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A lot of people react to the word "drills" the same way they would react to the phrase "nasty tasting medicine"! This shouldn't be the case - especially not with the drills I'm gonna suggest to you. So try these drills with an eager, excited attitude and I think you'll find yourself improving and having fun at the same time. They come with a double-your-money-back guarantee, so what have you got to lose?

Before trying these drills, make sure you warm up well. Then do this MENTAL WARMUP: Think back to a tournament or challenge match when you were really playing well....your opponent was giving you a battle and it was anybody's match. Remember how sharply focused you were, and how hungry you were to hit the winning shot? Well bring that focus and hunger with you into the court for each practice session!

1. BET
Many open and pro players will bet on their practice matches with other open or pro players. They may bet a good sum of money or an expensive dinner - whatever will motivate both of them to play hard all the way through the match. This simulates the intensity of a tournament match where money or a nice prize is on the line. Until you reach open or pro status, I think one of the best things you can bet is pushups (or some other exercise) - to be done immediately after the match. Make it a good enough number to be challenging to both players (the numbers can even be different for each player if there's a big difference in how many each can do). Doing this will add some pressure and excitement to the match; the loser will get in a little extra conditioning, and the winner might even be motivated to sneak in some extra conditioning as well.

The most important shot in racquetball is the serve, because every point you ever earn in a tournament will begin with a serve. So why not take some time to practice serves with someone before or after you play a match? This will give you an edge over the many people who don't practice this part of the game nearly enough, or who only practice serves by themselves.

The drill is simple: one player serves for five minutes, while the other receives each serve aggressively. The server then tries to put away each return. After five minutes switch places. (Of course, if you're both in the mood, you can take a second turn, or go longer on each turn.) So you're playing only the first three hits of the rally, but both of you are going all out. The server is trying to serve perfectly, while the receiver is trying to hit the best return possible, and then the server covers and goes for the putaway (even if the return is a perfect ceiling ball). It's a good idea for the server to often hit the same serve several (or many) times in a row. This helps the serve become "grooved in", so the muscle memory is there when you want to pull that serve out of your arsenal at a key point in a match. The most likely reaction after trying this drill a few times is, "Why haven't we been doing this before?!"

So you do some distance running as part of your training for racquetball...that's great. But why not also sometimes play some racquetball while you do your distance running, or do some distance running while you're playing racquetball? Aerobic racquetball is the ticket. Play just like you're playing a game, but don't keep score, don't discuss hinders, short serves, or such things - just play. To make it aerobic the rule is that both players keep moving continuously. The server jogs to the service zone and serves on the run if the receiver is already in place, or runs (or hops) in place if the receiver isn't ready yet. The receiver likewise will run or hop in place while waiting for the server. Most experts agree that for an activity to be truly aerobic there must be continuous movement for twenty minutes - so a game of aerobic racquetball should last for at least twenty minutes. You can certainly go longer as your conditioning and interest level rises.

This game is great fun, great conditioning, and practices a very important -but often neglected- part of today's modern game. In the early days of racquetball, when the racquets were smaller and the balls were slower, most matches featured many more ceiling balls than in the offensive style that is so common today. So players back then practiced their ceiling balls more, and since they were hitting many ceiling balls in a match, they were also getting in more practice every time they played. Since today's matches feature fewer ceiling balls and more accurate deep-court shooting, it's actually even more important to be able to pinpoint a ceiling ball when you hit it. This means more practice.

Those who have seen today's pros play might be surprised at my pick for the player with the best ceiling ball these days. Give up? It's Cliff Swain! You can read article after article about Cliff - his intimidating serves, great court coverage, incredible offensive play, intense focus and will to win - without ever seeing the phrase "ceiling ball." This is because when Cliff hits a ceiling ball, it's nearly always perfect - forcing a return that allows him to take the offense on his next shot. So people almost never see him hit two ceiling balls in a row, and are much more likely to remember the impressive rally-ending shot than the ceiling ball that set it up. I've never asked Cliff how many ceiling balls he's hit in practice, but I'd bet his answer would be something like, "Thousands...millions!"

^ back to the top ^

So here's the game: Both players start out at the backwall, and one player "serves" by hitting a ceiling ball. The players then continue to trade ceiling balls, with the rule that after each ceiling shot, the player that hit it must run and touch the encroachment line with a foot before playing the next shot. Any ball that doesn't at least carry past the encroachment line before the second bounce is out. A point is scored on every rally, and the players alternate serves. During the rally, if a ceiling ball comes off the back wall before bouncing twice, the player hitting the next shot does not have to go to the ceiling, and may shoot it. Also, for that one swing, that player doesn't have to go touch the line. After that shot, the next player must go back to the ceiling to stay in the rally. You can make the game more challenging by requiring each player to touch the short line rather than the encroachment line, and by adding a piece of tape farther back on the sidewall that each ceiling shot must carry beyond. You can even handicap things by making the better player run farther after each shot.

The better you and your partner get at this game, the longer the rallies last, and the more you will have to run to return each other's accurate, deep, wall-hugging ceiling balls. If you're not pretty tired after one game to 15, someone needs to work on their ceiling game!

First the rules, then the reasons and benefits: In the passing game, you can't score a point on a kill. Any shot during a rally that bounces twice before crossing the short line is played over same as a hinder. You're not penalized - you just don't score. Since you're not trying for the kill, you should never skip in this game. Therefore skips are penalized thusly: Open player gets -5 (that's negative five) points for a skip; A player, -4; B, -3; C, -2. You win if you get to 15, or if your opponent "backs out" at negative 15! For a shot to count as a skip, it must come on an offensive shot rather than a situation where you mishit the ball just trying to scrape it off the floor, a wall, or otherwise just keep it in play. You're on the honor system here - you know what you were trying to do better than anyone else.

Some of the benefits of this game are obvious, and some are rather subtle. You will obviously begin to get better control of your passes. The rallies in this game are usually longer, so conditioning and court coverage will improve. You will also learn to pay close attention to where each ball takes its second bounce. This is called the "length" of the ball. A player who is aware of and can control the length of each shot has an advantage over the players who are unaware of the concept. As you develop skill at this game you will find yourself trying to have the ball take its second bounce in one of five places: either of the two back corners, right behind the intersection of the short line and either side wall, and - on wide-angle passes that take their first bounce at the sidewall crack right behind your opponent - at the floor just in front of the center of the backwall.

This game will also make you more aware of your skips, since each one costs you points that you've already earned. When you skip in a match, a coach may tell you, "Don't worry, it's just one point." In reality, a skip often costs more than one point if it robs you of momentum or adds momentum to your opponent. Many players compete without much awareness of how badly their skips hurt them. The passing game sharpens that awareness!

So that's it for now. I don't think I'll come up with a clever sentence or paragraph to tie things up here, because I plan to add more drills in future times - rejoice!


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<<< here, you can go to the "bo stories" link and send an email from there.

Over and out for now......


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