August 23rd, 2011 by Jackson
Mizuno Tornado 6 Shoes
When I first saw these shoes I wondered how much support the shoe could have with the gap between the bottom of the shoe and the rubber sole. I have a weak ankle, and support is key to me when it comes to racquetball shoes. I thought I would give these a try. Most recently, I have been wearing the Asics Gel Volley Lyte and the Adidas 6-3-1 CC shoes. Both of those shoes have been performing well for me, so I was reluctant to try another shoe, but went for it.
I have a narrow foot, and these shoes are ideal for individuals who have a hard time with the fit of the typical wide racquetball shoe. When I put the shoe on, it fit great. Was a little snug initially, but after about 10 minutes, was as comfortable as any shoe I have worn in a while. The look of this shoe caught my attention right away. It is sharp, classy and not overdone with colors. The material is breathable and so far, rugged.
I have now worn this shoe approximately 16 hours playing both indoor and outdoor racquetball. In both locations, the shoe performed well beyond my expectations. The shoe is light enough to allow quick movements on the court, but sturdy enough to give the support on quick cuts and change in direction. I have even slipped on a wet spot on the court and these shoes held up great.
Breathability is good. I didn’t notice an issue good or bad on these shoes in that area, which tells me that they breathe good enough. Even after several games on an outdoor court in 85 degree weather, my feet were not hot.
Overall, this is a great shoe. As I mentioned earlier, I have been wearing the Adidas and Asics shoes over the past 6 months. This shoe provides better traction and support than the Asics shoe, and is more comfortable than the Adidas. Again, this shoe is not for individuals with a wide foot. It has a narrow fit and will fit tight to your feet.
Posted in Product Reviews, The Collegiate Corner | 224 Comments »
January 10th, 2011 by Darrin Schenck
Gearing up for 2011
While the kids from ASU are still on winter break, I am doing my best to get into playing shape once again so we can prepare together for the Intercollegiate Championships in April here at ASU. Having a day job certainly seems to get in the way of my racquetball!!!
Our big focus for the New Year??? Two things: Serves and Return of Serve! The more consistently you can serve the better your chances of winning, period. A good repertoire of serves will be necessary to beat a variety of opponents, and practicing each one is important. I am continually surprised at when people play a lefty in a tournament their biggest concern is what to serve to them. This would not be a problem if you practiced ALL the serves, you would be armed with an answer for anyone you face. Drills as simple as standing a box or small garage can in the target area of your serve should finish is a fun way to see how accurate and consistent you really are. Most people are surprised, thinking they are better than in reality. Another way to practice for two people to for one to hit 10 of the same serve and someone else return each of those serves. The effectiveness of the serve should only be evaluated on the opportunity that you left your opponent with, not whether or not you win the rally. Errors and poor shot selection from the returner should be considered a bonus and not something you count on. Of course for the returner, their job is to minimize errors and reverse the advantage the server has with a smart return.
Since we are on Winter break I left everyone with warm holiday wishes and cautions to be careful on New Year’s Eve. I warned everyone before they left for Winter Break that they would need to come back from break in shape, as we will be hitting the ground running as soon as they return. We add a Saturday practice in during this ramp up time towards the big show, and this gets the kids on the court against local tournament players on a weekly basis. This year we are afforded the luxury (?) of having one tournament per month before the Intercollegiate event in which we can prepare. In past years, this has not been the case and I have felt we could have been a little more “tournament tough” before heading to compete. However there is always the concern for sore shoulders and court burns when you play tournaments that affect the following week’s practice time. But as we all know, this is part of the rigors of the game.
Circling back to the Saturday practices, after playing either me or the invited guests who show up, I usually take the team to run “The Hill”. Within about 5 minutes of the SRC there is a very steep and gravelly hill that is about a 200 sprint/climb to the top. It is a test of will and pushing through the barriers in your head that we all have. It isn’t the toughest climb in the vicinity of campus; the infamous “A Mountain” is notorious for breaking the spirit and endurance of many of ASU’s athletes. But this hill is ours. We run it as a team exercise, each of us individually but as a whole group to encourage and push one another. The main goal is to not slow down, pick a pace you think you can keep and no matter what don’t quit. I have never had someone quit; I did have someone who pretty much collapsed in effort to make it to the top, but she never quit. It develops mental toughness and prepares you for the pressure of all your team mates watching and cheering for you. A great addition to our training regimen.
The whole idea behind the practice sessions, practice matches and The Hill is that tournaments should feel like a vacation compared to what the kids “endure” during the weeks leading up to the events. I am big on having us aiming towards hitting a peak just in time for the Intercollegiate event in April. Using planned practice goals, tournaments as a barometer for progress, and scheduled training sessions which maximize fitness gains similar to on-court anaerobic needs we can get ready in an organized fashion and not a haphazard approach. Not only does this improve our chances for success, I hope that it teaches the students useful life skills as well.
ASU Head Coach
Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 162 Comments »
December 6th, 2010 by Ben
The ASU Racquetball team just wrapped up the annual Splat Classic Racquetball Tournament which we hosted for the third year in a row. The event itself is always fun, bringing old familiar faces and new friends together right before the Holiday. The tournament has sort of become our first semester ending event, and a gauge for where we are at in terms of our preparation for the Intercollegiate Championships in early April, 2011. While the ECRC schools and the WCRC schools are getting their tournament preparation in by playing other colleges, we have to make do with competing against local players in a regular tournament. Although I think it would be better preparation for us to play other schools for practice, this is the next best thing.
I would have to say one advantage to this isolation we have here in AZ is that we do not “show our hand” until we walk in the door for the Intercollegiate tournament event itself. It is nice to keep our competition guessing, and maybe have a few surprises that we can bring to the table come tournament time. I would assess our fitness level as adequate, but as my players know we will be doing our real training beginning in January when they return from Winter Break. We will be hitting the ground running in the New Year, gearing up for our big showdown in April.
Hosting the Intercollegiate Championships this year has its pros and cons. I would say that an advantage of traveling to a tournament is that for the most part you are totally focused and there for one reason. The kids all have class work to keep up with, and when not playing everyone is supporting their team mates. We spend 24/7 together; the 7 guys and seven girls who went to Springfield last year crammed into 2 rooms each, and I had a room in the middle. We eat every meal together, commute from the hotel to the club together, etc. for four days straight. It can be trying at times, but for the most part I love every minute of it. When we host the tournament, boyfriends/girlfriends show up, Mom and Dad come to watch, kids try to squeeze in classes between matches, and many other pressures and distractions can arise. But, playing on your home courts and sleeping in your own bed is nice sometimes, so I guess it all evens out. We hope to be adding another decal to the wall of Court 1 after this season’s event, but only time will tell.
Happy Holidays everyone, I hope Santa brings you that better backhand you are wishing for!
ASU Head Coach
Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 145 Comments »
November 4th, 2010 by Ben
Make sure to read Vol. 3 Part I prior to reading this post.
Here is one example of a match from that week: Kristen Frisk was a senior at ASU; she had played for me for three years. Just to round out our history together, she got “volunteered” about one month before we went to the 2008 Intercollegiate Championships in Kansas City. She was friends with one of the guys on the team and had never played racquetball before. My number six girl had a knee injury 7 weeks before the event that year, and we were going to be one girl short if we didn’t find a replacement. You are not eligible for the team competition if you do not have a full squad of 6 guys and 6 girls. She lost every match, with no experience and no help during the event (I figured she was going to lose anyway). By the end of the week she was serving to win her first game. Oh, by the way, I made her play number 1, knowing this would be better for the team as a whole in terms of points.
Two years later to the day she is in the semi finals at the number 5 position. Both of her knees hurt, her swing is still terrible (I never was able to fix that) and when she warms up she looks like she’s never played before. I would hear her opponent’s excitement when they watched her for the first time, thinking she was terrible and that they would win easily. But once things got started, she was tough as nails. She slowly squeezed people to death, rarely making an error and her hustle making up for her technical inefficiencies. She executed every game plan I ever gave her and never, ever complained. Down 11-13 in the first game of the semi’s, I made her call time out to talk to her. She complied and came off the court. I told her to switch her serve, and hit a lob Z to the forehand of her opponent. She looked at me like I was crazy. I told her to trust me, and so she did. As I hoped, her opponent attacked the first serve she hit and dumped it into the floor. The next one she went conservative and hit it to the ceiling, only to sail it off the back wall and give Kristen an easy shot up front. She dinked it for a winner, tying the game at 13-13.
Her opponent called time out and came off the court looking rattled. Kristen came bounding out of the court looking very confident. As they walked back in to court, I said aloud “Do the same thing” and shut the door behind her. Kristen’s opponent looked back at me with a scared look in her eyes, knowing she was going to see more of the same. Kristen served out, hitting a clutch forehand winner to seal game one. Game two was very similar, with Kristen hanging around and frustrating her opponent by getting to good shots and extending rallies. Thirteen all…here we go again. She calls time out and walks off the court. I looked at her and said “You know what to do” and she smiled back at me. I was so nervous for her, but I never let it show. She went back in and battled her way to another 15-13 win, making the finals and having a shot at gold.
The next day Kristen played in the finals and lost. She gave everything she had. The picture says it all.
I was so proud of her, and I get chills just thinking back to this one of the many moments for that week. She graduated and is now back on the East Coast and working in her career of choice. I have no doubt if she applies half of the determination she did on the court to the rest of her life, she will be very successful.
I am so proud of all my “kids”; we work together for six months to play this four day event. All of them represent the school and themselves with class and sportsmanship that would make any coach proud. The lack of money is irrelevant; I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
ASU Head Coach
Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 184 Comments »
November 1st, 2010 by Ben
People often ask me why I spend so much time working with the ASU team when I don’t get paid for it? I have to laugh to myself, and then remember that they have not experienced what I have in the past four years as a coach. I have coached and instructed individuals for about 20 years now, but nothing compares to coaching a team of players. I will try to elude what the experience is like in the following post. All of the following experiences took place at the Intercollegiate Championships in 2010 in Springfield, MO.
We begin practice for the season in September to coincide with the beginning of the school year. I have a core group of players who were returning, and I needed to make a few additions as well. As the year progressed it became obvious that I would have to have a playoff for the positions on the Men’s team as we have a few more players than spots since we were traveling and didn’t have the finances to bring everyone. So I was forced to do the thing I hate most in my role as coach, break the news to several of my players that they are not going to make the trip to Springfield. I hate it, more than I can really explain. I want so badly for them to have this experience, make the memories and have fun that it kills me to have someone not be able to go. We established an in house tournament and had a playoff for the six positions on the team. I literally couldn’t watch.
Once that was behind us, we made arrangements for 7 girls (one of my girls was struggling with an injury and so we elected to not have her play doubles) and seven guys (one of the guys paid his own airfare and played in the “extra” divisions that are available) to travel the event. We rented two vehicles and my only graduate student on the team was designated with the task of carting half of the team around all week. We randomly split up the crew, and switched people around frequently to avoid getting sick of one another. We all stayed at the same hotel, rooms right next to one another, ate every meal together, and were basically together non-stop for the five days we were in Springfield. All of the kids had class work to keep up with, so they were preparing to play, cheering on their team mates who were playing or on the computer keeping up with their class responsibilities.
Read the rest of this entry »
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October 11th, 2010 by Ben
One of the first things I teach my players at ASU once they get the basic idea of the proper strokes is to effectively return serve. Far too many players take high risk shots and make errors, handing points away to their opponents. It drives me crazy to see this; despite the fact that the pro’s do it (with a high degree of consistency) does not mean that everyone else should be trying to play the same way. Let the pros make the tough shots, you should play the easy way.
Below is an excerpt from my book which gives you an overview of the basic concepts and a set of rules which you must follow for success.
Return of Serve—Starting Position
The return of serve is critical to your success in a match. If you cannot effectively neutralize a big serve or hit the proper shots off of a lob serve, then you will be hard pressed to win. The server has most of the advantages, but not necessarily all of them.
Good footwork and smart choices will help to reverse the server’s advantage. One way of relieving some of the pressure during a match is not to give anything away, force your opponent to earn all of his points.
There are four rules you must live by for the return of serve:
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September 10th, 2010 by Ben
‘Tis the season….
College Racquetball season that is!!!
As the coach for the Arizona State University teams, I try to recruit players as soon as I can into our program. Any time I see a girl on a racquetball court that displays the slightest bit of potential, I go talk to her. I truly believe that I can teach any marginally athletic girl to be good enough to make our team’s #6 position within six months. In the four years I have been coaching here at ASU, I typically have at least one girl who has never really played racquetball before the start of the school year not only make the team, but fare well at the Intercollegiate Championships.
As for the Guy’s side, I have been fortunate to have a good crop of players from the start. There is usually three times more guys than girls, so recruiting male players is much easier. Again, any athletic guy I can get up to speed pretty quickly, provided they listen to my instruction (the girls listen much better!)
My best advice to coaches and players out there who are starting out the college racquetball season with some new talent: start slow!
I make a habit of focusing on only one thing at a time. We typically have practice for two hours twice a week. I will work on just forehands for at least the first practice. We will do drop and hit forehands, and then work our way towards me hitting shot to them and the players hitting shots straight in. I really focus on starting with the correct grip and with the players arm already back and in position to only swing forward. I always do my best to remove any loop to a player’s swing as soon as possible.
Once the players can consistently make contact with the ball, then I have them focus on watching the label on the ball, and making contact right in the exact middle of their stance. With the correct grip, this should make the shot go straight in and straight back to the player. If they can catch their shot when it comes back to them without moving their feet I consider that a good shot.
At the end of the first hour we move on to serves and serve returns, but with a caveat. I only teach them to serve to the forehand to start with. This allows the players to quickly get the hang of putting the ball in play and also teaching another player to return the serve as part of the same exercise. Now I can step off the court and let them trade off helping each other practice these two separate skills at the same time.
Next installment….the secret to teaching the proper backhand.
Find out all this and more in my book Racquetball 101 available through Racquetball Warehouse.
ASU Racquetball Head Coach
Author: Racquetball 101 and
Ektelon Collegiate Director
Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 193 Comments »