Monday, June 1, 2009

Changes in racquetball instruction

It's June 1st, and if you're a pro racquetball player, you've likely put the racquet down for awhile. If you're playing in the World Games next month, you'll likely pick it up again in a couple of weeks. But if you're not, then you might wait until July.

But the rest of us are likely looking to continue playing, and you may be wondering what you can do to improve your racquetball game. Thus, The Racquetball Blog will bring you instructional information from some of the best coaches in the world about what you can do to improve your game.

To begin, let's talk about how racquetball instruction has changed.

Marty Hogan's Power Racquetball was published in 1978 to a burgeoning racquetball populous that wanted to know what Hogan was doing to become the dominant racquetball player. In it Hogan describes his power racquetball swing as a pendumlum motion, and that's how he generates his tremendous power. Moreover, Hogan states "I get more than 50 percent of my power from my wrist!" (p. 49).

However, the pendulum swing is problematic and that Hogan got that much power from his wrist is simply false.

The pendulum swing is problematic, because if your racquet follows the path of a pendulum, there's only going to be one good point to hit the ball. If you don't hit the ball at the very bottom of that pendulum path, then it's likely going to go higher or lower than you intend. Higher will likely lead to a set up for your opponent, but lower will likely be a skip.

Thus, timing is crucial to this technique. Perfect timing is very difficult, especially when you're under pressure, as you're likely to be in any competitive match. That Hogan was so successful with it speaks volumes to his athletic ability.

Currently, instruction has changed from the pendulum swing to the flat swing. With a flat swing, the racquet moves through a horizontal plane rather than a vertical plane in, what we'll call, the contact zone, which is the area generally between the shoulders. The ideal contact point is at the lead shoulder, but you may want to hit it early or late in the zone depending on the shot you're planning.

Contacting the ball early or late when swinging flat will likely result in a pinch or cross court shot rather than an intended down the line, but not a set up or a skip, as with a mistimed pendulum swing. Thus, a flat swing is a more consistent method to hitting the ball than the pendulum swing.

Not all in the wrist

You may well have heard of the flat swing, but you might still be of the belief that much of the power in a racquetball swing comes from the wrist, as Hogan believed. To understand why that's incorrect, please lay your forearm against your thigh, and tell us which is bigger?

Unless you're an anatomical freak (perhaps like Wolverine, who was always drawn with huge forearms in those old X-men comics), your leg is bigger. So, dear Racquetball Blog Reader do you think your leg or your wrist/arm can generate more power?

What's that you say? You're holding the racquet in your hand not your foot so shouldn't the arm be more important than the leg here? Hmm, how can we put this? No. Not only no, but absolutely not.

Look, does a baseball player hit the ball using only his arms? Or a baseball pitcher throw with only his arm? No. Hitting and pitching, just like swinging a racquet, are whole body movements, and in such movements, most of the power is coming from the largest muscles: the legs, as well as torso.

The photos of Marty Hogan's Power Racquetball well illustrate this, as Hogan's legs are like tree trunks, and we're not talking popular saplings. Thus, it's easy to understand how Hogan generated such power in his shots with legs like that.

So, when you're on court next, try pushing off with your legs when hitting the ball, or alternatively consciously stepping into your shot, moving forward to meet the ball. The easiest time to do that is when drive serving. See how that goes. We bet you'll hit the ball that much faster, and in doing so gain little more advantage over your opponent.

In the coming days and weeks, look for more information on improving your racquetball game.

Follow the bouncing ball....


Scott said...

Nice intro to instructional type blogs. Most folks forget about the cardinal rule when you are returning the serve. Unless they give you a setup that you can put away 8-9 out of 10 then your number 1 rule is to get them out of center court. DTL, cross-court higher percentage, or ceiling higher perecentage yet.

Lisa Amber said...

Thank you for instructions :))
Sounds fine and easy. :)

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Thank you. :)