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New "bo coach" Installments


"Techniques for Learning"

The name of this page is "bo coach" and the Webmaster seems to have committed me to writing some articles, so here goes.

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Coaching and Teaching

Let's begin by agreeing that there are some distinct differences between teaching and coaching. Coaching is what takes place before, during, and after a match between the player and one or more people watching the match, trying to help that player play as well as possible during that match. Teaching is what takes place between the student and one or more people who are trying to show the student how to learn and improve, with the goal of helping the student to be able to play better in the future. Some teachers are good coaches, and some are not; and vice versa. I think in this first installment I'll limit myself to sharing some thoughts on teaching.

It's actually kinda hard for me to get started writing general articles about coaching and teaching racquetball. You see, I've never had a specific system to put each student through, nor a set mold to form each prospective player into. If I teach a thousand people (which I imagine I have), I teach a thousand different ways. I've never yet met two people that are exactly alike. And the foundation that I try to teach from is to constantly ask myself: "What is the best thing to teach this person right now, and what is the best way to go about it, given what I know about this person?"

Everyone brings to the court a different set of physical and mental skills, a different set of reasons for playing and wanting to learn more, a different set of expectations, and a different amount of time and effort available to spend learning. I've always felt that it's my goal as a teacher to react to all these variables, and provide each person with what I can best determine is needed at that moment. The better any teacher gets at doing this, the more successful and rewarding the teaching experience - for both teacher and student.

So all that being said, let's talk a bit about teaching and learning the strokes. The more you watch racquetball - even, and especially, the pros - the more you will come to realize that no two players strike the ball exactly alike. So your conclusion should be that there is no single universal correct way to strike a racquetball. If you are trying to learn to hit the ball exactly like someone else, you are probably limiting yourself to some degree, and if you're trying to teach all your students to swing the exact same way, you are probably limiting quite a few of them!

The question each player (no matter what level) should be asking is: "What is the best, most natural, most effective way for ME to strike the ball, and have it go where I want, at the speed I want, and at the angle I want?"

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And of course the teacher should be asking what is the best, most natural, most effective way for THIS STUDENT to learn to strike the ball, given all the variables mentioned above? One of the factors that makes this game fun and exciting to learn is that there is no net and no out of bounds (assuming an enclosed court). There are no unnatural or restrictive motions that need to be learned to keep the ball in play. This the main reason that of all the sports involving a ball and racquet, the ball moves fastest in racquetball. Most people find it exciting and satisfying to learn to hit something as hard as possible and have control over where it goes!

Here are some general guidelines to help a student learn to develop a natural stroke: Begin by having the student take some practice swings until you both can hear an audible SWISH at about mid-calf level or lower. Some will pick this up quickly, while others will need some basic suggestions on how to turn sideways, cock the wrist, and get the racquet up. The downswing should be natural and relaxed, not super hard at first. The swish should be clearly audible and sharp, which means the student is allowing the wrist to snap through at the bottom. The follow- through occurs by simply allowing the racquet and body to continue through the swing and come to a natural, relaxed stop; no muscles need to be used to forcibly stop the racquet. Once the student is making a swish that is consistently occuring in the same area, then it can be pointed out that this is the POWER ZONE, the place where it will feel most natural to strike a ball. Now the student should visualize a ball hovering in the power zone while taking some more swings without a ball. The next step is to bounce or drop the ball and strike it as it falls into the power zone on the way down to what would be its second bounce. Most students quickly learn how to drop or bounce the ball for themselves, but some will need to have this done for them for a while. (First time my mother tried this, she tossed the ball up and waited eagerly with racquet poised to crush it, and the ball came back down and hit her on top of her head! My dad almost fell over the balcony, he was laughing so hard.... but she went on to win some tournaments.) As soon as most students contact the ball solidly in their power zone a few times, they are hooked. Hitting a racquetball well feels really good, and few players ever get tired of that feeling!

Hope this helps anyone who is teaching or learning the game. I'll try to answer any questions readers may have on teaching, learning, coaching, or being coached. Until I can persuade the Webmaster to put a place to >>>email<<< click here, you can go to the "bo stories" link and send an email from there.

Over and out for now......


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