The Collegiate Corner w/ Coach Schenck – Vol 4

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.

Darrin Schenck

ASU Head Coach

Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 162 Comments »

The Collegiate Corner w/ Coach Schenck – Vol. 3 Part II

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.

kristen-frisk

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.

Darrin Schenck

ASU Head Coach

Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 184 Comments »

The Collegiate Corner w/ Coach Schenck – Vol. 2

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

serve-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:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 86 Comments »

The Collegiate Corner w/ Coach Schenck – Vol. 1

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.

forehand-position

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.

Darrin Schenck
ASU Racquetball Head Coach
Author: Racquetball 101 and
Percentage Racquetball
Ektelon Collegiate Director

Posted in The Collegiate Corner | 193 Comments »

Some thoughts about hard work

March 23rd, 2010 by Darrin Schenck

As a coach of countless individuals and now a college team for my fourth season (go ASU!!!) I have always found it interesting how people react when I talk about putting in hard work to obtain results. I have noticed that I typically get one of three reactions:

1. Disappointment–I have actually had people tell me they came to me for lessons to learn short cuts and not have to work so hard to be better. Thanks for the vote of confidence in my level of wizardry, but the fact of the matter is I cannot wave my hands over you and make you an Open player.  If I could do that, I would have charged you a lot more money!  :-)

2. People who humor me–I have had plenty of players who nod their head and go along with what I am saying, only to leave the court that day with no intention of executing what we have discussed.

3. A glimmer in the eye–this is the player I am looking for.  Someone who looks back at me as if to say “all I needed was a roadmap”.  I am continually impressed how many of the girls at Arizona State fall into this last category.  It has been a lot of fun watching their games develop exponentially just by following the advice of someone who has been there and done that.

I recently attended a public speaking event where Kurt Warner, former quarterback of the AZ Cardinals, shared some great insight to what he thought it took to be a champion.  He relayed a story about Lance Armstrong during a stage in the Tour de France a while ago.  Armstrong came down with a high fever at the end of a stage, right before they were about to enter the mountains. He had an IV all night long, and was very sick for most of the night.  When he awoke the next day, the team was worried Lance would not be able to ride at all, let alone be competitive in this mountain stage. When he looked out the window, he just smiled.  It was miserable out; raining so hard it was coming down sideways.  Lance knew his team was ready for this, more so than any other team. They had done the work beforehand, and knew what it would be like out there today.  They were prepared; they had suffered and they knew they could perform under the worst of conditions.  Needless to say, they went on to win that stage by a large margin, setting themselves up for an easier time during the rest of the event because of this one day.

I make my team suffer, just ask them. My leg workouts after practice are no picnic. Plyometrics, jumprope, hops up the stairs, etc. after a two hour practice is not a lot of fun. Saturdays we run the hill near campus; 20% grade, 100 yards of slippery, rocky terrain that has my heart rate hitting 185+ everytime I do it with them. Why? Because they need to suffer…its the only way.  So that when we go to Intercollegiates and we are in the heat of battle and I look them in the eyes and remind them what they have been through, they’ll remember they are ready.  They have been through tough times, and are prepared for more. They can handle it, and persevere.

Are your ready?  Does your time at the club get you ready for tournaments, or does it simply burn a few calories and let you hang out with your friends?  If that is all you want out of racquetball, that is just fine, enjoy! If you want to be competitive, win matches and even tournaments, get to work.  Schedule drill sessions, practice matches, and fitness training.  Make every second you spend at the club push you forward, and not just let you hold your ground.

You can pick up a copy of one of my books at www.racquetballwarehouse.com and follow the drills, things to practice, and racquetball related workouts. Either Percentage Racquetball or Racquetball 101 will have what you are looking for.  Get to work!   :-)

- Darrin Schenck, ASU Racquetball Coach

Posted in Racquetball Tips | 139 Comments »

2010 – What is your gameplan?

January 20th, 2010 by Ben

What does 2010 hold for you???

I am one of those annoying people who starts their New Year’s Resolutions early, one month early to be exact. I always have planned, written out, and started my plan for next year by December 1st. I know, I know…its irritating, but since my Christmas shopping was also done in advance, why wouldn’t I start my plan for next year right now? No time like the present.

For me, I am in the midst of a heavy lifting program to add some size to my frame before switching over to the stamina and cardio training that I will do soon. I am a big believer in leading by example, so I still do all the workouts with the ASU Racquetball team. I warned everyone on the ASU Racquetball Team before Holiday break that we will begin the workouts starting the first week of practice when returning in January. For those who have been through it before, they know what to expect; for the newbies…it’ll be a surprise to watch a guy twice their age outwork them. A point of pride for me is reminding them that I am in fact twice their age when they are falling behind. In addition to continuing to refine their swings and their strategies on the court, we will be training like animals off the court.

So what am I getting at with all this? HAVE A PLAN. I believe Peter Drucker is quoted as saying “That which gets measured gets done.” He is exactly right; if you come into this year without a plan, or going with the status quo, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. What does your game need?

- Better fitness

- Solid Strategy

- A more consistent backhand

- Efficient Shot Selection

- All of the Above??

If only there were a book that gave some direct examples and a proven game plan for accomplishing this. Oh wait…there is! If Santa did not bring you a copy of Percentage Racquetball or Racquetball 101 for Christmas, get online and order a copy from Racquetball Warehouse. Do it today!

Map out a plan for improvement for 2010; it is the only way you will gain some ground. Your competition is probably doing the same thing, so if you do not get moving you will be left behind. Having forehand issues? It is one of two things: either you are not using correct form, or you are taking high-risk shots that are leading to too many errors. Fix it. You will be making your own life easier if you follow the drills laid out in the book, and saving wear and tear on your arm and the rest of your body as well. Backhand still not where it should be? Get to work. Don’t have a defined game plan for every opponent you face? Study up! Buy the book, read it, learn it, practice it, and start being the person that people dread playing in the next tournament.

I did not achieve the things I did by sitting back and waiting for them to come to me, I went after them. I sought help, practiced, and worked diligently to streamline my game and increase my fitness so that I could be the best competitor I could be. All it takes is the right plan and hard work…GET TO IT!!!

Darrin Schenck

ASU Head Racquetball Coach

Author—Percentage Racquetball and Racquetball 101

Posted in Racquetball Tips | 131 Comments »

US Open — 2009 and a Practice Drill

November 4th, 2009 by Darrin Schenck

Well, another calendar year is almost in the books.  I know this since I, like a lot of racquetball players out there keep track of time by the yearly tournament schedule.  National Doubles means I need to buy a Valentines Day present, the Amateur Nationals in Houston means summer is here, and of course the US Open in Memphis means that the holiday season is almost upon us.

So whether you attended the event in person or watched on line, once again we were treated to the best of the best our sport has to offer.  Kane is still the man…and the gap does not seem to be closing.   Despite winning close first games against Jose Rojas in the quarters and Huzcek in the finals, most of the games he won were not closely contested.  Rhonda Rajisch squeaked past last years Women’s Champ Paola Longoria to add to her list of titles.   This rivalry should keep us entertained for years to come; makes me wonder who can step up on the Men’s side to challenge Kane.  Any takers?

So what can we learn from watching these top players play the game in one of the sports biggest venues?  Do me and yourself a huge favor and repeat after me:

“I am not Kane Waselenchuk (or Rhonda Rajisch) ”

Why do I want to hear you say this?  Because I want you to be a better player than you already are.  Sounds contradictory, I know.  However, unless you are a really late bloomer, you do not have the athletic ability of the top men and women pros.  I am sorry to be the one to break this news to you, but it is true.

So with this in mind, I want to encourage you to build a better, more stable game plan than you witness at the US Open.  The top pros rarely miss, and they have the skill foundation to hit winners from every position on the court.  They have done the work, and build the base to be able to play like this.  You will be far better off implementing a more conservative game plan and allowing your opponent to be the one to take low percentage shots, making a few of them but not enough to win.

The first thing I preach to my students when we get to the discussion about shot selection is to use all of the court behind your opponent.  A large majority of the shots you take are when your opponent is set up in center court.  Don’t try to hit a kill or a splat in front of someone who is planted in center court looking to cover this shot.  The one you make might look cool, but the six you miss are hurting you far more than one good shot gains.  Yes, I am talking to you.  :-)    HIT PASSES…please!  It drives me crazy to sit and watch people miss easy, wide open opportunities to end rallies and win points because they are choosing the wrong shot.

PRACTICE DRILL—-When you are practicing, put your bag against the front wall about 12″ to 18″ away from the right wall. (BTW…remove any breakable items from the side of the bag that you will be pelting with forehands) Stand at the five foot line.  Now drop and hit 20 forehands (for you righties) and see how many times you can hit the ball down the line without hitting your bag.  Now back up to 38′ deep and do the same.  If your number is less than 70% from either position, you need more practice.  Do the same thing on the backhand side as well.

What is the purpose of the bag?  It will teach you to hit the ball higher (less risk) and make it travel deeper into the court, resulting in a pass.  Your shot should land around the service line on the first bounce and the second bounce before the back wall (or hit very low on the back wall)  This is the most difficult shot for your opponent to defend, and it will make your job of winning rallies far easier.  Want to up the difficulty?  Feed yourself a shot and then hit down the line, count and measure your results.

This drill is more difficult than you think, but it will hopefully ingrain this shot into your game and when you play this should become your shot of choice.  It makes your opponent cover the most court, and is easier for you to execute.  You have roughly 250 square feet behind your opponent (who is set in center court) and about 50 square feet in front of them to make the ball bounce the second time.  Which do you think is easier???

For more information, please purchase either Racquetball 101 or Percentage Racquetball from Racquetball Warehouse‘s site and start playing the easy way!

Darrin Schenck

Head Coach–ASU Racquetball

Former IRT Touring Pro

Posted in Racquetball Tips | 844 Comments »

What is your game plan?

August 3rd, 2009 by Darrin Schenck

I wanted to address the subject that I think a lot of people do not spend nearly enough time thinking about.  The game of racquetball is unfortunately riddled with examples of poor shot selection from the top players in the world on down to the league and recreational players at your club.  There is a perfect example of this, one of the top 8 players in the world who has become infamous for one shot from deep in the court, and his repetition with this shot.  I don’t want to name any names, but everyone knows that when this player gets a set up what shot he is going to hit.  This means that his opponents obviously know as well, and are looking to cover that shot in particular.  This puts so much pressure on him to execute that shot PERFECTLY in order to make it work.  The problem is that some tournaments he makes a large majority of those shots, and it reinforces this thought process.  For the rest of us who don’t have Shane Vanderson’s world class athletic ability, it is really a bad idea to try to win with a game plan such as this.

Here is something that will make your life on the court much easier.  Ask yourself the question: ”If I leave this shot up, will I still have a reasonable chance to win the rally.”  There are very few people out there choosing the correct shot in most situations.  I see so few people using the back half of the court for offensive shots like they do the front half.  Yes, it looks cool to roll out a splat in front of someone, but it looks twice as bad when you leave that shot up and you opponent steps over and dinks a winner off of your bad shot choice.  Try winning the easy way for a change.

Next time you are playing a practice match and you can take a quick moment to analyze a rally after its completion, look at what your shot choices netted you.  The problem is that you do make some of those shots…that is what reinforces the bad shot selection.  You make a splat from deep court with your opponent in front of you and you think that it was correct.  WRONG!  If you miss that shot, you are going to lose the rally.  If you had chosen a cross court or a down the line shot, both of these would be:

A.  Easier to execute (Way more margin for error)

B.  If you leave these shots up you still have a good chance of winning the rally.  (remember, your opponent is making the same bad choices you are, so you have reversed the scenario and now they are likely to attempt a low percentage shot from the deep court.)

Basically what I am saying is “Quit doing things the hard way!”  You will NEVER reach the point where you do not make errors and miss shots, so plan accordingly.  It is far easier to execute passes than killshots and splats.  Make your opponent work hard for their points, don’t hand them away with skips and easy front court set ups for your opponent to work with.  Hit passes, ceiling balls, and show a little patience during the rallies.  You will be surprised how much less work you have to do to win if you can switch over to this type of game plan.  It is way more fun making your opponent do a majority of the running.  Work the rally to your favor, and then go for kills and splats; just make sure your opponent is out of position before choosing these more difficult shot.

Find this and much more information in either of my books  Percentage Racquetball or Racquetball 101, both available through www.RacquetballWarehouse.com

Please send me your questions and feedback.

Darrin Schenck

Head Coach ASU Racquetball

Posted in Racquetball Tips | 152 Comments »