Tuesday, June 30, 2009

RB instruction : Serve Variety

To begin today's installment in The Racquetball Blog instruction series, riddle me this, Racquetball Blog Readers, how many serves are you comfortable with? Ron Brown, one of Canada's National Team coaches, believes many intermediate players have only one or two serves they're comfortable with, and that's not enough.

"You need to have plan B, C, D and E," for serving says Brown, so players should have "four or five effective serves, rather than one or two pet serves."

Brown advises developing serves that "you can count on in any situation." Obviously, if you're playing with two serves rather than one, you can be more aggressive on the first serve. But your second serve in those situations shouldn't be a weak lob you have little confidence in that you hit only on second serve just because you're afraid to fault with anything else.

The time to develop these serves is in your regular, recreational games. Brown suggests making a rule with yourself - the person you're playing with needn't know - that you're only going to hit drive serves to the right, say, for one game. Then pick another serve to work on for the next game.

Alternatively, "say you can't hit the same serve twice in a row," suggests Brown, or "use a rotation of serves." You might hit a drive, then a lob, then a Z, all to the right side, and then do those serves to the left, rotating through those 6 serves regardless of what the rally outcome is.

In tournament play, Brown suggests changing serve "if your serve has been ineffective twice in a row." Thus, if your opponent has made two consecutive winning returns of a particular serve, it's time for something different.

Note, that you needn't give up on a serve after one great return by your opponent, because that great return might have been a fluke.

Brown likens serving in racquetball to pitching in baseball. A batter may be fooled by a pitcher's fast ball for awhile, but the batter's likely to catch on to it eventually. And the pitcher may tire out from bringing the heat all the time, so it's in the pitcher's best interest to vary what he's serving up to the batter.

All good pitcher's have a variety of pitches they're comfortable with, and they move those pitches around in the strike zone, giving the batter several different looks. That's what racquetball players need to do with their serves.

There are many serve possibilities: drive, lob, Z, half lob, jam, to the left or to the right. Then add in the variation of standing in different spots in the service box as well as hitting a serve backhand, and you get a very large number of possibilities, if not an infinite number of possibilities.

That said, if you find a serve that's giving your opponent fits in a tournament match, keep doing it until he or she figures it out. But be prepared for your opponent to figure it out. You'll be in trouble in situations where your opponent is returning your one or two pet serves well, and you have no other serve to go to.

If you can develop two more serves you're comfortable with this summer, then you'll be winning matches this fall that you were losing in the spring.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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