Understanding the game of racquetball requires professional instruction, watching professional players and knowing the percentages required to maximize your chances of winning. For example, you have a higher percentage chance of shooting a pass (12-18 inches high shot) from the back court than you do a kill (1-6 inches high shot). Many players try to kill the ball from deep in the court when they should be shooting passes to get their opponents out of position.
Game Planning is the thinking you do before you step on the court. It is your understanding of what you do best, what your opponent does best and what type of strategies you will employ against them.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and having a good, solid game plan to take advantage of each is essential to maximizing your chances of winning. If your opponent likes to shoot splats from deep on the backhand side and your game plan doesn’t take advantage of that you are missing out on key opportunities to win.
Thinking is what you do on the court, during the game. It is understanding what is working, what isn’t working, your opponent’s tendencies and what adjustments to your game plan need to be made. Thinking requires energy and can take you out of the moment, so game planning is a much more effective option. The better your game plan, the less you have to think.
Your strategy comes into play when you’re on the court, in the moment and are about to execute a shot. If your opponent is shaded to the left, and you decide to hit the ball to the right, that is your strategy for that particular moment.
Execution is when you try to effectively initiate your strategy. If your opponent is shaded to the left, and you try to hit the ball to the right but skip the ball, your strategy was good but your execution was not. It is important to understand the difference between strategy and execution in order to effectively make adjustments to your game.
Your fitness level will determine how effectively and consistently you can perform your game plan and execution. It can also affect your thinking, strategy and desire to win. If you are a competitive racquetball player who plays in tournaments and wants to win, your fitness level is of the utmost importance.
A player’s desire to win is based on how seriously they take the game of racquetball. If your goal is to get exercise and have fun, your desire to win might be overridden by your desire to enjoy yourself. There is nothing wrong with that at all.
If you are a seriously player who plays in tournaments, your desire to win is probably much higher than the average player. If this is the case, your amount of practicing and drilling should be higher.
Sample Use of the Seven Essentials
You study the game, take professional instruction and understand the game inside and out. You understand that by being down and ready, one to two feet behind the dotted line when your opponent is hitting will give you the best chance to cover the most amount of shots.
You understand that by covering the pass, and giving up the kill you will maximize your chances of winning.
You understand that the more you can keep your opponent deep in the court the higher chance you have of forcing errors and taking advantage of poorly executed shots.
I’m playing Dan. Dan doesn’t like to cut off lob serves and always tries to shoot them from the back of the court. With this knowledge I decide to hit high and half lobs that don’t come off the back wall, forcing Dan to shoot the ball from shoulder high and above, from the deep court, for the entire game.
This game plan will allow me to take advantage of Dan’s over-aggression from the deep court and capitalize on his misses. It will also allow me to conserve energy when serving and get myself into good position easily and effectively.
Dan also likes to drive serve but doesn’t effectively reposition himself behind the dotted line after doing so. With this knowledge, my game plan is to be very conservative on his drive serves, taking most of them to the ceiling and forcing him to run a long way back to retrieve them. There is no need to shoot kills off his drive serve because he’s already close to the front wall. Passing or going to the ceiling is a much better game plan in this situation.
Having this type of game plan will limit the amount of thinking that I have to do on the court. It will be automatic.
Midway through the second game, Dan decides to start cutting off my lob serves at the dotted line. Apparently he’s on to the fact that his shooting from the back court is not working. Now I need to think about a different game plan. So, I go to the lob nick which keeps Dan deep in the court again. It is slightly more difficult to hit a perfect lob nick than it is to hit a high or half lob, but it’s something that I have to do in order to stay successful. Another option is to be a little more deceptive with my lob serves, mixing them up from the forehand to the backhand. Both of these changes in my game plan require on-court thinking.
I also realize that my backhand splat is off a little. By thinking, I can determine the reason why. Am I not bending my knees? Am I trying them at the wrong time? Is my contact point too far forward; too far back? The way the ball comes off the front wall will determine the answer to these questions and by thinking about that I will be able to adjust.
Strategy and Execution
Dan hits a half-lob to my forehand. I step up to the dotted line and short hop the ball, deciding to hit a cross-court to his backhand. This is my strategy. I hit the cross-court but it’s too high and comes off the back wall for a set up and Dan kills it. In this case, my strategy was fine, but my execution was off.
Instead of getting mad at myself for hitting a poor shot, I decide to diagnose what went wrong with my execution. Replaying the point in my head I realize that I let the ball come up too high on the short hop which led to my high shot. I’ll need to get to the dotted line quicker if I want to hit effective passes.
Another example: I decide to hit a half-lob to Dan’s backhand but I hit it too hard and it comes off the back for a set up. Dan easily passes me for a winner. Again, my strategy was sound but not my execution. I’ll need to make a determination and adjust accordingly. Perhaps I simply hit the serve too hard, or too low, or lost my concentration on this particular serve.
I’m playing a three out five match, games to 11. I’m a much better player, I believe, than my opponent. He is in excellent shape, however, and I am only in average shape.
The first two games go exactly according to plan. I win 11-7 and 11-9. The second game took a lot out of me though as there were a lot of side-outs and my opponent showed excellent hustle and tenacity.
Partway through game three I’m winning 8-7. A very long rally ensues and my opponent makes a diving kill to end it. I’m exhausted and he seems totally pumped up after the amazing dive. He goes on to win game three and looks fresh for game four. I’m struggling trying to breathe and my legs are sore. My opponent wins games four and five easily purely based on his fitness.
I am frustrated that I lost to an inferior player, but I’m forgetting something that is essential to racquetball. Being a good player isn’t just about hitting shots, being smart and executing. It’s about being in good enough shape to do all of those things for an entire game, match or tournament. Look at the players who win the higher divisions by beating their opponents in the finals on Sunday. One thing is always the same: they are in excellent shape. Their game is built to last. Who cares if the guy who lost in the second round has amazing power and splat shots? He's not hoisting the trophy over his head.
If my desire overrides my frustration, I will find a way to get in better shape so that I can last longer in matches and tournaments.
There are many factors that go into desire. How much time can I commit to racquetball? How badly do I want to show people how good I am? Do I want to accumulate trophies and prizes? Do I want to play this game for a living? Do I really hate losing?
If your desire is high, then you will probably practice and drill on your own, take lessons, study video, scout your opponents, train physically when you are away from the court, etc. Your desire to win will lift you above other players who don’t share your desire.
The game of racquetball has evolved in many different ways, partly because of the players and partly because of the racquet and ball technology. Today’s lightning fast game is very different from the game played in the 70s and 80s when players used smaller racquets and played more defensively. The racquets are much bigger now(22 inches in length), the racquet structure has been enhanced by space-age materials and players have modified their swings to take advantage of the newer racquets.
When I first started playing racquetball in 1998 I didn’t have much power despite my feeble attempts to swing as hard as I possibly could. I had no idea how to create power and as a result my arm and shoulder were sore quite often. I learned very quickly that this game called racquetball was not to be mastered by the untrained and unskilled. Sure, I could play it and have fun but there was no way I would be able to compete at higher levels without getting some coaching and instruction.
So I flew from Las Vegas to Manchester New Hampshire to attend a racquetball camp that I had heard about. Fran Davis was the instructor, a former professional women’s player and an extremely effective and accomplished racquetball coach. They also had a men’s professional player there as well, helping out at the camp. Some guy by the name of Cliff Swain. If you don’t know the name shame on you. Cliff is one of the best players to ever play the game and had a very powerful swing from both the forehand and backhand side. He and Fran made some adjustments to my swing that took my stubborn-self a long time to truly adopt. A few racquetball camps and a few years later and I was hitting the ball much harder and more consistently. So what were these changes they made and how am I able to hit the ball harder now compared to when I first started?
The first thing you have to understand about hitting the ball harder in racquetball is that you’re probably going to use LESS energy to do so, rather than MORE energy. A powerful swing is compact and focused, rather than reckless and free. Watch St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols hit a baseball sometime and you’ll see how a compact, focused swing can do wonders for power and control. You also have to understand that your torso and limbs need to work together like a piece of machinery. If one part breaks down or doesn’t function the way it should, the machine will not be working at maximum efficiency.
Alright, so let’s get to some specifics. The first thing you need to establish is the proper grip, stance and power base. To save time and space in this newsletter, you’ll be better off at looking at some pictorials on my website if you haven’t already. http://howtoplayracquetball.org/tutorials.aspx They will give you everything you need to know about what takes place before, during and after the swing. Once you have a grasp (no pun intended) of the grip, stance and power base, you need to understand the order in which things happen during the swing, and the manner in which they happen. While in your power base, with your racquet up, your knees slightly bent, squared up to the side wall, hold the ball in your left hand as you would for your normal drop and hit drills. Here’s the order at which things happen on the forehand side:
1: You drop the ball AWAY from your body, not too close. You want to drop it so that you have to extend your racquet fully in order to hit it. DON’T DROP IT TOO CLOSE TO YOU!!
2: Your left foot takes a small step directly toward the front wall. Not toward the corner, not toward where you want to hit the ball, just directly toward the front wall. If you’ve already dropped your racquet down you need to restart. Your racquet should still be up as you take your step toward the front wall. A common mistake is to drop your racquet as you take your step.
3: Okay, so you’ve dropped the ball, taken your step, and your racquet is still up. Now here’s the part that will determine if you have good power or not. LEAD WITH YOUR ELBOW. I put that in all capital letters to hammer this point home. In racquetball, the hardest hitters on the planet lead with their elbow when they start their swing. The racquet lags behind as your elbow leads. Take a look here for the pictorial: http://howtoplayracquetball.org/forehand.aspx
4: As your elbow leads your racquet down toward the ball, you need to start with the hip rotation. Again, a common mistake is that people don’t rotate their hips during their swing. Keep them almost parallel to the ground as they rotate through the zone. Make sure that your belly button is facing the front wall when you finish your swing. This will help to ensure that you’ve rotated your hips properly.
5: As your rotating your hips through the zone, your non-racquet arm plays a MAJOR role. Most people don’t even think about their non-racquet arm. They don’t stretch it, they don’t warm it up, etc. The left arm needs to “clear” out of the way to ensure full hip rotation. The analogy I use with my students is to pretend there is a bush right next to you, between you and the front wall. You need to use your non-racquet arm to “move” this bush out of the way. A common mistake people make is to bring their non-racquet arm up to their chest during the swing. It gets in the way, blocking off proper hip rotation, and limiting the amount of power you can generate. Get that non-racquet arm out of the way!
6: As the hips rotate, you’re going to find that your back foot wants to do something. You don’t know what yet, but it definitely is asking you what to do. Pretend there is a bug under your back foot and you need to pivot in order to squish the bug. The above link and pictorial will show you exactly how.
7: When you’ve completed the swing your belly button should be facing the front wall with your racquet pointing toward the back wall.
If you’ve done all of these things and you still aren’t hitting the ball as hard as you want, you’re probably making one of the following errors:
-Check your grip. At the point of contact (directly in front of your front heal for a straight-in shot) your racquet should be parallel to the front wall. If it’s angled slightly you’ll probably end up slicing the ball or putting topspin on it like tennis players do.
-Drop the ball AWAY from you. Most people are comfortable contacting the ball close to them. If you want to hit harder you need to learn how to swing flat and level, which means you need to hit that ball at full extension away from your body.
Another factor that you need to take into account is your elbow during the power base. When you are in your stance and ready to drop the ball and hit, make sure that your elbow is “cocked”. If it’s drooping down and not up and ready you will lose a lot of power. Cock that elbow like an archer would pull a bowstring back. I teach my students that when your racquet is up, the wrist, elbow and shoulder are all on the same level. Pretend you're resting your arm on a high dresser
We have all made mistakes on the racquetball court: taking the wrong shot, hitting the wrong serve at the wrong time, skipping an easy set up. But there are certain mistakes I see people make that happen over and over and over again. These common mistakes stem from a lack of knowledge about the basic fundamentals of the game, and in some cases, advanced fundamentals that are learned from coaching or observation of the highest levels of play. I’m going to tell you about the most common mistakes I see on the court and how you can avoid them and improve your overall game.
If you’re reading this racquetball article, you’re probably an avid racquetball player who loves the sport. You should also have a fairly good idea of what level of player you are. My advice: be honest with yourself. If you haven’t won a “C” tournament and can’t beat any of the “B” players at your club, you’re not an “A” player. Know your level, play in the right division, and find ways to improve and win so that you can advance to the higher divisions. These common mistakes will help you diagnose your own problems so that you can move forward in racquetball, becoming the player you have the potential to be.
The most common mistake I see is the area of the court in which players position themselves while their opponent is hitting their shot. You really want to maximize your court coverage while your opponent is hitting to allow yourself to retrieve the most amount of shots possible. If you’re in a fight with someone and they’re about to punch you, it wouldn’t make much sense to only put one hand up to defend yourself, protecting just one side of your face. What about the other side? What if the person punching you hits that side of your face instead of the side you’re blocking? How can you know ahead of time which side of your face they’re aiming for? The answer is you can’t. And when someone with a high level of skill is punching you, they’re going to aim for the spots that you don’t have protected.
This analogy is a good example of how court positioning in racquetball can be exploited by a higher level player. If you shade to the left side of the court hoping to cover their down the line shot, you’re vulnerable to shots to the right side of the court. And higher level players WILL notice what side you’re shading yourself to, and they WILL exploit your poor positioning. There’s nothing more fun for me than playing against someone who leans to one side or the other. It makes my job easy. Now you’re going to say “but Tim, when I position myself in the middle of the court I can never get to their shots in time!” If this is the case, you’re probably standing too far forward in the court. Play one to two feet behind the dotted line during the rally, in the center of the court, down and ready like a cat about to pounce on a mouse, facing forward with your head turned slightly back toward your opponent. Don’t guess, don’t move early. When they hit their shot focus on the ball and where it’s going. If you didn’t guess and are in the proper down and ready position you WILL be able to retrieve a high percentage of their shots. TRUST ME.
Another common mistake I see is what I call a “lazy racquet”. This is when a player is about to hit their shot but their racquet is down by their side like a gun in a holster. At the very last second they bring up their racquet and hit their shot. The problem with this is that it takes away a lot of offensive opportunities that you might not even know you had. Get your racquet up early, even as you’re moving around the court tracking the ball. This will enable you to determine early what type of shot you might want to hit. It will also enable you to react much more quickly should the ball take a funny bounce or come at you a little faster than you might have expected. My latest game play analysis video demonstrates this problem so be sure to check it out on my You Tube channel at www.youtube.com/racquetballtim. It’s called “Game play analysis for Rob”.
Most people don’t realize they are allowed 10 seconds in between rallies to recover and gather themselves. I see so many players pick up the ball and just serve it without thinking. Huge mistake. If you’ve just won the rally ask yourself why. What did you do right to win that rally and what can you do in the upcoming rally that will duplicate your success? Think! Take your time and think! If you just lost the rally and you’re winded, turn toward the back wall and raise your racquet in the air. According to the rules your opponent is NOT allowed to serve when you are in this position. Take some deep breaths, good air in / bad air out, and gather yourself. Why did you lose the last rally? Did you make a mechanical error or a strategic error? Don’t go into the next rally without having learned from the last one. Correct your mistakes, build on your successes, determine what’s working and what isn’t.
Other common mistakes I see can be fairly amusing:
Many players have told me they were struggling with an opponent until about halfway through the game when they realized they were playing a left-handed player. Oops!
A player at one of our racquetball camps hit a backhand right to his opponent who killed it. I asked the player what type of shot he was trying to hit and he replied “um…backhand.” Made me laugh. I told him, yes you hit a backhand, but what type of shot were you going for. He told me that he had never thought about it before. He simply tried to hit the ball back to the front wall. By the end of the camp that player was thinking before he hit. He was now attempting down the lines and cross courts consciously based on his opponent’s court position. Think, think, think.
Some players have a collection of bruises on the back of their legs, butt and back. These players have yet to learn how to get out of the way of their opponent’s shots. Why? Because they don’t turn back slightly to see what their opponent is doing while positioning themselves on the court. They plop themselves down in center court and face the front wall. If their opponent is directly behind them, not only are they committing a penalty hinder, they are also putting themselves at risk of injury. If you’re this person, the first mistake you’re making is giving your opponent shots from the middle of the court, deep. Hit your serves and ceiling balls to the corners so that you CAN position yourself in center court. The second mistake you’re making is you’re not turning your head slightly to see what your opponent is doing. If you turn your head and look, you’ll immediately realize that you’re in the line of fire and move yourself to one side or the other, allowing your opponent a straight-in and cross-court. Always be aware and don’t be a bump on a log. If you're worried about getting hit in the face, put your racquet up in front of your face to protect yourself. Trust me, by looking back to see what your opponent is doing you'll get hit a LOT less, not more.
As an AMPRO / IPRO certified racquetball instructor, I've been trained to look for the mistakes that people make on the racquetball court. I believe that other than swing mechanics and shot selection, the #1 mistake I see people make is in court positioning. More specifically: where a player is standing when another player is hitting.
Improving your swing mechanics can take weeks, months and even years to perfect. Improving court positioning is something you can do the very next time you play. And the difference it makes to your game is absolutely astounding.
A racquetball court is 40 feet long, and 20 feet wide. Horizontally speaking, it makes sense that you want to be toward the center of the court to be able cover shots to the right and left. If you shade to one side, then you're vulnerable to shots to the other side. Pretty much everyone agrees with this. The debate, however, is where to stand in terms of front and back within the court. Some instructors will tell you to stand directly on, or even in front of the dotted line so you can cover kill shots from your opponent. Kill shots are defined as shots that hit the front wall 6 inches or lower and bounce twice before the foot-fault line. The closer you stand to the front wall, they say, the more chance you have of retrieving kills.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it is more difficult for your opponent to kill the ball, and much easier for them to pass (12 to 24 inches high on the front wall). Think about it: a kill shot is hit 6 inches and lower, and a pass shot is hit roughly 1 to 2 feet high. So why would you try to cover the shot that is more difficult for them to hit, and give up the shot that is easier for them to hit? Basically, you're saying "go ahead and beat me with a very high percentage shot that is easy for you to execute, and I'll cover your low percentage shots that are more difficult for you to execute". Doesn't make much sense when you think about it that way. It's like a basketball player only covering 3 point shots but allowing his opponent easy lay ups.
Fran Davis teaches that you will be able to cover 70% of your opponent's shots by standing 1 to 2 feet behind the dotted line in "center court". 70% is a good number. If I have to give up just 30% of their shots (straight-in kills, pinches, splats) in order to cover 70% of their shots (ceiling balls, passes, z's and everything else) I will do just that. If someone gives you odds in Vegas, you always want the better odds right? Think of court coverage as playing the percentages. The higher percentage of shots you can cover, the better. Here's a basic rule of thumb: Get beat by the kill, not by the pass.
Let's find out what that means, and the benefits of it. "Get beat by the kill, not by the pass." When you truly understand and believe this, you will become a better player and frustrate your opponents. As a general rule of racquetball and any other sport, you want your opponent to be as uncomfortable as possible. So when they have a shot in racquetball, you want them to take the lowest percentage shot right? You don't want them beating you with shots that have a 90% success rate. You're just making it easy for them. By standing too close to the front wall, and allowing your opponent to pass you all day, you're doing just that. Play further back in the court, cover the pass and give up the kill. Not only will you be able to retrieve more shots from your opponent, but you will also start frustrating them with your ability to keep the rally going and force them to try to take an ill-advised kill shot when they aren't set up for it. Now you're making them uncomfortable, and that's what you want.
Still don't believe me? Still believe that you can kill the ball from anywhere on the court at any given time and that your opponents can too? The pros can't, so why do you believe that you can? The #1 shot on the pro tour is the pass shot (down-the-line and cross-court). It's the safest offensive shot in the game and the most effective way to get your opponent out of center court. A ceiling ball is the easiest way to get them out of center but it's a defensive shot.
Try this: go on to the court and attempt 25 kill shots from somewhere in the back court (deeper than 30 feet). A kill shot, remember, is a shot that is 6 inches and lower on the front wall. Record your success rate. Now hit 25 passes (1 to 2 feet high) and record your success rate. I guarantee you that, in general, you will have much more success hitting passes than kills. So if you can beat your opponent with a passing shot or a kill shot, why go for the lower percentage shot of the two? And more importantly, pertaining to court position, why would you give up the easier shot to your opponent by playing too close to the front wall?
Play 1 to 2 feet behind the dotted line and watch how many more shots you can cover. It's unbelievable. And when your opponent does kill the ball, look at them and say "nice shot", then whisper to yourself "but you're going to have to do that all day to beat me".
Watch a pro match or record yourself. Notice how many rallies are lost due to the defending player being out of position. The same applies to tennis, badminton, and any other racquet sport.
There are times when a kill shot is the right shot to take. I'm not advising against it. I'm advising you to understand playing the percentages. Most people go for the lower percentage shot which plays right into their opponents hands.
There are some professional players who don't fully understand good court positioning. At a recent racquetball camp, I spoke with Fran Davis and Jason Mannino about this very topic, and some pros still play too far forward. Shhh....don't tell them.
As with any other sport, racquetball consists of people who play it, people who teach it, and people who do both. The question for anyone who wants to learn how to play racquetball, or for current players who want to improve their game is simple: who should I learn from, and why?
Some people might believe that learning from the best player on the planet might be beneficial. Just copy what they do, and you're good to go right? The problem is this: the best player on the planet does things on the court that you probably, and most likely, can't do. Their speed and quickness far exceeds yours, as does their natural power and shot making ability. If you see the best player on the planet hitting a splat shot from above their shoulder from 38 feet deep in the court at 160 miles per hour, that doesn't mean that you can hit that shot. It's the same as Michael Jordan (arguably the best basketball player ever) dunking the ball from the free throw line. Just because he could do it, and he was the best, doesn't mean that you should try it.
So my advice is to learn how to play the game properly starting with the basics. Once you learn the basics you can start "customizing" your game style based on your abilities. Some people hit the ball harder than the average player, other players are faster and more agile and others have better reflexes. Once you learn how to play properly you can use all of those skills to your advantage.
For example, Jason Mannino had an uncanny ability to dive for a shot that others simply couldn't get to, and then flick it back up to the ceiling, keeping the rally alive. Kane Waselenchuk (arguably the best player in the galaxy right now) has the speed, agility and reflexes of Superman and can get away with a lot more on the court than anyone else. He can actually get away with playing a little closer to the front wall than most players because of his reflexes. That's a pretty big advantage because it allows him to cover passes AND kills at a higher rate than most. You probably shouldn't try that, unless like you losing.
My point is this: learning from the best players isn't always a good idea. They're a special breed of players. There's a reason that people like Butch Harmon and David Ledbetter have jobs instructing / coaching golf, and great players like Tiger Woods hire them to improve their game. That's right, Tiger Woods, probably the greatest golfer ever, needs a coach that helps him learn how to play properly. His former coach was Hank Haney. Tiger is an amazing golfer, but even he needs someone like Hank to tell him what he's doing right and wrong. Is Hank Haney one of the best golfers ever? No. Has he ever won a Major? No. Could he compete at the highest level on the PGA Tour? Probably not. But he understands the game better than most people (including pros) and can teach what he knows so that people learn how to play properly. There are great players who simply can't do that. They just go out there and let their natural ability take over.
So when it comes to racquetball, I highly recommend learning how to play from someone who truly understands the game, and how it should be played. If you have a few people to choose from, and they each have different ways of teaching or different approaches to the game, then you have to discover which of their philosophies makes the most sense to you. For example, if someone tells you "kill the ball as much as you can so your opponent can't get it", you have to ask yourself if that makes any sense. How often can you really kill the ball? (A kill is a shot that is 6 inches or lower on the front wall). How often does your opponent even give you a chance to kill the ball? Does this game plan lead to too many skips? What if someone says "play in front of the dotted line so you can cover kill shots"? Do you find that you're getting passed too easily, and that a simple ceiling ball is beating you? Playing that way is allowing your opponent to hit the easiest shot possible to beat you.
I learned how to play racquetball from Fran Davis and Jason Mannino, two of the best instructors / players ever. They teach smart racquetball: being in good position at all times, hitting the smart shot, moving your opponent out of center court the most efficient and safest way possible, and having a game plan that suits your game style and gives your opponent problems. I believe in this philosophy, and it makes the most sense to me. You might find that other instructors have different philosophies, and you'll have to decide for yourself which one is best for you. Here's a hint: Jason Mannino has been in the top 4 on the IRT for about 14 years now, and has been #1 in the world in 2003, has won 2 US Opens, and at the ripe old age of 34 is still able to compete with younger, more athletic players. This is because Jason plays a smart, high percentage game that allows him to use his skills to his advantage. His getting ability certainly helped him keep pressure on his opponents, but it was his high percentage game style that separated him from the rest.
So from now on, when someone gives you advice on how to play, or when you see a racquetball instructional video, or when you read an instructional book, ask yourself if that philosophy makes the most sense to you, and use the information accordingly. You'll find that not all game styles are for you. You'll also find that you have the ability to play a much higher level of racquetball if you play a game style that suits you.
This has to be one of the most frustrating aspects of playing racquetball. There's this lovely rulebook so eloquently written by the USAR, and few people read it. At the club level, this can lead to some frustrating moments on the racquetball court. I constantly find myself trying to explain rules to people who just don't take the time to learn them.
Forget about all of the little intricate rules for now, such as the encroachment line, the drive serve zones, and time limit between serves. Those are all important, but the main rule that I see broken or abused all the time is the "move out of my way because I'm about to hit the ball" rule. Okay, so that's not really what it's called. It's under the "Penalty Hinders" section 3.15 (a) in the rulebook. At its most basic level, the rule states that you must allow your opponent a clear straight-in shot, and a clear cross-court shot. Just two shots. That's it. So if you're standing in a manner that you're blocking one of those two shots, that's a penalty hinder. NOT A REPLAY.
At the club level, most people don't play penalty hinders because of the "gray area" that they apparently involve. They inevitably lead to arguments or heated discussions so most people just replay the rally, rather than award a penalty hinder (side-out or point-against for the penalized player). To me this is just as silly as not calling fouls in basketball. How ugly would THAT be? Someone goes in for a lay up, the defender hacks his arm, jarring the ball loose and knocking the player to the floor, and no foul is called. Silliness.
In racquetball, it drives me nuts when my opponent hits a bad serve that brings the ball in to the center of the court. I use a quick side step and set up to rip it, only to see that they haven't repositioned themselves in order to give me a clear straight in or cross court shot. So they say replay, and I explain the rules. Then I get tired of explaining the rules and end up just replaying everything for the purpose of not wanting to sound like I'm complaining all the time, and to move the night along. The problem is this: if you hit a bad serve giving me a chance to rip a nice return, you should NOT be awarded a "mulligan" and be given another chance to serve. Because if your next serve is a crack ace, you can be sure that I'm NOT going to be holding up the next time you hit a bad serve. And you can be sure that your wife or girlfriend is going to be asking you why half of your right butt cheek is black and blue.
In all seriousness though, please learn the rules. They aren't that long to read, and you WILL be a better player because of it.
In a well officiated tournament penalty hinders ARE called. -I get in the way of people, too, sometimes. We all do. It's part of the game. People who know the rules just do it a lot less.
If you find yourself consistently in the way of people, you're probably looking toward the front wall after you hit, rather than watching the ball and your opponent about to hit it. Face forward in center court, but turn your head to see what they're doing. It'll help your reaction time, and aid you in adjusting your positioning allowing them their shot. If you're worried about getting hit in the face, put your racquet in front of your face and you can still see through the strings. I've seen pros do this, and I do it as well.
Seriously...I don't hit people in the butt on purpose. I was just kidding. *wink wink*