My return to racquetball began six months ago, shortly after my 42nd birthday. After a session in the 4-wall ping pong chamber, I quickly remembered why I love this game. Action. Speed. Aggression. Strategy. Lateral movement. Body blows. Talk trash … Racquetball has all of that, plus some excellent cardio. After an hour, he was exhausted.
The next day, I also remembered why I stopped playing. Oh. Pain in places I forgot I had. However, in a few weeks of regular play twice a week, and with a diligent warm-up routine, my body quickly acclimated.
I’m not a doctor or a professional athlete, but I love playing sports and being active, and I’ve learned what to do to keep my aging body in the game. If you want to get back to racquetball (and come on … I know you do!) Here are three areas you need to focus on to keep playing … and winning.
1. Don’t write checks your body can’t cash.
The adrenaline of the game can motivate you to make plays that will punish your body. The two most common body busters are: diving for the ball and hitting a wall. Add to that the hyperextension of the joints and hitting the ball with too much force, you have the recipe for a seriously exhausted body after the session on the court. If you play multiple times a week, these annoying bumps and jerks can turn into serious injuries that will take you considerable time to recover. If you are over 40, you probably have a few more LBs than you were when you were playing 20. The added weight combined with heavy impacts and lunges will lead to heel bruising, knee strain, or strained back (or all! !). I’ve had them, and the only way to recover is usually by doing NOTHING for a long time, and that’s not fun at all.
Don’t let your pride get the better of you. I’ve lost a lot of fellow players who put up a good fight for a game, but couldn’t come back next week to play again.
Use your head. Stretch for at least 15 minutes before playing. Precede your stretch with a short jog. Play against the side walls for at least 5 minutes. Practice playing close to the ground – it’s the low lunges that cause muscle pulls, so warm up that muscle behavior before playing.
Deal with your post-game battle wounds ASAP. Don’t be a hero and limp for a week; If you do, you are starting down the path of a long-term persistent injury. Ice it, soak in a hot tub, vacuum it up, wrap it up, etc. Sleep so your body can heal. Take glucosamine for your joints. If you take care of your body, it will acclimate … but don’t expect it to recover like it did when you were 20 years old!
Glasses, shoes, racket glove and knee pads. This is your required battle gear.
Yes, the glasses can fog up … but the eyeballs cannot be replaced. Every time I contemplate taking my glasses off, I end up shooting at the cup. A compressed racquetball hitting the eye socket can immediately suck up the eyeball. Enough talk. Bring 2 pairs and twist them when one gets foggy.
Shoes. You need good shoes that fit well. Don’t grab your old nikes, get some new shoes. You don’t need to spend a fortune. Get 2 cheap pairs that you can rotate so the shoes have time to recover. If your ankles are a bit out of practice, you may want to consider wearing basketball shoes for additional support. If you rotate an ankle, it will be on injured reserve for quite some time. Or you can wrap your ankles before playing. Hey! It’s not about looking pretty … it’s about winning!
Racket glove. It prevents your wrist from straining into the carpal tunnel to grab the racket. It is worth the small investment.
Knee support. I’m not a big guy … 170 pounds, 5’10 “- and I’m in good shape. But, I wear knee supports, and I’ll tell you why. Because my knees were getting hit. You want to play hard, you’ll end up throwing yourself for the ball or running off the floor. You are a warrior, you can’t help it! In the heat of battle, your knees will take the hit, but the next day It will hurt. And every next game … they will get worse, and worse. Soon, You’ll have to stop playing for a while. Let’s face it, you’re not 20 anymore. Your body needs time to. Plus, you need to go to work on Monday and still be a pack mule for all your family’s waste! have enough body for your family!
Don’t show up with velcro knee pads … you’re not laying tiles! Simple slip-on, breathable latex knee braces that aren’t tight enough to restrict movement will help your knees survive.
3. Winning strategy: placement and positioning. Especially important if you are playing with younger dollars that have energy to burn. To conserve your energy, you must play smart. Playing smart involves placing the ball in the correct place and placing the body in the correct place on the court. Hitting the ball hard doesn’t win games. Putting the ball where your opponent is not does it. Make the bastard run. Make them dive. Make them beg for mercy!
Here are some gambling tips that I have learned that increase your chances of winning.
1. Quiver O ‘serves. You should have 3 or 4 good serves in your arsenal. Vary your service. Look back before serving to see where your opponent is. Hitting the backhand corner is good, but get it hit the side wall before it lands. Hit one that hits your opponents ankles, quick. Toss in a high corner dying balloon that you can’t reproduce on the back wall. Include a quick backhand that hugs the wall. Once you get your opponent to strike out on your serve, keep varying and feed the serves quickly. Don’t give them time to prepare.
2. Body positioning. Generally, regarding position, try to stay in the middle of the court. If you’re against a wall, take a wall cross shot to get the ball back where you are, forcing your opponent to crash into your wall. Don’t hamper the ball. If your opponent is up front on the court, push him back with a shot from the roof that forces him back. If you find yourself in a corner, get out of it and get back to the middle as quickly as possible. Stay in the middle.
3. Wait for the ball. When you get a good forehand, don’t screw it up. If you see a lane where you can hit the ball, make sure you are EXACT in your shot. If you are full of energy, you will hit it too hard and the ball will bounce too high, allowing your opponent to bounce back with a back wall return.
If the ball passes you, it is not big. Turn around and play with the back wall. Play your game, not your opponent’s game.
4. Find the Achilles heel. Play a variety of shots early in the game to find your opponents’ weakness. But don’t experiment when you have a fatal shot. Take the kill. Play with your opponent when you can afford it.
5. Keep service! You can’t score if you don’t have the service. If you are returning a service, it is time to GAME ON. Get service back at all costs. Don’t let your opponent raise a tab. How do you do this when they have bad service? Learn to read the body language of your opponents. Typically, a server will “telegraph” their movement with a flick of the feet, a twist of the wrist grip, a drop of the shoulder. These little ‘reads’ will give you that extra millisecond to jump into that service and get that son of a bitch out of the server box.
6. Placement, placement, placement. Make your opponent run, scramble, dive. EVERY shot should be difficult to return. That doesn’t mean it has to be a deadly shot or a hard hit. To place the ball where your opponent is not, you have to know where he is! Which brings me to my next tip.
7. Watch the ball and watch your opponent. Develop your kung fu senses. If your opponent is fighting, he will generally get weak returns (except for the occasional LUCKY kill shot!). Try to anticipate where your next shot will go.
8. And finally, my favorite tip. If you really want to improve, play at least 2 times a week and play with someone who is better than you. My regular partner beats me in almost every game. He is just a good ninja. A huge arsenal of deadly services. A wicked kill shot (forehand and backhand). And an excellent strategic player. This guy played competitively when he was younger and never stopped. BUT, I’m winning it and have hit it a couple of times. I prefer a challenge to a victory. I also easily beat other racquetball players.
GOAL … I don’t recommend obsessing over and playing more than 5 times a week. You will hit your body and burn your thirst for the game. Find some regulars you can play with and stick to a schedule.
Have fun, train, play hard and keep those youngsters RUNNING!