Category: Racquetball Instruction

Racquetball Practice Drills

Racquetball Practice Drills

There is no glory in racquetball practice, but without practice there is no racquetball glory! – Author Unknown

I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has one kick 10000 times. – Bruce Lee

Practicing racquetball, or anything for that matter, is hard work.  We all want to just get out there and play.  I would encourage you to dip your toe into the pool of practice.  If you try just putting in 30 minutes a week, you will notice the improvements.  Once you notice the improvements, you’ll see that it’s worth it and practice even more.  It is like putting brains into your muscles, also known as “muscle memory”.  Focus on how you are swinging  your racquet, gripping your racquet, what you are aiming for.  During the heat of the moment of play, you don’t have time to think about these things.  Your muscles will remember what you taught them in practice though.  So, next time you are heading to the court for a match, leave about 30 minutes early and give it a try.

 

 

 

Racquetball Shot – The Pass Shot

Racquetball Shot – The Pass Shot

Racquetball Kill Shot

Which racquetball shot to use is a complicated choice requiring observation, quick thinking, and practice. While the kill shot is a great thing to do, it should be utilized more as you are closer to the front wall.  The kill shot is a lower percentage shot the further you are toward the back of the court.  You will score more points with passing shots and experience less skips.  Below I will tell you about, and you can see on the video, how to do 3 different passing shots.

Down The Line Pass Racquetball Shot

The down the line pass shot is a high percentage shot and one of the best scoring opportunities.  The shot is low enough to hopefully bounce twice before hitting the back wall.  It is not as low as a kill shot.  Use this shot when your opponent is positioned closer to the opposite wall or when their backhand (or forehand if weaker) is on this wall.

Cross Court Pass Racquetball Shot

The cross court pass shot is a high percentage shot and also is one of the best scoring opportunities.  The shot is low enough to bounce twice before hitting the back wall.  It will either die in the corner or bounce unpredictably out of the corner. The shot is not as low as a kill shot.  Use this shot when your opponent is positioned closer to the wall you are facing, or when their backhand (or forehand if weaker) is on the opposite wall.  The shot should be hit hard enough that your opponent is passed, must turn around, and must run to the back corner to get a chance at their shot. This shot will also deceive your opponent.  The shot appears headed for the back corner at first, but your opponent’s only real opportunity to return it will be on the other side of the court.

Wide Angle Pass Racquetball Shot

The down the line pass shot is a high percentage shot and the third of the best scoring opportunities.  The shot is low enough to hopefully bounce twice before hitting the back wall.  It is not not as low as a kill shot.  Use this shot when your opponent is positioned closer to the wall you are facing, or when their backhand (or forehand if weaker) is on the opposite wall.  The shot should be hit hard enough that your opponent is passed, must turn around, and must run toward the back opposite side wall to get a chance at their shot.

These 3 shots can be hit from both the forehand and backhand.  Keep an eye on your opponent and make your shot choice based upon that as well as where you are positioned.  Make your opponent work for their shot every time by having to turn around and run.

Watch the video below which shows in great detail and skill how to do these 3 shots.

 

 

The Racquetball Serve

The Racquetball Serve

The Racquetball Serve is A Setup

The serve in racquetball is your best chance to get “setup” for a great shot.  Every other moment of a racquetball match, your opponent is doing everything in their power not to set you up.  Take advantage of this rare opportunity to hit a shot they cannot return, or at least can only return with a weak shot.

The Racquetball Serve Forces a Weak Return

In the video below Fran speaks to the serve being an opportunity to force a weak return being better than trying to ace your opponent.  You may have an ace serve up your sleeve, but even the best of serves will eventually be mastered by your opponent.  This is especially true if you go to that serve over and over and over.  Keep your opponent off balance by hitting serves of different height, speed, direction, and angle.

Know Your Opponents Weakness

Serve more often to their weaker side, but be sure and keep them honest with strong serves to their stronger side.  Serve lob shots that wallpaper the wall to your opponent if they have trouble offensively hitting a ball that is rolling down the wall toward them.  Use drive serves when your opponent is a little slow off the start.

Fran Davis is one of the most experienced and professional coaches in the racquetball industry.  Enjoy learning from her in the video below and put her suggestions into practice.

 

 

 

 

 

Racquetball Shot Selection

Racquetball Shot Selection

Racquetball Pregame Strategy

Which racquetball shot to select is a difficult decision. A lot depends on where you are, where your opponent is.  Another factor is your ability to hit certain shots with a high percentage of success.  You also have to keep in mind your opponents weaknesses.  With the ball frequently exceeding 100 mph on a 40 x 20 foot court, there isn’t much time to think.  It is important that you have a general strategy for all matches and a specific strategy for your current opponent.  You should have these strategies firmly in mind before you get on the court.

Racquetball Back Court Strategy

When you are in the back of the court you can choose between offensive and defensive shots.  If you have the opportunity and skill to hit offensively from the back court, it is the better decision.  If not, choose a defensive shot that may force your opponent into hitting a weak return.  Then, if you are lucky, you will be setup closer to the front wall and can use your offensive shots more successfully.  Your defensive choices from the back court are the ceiling ball, the around the wall ball, and a reverse Z shot.  The reverse Z shot is the reverse of the Z serve, but hit higher (about shoulder height).  Hit this shot into the side wall, at a downward angle, and ricochet it toward the opposite corner of the front wall.  If your opponent isn’t watching closely you will surprise them with this shot.  It is especially effective if they are in the back of the court.  It is not the highest percentage shot, so use it sparingly. The other two shots are covered in the video below.

Racquetball Front Court Strategy

When you are in the front of the court (in front of the dashed lines), you should be hitting an offensive racquetball shot.  Maintain good center court position (2.5 feet behind dotted line) so that you are always in the right place to hit an offensive shot when the opportunity arises.  Never hit a ceiling shot from the front of the court.  If your opponent is behind you, hit a pinch shot.  If your opponent is in front of the dashed line as well, hit a passing shot.

Watch racquetball pro John Ellis and World Outdoor Racquetball champion Jose Diaz give excellent demonstrations of which shot to select in the video below.

 

Learn to Hit a Racquetball Backhand

Learn to Hit a Racquetball Backhand

Face The Side Wall For Racquetball Backhand

The first thing to consider when making a racquetball backhand shot is what wall are you facing.  You always want to be facing the side wall.  Facing the side wall gives you more accuracy, more power, and prevents injury to your shoulder.  You increase the risk of rotator cuff injuries when you strike the ball while facing the front wall.  You will use your legs and torso to generate more power and control when facing the side wall.  It is comical to imagine a golfer or a batter facing forward for a swing.  The same goes for racquetball.

Use The Backhand Grip

Be sure that you switch to a backhand grip when hitting a backhand.  If you do not, you will hit the ball too high.  Turn the racquet into your hand 1/8 of a turn.  Surprisingly, you will get so good at this with enough practice that you won’t even notice you are doing it.  Muscles have good memory!

Racquetball Racquet Preparation

Be sure to have the racquet back well in advance of the ball arriving.  If you wait until the ball is upon you to get it back, the racquet has to travel twice as far to make the shot.  I took a 1 hour lesson from Cliff Swain many years ago and this is the fundamental error I was making that he identified.  Putting this into practice raised my skill level an entire division!

Be sure to take a step forward when hitting your backhand.  This will increase the power of the shot.  Also be sure to follow through for increased power and precision.  Remember to make contact with the ball low if your goal is to hit the ball low on the front wall.  You will have a much higher percentage of success hitting the ball low rather than hitting the ball down.

Watch racquetball pro John Ellis below demonstrate and elaborate on the proper way to hit a racquetball backhand.  Put these methods into practice and watch your skill level rise!

 

 

 

Learn to Hit a Racquetball Forehand

Learn to Hit a Racquetball Forehand

Face The Side Wall For Racquetball Forehand

The first thing to consider when making a racquetball forehand shot is what wall are you facing.  You always want to be facing the side wall.  Facing the side wall gives you more accuracy, more power, and prevents injury to your shoulder.  You increase the risk of rotator cuff injuries when you strike the ball while facing the front wall.  You will use your legs and torso to generate more power and control when facing the side wall.  It is comical to imagine a golfer or a batter facing forward for a swing.  The same goes for racquetball.

Use The Forehand Grip

Be sure that you switch to a forehand grip when hitting a backhand.  If you do not, you will hit the ball too high.  Hold the racquet perpendicular to the floor and reach out as if shaking someone’s hand to grip it.  Surprisingly, you will get so good at this with enough practice that you won’t even notice you are doing it.  Muscles have good memory!

Racquetball Racquet Preparation

Be sure to have the racquet back well in advance of the ball arriving.  If you wait until the ball is upon you to get it back, the racquet has to travel twice as far to make the shot.  I took a 1 hour lesson from Cliff Swain many years ago and this is the fundamental error I was making that he identified.  Putting this into practice raised my skill level an entire division!

Be sure to take a step forward when hitting your forehand.  This will increase the power of the shot.  Also be sure to follow through for increased power and precision.  Remember to make contact with the ball low if your goal is to hit the ball low on the front wall.  You will have a much higher percentage of success hitting the ball low rather than hitting the ball down.

Watch racquetball pro John Ellis below demonstrate and elaborate on the proper way to hit a racquetball forehand.  Put these methods into practice and watch your skill level rise!

 

 

How to Grip a Racquetball Racquet

How to Grip a Racquetball Racquet

The racquetball grip is one of the most fundamental skills you can learn in racquetball.  If this is not correct you will never have any success in making the variety of shots in racquetball successfully.

Don’t worry that there isn’t enough time to make the switch back and forth between the two grips.  With enough practice, you’ll eventually do this without thinking and probably even one handed.  Practice and muscle memory are your best allies in using this during an intense match.

To verify that you have the correct grip, swing your racquet in slow motion and ensure that the face of the racquet is perpendicular to the floor.  If the face of your racquet is angling downward, you will end up hitting the ball into the floor.  If the face of your racquet is angling upward you will be unsuccessful in making contact with the ball low on the front wall.  The change in grips should ensure a perpendicular orientation on both the forehand and backhand sides.

You should always play racquetball with a glove.  A glove will substantially increase your ability to grip the racquet without any slippage in your hand.  This not only improves your accuracy, but it saves you energy and strength in your arm.  Along these lines, another good thing to have is a good tacky grip.  Keep several gloves with you for all matches.  Change your glove periodically to a new one to prevent the racquet slipping in your hand due to sweat.

Watch this video where Shawn Royster, a racquetball pro, gives an excellent demonstration of the proper way to grip a racquet.

 

Racquetball Court Position

Racquetball Court Position

What is the Ideal Racquetball Court Position?

Racquetball court position is not one of the most intuitive strategies in racquetball.  During play, the ideal court position is centered and 2.5 feet behind the dashed line.  From this position you stand the greatest chance to cover all shots that are not kill shots.  Don’t worry about the kill shots.  If your opponent is going to kill the ball, there is little you can do about it.  Trying to cover the kill shot just opens up a world of other higher percentage shots your opponent can make.  Note that during the serve, the ideal racquetball court position is determined by facing the side wall and extending your racquet to the back wall.  You should be 1 arm’s length plus the length of the racquet from the back wall and centered in the court.

Do Not Block Opponent’s Shots

Naturally, you cannot be in that ideal racquetball court position if it is blocking your opponent’s shot.  That is an avoidable hinder and your opponent gets the point without even striking the ball.  Be as close to this ideal court position as you can without blocking your opponent’s shot.  If you have hit your previous shot well (ball doesn’t wind up near center of court), you can hold this ideal position.  If you can maintain control of this position, you will maintain control of the rally.

Watch Your Opponent Setup

Regardless of your racquetball court position, keep an eye on your opponent as they are setting up.  If you can determine where they are going before they hit their shot you increase your chances of getting into a position to make a strong return.  Facing the front wall wondering what your opponent is doing behind you will cut in 1/2 the time you have to react.  You can easily determine if your opponent is about to hit a ceiling shot or a more offensive shot.  With practice, you can even determine which direction your opponent is going to hit the ball based on their feet and body positioning.  You should always wear your eye protection, and look away (back to the front) as your opponent strikes the ball.  Wear eye protection even when practicing by yourself so that it feels more and more natural to have it on.

Watch this video of John Ellis, racquetball pro, as he gives a great demonstration of court positioning.

Racquetball Basic Strategy

Racquetball Basic Strategy

Step 1.) Getting Into Ready Position

Racquetball basic strategy begins with getting into ready position. You are on your toes facing the front wall with your racquet in the center of, and perpendicular to your body. You are watching your opponent’s movements and anticipating where they intend to go. If you are preparing to return serve, the proper position is about 4-5 feet off the back wall in the center of the court. If you are in a rally, the ideal position is 2 and 1/2 feet behind the safety (dotted) line, in the center of the court.  You are “on your toes” for maximum takeoff speed. Keep the racquet in the center of your body for moving it more quickly to the forehand or backhand. Watch your opponent for any clues on the direction of the ball. To help determine the direction, watch where they drop the ball during the serve.  If they drop it in front of their front foot, they are probably going across the court.  If they drop it behind their front foot, they will be going down that same side of the court. During the middle of a volley, you can usually tell if your opponent is winding up for a kill/pass or leaning back for a ceiling shot. Never make the mistake of just facing the front wall, and not knowing what your opponent is up to or where they are.

Step 2.) Getting Into Hitting Zone Position

You can tell if it is coming to your backhand or forehand as soon as your opponent hits the ball (if not before). Move toward the anticipated hitting zone while positioning your racquet to the forehand/backhand side. Use your opposite hand to rotate the racquet for forehand/backhand if necessary. You’ll want your hands close together for the next step anyway.  Everything you can do to get ready before the ball gets into your hitting zone will give you a more accurate and more powerful shot. It will also give you more time to adjust for any strange bounces.

 Step 3.) Racquet Preparation

You are in position facing the side wall as the ball approaches your hitting zone. Lift the racquet with both hands together, and cock your wrist. Imagine swinging a baseball bat, but with hands “close” rather than both on the grip itself. Do not wait until the ball is upon you to get your racquet into position.  “Facing the Side Wall” and “Hands Together” helps you to swing from your “core” rather than just an arm swing. This results in more power, better accuracy, and less shoulder injuries. “Hands Together” makes sure that you are rotating your shoulders for a complete swing and also your opposite arm will help provide momentum (power!).

 Step 4.) The Swing

Leading with your elbow (forehand swing), swing level, and mercilessly pass or hit a demoralizing roll out!  “Leading with your elbow” provides an automatic wrist snap. Also, you can get more velocity on the racquet since the tip is a little closer to your body. Imagine ice-skators. When they are spinning, they pull their arms in for faster rotation, and extend their arms to slow down.

Racquetball Serve Box Lines

Racquetball Serve Box Lines

The racquetball serve box lines are pretty easy to learn.  The box closest to the wall is the doubles box.  The doubles partner who is not serving must be in this box during the serve.  The same sized box next to this box is to identify a drive serve screen and the line is called the screen line.  A person serving a drive serve cannot allow their racquet to enter this box, or it is a screen (fault) serve.

The solid line closest to the front wall is for detecting foot faults and is called the service line.  The server cannot allow their foot to extend beyond this line during a serve.

The solid line closes to the back wall is the “short line“.  The first bounce of the ball must be beyond this line during a serve.  If the ball hits the line or in front of the line, the serve is a short (fault) serve.

The dashed line which is the line closest to the back wall is called the receiving line.  This line is here to protect the server during a lob serve.  The receiving player cannot allow their racquet to cross this line until the ball has bounced once.  They cannot cross this line to cut a ball off in mid air.  If they do cross this line illegally, the server wins the point.

Watch John Ellis, racquetball pro, give a good demonstration of the racquetball serve box lines.

 

 

Watch Cliff Swain, racquetball pro, give a good demonstration of the racquetball serve box lines.