RacquetWorld's Newsletter Racquetball Tip of the Month

Play Forever But Don't Get Any Better – Game Drills

I receive many questions that center around the fact that when players first come to racquetball they experience a steep learning curve.  During this time players also see their skills develop rapidly, even seeing advances on a daily basis.  However, this "honeymoon" period eventually wears out and the visible improvements that these players were used to seeing disappear.  While they still love the game, I can sense there is a small frustration or disappointment in their perceived lack of improvement.

Many of you are playing 3-4-5 times a week and have plateaued because your group of players doesn't change, the shots don't change and the strategies don't change.  I understand wanting to have fun playing with your friends and not turning your favorite pass time into a boot camp in order to get better.  So with that said how can you play games with your buddies and still see improvement?

The first thing is you want to keep your "game drills" to yourself.  You don't need your buddies ribbing you that you're using them for practice or that you're not trying etc.  Improvement is a personal choice so let them be happy where they are.

Next, getting better may require a little self sacrifice.  I mean while you're working on your play, you may not win the game.  You have to accept this to get better.  (I do have a couple tricks for this because I hate to lose anything as I expect many of you do too.)

I would try this routine for a month.  I would use 1/3 of my play to game drill.  If you play 3 times a week I would probably not do all my game drilling on the same day.  You may get frustrated if the drills result in losing game/matches and we're here to improve not become more frustrated.

My typical routine would go something like this.  Assuming I can get in about 3 games an hour.   I'm playing 3 days a week for 1 hour.  If you play singles or doubles it doesn't matter, although you may piss off your doubles partner if he thinks you're throwing matches.

The first game of any session I would go full bore, play normal, get warm and try and kick some butt.  Game two would be my drill game.  During this entire game I will only hit down the line shots or a ceiling ball.  Those are the only two choices even if I'm out of position those are the only two shots I have.  The third game I would play full out again like nothing happened with my full repertoire. 

On play day number two (or for some of you, hour number two) I would pick a game and only hit pinch shots or ceiling balls.  Again those are the only two shots you can hit.  I would throw in that hitting only pinch shots from awkward spots on the court may put your opponent at risk...so I'm not condoning hitting your opponent and then telling him Pat said I have to hit a pinch shot right through you.  During this drill when you're in the back corners, I practice near wall splats as my pinch shot of choice, the opponent is usually out of the way instead of a complete cross court pinch from the back...that ball has ouch all over it.

On day three or hour three, I would hit pinch shots if I'm in front of the dotted line and down the line if I'm behind it or again a ceiling ball from anywhere at anytime.

Play normal all your other games but on your drill game stick by these rules.

To improve you have to do a few things.  First, I think you have to be put in a game situation.  (drilling alone is boring)  Second, you have to push yourself outside your normal box.  Hitting shots from positions you would never hit them from will put you outside your norm.  This will also teach you discipline in your shot selection while you improve your three most basic rally shots.

I always throw the ceiling ball as an option for a couple reasons.  The first is it always allows you an out.  If your opponent is in the way of your desired shot, you hit a ceiling ball and get him out of the middle.  Remember, he or she doesn't know you're hitting what could be an abnormal shot so he may be in the way of your pinch.  (if they are in the way of your down the line...they have a problem)

You can win these games with only two shots.  It will not be easy and it will push you.  If you really hate to lose play this way only until 8 or 10 points then go back to your normal all out play and try and win the game.  If you do that I would change two of my hourly games to drill games playing each only half way through before trying to satisfy your victory quest.

If you do this for a month, you will expand your shot selection from different court positions.  You will become much more aware of your opponent's court position, you will improve on your basic pinch, down the line and ceiling balls but more importantly you'll have fun doing it all.

Let me know how it goes...

Questions or comment…Pat@Racquetworld.com

You can forward any rules questions to me at Pat@Racquetworld.com