The Evolution of Racquetball Technology

May 17th, 2011 by Ben

Just about every year, each racquet company releases a new ‘technology,’ whether an improvement on a past design, a supplemental technology for combined performance, or a revolutionary introduction that completely changes racquet feel and playability. We haven’t seen the latter for a few years but revolutionizing racquet technology is no easy feat. As we are quickly approaching the new product season, you will begin to hear the buzz and see the sneak peaks of new racquets on the horizon but before that happens, let’s take a look at the recent evolutions.

Ektelon – O3 to EXO3 Technology

Ektelon first introduced the O3 Technology in 2005, a truly revolutionary approach to racquet design. The O3 technology consists of large holes in the frame of the racquet, rather than traditional grommet holes, increasing string movement by eliminating the friction between strings and grommets. The end result: a larger sweet spot and more lively string bed for more power and improved playability.

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These round ports next evolved into the Speedport Technology, changing into rectangular holes for further increased string movement and improved airflow through the frame for a faster swing and improved maneuverability. Ektelon further changed the frames in 2009 to incorporate the EXO3 Technology. This technology removed more graphite from the frame and now suspended the strings from “Energy Bridge Inserts,” further increasing the sweet spot, string bed movement, and added power to the frame. Ektelon continues to fine tune and improve this technology to maximize power and string bed response so stay tuned for the new line.

Head – Liquidmetal to d3o

Head has been all about material technology, introducing revolutionary materials into their graphite racquets to get the perfect balance of power and performance. They introduced Liquidmetal in 2004, a unique composite with a liquid atomic structure located in key areas on the frame to minimize energy lost in ball impact, transferring the maximum power possible back to the ball.

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Head next introduced Microgel in 2007, a super low-density material with high stiffness to lower weight and again maximize energy return and power while dispersing any negative energy throughout the frame. Most recently in 2010, Head took it one step further with d3o, a smart material that changes behavior under dynamic loading to stiffen when you swing your hardest and stay flexible when you want to make those touch shots. Combined with these space age materials, Head has added proprietary technologies – the Inner Grommet System for maximum string bed movement and Corrugated Technology at the throat to increase stiffness and energy return. Head has focused on creating racquets that cater to individual player’s strengths; keep your eyes open for what is new in 2011.

E-Force – Longstrings to Heatseeker

E-Force has more technology in their frames than any other company and is very proud of this heritage. The most notable technology unique to E-Force racquets is the hollow handle with vertical strings that extend the entire length from butt cap to head. This technology has continued to evolve over the years, now incorporating all mains, a unique string pattern and dampened Zero Richter Tubes to create the largest, most powerful string bed in the market, so they say. Combined with the unique Dual Cylinder profile of their frames, E-Force has constantly pushed the envelope of frame technology to maximize power.

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In 2009 E-Force introduced the Powerhouse Shaft, which visually increased handle length at the throat. This strategically placed graphite stiffens the throat, moves the flex point of the racquet closer to the sweet spot and increases whip and snap in your swing. In 2010, they introduced the Heatseeker, which combined existing tech with a new grommet technology and an improved graphite lay up to make the most stable E-Force racquet ever. Can they keep reinventing the racquet? We will see this year..

Pro Kennex – Kinetic Technology

ProKennex has been a quiet force in racquet technology, though Kane has loudly brought PK to the forefront in recent years. ProKennex invented the revolutionary Kinetic Technology, which has been featured in publications such as Popular Science, ESPN, and Time, and was proven in tests by MIT. The Kinetic Technology utilizes free-floating micro bearings that ‘load’ on ball impact and explode foreword unleashing kinetic energy to increase power while simultaneously absorbing shock and vibration from ball impact, producing some of the most arm-friendly racquets available.

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ProKennex further advanced the Kinetic technology with an ionic coating that reduces friction to maximize the effectiveness of the micro bearings. Their other proprietary technologies of note are the Quad Technology that focuses weight in key locations around the sweet spot to increase stability, and the String Suspension Technology, which reduces string-grommet friction to increase string bed movement. What new technology will the #1 player in the world be using in the 2011 season?

What does it all mean?

Why should you care about any of these technologies and marketing stories? Because they are real, and they change how the racquets play. You cannot find the right racquet for your game if you do not know what options you have, and as new products are released this year it will only get more confusing. At Racquetball Warehouse we do our best to simplify racquets and to educate the players about what products they are using. We are really excited about new racquets coming out this year and we want you to share our excitement! Check the website often for sneak peaks, pre-sales, and exclusive offers and follow us on facebook for all of the latest racquetball news!

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In-Shape WPRO Championships presented by Ektelon

April 25th, 2011 by John Ellis

Hey Racquetballers, I hope you all had a Happy Easter Sunday and a nice weekend off from tournament play.  I’m not sure how many tournaments were taking place this past weekend with the exception of the IRF Pan Am Champs in Nicaragua, but that one event had a huge upset victor in Mexico’s Daniel De La Rosa.  De La Rosa was able to win the Men’s Singles with a victory over both US and Canada’s top players en route.  His victory over Crowther in the finals is probably the biggest finals upset that event has ever witnessed.  De La Rosa will certainly be a threat to win the 18 & Under World Champs this summer and will be an outstanding professional during his career.  He plays with poise, smart game plans and a little chip, which is exactly what you need to succeed in professional racquetball.  I look forward to watching my dudes from Stockton play Daniel a bunch over the next 15 years!!

But now on to what I really meant to write about and that’s the upcoming In-Shape WPRO Championships this coming weekend here at our home club in Stockton, CA.  This is the third year in a row and fifth out of six years that we’ve hosted a Tier One WPRO Stop either in Stockton or Sacramento.  We’ve been fortunate enough to have nice support from a few local business owners and a few “friends of racquetball” when it comes to raising the $10K to host the WPRO.  This area loves professional racquetball whether its the men or the women and I know we’ll have great crowds throughout the weekend.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care who made the finals as we’re no different from other WPRO cities in that we want to see the big rivalry between Paola and Rhonda go down here in the 209.  It was an awesome final last year with Paola outlasting Rhonda in a tough fought five game battle.  But, I do know that there are a few other gals on the WPRO that are capable of taking one or both of them down so whomever reaches the final, we know we’ll be in for a great match.

I get asked a lot why I host a WPRO Stop and not an IRT Stop.  There are a few key answers, but it should be clear that I would love to host an IRT Stop and believe that we will eventually bring back the Stockton Pro-Am, which used to be the longest running pro stop in the game.  But for now, my ties are connected to the women’s game and the WPRO.  The fact that racquetball has become even more of a man’s game over the past 10 years is really a sad situation and one that I want to help drastically change.  I grew up at a club where we had almost as many women playing racquetball as men and the atmosphere at the club was awesome because of this.  The social aspect of racquetball is one major factor that drew me and my parents to the game of racquetball and that social atmosphere is barely alive, even at the national level.  I believe that this mostly has to do with the lack of women at events.  It’s just not that much fun to have a tournament with 95% of the players being men.  Our WPRO Stop takes on a different vibe because of having so many women in the club at the same time.  I can’t explain it in detail other than it’s just that natural feeling of men and women being involved in the same thing, making most everyone feel like they’re apart of something special.  Of course my dad has held the position over the past two years as Deputy Commissioner for the WPRO and that certainly influences my decision to host a WPRO Stop.  And, yes I’m apart of the Ektelon Management Staff so it makes sense to have a WPRO Stop with Ektelon being the Official Ball of the WPRO.  But, I’m very pro IRT and look forward to the year that we get back to hosting the guys here in Stockton.  I believe the IRT is heading in a good direction and their schedule looks solid for next season, plus we have plenty of players here in Stockton that would love to play a pro stop at their home club.  It will eventually happen…….

But for now, let’s embrace women’s racquetball here in Stockton and prepare to enjoy a great weekend event.  We need it around here as the Shootouts have taken over the tournament scene and the nature of shootouts is not very social at all.  Having said that, we need the women of Nor Cal to sign up and support this tournament.  The numbers are not great for this event as we’re at about 120 players today, which happens to be the deadline date.  Hopefully we’ll see a spike in the number of entrants today, especially with the amateur women.  Come on ladies, what better way to get motivated about your racquetball game then to watch the best females in the game at the same event you’re playing??

Lastly, I’m very thankful to Racquetball Warehouse for being apart of our sponsorship team.  As the Official Retailer of the In-Shape WPRO Championships presented by Ektelon, they provide a ton of stability for this event and a service that most tournaments don’t have anymore.  RW has been a great partner for me over the past seven years and to be honest, without them in my life, I might be out of RB at this point and doing something else for my living.  I can’t thank them enough!!  Please support RW whenever possible and feel free to use my referral code of RWEllis whenever you order online.  This code does not make me any income, it’s there for you!!

If you’ve read this far down my blog today then I want to thank you for taking the time to read my rant!!  Best wishes to all of the RBers and remember to Keep Em Rollin…………………….

John Ellis

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 90 Comments »

Why a Tournament Director Should Sanction

February 19th, 2011 by John Ellis

As a tournament director that hosts 20+ racquetball tournaments/shootouts per year, I get asked why I sanction my tournaments quite a bit.  Naturally the club players that are not diehard tournament players question why they have to join a state organization for $50 Annual Membership when they’re only going to play one or two events per year.  Even the $20 One Event Fee annoys these players and definitely forces them to question their participation.  So, I prefer to have the conversation with these players so they can get a true understanding of why I sanction 99% of my In-Shape events.  Generally, my explanation will give them the understanding they need and often lead to a new yearly member of the California State Racquetball Association (CSRA).  Here’s my list of reasons why I sanction my In-Shape Racquetball events.

Liability is by far the number one reason I sanction events.  With the insurance coverage that the USAR has in place for it’s state affiliates, I believe it’s my duty to make sure that my tournament players have coverage if something happens to them at the club or on the court.  I would never assume that all the event players would have their own personal insurance to cover any accidents that may occur and I want to make sure that if something does happen to a player, their first concern isn’t about how they’re going to pay for that initial visit to the doctor or hospital.  One might ask, doesn’t In-Shape cover the liability for people in their clubs?  Of course, but I’m an outside entity hosting events using their courts, and even though waivers are signed for non In-Shape members on both my end and In-Shape’s, I do not believe that In-Shape should have to worry about injuries that happen due to my racquetball events.

The R2 site is a close second to the insurance coverage when it comes to sanctioning.  Ryan and Tish Rodgers have created a program that has revolutionized the tournament directing industry and the accessability that directors have with the racquetball tournament playing public is a powerful source.  I was with Ryan and Tish from the beginning when it came to R2 and in the early years, I kind of felt like their test dummy!  There were some late nights with the program when they first had it up and running due to the kinks that existed, but over time, they’ve hammered out a program that works nearly flawlessly for every event.  If I do have an issue then I send out a quick email to Ryan and he gives me the answer in minutes.  Usually it’s an answer that I should have thought of myself, but regardless, they’re customer service is awesome.  The truth is, I can send an email to thousands of racquetball players promoting my upcoming event in a matter of minutes.  There is no substitution for that type of advertising.  The ease of creating the draws and times are the bonus to the whole situation.  Of course, the players themselves are now able to follow the event throughout the process.  I really does not get much cooler than that!

Advertising on the CSRA website (www.californiaracquetball.org) is a factor for me when hosting events.  I know there are over a thousand CSRA members and I’m sure a good percentage of those players are checking the state website to see what events are upcoming.  Unlike many states, California does a fantastic job of updating their website when it comes to the schedule plage.  I try to stay about two months ahead on promoting my upcoming In-Shape events so you’ll constantly see In-Shape’s presence on this site.

You can’t host a racquetball tournament without racquetballs.  As a sanctioned CSRA event, you’ll receive the new Ektelon balls needed to successfully host your event.  This will save you at least $75 in expenses and of course, the players appreciate being able to use a new Ektelon ball for their matches.

Although I’ve had a few gripes about the CSRA and certainly the USAR over the years, the fact is I’m pro state/national organization.  I love this game and want to see the sport consistently thriving.  To do that, national organizations, state organizations, event directors and players have to work together to grow racquetball’s numbers so that we can continue to grow as an entity that has value in numbers and organization.  This includes the entire sport of racquetball, the IRT, WPRO, WOR, IRF and every other association out there.  National, regional and local businesses need to see the value in numbers if we’re ever going to receive financial support from outside the industry.

I could go on for a while and probably come up with another 5-10 points about why I sanction all of my In-Shape events, but these are the main reasons.  Support your state association.  If the association is not performing up to par then ask yourself what you can do to help the situation.  If you’re not willing to help then you can’t complain.  I’m not saying being a board member for a state racquetball association is for everyone, I’ve yet to be on the CSRA Board, but not sanctioning your events are not helping anyone in the sport, not even your local members that complain about a small yearly payment.  I know times are tough for people financially, but the insurance coverage alone should end the conversation on why all racquetball players should be USAR members.

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 108 Comments »

Recap: 2009 CSRA State Doubles in Fresno, CA

September 29th, 2009 by Kyle

Let me start this off by thanking John Ellis, Larry Steiner (pres. CSRA), Michelle Stone, Jesse Serna, Steve Cook, Sierra Sport and Racquet Club, two random girls in Halloween costumes, the sponsors who make this event possible and of course the many others who helped out and made sure everyone had a good time.  Chris Crowther & Tim Doyle from E-Force made the trip up to the 2009 CSRA State Doubles Championships and ended up victorious against John Ellis and Jose Rojas to take the State Doubles Open title.  There was plenty of food and beer all day long which made the craziness of all day racquetball a little more enjoyable.  Ben did well with his new partner Geoff Arnold paying a lot more attention to his serves and focusing on shots a little more.  My little brother Casey and his partner Kody Fudenna went on to win the C doubles bracket and as a result are moving up to the B division in the future.

As for myself and Jon Berezay, what can I say…. I was excited to have Jon on my team for two reasons: 1) I know what he is capable of and when he’s hitting good, he doesn’t miss, 2) He is a very calming influence on me when in the heat of battle.  He knew exactly what to say when I was getting frustrated and carried me many times throughout the tournament.  We eventually ended up losing in the A consolation bracket but ended up winning our 24-/25+ age division by beating the team that won A doubles.  It was a big victory for us after losing the first game but coming back to win 11-9 in tiebreak.  After a long weekend of playing, my body felt worn out, my mind was exhausted and I was ready to get home.  Without the help of Jesse Serna (John Ellis’ trainer and friend), I would not have been feeling as well as I did on Sunday.  Thanks to his expertise and magic touch, Jesse was able to keep me loose and actually able to move through the end of the tournament.  Winning that last championship match was the one thing that could have rejuvenated me and sent me home smiling the whole way.  My folks, grandma and sister in law drove over to watch my brother and I play but on Sunday everyone left early except for my dad who stuck around until late Sunday afternoon to watch my last match and was really happy to get a win for him.  He just had rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder and was forced to watch all of our matches from the sidelines (which I know was very difficult for him).

Overall, the tournament was a great success and love the big family that California Racquetball is.  I look forward to working with the CSRA on growing the California State Championships into the grand events I know they could and should be.  Maybe next year we’ll try to entice Rocky Carson and Jason Mannino to show up and represent California Racquetball.  We’ll see if they have what it takes to take away the championship from Chris and Tim……..

-Kyle

Posted in General | 146 Comments »

SS & XS grip sizes, what to use & how to choose…..

August 18th, 2009 by Kyle

Let me start this post with an interesting background story I heard recently.  Have you ever wondered who the moron is that came up with the super-small (SS) & extra-small (XS) grip sizes for racquetball racquets?  I was told that when racquetball began, racquets were available with large and medium grips which were originally modeled after tennis grips.  After a while, racquetball manufacturers ditched the large grip because it was too big and far less popular.  The medium grip size stayed and a small grip size was added.  Well as you can imagine, the medium grip size was soon too big for players and the Extra Small (XS) was added along with the small grip.  Finally, the small grip was too big and less popular so the Super Small (SS) grip size was added. This is how we have come to the current SS and XS grip sizes today.

And when you finally figure out which grip size is best for you, you then realize that sizing between manufacturers differs.  Some manufacturers have the SS grip as 3 5/8″ and others have it as 3 11/16″.  Ektelon & ProKennex grips are rectangular while Gearbox, Head, Wilson & E-Force all have smaller, rounder grips.  So what are you to make of all this nonsense?  First off, let me start off by giving you a general rule of thumb to decide which grip size is best for you and the logic behind it.  If you fall in the size small-large glove category, you generally will use a SS racquet grip size. If you wear a large-extra large glove, you should consider using the XS racquet grip size.  If you’re wondering why I mention the large glove size twice, it’s because large glove users are kind of on the bubble and should use what feels most comfortable.  I found a great article from Bell Racquet Sports that explains grip sizing perfectly:

Racquetball racquets are typically available in two grip sizes:

Size:               Sometimes Called:

3-5/8                Super Small*
3-7/8                Extra Small or 3-15/16″

*For the 2010 season, Ektelon has added a Super Small Rounded (SSR) grip size. It
is still the smaller grip size, but with a more rounded feel in the hand.

When you hold a racquetball racquet, you want your fingertips to wrap around the grip and be touching your palm.
Remember:
The SMALLEST grip size you can comfortably hold will facilitate the best racquetball wrist snap!

Wrist snap is absolutely necessary to achieve optimum power in your swing and will help you tremendously in your matches.  Another tip to get the best wrist snap is to hold your pinky finger off the end of the handle.  You’ll see baseball players do this when batting sometimes to give their wrists a little extra range as well.  Doing this in combination with a small grip, will generate maximum power.  Of course technique is obviously the main factor but these grip tips will definitely help your game.

-Kyle

Posted in Product Reviews | 162 Comments »