Feb 212011

“If you want to improve your racquetball game, it’s all about reps.”

This video demonstrates a variety of shots which can be practiced alone.  Note how the player is relaxed and hitting the ball effortlessly.

“For every hour you play someone, do drills like these for two hours alone.”

Feb 202011

“Practice as if you are the worst, perform as if you are the best.”

Most players avoid or don’t have the time for solo racquetball practice. They just want to play.

But, we all need practice to work on our weaknesses. However, when we play against someone, we always play in a conservative manner which tries to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses, ie, we play to win and not to improve our game.

So we never get any better because we never get to work on improving our existing skills or adding new ones.

The Tactical Game
One way to both practice AND play, is to use tactical games. You can play these games against a partner, with or without their knowledge. Or, you can both play a tactical game against each other.

Tactical games typically restrict the type of shots that you can hit during a rally. You can also decide to limit the types of serves you can use during the game. So here are four different tactical games that need concentration but can also be a lot of fun.

Ceiling Ball Game
This is my favorite tactical game which I use to warm up. Play one game to 11 pts. Alternate lob serves to the forehand and backhand sides. During the rally, the ball must hit the ceiling on every shot. If you miss the ceiling, you lose the point. Even sharply hit ceiling balls which come off the back wall must be returned to the ceiling (This game can be modified by adding down the line passing shots on short ceiling balls).

Down the Line Game
In this game, you must return every ball down the line as tight to the wall as possible. These can be kill shots, passing shots, or ceiling balls, but they all must be hit down the line. Normally, only attempt a kill shot if your opponent is behind you and you can hit the ball at knee level or below. Pinch and splat shots are not allowed.

Passing Game
This game works on your ability to know where your opponent is on the court, and then, play the correct shot. So in the passing game, if the ball is waist-high or below, and your opponent is in front of you, then you must hit a cross-court pass, or a wide-angle pass. If you are in front of your opponent, you must hit a down the line passing shot. Any ball above waist height is hit to the ceiling. No kill shots.

Pinch Game
This game is restricted to just two shots, ceiling balls and pinch (or splat) shots. If your opponent is in front of you, you must hit a ceiling ball. If you can hit the ball at knee level or below, and you are in front of your opponent, then hit a pinch shot to the closest front corner.

3/4 Court Game
Get a roll of 1-1/2 wide red colored masking tape. Use the tape to run a dividing line in the middle of the court from the service line to the back wall.

Both players must play this game together. You can serve to just one side of the court  for the entire game. The tape divides the back half of the court into two parts. One side is playable while the other side is out-of-bounds. So 3/4 of the court surface is available to play. Any ball that hits the 1/4 back court floor on the second bounce is out.

This is great practice game since it allows you to hit down the line passing shots, kills, and ceiling balls. Plus, if you are in front of your opponent, you can hit drop shots and pinch shots. However, if you hit your pinch shot, or splat shot too high, it will end up in the out-of-bounds 1/4 court.

Feb 182011

cliché an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect.

No matter how many times I advise a player to “watch the ball”, it doesn’t stick. They continue to look at the front wall when their opponent hits the ball. I believe that it is not a natural behavior to watch someone hit a projectile at 100+ mph in ones general direction. There is an instinctive reaction for self-preservation, regardless of the cool eyeguards one is wearing.

Intellectually, the benefits of watching the ball at all times should outweigh the fear of getting hit by the ball. If you are watching your opponent hit the ball, you immediately know if you are directly in the line of fire (or in the cross court path). With this knowledge, you can take evasive action and get out-of-the-way.

If you are watching closely, you can also tell if your opponent is hitting an offensive or defensive shot. If they hit the ball at shoulder height or above, then expect a ceiling ball.  By keeping your eye on offensive shots hit at knee level, you can more easily follow the path of the ball on the way to the front wall.

A Tactical Game

So how do you overcome instincts. One way is to prove that something bad will happen if a player does not watch the ball. So I suggest playing a tactical game where if a player catches their opponent looking at the front wall at the moment they hit the ball, they can stop play, and win the point.

Feb 162011

A racquetball kill shot must be hit between 6 and 8 inches off the floor on the front wall. Flaws in your swing technique are amplified when attempting to hit a kill shot. There are two technical reasons why most players have trouble hitting kill shots:

  1. A kill shot requires a flat level swing and follow-through.
  2. A kill shot requires that you deeply bend both your knees.

Before you can begin to practice hitting kill shots, you need to be sure you have the correct swing technique. So if you still have trouble with your backhand, review this post, How to Hit a Backhand.