Racquetball is a great game to play for almost any age group. All you need is a racquetball court, racquet, goggles, a ball, and someone similar in ability to have a great time.
With a little practice, it is not hard to move from beginner status to become a proficient racquetball player. It is much easier to teach yourself racquetball than most other sports. Lets take a look at some of the simple racquetball basics you can use to improve your play.
Of course, you need the basic forehand and backhand techniques; they are the foundation for any good player. Adding a couple of effective service techniques can also help you keep your opponent off balance. As you learn the flow of the game, increasing your power can be an important next step. Proper racquet positioning, starting above your shoulder, with a full hip pivot as you swing can generate more power. Watching the ball explode off the wall with such force that it seems to accelerate faster than your opponent can handle is a great feeling.
Great racquetball defense is about knowing your limitations
When forced into a defensive posture, your basics, both in skills and decision-making, can be critical. Start with your racquet in front of your belly button. Keep a neutral balance, and look for cues about where the ball may go from your opponent. Also remember their past tendencies. Most players play in patterns, and remembering prior situations can mean the difference in winning and losing a match.
As soon as the ball comes off the front wall, turn to face the side wall on the correct side, and create the right space for a powerful swing. Remember to contact the ball just inside your front heel as often as possible, with the racquet face square to the front wall at contact.
Fabulous forehand? Brutal Backhand?
For your forehand, start with the racquet high above your back shoulder level, and lead with your elbow on the downward swing. Keep your stroke more parallel to the floor rather than looking like a ‘U” shaped pendulum.
The backhand involves similar mechanics, but body and racquet positioning is even more important, because of the angle disadvantages of reaching across your body, as well as lessened strength on the backhand side. Start facing the side wall for your backhand, racquet high, and point your elbow towards the ball. Rotate your hips aggressively, finishing with your chest facing the front wall. This will help provide some of the power that often leaks away on backhand shots. Many recreation players “arm” the ball o the backhand side, and do not establish the same powerful hip rotation posture that works so well with their forehand.
How low can you go?
Contact the ball low and just inside your front ankle for a powerful shot that will also contact the front wall in a low position. Your thighs should be bent almost 90 degrees when possible; exaggerate this low position, rather than standing tall like a giraffe. Giraffes are beautiful, but they make terrible racquetball players!
Be low, and “one with the ball,” as close to the floor as possible.
Your wrist snap will be a natural product of a powerful follow-through. Players who forget to start with the racquet high above the back shoulder with an elbow lead also often have weak wrist snaps. This position tends to naturally cock the wrist without much effort, delivering a powerful stroke into the ball. In summary, start your stroke facing the sidewall, and finish with hips and shoulder facing the front wall. This will help you avoid a weak “arm only” stroke.
Court management, shot selectionMoving beyond just the mechanics of your swing, court management and shot selection are critical to a successful game plan. Here are some handy rules of thumb regarding shot selection:
- When the ball gets to you chest high or higher, use a ceiling shot.
- If the ball is below waist level, go for the low kill. The odds are best when the ball is closer to the floor. If the ball is waist height, it is often a great time for a passing shot. This keeps your own unforced error rate lower.
- If your opponent is lurking behind you, a pinch shot into a corner that angles away from the side of the court they are on can be a simple way to score.
Racquetball is a relatively simple game in terms of techniques, but the speed and court management aspects makes it much more like high-speed chess. Make sure you choose shots with high percentages of success, unless you are either very experienced, or at the knee-level sweet spot for a kill. Remember to return to the deep-mid court zone just behind the broken service restraining line after each shot. The player who controls this zone in singles will often win the rally.
As a final thought, if in doubt, hit a ceiling or passing shot, reposition, and live to win the rally on the NEXT opportunity. Add a little variety to your service pattern so that you can keep your opponent off-balance, and prevent them from cheating and only receiving on part of the backcourt. These racquetball basics can take you a long way in the game of racquetball, whether is it for recreation, or preparing for more competitive play.
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