand that’s not desperate, but it’s effective enough where it may dent the armor of the server where a shift in momentum is palpable. As receiver, you could change your fortune with a solid return and a run of points of your own. “Serving and returning is under pressure” throughout a match. Even as you start a game receiving, the pressure is on. Smart, tactical play needs to be exhibited by not taking wild hair chances, like skipping in high to low chances when your serving challenger enjoys far better position between you and the front wall. As receiver, pulling the server back is the percentage play to reverse your positions and tempt their own deep court high to low or on the run shooting. From the other perspective, as server the pressures should be less, but the pressure is still real and it requires special methods to absorb them and soldier on. When you’re down in a game, finding the mettle and composure to serve your best rally starter or weak return generator or ideally a winner ace for you; those are big. After serving several times to close out a game or when you are both at game point, it’s a large part confidence and a greater part practice reps that give you say that key crack-out serve just past the short line you face or the Robin Hood rear corner drive 2 bouncer or the lob serve that sticks close in along the sidewall on its trip up the wall directly into the designated back corner. It’s big to gather yourself, visualize your trusted serve, replicate your serve ritual and perform your exact, familiar, service motion, including your box bouncing retreat to create opportunities to end the rally by taking your chances when you are presented with them and not either forcing shots that aren’t there or being reluctant to take setup shots that are there. Your ability to play and compete effectively, clinically, and tactically when serving at any time in a game is predicated on your being ready to optimize your chances and be a very resourceful and confident server and shotmaker. When needed, be the serving rally wrangler bossing the receiver around the court with your shot placements. Keep them moving by playing keep-away. Then put-away any setup or left up ball they gift you by letting the ball drop and using your best stroke mechanics.
Shadow the ball —> ideally as a ball drops back in the court at any speed make it a point of emphasis to quickly get on its exact same angle it’s taking as it angles back (or likewise as a ball goes forward off the back wall), while you watch the ball approach your position ON that angle. There ideally set yourself on a parallel line to the one the ball is taking as it retreats (or advances off the back wall) toward you, while you set your feet to field the ball with your best stance and stroke. Also make sure you have optimal spacing, meaning don’t crowd the ball so you may swing freely thru the ball extending fully thru contact. By turning and looking over your shoulder (front shoulder out of front court or back shoulder off back wall) and being on the angle the ball is taking as it approaches you…(1) directly off the front wall; (2) out of a front corner; or (3) angling off the back wall…that gives you optimal perception of the ball and an ability to read any action on the ball, including its pace and key spin. Balls dropping back more directly off the front wall are easier to turn and read and play aggressively with good spacing and assertive shot choices. There establish yourself very early on the angle by initially stepping up. Then the opponent can’t cross in front of you at the last second right before you make contact. That would be crossing thru your line of vision, which is a rule breaker. And the opponent can’t take away your routine shot options. After initially stepping up, you may drop back and pick from from shot options including straight in, as well as a cross-court when angling the ball to rebound off the front wall and place it in the far, rear corner. Now, for a ball diagonally dropping back, move your feet to also “shadow the ball”. There mimick the exact diagonal angle with both feet that the ball is taking. Quickly position yourself on that diagonal angle and a reach away. Seeing the ball as it’s dropping back on that diagonal is crucial. In a similar way, as a ball angles off the back wall, assume the ball’s angle as it flows forward. That sets you to crush those, too. In each case, by moving early to shadow the ball’s angle, you have a much better visual perception of the ball. It also gives you more viable shot options by allowing you to approach and prep with your best, adaptive stance and prep timed to the ball bounce. That shadowing the angle move ensures you have the potential for exceptional ball control with your shot. Reading the ball’s angle and its action tells you where along its path to play the ball and what stance is best for absorbing and reacting to action on this ball. From there you have the full perspective to select and take your best response shot. When not shadowing the angle and trying to intersect the ball as it crosses by you, as you step into the angle vs. being ON the angle ahead of time, that causes major perceptual and timing challenges that shadowing the ball’s angle eliminates. When you’re there on that angle early WITH the ball, make sure to watch the ball with both eyes so your dominant eye is fixed on the ball as it approaches your selected attack position you’re setting with your feet. There you’re seeing angle, reading pace and deciphering spin with your best possible depth perception. From there, set, pick and shoot your mentally pictured shot with your stroke that’s adapted to that pattern of play. There, as you angle off and prep to rip, you have the capacity to go for a variety of shots. You could shoot along that same angle toward your front wall or sidewall target. Also you can hit either an inside out shot away from your position or an outside in shot across your body from your initial approach position shadowing the ball. From shadowing position, you can best control the ball’s incoming angle and you can define what response angle you feel is best for this ball. Stepping in late into the angle relegates you to a more defensive placement. It’s would be like stepping into the batter’s box after the pitch has already been thrown. As an example of shadowing, as a lob Z serve angles back toward a back corner, toe a line on the same angle the ball is taking as it veers back out of the front corner off the far sidewall. There decide, for instance, on a cross-court return or straight. You could decide to change the angle of the incoming ball to hit a down the wall return shot. By being on the angle the ball is taking toward you, you are able to select and control the best angle to place your shot. If you were to step sideways and intercept vs. being positioned on the serve’s angle, a hard hit cross-court would probably be your best option. Even then it would be difficult to accurately control your cross-court angle. So then a hard hit cross-court deep target ceiling ball could often be your routinely used Plan A, especially in cases like this when you’re on the run having to visually pick up an angling serve and return it to effectively draw back the server.
Shake it out —> after a tense rally, draw your shoulders up to your ears. “Shake out your pitching, er, swinging arm”, and take a long, slow, deep breath. Now you can serve. OR now you can return with venom, if it’s time to receive. D-up and lift a ceiling, if THAT is the best return placement to pull the server back. That means go for your best return option and don’t decide before you’re receiving.
Shake-ups —> have some radical reorganization ideas at the ready if things go off the rails in some aspect of your game. Reconstitute your going in game plan to make a big or small change within your known strategies. For example, switch from lob nick serves to moving inside the far three foot drive serve line to send a cross-court drive serve into the far sidewall as a deeper crack-out/jam into the receiver, with either your forehand or backhand service motion. If you miss when going for the crack 5 feet or more past the short line, the ball will still veer directly into the receiver’s closest hip. Another “shake-up” includes making changes in your center court positioning or getting there into center earlier OR consistently leaving center earlier to proactively cover the challenger’s shot where you read it’s going by picking its angle where their body language or contact point or stance angle or history tells you it’s headed; as you move as you see them swinging forward. You break on their racquet swing forward.
Shark splat —> for a ball a little ways off the sidewall (3-4 feet out) when making contact chest high on down to about thigh high, a declining shot angle into your sidewall target up ahead of you about 7 feet from contact and 2 to as many as 6 balls lower than where you make contact is a “Shark Splat”. That target height on the sidewall depends on how high you make contact with the ball and how far out from the sidewall the ball is, again, with chest high contact possible. So a higher sidewall target would match chest high contact. A Shark Splat makes a nasty s-p-l-a-a-a-t sound as it squeaks off the sidewall to then carry to the front wall to produce a shot where the ball looks like it may have broken as it squirts off the front wall; but it didn’t break. Squeeze away to check it, challenger. The Shark Splat is a momentum grabber that keeps the ball down extra low coming off the front wall, as the ball angles across the front court almost paralleling the front wall. Normally struck with great deal of pace the Shark Splat may also be struck with more of a touch swing. In both cases, inside out spin makes the splat react well to the sidewall-front wall combination. Swing in to out, when contacting the inside of the ball and angling your racquet face slightly out toward your sidewall target as you make contact to achieve that inside out spin that turns going forward to the right when splatting into the right wall and spinning to the left along the left wall. A little Topspin helps keep the ball down, too, for the Shark Splat and all splats.
Shifting gears —> to quickly or abruptly change what you’ve been doing is to shift gears. There you’re “shifting gears” quickly to your new strategy or new tactic in your strategy or to a new technique. For example, go from returning lob serves deep in the backcourt to moving up quickly to make a cutoff short-hop with a medium to low stroke to hit a pass, lift up a High Z or carve up a ceiling ball or even angle off and hit a low cross front corner reverse pinch shot. There, when the server is about halfway into their lob service motion, slide up by shifting gears to high gear to begin your aggressive move forward to approach the ball right at the dashed line. Get your front foot initially set a little behind the dashed line and take your racquet back. Image: take control placing the ball where you’re focusing to make the best on the rise return you can select, see, take and make on the fly. That’s one example of shifting gears. There may be many that you can train up and fold into your options for changes in strategy, tactics, or techniques, like changing serves or positions in center court.
Shoes —> racquetball “shoes” can be more important than even a racquet (with strings) or a dry glove when you forget um. Without shoes you can’t play and you usually can’t borrow a pair. Once you have the right kind of shoes, like with gum rubber soles or any court shoe that works for you on the court surface you play on, get a backup pair. And once you have your shoes then, of course, the racquet is also crucial. Although you can borrow a racquet. Under the topic “racquet” we cover information about them. Note that your shoes must fit. Your shoes must not have edges on the souls. They should be a little rounded at the toes or front of the foot, as that is beneficial to easy feetwork. It avoids your catching an edge and losing your balance. Your shoes must have a good insole or flat insert. When your insoles are worn out, your heel may hurt and plantar fasciitis is possible. Get a new insole. If pain persists have the pain checked out medically and consider a new pair of shoes. Having a backup pair is just smart planning, especially for a competitive event. Watching racquetball being played by others when you don’t have your equipment with you when it’s safe at home is just painful. Always check your equipment list before heading to the club. Review your list with your shoes and go up to the racquet and goggles from there. Normally wear your court shoes only on court to extend their life and to not track stuff onto the court. Also, when you buy a new pair, wear them around the house for a few days to break them in before you take them to the club to play with them or you risk two things. One, you might get blisters. Two, if they don’t fit, you may not be able to return them if you’ve already worn them and they show any signs of wear.
Shoot —> whenever it’s your turn to hit by swinging at the ball you then “shoot” the ball. You shoot setups when you have an easy shot, like a ball bouncing and popping off the back wall, where you can let the ball drop extra low and you can go for an extra low kill-shot that hits your front wall or sidewall target and ends up bouncing twice before the challenger can get to your kill-shot. Shoot passes when…(1) your ball contact must be a little bit higher at contact; or (2) you’re on the run; (3) you’re off balance as you’re prepping to make contact; or (4) the challenger is positioned very close to the front wall and you’re pretty certain you won’t rollout the ball when you shoot or your plan was initially to hit toward the more forwardly positioned opponent and pass away from them is a good Plan B. Shoot ceiling balls when the ball is high or when you’re on the run and you judge a pass into the backcourt would be tough to accurately place. A deep target ceiling is a good choice to pull them back wth those ceilings that are struck harder and project back after the first bounce reacting like a pass. Even shoot flick shots like flick lobs designed to head to a chosen rear corner when you’re making a very defensive get. Any of these artful placements are based on where you can shoot the ball to place the most pressure on the challenger’s positioning, including when you can make them have to hit on the run or just so you make them move as they field the ball. Or you could shoot the ball at them when you can’t play total keep-away with your shot choice to place the ball away from the challenger. Then rifle it at them off the front wall or angling off the front wall and a sidewall into them.
Shooter —> the offensive player who is hitting the ball in a rally is the “shooter” or returner. The service receiver is a shooter. The receiving shooter can be very offensive if the server’s delivery is very attackable and the shooter can unload on the ball. In rallies the player fielding, tracking down, and approaching a ball is the shooter, even when they shoot defensively. The shooter gets a straight in and cross-court shot to the farthest rear corner from wherever they make contact on all balls.
There’s no defending Shooting, except… —> when you shoot a ball in a rally, it’s not like in basketball when a shooter has to deal with a hand in their face or a quarterback has to anticipate a linesman’s big paw rising up in front of them just as they’re passing the football downfield or it’s not like a soccer player having their shot on goal blocked at the very last second by a foot. However in our shared court sport it’s not always quite as clean as tennis where you’re separated by a net. Yet in racquetball we (usually) enjoy not literally being face guarded by the opponent. That should provide you great solace and you should train to be a lethal shooter when you get the drivable passing shot or the killable pinch or splat or directly angled rollout chance. So “there’s no defending shooting, except”…sometimes it happens. You may be “defended” tactically or due to a ploy by the non hitting player or they may just not clear. There are a couple rules in RB to help protect you from being defended or guarded. You’re supposed to get to go straight to a ball and…paraphrasing the rules now here’s the straight skinny…while making an attempt to return, a player is entitled to a fair chance to see and return the ball. The player who just hit the ball must move so the receiving side may go straight to the ball and have an unobstructed view of and swing at the ball. It’s blocking if a player moves into a position which blocks the opponent from getting to or returning the ball. Now that blocking is like when the player who just hit is hanging on the angle the ball is taking which blocks the view of the opponent who is directly behind them. As another example, it’s like the non hitter being between you and a ball bouncing and popping off the back wall as what should-be your back wall setup. It occurs when a player hits a pass and then delays on the angle the ball is taking going by them and then not clearing as the hitter hustles to get behind them ready to hit something or somebody. Similarly it’s view obstruction if a player moves across an opponent’s line of vision right before the hitting player is set to strike the ball. That’s like when a slow or medium speed ball off the front wall coming right back to you is hidden at the very last second by a late hustling opponent, as they cross in front of you to get over to the side where they’re moving they’ve usually left wide open. Still it’s fortifying to train like you’re expecting NOT to be guarded. Learn and become a shot placer extraordinaire. Be able to make shots you picture. Move aggressively to play all attackable balls. That hustle ideally will make the opponent want to move to allow you a straight line run to the ball where you’ll have an unobstructed view of and swing at the ball wherever you choose to play it on its angling path. As a final word, sometimes you may be squeezed down into a less favorable spot to play the ball or your best shot angle may be stopped by the opponent’s position. Don’t hit ’em, but don’t feed ’em a bunny either. Hold up and either look at the ref or tell ’em you were gonna hit it there, as you point at your target thru them. Maybe next time the opponent will do that must move thing and there won’t be any defending.
Shootout —> one day only “shootout” formats are round robin events. Everyone plays everyone in their bracket. The winner of more matches or the head to head winner, when there’s a tie in wins between two players, is champ. In bigger shootout draws, with 2 brackets, the winner of one bracket plays the second place finisher from the other bracket and vice versa in the semis. Then the semifinals winners play in the finals. Matches are often back to back with no break in between matches in shootouts. The first two games are played to 11 points win by one. The very challenging, don’t blink or you might miss it 7 point tiebreaker is played when the first 2 games are split. Shootouts can be pretty grueling. Drink lots of water. Don’t eat if you’re still playing. Take a short break, if you need one. Be in shape to play in these endurance contests. Later matches are usually pretty sloppy due to cumulative fatigue, including many mental decision making errors. Pre-shootout or in the days before carbo load, hydrate well and prep equipment and game plan strategies.
Short —> a meaning other than when you say “Short” indicating a serve didn’t cross the short line is to leave a shot short in the front court. Leaving or placing a ball short is a very advantageous placement that serves to impose pressure on the opponent to move up in the front court to make a tough get just to extend the rally. When hitting your 3-wall boast or Twooze shot, pinch, splat or direct to the front wall kill-shot, the objective is to leave the ball short in the front court. Short may also be your shot imagery or shot thought you employ, as you set, pick and prep for a shot you plan to leave short or further up in the forecourt.
Short-hop —> fielding a ball right after it bounces up off the court in rally play is a “short-hop”. When taking the ball right after its bounce setting your racquet head hooded or slightly closed or pointing down toward the floor ahead of you at contact potentially produces a very low front wall result. Another form of short-hop is when the player on defense moves forward and cuts off a touch ceiling ball just as the ceiling ball bounces up off the floor. There the ceiling ball poacher often uses a little chest high flicking, baby overhead shot when flicking the ball toward their low target on the front wall or sidewall. If your opponent short-hops your ceiling balls, next time select a deeper target on the ceiling back closer to you and the ceiling ball will bounce hard further back from the front wall when going much faster. The deep target ceiling then rushes them instead of you, which is always a good tactic. When a deep target ceiling is not going to be possible, instead of the touch ceiling consider lifting up a lob they’ll have to retreat deeper to take on the fly.
Short is better than long —> a drive serve that crosses the short line and bounces to pop off the back wall is not at all what the drive server plans as they prep to swing. “Short (serve) is better than long”. Keeping your 1st serve low where short is okay is preferred because then you can still serve up your best 2nd serve. The alternative where your 1st serve bounces and pops off the back wall, as a setup, is a prime opportunity for the receiver to wrest control of the rally so it can be a very bad situation for the server. So focus on hitting a very low drive serve as goal #1. Look to bounce the serve just past the short line versus bouncing it further back in the back half of the court. A way to practice low, good drive serves is to take a bucket of balls on court and place your racquetball bag just past the short line in between where you plan to contact the front wall and the back corner you’re targeting with your drive serve. That front wall contact spot is just under halfway between where you make ball contact and the sidewall for the targeted back corner. There practice serves that strike your bag indicating you’re hitting your combined angle sideways and vertically producing the right bounce depth in the court and angling the serve into the selected back corner. If the serve goes over your bag, it’s too high. Were your serve to bounce and then William Tell the back corner, which means pierce the corner precisely, that can be effective. But it’s best for the corner-aimed drive serve to be a dying quail. That’s a drive serve that barely makes it to crack out very low right in the corner. That William Tell apple targeting the corner places a high premium on your sideways placement, too. So emphasize that in your serve training by adding horizontal accuracy to goal #1; keep serve low.
Short line —> the line in the exact middle of the court at its back 20 feet back from the front wall across the court is the line a served ball MUST completely pass for a serve to be in play. In the USA racquetball rules, the server and their doubles partner may not cross that “short line” until the served ball crosses that first. If the server or their partner crosses the short line before the ball, the call is side out, not foot fault. When serving, the server must start on or inside the short line when they begin their service motion. As an aside note, when one partner is serving, their partner who is positioned on one sidewall with their back to that wall cannot even leave the wall until their partner’s served ball has completely crossed the short line. Even when hitting a high lob serve, both partners must wait for the ball to cross the short line. In international play, server and partner may cross earlier or after contact for the serve. That could make it kinda dicey in the safety zone when receiver short-hops lobs and the server drifts back unaware.
Short points —> for various and sundry reasons it’s very tactical to play “short points”. You may be facing a player who wants to extend every rally. You may have in mind 1-2-3, serve-return-shoot racquetball that starts when you serve. By shortening the points, you are looking to take away time from the opponent to move and hit the ball. Or at times you could be a little gassed. Or you may have a comeback going and the shorter points extend your strong momentum rally to rally. One drawback is, if you take too risky a chance when trying to kill the ball from too high shooting to too low or when you’re on the run, you could drop a rally you could win. To play the short points strategy, often start with highly aggressive first strike serves or returns of serve. Drive serves that Robin Hood the back corner or crack-out just past 20 feet or back a little further at the dashed line are tailor-made to gin weak returns. If their return is weak, pick put-away or keep-away optimizing your chance. When receiving, intercepting a drive or lob and either zipping your return right down the wall past the server or lifting a deep target ceiling or mashing a High Z, your return is designed to win the serve outright or force a very weak response by the server so YOU can shoot ball #4. If the rally is extended after the receiver’s return, as server, shoot everything, even going for 3-wall boast kill-shots, for example. If as receiver your return gins up a weak #3 shot by the server, from then on, play a highly aggressive keep-away shooting game, with surgically placed passing shots, High Z’s, and ONLY opportunistic, setup response kill-shots. On either side of the serve, in lieu of a ceiling ball, you may optionally go for an overhead, High Z or powerful ATWB. The object is to shorten the point by putting extra pressure on the opponent with every shot. Also focus on how you move off the ball into obvious good, pressuring coverage positioning. Tactically you want no long, protracted ceiling ball rally, no tactical lob serve, unless it’s a tough nick, and no passing shot WHEN a kill-shot is what is called for. As you play as the point shortener, it’s a race to outscore them to game point by being very much the opportunist aggressor. Use time between rallies to get pumped back up for the very next short point. After each rally reconsider your tactics and decide if you used YOUR point shortening shots and moves. Also, as a point of emphasis, watch the ball like a hawk, read the opponent’s shot by watching them setting up to hit, and, when you expect and guess or when you actually see their shot, move with efficiency, quickness and rhythm while tracking down, approaching and striking stance setting for super low contact ball striking (or higher contact if you see rushing them will work better than waiting). Even when keeping the points short it’s still hard work. It requires being able to recuperate between points, by keeping your breath. Depend on rapid thinking and picking shots to make shots that make your point, literally.
Short serve —> a served ball that hits the front wall and then bounces on or in front of the short line is a “short serve”. The same goes for a serve that hits the front wall and strikes ONE sidewall to then bounce on or inside of the 20 foot line, as also a short serve. A short serve is a fault serve. As an example, a second serve lob that is short is a mental error and a costly side out.
Short term memory loss —> in racquetball, it’s invaluable to have “short term memory loss” where you immediately forget a miss or even when you space on your previous game win so you reload for the very next point or game hungry and re-seeking your peak performance ready to take shots you routinely take and constantly make.
Shot —> for any attempt by the receiver to return a serve or an attempt by the server to return the receivers’s service return or when attempting to return your challenger’s rally ball, those are all examples of a “shot”. A rally begins after a successful serve by the server that is successfully returned with a shot by the receiver. Shots fill the spectrum from flicking gets to touch kill-shots to spin sliced ceiling balls to hard hit deep target ceilings to howitzered kill-passes to crushed overheads to laser flat rollout kill-shots to canon-like passes or even drive serves, where a serve could also be considered a type of shot, too.
Shot art —> optimally you are creating and developing beautiful shotmaking art, with your rally shots, serves and returns of serve. It’s a combo of reasoned choices and artistic, creative stroking that makes your “shot art”.
Shot changing when ball is still on your racquet —> in racquet sports, as you’re playing your shot and you haven’t reached the climactic contact phase of your thru stroke phase, you still have the opportunity to change up and redirect your shot into a different angle or even a different court quadrant than may be expected or coverable by your opponent. Or you may also redirect the ball to accommodate a funny last second bounce or crack on the sidewall, back wall or corner. You may react to the bad bounce to change and reflex the ball back into the best angle you can find or manage. “When the ball is still on your racquet” or time is your ally, that last moment odd bounce can be countered by reflexing the ball back and the prematurely bolting opponent can be crossed up by hitting it where they ain’t, which is then hitting where they just were. By your placements, you may strand the opponent who is out of position when they overcommit too early and clearly visibly to you. When your racquet is still back and you can change its flow from back to front (or in to out or out to in) thru contact AND you may alter your racquet face beveling angle to change your shot depth. That flexibility allows you to change your shot placement drastically or it can be to just keep the ball in play. It’s key defensively to not commit too early. Likewise it’s key to wait on the shot until the ball says “Hit me!” on its imaginary LED readout on the back of the ball. Taking your time opens up options and gives you time to lay the wood to the ball. Then defensively it’s better to get to where you can best spot up in coverage, as THEY address the ball. Ideally you’re then in or near center court where then you delay or pause. If instead you were to keep drifting, which means moving, or if you were to take off hoping to run down say the obvious pinch that you see coming, because the ball is still be on the shooter’s racquet, their simple pass may just pass you by. When you’re the shooter and the ball is still on your racquet for THIS setup or near-setup, having patience works wonders. If the opponent takes off before your arm does, play classic keep-away and leave them stranded with your shot placement ideally well away from them.
Shot checklist —> once you’ve read the bounce of the ball it’s immediately discernible as hit or get. If it’s get, you turn racquetball warrior driven to get that ball back to the front wall. If it’s hit, playing keep-away is goal #1. The next check to cross off your list is deciding super low or blow by, as in blow the ball by them or pass them by. Super low is self explanatory. When you can, go for the best kill-shot for this ball and pattern. Next it’s what side, yours or theirs. Oftentimes the ball tells you exactly which way directionally to hit it. A ball crowding you usually says “Pull me into you” as a cross-court pass or potentially a reverse pinch, were that shot angle to be open. A ball flowing away from you asks for an inside out swing motion. There a sidewall option could be plan A going for a pinch or splat kill-shot winner. A less outward bound ball or one with less action on it could be swayed to go down the wall by using special pulling in action of the ball on your strings. The next to last thing that makes your “shot checklist” complete is contact point. Even there you ideally pick just the right height for THIS shot and ball with a priority on letting the ball drop extra low. To ease that decision making, in addition to prioritizing your “let the ball drop low” mindset, also designate routine off shoulder contact. That means you are going to swing through the ball there in front of your hitting shoulder, with the backhand contact just a little further forward or a little more out front than for your forehand. Moving to play each ball and getting your body initially behind that contact point ensures you have to move into the ball or think of it as you WANT to move into the ball. So key on that. So you’ve gone through your checklist. You’ve decided bam or defend. You’ve picked side of court and in what part of court to leave your shot, in front court or backcourt. You’re actively taking the ball where it’s optimal for you for this pattern and matching your skill set to guide your swing tactically per your favored playing strategy, including action or ball spin. The combined ability to ascertain attack or controlled keep-away, as well as placement and contact point must include execution. The more reps, the quicker you scale youet checklist to winner (with winner meaning good placement). I’m not gonna bum you out or take away your life. Actually you need to spend about as much time just thinking about racquetball, while playing out rallies in your head, with imagery, as you do in solo and ideally partner drilling patterns from ball read to shot shaping. In either reality, spend 3 hours per week as a palatable minimum. When you see yourself playing on that screen on your inner forehead, you’ll take it into real rallies, as you play a ball while visualizing its shot-span that’s geared to how YOU decide the ball’s timing or you determine when you’re going to hit the ball versus ever allowing the opponent to decide for you your contact timing. Also they don’t determine where in the court you hit, with specific relationship to avoid allowing them to occupy your space or reduce your footprint on the court.
Shot; flick shot —> often in rallies the ball angles right at you. Then you can’t back off to shoot. You may not even be able to turn and take the ball on one side of your body or the other. For example, when you’ve made a long lunging move to track down a ball, time is very short for you to totally prepare to swing. There keep your head up and secure a quick grip change. Take a very short backswing. Then, as you’re on the fly, improvise y shot plan and hit a “flick shot” placing the ball away from the challenger. You could flick a re-kill as your put-away shot. You may even flick the ball directly at the ideally startled challenger. Flick touch shooting is learned on the practice court. It’s an invaluable skill to have in reserve to count upon in match play.
Free to hit right Shot —> if it’s the “right” shot, accept it. Even if you miss the right shot, don’t be concerned or allow it to weigh on you. You took the right shot. Next time free yourself to attack the same shot because you know that HERE it’s tactically the right shot. When you attack the ball as it drops into your wheelhouse, you’re “free to hit out”. If you miss the right shot, you shouldn’t freeze up or panic. Let it go. Attack it next time. On the other hand, the wrong shot should be recognizable and not so blithely or trustingly retaken. There is a test to really make sure you’re taking the smart, right shot. Does the shot fit this pattern of play? First know that the right shot is tactically placed to take advantage of leaving the ball in the best corner of the court. The right shot sends the ball (where the ball wants to and can go), meaning you are able to control the ball’s incoming spin, pace and angle vs. forcing the ball off into an angle it can’t possibly go. That’s like a pattern where the opponent is blocking your V cross-court pass where you should hit the ball. In this example, the ball angles off a sidewall into you. You ought to hit the ball across your body cross-court to your halfway over front wall target to send your shot into the far, rear corner at the height you can best control. If you are squeezed down then into hitting the ball straight, you could mishit the ball or hit a weak, off angle very attackable bunny. Then THEY could crush your poorly chosen, hinder-caused down the wall placement. That would be the wrong shot. That’s a hinder. Then the right play is to hold fire or hold up and get the hinder. The right shot always factors in the position of your opponent. The right shot is placed where you can control its incoming angle and spin and ultimately control its outcome or placement because it’s a familiar shot based on YOUR shooting skills and technical form. Both shotmaking and form are forged in the intense fire of competition AND designed and honed on your practice court. That form is freed to take any right shot. After you’ve trained it up, you’re “free to move about the court and pick and shoot the right shot”.
Shot; kill-shot —> a very low shot into the front wall or sidewall that (makes it to the front wall and) bounces twice before the first line is a “kill-shot” attempt. Ideally the challenger doesn’t get to your kill-shot attempt. When your kill-shot bounces twice before the first line, the odds are better that the challenger can’t get to your kill-shot effort.
Shotmaker —> to be a “shotmaker” you’re able to place the ball virtually anywhere in the court. From your comfort stance (partially open, partially closed or neutral) you’re able to hit the ball straight, cross-court and out away from you into the faced rear corner or into the sidewall you face. As shotmaker, you learn to know when to hit the ball where with what shot matching this ball bounce and situation. Along with being a great ball striker, be a shotmaker with dangerous shotmaking skills and a major arsenal of shots from all over the court to target spots all over the court, including along either sidewall. Adapting to where the ball wants to go or where you can control the ball’s placement based on its incoming angle, pace and spin demonstrates your flexibility as a shotmaker. Not forcing the ball where it doesn’t want to go or not hitting where your opponent squeezes down your choice shows shotmaker discipline.
Shotmaking —> a massive part of the game of racquetball is offense. A player may be able to get to nearly any ball unless it’s rolling after striking the front wall or sidewall. Yet still as getter they must hit a shot that strategically pressures the opponent or they’ll be getter who MUST keep getting. As the player on offense, you must be able to put the ball away when you get setup by the opponent’s serve or shot. If you’re on offense though, you must hit a pass with eyes to strand the too far forward defender or too far over to one side defender. When you’re on the offensive side of the ball wielding your racquet to make contact and place the ball, you are “shotmaking”. You’re an effective shotmaker when you develop how and know when to make contact and where to place the ball accurately with your stroking technique. Aggressive, purposeful stroking supports shotmaking. As a shotmaker, your goal is to have very solid strokes that are BOTH powerful, when needed with precise when targeting your spot on the selected wall, and you must be versatile so you make shots with touch and feel from all over the court to place your shots virtually anywhere in the court. Of course, clear-thinking shot-selecting is integral. The rubric or categories of your shotmaking goes from targets across the front wall and along the sidewalls and vertically where your shots go up through the spectrum from low contact stroking and low kill-shot targeting up through 2-bounce passes to lob serving to baby overheading all the way to full overhead stroking to High Z’s or ATWB “power lifting” shooting to ceiling ball upwards slicing varying tight to deep target ceilings. To fortify your offensive game, become a shotmaker from all over the court and placing the ball in any of the 4 corners of the court. Even become a shotmaker from non optimal stances that are either overly closed or too wide open, which is when full on facing the front wall or when you’re on the run. Developing versatile shotmaking from different stances and preps is a training must-have in your skills building development as a player and master driller.
Shot selecting —> for those setup balls where it seems like there’s enough time to cook a 3 minute egg before you hit the ball, that offers a different kind of pressure. Know that there’s plenty to do to fully occupy that extra time. By not moving in lockstep with the bounce of the ball, especially when a sidewall or the back wall is involved, it means you’re not anticipating the bounce and you’re not losing yourself in the process. If you’re not occupying your mind, you’re probably not moving either. Then you’re just waiting or watching. There is time to fill in the blanks even at the last second with quick prep. Keep in the back of your mind that this is a prime opportunity to either make a winner or crush a forcing shot that will set you up to hit a winner on the next ball. Pressure is self imposed. Free yourself to fill the moments between opponent contact and your hitting your shot constructively with your moves and thoughts, while making the picks of shot and stroke that are part of your wheelhouse method you do by rote in drills and then in rallies. Hovering, hanging balls are the poster child for patience and filling the moments processing a considerable amount of info to play the ball. One, you have to move in concert with the ball. Move getting in rhythm with its bounce so you set yourself behind and beside the ball so you WILL move into the ball and extend to swing comfortably. As you’re reading and playing the bounce, discern which stroke and your best intercept point while tangentially tracking the opponent and walls to factor them into your “shot selecting”. As you parse through your shot choices, read incoming ball spin and ball angle, as you decide how you’re going to impose your own spin and angle on your selected shot. Once you read the bounce and you’re tracking the ball to pick your intercept spot, narrow down your choice of stroke and shot to the one and begin to internally see yourself make that shot. On auto drive, critically get the racquet back! Make sure to not lift your head to spy the front wall. Bear down on your selected contact point with your eyes and muscle memory stroking. As you focus on your shot image, let yourself flow fluidly thru prepping and then swinging thru the ball to develop your shot by shaping the trajectory matching your mental visual of your shot. Note that longer dropping setups often confound players because they don’t go through the series or process of… discern bounce–>play bounce–>parse–>pick–>picture–>prep–>perform shot. By setting your feet too soon or not picking a good tactical shot (or too early prep) or under developing your prep… any one missing can result in your short arming the ball. For a quicker ball, like when returning serve or a fielding a rally return from center court, squeeze down or compress your process to match the time you make by how you move and prep with more compact form. Still think, play bounce, pick, prep, image and produce. You will always maximize your chance in the time you make by how you move and shape the shot you select. Don’t be rushed. Don’t get anxious. Be poised and polished. Even when you screw the pooch on one shot, analyze why and do it better next time. Finish strongest by shooting at your very best as you close out each game for those floaters or any faster moving targets.
Shot selection —> other than selecting your serve the selection of your return of serve and your rally “shot selection” decides almost as much as how accurately you place that chosen serve. A basic tenet is to avoid picking and hitting shots right at the challenger. Even great shots at them have a nasty habit of being put away. If you must, hit it so they’ll have trouble returning the ball. Selecting the right shot for the right situation also means choosing one that you’re intimately familiar with based on having seen this pattern often so your shot has a very good history of effective, trusted results. In case that “right” shot is not successful, a Plan B shot and more backups are available via training and your imaginative drills.
Shot sensation, image, feel and thought —> as you play each ball, allow your mind to open up. Take in all you can with all of your senses and perceptions. Listen to the ball. See it along with its pace, angle, spin and bounce. Feel the spring in YOUR legs. Smell THEIR -fear as you near- the ball. Begin to taste success with your wind up, as you start initially shielding your body. Know that where there is danger there is opportunity. Where you could lose the rally know you could also win it with how you react physically, mentally, even spiritually. As you take in the bounce of the ball, take in 4 things. Be alert as you…(1) take in the sensations or how the ball moves in its unique pattern and how you sense you ought to move in concert with the bounce of the ball; (2) take in the image of how you see the ball moving and how it relates to past images of similar balls while allowing yourself to move in the ball’s rhythm, while you also take in your position in the image, as well as factoring in or reducing your opponent’s image; then (3) feel how you should respond with aggression for an attackable ball or with resiliency for a defensive situation to keep the ball and rally alive; and finally (4) go thru your thought process or check list and pick the best answer you have in the now to place the ball tactically and technically only bearing down on thinking about that placement while producing the shot image by shaping the ball’s arc with your familiar prep and well known stroke production. There, for that ball, you just went thru your shot meditation of sensation, image, feel and thought to isolate and solve this ball problem before you recover and move to play the next ball and go into ITS shot meditation. Depend heavily on your ability to perceive and feel to play and hit each ball purposefully. Then you are a sentient player. You needn’t worry about how long it takes to shot meditate. It’s almost instantaneous with your rally response, especially after you’ve perfected your 4-step shot meditation skills.
Shot shaping —> it’s art and science where you depend on your highly repeatable stroke mechanics to shoot a wide range of shots ideally with great variety and confident success. Due to timing your contact your adaptive positioning of your stances varies constantly. Although having a best case stance that works for your clear setups should be your go to plan to use that best feet setting form. All other stances should ideally be shorter versions or slight variations on your best, complete form. Start with the saying, “Move your feet”. Then, once your feet and legs are doing their thing from the bottom up, the upper body shoulders and arm collaborate with your lower body to produce prep and flow into optimal “shot shaping”. Ultimately your racquet head control or your maneuvering and feel for your racquet face thru contact shapes your shot trajectory and develops the action you put on the ball. That action is a combo of its pace, multiple spins and angle. Your strings impact on different parts of the ball can result in an uncanny ability to angle the ball to find sidewall targets for serves, angle passes, and to find sidewall multiple pinch and splat targets. Shape your shot angles by seeing the angle mentally first, as you pick the shot while you track down, approach and set your striking stance to play each ball, while narrowing down to what shot’s best and how to shape it. Then create what you’ve picked and imagined with feel, racquet flow, and racquet face artful positioning, as you shape what you tirelessly practice and test as you play and visually imagine. That play may be in practice matches all over where you’re like an NBA team crisscrossing your own town, state or even the country in search of challenging play and different strategies to solve and incorporate into your own action plans, with tactical efficiency actions supporting your strategies that are based on strokes, moves and positioning you develop in drilling and forge in the roaring fire of competition. As you compete, you may go from competing in a slow down lob game to exchanging vapor trail photon serves and howitzered rally balls coming at you like rockets off the front wall. There you shoot setups when you get them, as you shape good offensive responses, like keep-away passes, high Z’s and deep target ceiling balls to turn the tide of the rally you’re way so you can get your chance to shoot your favorite kill-shots.
Shot shaping arc —> each shot (or serve) has a double arc. First the ball takes an arc from racquet contact to its wall target. Your racquet swing motion shapes that shot or serve arc. After the ball hits its target, the arc it takes off that surface is the defender’s concern and spin affects the shape of that arc. A combination of your racquet flow back to front thru the ball and how your racquet face angles or faces or points as you make contact shapes both the shot’s arc and imparts any spin on the ball. Although mentioned separately, it bears repeating that a flat racquet face at contact is a fallacy. In our sister sport tennis, a flat racquet face is taught. There clearing the obvious impediment, the net, means a curved up and down shot path is required when contacting the lower half of the tennis ball and brushing up and over top of the ball to project it over their impediment net. There actually a slightly closed racquet face happens much more often than may be realized. In racquetball the impediment is the court floor out in front of the front wall or the entire length of floor from contact in to your wall target. And, since a downwards shot angle is very often the case in racquetball when contacting the ball, even when making contact from just above ankle bone low, beveling the racquet face or pointing it slightly downward on the target wall is commonplace when sending the ball down low to your target spot on the wall you choose. Here’s the concept: a cat jumping off a dresser in a completely blackened room almost magically lands on its paws. Similarly you depend on your proprioceptive skill to swing and angle your racquet face right at contact placing your strings on the part of the ball you choose to make THIS shot when hitting high to low from as high as chest high on down to shin high or even lower. Alternatively the theory or practice of dropping the ball on the sweet spot of your racquet strings causes the shot to go high to low for shots designed as very kill-shots. Also the racquet face tweaks or angles down slightly upon contact due to the force of contact and placement of the ball a little lower that the center of percussion or center sweet spot on your strings. In racquetball, routinely contacting the upper half of the ball is common to shoot down to your target that’s lower than contact. Through reps, taking the ball at different contact heights and shaping different shots ranging from deep court 2 bounce passes to front court 2 bounce super low shots, you learn how to prep and swing as you control closing your racquet face thru contact, which builds the muscle memory for your versatile shotmaking. That’s why Paola Longoria continuously practices kill-shots in breaks in between games and even in between rallies. In addition to high to low shot shaping, side to side shot curving helps you form shot angles away from you or in toward you, as the racquet points where the ball is going and contact is on the inside (swinging out) or outside (swinging in) of the ball. Combining top down and its resulting Topspin with side to side and its sidespin arcs spiraling shots inside out or outside in for a highly versatile repertoire of shots. As you shape your arcing shots, the progression includes… shot selecting; visualizing; and stroke designing for each shot. That’s when you’ve time to model and develop the mechanics to execute shot shaping that’s optimally artful, analytical, technically muscle memory-based and potentially cat-like magical “shot shaping arcing art”.
Short is better than long —> a drive serve that crosses the short line and bounces to pop off the back wall is not at all what the drive server plans as they prep to swing. “Short (serve) is better than long”. Keeping your 1st serve low where short is okay is preferred because then you can still serve up your best 2nd serve. The alternative where the 1st serve bounces and pops off the back wall, as a setup, is a prime opportunity for the receiver to wrest control of the rally and it can be a very bad situation for the server. So focus on hitting a very low drive serve as goal #1. Look to bounce the serve just past the short line versus bouncing it further back in the back half of the court. A way to practice low, good drive serves is to take a bucket of balls on court and place your racquetball bag just past the short line in between where you plan to contact the front wall and the back corner you’re targeting with your serve. That front wall contact spot is just under halfway between where you make ball contact and the sidewall for the targeted back corner. There practice serves that strike your bag indicating you’re hitting your combined angle sideways and vertically producing the right bounce depth in the court and angling the serve into the selected back corner. If the serve goes over your bag, it’s too high. Were your serve to bounce and then William Tell the back corner, which means pierce it precisely, that can be effective. But it’s best for the corner-aimed drive serve to be a dying quail. That’s a drive serve that barely makes it to crack out very low right in the corner. That William Tell apple targeting places a high premium on your sideways placement, too. So emphasize that, as well, in your serve training by adding horizontal accuracy to goal #1; keep serve low.
Shots; must give shots —> both “straight in and cross-court shots must always be given” after you serve and likewise the receiver, after they return the serve, must allow the server those shots in the ensuing rally. So basically all of the time you and the opponent take turns giving up the angle range from straight in to cross-court or about 1/2 the front wall. In a rally, again when the challenger is taking a shot when returning your ball, both the straight in and cross-court angles plus what’s between those two angles must be given up to that shooting challenger. The rule states that failure to move occurs when “a player does not move sufficiently to allow an opponent a shot straight to the front wall as well as a cross-court shot, which is a shot directly to the front wall at an angle that would cause the ball to rebound directly to the rear corner farthest from the player hitting the ball”. In addition, it also goes on to say…”when a player moves in such a direction that it prevents an opponent from taking either of these shots.” Also it includes when a player…”Moves into a position which blocks the opponent from getting to, or returning, the ball”. And it’s also pertains when a player… “Moves in the way and is struck by the ball just played by the opponent”. That last “moving into the ball” rule counts when you move late into center court when the challenger has gotten to ball BEFORE you. They could even be shooting a long reverse pinch or long near corner pinch from one rear corner diagonally into the opposite front corner. You would have been able to block that diagonal angle, IF you had gotten to your spot, which is your ideal cover spot, before the challenger sets themselves to play their long diagonally angled shot. So give up the straight and cross-court, but don’t give up shots taken from deep in the backcourt diagonally into the cross front corner. That diagonal must be taken away by moving very quickly into coverage; quicker than the shooter can address the ball in the back about 10 feet of the court. Move and focus on getting on an imaginary diagonal line between ball and cross front corner EARLY! There on the diagonal you give up the must allow straight in and cross-court shots, while taking away diagonal shots, like reverse pinches, as well as actually preventing wide angle passes that would hit further over on the front wall than the must give cross-court angle when shooting for the far rear corner. From there in center on the diagonal, you’re ready to cover pretty much all of the court. To give up the straight and cross-court shots and angles between them, you may…(1) move to the center; or (2) move deeper in the court; or (3) move off to the other side of the court; or (4) move to the sidewall closer to the ball while definitely still giving up the down the wall straight shot when the ball isn’t behind you right along that sidewall; or (5) you may step into that range of angles from straight to cross-court and time your leap to allow the opponent to shoot any shot they choose under you while you’re up off the court. When needed, that optional jump up is taken right as the opponent is just about to make contact when the ball is behind you so their shot can pass underneath right as you, the jumper, are airborne. Of course, mistiming the jump means you may block the challenger’s shot by jumping too late or landing too soon. Also, while they hit the ball under you, you can’t move to cover it until your feet drop back down on to the court. Of course, Plan A is to leave the ball deep along one sidewall, so there you’d wouldn’t have to jump ever. Also, when improvised, you could even step up on the sidewall and then land after they shoot, as a highly athletic tactical maneuver. After landing from your jump (or as they commit with their arm moving forward when they’re in a corner and you’re in the center), begin to hustle down the ball where you see or anticipate the challenger’s shot is heading.
Wait!; no rushing your Shots —> when you approach a ball to definitely go on the offensive, allow for the ball to drop as low as you can into your wheelhouse to light up a power pass or, when you can let the ball drop even lower, confidently shoot a kill-shot winner. Wait and “don’t rush your shots”. Of course while you wait be peddling hard to get your feet in position to shoot the best shot you can.
Shrink the court —> the chance to deposit the ball in the front court in a corner or to place the ball in a specific rear corner where the challenger has to retreat to get the ball is, in both cases, a tactic where you “shrink the court”. Then you’re aware that you’re sending the ball AND the challenger to that part of the court in a corner by design to ideally make them respond in desperation while they’re on the move because the reason you shrink the court is because you-can. When you know you-can, curtail the rally with your winner placement or you-can put them in a very tough getting situation tracking down a very low pass going by them into your targeted rear corner.
Side out —> when the serving player loses the rally due to the receiver hitting an irretrievable return, it’s called a “side out”. When the receiver returns the serve successfully and then goes on to win the ensuing extended exchange of rally shots, it’s also a side out. The receiver takes over as the server. When the server doesn’t properly get the ball in play, like when they double fault or when they skip in a serve or they hit themselves with their served ball or they cross the short line before the serve does or they hit the front corner crotch… all of those result in a side out and a change of servers where the receiver takes over as server and the server is receiver.
Sidespin —> when you strike the ball with an in to out away from you or an out to in swing motion across you either imparts “sidespin” on the ball. As another way of picturing it, when you strike either the part of the ball closest to you or the outside part of the ball furthest from you with the center of the sweet spot of your racquet strings, you impart sidespin. So when you make contact with the ball so it’s a little away from you or on the outside of your sweet-spot on your racquet face, that creates inside out spin. When the swing motion turns the ball out away from you toward its target on either the sidewall or on your front wall target (for a DTL), that produces that inside out spin. With the front wall your target about halfway between contact and the sidewall, your in to out swing motion causes the ball to rebound out and veer toward that front wall target just under halfway between contact and the sidewall. Then the ball will rebound out veering back into that rear corner on the side you face, with that inside out action. So when you swing in to out, the ball spins out away from you, like how an in to out swing into the right sidewall causes the ball to spin clockwise or in a right hand turn. Shooting into the left sidewall the ball spins to left. A more open racquet face, inside out stroking, and contacting the part of the ball closest to you all contribute to the ball spinning out away from you toward your target as the ball goes forward for either a down the line (DTL) or a sidewall shot. On the other spin, when you contact the outside of the ball and your swing motion is a pull motion flowing in toward you, the racquet and ball crosses in front of you, you impart outside in spin. When you swing out to in across your body, the ball spins in toward you toward your wall target. When you draw the ball in on your racquet’s sweet spot closer to you than center sweet spot, that imparts outside in sidespin, to. Outside in stroking due its swinging motion across your body and contacting the part of the ball furthest from you and closing your racquet face in toward you as the ball flows across your body causes the ball to spin in toward you. So there you’re contacting the outside of the ball or moving it in slightly on your racquet strings’ sweet spot. Also note that for ball control drawing the ball in on your strings removes or reduces the opponent’s incoming sidespin. After an outside in ball strikes the front wall, it keeps spinning out toward the far sidewall as the ball goes cross-court. Defensively watch how the hitter swings and makes contact with each ball and that will help you read the type of sidespin they may impart on the ball so you may react to the spinning ball’s bounce and control how you contact the spinning ball with your selected part of your own racquet face sweet spot.
Sidestep —> facing forward and moving laterally or to the side by taking a step to the side with the lead foot or near foot which is the closest foot to the direction you’re headed is the start of a step that covers minimum court at medium speed. Then, as your lead foot is about to land, push off and, as it lands, step to the same side with the trail, far foot so that it will land a short distance inside or just short of the lead foot right after the lead foot lands. That is one complete “sidestep” or shuffle step. This moves you a short distance under control. A sidestep is not a super fast move nor does it land you on super charged up legs where you’re ready to swing at a ball. In addition to getting down the sidestep technique to move short distances where time is more of a luxury or you have a short distance to cover, explore more explosive movements to cover more court when time is more of a factor and you need to move much more quickly. See cross steps as moves that are much faster than even quick sidesteps. When you have to move more than 6 feet to cover the ball fast or clear out of the way of the opponent super quick or to get to a ball just a few feet away with optimum strength, explore cross stepping techniques using a crossover or crisscross cross step.
Sidewall shots spiraling swing motion —> a spiraling swing motion and resulting spiraling ball that either spins out away from you (for example, into the near sidewall, as a near corner pinch or splat or in toward you as a cross-court, for instance, into the opposite front corner as a reverse pinch), AND also simultaneously flowing over, with Topspin, creates a very unusual corkscrewing ball and often a very low carom off the front wall. A corkscrewing ball deflecting off the near sidewall, while spinning over and out, tends to more hug the front wall as it rebounds back out, when struck as either a near corner pinch tight into the front corner or as a splat into the sidewall contacting the sidewall deeper on the sidewall closer to where you make contact. From a uniquely revealingly angled stance pointed into the (other) front corner, a corkscrewing out to in stroke motion sends the ball angling diagonally into opposite front corner sidewall first, while flowing over and pulling decidedly in creates a corkscrewing, very tough to defend reverse pinch. That’s because the reverse pinch ball stays even further up in the front court than a near corner pinch due to the outside in swing motion and resulting heavy sidespin that’s retained as the reverse pinch glances off the front wall keeping the ball closer to the front wall. Those “sidewall shots spiraling swing motion” is found in drilling and honed by selecting the right ball from characteristically low contact from a very balanced stance with a big, low sweeping racquet swing and an accentuated initially on to target follow-through. In part the spiral is found by timing turning over your forearm, as you extend your arm. Then, at the very last second, release and interlock your wrist joining the turning over arm, as you spiral and fan the racquet head thru closing the racquet face just as you’re making ball contact. The racquet head flowing outwards to your sidewall target or inwards for cross-court targeting compounds the Topspin resulting from turning over the racquet head with the turning over arm AND wrist in the full spiraling swing motion, resulting in spiraling combo ball spin.
Sideways —> ideally you turn and face the sidewall after you select the stroke you plan to use for this ball and this shot. There you’re facing “sideways”. There your lead side faces forward. Your upper body and toes initially point at the sidewall. That’s the ideal position to be in as you begin to prep and then swing at each ball. Your objective is to get there sideways to stroke. To do so optimally (and not all at once in a hop) step in first with your back foot, as you start to turn sideways and get behind the ball ready to move strongly into the ball as you make contact. Note that even if you are caught stroking the ball from a partially open or fully open stance when facing the front wall, with your toes pointed forward, by rotating your shoulders and chest sideways to face the sidewall that turning significantly improves your balance, prep or load back, and you can then turn into the ball with your torso adding ball striking punch, as you rotate into the ball when swinging forward. Another meaning for sideways is how your forward stroke initially and progressively moves. As you push off your back foot, you begin to move sideways. Throughout your forward swing you move laterally or sideways toward your wall target. After your initial push off your back foot, that sideways action is augmented greatly by turning or rotational movement up through your feet, knees, hips, core and shoulders, as you also turn sideways.
Sideways play —> to work on your grips on the racquet handle and your touch game, including flick shots, while focusing on controlling your racquet face, get a partner and stand at the back of the court and turn and play facing one sidewall as your front wall. The other sidewall behind you acts as your back wall. Out of bounds on one side is when the ball takes its 2nd bounce outside the dashed receiving line. The back wall is your one sidewall. In this game of “sideways play”, start with a soft first serve to begin each rally. That’s how you softly hit the ball as you spell out p-o-n-g to decide who serves first in ping pong by starting up the full force rally when the one player reaches “g”. In this sideways play, pace is less important than placement and the one sidewall and front wall corner it forms creates lots of front corner reverse pinch learning situations, near corner pinch shots and sidewall splat sure thing shots when they’re low enough. Moving to give each other lanes to cover each other’s placements teaches you movement off the ball, as well as moving to the ball to defend or attack the opponent’s shot placements. Sideways play is a great teaching tool and good for kids to play where size or length of limbs is less of a factor.
Sidewall —> on each side of the court is a “sidewall” that’s 40 feet long. When serving the sidewalls have 5 purposes. From front to back…
(1) after striking your front corner front wall first Z serve target that’s as little as a half a foot out to 4 feet from the sidewall, your drive Z or lob Z then ricochets into and off the near sidewall causing the ball to diagonally head into the opposite rear corner while passing over the short line and not striking the other sidewall on the fly;
(2) when targeting the front wall and then sidewall from just in front of the service line to back as far back as behind the receiving line, the ball then angles into the center at the singles receiver (or in between the doubles receivers) when serving or in rally play as a jam ball that ricochets off the sidewall usually 2 to 4 feet high heading into the back half of the court;
(3) when striking the front wall and then targeting the sidewall just past the short line by the narrowest of margins, like by a eye lash, or when striking the sidewall up to 5 feet further back at the dashed line, THAT low targeting is a crack-out serve, when the served ball is low enough (and not called short by the opponent or ref) and, when a crack-out is successful, it’s true serving finality;
(4) after a Z serve bounces and it’s not cutoff, it contacts the sidewall anywhere from 30-39 feet back. From there it’s a miss approximation to see all Z’s as coming out parallel to the back wall. The very nastiest of Z’s bounce and deflect off the sidewall 4-10 out from the back wall to veer diagonally back to die right up against the back wall, as a “leaning Z”; and
(5) when lofting a ball up exceedingly high on the front wall and angling it back to graze the sidewall 4-7 out from the back wall to drop and bounce once and then take its second bounce right up against the back wall, that’s a grazing lob or nick lob serve which neutralizes even the most aggressive of receivers.
–> Now, when shooting (or being shot on), sidewall contact happens all along the sidewall. Starting from deep court and moving on in…
(1) after contacting the opposite front corner front wall first to ricochet off that adjacent sidewall, the High Z shot diagonals back to hit within a foot or just a few inches of the back wall to then parallel the back wall after targeting the front corner 12-17 high, as the High Z is shot off to the other side of the court potentially making contact way deep in into the backcourt up to the front court;
(2) 3-wall boast shots could be taken from 3 feet off the back wall all the way in to the short line 20 feet out from the front wall when shooting for a target just up ahead of your racquet arm shoulder on the sidewall when crushing the ball so it diagonally zips into the opposite front corner ideally sidewall first very close to the cross front corner;
(3) at about 32 feet back and a few balls lower, striking the 7 foot shark splat sidewall target creates a thoroughly intimidating front wall result and that nearly parallels the front wall;
(4) “trickle splats” from 32 feet (or even deeper) on in when deflecting the ball off the sidewall targeting up ahead about 2 feet on the sidewall and a ball or two lower makes that “shortest shot in racquetball” a traumatic, very low front wall conclusion for the opposition;
(5) a glancing blow splat pinpointing a spot very low on the sidewall in the service box for a pillow soft front wall cushioning ending makes this “wide splat” sheer suffering for the opponent;
(6) the powerful 9-10 foot out from the front wall “Pro splat” target produces a ball that looks like a rat scurrying across the front court after the ball contacts the front wall causing a knee buckling opponent reaction;
(7) when moving off the sidewall 5 feet or more out, going for numerous very tight to wider sidewall pinch targets, when shooting almost 40 feet back up to within just 2 feet of the corner, with a corkscrewing swing motion combo of inside out and Topspin produces pinches that virtually disappear in that near corner;
(8) target the other sidewall for low reverse pinches, as the reverse is a shot struck diagonally into the opposite front corner with the other side’s stroke, even when shooting from as far back as the diagonally opposite rear corner or as close as from just inches away when shooting with your off stroke into that (other) corner and jumping over it as a miniature reverse pinch (e.g. shooting forehand into backhand corner); and
(9) finally there’s the Twooze shot…this final shot is like a 3-wall boast shot with a big wrinkle. Here the ball is struck from on the other side of the court, when facing the opposite front corner, using the other side’s stroke, directing the ball into the sidewall behind and beside you so the ball then rebounds out and zips diagonally into the opposite front corner for a head-shaking opponent response. This twooze shot can be taken from about 25 feet back by the dashed line on in and the Twooze can literally hit directly in the other front corner. For example, while facing the left front corner, compress the ball into your right sidewall beside you making the ball spring off diagonally into that left front corner inches from the front wall causing the ball to angle into and ooze out of the corner off the front wall at a snail’s pace and generating a -that’s a bummer- look on the cover player’s face.
–> That defines the science of sidewall serving AND sidewall shooting. Get out there and drill ALL of these to make them your own. Also invent some shots and serves of your own design when using the power of the sidewall.
Play “SIMON Says” —> at the key moment when the challenger is about to make contact, freeze like when you were a kid hearing, “Simon says, FREEZE!”. That will give the shooter that extraordinary moment where they’ll have to be consumed with both picking a shot and calculating how far is it you could move after you unfreeze and bolt? Best case you freeze in center court, but wherever you are freeze. Then move as they swing forward to dash where your educated guess tells you to move or where you see the ball zipping. If you hadn’t frozen they could be hitting into the part of the court that you’re just drifting away from or leaving. Take a little hop in place and land right before they make contact. Then start your little run to pursue the ball you read by studying their prep or where you see the ball heading to best case attack and worse case flick or strategically lob or save the ball into the back wall to get the the ball up high on the front wall, and usually don’t hit wish and a prayer shots into the sidewalls.
Singles —> a one on one competition between 2 players who take turns hitting the ball back to the front wall that begins once the server’s serve and the receiver’s return are both in play begins a “singles” rally. After the server puts the ball in play past the middle line and after the receiver returns the ball successfully to the front wall, exchanging turns returning the ball to the front wall is how 2 players play singles while the 2 players give each other space to move and hit the band of court from straight in to cross-court until one player cannot return the ball successfully to the front wall without it bouncing twice or without the return shot striking the floor before reaching the front wall (or when one blocks that to-be-allowed band of court).
The 6 inch kill-shot rule —> Use the “6 inch rule” when you visualize hitting your kill-shots. Picture hitting the front wall about 6 inches high and you’ll skip a lot fewer balls. Experiment with adding Topspin and those 6 inchers or sub 6 inch shots stay down lower, as they’re coming off the front wall.
You are only playing a Skeletal creature —> too much respect or deference can be paid or given to players with reps or credentials or just due to their aura of (apparent) invincibility. Too often players play down in their level because they’re basically mailing it in. Instead act like “you’re only playing a skeletal creature”. Even think of them as a ball machine or even a chimpanzee with a racquet just feeding you the ball. And then, there it is, the ball. THAT is all that really matters. Then your pure focus is on tracking the ball with your eyes and feet. Give them, the opponent no ‘nother mind. Nice monkey.
Learn some new Skill —> when you have a break between tournaments or during your off season or right after you return from an event, dedicate your training effort to “learning a new skill”. New skill examples include…
(1) develop all of the different forehand and backhand drive serves that are sent directly to the rear corners or that crack-out just past the short line or hit multi angle Z drive Z serves into the diagonally opposite rear corner from out of the front corner targeted or train up multiple jam serves;
(2) perfect nick lobs into either rear corner, as you loft up the ball to graze the sidewall 8 feet high and as little as just a yard or so from the back wall;
(3) build the skill to shape passing shot angles to place the ball into either rear corner directly and add wide angle passes around the opponent striking on the far side at dashed line depth;
(4) develop pinches into either front corner with either stroke from the middle stripe of the court off the sidewall 5 feet or much more;
(5) develop multiple splat targets from in close out to 4 to 6 feet from the sidewall at multiple heights into adjustable sidewall targets;
(6) develop 3-wall boast kill-shots that strike the sidewall up ahead of your hitting shoulder to veer the ball diagonally into the opposite front corner to hit the sidewall and barely come off the front wall;
(7) work on deep target slice ceiling balls; and
(8) learn how to hit high Z shots from ball contact in 3/4 court on in along the sidewalls and out into the middle of the court so the High Z ball rockets up into the cross front corner front wall first causing the ball to ricochet off the sidewall to angle diagonally across the court to strike high on the far sidewall and ideally parallel the back wall very close to it.
–> Work on all the serves and shots to add them to your arsenal so you know where to use them and how they can be extremely effective and strategically well timed.
Skill set —> trust your “skill set”. As you train up and build up your arsenal of shots that you can take and make from spots all over the court, build up a highly versatile set of shooting skills that can adapt to numerous sets of situations or even unusual patterns of play. That means learn to make contact at different heights from different stances in different spots in the back 20 feet and use either stroke interchangeably. Add to that your economical feetwork to float around the court. Develop ball reading extraordinaire of its bounce, peripherally track the challenger’s positioning and predicted potential movements, practice your rapid recognition of the pattern of play and how to parse thru and select from the options your shot to pattern respond and execute the feetwork and shot shaping placements with your stroking form. Add them all together and you have a really effective skill set to aggressively attack the ball more often with your broad, reliable tool chest of skills and experience dipping into it to adapt to a vast array of potential patterns. Perhaps THE most important skill is your ability to serve accurately with tough placements that pressure the receiver’s ability to choose their return well and execute it effectively where your deliveries ideally, consistently generate a weak return or no return at all, by being precise and by adding curves or changeups to keep the receiver off balance. As you train, make sure to work on all of your skills, including your movements, ball reading, pattern reading, ball tracking, shot picking, ball approaching and angle, pace and spin adjusted shotmaking, as well as drilling lots of serves and returning serves in your partner practice matches, as well as in your solo pattern simulation training.
Skills —> it’s your tool belt of “skills” that you reach for and call upon as you prepare to hit each and every ball by moving into and out of center court coverage, to track down, approach, set your feet, prep to swing and shot shape, as well as skills to serve, return serve tactically, by selecting tactics and implementing them according to your game style or how you perform best realtime in games, with tactics that bring your strategies to fruition. New and growing skills are developed and sharpened in practice. As you play, ideally place high level demands on yourself. Meet those demands with your equally high level, always evolving skill set or game skills. The trick is NO demand is not a high level demand. Whatever is the demand, see it through to meet you’d game aim.
Skills assessment —> like you do after you play, as you’re readying for a competition or even as you re-enter the fray after an off season or after taking some time away from the game, do a personal “skills assessment”. Go through your favorite serves, your pet shots, and your comfort zone moves into and out of coverage to defend your placements and ideally attack. Your objective is to shoot shots, deliver serves, and, in the server–>returner battery, to both send back serves that challenge as you shape crafty returns that are in your shotmaking skill arsenal. On offense take and make well-placed rallyreturns. Defensively place your returns strategically as keep-aways. Make it a goal to deliver accurate serves by staying with what you do well and try thru drilling to expand your reliable serve repertoire. Now once an event or match starts it’s difficult to fix technical areas and especially numerous deficiencies, as well as to do an on the fly skills assessment. Although it is within your control to asses what IS working and stick to that subset of skills that are effective. Some minor tweaks can fix technical things. At times it’s best to shelve what’s been less than fully proficient or less than cooperative with your strategic aims for this particular opponent. Work on the under achievers later. Constantly assess your skills at play and at practice to see what’s working, what can be tweaked with minor corrective compensations that experience tells you can be made. Assess when it’s time to go back to the drawing board to break down a form, self correct it and rebuild it into your vaunted weaponry, for next time.
Skip ball —> when’s a shot or serve contacts the floor from at the shooter’s feet and all the way in to right before the front wall or anywhere along the way in to the front wall or sidewall or after the ball strikes the sidewall, the back wall or the ceiling, the floor contact is a “skip ball” and loss of rally. Often when the ball does strike the floor it makes a squeaking sound. Also it often pops up after coming off the front wall when it skips going in. Some balls that are struck with overspin or under spin can also create a funny rebound after the ball makes good contact with the front wall or without skipping in first. So the key question to ask yourself is… “Did I see the ball contact the floor?”. A sidewall shot that strikes the court floor before it gets to the sidewall is a skip. Or after a ball makes it to sidewall but skips before it gets to the front wall is, again, a skip; because it hit the floor before or on the way in. A drive serve that hits the floor before striking the front wall is a skip, an out serve, and side out; and a, “How did THAT happen?”, as mentally remarked by the server. A ceiling ball that hits the ceiling but strikes the floor before making it to the front wall is also a skip. Again, just hearing it make a screechy sound doesn’t definitively determine a shot is a skip ball. Seeing the ball strike the floor before it makes it to the front wall is the most clear evidence. Seeing a funky bounce is less clear. Seeing the low ball strike the front wall and then pop upwards a significant distance is a good sign the ball skipped in. When a player skips the ball right at their own feet where the ball is then good going in from there and coming off the front wall, when that player knew they skipped it at their feet and they didn’t call a skip on themselves, they’re not being a standup sports person, and that’s not a good example for other players or spectators watching; because, hey, only the hair dresser knows. Finally a ball that hits the floor and front wall concurrently is a crotch serve and side out.
Slice —> a swing motion where you carve under the ball places under spin or backwards turning action on the ball as it goes forward toward its wall target. That “slice” action is used for off speed lob serves, slice ceiling balls, and improvised returns of balls you seek to flick volley back deftly just to keep the ball in play. The drawback of a slice is it causes the ball to float. The low, sliced ball floats on its way in to the front wall or ceiling. Then, when it’s hit directly to the front wall, the ball also floats caroming back off the front wall causing the sliced ball to bounce further out from the front wall, go slower and seem to hover or be suspended in midair to be whackable by the opponent. So a sliced ball pops up after its first bounce to float and angle higher going backwards. Slice lower shots are a deep Plan B or even lower. A sliced touch ceiling ball or a sliced deep target ceiling ball are Plan A. A slice lob shot placing the ball deep in the court usually beats a low slice shot that can be legged out and covered relatively easily where it’s very attackable by the challenger. A slice ceiling ball is vulnerable to a short hop right after its first bounce. A slice deep target ceiling is not because it bounces further out, harder, bounding up quicker to drop like a bag of hammers in the backcourt.
S-l-o-w it down —> in a frenetic game where things, for you, are in too much of a frenzy or just going too fast, “slow it down”. Play serving the ball slower by taking your time and getting situated before you go into your routine service motion; as you there go through your full service ritual. As receiver, raise your racquet or turn your back to signal to the server you’re not ready to return between rallies when they’re serving so they’ll have to skip a beat, which will allow you to catch your breath, as you quiet your mind. Control the game tempo. When you serve, do a little walk about in the front court. Tip or bunt the ball around the walls or dribble the ball a little while with your hand or strings. Use shots like deep target ceilings that run them back or High Z shots that pull them back quickly. Use sliced ceilings to keep them back deep. Loft up high, deep nick lobs to pressure weak, overly aggressive returns by the opponent. All of those can change the game tempo to one more to your liking.
Snapshot —> “snapshot” stroking form is somewhat similar to the QuickDraw stroke with one big difference. The snapshot is not a compact arm prep form. It just has to be done just about as fast as a compact stroke. With the snapshot you can get the racquet back deep. Although you may be unable to move your feet to turn and face the sidewall or to get super low by bending your knees to drive with your legs. You do have ample time to flare back your racquet and at times lift it up for your picked stroke, so you can swing super fast when looking to crush the ball in the short amount of time you have to react and swing. As images for the two arms motions, visualize animal references, although one is technically an insect. For the forehand, coil up like a cobra 🐍 with your arm looking like a cobra about to strike, with the racquet lifted high. For the backhand, think of a scorpion and raise up your stinger up high ready to deliver its deadly sting on the ball. For both snapshot strokes the arm position is up overhead at full coil. Then, as the ball arrives, loop your swing forward, push off your set as best it can be back foot and bend into unleashing your arm and wrist whip monstrously, while looking to crush the ball often in an across your body swing motion from medium high belly button contact down to thigh high contact. Cross-court kill-passes, reverse pinches and Twooze shots are often the snapshot’s shooting for its particular quick looping low contact forward swing. To practice snapshot shooting, turn sideways to hit into the sidewall as your target front wall to get in more reps and to speed up the ball being on top of you quicker. Also shoot and leave up “the Twooze” and shoot the next ball. Feed yourself balls off the front wall about waist high and then flare your racquet up almost immediately so you build up the muscle memory to react quickly. Also feed yourself straight in hard hit balls and look to Top the ball and shoot super low while learning to re-kill the ball in a blink of an eye into different angles. For the next drill, turn and face the front wall and stand just past the short line on one side of the court. With one stroke flick a front wall first 1-2 foot high feed toward you. Pretty much as soon as you feed the ball be spinning and turning partially sideways readying and winding back with your off stroke or stroke primarily used on the other side of the court. For example, hit a backhand front wall first feed and then spin and cobra coil your forehand stroke. Then, when then ball gets within range, STRIKE! Hit a reverse pinch into your backhand front corner or an in to in down the wall kill-pass or a front wall-sidewall a short ways out going for a sidewall crack-out or go for a Twooze shot into the diagonally opposite front corner off the nearest wall up ahead of you. These drills teaches you to be super quick, after the feed, to spin and snap with your prep and unleash your snapshot stroke in a snap. Be a snapshot killer!
Keep your Spacing —> as you approach each ball and you begin to set your striking stance, initially line up behind and beside, as you stay a full arm’s length away PLUS the length of your racquet. By setting up behind the ball, you’ll then move into the ball with all ya got, as you step into the shot to swing with both lateral and rotational force. “Keep your proper spacing”, which will allow you to get your full body into your swing, as you are able to move into the ball and reach to fully extend as you swing freely and smoothly thru the ball.
The specter of getting down in a game —> you may have played a player who early on in a game scores a point and they proclaim, “At least I won’t get shutout” or donuted. There’s NO sure thing before any match is played. That’s why we lace um up. On paper you can’t win OR lose. And, while the qualities of a topnotch player will more likely be better known, the game of their foe often isn’t as clearly, widely, or publicly known by that known player. That unknown quality plays into the unknown’s or even call them the underdog’s favor. The overarching mindset going in should be optimism on that challenger’s part. Know it always starts 0-0. No player is made to face the back wall or wear a blindfold when a point starts either when they’re returning or serving. Worrying about the “specter of getting down in a game” ahead of time or even as it’s happening isn’t useful in any way. Thoughts by EACH challenger should be toward going over their game plan, weighing in with things they can control, getting ready mentally, emotionally and physically and having self belief. If the other player does get out to a lead, call a timeout, regroup and address any underachieving or anything unexpected by solving it. Then tactically return to things you do well and things you can control. Release yourself to play with your trusted form and with your most familiar, best attack and quality counter tactics to defend.
Spin —> a ball that is struck by the shooter so that a part of the ball is contacted vs. hitting the ball flush on the middle in back of the ball causes the ball to “spin”. Also swinging thru the ball in to out or out to in can create spin, too. The ball may spin to the right, to the left, tumble over going forwards, less often to spin going backwards and it may have a dual spin. A combo of sidespin and overspin produces a spiraling or corkscrewing ball, as it takes its trajectory toward its wall target. Spin causes a ball to react much differently than would a ball struck with zero spin. Also note that contact with the floor, the sidewall, the back wall or the ceiling can also put some spin on the ball, too. Knowing how to impart spin as you shoot helps you with your shotmaking. And adding spin places extra pressure on your challenger when they’re fielding your serves and shots. Reading the spin on the ball as it’s struck by your challenger or as it comes off the front wall or court floor or any wall it touches helps you react better to the incoming ball where you may then quickly decipher how to negate that spin or use it to your advantage by how you position your racquet. Often remove spin by drawing the ball in on your strings slightly toward you. Or you may add spin to deflect the ball away from you with the outside of your strings creating inside out spin. For example, hit an inside out shot into the near sidewall which causes the ball to spin in to the sidewall, retain that spin going into the target front wall and rebound off the front wall staying much closer to the front wall than a ball not carrying with it in to out type sidespin that flows out away from you as the ball spins going forward. When that inside out spinning ball off the racquet and off the sidewall strikes the front wall, the spin continues so the ball spins IN toward the front wall causing the rebound out and stay much further up in the forecourt. Like that, learn how outside in spin occurs when hitting crosscourt and how it makes the ball tail away toward the far corner fading way from the pursuing challenger. Also a ball hit over the top slightly causes the ball to come out lower and stay closer than a topless ball. Finally a ball hit with both side and top spins reacts very strangely when hit into a corner, deeper along the sidewall or direct to the front wall.
Body Spinning long near corner pinch —> when a ball is bouncing towards a back corner and you see it is going to bounce, catch the sidewall to deflect off and angle to ricochet off the back wall out toward the center in back, one shooting option is for you to step IN to the corner with your far foot making it your back foot as you begin to spin and swing with your off stroke for that side. That off stroke is the other side’s primary stroke. For example, step into your backhand corner with the back foot of your forehand stroke so you can begin to rotate around with the other foot taking a couple touches with each foot as you get the ball and your feet right where you want them to be. Begin body spinning with your feetwork inside the angle the ball is taking AROUND you, as you move and stalk the ball to ideally hit your “spinning long near corner pinch”. As you spin, time shooting the ball with your off stroke. When hitting with your off stroke on the side of the court where the ball is heading in sidewall then back wall as you spin, like say you’re in your backhand rear corner turning to swing with your forehand. Practice this maneuver by how you spin to hit a diagonal long near corner pinch into your cross front forehand corner. But also make sure you have a backup plan, or two. The reason for the backup planning is because the challenger may (and should) get in the center before you have spun all the way around with the ball to set and hit into that diagonal angle. They don’t have to give you THAT angle. You get the cross-court and straight angle. One option from there instead of the long inside out pinch is a quickly arranged inside out cross-court passing shot to a spot on the front wall about halfway over from contact so the ball rebounds out toward the far, rear corner. That’s about a 45 degree angle into and caroming off the front wall. That V angle shot should not be blocked, while the cross front corner should be… were it you watching them spin, right? Another option is to continue to spin a little more with the ball and shoot down along that closest sidewall at your back where you and that corner are located by hitting with an in to in swing motion. That spinning down the wall is a really tough racquet control and feetwork exercise, but doable with lots of practice reps. Know that the long near corner pinch, like when hitting with your backhand from out of your forehand rear corner diagonally into your backhand front corner, is a killer angle, but you must be there and be setting your feet to shoot before the challenger’s cover move blocks that angle because, again, the long spinning near corner pinch is not auto given or rules mandated. If the cover player moves in late, they may take it on the leg. It’s a very good feetwork and dexterity racquet control skill test worthy of drilling and perfecting to learn and execute the spinning long near corner pinch with your inside out swing motion from either rear corner with either off stroke. Also, from there, back out of the corner and go for a reverse pinch with that side’s stroke, too, like a backhand shot into your forehand front corner. By backing off the sidewall away from the corner, you can use your primary stroke and learn to hit the long reverse pinch from that spot, as well, with an outside in swing flow, like when hitting with your forehand diagonally into your backhand cross front corner from your deep forehand rear corner. To drill the spinning long near corner pinch, be facing the back corner. Toss the ball into the sidewall so it will angle and pop off the back wall. Let it bounce into the center as you spin with the ball, set your feet and shoot the diagonal cross front corner shot as an inside out very long spinning near corner pinch shot. Also, from there, hit an inside out cross-court pass. Or spin a little more and hit the in to in down the near sidewall as a kill-pass right back toward you. So include those Plan B and Plan C shots. Also toss the ball into the sidewall-back wall as you drop step quickly away from the sidewall with your back foot and front foot and then angle your stance to hit a reverse pinch shot with your primary stroke, like when you back off from your backhand rear corner to cover a ball that bounces, catches the sidewall and then angles to ricochet off the back wall. Then it’s like when you shoot with your backhand from your backhand rear corner on a ball ricocheting out of that rear corner as it pops off the back wall and then (BOOM!) you smoke (or feather) the ball into the diagonally opposite front corner ideally sidewall first. Note that on the other side of the ball, as the defender, when you see the ball going into a back corner and you see the challenger about to spin in the back corner to hit with their off stroke, be sure that you’re already moving and make sure you’ll be there first by quickly setting yourself to D-up in center court between ball and cross front corner BEFORE they begin their spin so they don’t get gift wrapped the long near corner pinch. Or if they back off to hit the reverse pinch, be there first legally blocking it because that’s a no-win situation for you, as defender and it’s not an angle you must leave open. You don’t have to jump over their diagonal shot unless you were too late stepping in, as they were already completing their spin. Of course the main objective is not to bounce an overhit ball that catches the sidewall and then caroms off the back wall as a setup. Control your ball height. If they don’t and their ball sets you up, be ready with your long spinning near corner pinch or your back off reverse pinch.
Spira-kill —> the swing action that adds the most to your kill-shot attempts is flowing up and over Top of the ball combined with an inside or outside in spin into a combo spiraling swing motion. The spiraling swing motion creates the downwards shot trajectory as it adds useful Topspin that helps keep the ball down lower coming off the front wall. The inside out spin into the near sidewall and the outside in spin into the cross front corner causes those sidewall shots to more hug the front wall as they carom back out. The Topspin part of the spiraling swing occurs as a result of your racquet arm extending first with forearm turnover and climaxing in twisting your wrist along with your arm when snapping and rocketing your racquet head thru contact. The arm, wrist, racquet handle and racquet head spiraling action easily imparts great Topspin and the flow in to out or out to in imparts sidespin on the ball. The Topspin is directly responsible for keeping the ball lower rebounding off the front wall at any height and bouncing earlier for the first and second bounce, if there is one. Also the Topspin makes it tougher for the opponent to get underneath the over spinning ball, especially shots 1/2 a foot or lower, just to be able to return them back to the front wall. The combo of going with a spiraling motion and going for a kill-shot is to spira-kill. The turning over racquetball swing motion is tailor-made for both Topping the ball and hitting with sidespin for kill-shots which keeps the ball down low. The sidespin adds to the action on the ball which expands your highly versatile shot shaping ball control with spira-kill. Spira-kill near sidewall shots hug the front wall tight. Spira-kill reverse pinches in the cross front corner stay extremely close to the front wall after catching the sidewall first.
Spiral —> as your forearm turns over to be joined right before contact by overlapping and also turning over your wrist the spiraling action whips the racquet head thru in a “spiral” or corkscrew swing turning over the racquet head while it’s waving back to front thru-out your contact zone. The racquet head winds around in the forward swing so that it turns from pointing back to pointing front while crucially angling the racquet face at contact defining your shot’s combined vertical up or down and horizontal sideways in, out or straight angle. Both the side to side and up to down determines your shot’s trajectory or the ball’s launch angle as the ball leaves your racquet face heading toward your initial wall target. Also a spiraling or corkscrewing ball spins out (near sidewall) or in (reverse pinch) and the ball simultaneously is spinning over creating a very unusual bounce and often an extremely low sidewall shot. A corkscrewing ball deflecting off the sidewall spinning over and slightly out tends to more hug the front wall when it caroms back out, as a near corner pinch or sidewall splat shot. A corkscrewing ball angling into the diagonally opposite front corner, while spinning over and slightly in, ideally goes sidewall first creating a very tough to defend reverse pinch because it stays further up in the front court than even a near corner pinch.
Splat —> a shot when contact is made as far out as 6 feet off the sidewall on in to very close along a sidewall when targeting that sidewall up ahead of ball contact and ALWAYS a sidewall target lower than racquet to ball contact is a “s-p-l-a-t” shot. The shot angle into the sidewall and the accompanying inside out sidespin imparted by the stroke motion creates the distinctive “splat” sound characteristic of these unusual, frequently misunderstood and often much feared shots. There are 5 possible targets for splats ranging from…(1) targeting the sidewall just 2 feet up ahead (or even closer) and slightly lower than contact, as contact is made very close in along the sidewall for this “trickle splat”. The trickle splat can be shot from up in the front court covering a left up far sidewall shot all the way back deep in the backcourt to cover a back-wall setup angling out tight along the sidewall;
(2) targeting 7 feet up ahead and a few balls lower than contact, as contact is made a couple feet off the sidewall (up to 3-4 feet out) for the much-feared “Shark Splat”;
(3) hitting from deep to 3/4’s court and targeting about halfway to the front wall near or in the service box, as the ball is contacted low a few feet off the sidewall to strike a very low sidewall target for the “wide splat”;
(4) targeting 9-10′ out from the front wall halfway down or a little more on the sidewall from ball contact, as the ball is contacted up to 6 feet out from the sidewall in the back 1/4 of the court for the “Pro splat” that bounces funniest coming off the front wall looking like the ball may be broken;
(5) targeting within a couple feet or even inches of the front wall as an “I meant to do that” splat. For this last splat, the ball strikes the sidewall and right away it ricochets into the front wall causing the ball to unusually angle right back up along THAT sidewall.
–> The first 4 splats angle off the sidewall to strike the front wall where the ball veers off very bizarrely across the front court almost paralleling the front wall. The splat angle coming off the front wall is as a result of the in to out swing motion, the sidewall target closer to contact, adding a little Topspin results in spiraling the ball into the sidewall going forward which spins to the right on the right side of the court and to the left on the left side of the court. The combo spiraling spin or corkscrew spin continues after the ball pops off the front wall causing the ball to spin back into the front wall creating the unusual front wall hugging rebound nearly parallel to the front wall and traumatizing the defender. Also the boom, bam, bang triple sound of racquet, sidewall, and front wall of the splat often causes a double take by the defender freezing them in place, as they hesitate after the first 2 sounds expecting a ball coming back out at them and not one many yards away from them way up in the forecourt scurrying across the front court. When a splat is legged out, the accumulated spin can create yet another major challenge for the hustling cover player. When YOU are the one running down and catching up to a splat, after you track it down, draw the ball far in on your strings to remove the cumulative spin and consider deflecting the ball into the near sidewall just a foot or so up ahead as, yes, another splat, a trickle splat response shot because it’ll work out just right answering that splat shot’s spinning bounce, like it also would answer a left up near corner pinch struck into the cross front corner you catch up to before it bounces twice by the other, near sidewall.
Split step —> a subtle, little one step maneuver with a step forward and one foot jump with that stepping up foot ends up landing your feet in a wider than a shoulder’s width apart spring-loaded ready position. That sets you ready to get off the mark to very quickly play the challenger’s shot. To “split step”, first step forward with one foot. Then, as the second foot is drawing forward, touch down softly on the first foot as you raise that second leg’s knee, while you’re taking off on the first foot using that second leg’s lift action to rise in a little jump. So as the first foot touches down, right away project yourself up off the court leaping off that first foot calling upon the second leg knee lift momentum as a boost. Elevate yourself just high enough to spread both feet apart into your split foot position. Open your feet up a little wider than you are wide. From there, as you land (before they make contact), you are ready to bolt off in any direction to get to the ball and shoot offensively or return defensively including when you return serve.
Spots; shot per court spot—> the inimitable Steve “Bo” Keeley learned from another the theory and he proposes it as an invaluable skill knowing what’s the best shot to hit from “9 designated shot spots” around the court. From the 3 suggested here court depths…(1) just in front of the dashed line; (2) at 5-6 feet behind the dashed line; and (3) just short of the back wall…there along the right wall, along the left wall, and up through the center of the court that’s 9 spots where you spend most of your time shooting the ball. Bo’s premise is you need to develop your very best shot per spot. Let’s extend that to developing a repertoire of shots from those 9 spots. It’s huge to have versatile responses to react to the many ways a ball can angle to THAT particular spot, to handle the varied incoming spins, and to absorb the speed changes going to those spots, as you pick the right shot to shoot. Of course, it’s all about how you respond to the ball with your movement to set your feet and then prep to execute your swing while you read and react to the bounce with your active feet. The way to learn how to respond is to place yourself at those 3 depths in those 3 spots…
(a) inside the dashed line;
(b) behind the dashed line about 5 feet or so; and
(c) just short of the back wall…
–> at those 3 different bands of court along both walls and up through the center of the court, initially drill drop-n-hit shots. Then feed yourself balls off the front wall or front wall and a sidewall to bounce or front wall, bounce and back wall to those spots to work on hitting shots into any of the 4 corners of the court with either your forehand or backhand stroke from those spots. When you have a broad selection of shots from those spots, you are armed for almost any situation you may see in live play. Granted it’s valuable to develop your own favorite shot, but you’ll also want to have a backup favorite or complementary shot so your challenger can’t camp on your one choice. Then, although your other favorite may be blanketed by the challenger who is paying attention to your successful favorite choice, you can pick another angle away from them when you see them biting or committing. Then, having that lookalike prep at the same spot and a different backup shot makes your shot-spot shotmaking unguardable.
Square up to front wall —> both feet should point at the front wall when you begin to receive serve. When one foot is back and the other one is forward, you lose one complete step when the serve goes to the side where the foot is extended forward. “Square up to the front wall” to return serve.
Stance —> how you set your feet to stroke the ball contributes greatly to your balance, your stroke preparation loading back and stroking fluidly with lower body drive for your shotmaking and serving success, as well as your balanced recovery after your forward swing so you can move more quickly into coverage post contact. The training ground is where you work on your striking “stance” setting or base setting. There find (multiple) stances that work effectively for you. The reason for the need for more than one stance is the sheer pace of the game. You will need to adjust to changing conditions and still move your feet to optimally set either a partially closed, partially open stance or another variation, like a neutral stance, when needed. With your front foot out slightly closer to the sidewall or the front foot further away by a foot or from a modified golfer stance you may manage loading back on your back foot to confront the ball with an ideally balanced and well loaded stance. You may even load back or shift weight back when you must stroke from an open, front wall facing stance, with the toes of both feet initially pointing at the front wall. There push back to what is the back foot of your stance, based on which stroke you prep or which side you make contact, is the back foot’s side, as you ready to swing from the open, but rotationally very friendly stance.
Stance setting —> as you make your final approach on each ball, ideally make 4 quick, little steps in your routine “stance setting”…with steps including the…
(1) step back or set your back foot parallel to the front wall while pointing your toes at the sidewall, as you also begin your racquet lift;
(2) then shift lightly onto your drawn along trailing post front foot;
(3) counter back right away onto back foot stepping in place on that back foot, which frees up your front foot to…
(4) step up by crossing over going ideally diagonally forward with your front foot. Then, as front foot lands, right away connect back to your back foot, as you complete your windup backswing, while you emphasize facing the sidewall with your chest, and finish by loading up your hips and back foot.
–> Often not enough advantage is taken of the time a shooter has as their ally as they set what should be their most effective striking stance. Jumping to a stop directly in front of the ball and chopping at the ball produces an arm-only, poorly balanced hack at the ball. Taking a long stride when lunging out to the sidewall and then all at once swiping at the ball is not making optimal use of the time you have to set your feet by getting there quicker and beginning loading back as you initially step back. Also, when you initially step up, heavily emphasize connecting back to fully engage both of your legs together, as you wrap up your windup. The more identical your stance setting and balanced your hitting platform, the more routine, identical, and consistent your swing and shotmaking, with decisive and aggressive stroking. Also, when you swing on balance, the better your ability to recover and move into coverage after you complete your in-control swing with its follow-through on its routinely productive stance.
“Steady” —> there’s lots of things you can say to yourself that will help you get ready before a new rally is about to kick off. You could say, “Come on!”, even yelling that out loud to fire yourself up. Saying that may even take a little fire from your foe. You could say, “Calm”, with the intent to calm yourself, especially if you sense the pressure’s getting to you. Similarly words like Relax, Focus, Now, Think, or Hustle all could help. One I really like kind of says it all…”Steady”. You want to be steady or you want to steady yourself as you’re about to take on this next challenge. I even find myself saying it inwardly mid rally before I take on this ball I can drive or this setup I can burry in a front corner. In a rally, things may’ve gone badly of late, but if you “steady” the ship yo get back on your front foot. Another thing to say to yourself to pump you up or to cheer yourself on after winning a rally is to say out loud, “Let’s go!”, which is bound to fire you up. When you’ve got a back wall save to make, on the run, think “Prep” to key yourself to pull your racquet back low and away from the back wall to ready to save it strongly into the back wall to make sure you get the ball back to the front wall. Work out some words that prompt your call to action or to get you excited and ready to fight more than the good fight and to get in your cool, collected state of mind. There’s one more way “Steady” is significant. It means consistent. And there’s noting more fearsome than a competitor who competes with consistency and their shotmaking is accurate and steady.
Step, and then hit —> when stroking the ball, optimally step, as you prep. “Step back and then step up. And then complete your load back. THEN strike the ball” vs. the counterproductive step and hit all once which promotes an arm-only swipe, as the weight goes forward all at once in an underpowered swing vs. a full, building stroke. And, when the weight goes forward all at once, recovery or shifting your weight back to move is tougher to do quickly or well. Step (prep), and then hit. Avoid stepping and hitting all at once.
Step up —> as the server is lofting up their high lob serve or you quickly recognize they’re about to hit a drive Z serve and this time you decide to intercept the ball right after its bounce, “step up”. The biggest concern is timing your move to do it AFTER the server has already begun their motion. If you were to commit before they are swinging forward, they can pick another angle and leave you stranded on one side of the court where you’re moving to attack their phantom serve while they place the ball on the complete opposite side. So, after you see their arm’s forward motion, step up quickly. To do that action with efficiency, one option is to use a crossover step toward the side of the court where you read the ball is headed by crossing with the far foot. Then slide up with a sideways skip step into position to set your feet and take the ball right after its bounce. For the lob, you could short-hop the ball after the bounce especially when the high lob bounces deep enough in the safety zone where you can take the ball on the rise at medium high contact between waist high and chest high. There select the best shot available. For example, a cross-court pass or a straight in pass will pull them back or even a reverse pinch into the diagonally opposite front corner could produce a winner. Another optional return against a slow high lob or high lob Z is your High Z return when you lift the ball up high into the cross front corner, front wall first to send the ball above the challenger to strike deep on the far sidewall for the ball to ideally parallel the back wall. To intercept the drive Z serve, one option is to again crossover step up to get in attack mode. Then slide up with a skip and attempt to take the ball after the bounce to shoot, for instance, initially selecting a cross-court, as the easiest return angle to shape with your cutoff. As another interception method, you may step up with your near foot and then turn to face the ball as it’s coming toward you from out of the opposite front corner. There return the Z with your off stroke, like when you step up on your backhand side and spin to return with your forehand, while facing the other front corner and timing the angling Z coming toward you. There a reverse pinch into the front corner on that side (your backhand corner) or a straight in shot when swinging with your in to in swing motion sends the ball back along that same sidewall causing the server to have to run quickly around you into the rear corner behind you to track down your attacking cutoff straight in return. Step up and attack when returning serve or whenever in a rally you recognize an opportunity to be aggressive with your step up movement to shoot a bouncing ball on the rise and pass the opponent sending them scurrying after your rally return placement while you move to D-up in center court, getting ready to play off their left up slop. One more meaning for step up is to take on the challenge. Be assertive and take shots when you can to totally rush the opponent more than they’re prepared to react when you read it’s better to attack than to wait and return the ball later and deeper in the court when the ball may be lower. Also step up at times to shoot super low as a kill-shot going for a direct angle to the front wall or to shoot into a corner or into your splat sidewall target.
Set Strategy based on body type —> “strategize countering opposing player’s characteristics”. Against tall players use jam serves, jam rally shots off the sidewalls and go for low shot placements. Against more diminutive players hit passes or ceiling balls and loft up super high lob serves. Make turtles run. Hit passes and ceiling balls to the opposite side of the backcourt away from the foot-speed-challenged player. Hit behind the rabbit to wrong foot ’em to take advantage of their early movements to recover centrally. Those are just a few examples. Read up on playing styles and look up the different styles for insights how to play against them or as them.
Strategy —> a plan of action that includes your planned court movements, court positioning, game styles, serves, and rally shots tailored directly to your competition is your responsive game “strategy”. As examples…if you play a rabbit, lob um…if you play a turtle, hit a wraparound serve to move ’em or short drive Z serve or short crack-out to run ’em up. Take into each match 2 or more game plans with tactics for each strategy, with having multiple strategies defining how you want to play, as well as factor in your opposition or what they do well and what they do less effectively, too. For example, if your challenger is very aggressive, cause them to hit on the run or to hit from high to low where their aggression may be less effective and even cause them to make unforced errors, like skips or set you up to hit put-away shots, like your pinches, splats, crack-outs on the sidewall, and selective direct to the front wall kill-shots. Serves like drive Z’s, nick lobs and jams off the sidewalls torment overly aggressive shooters. Shots like wide angle passes, high Z’s, deep target ceilings and overhead passes run and tempt aggressive shooters. Plan and do what you do well, but always factor in what your opponent does less well and what they do effectively against what you like to do most. Strategize by continuously observing, assessing, thinking, adapting and also seeking and finding holes in your game and fixing yours on the fly seeking to go with your very best.
Stress reduction —> one of the big benefits of racquetball is its release of tensions and pressures. Although ripping the ball is cathartic and hitting an ace drive serve is exciting and rolling out a pinch is blissful, of course a very tense competition with an equally proficient or even superior opponent can be stress producing. Then “stress reduction” must be factored into your actual game planning against this particular challenger. For example, a specific serve may be eating your lunch. Then your adaptability and shot versatility will reduce the tension felt when struggling to return THAT certain serve. For example the return of their half speed lob Z to your forehand may be eating your lunch because your overhead cross-court passes may be getting gobbled up by the rapidly retreating server who is intentionally testing your returns and counting on their covering speed. That server needs to be given curves to get them out of their comfort zone. Stress reducing return options include…(1) cross-court overhead intending to catch the sidewall about 2/3 of the way back after the bounce so the ball gets behind the retreating server; (2) drill and practice an overhead down the wall that you strike and then flow forward with it so your positioning causes the server to have to circle around behind you to catch up to your down the wall return when they’re back deep in the court;
(3) optionally step up quickly and strike a High Z into the diagonally opposite front corner.
—> That particular serve and attacking it is one example. In any situation where you sense stress, pressure or tension, define why. Then develop how to respond, and don’t fret if it’s a tough serve you’re struggling returning or just a tough server or, on the other hand, a strong receiver or cagey, court savvy rally challenger who may be making it seem insurmountable. With your elevated serving or returning skills, complementary shots, and serving curves or the unexpected, better repositioning, and a calm, optimistic approach makes you want to take on this challenger where your skills allow you to handle the stress vs. fearing it or avoiding it or cringing and short-arming or short-changing your skills. That’s unnecessary. Figure out what causes your stresses and solve them. If it’s not solved in this match, train up for next time.
Stretching —> being pliable and flexible allows you to stretch to swing and it also helps you avoid little muscle strains, pulls, and, of course, muscle tears. Plus being flexible through “stretching” lightly before play (after first warming up) gets you optimally ready to move at your best. Post play in your cool down stretch. That helps you get even more limber than how you played. Stretching helps you avoid hurting a connecting tendon or ligament, as the joint is supported and protected by loose, strong, stretched muscles. Use proper stretching form (study up) to be limber vs. sporting tight, short muscles.
Striking stance —> as you begin to set your feet, when making your final approach on the ball, your final steps define the “striking stance” you’ll shoot from. Your best striking stance produces forces greater than the sum of their individual parts. You may call upon all of your moves and forces, including… lateral–>sideways; angular–>turning; centrifugal–>reaching; and centripetal–>pulling inwards as you drive and turn your feet, knees, hips and core, which augments your upper body shoulder turn, arcing arm swing and climaxing arm and wrist arcing snap thru AND beyond ball contact best done from your solid striking stance.
Striking stance-2 —> as you move about the court tracking down and organizing your feet to play each ball, your motivation is to set your optimal shotmaking either ball blasting or finesse feathering “striking stance”. It’s not by accident when you see a player taking a curling arc in as they stalk a ball, while approaching the ball with that curving motion which enhances their path of attack. They’re building momentum to set their feet to deliver force into the ball. They’re also moving to set their most familiar striking stance (or one of them). They’re setting their feet to either hammer the ball or they may be setting themselves to smoothly finesse say a super tight pinch or a deft, trickle splat that’ll contact the sidewall just inches from where they make contact for a rollout front wall conclusion. Look to set YOUR striking stance to disguise your shot by not revealing your shot angle or pointing both feet in a line to your target. Setting your feet allows you to prepare fully so you appear as if you could produce a power stroke while you could make finesse contact, so it’s hard to read what’s coming next for your opponent.
String —> 2 variables are important when it comes to selecting your racquet “string”. One, the string material and, two, its gauge or thickness. Concerning the second, one choice is thicker, more durable, like 15 or 16 gauge, but they’re less springy than the thinner 17 gauge or gauge 18. Although thinner string can break quicker. Thinner is in vogue and usually nylon or “racquetball” string is more popular. What millionaire tennis players use is also worth exploring. How tight you string your racquet is recommended in a manufacturer notice usually printed right on the frame in usually a tension range of 4 pounds from lower to higher, like, for example, 30-37 as in pounds of tension. Usually go with the higher one. Know that your racquet loses tension as you play. And, if you were ever to need it looser to play the next day in an event when you sense it’s too tight after your final drilling session, you may wrap your racquet head in a wet towel overnight and you’ll lose a pound or two. Learn what works best for you and your frame. Once you find one string that works best for you it’s economical to buy a reel and you’ll save on restringing even when you string your own racquet. One other key factor is deciding when to restring your racquet. If the strings easily move around when you push them across the face side to side or they don’t snap back into place, they’re probably ready to be changed out. As to how often do you restring, if you play one day a week restring it about every 6 months. If you play 3 days a week, switch out the strings 3 times a year. If you play 5 times a week, string five times a year.
Striking —> hitting, bludgeoning, smashing, howitzering, rocketing, crushing, blasting, shooting, smoking, and creaming the ball are examples of ways to describe “striking” the ball with considerable force.
Stroke —> the combination of your backswing and your downswing is your full racquetball “stroke” for your backhand, forehand, overhead, ceiling ball and shorter versions of your forehands and backhands called QuickDraw or snapshot strokes. A QuickDraw is a compact version of the big, optimal stroke you’d use to drive serve or crush a passing shot, with a lower deeper take back. For a quick-reaction stroke where you want to shoot hard and fast and you can’t move your feet, but you can flare the racquet back, use a snapshot stroke. There you’re able to loop the racquet back and look like a Cobra for your forehand and a Scorpion for your backhand before you crack the whip for snapshot stroke swinging thru extra quickly to strike the ball at medium height (upper thigh to belly button high). Note that each racquetball stroke has the 2 distinct phases, the back phase and the thru phase. Those
phases are both swings. Ideally there is NO hitch or interruption between the backswing and downswing. Ideally the stroke goes from its smooth prep loop backswing into its fluid forward downswing with its down, around, and out racquet flowing inexorably thru contact and on into the complete follow-through on to target and then continue swinging on around behind you finishing with the racquet head at shoulder level.
2-handed Stroke —> it’d be a real anomaly to see a player put a second hand directly on their racquet handle. And although saying a player hits with a “2-handed stroke” is a bit of a misnomer, it really is 2-armed stroking by how the off hand supports upper body turn. For the backhand, punch back prep with your racquet hand and also, at the same time, draw back separately your off hand a little deeper than your racquet hand. Then, when the forward swing starts with your back foot push off and your racquet arm downswing, also begin to draw in your off hand to your rib cage. (Note that drawn in of the off hand goes for the forehand, too). For the backhand, keep that off hand flowing forward throughout the whole motion thru contact. As the racquet arm flows around behind you, the off hand ends up out in front of you. That aids greatly in your balance recovery from your fluid backhand stroke after your follow-through. Beneficially, as a result of drawing in the off hand for BOTH strokes, dual-shoulder turn adds loads of oomph. It fortifies your backhand frisbee toss or swing motion that’s potentially like an ultimate frisbee bomb hurled way downfield, with great force. The forehand and it’s off arm involvement is even more elaborate with its dual-armed spreading bow loading prep and then body spin fueled also by drawing in the off arm to your side, which joins the shoulders together, like it does for the backhand. That hand draw in initializes the shoulders’ turn from back to front as the final arc feeding into the major arm arc that occurs as the hitting shoulder unleashes your arm which culminates in the elbow and climactically the wrist twisting or torquing snap with so much versatility thru contact that it may superpower the ball on down to artful touch to place the ball with finesse. Although the forehand starts with the separation of the arms, as the racquet arm loops back and the off arm hand signals stop traffic out in front of you, the forward swing initiates with the racquet cast back and the off arm folds in to your side. That fold in action shuts down your front shoulder and accentuates the back, racquet arm shoulder’s dominance in a dual-shoulder back to front shoulder spin as the precursor to your arm’s outward arc thru contact in the very elongated forehand contact zone. As another example, for the backhand the off arm goes back in unison with that racquet arm and that keeps the shoulders spread apart. But then, for either stroke, as you push off the back foot and your off arm starts to fold in toward your side your shoulders start turning in unison and the racquet arm and it’s a elbow drive is boosted by that off arm action and resultant shoulder turn assist and their working together.
Stroke transition and transmission —> after looping the racquet up, hold it up in the air only briefly. Then you can swing as fast as you want. Note that it is a relatively slow “transition to the very top and then use your transmission to switch to swing down faster”, as hard as YOU like. So let it rip swinging as fast as you choose. Push off and start to swing forward first with the racquet throw tossing it back like you’re tossing a ball (forehand) or frisbee (backhand). As you first drive with your legs, kind of drag the racquet thru trailing behind you. Then, at the very peak of your stroke, with hip and shoulder spins, use the transmission of the forward swing to either let ‘er budge to rip the ball or dial it down when selecting touch, where you hit with either torch or touch. Work on your stroke transition to wind up fully, as you set your dogs (feet), and then right away transmit the racquet swinging down, pointing the racquet back, and then arc down, around and out thru the ball, with a rhythmic, uninterrupted, effectively consistent stroke motion.
…with broad Strokes —> as you swing at the ball, swing as big as you need to power the shot you’ve chosen. On the other side of the ball, as the player covering the hitter’s shot, you must give the opposing swinger a wide berth. It’s unwise and even dangerous to crowd your challenger’s swing, especially on their follow-through side. Now the hitter shouldn’t take a big cut or swing while stepping across the court and continuing their swing motion yards away from where they made ball contact. Here the term “broad strokes” has 2 meanings. One meaning is take and give big strokes that are commensurate with the shot you or they are taking. For example, a cross-court backhand swing can be huge. As the USAR rule states… “(b) Stroke Interference. This occurs when a player moves, or fails to move, so that the opponent returning the ball does not have a free, unimpeded swing. This includes unintentionally moving in a direction that prevents the opponent from making a shot.” The days of the crowded punch shot players used to impose upon their intentionally squeezed down challenger are long gone. The lower, wider strokes of today encourage bigger circumference swings and you must honor that swing circle. As defender, closely check out the opponent’s backswing. That’s an indication of how big the forward swing may be or what to expect from the impending forward swing and follow-through that’s just about to come. Plus check out their feet point and consider how they’ve swung before. Also, if their legs aren’t bent, give them an especially wide berth. That’s because they may step around toward the far side to protect their unbent front, lead knee. A rule of thumb is to routinely give the hitter about an 8 foot diameter for their swing from prep to rip and follow-through. Don’t get caught or be at the point of contact or moving through the wider arc of their possible follow-through as you look to hustle down their shot. The second meaning for broad strokes is what you need to think of in how you approach this game, this opponent, and specifically this ball. It’s all about how you’ll attain your broad brush goals for playing based on what you value in your approach, effort, beliefs, and playing composure. Stay grounded. Keep it to broad strokes in what you want to accomplish and what you’re going to do to meet each or your game aims. Keep it simple with your own inwardly directed Jedi mind (tricks), like “watch the ball I will”…”move my feet I do”…”pick my optimal shot I will”…and “keep opponent off balance with move ’em shot choices until I get my kill-shot I will”.
Flourishing Strokes —> for High Z’s, big overheads, power forehands and huge backhands and back wall saves the strokes preps are massive, although not exactly the same because of their different purposes and launch paths. For example, a back wall save requires an accentuated away from the back wall backswing or less racquet lift. For the motion then it’s like tossing a tire across the garage, ALL the way across the garage. For the on the move High Z, the racquet is drawn back and almost down because a diagonal racquet upwards arc into the cross front corner is so exaggerated, when finishing with a flourish powers it. A big, looping overhead adds juice to what’s still just a 90 percent max motion to control your target height. The backhand, like for a cross-court drive serve or WAP, includes a partial prep as you initially toss the ball and then a huge, deep, high arm position, a knuckles coiled in to the back of forearm and huge whip stroke that works for that power pull stroke. Even a down the wall inside out forehand drive serve stroke it powered by ramped down whip motion. The Pro Salute forehand flourishing lift of your forearm into a flat to floor racquet and forearm
backswing and transitioning from there thru to pointing the racquet up by passing thru your British Salute creates an extra fast mini loop that speeds up into the arcing U out loop around into the straight away contact zone towards contact. Then turning over the forearm and the joining last wrist both snap together thru closing the racquet face (similar to the backhand palm up motion but more so in that the palm turns until its pointing down to the court after contact). With a shared big arc the forehand and backhand full strokes are changed for a differently sized back to thru swings for purposed shots like back wall saves and mid court quick rally exchanges. There a smaller prep on into a shorter looping forward swing still creates ample power in the short time available. When time is your ally, a flourishing stroke and follow-through makes contact potentially extremely powerful and true for for passing shots, keep-away overheads, big, low contact drive be serve strokes and run ’em l back fast High Z’s.
Suboptimal —> you immediately know when you’re playing at less than your very optimal best. A concept to keep in the back of your mind is to “guard against suboptimal performance”. You may not have to play your very best to best THIS opponent, but it may weigh on you were you to limp in to a win. Have high standards for identical prep (backswing), committed forward swing, flowing follow-throughs, and quick post stroke recovery on balance and supporting clearing. Meet your high standards for efficient, rapid movement into coverage ensuring you’re going to have the capacity to cover more challenger shot angles. Similarly time your ability to make your ball tracking run. Selectively take anticipation chances based on player tells, like feet point or past shots. Move intent on getting to playable balls early. When to move from coverage is as the hitter releases or commits to swing forward. That early break on the ball is the way you can set yourself in your uniform stance that provides optimal stability to time your backswing and gearshift smoothly into your forward swing. That smooth transition makes your contact consistent and YOUR shotmaking optimal. If you sense any facet of your game is suboptimal, immediately take note, make repairs, and seek immediate improvements. Note no one is perfect, but seek YOUR own perfection level. That drive will raise your overall performance level. Although it shouldn’t necessarily raise your expectations because you’re tracking your performance, not your outcomes, including game result or even point outcome; they just happen. There are no expectations. There’s only your interactive connection between ball, racquet and front wall.
Suffering —> there’s some expected distress in a game where, at times, you’re being run, pinned or maneuvered. Sometimes you may be blocked in your movements and funneled to hit ball where THEY want you to. Your intent should be to keep to a minimum being subjected to being hindered when playing. And it’s natural to not want to suffer fools gladly, like a player who moves to block your vision of the ball realizing they’ve set you up off the back wall. Elevate your skills and your control over the conditions vastly sways in your favor and your experiences and you’ll find yourself “suffering” far, far less.
Supination —> your swing when fully turning your racquet thru for your backhand so that your palm turns from palm down to after contact your palm facing outward to the sidewall as you snap your wrist swinging thru contact. For your biggest strokes it may flow over until your palm turns all the way over until your ball contact strings face downward and your palm faces upward for your full, power backhand stroke, especially when striking a full power cross-court serve or cross-court. That is the act of “supinating”. Look to supinate as YOU swing with YOUR backhand.
Surrender? NEVER! —> in make-it-take-it racquetball where, when you serve and score, you serve again so you can score in bunches. You have the capacity to overcome huge deficits with amazing comebacks in racquetball. Keep searching for answers. Look for a way through. Find a chink in the challenger’s receiving and tactical armor with…(a) your killer serve; (b) a rally shot they can’t return; (c) a part of the court where the opponent struggles; or (d) an improved positioning maneuver. “Never surrender!” Realize it’s going to take adapting when you play. It requires training by your lonesome to battle the monsters of midway on the local challenge court, in the local events, at the regional tournament scene, at events facing the best of your ilk or age bracket nationally, or running through a gauntlet of players you face at any level you aspire to defeat to stand at last as King of the Mountain.
Sweet spot —> the part of your strings that provides you the best control over your shots when you contact the ball is designed as the “sweet spot” of your racquet. Find your sweet spot on your frame 3 ways. One, turn your racquet flat and spring the ball upwards off the racquet face looking for where the strings are their springiest. Two, dribble the ball on the court with your racquet strings and feel different areas of the string and find where it’s springiest or where you have your best control over your dribble. Three, take dialed down practice swings from 24 (feet) and where you get your best feel and control over your shots is your sweet spot. You may (and should) move the ball around on the edges of that sweet spot. For example, when pushing the ball out on the strings where you’re strings are striking the ball with the outside of the sweet spot to shape an inside out ball to hit DTL or to hit into the sidewall you face. There the cut DTL shot swerves along the sidewall as a curve. That cut DTL forms a cursive “i” trajectory. The ball curves into and off the front wall, like a letter “i”. By contacting the inside of the ball, the sidewall shots spin into the sidewall going forward. For quadriform racquets your sweet spot is halfway between the center of the strings and the top of the frame. For teardrop racquets it’s even a little higher up giving you even greater reach, but requiring you avoid catching the frame with the ball as you make contact for say those inside out shots. For each racquet, find its sweet spot as you demo, test and decide whether to switch to that frame.
Adding Swing horsepower —> there’s always a need for speed. The engine of YOUR stroke is developed both in your racquet and body preparation and it’s expressed in your forward swing when you exert your body pivot and explosive forward whip snapping arm action thru contact. The bigger or higher and deeper your backswing and the more weight shift and hip load away, the more potential explosion in your downswing starting with your arm loop and body sway. Just focusing on arm-work here… by starting with your racquet aloft looped up to head height or even a little higher, your looping forward swing is set up to be far more flourishing and potentially powerful. The secrets to the thru phase are numerous and nuanced. First, consider your stroke goals. You want to consistently hit the ball right on your sweet-spot of your racquet’s string bed. You want to swing fully, rhythmically and forcefully matching your shot’s need for speed with either great power or delicate finesse. You want to be able to replicate your stroke’s full backswing and auto shift to your metronome downswing so that it’s nearly identical every single time you strike the ball. You want to have high confidence in your swing motion and its broad capacities. You want to have a QuickDraw or more compact and faster prep and quicker thru swing for more time sensitive patterns, like mid court fast-paced exchanges. You want a French Open massive motion for most rally balls and all drive serves. That way in rallies the opponent almost starts to backup each time they spy you winding up big or your serve receivers start already backed up to give them more time to react. Even if you have little time you can use a snapshot stroke with quick, high racquet raise from where you invoke a super fast loop and medium high contact. Secrets-wise there are key facets of the racquetball swing that are unique to our sport. Some come from other sports. To “add horsepower to your stroke” here are the most influential ingredients…
(1) it all starts with your connection with your stick and placing your hand BEHIND the handle for BOTH your forehand and backhand strokes. Your index finger knuckle is behind the plane opposite contact (forehand) and it’s atop the handle (backhand) in the 2 strokes, as that places your hand behind the racquet at contact;
(2) your stance as the base you form with your interlocking legs starts forward with the push off your back foot, as the off arm tucks in to your side that begins to spin you like a top joining your 2 shoulders rotating as ONE unit throughout your forward rotational swing;
(3) simultaneously the forward arm swing motion begins with a throw-like small initial c loop where you cast your forearm and racquet head pointing backwards away from targeted start;
(4) with the c loop at the beginning simultaneously drive your elbow forward right on time as it moves until the elbow comes up just short of your racquet arm shoulder;
(5) this next secret turns to ball striking magic… the whip-like climatic big U outward bound loop is irrepressible due to how the arm extends and joins with the wrist to BOTH turn over and spiral in cahoots with each other, as your palm is pronating for your forehand to palm down and your palm is supinating for your backhand into palm up, as that palm work creates electric snap cracking contact;
(6) at the pinnacle of your swing motion, from the interim racquet butt cap pointing to target thru the peak of the contact zone, maneuver the racquet head closing the racquet face right as you’re making string trampolining contact projecting the ball towards your wall target;
(7) your racquet flow out toward your sideways target, with your racquet face point, and the contact side of the strings pinpointing your selected part in back of the ball determines your side or their side for your shot’s horizontal direction;
(8) your timing of your racquet face shutting or closing or the bevel or slope of the racquet face strings right at ball contact defines your target’s vertical height;
(9) the timing of interlocking the forearm with the last to join rolling wrist and the completely abandoned letting it go spiraling motion of your racquet head optimizes your stroke’s horsepower;
(10) the placement of the racquet strings on the upper half of the ball and the accentuated over the top motion can create back to front overspin or Top that encourages a downwards flow, a lower rebound off the front wall, an earlier first bounce and either a front court kill-shot second bounce or a passing shot deep second bounce right before the 40 foot barrier. And that Top adds to ball pace due to less air resistance; and
(11) the unfettered, no-braking-allowed follow-through initially on to target and then naturally on around in front of you until you point the racquet behind you, as the racquet head rises back to shoulder height ensures an untethered, horsepowered stroke that is perfect for rear corner 2-bouncer drives, crack-out drives just past the short line and wraparound jam top speed drive serves, as well as super-powered passes, crushing splats, 3-wall boasts and Twooze shot’s double dribbling in the cross-front corner, along with how you dial it down for finesse-based touch shots, like off-speed drive serves, cut inside out passes, feathered pinches, trickle splats, and a variety of confounding off speed Z serves. Get out there and develop your own horsepower metering with your full flowing, looping backswings and arm extending combo arm-wrist turnover forward swings.
Swing base —> in those last moments before you make contact, make sure to NOT stop your feet too early. Instead take great care setting your feet, like the care you practice lifting your racquet and the great care with which you plan to make solid ball contact. Ensure you establish a solid “swing base” to hit low, non skipping shots. Setting your feet too early and not being optimally positioned is a major culprit of miss angled shots. One contributor is not stepping in with the front foot and so setting yourself behind where you need to be AND open-stanced. Another is jumping to a stop right in front of the ball and not building back; but instead just arm swinging thru the ball, with little body prep and no body swing. Instead get to the ball early, step in setting your best swing base. THEN complete your prep (not too early) and right away shift gears to swing thru from you solid, balanced swing base with YOUR smooth, rhythmic, routine swing. If you find you can’t set your optimal base, select a higher, wider (or less precise lateral) target and don’t try to hit a small target kill-shot from your less than optimal swing base. Next time (and each time) seek to set an optimal swing base. Moral: move your feet into your next optimal swing base.
A swing and a miss… —> unlike a baseball hitter, can you swing again after whiffing once? The USAR rule states that…”if a player swings at the ball and misses it the player may continue to attempt to return the ball until it touches the floor for the second time.” That includes feinting at hitting the ball, and…“one touch. The player or team trying to return the ball may touch or strike the ball (only once) or else the rally is lost”…which means that with a partial touch you still made contact and you can’t swing again.
Swing inverting shoulders —> due to the way we’re built, for both strokes the back shoulder starts higher at the top of the backswing. Then, in the forward swing for both strokes, as you swing down, around and thru, drop your back shoulder as your front shoulder rises placing your hitting shoulder on plane just above your arcing contact zone plane. From there count on straight line inertia from both shoulders arcing thru on a plane that’s parallel with the contact zone’s racquet head swing plane. The “sweet swing when inverting your shoulders” significantly contributes to your swing power, racquet head balance and consistency of contact.
Sidewall shots spiraling Swing motion —> a spiraling swing motion and resulting spiraling ball that either spins out (away from you, for example, out into the near sidewall, as a near corner pinch or splat) or in (toward the opposite front corner, for instance, as a reverse pinch), and simultaneously flowing over, with Topspin, creates a very unusual corkscrewing ball and often a very low carom off the front wall. A corkscrewing ball deflecting off the near sidewall, while spinning over and out, tends to more hug the front wall as it rebounds out, when struck as either a near corner pinch or sidewall splat. From a uniquely revealingly angled stance pointed into the (other) front corner, a corkscrewing out to in stroke motion sends the ball angling diagonally into the opposite front corner sidewall first, while spinning over and decidedly in, creating a very tough to defend reverse pinch that again sticks in that corner. That causes the reverse pinch ball to stay even further up in the front court than a near corner pinch due to the outside in swing motion and resulting heavy sidespin that’s retained as it glances off the sidewall into the front wall keeping the ball closer to the front wall. The “sidewall shots spiraling swing motion” is found in drilling and honed by selecting the right ball from characteristically low contact from a very balanced stance with a big, low sweeping racquet swing and an accentuated follow-through. In part the spiral is found by timing turning over your forearm, as you extend your arm. At the very last second, release and interlock your wrist joining the turning over arm, as you spiral and fan the racquet head thru closing the racquet face at contact. The racquet head flowing outwards for sidewall targeting or inwards for cross-court targeting compounds the Topspin resulting from turning over the racquet head via turning over your arm and wrist in the full spiraling swing motion, resulting in combo spin spiral ball.
Loop Swing timing —> ideally arrive to play each ball just milliseconds before the ball is at your contact point, as you initially line up behind your planned contact point. As the ball nears and you could just about BEGIN to reach out and snag the ball out of midair, set your key back foot and START your upswing. Optimally prepare to swing with a smooth looping backswing, as you’re also setting both feet. That ideal loop up forms a capital letter “C”. For a quicker backswing, there are shortcuts. For the backhand, punch back with your racquet hand clinched around the racquet handle in the fastest fist throw back prep move. For the forehand, thrust your elbow back (and up) to quickly get into your power prep position. Then, as the ball comes into range off your contact point, “time your contact loop” to immediately transition from your stroke’s backswing into your downswing. It’s a dual arc loop down. First, there’s a very small “c” scoop loop, as you cast the racquet head back pointing it and your forearm away from your target, while you begin driving your elbow forward. When the racquet levels off with the ball the big U arcing loop flows out thru contact counting on loop momentum to feed the arm and wrist combo snapping swing.
Links in forward Swing —> get ready starting with your back foot set and racquet loop start. Work racquet hand up and back creating rhythm as you loop your arm up, as the ball closes in. Then, as you step up and set your feet, finish looping up. To throw the racquet thru, call on the connecting swing links or “links in your forward swing”. Push off your back foot and drop elbow down in an arc pointing the racquet back at about shoulder height. As your racquet arm elbow reaches racquet arm side hip, tip your racquet head in toward you. Here the racquet is on plane with the ball. Keep arcing sending the racquet butt cap thru pointing to the ball and to swing thru whole contact zone not to a spot. Swing thru the ball vs. stopping like hammering a nail. Make deep contact just ahead of your racquet arm shoulder. Turn racquet thru turning over your forearm and rolling your wrist while angling your racquet face to select your vertical and horizontal angle shot trajectory combination. In the final link, you’re defining your shot trajectory by how you flow your racquet thru and by how you bevel or slope or angle your racquet face, as you swing the racquet head thru contact to send the ball where your imagery tells your for this shot.
Do you Swing with motion to pull or leak? —> for most balls you’re not going to hit the ball like shooting an arrow, with dead center back of the ball contact from a front to back flat swing motion heading in a direct shot angle straight in and right back to your big toe. Most often you’re either going to pull the racquet and ball across in front of you when hitting cross-court or your swing is going to leak out to the side putting a tail on the ball spinning and hooking out away from you as it goes forward and away from you. The ball you’re fielding usually sets up to “swing either with a pull or leak motion”. Infrequently should you superimpose or force your shot in toward you or out away from you when the complete opposite action is what is called for by the angle the ball is taking as you play it. For example, a ball flowing across the court or a ball jamming you off the sidewall you face is ready to go across your body with a pulling swing motion. As examples, the pull motion is tailor-made for hitting…(a) a drive serve or cross-court passing shot behind you; (b) a wide angle pass (WAP) catching the sidewall behind you level with the court depth of your opponent; (c) a wraparound serve; (d) a crack-out on the sidewall behind you; or (e) a reverse pinch into the other stroke’s front corner, like when striking a backhand into your forehand front corner.
–> Contacting the outside of the ball and pulling across your body, due its powerful swing force, can potentially add lots of power to your shot or serve.
–> A ball flowing out away from you is begging for you to leak your swing out away from you with a naturally more controlled pushing motion. The leak motion includes striking the part of the ball closer to you. And, although it’s not quite as potentially powerful as the pull motion, leaking adds great spin and a ball breaking away from the defending player when the ball is hit to the front wall so it rebounds out to the rear corner on the side you face or when the defender must track down your leaking sidewall shot that deflects off the sidewall and ricochets off the front wall to veer away from the defender as it zigs across the front court. As examples, the leaking motion is made for…
(a) drive serves struck cross-court from the far side of the box with your back to the sidewall and even drive serves right along the sidewall sending the ball along that wall into the near, rear corner ideally paralleling that sidewall like it’s glued;
(b) drive Z’s from the far side of the box into the other front corner front wall first to angle the ball toward the diagonally opposite rear corner behind you;
(c) near corner pinches into that stroke’s corner, like forehands into your forehand front corner from anywhere in the court 5 feet off the sidewall; and
(d) splat shots from close in along a sidewall into your splat target up ahead of you on that sidewall at a spot lower than ball contact.
–> To pull or leak is your shot selection task for each ball you track down and play while picking your shot’s side of the court (yours leak or theirs pull) and shot height to place the ball either in the front court or back court, with your pull or leak (push) swing motion.
Swing thoughts —> as you approach each ball and set your striking stance to stroke your shot, it’s very useful to take into your motion ONE specific swing thought to help you focus on your form to sort out any distracting thoughts from the jumble of thoughts that can pop in you mind that may deviate you from your main shot purpose and accuracy. “Swing thought” examples include…
(a) watch the ball;
(b) bend your knees;
(c) out front contact;
(d) inside out;
(f) full follow-through;
(g) imagine and shape THIS SHOT; and
–> come up with your own mnemonics swing thoughts that maximize your swings. My favorite is “Hard!”, said silently and meaning hard but controlled contact.
Swing volley —> taking a medium to big swing on a ball coming directly off the front wall or sidewall right out of midair or on the fly at knee high up to as high as chest high contact is a “swing volley”. Swing volleys are doable, but it’s tough to angle them to shoot down super low and not too low without lots and lots of drilling. They’re a needed skill, but anything above chest high that’s heading back pretty directly toward the back wall should be matadored or waved on by as you let it go. Then take the ball as it pops off the back wall as a setup rather that reach above your shoulder for a poky shot on a ball way too high for a high to low or even medium to low swing volley to find a controllable downwards shot angle.
Swinging —> your “swinging” take back or when you lift your racquet or where you loop your racquet arm back (elbow first for your forehand or hand up for backhand) is followed up directly by your fluid, flowing, downSWING throwing motion. Loop your elbow down initially casting the racquet head and forearm back, as the arm levels off. Then arc and roll the forearm twirling thru while interlocking with the wrist finishing with an arm and wrist turnover snap that scythes or sweeps “swinging” thru the ball while beveling the racquet face placing the sweet spot on the ball to define your combined lateral and vertical shot trajectory flowing on to your target spot.
Switzerland stance —> the country of Switzerland is known for not picking a side in a conflict. They stay neutral. With facets of the stroke like your striking stance’s dual foot angle and your contact point in relationship to your racquet arm shoulder, it’s really crucial to be unreadable or not pick a side of the court with your serves and rally shots. You don’t pick a side. When you use a partially closed, partially open or neutral stance and your universal off shoulder contact point, it hides your angle intention. That’s vs. angling your stance toward where you’re shooting or over closing your stance awkwardly or making contact with the ball in relationship to your feet or legs. When serving (or when you rally shoot), along with your feet point and your ultimate, routine contact point looking like you’re shooting straight in and your neutral ball toss to serve all those together ideally makes the side of the court you’re pinpointing a complete mystery to the receiver or rally cover player because your form doesn’t pick or reveal a side you’re attacking. There you’re using your “Switzerland stance” and a routine uniform or universal contact point to not pick a side.
Synced or synchronized movements —> your lower body and upper body working together is invaluable. When the upper and lower body work in cahoots, it’s just amazing. Their own “synchronized moves” precede their being connected right before contact. Bottom up your feet move knees who move hips who move core. Top down the loop down begins with the shoulders circling inside contact, the chest pulling the racquet from behind and the arm driving bent into being flung monstrously out arcing at an ever increasing speed and arc size. Right as the front side core squeezes and the shoulders are making their inner turn just trailing contact, contract your chest, obliques and deltoid, as the arm takes over with its whip cracking conclusion, as the arm and wrist SNAP TOGETHER in THE most critical synchronized move of all as the squeezed ball is compressed and sent that-away where your racquet strings point and your racquet head happens to be flowin’.
Tactical thinking —> the main focus of where you serve the ball, where you position yourself to return serve, where you D-up in center court, and where you select to place your shots (and returns) is all about your “tactical thinking”. It’s where you position to defend best. It’s where you place the ball relating to what you’re presented in the conditions of this pattern, while always factoring in the potential position of the challenger. The more tactical awareness you have of what you CAN do, what the pattern needs most, and what you’ve done up until now (or your skill set knowledge) makes your “tactical thinking” about choices of moves, coverage spots and shot placements all tactical and capable of strategically reaching your game aims. Your tactical actions are designed to adhere to what you planned and trained up in advance and what you are most familiar with so your strategic plan comes to fruition. For an example of tactical thinking, if your tactic is to isolate the back left corner, from along that sidewall you shoot down the left wall and you send your serve along that wall and you hit cross-court serves or all passes or overheads or ceilings back into the left, rear corner looking to keep the ball deep along the left sidewall.
Tactical play —> as an example of a tactical play, rally cross-court with your opponent until you find an obvious opening for a down-the-line winner. If they can cut in front of you to cutoff your DTL shot, that’s a tactically bad time to hit straight in. For the right ball, go for a front court 2-bouncer that either you shoot direct to the front wall or into the best front corner, which is usually the corner on the opponent’s side. When shooting low direct to the front wall, ALWAYS look to direct the ball AWAY from the opponent’s position or their possible position after they move. To shoot for a sidewall target, pick a pinch when contacting the ball from off the sidewall 5 feet or more. When you’re along the sidewall, pick a splat angle, with a lower than contact sidewall target up ahead of you. Although cross-court passing is integral to “tactical play”, down the wall shots work extremely well very EARLY in a rally, as a serve is attackable before the server gets all the way into center court due primarily to the pace of their own serve. Other than when returning serve the down the wall works well when the ball being contacted is in the middle of the court along one sidewall more than 10 feet in from the back wall. If the ball is deeper in the court in the midst of a rally, it comes down to, “Can I shoot the ball completely by them or roll it out?”, when the cover player is centrally well positioned. From deep court when you try a down the wall shot with the opponent positioned centrally, they’re set to slide in front of you covering the straight in shot. Then you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage. If they cutoff your DTL, they can hit many shots from there; so your being able to cover them all is problematic. Secondly, there’s no guarantee they’ll clear after hitting their shot to give you carte blance to cover their shot were it to end up anywhere near them, in from of them and especially right behind them. From deep court, the tactical play may be to crank a cross-court shot or a sidewall shot when the ball is just
right. That pull them wide pass or going for a sidewall winner may often be tactically better than a forced down the wall shot into the jaws of their waiting defense. Also, if both the cross-court and a good ball for a kill-shot aren’t judged doable, then lift a ceiling ball and reload for the next ball.
Tactics —> specific efficiency actions in your skill set are designed to support your planned strategy or game aims. Your “tactics” include…
(a) your selected serves to be used at key times, like, for instance, your very first serve of the match or your serve to get you to game point or your possible game point serve;
(b) your optional returns of their different serves (but never preordaining any return until you first see and read the served ball’s bounce);
(c) shots chosen from your arsenal of shots for patterns you expect in this matchup to basically play keep-away or to attack a stroke or a corner;
(d) planned court movements after swinging;
(e) movements owned when tracking down to shoot the ball;
(f) movements when making your final approach on the ball;
(g) efficiently setting your feet to attack;
(h) flowingly swinging to shape your visualized shot;
(i) post contact recovery movements;
(j) flex or changeups when moving into and out of coverage;
(k) positioning when returning THEIR serve;
(l) positioning in center court; and
(m) timing when to leave center court to cover any expected shot, which is a shot you read and anticipate by the challenger.
–> Variations on your tactics may be as simple as moving up closer or dropping back deeper in the backcourt to return certain serves. Or your tactic may be as complex as switching a ceiling ball return of a lob serve to moving up quickly and taking the lob on the rise as a cutoff to hit an overhead or lower contact short-hop passing shot return. Or it could be switching up a direct drive serve to one struck with tricky spin. Tactics that aren’t working need Plan B’s and often just slight variations make the change needed to address what’s transpiring that’s less than optimal. Instead your intent may be to keep the challenger off balance or unable to get comfortable with one placement or one type of action on the ball. For example, minor changes in pace or angle or spin or a combo of them keeps the challenger guessing and wondering, “What’s coming next?”.
Take what they give you —> one serve may be eating your lunch or their return of your favorite serve may not be giving you the #3 shot you relish. You have to not only try to be the player who dictates play by bossing the rally and running the challenger ragged. You also need to “take what they give you” and capitalize on their errors, as well as wrest control of a rally where before you were the one running but now you’re hitting a High Z, crushing a deep target ceiling ball, or sometimes reflexing the ball back to produce an awkward ball for them, even when you may hit the ball directly at the challenger. Although it’s good to have your routine pattern recognition and response play going, you also need to be prepared to take what they give you and make lemonade out of lemons. There you’re being flexible, alert, adaptive and, at times, improvisational. But it’s all based on what you know, what is planned and geared to spontaneous moves and shots that adapt to openings you see on the fly or a weak spot the opponent has poorly covered or they struggle, even if it just a shot lifting it over their backhand shoulder.
Take what (defense) gives you —> in a game of such small margins, other than the obvious required to be covered straight in and cross-court angles the cover player is only able to cover so much court. As the hitter, constantly check out what’s open or given to you by the cover player’s positioning. When hitting, players often get caught up in feel good shooting when the ball has its own energy where IT knows where it must go and it doesn’t like to be forced off into angles it CANNOT go. You have to feel that ball flow. Also the opponent must be there somewhere and tactically it’s usually unwise to hit it THERE. Usually hit it where they ain’t or where you’ll move them to make them hit from high or on the run or both. For instance, hit it low where they can’t go when you catch them starting too deep and you have a dropping ball and a shot you can take and familiarly make. For instance, when they trap themselves up against a sidewall, pinch them out of the play. There hit into that sidewall up ahead of them near the front wall to leave the ball in the diagonally opposite front corner. Basically hit ’em where they ain’t. “Take what the defense gives you”.
Targets —> there are just such a vast array of “targets” available to you as the shooter. As you move about the court try to think, “What would be the nastiest shot I could come up with?”. For example, as you’re moving over pursuing a ball going cross-court as a pass or left up far sidewall shot, it may be counterintuitive to consider it, but a front wall first reverse pinch in the other front corner won’t be expected, won’t be well covered and won’t be well received, which means it’ll bum out the challenger who can’t cover it. Open your mind to possibilities like that. For instance, a trickle splats where when you’re along a sidewall the target just up ahead and a tad bit lower than contact can produce a very low front wall ending. Also constantly think of shaping your shots while internalizing your wall target or seeing it in your mind. See your target working right about there–>NOW!
Task at hand —> keep to task. That’s often the toughest thing to do… to stick to what you’re doing RIGHT NOW. The duality of under performing is that you may either be trying to do too much or you may be doing too little. It’s easier to dial it down than to try harder. First, pay attention to only the “task at hand”, which is the thing you’re doing right now, with tasks like when you…
(a) move out of the service box into center court after every single serve;
(b) cover the ball pin balling around in the back corner, while you dance with the ball to play it most effectively, with active, unplanted feet;
(c) move to cover their left up sidewall shot before it bounces twice so you can attack and pick a shot where the ball wants to go, like cross-court or as a trickle splat;
(d) turn to face the sidewall as you crossover and return serve vs. full on facing the front wall as you return and unnecessarily scaring the server because an open stance sets you ready to hit into the cross front corner and the opponent is usually in between you and that corner as you address the ball with a decidedly open stance;
(e) even do a most mundane task, like going to get the ball to serve vs. making your opponent your ball kid; and
(f) peripherally check ’em, the receiver’s position. If they’re not ready but they’re not signaling “not ready”, it’s tough toenails on them because THEY are not paying attention to the task at hand that you’re about to serve and they should be all about getting ready to return, NOT taking a snooze, or they should have the racquet up above their head or they need to be spun around facing backwards.
Stick to Task —> deal with the next opponent, next ball, next cover, next ball read and next ball track, next shot. Stick to task. By staying on task you avoid going back or looking ahead. Let all past items go once the score is called by the ref or agreed upon by the parties in self officiated play. Plus let go of what the score is or what could happen. Concentrate solely on what you’re going to do wth THIS next ball. Focus on only the “task at hand”.
Technique (power of technique) —> your skill carrying out a certain task like how you set your feet to stroke is your “technique”. That technique also goes to your ability to vary that skill set so, for instance, you set your feet partially open instead of partially closed adapting to the bounce of the ball. Or, when needed, you make it work even when you must full on face the front wall in an open stance. Your objective is to own those different gradations of your primary striking stance. Likewise your striking stance is the platform for versions from your highest elbow, deepest backswing loop and a wide stance to much shorter versions for exigencies or extremely fast-paced rapid fire rallies. Technique is how you perform your range of skills. Adding and sharpening all of your skills is your purpose for practice and scrimmaging or your training competition, as you play to win with your technique against your playing partners. Top flight technique gives your game wings and great power over ball control, along with effective court movement and the ability to capitalize on your positioning by being ready to bolt from center court to track down and shoot effectively.
Tells —> as one example of looking for “tells”, when the server in front of you addresses the ball to serve it, study them and all they do. Look for angle and force revealing tells. If their backswing is routinely big it’s hard to tell if they’ll hit hard or dial it down, but you’d have seen them so you’ll know if they own a changeup. However, if they have a short take back, you can usually expect a softer hit delivery. If they obviously point their feet in one direction, like when angling them cross-court, you can expect a serve hit across their body into the far side is coming. But do factor in a Z serve could be the result instead of a cross-court, so don’t bite on the cross-court unless you’ve seen it regularly. If there’s a far out front ball toss, it’s also very likely they’ll hit a cross-court angled serve, too. If a certain serve from a certain stance and certain spot in the box has been hit several times, that can be a “tell” that the same serve is coming again. Like when returning serve, similarly observe the rally hitter to pick up their racquet prep, stance angle, contact point depth and past shots from there to get a jump start on covering their shot by looking for revealing tells that will allow you to get there earlier to cover a shot. By picking up the tell you can react by moving early. Had you waited you might be unable to cover the shot or you’d be just making a stabbing get and left hitting a very weak, defensive reply. Looking for tells starts your ability to anticipate and play proactively which puts you on the front foot and places very heavy pressure on your opponent who may be asking themselves, “What are they seeing?” or “Are they a mind reader? or “They’re probably going again”. No, you’re just a tells watcher.
Tempo —> a player has their own personal swing timing or swing “tempo” or stroking rhythm. Your own swing tempo or swing pace is individual to you. Your swing needn’t be rushed unless the ball’s speed requires it. When time is much less, then you must have a faster swing calling upon your compact “QuickDraw” stroke. As another example, when tracking down a ball in a back corner and you’re not positive where you’ll make contact or even which stroke you’ll use, then raising your racquet prematurely is not tempo-based prepping; it’s robotic. It’s asking a question with your racquet raised, but it’s not answering it how to move efficiently WITH the ball, which is with your arms down at waist level. Then, after you move your feet and you’ve read contact and which wing (stroke), then begin stroking with a timed to the bounce backswing followed immediately by a smooth transition into your downswing that takes advantage of your natural swing tempo to shoot any attackable balls. Whatever tempo feels best to you it’s important to make sure you accelerate thru contact. Another form of tempo is the speed at which you play the game. Game tempo is how quickly you go through your service ritual or your return of serve ritual. Some players prefer a very fast game tempo. Some competitive players play at almost a snail’s pace. Either is within the rules as long as the receiver is not signaling “not ready” to return and as long as the serve is put in play within 10 seconds. The server must check the receiver before they put the serve in play (IF they’re signaling unready), because, if they miss the signal and they serve, it’s a fault, if the official sees that. The server must serve in no more than that 10 seconds; but they can take much less time when the receiver is indicating they are ready. Likewise the receiver must allow the server to serve within 10 seconds or they can’t delay the whole 10 seconds. About a 6-7 second delay is just about right. There the delaying receiver should drop their lifted racquet or spin around from facing the back wall after about 6 seconds. Any more and the server can’t go thru their service motion by 10. Make sure YOU play at YOUR own tempo. Find your best game and physical tempo to swing and as you move about the court and play at your own tempo or pace.
Think —> constantly analyze and strategize. Avoid worrying over future events. Don’t even ruminate about what’s already transpired. Only consider past things in a match to learn from them or to exploit areas you saw that you can attack. Never dwell. “Think” tactically and calmly WHAT WILL WORK when serving to this challenger or when returning THIS challenger’s serve (after their serve is headed back, NOT before). And ultimately, as you rally against this challenger, figure out how to capitalize on THIS ball to place your shot where you can place it best, while factoring in the movement and shooting tendencies of THIS challenger. So perpetually think what’s working, think what will work, think what can “I” do in the now, and, after the rally, think, “What can I do even better?” without thinking too much about in.
Think fast! —> did someone ever toss you a ball as they say at very same time, “Think fast”. In a game consistently faster than any other racquet sport, that’s just about how fast you often must react in racquetball to a ball coming back at you off the front wall directly or after a bounce. The ball rebounds off the front wall about as quick as a baseball blasted at a pitcher on the mound or an interception surprising a D-back right at the line of scrimmage or a clearance by a goalie shocking a player inside the box, a player from either team! In rallies, you have to be ready with a very fast binary decision. That means you must decide on one or the other, shoot or move ’em. Do you shoot low, if you have a killable ball? Or do you hit a deep shot to pull the opponent back, when you quickly decide you can’t shoot low? And if you can’t shoot low, do you shoot a pass or lift a ceiling or another kind of pull them back shot? In either case, pick a side, your side of the court or (their) other side to place the ball. The thinking fast also needs to factor in, “What is the ball thinking?”. For a ball deflecting off the sidewall into you or a ball popping out hot from a back corner or a ball with considerable spin you must gauge super-quick, “Can I hit THIS ball straight?”. When you think you can’t go straight, CAN you go cross-court shooting for the far, rear corner? Therein often lies the conundrum. Out of the corner of your eye you may spy the opponent moving in the center (or stationary) and they should be allowing you the mandated whole straight in to cross-court band of front wall. You have to hit your shot. Of course, hitting a reverse pinch is not often likely to be an available shot, but a V cross-court SHOULD be available. Bailing to the ceiling is not a thinking, tactical solution to a ball you can drive with your feet under you, when you read straight in isn’t doable. Lifting is surrendering. Simply hold up or hit out. There is no hitting to avoid popping them. That’s NOT thinking quickly. That’s succumbing to the situation. That’ll only drive you crazy knowing you’re not hitting the shot where the ball wants to go into the angle you deserve and know you can make best. There you didn’t leave the ball off the sidewall. They did. Now, from further forward in the court, your time to blink or think of a shot is even less. But farther up in the court you usually won’t have bogies in front of you in the form of opponents who you will have to factor into your shot quick-pick. As you train, rifle balls back at yourself off the front wall from center court 22-30 feet back to practice thinking fast. Even hit sideways against one sidewall to work on your reaction time and ball control. Work it into games and track your responses to improve them. Play keep-away. It’s the only way to avoid feeding the opponent attackable balls or answer to yourself, “Why DID “I” bail to the ceiling or hit that weak shot?”.
Thought, shot and foot synced —> for each shot process, on the ball or off the ball, go with your pattern of moves or maneuvers that you design, develop and are your own when done at your own rhythm and with your own inimitable style of adaptive improv. When you serve, you may do so nearly like a robot. For rally balls, offensively or defensively there’s always an element of improvisation. For every ball on either side of the ball, it’s “thought, shot and foot synced”. Defensively on the other side of the ball your thoughts go to “What shot is your opponent hitting?”, as you move your feet in sync with YOUR placement of the ball you just struck, while you first move to get into coverage defending your placement. There you ideally get into center court. For example, when the ball is back deep in a rear court corner, you move in between ball and diagonally opposite front corner. From center, when you see (or guess) where their shot is headed, the action shifts to how you move from there to track down and play ball, again, with thought–>shot–>foot synced. As you track down each ball, first sync up reading the ball with what you should do with the ball OR sort out your shot thought. Settle on THAT shot, as you optimize the foot placement or first set your feet to play this ball, while prepping your best to optimally swing thru this ball. By thought it means how you move and decide, as you play the ball matching it to your feetwork to position yourself and settle on your shot pick by initially moving one foot at a time when setting your stance to take your shot. Match your backswing and forward swing to the shot you’ve settled on that you’re also seeing in your mind’s eye on the screen on the inside of your forehead. Act out your shot thoughts as you sync with your body and bring to life and into action your tactical plan for every single rally evolution, on each side of the ball.
3-Shot Rally —> in a perfect racquetball world, when you serve you send your serve into a rear corner, the receiver hits you a powder puff return, and you crush their return by shooting a flat rollout. Drilling your serve, their returning it and you shooting their return is good practice for highly aggressive “3-shot rally” play. It places a high premium on all three…(1) serving tough to return serves; (2) forcing weak returns, while you quickly get back into center court so they see you positioned well and either you see the ball–>you go get the ball OR you read where the shot is going–>you anticipate and move early; and (3) you shoot to kill the ball or play-keep-away. Here the objective is to take every chance or even every half chance you have, as server, to end the rally after just 2 hits by you because you’re serving and it’s tactical 3 shot rally racquetball.
Three-wall serve —> a serve that strikes the front wall, one sidewall and then carries in the air to strike the other sidewall without bouncing or being cutoff by the receiver is a “three-wall serve”, which is a fault serve. Usually adjusting the front wall target into a little less tight angle so the “Z ball” doesn’t strike too close to the sidewall keeps the three-wall serves to a minimum; that and not selecting too high a target on the front wall keeps 3-wall serves to a minimum.
The throw —> the downswing is a skim a rock on the water or sidearm forehand throwing motion and the downswing is a frisbee disk toss or “throw” for your backhand motion.
Tight shot —> when you serve or hit a down the wall passing shot and especially when you hit a very low down the wall kill-shot, one tactical placement or intent is to glue the ball in as tight along that sidewall or as close to the wall as you can as the ball rebounds back out off the front wall. The very low ball along the wall serves 2 purposes. One, ideally it’s so low it’s hard to get. Two, as your low shot angles off the front wall, there’s a great residual effect when the tight ball often hugs or even catches the sidewall crack on the way back out off the front wall as the ball veers up along the sidewall. That bad bounce is the result of smooth stroking vs. a product of a deliberately aiming for the crack. Work on getting the ball to parallel the sidewall and that will cause many a ball to catch the crack. Practice your “tight shot”, which is your tight in along the wall shot, and good results will follow.
Call a T.O. —> when a match is not going your way, stop for a few seconds and regroup. Call a “T.O.” or timeout. In amateur play, a timeout is 30 seconds long and there are 3 available in the first 2 games and 2 T.O.’s available in a possible tiebreaker. In the men’s Pros there’s one timeout available per game of one minute in length. The lady Pros have 2 timeouts of 45 seconds per game.
Timeout purpose —> in amateur play 3 times in a 15 point game and 2 times in an 11 point tiebreaker game a player may call a 30 second timeout anytime before the next serve is put in play. So the service receiver may call timeout right up to the time the server begins their service motion but not during. Pro matches squeeze it down to one timeout per game of 1 minute in duration. Use timeouts to regroup. Use timeouts to recapture the momentum. Use timeouts to let THEM think about you serving for a possible match point. As receiver, call timeout to redirect the pressure onto the server. Use your timeout to regroup and recoup the momentum by quickly analyzing what could use tweaking or what serve feels like it could work or what return would be best or what’s yet to be tried. Also, if you call a timeout to regroup or stop the bleeding, use the time to consider what they are doing that’s so effective that you must counter. For example, go over what changes you can make on the fly to get you back in the box and serving. Exude positive energy. Start the next rally on your front foot, ready, recharged, nasty. “Purpose YOUR timeouts”. Also get a dry glove when yours is wet.
Injury Timeout —> an “injury timeout” of 15 minutes total in a USA Racquetball match may be allowed. That injury timeout may be broken up into segments, when needed. Everything but cramping that’s physical is a possible injury.
Timing —> you may have heard the saying “timing” is everything in relation to life. It is, but, in sport, “timing” is also highly personal. Some players are just frenetic and they’re just in a big hurry, even to lose. Some players are plodders and they wanna play the game as slow as molasses. Here timing is also about timing the ball in its flight WHEN you decide to take your shot. It includes where you’ll intersect with its angle and it’s how you time your preparation to strike the ball to match your own personal swing rhythm. It’s also how you can affect the challenger’s tempo or timing by where you place the ball in difficult positions in the court causing them to respond to…
(a) shots or serves jamming them off the sidewalls;
(b) rally shots you bounce right at their feet;
(c) High Z’s that pull them scurrying back just to keep the High Z in play at the back wall;
(d) deep target ceilings they must hustle back to play because they retreat quicker reacting very much like passing shots in their retreating pace;
(e) overheads whose angles they must cutoff; or
(f) WAP’s they must to retreat to defend.
–> All of those shots require the challenger to do what is always difficult or takes effort, which is moving and hitting. And, when a player moves, they have to time the ball and time their swing, while also picking their responding shot on the move. They have to run and chew gum and that’s often very difficult to do. Now, for your own timing, it’s important you learn what works best for you. Do you like to loop the racquet back graceful like? Or do you like to thrust your elbow back and up for your forehand. And do you punch your racquet hand back super quick and then forcefully swing hard thru for your backhand? Or are you somewhere in between? Our sport requires, at a minimum, quick thinking, often quick reactions, with responses based on where you are in the court, how you’re moving, what type of shot you’re fielding, and your chosen relational shot option in response to all of those conditions. You don’t have to be fast, but you must be sneaky quick and adaptive. You don’t have to be super powerful, but you must be able to absorb pace and place the ball tactically. You must time the ball and your stroke as you display your ability to move in space and respond to the factors of…
(a) the action on the ball you’re playing, including its angle, pace and spin;
(b) your challenger’s position and their range of movement; and
(c) your positioning including how you set yourself to shoot and then defend is always geared toward optimizing your own situation.
–> If it’s defense you must play, have a good placement dialed in, like a pass, deep target ceiling, slice ceiling, crushed back wall save, or even throw up a high lob to pull them back. If you have a ball you can drive, place the ball as a pass so the challenger must move. If you have a bunny, put it away as you routinely do one of your setup shot placements like THIS ONE that you take and consistently make. Let no one rush you unless you wanna rush yourself. Within your own timing and game style, be quick, but NEVER HURRY.
Tinkerer —> be a constant “tinkerer”. As you conscientiously train at a clip or ratio of about 1 practice session or hour to 1 playing session (or ideally more) per week, continuously attempt to improve or sharpen your tools, or tinker with your skills like your…
(a) stroking form and tempo;
(b) serving accuracy;
(c) feetwork covering the challenger’s shots;
(d) counter or recovery from ball striking and movements into coverage after you follow-through; and
(e) return of serve feetwork;
(f) shot selection; and
(g) return of serve effectiveness or server’s serve neutralization.
Toes —> get up on your “toes” to play. Playing flat footed is playing where you can’t move quickly. It’s playing uninspired racquetball. If you’re not on your toes, you’re probably playing too upright (or too uptight). Get down so you play shorter than your full height. If you’re on your toes mentally and you’re physically off your heels, you’re ready to move. You’re alert. You have your mind and body engaged. Stay on your toes. Stay frosty.
Toes point —> it’s important how your toes point as opposed to how the FEET together point. The two feet point and the angle they form in a stance may reveal where the shooter is shooting their ball. If the feet point or angle they form is cross-court, that’s probably where the ball is headed toward the other, far, rear corner. Your feet tell you little when your stance is partial or when the lead foot is either 1/2 step out closer to the sidewall (closed) or your front trails with the toes being even with the back of your rear foot’s heel (open). In those partial stances, the “toe point” is highly functional. First, as you set to rip ideally point the toes of the back foot at the sidewall and turn or pivot that foot as you swing forward. The front foot optimally points a little bit at the front wall very subtly or just a little at the sidewall up ahead encouraging and fostering front leg knee turn AND your knee bending over your toes. In bang-bang rallies, the toes can point at the sidewall, but avoid an overly closed stance where the front foot is way out closer to the sidewall or an overly open or wide open stance facing the front wall where the stance makes it a less than favorable balancing and turning situation that supports far fewer shot angles. Opening your front foot toes to the front helps you turn and swing. Another toe point is when you return serve. When returning serve, point your toes at the front wall, as opposed to pointing both feet at one sidewall until you know that’s the sidewall to point them at. Wait until you’re sure the ball is going to THAT side before you pop your feet to point your toes at that sidewall up ahead of you. Then pop your toes sideways, back foot jab step to the sidewall, and crossover step with the far foot to cutoff their serve’s angle into the rear corner.
Tools —> in your skill set it’s ideal to have a huge chest full of “tools” for shotmaking, serving that subdues or renders moot the receiver’s efforts, plus matching moving tools, tools you use reading the ball, and tools for rapidly deciphering the situation or your pattern recognition tools. Then, upon recognizing and choosing shoot or defend, keep your tools in motion and performing at their pinnacle of sharpness, as you approach and ideally attack each ball to place your shot with great tactical difficulty for the challenger.
Top grip —> the backhand grip with the underside of your index finger knuckle on the topmost plane of the racquet handle so the Top of your index knuckle points straight up is the “Top grip”. There your hand is set securely behind the racquet handle, with the web of your hand between your thumb and forefinger set behind as you swing thru at contact in the highly stable, very solid “Top grip”. The Top grip is similar to how the Eastern forehand grip places your palm behind the handle. The Top grip for the backhand creates a very versatile contact platform to strike the ball very powerfully or to make extremely solid contact with delicate touch and finesse, when needed. The Top grip also allows you to make contact from chest high down to ankle bone low. To find your Top grip, put your racquet head under your non racquet arm. Then put your hand on top and the pointer finger knuckle goes right on top. There your hand position is behind the racquet handle. Your forearm and the racquet are at a right angle to each other in the correct Top grip. There are two major benefits of the Top grip. One, there is the stability of placing your hand behind the racquet handle, as opposed to setting your hand down along the length of the handle. Secondly, the Top grip allows you to have that HUGE contact range by allowing you to control the racquet face at the full range of low contact stroking. Again you may make contact from ankle bone low all the way up to chest high; while a Continental grip or Eastern backhand grip contact height stops at waist high at max. From there on up, it’s lift to the ceiling time.
Topspin —> a natural swing motion over the top of the ball when brushing the strings up the back of the ball imparts over spin which is retained on the ball as it heads toward its target wall. After the Top spinning ball strikes the front wall, that back to front spin reverses itself into front to back spin as the ball goes back the other way, rebounding off the front wall dipping initially downwards. That retained “Topspin” keeps the ball lower and bouncing earlier and lower, too. Retaining this Topspin causes the ball to angle low as it rebounds off the front wall and heads back in the court. It’s first bounce is earlier or closer to the front wall. The second bounce is earlier, too. Topspin is caused by…
(a) racquet strings contact on the upper half of the back of the ball;
(b) visualize it as you drop the ball slightly lower on your racquet face sweet spot as you make contact;
(c) brush up the back of the ball with your strings;
(d) subtly angling or beveling or closing the racquet face to point slightly down lower on the front wall as you flow the racquet head thru the ball at contact adds overspin.
–> Flow back to front while you swing contacting the upper half of the ball, but not too high on the ball. Via drilling find your contact on the ball just up above the equator, which is the line that slices thru the middle on the ball just like the earth’s equator.
–> Practice contacting the ball at many heights to get a feel for where on the ball to make contact to shoot low and how to be turning the racquet face thru when making contact, as well as where on the strings to make contact. The goal for adding Topspin or over spin is about the valuable result it gives you to control your shot height and your overall control over the ball. Topspin helps control the ball.
Ball Toss —> here’s the rule on the manner of play to start play…”Once the service motion begins, after the ball leaves the hand, it must next bounce on the floor in the service zone and then, without touching anything else, be struck by the racquet before the ball bounces on the floor a second time”. The ball may be dropped with an extended arm or you may swing after flicking the ball to the side and forward in the box as you serve. The drop or flick is a controlled “toss of the ball”. Bring the ball in on your fingers inside your finger tips of your non racquet hand to best control your toss of the ball forward and your toss height so ideally you have to move into the ball to stroke with weight and building momentum. Learn to toss the same way no matter which hard serve is coming or I should say going backward.
Touch or torch —> for each shooting situation, as you’re selecting the side of the court and depth in the court of your shot, dial in your shot pace, too. And that boils down to a simple power level range or spectrum from soft touch all the way up to searing torch. That means do you finesse the ball with an off speed feathered shot? Or do you bludgeon the ball with top pace from a power stance and your huge, big backswing? For say a sidewall shot you may dial it down and strike a cut pinch or cut splat. To mash a pass by the challenger you may unleash your canon best Topspin power shot. Dial it in, “touch or torch”. Note that going for a torched kill-shot into your sidewall target or into your straight in target can cause the ball to carom out further into the middle of the court. There a touch kill-shot will bounce earlier and not rebound out as far into the middle of the court. For any pace, use a similarly developed stance and sizable backswing so your opponent must honor your potential power shot, even when you’re going to hit say feather a trickle splat or flick a kill-shot tight in along the sidewall.
Tournament —> an event where there’s a…match referee; singles and doubles events; first match start times;
a draw showing brackets towards a championship, results and next match times; usually single elimination format, although sometimes round robin for the smaller draws; a consolation division for first round losers; two games to 15 and tiebreaker to 11, when there’s a tie in games 1 and 2; a break between rounds; a multi-day format; entry fees for all divisions with cheaper price for second division entered; a shirt and goodie bag; trophies, medals or prize money for first and second place finishers; and ranking points nationally to the players that all have memberships in USRA is a “tournament”. Prep for tournaments is huge. Working to get fit to play in a multi-round event is big. There are men’s and lady’s divisions from novice up to D, C, B, A, Elite and Open skill levels all the way up to Pro, as well as age brackets split every 5 years. Doubles events are often competed, as well. Tournament directors seed players based on past results and answer any rule questions, plus they may combine age groups sometimes to give players more matches and a more (or less) level playing field, but usually to give players more than one or two matches in the event. A tournament is the ultimate in racquetball competition.
Tracking —> when you’re pursuing the ball you follow the ball with both your eyes and your feet by moving them both, as you continuously read the bounce of the ball and move with it. You make your best play on the ball based on your ball “tracking” movement, active feetwork and tracking the ball while reading its bounce or reaction to contact, front wall and floor or walls. It’s invaluable to come to know the bounce of the ball in more bounce situations involving the sidewalls, back wall, the sidewall AND and after ceiling contact. Ultimately the goal is to track down the ball, approach it, optimally set your feet and shoot the ball from YOUR effective striking stance. That accurate tracking comes with reps and figuring out how best to respond to each bounce with your optimal approach to set your feet to stroke, which gives you more versatility shooting from an unrevealing stance that can support so many shot options that they’re beyond the coverage capacity of even an opposing pair of doubles challengers.
Track tendencies —> as you chronolog the ongoing game mentally, take mental notes on the challenger’s “tendencies” such as…
(a) how is the challenger inclined to position themselves to return serve;
(b) how do they defend when they’re in center court in rallies;
(c) how and where do they move after serving;
(d) how do they move off the ball after striking it or when it tracking down to hit;
(e) how do they set their feet to hit;
(f) how do they prep;
(g) how do they time their contact;
(h) what contact point do they pick;
(i) what shot choices do they pick;
(j) how do they vary first and 2nd serves;
(k) note how they escape the box based on certain specific serves where they look vulnerable; and (l) how do they follow their shots from the backcourt after returning serve or shooting from deep court.
–> All of those could give you big openings. They indicate where to hit the ball or where not to hit the ball or when to hit the ball. Finally, what is the challenger’s mentality or attitude. All of this tendency tracking is so you may capitalize on any intel you see and feel is attackable or that requires you to adjust your game so their tactics, serves or shots aren’t hurting you and exposing your being either too anticipatory or too lethargic yourself. Ultimately the goal is to be playing at your very best at the end of each game and match, even if that means you’re establishing momentum to go into the next game so you start strong.
Track the ball —> as you actively move to play each ball, ideally move WITH the ball to play it offensively, as you “track down the ball”, while reading its
bounce and spin, while adjusting to the bounce or the reaction of the ball to the walls and the court surface. Also, while you track the ball, settle on which wing (stroke) to use (with your forehand or backhand) and, of course, select which side and court depth for your shot. Then, as you prep, visualize that shot and stroke to produce it, as you transition from track the ball into approach the ball. Efficient feetwork, optimal court movement speed (for this ball), and balance makes your ball tracking its very best. It’s part hustle, a big part feetwork choreography, and your feel how to move, and your ball read magic, as you’re intent on positioning yourself to play this ball offensively, with good spacing (a reach away and initially setting yourself behind each ball). There call upon your skill set when setting your feet optimally to use your premium stroking form, which ideally involves almost a mimeographed copy of your swinging form giving you more viable, familiar shot options and consistent results, as you swing within your own personal swing tempo.
Trail —> infrequently will YOU simply face one direction and bolt off straight ahead in that faced direction. You’ll more often than not face one way and need to go from there either to your right or left or diagonal variations on that binary choice to move sideways. From that facing one way and going right or left as you’re moving into the front court or dropping back into the backcourt or when you’re going toward the sidewall from in the middle of the court, the farthest foot from the direction you’re heading is your “trail” foot. To move furthest quickest, that trail foot is about to move closer to your destination. Now that lead-trail foot relationship can switch in a instant when you’re ready to go in one direction but you must immediately switch and go in the complete opposite direction. One example is when you just served as you get out of the box into center court. There, as you get out of the box, the rear foot of your stance turns into your lead foot. Your front foot of your serving stance becomes your trail foot, as you start to retreat out of the box in your routine that you have down pat for each of your serves to serve and retreat out of the box. However, say you see the receiver is shooting your serve down low. Now the back foot of your just completed serving stance is still your trail foot. If you’ve got to go far up in the front court or you need to get off the mark going fastest, take a crossover step with THAT trail foot passing your lead or near foot. That will get you going past the service line into the front court quickest. Another switch example is when you’re angled off in center court toeing the diagonal line between ball in deep court and the cross front corner, while you face the front corner ball side. The lead foot is the one closest to the front wall with its toes pointing at the front corner ball side. The expectation is you’ll cover the challenger’s straight in shot. You’re also ready to dash into the front court to cover a low shot. Again, from center court your lead or front foot’s toes point at the front corner and the trail foot’s toes points at the sidewall up in the forecourt. Although, when a straight shot is getting by you headed for the near, rear corner, the lead-trail switch sees the foot closest to the front wall become the trail foot. Optimally, to cover more court quickly, crossover with that trail foot in front and over the lead foot to make a diagonal beeline run deep into the backcourt to leg out the challenger’s straight shot along the sidewall into the back corner. For simpler examples… when moving toward the rear corner to cut off a serve into that corner, the far foot from the served ball and corner under attack is the trail foot. There pivot both feet serve side, jab with lead foot and crossover with trail foot diagonally to cutoff the serve’s angle into the rear corner. Again, for your routine retreat out of the service box to move into center court, the trail foot is actually the front foot of your serving stance and the back foot of that stance is your lead foot. To move back quickly from there, the whole process goes like this… double foot pivot, cross step with trail foot, drive with the other leg and escape out of the box. As you then arrive and D-up in center court in coverage, your trail foot is the deeper one, as you angle off watching the ball behind you while facing the front corner ball side. From there, if you’re going forward to cover the front court or the forward part of the middle of the court (15-30 feet back), your move starts fastest with a crossover step with your trail foot first, as you step passing in front of your lead or front foot. Less often, as another option, you may crisscross with a cross step passing behind the lead foot to then uncross your legs and play a ball not as far away, but not so close where a sidestep or shuffle step would get you there or build your leg drive like does a crisscross. Practice pivoting on both feet and taking a cross step with the trail foot in front. Also drill a cross in back of the lead foot toward the direction you’re heading as you work on your feetwork skills to move and have more, viable shooting options. In a final trail foot example, as you’re reading a ball being struck by the challenger behind you, your trail foot is closer to the player in back, but things can change quickly. When say the challenger lifts a ceiling ball or they shoot a deep passing shot cross-court, the foot furthest from the backcourt is now the trail foot and the lead foot is the foot closest to the direction you’re heading. Here, to go furthest fastest, make a quick double foot pivot, crossover with the trail foot (frontmost) passing in front of your lead foot and quickly get going backwards. If it’s far enough away, with the crossover step be turning to run straight back vs. retreating in a sideways drop. Drill moving your trail foot from wherever you are toward the direction you’re heading. That’s the quickest transition to get you there 6 feet or more away to be most offensive when you get there to set your feet to hit the ball aggressively.
Training —> knowledge comes, and wisdom lasts. Store up in your mind a vast quantity of strategic and tactical skills that guide your play. Learn to form your on court judgments using the discipline of the hard work you put in via drilling in “training” and in the heat of competitive experience where you consistently pay rapt attention to what’s going on. Post play evaluate, assess and plan and make steady self-improvements. Wisdom comes when you put in both the physical AND the mental work to improve your play and your strategic sophistication, as you train and play smart.
Trajectory —> both the flight path in to your wall target or launch angle to your wall target for your shot or serve along with its path coming back out off the wall target like the front wall or sidewall is the shot or serve’s full “trajectory”. Start by imagining forming that beginning launch path for your chosen shot’s angle to shape your shot trajectory that you desire and that you see tactically working for you, as you settle on your shot choice. Defensively the trajectory of the challenger’s shot as it’s flowing to the front wall and even more importantly as it coming back off the front wall is what, as cover player, you read to pick up the rebounding bounce of the ball so you can react to that rebound with your movements. Read their ball trajectory based on how they hit the ball and visually tracking it, while you’re moving and picking out your intercept point where you’ll shoot the ball or defensively make a get and ideally tactically place it. The ball’s trajectory is significantly affected by whether the ball contacts one or two sidewalls or if the shooter imparts spin on the ball as they make contact. Picking up on the ball’s trajectory or its bounce or flight path is critical to your movements to the ball, your positioning behind the ball to play it with force and control. There you time when to optimally set your feet to shoot and optimize your shooting situation with your best shot option to optionally hit a kill-shot, drive a pass, lift a defensive ceiling ball or make a rally saving get. After hitting, slide into optimal coverage positioning right after shooting or making your good get, and get ready to do it again.
Transfer —> as you swing back, shift your weight onto your back foot and load your hips of your striking stance. That hip turn loads up your forward swing, along with looping your racquet back and up into your ideal, time-sensitive backswing. Then, as the ball draws near, push off your back foot toward your anchored front foot. That begins progressive weight “transfer” and body turn from back to front in your lower body forward swing. First, the back knee (and leg) lean in. Then push and turn from your back foot and leg into your front leg, as the front foot drives down into the court floor. Dual knee turn spirals up into hip flip, as the inside of the front foot and leg encourages and accepts building weight transfer from back to front. As both knees spin, the hips spin and the weight maximizes on the front leg, as a little over half your weight is forward right as you make ball contact, as it builds up to that optimal level as you swing.
Transferable skills —> from other sports take the best of their skills into playing YOUR racquetball game. Take the touch of curling on ice, the crossover dribbles and crossover steps of basketball, the shadowing movement of guarding receivers in football like you do shadowing the ball as you track it down, the variety of feetwork maneuvers learned over the decades in tennis, and the use of time between “pitches” in baseball, like time available to both pitcher server and catcher receiver in our game. “Transferable skills” from other sports to racquetball makes your game stronger and it can even elevate our sport beyond its current playing level because self actions rule and new skills innovate and raise the level of the game.
Transition —> there’s several times when you “transition” in racquetball. One time is when you serve. As soon as you send the ball back into the back half of the court, transition to playing defense. There normally drop back into center court. Transition to playing defense after serving, even when you must go immediately forward to get to and ideally re-kill the receiver’s kill-shot attempt. Get ready to defend your serve placement and ideally command the rally by routinely starting in center court. From center court, assuming it’d be tough to shoot it. As soon as the receiver or rally challenger strikes the ball, make your moves designed to track down and transition to attacking the ball, even when that means you’re pursuing the ball to flick a return or blast a High Z or make a power save into the back wall. After offensively or defensively returning each ball, transition quickly into defensive coverage. Make your move to hustle into center court or wherever you sense you need to move to defend the court and get ready to track down and shoot the ball again. Finally, the main rhythmic transition you make from your backswing into your forward swing is ideally done without skipping a beat or without a hitch or delay. Swing back and then throw the racquet looping down (initially pointing back), out, around and thru the ball with a fluid, full, arcing, peaking forward swing.
Trap ’em —> it’s fun to play tactical racquetball. As you drop back to cover your opponent’s ceiling ball and you can, pin them first in the rear corner where they just struck the ball, as you drop back toward them. Then back them over into the other rear corner. There’s a great sensation of power in fully controlling the pattern of play. There you could flick a down the wall shot tight in along the sidewall furthest from them while you admire your handiwork and render their covering effort moot. On the other side of the trap, it’s best to follow EVERY single shot you take from deep court forward. That especially includes after lifting your ceiling balls. As you hit a ceiling ball along one sidewall, move into the ball as you make contact. Then allow your momentum to continue as you make your run ALONG that sidewall to get yourself out of the net of the trap. As you get into the middle of the court, slide over into center court. Another trap occurs when you can strike a ball along one side of the court and you can trap the cover player either behind you in the backcourt or up against that closest near sidewall. The move to “trap them” then is to turn your back to the cover player, as you face the far sidewall and you prep with your off stroke. That off stroke is the stroke used primarily on the other side of the court, like your backhand on your forehand. The trap is sprung by how your follow-through flows out to the near sidewall behind you eliminating the cover player’s dash along that sidewall to cover your choice of low, down the wall shot or your reverse pinch into front corner up along that closest sidewall or the pinch into diagonally opposite front corner as a long near corner pinch any of which you’re making tough to leg out. If on the other side of the ball and YOU find yourself in a trap before it’s sprung, dash along that sidewall early and curl into the center court before they turn to swing to most effectively cover the pattern. However, if as the trap is laid and you find you’re unable to escape the preferable way along the sidewall, make lemonade. Circle around the shooter to the center. Hustle hard around them while you prioritize continuing your cover run all the way on into the front court in expectation of a low corner shot or a left up down the wall shot. Even better, the best move is to not give up a back wall setup or a floating ball coming toward them where you pin yourself behind the cover player with your errant shot placement and your lack of post contact freedom of movement hustle. That trap occurs due to overhit passing shots, under hit ceiling balls or badly left up pinches or splats. Oftentimes selecting the wrong shot for the ball you’re playing from the position or height you’re playing it (or both) causes your shot to be left up. Consider where you’ll be and need to be after each hit as you’re choosing and shooting each ball and factoring in where does the ball want to go?
Trickle splat —> a shot hit when you’re close in along a sidewall where you make low contact to glance the ball off that sidewall targeting a spot just up ahead of you and very close to you and slightly lower than where you make ball contact causes this delicate splat shot to stay very low on it’s way to your imagined, very low front wall target. Then this splat doesn’t rebound far out due to the shot’s spin, its low front wall target spotting, and its off-speed inside out swing motion, as a “trickle splat”. The trickle splat is the shortest shot in racquetball because it’s targeted such a very short distance just up ahead of you.
Tricky conditions —> there are times when it’s going to get a little dicey. The walls are going to be moist due to the numbers of players in the club, the humidity in the club, or running heat and AC at the same time in the winter. The ball may slide along the walls generating a very unusual bounce. If the floors get slick or they’re very dusty, they can become unplayable. The court floor can get a little dust cover to it, and that often happens because courts aren’t wet mopped routinely if ever. They accumulate what’s carried in by players and they become super dusty. Then the court needs a good sweeping. Playing a diver is always a challenge because often they get to everything you leave up and they may also have a tendency to not always wipe up after themselves all of the court slicks they make, especially when they dive multiple times in the progress of one rally. Check after they towel it off. As another type of tricky conditions, sometimes there’s an off kilter court door. Or there are edges around ceiling lights that can cause ceiling balls to angle strangely. Gaps at floor level along the sidewalls create bigger than normal cracks. Often worn court floors need to be refinished because they’re much slicker than a well varnished surface. Wearing gum rubber shoes helps you with your grip on any wooden surface. It’s very important, as you warmup to play, to figure out how to deal with TODAY’S “tricky conditions”. As an example on very slick walls maybe you’ll go for fewer splats so you do not set them up with your strangely bouncing, left up splat.
Trigger grip —> one position on the racquet handle where players set their hand is where they have about a finger’s width distance between their forefinger (which is their index finger or pointer finger) and their biggest, longest finger in their “trigger grip”. Holding the racquet handle with that trigger grip loosens up your hand and wrist which allows you to swing with a loose, fluid potentially far more potent, deadly and powerful wrist snap than a claw grip where the fingers all clumped or squeezed together. Experiment with the trigger grip and see how well it works for you.
Trust the process —> there’s a process to serving and a process to returning serve. There’s even a process for your training and how you are able to escalate your level of play and increase your broad ranging skills by drilling and doing repetitions while making small corrections until you arrive at your best form in all things and in your shotmaking, too. “Trust the process” means first develop a process. Believe in it. Then, as you play, trust in your process of planning, strategies, tactics, training program, and your skills assessment and skills development and the ability to design familiar responses to match your process and patterns of play you recognize. The object is to trust your training and past results. If your most recent current experiences aren’t rosy ones, trust the process. Go back to your strategy. However, if there’s something you’re unprepared for, go back to the drawing board. Design a new service or return ritual, a new stroke form, a new tactic, pick different positioning, different spin or different shot or serve angle. Work on the training ground to find or re-find your form, to learn that brand new skill, to improve your feetwork, or to learn a new serve or shot. Train with your process with the objective to raise your level of play, as well as make your game more adaptive, dynamic, and irresistible. Train and then play with your adaptive, all-encompassing process of play.
Trust your choices —> trust what you choose to do routinely… until you can’t. If you’re starting to obviously play dumb, first, stop that. Don’t go for too much trying to hit only home runs, like when going for only rollouts. Don’t hit shots you invent today. Don’t repeat unforced errors out of stubbornness, like skipping in a short-hop return of a lob or searing Z drive serve, when going for the rollout twice in a row. Don’t not hustle. Don’t play brain dead. Instead make good, proven choices and trust them. Your proving ground is both rally play and your drilling where you work on new things and stabilize your best skills. That training is where you keep your known skills extra strong. “Trust your choices”, your good ones.
Trust your practice —> the obvious way to build and bolster your skill level, techniques, stroking form, versatility, and belief system is in your training, drilling and repetitions. There you develop muscle memories of hand-eye coordinated strokes numerous shots and serves, and feetwork, too. On court training of your feetwork, your recovery from your strokes and your fitness level is all done there which will make your game stronger and keep it strong when you “trust your practice”.
Turn and face —> whenever possible, for each and every ball you play, “turn and face” the sidewall for the stroke you’ve chosen to hit. For example, face the right sidewall for the primary stroke you hit on that side of the court and swing where your follow-through will flow into the center of the court as a backhand for a lefty or a forehand for a righty. Even when you’re in a partial or fully open stance, emphasize turning with your chest and facing up to the sidewall as you wind back in your backswing, while also loading up your back foot. When you’re going to use your off stroke or the stroke primarily used on the other side of the court, face the far sidewall as you prep. In a perfectly timed stance setting, “step back”, which means set your back foot behind contact as you turn to face the sidewall for that stroke. Then timing your stroke is about how you set your front foot and finish the load back to your back foot (and hips), as you complete your pre-forward swing prep. Then right away push off to transfer and rotate into your front foot from your back foot, as you swing the racquet forward from that sidewall facing configuration to turning into the ball to where your chest will end up facing your target wall at swing’s end.
The Turtle —> as a “turtle” player type or playing style, you make up for being less fleet footed by having extra special feetwork, compact, adaptive strokes, quick, soft hands, and lots of reliable shots and serves. Your routine turtle moves are to drive serve directly into the back corners or to carom the ball off the sidewall as a crack-out serve or a jam serve that rockets off a sidewall into the receiver. There you’re intentionally gin’ing up weak returns and keeping to your main goal of controlling center court, while keeping the ball out of the middle of the court with your rally shots and service returns. Therefore you get to be a center court hugger. A byproduct of your attacking game is the rallies are kept very short, which is your main plan… shorten the points. Every rally is a race to keep it as brief as possible, while making THEM run as you shoot passes and setups as kill-shots when you can let the ball drop extra low.
Tweener —> a ball taken when facing the back wall and shooting between your legs is a “tweener”. A tweener is doable by practicing the technical form of shooting between your legs when facing the back wall. There select, for instance, a pinch front corner target usually into your front, forehand corner. Practice tweeners and then you’ll make them in games and avoid hitting your legs with the ball or your racquet. Of course, ideally turn and face sideways to hit each ball forward from a regular striking stance, whenever possible.
T-w-ooze —> a 3-wall shot you hit from the other side of the court when facing the cross front corner with your toes pointed at that corner and when hitting with your off stroke into the sidewall at your back aiming just up ahead of you is a “Twooze” shot. For example, it’s stroking with your backhand when positioned along your forehand sidewall as a 3-wall kill-shot. Here hit the ball into your forehand sidewall just up ahead of you pinpointing a spot that will make the ball diagonally angle into the cross front corner as a T-hree W-all Ooze shot. As the shot strikes that near sidewall behind and beside you, it compresses the ball causing it to then project out toward that opposite front corner. This 3 wall ooze shot may hit low on the far sidewall and then ricochet into the front wall. Or the Twooze, after hitting the near sidewall, could angle over and strike low on the front wall to then strike low on the far sidewall. Or the Twooze shot could diagonal directly into the cross front corner crotch to crack out. In any case, the ball rebounds oozing out very sloooowly from that cross front corner because of the combo of walls involved. This Twooze shot ideally bounces twice far up in the front court, as the 3-wall shot oozes out, as a Twooze shot.
The Big Twooze —> there’s two kinds of Big Twooze shots. One is a shot taken from off the sidewall in a more open stance when contacting the ball in the middle of the court swinging across body and targeting the nearest or closest sidewall up ahead 3-6 feet so then the ball Twoozes or compresses to diagonally zip very fast into the cross front corner to then barely ooze off the front wall at a snail’s pace due to the multi-wall effect. Also that initial sidewall targeting is powerfully intimidating to the opposing cover player standing off to your side out from the corner you ricochet the Twooze into that they can’t cover without biting very early to hustle it down. And then there’s too many other shots you could be shaping they’d leave wide open, like passing shot angles to either side. But the reality is you go for the Big Twooze which is a shot taken in a blink of an eye when other kill-shots, like pinches aren’t there for you. Then you gird up your open stance and crush the ball into the sidewall feeling for that target up ahead with great power and passion to carom the ball off to diagonal into the other front corner. The other Big Twooze is taken from along your backhand sidewall when partially facing toward the other sidewall and fielding a very high ball. There crushing the ball with your overhead into the sidewall just up ahead causes the ball to ricochet off to veer diagonally into the cross front corner sidewall first so the ball barely makes it to the front wall to ooze off and bounce twice quickly catching the opponent often off balance and unable to cover your 3-wall shot.
Type of player —> you may be ripping the ball and crushing your serves with your power game or you may be hitting with lobs and feathered placements with touch and spin, as a control player emphasizing placing the ball and absorbing and using your opponent’s serve and shot pace against them. Also, in your personality or physical characteristics you may be more of a rabbit darting and hopping around the court chasing down what the opponent leaves up and tending toward hitting your shots hard. Or you may be more of a plodder moving around as less than speed merchant playing hard from a tactical and shot shaping aspect, as the turtle. Ultimately it’s up to you to determine what “type of player” you are. Decide whether you’re a hybrid player with qualities of many types of players, with many game styles all rolled into one style that’s uniquely all your very own.
Unblock straight and cross-court angles —> by moving rapidly, the objective of your defensive movement, positioning and coverage when the ball is deep behind you is to D-up in center court while not blocking the straight in angle or cross-court to the farthest rear corner angle, but still legally, fairly blocking the cross front corner. “Unblock straight and cross-court” even by walking into position when taking strides to where you cover for say your lob serve or ceiling ball. Or initially cross step and flick your feet back in a little skip as you hustle back after you serve up a rear corner drive serve or deep drive Z serve that gets to the sidewall before the receiver is able to return it. When the serve is going much faster or, for instance, your drive serve is popping out of the back corner, fast as possible move to avoid blocking those 2 angles while taking up the best spot you can in the part of the center court your shot placement and their timing when they make their return allows; which means unblock those shots and the angle between them. You should routinely beat them to THEIR spot when they’re in deep court setting their feet to shoot. Pulling (or keeping them back) with your serves, returns, or your follow on rally passing shots and ceiling balls is balanced with pushing the challenger side to side so you test both their retreating and lateral movements. Pushing them forward is not a tactical plan. Their going forward is the result of your kill-shot placements where you ideally execute kills to curtail rallies all together vs. extend them at those times when you read a put-away ball is your practiced, familiar and very doable option.
Unfazed —> be imperturbable. Less than rosy things very frequently happen in racquetball games. The game is fraught with cracks, bad corner bounces, lucky challenger hits, funny, unpredictable ball spins and strange challenger movements and perspectives. Those and bizarre interpretations of kill-shots, replay hinders (that were penalty hinders), 2-bounce gets, snide comments, smirky looks, and mockery of usage of time between rallies can, at times, all seem overwhelming. It’s best to be totally “unfazed” by all of those calls and ploys and examples of gamesmanship. It can’t help to dwell on things you can’t control that aren’t good for you. Also let go of even good shots you hit or good times when you shoot for the bottom board, but you may miss. Disconcerting thoughts or emotions can’t help with how you play the very next ball. Make it a good one. Be totally “unfazed”. Blank the slate and reload before each new rally when receiving serve or when you’re about to serve.
Unflagging —> be persistent and self propelled by your “unflagging” enthusiasm to battle, find a way, and be indefatigable (or tireless) in your enthusiasm and efforts physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Tell yourself, “I can do this”, and hustle. Always monitor and maintain your optimal level of effort and belief. Only you should (and can) control your level of effort in all of its forms.
Unforced error —> when you have a makable shot that you could and should make, you should make it. Say you should bounce your passing shot twice before it reaches the back wall, but instead your pass bounces and pops off the back wall as a setup that’s an “unforced error” (or UE). When you have a setup say off the back wall where you could let the ball drop extra low to shoot low to low with your sweeping routine low contact stroke and instead you strike the floor on your shot’s way into its wall target, that’s also a UE. When you leave up your re-kill off the left up kill-shot by your foe, that’s an example of an unforced error. The reason these are unforced is because you basically shouldn’t completely miss or leave a pass off the back wall or skip in a makable re-kill attempt. You shouldn’t leave up a setup that you should and usually do routinely take and make. The same logic goes for double faulting away your serve, when say you hit a lob second serve short. It’s also a UE when your shot does not make it to the front wall when you’re lifting a ceiling ball. Also, it’s unforced to leave your lob serve off the back wall as a setup. Focus, belief, and using your familiar form gives you the best opportunity to NOT make unforced errors. Instead and ideally make your makable shots and defend effectively when you’re confronted by tougher ball tracking situations when a tactical placement beats going for broke with a high to low wishful kill-shot attempt, when then the wrong shot choice would be a mental UE vs. a physical one.
Uniform contact point —> for your forehand and backhand strokes making contact off shoulder or just out in front of your racquet arm shoulder where your arm straightens as you make contact offers great stroke consistency. It also provides movement keying, pre-prep fundamental basic positioning behind that contact point. Knowing your constant contact point is so beneficial because, when it’s THERE, then you have complete control over your racquet head’s flow thru the part of the ball you earmark for contact coupled with how you will swing back to front and turn to set the racquet face to angle at impact which will define your side to side and up and down combo shot angle or trajectory. A planned ball contact point, the flow thru contact and beveling the racquet face at contact all combine to define that combo vertical and sideways angle, which is your shot trajectory. That trajectory defines which side of the court and at what depth in the court the ball is placed. It’s “How low do you go?”. Your swing’s force defining flow determines your shot speed, be it top speed down to touch or finesse and also whether you impart ball spin that controls your shots and torments your challenger. Angling your racquet face when swinging thru the ball produces a range of shots going from super low to smooth passing shot high. A passing shot may be as high as 3-4 feet on the front wall, when say the server has stranded themselves in the box after serving. Setting yourself and contacting the ball in relationship to your feet or legs would be way too tall an order because you can’t always set your feet just right in rallies. Also, were you to move the contact in relationship to your feet or legs you’d eventually reveal your shot angle to your challenger. Your hitting shoulder is always right there at contact and the ball should be struck right there in front of that racquet arm shoulder. Making contact at that “uniform contact point” disguises your shot’s angle no matter how your feet may be set due to your improvised, best case movements. That disguise causes the opponent to skip a beat waiting for your contact before they can make their sneaky anticipation run to proactively leg out where they THINK your shot will go. So now they’re just guessing vs. making an educated, observation-based mental call by where you show you’re aiming your shot based on where you contact the ball. A universal or uniform contact point doesn’t show or reveal a tell where the shot could be going.
Unit shoulder turn —> to add lots of punch to your strokes and especially your backhand, cock your shoulders away as you prep. Then turn your 2 shoulders as a one unit as your forward swing starts. Here’s how: as you push off your back foot and loop your racquet arm down… draw your off hand in to your side which joins them. ALWAYS turn both shoulders together. Do NOT throw your off arm in the opposite direction behind you, which will separate your shoulders. Keep them turning as one as a balancing and power producing single “unit shoulder turn”.
Universal contact point —> a repeating place where you make contact is like the exact same release point for a baseball pitch, an identical tennis serve contact spot or a repeating table tennis serve release point. It offers tremendous disguise and consistency for the ball striker. For the challenger, that same contact point adds off putting disguise as to your serve’s angle and your serve placement (or your shot shaping angle). For the forehand, the exactly alike contact point is just out in front of your racquet arm shoulder. For the backhand, the contact point is just a little bit further out front due to the Top backhand grip. The main objective for the “universal contact point” is to extend your arm culminating in turning over your forearm and wrist together thru contact so that right at contact in front of your striking shoulder the racquet’s face is positioned to angle the ball toward your targetable spot, as you place the ball best for this game pattern by answering with your selected shot and universal contact point.
Unstoppable —> it’s confidence building to serve or shoot where your winning ball placement is just unable to be prevented by the challenger. These “unstoppable” placements may include an intentional ace serve or winner passing shot to the open or kill-shot off a setup. A crack-out right past the short line, a familiar, routine trickle splat, a pass where you’re between ball and opponent are all unstoppable shooting situations where you control your own rally destiny. Practice allows you to have more unstoppable options and highly consistent results with them.
Up-the-wall serving the lob and drive —> wall hugging deliveries ideally wallpaper the sidewall for both lob and direct drive serves into the near, rear corner. The paralleling ball are just sheer toughness to return with any kind of control by the receiver. First, the high lob that’s served from tight in along the sidewall that bounces inside the receiving line and is already rising to glue itself tight to the sidewall is going to require a deep court sliced ceiling when maybe even having to scrape the sidewall with your racquet head to pry the ball off the sidewall. Now, when the lob is off angle and it catches the sidewall and pops out, it’s a disaster. The ball deflects off and it’s a setup that the receiver can send anywhere because all return shots can potentially hurt the server’s point scoring chances. Also a lob that’s always a little off the sidewall is prone to being overhead smashed right as it’s passing the receiving line. The other “up-the-wall” serve is the drive serve from just outside the three foot line where the ball veers back to perfectly parallel the sidewall as an optimal serving result. Hitting the up the wall serve so it will Robin Hood the rear corner ensures the singles receiver had better have guessed right or they’re most likely out of luck to even get a touch on it. When the up the wall serve is off angle and the ball catches the sidewall, it’s going to pop out. There the server better pop out, too, away from the sidewall toward the far side or they risk being popped AND also being called for a penalty hinder, a painful double whammy. When the ball isn’t glued to the sidewall, the served ball is like a drilling shot and it’s very vulnerable to a down the wall untouchable passing shot return or a cross-court where the receiver had better have cleared or they could get popped. The up the wall wallpaper high lob and the Robin Hood drive serve can be trained up to become integral parts of your serving artillery. Use cut action for both, with an inside out swing motion dialed down lob and ramped up, but heavy cut action, under control drive. Even a slight touch “up-the-wall” drive serve requires control and still sizzling power contact to get the ball deep fast.
Play with a sense of Urgency —> when you’ve dropped game one, you’ve got to come out like gangbusters at the start of game 2. But you have to “play with that urgency” all the way through (or your tournament life will be over!). You have to come out with a sense of immediacy. To “play with a sense of urgency” means you’re playing with full involvement by giving ample weight to your effort, alertness, focus and hustle, as well as your clear thinking reasoning while factoring in all that’s transpired in the match up until now and what you can and must do differently to change your fortune in game 2 or wherever you are in the game or match. That means ALWAYS play a little bit urgent and a lot hungry and all fearless.
V cross-court —> a shot struck on one side of the court at a 45 degree angle directly into the front wall hitting about halfway over where then the ball caroms off the front wall also at a 45 degree angle so the ball angles across the court into the farthest, rear corner is a “V cross-court” or V shot. It’s named a V cross-court because it forms the letter V from where the ball is struck at one top of the V to the lowest part of the V where the ball strikes the front wall to where the ball angles out to its target placement deep in the court at the other top of the V in the far, rear corner. This is the maximum angle that must be given by you as the defending player to the shooter or it’s failure to move which is a penalty hinder, as is moving where you move and block that angle. If the receiver is at fault, this penalty hinder is a loss of rally for that receiver and a point added to the tally for the server. It’s a loss of rally and side out or change of serve if the server is at fault taking away the V cross-court angle from the receiver with say their return of serve. Note the target on the front wall for V cross-court is just under halfway between where the ball is contacted and the far sidewall. Also, the failure to move rule says straight shots must also be allowed by the defender, as well. So basically the arc from the cross-court angle to the straight in angle or about 45 degrees must be given by the defending player; so that’s a band of court about 1/2 the front wall that must be left open for the shooter when the cover player is in defensive position, including timing being airborne or jumping up so the offensive player could shoot underneath the cover. If the defender is either caught in the way or they choose to move and be airborne so they can land and ideally gobble up a left up shot, they have timed their lift off. When moving to position between the ball in a back corner and the cross front corner, from the V cross-court to the straight in angle is unblocked; while noting that the diagonal angle doesn’t have to be unblocked. That in between positioning is the best initial defensive positioning to take when defending shooting by the deep court shooter.
Versatility shooting —> to adapt to the bounce of the ball, it’s invaluable to have numerous shot options to respond to various bounces that you confront. In addition to routine straight in and cross-court angles, DTL angling the ball right along the sidewall and wide angles completely around the opponent should be added to widen the defenders coverage area significantly. Add to those bouncing the passing ball so it veers to glance off the sidewall deep in the backcourt which cushions the shot or serve keeping the ball from involving the back wall or bouncing twice before the back wall. Often in racquetball there’s an underemphasis on sidewall shooting while that is in part due to why the game is being played at a high level north and south of the U.S. border. From very close to the sidewall both close up ahead wall targeting for 3-wall shots and out further into an array of targets along the sidewall as splats may be peppered for sidewall winners. Contacting the ball farther out from the sidewall and shooting for the front corners offers a variety of pinch shots that can strand the opponent on the sidewall or curtail a rally where it’s a cat and mouse game when the opponent hangs back expecting and covering a passing shot angle leaving open the sidewall first or front wall first pinch shot. Own a broad variety of shots due to the ability to shoot using either your forehand or backhand stroke from either side of the court and you have “versatility shooting” shotmaking that makes your game a vaunted, heavy attacking one that’s not boring, very difficult to guard against by the opposition, and lots of shot shaping fun. Drilling builds that shooting versatility how and playing teaches you what works where and when. Since there is no rule allowing a player to be defended when they’re shooting, a practiced shooter can make an adaptive shot that renders the cover player nearly helpless due to the sheer number of options at their disposal. Lesson: get out there and practice and develop a versatile, vast shot artillery rally game. The goal is to make the challenger’s game defensive, even pressuring them when they do get a killable shot of their own because they know they’d better not miss because they know you’re sure to shoot and they’re not sure where or when.
Vertical —> as you’re setting your stance, after choosing your side of the court placement, then, via height control, select either front court or backcourt as your ultimate shot placement. Quickly estimate whether you can control your shot’s “vertical” height. That’s often based on how high you make contact, as you decide on the fly “How low can I go?”. If you’re running, leaning away or making very high contact, a passing shot should usually be Plan A. Of course, for splats a high contact point can still produce a very low, kill-shot winner by picking that correct, apropos sidewall target just up ahead of you with your inside out stroke motion.
Vibration avoidance —> if you feel vibration in the racquet as you make contact with the ball or you feel a twang going up your arm, that’s simply too much vibration. One vibration controller method is to use some form of “vibration dampener”. A dampener is placed down in the center of the bottom row of crosses or crossing strings which are the last strings strung side to side in a row across the racquet. The dampener helps remove or dampen any vibration. There’s little rubber snakes you weave into the strings, little rubber plugs you insert between the strings in the center of that row and some dampeners are woven right into the strings as the racquet is being restrung. A racquet strung to spec helps with reducing vibration, too. Some racquets just vibrate more than others. When you’re checking out a racquet to buy, see how much it vibrates as you hit the ball. Also you can put your dampener in the racquet you’re testing and drill both with it and without the dampener. If a frame does vibrate, it can cause elbow, wrist or shoulder distress. So consider adding a vibration dampener.
Victory —> “victory” is an illusion if you didn’t play well or the challenge was not commensurate with the losses suffered through to reach it. Victory comes in games and titles, but really victory comes in isolated points with pattern recognition and your solution actions, even when you don’t always win the game, as long as you learn from the time and your effort and tactical solution problem solving. Victory is fleeting. Losing is often revelatory.
Live Video game-like play —> with your wand you wield in YOUR evolved racquetball world, you can shape shots by how you maneuver your racquet head wand to send the ball toward your imagined wall target. That shot shaping spans from choices angling up a High Z, to directing a wide angle wraparound, to cranking a super low cross-court, to mashing a deep sidewall splat to zipping in a super tight near corner pinch. It’s all about how you time when to shut or close your racquet face when swinging thru contact. As you swing thru turning your racquet around both side to side and turning over thru contact, it defines your racquet face angle and therefore trajectory vertically and horizontally and how the ball will spin both going in to the front wall and retreating back off the front wall. How you maneuver the racquet face is your movement and placement of the strings on the ball, in a creative shotmaking way, like a wii game, but in far more multidimensional space on a racquetball court. Found in drilling and forged there and in situational or patterned play you develop how YOU shape shots by how YOU hold the racquet or grip it and how YOU draw back and then move to position or maneuver your racquet head thru the ball as you also visualize your shot in prep and on thru your forward swing execution. To become a “video game-like player”, get out there and hit, for example, reverse pinches, splats, pinches and kill-passes for highly versatile shooting. Figure it out. Learn how YOU maneuver your racquet to shape all of your shots. Then you can be the wielder of the wand in your own video-like racquetball game.
What is your game Vision? —> having an image of what the future will be for your game spurs on your training, ambition, and direction of your playing evolution. Also your ability to plan your future with wisdom reflects in your “game vision” for playing and competing your way, even in each point or game.
Visualize —> “visualize” good serves and accurately placed shots. As you form your mental image of your serve or rally shot, you develop a self fulfilling prophecy of placing the racquet on the ball and the ball right where you want it to go, as your form takes the image and your body moves to swing back and thru to place the racquet face on the ball while beveling the strings to shape the trajectory you visualize will define the launch path for each shot; your mentally seen shot.
Visualize good results serving and shooting —> mentally “see” your shot as you take your backswing. Keep seeing your planned placement all the way into your smooth, accuracy enduring follow-through. “Visualize good results” vs. allowing in any negative or unsure images. See clean contact.
Visualize success —> as you mentally prep to serve or as you make your final approach on any ball to set your striking stance to shoot, “visualize success”. See yourself making good contact while excellently placement your serve or shot. In rallies, as you anticipate and read the challenger’s mind revealing their shot which you must track down, see yourself as being a clairvoyant, a savant, an artist, and a shooting machine all rolled into one. Picture yourself doing exactly what you must do, with easy aplomb, to track down and ideally shoot the ball from where you expect it to be (savant) with offensive, aggressive, effective ease to place it where they’re not (clairvoyance) when shaping the shot you picture (artistry) with your autopilot (machine-like) ball striking form.
Volley —> unlike in tennis where going to net or being drawn in to the net creates an opportunity to knock off a volley, when taking a ball out of the air with a short, punchy, stiff wrist put-away “volley” with a racquetball racquet and a racquetball ball is very hard because the ball doesn’t carry well when hit with a racquet as a volley shot. Also the under spin or slice usually used to volley causes the ball to stay up or float when it rebounds off the front wall. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. When running down a particularly difficult ball and striking the ball right before its second bounce there it’s a volley-like low flicking contact, with a slight slice flick, that can keep you in the rally to make THEM hit one more ball. Another form of volley is when you take a little more of a full swing when taking the ball right out of midair, with a controlled compact swing motion, at knee high up to waist high or even higher as a swing volley (see Swing volley for more info).
V pass —> a shot that’s a double 45 degree angle is taken from one deep corner or from along one sidewall as a “V pass” that goes in to the front wall at a 45 degree angle and it caroms off the front wall at another 45 degree angle toward the far, rear corner. The V pass is hit across the court to the complete opposite rear corner. Since the ball goes into the front wall at a 45 degree angle and then angles back out off the front wall at that same 45 degree angle it’s likely to zip toward the far, rear corner when it’s not interrupted due to being blocked because of a hinder by the defender on the way in or cutoff by the challenger before the ball gets back to the far side of the backcourt. As cover player or defender, that V pass angle must be open to the hitter or returning player on ALL balls. For the hitter, the cross-court needs to be practiced up and formed with drop and feeding yourself balls across the court. Finding that court angle requires reps.
Stay off the Wall —> when your partner is shooting make it a point of emphasis to not be glued to the sidewall. For example, when your partner is crosscourt hitting the ball, they should be able to go for a WAP into the far sidewall where you shouldn’t be positioned. When your partner is across the court and the opposing pair is passable by pinpointing the far sidewall, already be clearing off the sidewall to give your hitting partner that WAP option. Or when the ball is behind you along the sidewall and your partner is swooping in behind you to shoot, get off that sidewall. As your partner is pearling around behind you along the sidewall, as the anterior or nearer to the front wall partner, be getting off the sidewall and also try to give up the V cross-court angle, if possible, too. The tactical plan is to stay off the wall so you give your partner that wall to shoot into or along. In both cases, you wanna give your partner the shot they want. Also you want to avoid having the opposing hitter ricochet a ball off the sidewall you’re crowding to jam your stroke. And post rally you want to avoid your partner prompting you to get off the wall with a hand signal saying get off THERE. To not be lectured mid game is often impetus enough to tactically position yourself well. In rallies, as your non shooting partner is hitting, tactically get between and behind the defending pair to back up your partner’s shot. Also, after you partner serves, get off the sidewall and get into center court with your partner so you don’t get jammed by the far side opponent’s return of your partner’s serve which could be going into the sidewall you just pushed off of to D-up.
Make THEM compete with the Wall for the ball —> as you hit your cross-court passes and your down the wall passes, look to involve the sidewall. Hit a wider angle ball that bounces and deflects off the sidewall on the way going back. Or, if you intend to involve the sidewall directly, hit your shot so it angles into and deflects off the sidewall to bounce twice. For your DTL passes, wallpaper the sidewall by adding extra sidespin, with an inside out swing motion while contacting the part of ball closest to you. Also, hit your inside pass down the wall so it bounces, catches the sidewall deep and takes its second bounce right up against the back wall. “Make opponent battle the wall for the ball” just to get to the ball, as it’s passing them by to be able to return the ball at all.
Wallpaper —> “wallpaper” is a term used for when a ball sticks to a sidewall as it moves along that sidewall. One way to cause a ball to wallpaper the wall is to hit very close to a corner at the end one wall and then it rebounds out right along the other wall that forms the corner, as the ball is heading away from that corner. So, for example, as the ball bounces and strikes the back wall in that rear corner, after it has contacted the back wall very close to the sidewall. Then it rebounds out to ideally wallpaper the sidewall going forward. Although the wallpaper ball doesn’t have to at first necessarily angle right along the wall that it will wallpaper. The ball may bounce and then veer into the wall to start to wallpaper the wall. So a wallpaper happens several ways. One, when a drive serve bounces and heads directly into a rear corner, it may directly catch the back wall in that corner to then zip out right along the sidewall that’s right there so the ball is glued to that wall. There the cover player would have to catch up to and scrape the ball off, as the ball flies out toward the front wall, while the ball wallpapers the sidewall. The scraping action is done by sticking your racquet head right up against the wall behind where you’re going to contact the wallpaper ball. Then scrape forward dragging the racquet head on the wall which moves the ball in the direction you swing. The second way a wallpaper occurs is when a ceiling ball toward a rear corner is close in along that sidewall. It may bounce going back and then stick to that sidewall to wallpaper that wall, as the ball heads back into the backcourt. There, again, the cover player would have to put their racquet head right up against the sidewall and scrape upwards to ideally return that ceiling ball with yet another ceiling ball. The third example is a high lob serve that’s served up along one sidewall. There the lob strikes the front wall close but not right next to the sidewall. Then the ball bounces and it optimally angles to adhere itself right to that sidewall wallpapering the wall all the way back into the back half of the court as the ball goes directly into the rear corner. For the service receiver, again, a scraping motion would ideally keep the high lob serve in play that sucks in along the sidewall. Trying to just pluck the ball off the wall or pick it off is going to potentially damage your racquet. Placing the racquet behind the ball where it’s right behind the spot where the ball will go by while picking the return angle usually up and to place the ball deep is the plan. Trying to pick the wallpaper off usually won’t return the ball successfully or we’ll. Lots of skips occur. For this high lob, getting the ball in close along the wall is the server’s primary objective. Getting it to wallpaper the wall is less of a goal than it’s a lucky result of solid lob serving form. This lob serve itself must strike the front wall with a little margin or distance from the sidewall. To get the ball to bounce and veer toward the sidewall to wallpaper it is done by adding cut or inside out sidespin in the slight in to out service motion. The high lob ball is intended to bounce between the short line and receiving line short of the dashed receiving line to then bound up high and ideally angle to parallel the sidewall so the receiver can’t attack it with either their overhead or short-hop attack. If the high lob bounces and hugs the sidewall, all the better. Note that a high lob that wallpapers the sidewall couldn’t rebound off the front wall and immediately wallpaper the sidewall all the way back because it would have had to hit the front wall and then sidewall right in the corner to stick to the wall and stay right along the sidewall the whole length of the wall. That might be called a crotch serve. That’s cutting it just too fine. Instead the lob goes in close along the sidewall a foot or even inches from it. Then it caroms out tight in along the sidewall where it bounces and THEN, with a little bit of luck and the key cut action, the lob rises up to hug the sidewall. A drive serve that cracks out in the back corner, a tight to the sidewall ceiling ball or even a rally shot hit directly into a front corner all may rebound out and wallpaper the sidewall as they come off the wall after hitting the corner OR after they take their first bounce. The drive serve that bounces and wallpapers the sidewall can be extremely tough to return. The wallpaper high lob serve, because it bounces and then angles to the wall to then ideally stick to the wall, is a lucky byproduct of solid technique vs. being a planned or expected result. It’s the product of practice reps to build the muscle memory. The angle close in along the sidewall to the front wall, the carom out, the bounce short of the receiving line, and the cut spin all contribute to the ball angling out to stay in tight along that sidewall. That combo is how that low drive or high lob up the wall is planned and then ideally executed, with a wallpaper result an extra added bonus. Good, close, not passing the broken line to bounce and not going to and popping off the back wall are part of the wallpaper serve consistent intentionality. If the server ball (or rally shot) does wallpaper the sidewall, that’s a bonus.
Wallpaper lob serve —> as a serve used prominently by servers on the forehand side as opposed to their backhand side, a common tactic is to loft up a lob from contact along the forehand sidewall (2-6 feet out from the wall) to the front wall so the ball then rebounds out and bounces in the safety zone between the short line and dashed line so the serve then ideally rises up high and wallpapers the sidewall as it travels back in the back 1/3 of the court. When successful, this “wallpaper lob” has to literally be scraped off the sidewall by the receiver as they (or you) ideally place their racquet head right up against the wall behind contact and dragging the racquet up along the wall thru the ball in hopes of lifting a rally extending ceiling ball return. Just trying to pluck or pick the ball off the wall produces very inconsistent good results and more often skips. The ball toss or bounce for the lob is chest high. Then the wrist-locked upward flowing motion lofts the ball to your felt versus stared at front wall target under halfway between contact and the faced sidewall. A key final trick is adding just a slight bit of cut or inside out side-spin that helps the ball bounce and rise up well short of the dashed line to veer out and parallel the sidewall ideally gluing itself to the sidewall all the way back into the back corner, but not rebounding off. On the other side of the ball as the receiver of a wallpaper lob, if the ball can be attacked right after the bounce before it wallpapers, an early ceiling ball beats waiting way back deep in the backcourt and trying to extricate the wallpaper lob off the sidewall. Alternatively an overhead is also a good cutoff plan, if doable. A similar serve and motion on the backhand side is possible once the requisite number of practices reps have been dedicated to perfecting especially the in to out cut spin addition. Getting too close in along the sidewall as you serve the lob on either side of the box isn’t necessary or recommended. Producing the bounce again ideally well short of the dashed line and imparting beneficial sidespin creates the desired wallpapering effect. Height-wise targeting about 12 feet high or slightly higher on the front wall is about right, with your follow-through tending up toward your just under halfway from the sidewall front wall target for your lob. Then drop back with a crisscross step into center court to cover either a cross-court or down the wall return of serve.
Courts Walls —> all 4 “court walls” in an indoor court have names and many purposes. See “front wall”, “sidewall” and “back wall” for explanations.
Warmup —> taking the time to loosen up with some practice swings, practice shots, a few select serves and routine court movements before you begin to play is sort of a lost art. It’s a very healthy step, along with stretching your calf muscles preceded by increasing your inner body temperature so that then you can go from zero to 60 when the score is called 0-0, with stretched, limber extremities. It beats playing and dropping the first game and then saying THAT was just a “warmup” game, which is malarkey. Also, that little calf pull that occurs when you don’t get your inner body temperature up and then over stretching by starting quicker than you’re ready to bolt off after the ball is a self inflicted mental injury. Your warmup should be pretty organized where you start in the same spot in the court. Strike some straight in shots with a drop and hit drill. Also, from there, feed yourself the ball off the front wall. Then back up and repeat. Hit some ceiling balls. Hit some sidewall shots. Hit a few serves to ready them for the impending competition. Also use your off stroke or the primary stroke used on the other side of the court to get it ready to use both strokes on either side of the court like, when you can trap the opponent behind you readying for the off stroke or when that’s the best way to play THIS ball. Switch sides after about 2 minutes and repeat the same warmup drills on the other side of the court. Finish hitting some serves so you’re ready to serve. Finish upping the volume and hitting harder balls to warm up powering the ball, too. Make sure to hit some of your familiar big weapons, like your splats or pinches, so you’re ready to deliver them in the clutch, once the score is called. Work on your racquet swinging tempo and your playing rhythm as you warmup your body and game.
Watch the ball —> as you are making contact with the ball “watch the ball” like a hawk so your racquet to ball contact is as accurate as it can possibly be. Watch-the-ball is one of the basics of the game, like move your feet and hit ’em where they ain’t (hit ’em (the ball) where they (the challenger) ain’t (isn’t).
Watch opponent behind you —> if you turn your head to “watch your opponent setting up to hit the ball behind you”, you gain valuable Intel that gives you insight into the ball’s location, where they’ll make contact and their shot as they’re making contact. That allows you to know where to reposition yourself to return their shot because you read where they’re going to place their shot based on how both feet together point and where it appears they will make contact in relationship to their body. Turn only your upper body and head to look back. Also bend your knees which helps you rotate without moving your feet. A staggered stance in part facing ball side beats full on facing the front wall to make your next move to go track down the ball.
Watch their feet —> when your challenger serves, returns your serve or sets their feet for their rally shot, “watch and pick out the angle that both feet form”. That’s because how they point their stance often tells you exactly where they’re directing their shot. It also tells you how much body they’ll be able to put into their shot by how effectively they’re able to set their feet, while bending their legs to prep back (lift racquet) and then swing thru.
Watch them until… —> as the challenger makes their final approach on the ball and they begin to set their feet to hit, use your powers of perception to check out their selected…
(a) contact height by their body position and the height of the ball;
(b) stance feet point;
(c) racquet prep height; and
(d) intensity of their prep.
–> “Keep your eyes on them until their elbow starts to fire forward”. Then turn to face forward and watch the front wall where you expect to see their shot angling, while also flowing where you perceive their shot is headed based on what you’ve just witnessed via observing them and also factoring in what you may have previously seen them hit in similar earlier patterns.
Attack Weak backhand or forehand —> when the challenger runs around the ball or they run around one stroke, that indicates that THAT is their weak link. One way to attack a weak stroke is to first hit a good serve to their STRONG side. Then follow up with a passing shot attacking their weak side. Other ways to “attack weak stroke” include…
(1) cross-court passes toward that weaker stroke’s sidewall;
(2) down the wall passes along the side they’d prefer to avoid; and
(3) hit pinches into the other front corner so that, even if you leave up your pinch, the ball will feed toward their weak link, where they must move and hit on the run with that ugly stroke.
Weakness —> going in or as part of the progress of each game you play, find points of “weakness” in your challenger’s game or play. Then exploit those weaknesses with your placements and curves you constantly throw at them. Those weaknesses may be stroke, a spot in the court, returning a certain serve, poor defensive positioning, or poor, overly ambitious tactics. Continually look for and attack their weaknesses, while playing to your strengths.
Show no Weakness —> if you catch yourself running around YOUR backhand to hit with your forehand, as you pin your back up against your backhand sidewall, recall that you’re pointing and saying “Hit here” to challenger so they will hit at your less favored or weaker backhand. First, fortify your backhanded stroke with good form based on a solid, stable backhand grip on your racquet handle. Also, train setting your striking stance so you become more confident in your backhand stroking form. Or, as another example, train up the accuracy of your Robin Hood deep corner drive serves. Also train up your return of serve feetwork maneuvers, as well as any of your other skills. Watch players do them, ask for tips and practice hard to make all of your techniques into reliable strengths so you “show no weakness”.
Wet mop —> courts get dusty due to players wearing in their street shoes or club members using the courts for workouts or sometimes it’s just due to an accumulation of dirt. It’s good to twice daily broom off the courts so the film of dust is removed. Also, wrapping a wet or damp towel around the wide push broom picks up THE most dust and it leaves far less residual dirt than any other sweeping method. As a player or club personnel sweeps the court, they should do a couple up and back passes and then step through the door off the court and step to the side to shake out the towel or tap the broom so the dirt leaves the court and so it’s also not tracked right back in. After the full sweep, then pick up and dispose of the dirt. Then play. Again, the “wet mop” works best.
What’s the call? —> there could be a slew of these and the following situations are classics that explain how to play within the rules on both sides of the ball…in “What’s the call?”…
You’re positioned blocking their shot into cross-front-corner that they’re taking from diagonally opposite rear corner… WHAT’S THE CALL? —> when the ball goes into a back corner and the offensive player either… (a) steps in and spins with the ball to hit with their other side’s stroke or off stroke or (b) they back up off the ball to hit a reverse pinch, is the defending player hindering when they block the diagonally opposite front corner when they’re there ahead of the shooter setting to hit? To explain, another example will help. Do you have to time your jump when the ball is directly behind you in the center in back, so they could shoot underneath you? In answer to THAT situation, yes, THEN you have to jump OR you must move over to one side or the other to give up the straight in and the cross-court angle range to the farthest rear corner. But, in the first situation, do you have to give up the cross-front-corner shot angle when you’re already in-between that front corner and the diagonally opposite rear corner? If you’re there late when the shooter has already spun around or backed to shoot and they’re about to shoot, no, you can’t be there. You can’t move in late unless you’re hovering in midair. However, when you beat them to your cover spot and you’re there BEFORE they’re in their spot starting to play the ball in the rear corner, YES, you can be there. Then THEY can shoot straight in or cross-court. They don’t get the long near corner pinch OR the reverse pinch. That near corner pinch is when a player looks to shoot with say their backhand from their rear forehand corner to place the ball in their backhand cross front corner. The reverse pinch is when you hit with that side’s stroke, like when you hit with your forehand from your backhand rear corner shooting into your forehand cross front corner. Those are diagonally opposite angled shots that simply shouldn’t be open to the shooter when the “cover player is properly positioned between ball and corner” BEFORE the hitter addresses the ball.
Can your returns of serve cross-court be blocked… WHAT’S THE CALL? —> when, as receiver, you cut off a drive Z serve after its bounce and you hit the server with your cross-court return that (was) destined for the far, rear corner, what’s the call? The receiver gets to hit their return of serve when they choose, where they choose, (as long as it’s in the straight in over to V cross-court angle range). When the drive Z server backs up and they don’t clear or when they hit and drift over to blanket the DTL (to hedge over to cover it), they’re “illegally” rules-wise blocking the cross-court angle. By the by, an errant intended crack-out on the sidewall just past the short line is a recipe to be popped by the receiver’s return going cross-court, as well. Similarly an errant up-the-wall drive serve up along the near sidewall that catches the sidewall places the server at risk of being popped, too. Those are all potential penalty hinder situations, too. In those cases the server needs to give up the cross-court angle immediately, if not sooner. Unfortunately it’s not always called in competitions. Even more prevalently, the cross-court is often blocked in these situations in “recreational” play. In fact some see it as “You’ve got the DTL and the ceiling ball return; what’s your problem?”. The problem is the ball want to go cross-court and so do you. It’d be a forced down the wall angle feeding into the opponent and, if the bail out ceiling option is bailed to, know that they’ll attack mercilessly, without remorse.
They dive and their get comes right back over them or at them… WHAT’S THE CALL? —> when a player makes a valiant effort to dive, but their get angles above them where it’d be dangerous for the offensive player to swing, of course, when being defensively prostrate on the court floor the opponent isn’t a T-ball T. That’s a penalty hinder situation even in matches where the ref may hesitate calling cross-court or even straight in shot blocks as penalties.
Opponent is hiding your back wall setup… WHAT’S THE CALL? —> when the ball the opponent hit bounces and pops off the back wall and the opponent sets themselves between the back wall and you while leaning in and hiding the ball from you… there the focus is that they can NOT cause… “View Obstruction (which is when)… A player moves across an opponent’s line of vision just before the opponent strikes the ball”. This same obscuring the back wall setup effect occurs when a ball off the front wall is coming back toward you and the defender cuts right across in front of you and you’re unable to see the ball until it’s past them and right on top of you, if you’re able to see it at all. These are both penalty hinders because it’s blocking the line of vision right before you could make contact. To counter these situations… for the ball coming at you off the front wall, initially step up. Then drop back and you’ll prevent them from switching sides in the court while hiding the ball. For the back wall setup hider, feint at the last second like you’re about to spin and whack a back wall save and perhaps they’ll rethink that hide the ball ploy next time. Or instead just hold up because the setup is now gone as you were played. Oh, and the call is penalty hinder.
When you cross the short line before your serve… WHAT’S THE CALL? —> beating the ball out of the box in U.S.A. amateur play is a side out. It’s not a fault serve when the short line is crossed by the server or the server’s partner. It’s a loss of serve. Here’s the rule: “Safety Zone Violation. An immediate loss of serve shall result if, after the serve has been struck, the server OR doubles partner step into the safety zone before the served ball passes the short line.” In international play, it’s legal to beat your serve out when you lob serve, off speed lob serve or even when you hit a hidden Z drive serve. Your doubles partner can also bounce the box before the ball passes the short line. However, it’s ALWAYS an important safety move to avoid moving into the possible cross-court overhead return angle by the receiver. That not BLOCKING cross-court returns should be factored into ANY retreat move out of the box after serving.
Right up until Whoomp… —> from your casting back throw motion to your irresistible blast thru contact for both your forehand and your backhand, THE key interim position is passed thru quickly for both strokes. For example, for your backhand, your racquet points back and your knuckles are “UP”. From there, unleash the whip crack snap that comes with straightening your arm, as your combo forearm and wrist roll whips the racquet head thru contact. For the forehand, from casting the forearm pointing back and the palm facing UP at the end of the racquet cast back, pronate the wrist and arm, as they turnover until the racquet face shuts, as the racquet flows thru until the strings face the court floor out in front of you guaranteeing a HUGE arm-wrist rolling S->N->A->P. “Right UP until whoomp” accelerate as you straighten and turnover your arm and begin to turn your racquet thru on both wings, as you quickly close the racquet face shaping your shot path both vertically and horizontally.
Why you play —> play for the right reason. Don’t play out of a sense of guilt. Don’t play out of duty to someone else or because you’re badgered into it. Play to do your best and give your best. “Why you play” should ultimately be for you.
Wide angle pass (WAP) —> a passing shot you strike cross-court with your front wall target spot a little over halfway between where you make contact with the ball and the far sidewall causes the ball to rebound out and ideally strike the sidewall next to the challenger who is in the center middle of the court about 25 feet back. Then ideally the “wide angle pass” deflects off the sidewall to bounce toward the center in back so that, by design, the WAP takes its second time in the backcourt before reaching the back wall. Defensively, on the other side of the ball, when you recognize you’re being WAP’ed, spin, step back and whack attack the ball into the back wall to keep the WAP in play when you can’t jump back and hit the ball forward. Note that a V cross-court pass must be allowed from contact all over the court, but a WAP when the ball is being contacted from deep court does NOT have to be given. By getting between ball in back corner and diagonally opposite front corner, you give up the V pass, but you DON’T give up the WAP, and you shouldn’t. If you’re giving up the WAP, you’re too far back or too far over.
Wide splat(s) —> shots that help you handle balls as far out from the sidewall in the 4-6 foot range is to select a different than usual sidewall target in the area of the service box or just up ahead of there about 5 feet at 9-10 feet out from the front wall. The service zone targeted “Wide splat” is angled into your target on the sidewall there in the service box lower than where you made already usually pretty low contact back from further back in the court two thirds to three quarters of the way back. The other wide splat’s target about 5 feet up ahead of the service line 9-10 feet out from the front wall is the “Pro splat”. The Pro splat is contacted higher and after it deflects off the sidewall it causes the strangest of spins, as the ball angles off the front wall to stay very close to the front wall nearly paralleling the front wall. To make the original “Wide splat” contact the spot low on the sidewall in the vicinity of the service zone. The swing is a glancing blow that makes the ball deflect off the sidewall and stay very low all the way in to your similarly low front wall target spot that’s out from the corner further than other splats. The reason for the wide splat monicker is because of the shot’s chosen wider angle into the sidewall and then deflecting off to rebound off the front wall at a wider angle, too. The Pro splat ball contact is usually higher. The Pro splat requires probably the most powerful splat stroke, along with the 7 foot Shark splat. Although the Shark splat may also be struck as a little less pacy shot, too. The Pro splat feeds on dual spin which results in a spiraling ball caroming off the front wall. Topspin along with inside out spin combos causing the ball to spiral after its sidewall ricochet and front wall carom creating the most untrue or unexpected bounce, as the ball pops off the front wall. The ball looks like it may have broken it reacts so bizarrely. Both the Wide splat and Pro splat are situation shots when a down the wall seems covered, a cross-court isn’t where the ball wants to go, as the ball is tending out toward or veering out toward the sidewall and you quickly read that a tight near corner pinch may leave the ball up to be attacked by your forwardly positioned challenger. Also further out off the sidewall it’s tougher to go for the trickle splat or the Shark splat. “Wide splats” must be practiced religiously to make sure you can create the shot trajectory and especially control the target height on your selected sidewall target spot. Drop and hit and then toss the ball up and hit the 2 wide splats. Then transition to taking balls bouncing and popping off the back wall resulting from overhit lob shots and splat them into your best wide splat sidewall target. As the ball pops off the back wall you may even select, when appropriate, a Shark splat or trickle splat if you read it’s a good time for one of them. Do dedicate time to drill shooting the Wide splat and Pro splat before you unveil them at game time.
Width —> as a description or goal for the placement of your passing shot, serve or ceiling ball “width” means you place the ball the decidedly wide in the court so it’s difficult to cover for the opponent. The ball is placed either along a sidewall or deep in a back corner, which in either case places intense pressure on the opponent just to keep the ball struck with width in play.
Will power muscle —> you need to have an ability to demonstrate your discipline so you stick to your game plan, you play with your fundamentals, and you keep to your game mindset. Think of it as your “will power muscle” that you flex so you keep playing your game or you get back to playing your game, while staying strong when you run into challenges requiring reorienting your game style and tactics. Will yourself to give your elite effort.
A win or lose situation —> all rallies that begin with the score being called is “a win or lose situation”. Granted it’s only possible game “point” when one side has ball in hand ready to drop or toss the ball to try to win that final point of the game. But every rally is a stepping stone to that moment of potentially winning game point. It’s best to have the mindset that you’re going to be as gritty as you can be when you struggle for that last point just as you struggle for the first point and all of the points in between.
What outright Wins more rallies, one-wall shooting or sidewall winners? —> …or “does one-wall shooting set up sidewall endings?” Primarily direct shooting or one-wall shooting when focusing on either straight in and cross-court shots is one attack strategy… that direct approach works IF the opponent gives you one of those openings or IF they’re not covering those 2 angles. If one angle is wide open, it is probably due to one of 2 things. One, you’re sandbagging by playing down in level. Two, you’re getting those shots very intermittently from a strong opponent. The straight and cross-court shots are far from the be all end all game rally pattern. Sure, in an ideal abc’s way of thinking, a down the line or down the wall shot would be taken early and often. And granted, from mid court with the opponent boxed out behind you and you have just right ball, THEN a down the wall is tactically solid. Although oftentimes it’ll still be gettable by the opponent, as they curl around behind you. But, when shooting from deep court, the opponent will often blanket the line, covering the straight shot. Then, when they step in and cover your straight shot, they’ll box you out after they hit. In the slightly more expansive theory of one-wall racquetball, cross-court options could also be mixed in. However, a cross-court pass by definition is to THEM because the cover player is able to camp on or spin and cover that 45 degree angled shot. For many coaches and pundits that strictly preach only the one wall 2 shot philosophy, the sidewall shot is epitomized in this coach-speak commentary…”No, no…good shot!”, when you take and make one. In reality the ball knows where it should go. Your job, as shooter, is to feed off of that ball bounce karma. As you move with and track down each ball, get into the ball’s rhythm and read its spin, too. Note that there are several scenarios that call for sidewall shooting when the ball and pattern is in your practiced wheelhouse. For instance, very often a ball off the back wall is being drawn in to a sidewall splat target. Other times the ball is obviously tending toward a front corner, as if it’s saying to you, “Pinch me”. Right then a down the wall would be a forced, unnatural choice, although from outside the court that angle may appear to be wide open. If the ball is tending out toward the sidewall, trying to change its stars to deviate its momentum into a down the wall sounds simple, but that’s more work than the flowing sidewall trickle splat when targeting the sidewall a couple feet ahead down the wall or even to crush a more emphatic Shark splat 7′ up ahead and slightly lower than contact. In those splat situations, from close in along the sidewall (when not pinching because you’re not far enough out from the sidewall) there in deep court the forced down the wall could be cutoff or it could be errantly angled to bounce and catch the sidewall where, in either case, it could be intercepted by the expectant, covering player where they’d possibly hit an answering splat winner themselves. Sometimes the ball is well off the sidewall in center court and for example you read you can make the reverse pinch into the cross front corner in that situation because you’ve trained up for just that event. For your on the move run out toward a sidewall when covering a ball, a cross-court is what the ball wants to do (not to be forced DTL). Counterintuitively a reverse pinch into the diagonally opposite front corner front wall first can be THE improvised (right) answer. For back wall setups, in either the case of the deep bounce and rebound off the back wall or the bounce, brushing the sidewall AND then popping off the back wall, there the result can be the same, a near corner pinch into the corner up ahead with say your forehand. And, if you’re monstrous enough and armed with a strong backhand (which you need to be), spin and shoot a deep near corner pinch from on your forehand side of the court. When retreating out of the service box to cover the receiver’s down the wall return (as that’s the right time), the 3-wall boast can counter a ball flying by you. Their return is rocketing by because you hit your serve hard and they attacked it or they cutoff your drive Z after the bounce. To hit the boast, see yourself compressing the ball into your sidewall target just up ahead of your racquet arm shoulder to find the diagonally opposite front corner, ideally sidewall first. So by mixing in some corner piercing near corner pinches (with stroke to its corner, like forehand to forehand corner) or mid court reverse pinches or tailored splat angles or 3-wall boast kill-shots as the ball is almost getting by you, you own a tight but versatile set of sidewall shots which separates you from the myopic DTL or one-wall game that is primarily dependent on miss positioned or shot missing opponents. The intricate but very doable racquet work and poise to hit sidewall targets by dialing in appropriate force and often touch over torch makes your sidewall shooting a very formidable challenge for your competitors. To accomplish this, perfect your sidewall targeting in your shot-building drilling. Refining your craft to exceed the demands of the game with skills you perform in the zone or in YOUR flow state is, after all, your raison d’etre or the reason you train and visualize and shape adaptive shots, as you play. Here the proposition is that more sidewall shots, including front wall-sidewall cracks, win more rallies than any down the wall passes or far, rear corner destined cross-court passes or super low direct to the front wall attempted kill-shots. Although down the wall, especially as an early return of serve, and cross-court shooting can set you up to outright win by capturing the rallies with your practiced sidewall shots or front wall sidewall shots (and crack-outs). Those sidewalls are there for a reason. Use them.
Wraparound —> a ball shot into the front wall at a wide angle so the ball then strikes deep on one sidewall to deflect off high enough and angling wide enough so the ball bounces and heads for the center of the back wall where it then ricochets off to carry at a wide angle toward a spot deep on the other sidewall is a “wraparound” serve or “jam fly serve” or wraparound rally shot. There, as the ball rebounds out off the back wall toward the far sidewall, the shot may either come up just short of contacting the far sidewall or it may carry and touch the far sidewall, as it’s wrapping around the whole backcourt. With lots of hustle by the challenger and well practiced feetwork, a wraparound can be legged out and decimated (shot hard and low). So, as server, it’s wise to not overuse the wraparound tactical serve or rally shot. Use it as a surprise.
Natural Wrist cock or coil —> as you swing forward in a little arc that starts with your downswing loop (or racquet throw), as you initially cast the racquet back while driving your elbow forward, the wrist naturally spins until your racquet head points inwards and your knuckles “naturally draw or coil your wrist in toward you”. For the forehand, your knuckles draw in toward the back of your hand and you can feel a spring in your forearm and wrist. For your backhand, your knuckles and wrist cock back so the racquet head tips in toward you, as your forearm winds on the inside just before your big outwards arc of the racquet where it spirals over thru contact. Right as your arm extends, for either stroke, from the wrist coil position, uncoil or untorque your wrist (and forearm) swinging the racquet head around and thru making self-guided, self-dialed in contact ranging from touch to torch or from feathered to full force contact and your choice of racquet face angle or bevel shaping your shot high to low and side to side.
Wrist snap —> the “wrist snap” thru contact is a composite motion of together your forearm AND your wrist. It’s not just a side wrist pop. As you extend your arm, turn over your forearm spinning at the elbow. Then right at the very last instant overlap your wrist releasing it and turning both over together, as your forearm/wrist snaps in a very committed racquet turnover action. There your racquet head goes from pointing back to pointing forward in a blink. In the climactic section of the swing in its contact zone, the racquet head corkscrews thru flowing the strings thru the ball, as the racquet head turns over closing the racquet face while pointing it toward your wall target spot at contact. For your forehand, the swing continues on after contact until your palm faces down and in. For your backhand, the swing continues on after contact until your palm faces out to the sidewall you face; and the palm may keep turning until it finishes facing upwards for your biggest backhand strokes.
Wrong-foot —> when a player is clearly seen moving early to make up ground to either get into center court or to, for example, completely cross the court in expectation of a shot along the far sidewall, the shooter has lots of options based on noting that early opponent movement. For instance, the shooter could continue when their intent is say a down the wall shot placing the ball tight in along that far sidewall. Or, given the same option, the shooter could select a near sidewall target to place the ball actually in the far front corner on the side the opponent is leaving. Another action is to select a passing shot BEHIND the cover player AFTER you’ve picked up their too early run across the court, “when you still have the ball on your racquet” (as your racquet is up and still
back). There your shot can “wrong-foot” them by hitting your cross-court ball right back where they came from or behind them. There you’re catching them out when they move prematurely, while they’re being seen doing it. Note that a less than fleet-footed player is less likely to be wrong footed simply because they don’t hit and move; they may hit and plant to stay right in place. If they move, the turtle doesn’t move as far and a cross-court pass could be stabbed at and reflexed back. On the other hand, the rabbit or super quick opponent is more likely to take off early. They either use their speed to move to either pressure the opposing shooter or they move to cover the shot that they guess is coming. When you can time placing the ball behind the already moving player when they’re in mid flight, it’s very hard for them to stop and go back the other way or “reverse their field”. Then you’ve wrong footed them and they’ll have great difficulty even getting the ball you hit back in play.
Xeroxed —> after practicing your form well, while replicating your stroke in setup situations and even when shooting in higher contact situations, reproduce “Xeroxed” repeating, copied strokes for consistently successful shot shaping and serving results.
“You!” —> when you recognize it’s your partner’s ball in a rally say “You” or “Yours” or you may say “Tuya” (en español), as early as you possibly can, so your partner can make their best play on the the ball to shoot aggressively or to hustle and get to the tough to get ball you’ve estimated they can cover and you cannot. Say it clearly so your partner doesn’t confuse “You” with “Me”, which they may at times do anyway.
Zeitgeist —> keep pace with the current beliefs and spirit of the game or the “Zeitgeist” of racquetball. The theory is you keep up, you stay up. Keep up with the shots, serves, stroke form and movement and positioning nuances and innovations. Watching topflight players or ideally playing them keeps you up.
Z serve —> a type of serve struck into a front corner that causes the ball striking the front wall to immediately ricochet into and off the near sidewall making the serve diagonally angle out going backwards toward the opposite rear corner is a “Z serve” because its full flight closely approximates the letter “Z”.
Z serve return…diagonally step up —> “one option when returning a Z serve is to diagonally step up to cutoff the Z serve after its first bounce” vs. playing it after the Z bounces and ricochets off the second sidewall. That’s the aggressive approach and it takes out the chance of the ball bouncing, caroming off the sidewall and being particularly difficult to return toward the front wall because the ball hugs the back wall. If a Z is about to hug the back wall, all that may be left to the receiver is a desperate save into the back wall. To cutoff the drive Z serve, pop your feet to point your toes serve side, jab with near foot slightly up court, and crossover with far foot and intercept the ball after its first bounce with that side’s primary stroke looking to pass the server or shoot low when the situation is right. Alternatively you may step forward with the near foot and turn to put your back to the wall to confront the ball with your off stroke facing the ball as it diagonals towards you to ensure you can take the Z after the bounce and attack it with the best return available, while the server clears to give you space to hit at least a straight in angle and, by rule, a cross-court, too.
Z Drive serve —> a hard hit serve struck into a front corner so the ball hits the front wall low and then quickly ricochets into and off the adjacent sidewall so the ball then caroms out zipping diagonally across the court to the far, rear corner where along the way the ball bounces is a “Z drive serve” or drive Z serve. When facing the cross front corner, you may try to hit the drive Z from contact in the center of the box all the way over until your back is almost right up against the sidewall. Those contact spots will produce some tough angles to interrupt. When the receiver doesn’t attempt a cutoff return, the Z drive serve then strikes the far sidewall. There the Z drive serve pops off one of two ways. The ball either angles straight out off the sidewall or the Z drive serve deflects off the sidewall and falls back diagonally toward the back wall out a short ways away from that rear corner. Best case the Z drive serve takes its second bounce right up against the back wall. Worse case the drive Z bounces, catches the sidewall and then veers back too hot so it pops off the back wall as a huge back wall setup. Unfavorably a shorter Z drive serve bounces and caroms straight out off the sidewall a good ways out where the receiver can easily get in behind the Z and attack it with a passing shot or even a low kill-shot directly to the front wall or into a sidewall target (IF the receiver diagonally steps up).
Z; Garfinkle Z serve —> a drive Z by a righty from the right hand side of the box that hits the left front corner striking front wall first and then zipping into the left sidewall to diagonally angle back into the right, rear corner is a “Garfinkle Z” named after Charlie Garfinkle, its inventor and at 6’6″ one of the tallest champions in top level racquetball. The Garfinkle Z can bounce very deep and diagonally back to hug the back wall. A lefty could serve a Lefty Garfinkle Z into the right front corner to attack the left rear corner and a righty’s backhand.
Z; Hidden Z serve —> a drive Z serve struck when you’re standing inside one drive serve line with your back to that line when the wall to target is the front corner there back closest behind you as a “hidden Z”. After the serve contacts the front wall, the hidden Z zigs into the close sidewall closer to you to then zag diagonally back right in front of your body while remaining hidden until it pops out on the far side of the court as it’s bouncing and heading into the far, rear corner. The hidden Z is hit with outside in spin and with contact tight in the front corner and at a little higher angle than most drive Z’s. So a hidden Z is both difficult to visually pick up and it would require that an antsy receiver must shoot high to low were they so inclined to step up and cutoff the hidden Z right after the bounce and before the Z reaches the far sidewall. As the receiver of a hidden Z, AFTER it pops off the second sidewall, be neutral with your prep or don’t commit to that side’s stroke too early. If you do, you won’t be able to save the ball into the back wall, which is often what is required to return a hidden Z because it angles diagonally back often staying nearly glued to the back wall. To cutoff a Z, diagonally step up and hit what you’ve drilled. Start with a sliced deep target ceiling ball and work up to attempting passing shot angles picking the one you sense your can control the angle the best. It is possible with your forehand or backhand to serve from just under halfway to the other sidewall and hit back into the corner behind you to diagonally zip the ball across in front of you into the cross rear corner. Ideally this hidden Z will bounce, touch the sidewall and then diagonally angle back into its second bounce right at the bottom of the back wall.
Z; High Z shot —> a rally shot strongly lifted up into the cross front corner that strikes the front wall first 12-18 feet high and 3-6 feet out from corner or close enough to the sidewall so the ball will then ricochet into that adjacent sidewall causing the ball to accurately diagonally angle back very high above the court into the far sidewall within a few feet or even inches of the back wall making the ball ideally parallel the back wall so tight it’s hard to cover it. The objective of a High Z is to force the challenger to retreat very quickly and struggle just to keep the “High Z shot” in play. The best High Z goes back well above the challenger to strike the far sidewall very deep and parallel to the back wall right up against the back wall. A High Z that strikes the 2nd sidewall, bounces and deflects off the back wall may pop off and be attackable by the challenger as an example an off angle setup High Z. Also, a too low High Z can be cutoff in mid court by the challenger before the Z ball makes contact with the second sidewall which would pressure the High Z shooter to duck because the cutoff usually happens in the same part of the court where the High Z is struck. You may strike a High Z from the front court all the way into the backcourt, while pinpointing your judged, felt front corner target to get the ball to Z back above you and behind you. How close the ball is to sidewall on the front wall is the key facet of hitting your ideal on the move High Z shot so it will diagonally back to parallel the back wall, with precise targeting, to make the challenger’s efforts very defensive in order to be able to keep the High Z in play usually by popping the ball up into the back wall just to keep the ball alive.
Z; Leaning Z serve —> a drive Z serve often struck with inside out spin, when facing the targeted front corner, causes the ball to strike the front wall and veer into the closest sidewall to then head for the diagonally opposite rear corner hookin’ or going very fast into the rear corner. This “leaning Z” carries with it lots of sidespin so it bounces near the far sidewall to deflect off the 2nd sidewall and then yet again diagonal back to take its second bounce right up against the back wall, as a trajectory that creates in full a leaning Z. A leaning Z is a very big challenge returning pattern for the receiver. Here, as receiver, you should hold off on committing to that side’s primary stroke because a back wall save may be THE best on the fly return of a leaning Z drive serve because of how it diagonals back off the 2nd sidewall after the bounce and catching it. That’s unless you can get in behind the ball and flick it forward when deciding that is better than a back wall save. If the leaning Z pops off the back wall, it may still stay very close to the back wall and a back wall save may still be the best return option. If it pops out enough, shoot it, but read its spin and shoot the countering shot you see yourself making, like a near corner pinch in the down the wall corner ahead of you.
Z; Lob Z serve —> lofted up high lob from off to the other side of the box, the high “lob Z” (at 10-18 feet high) is angled into the front corner tight enough so the ball catches the near sidewall closer to the corner to then diagonally angle out across the court while, due to the tightness of the front wall-sidewall angle, it optimally takes its bounce well in front of the dashed line. Ideally the lob Z then rises up high to ideally catch the sidewall deep in the backcourt (5-7 feet out from the back wall) where then the lob Z drops back at a diagonal angle toward the back wall. If not high enough, the tendency is often for the receiver to step up and try to cutoff the lob Z with an overhead right after its first bounce. A higher lob Z bouncing further forward in front of the dotted line creates a much bigger challenge for the receiver as they step up to attempt either their mid court cutoff or when they drop back and attempt a deep court return. A “lob Z” server needs to not block the cross-court overhead to that far, rear corner. And that server needs to be ready to quickly drop back diagonally to cover the overhead V pass cross-court by moving to track it down deep in the court by diagonally retreating back and prepping on the move to defend or ideally shoot their return as, for example, a low keep-away down the wall rally shot along the far sidewall. Note that, although a lob Z is usually hit with a forehand, a backhand lob Z can be done as well, with normally a little bit tighter target in the front corner.
Zoning; in the zone —> consciousness where your actual skills match your perceived performance requirements perfectly is zoning. Being “in-the-zone” implies increased focus and complete attention to the task at hand which spurs you on to higher levels of performance. Athletes that totally own their challenge of physical and mental performance can be in the zone and play in the zone and own how to zone in or know how to get in the zone.
Z; Zorro Z serve —> a drive Z serve that is hit with great pace and less spin so that the Z ideally zips out of the front corner, bounces, caroms off the far sidewall deep in the backcourt and parallels the back wall right up against the back wall is a “Zorro Z”. In order to not be vulnerable to attack, your Zorro Z must bounce way back deep in the backcourt almost in the back corner, as its trajectory forms an almost a perfect letter Z angle. If the attempted “Zorro Z” bounces to deflect off the sidewall to catch the back wall, it’s going to pop off the back wall as a setup. If the Zorro Z comes up well short of the back wall, expect that the receiver could step up and attack it with their aggressive return. Then being between ball and cross front corner needs to be matched by your readiness to react to the receiver’s other possible returns either straight in or cross-court. Note that when the Zorro Z is overhit and it bounces too deep so the ball angles off the sidewall to contact the back wall further out from the corner as a back wall setup, the server may have to move over to give the straight in and cross-court shots or jump up to give up those angles. So practicing Zorro Z’s and not overhitting them is your training and then playing performance goal.
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