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 »

A lesson learned from tennis

September 29th, 2009 by Darrin Schenck

Today in the sports headlines you may have noticed there was a new record for the number of aces during one tennis match. Ivo Karlovic of Croatia bombed an amazing 78 aces in a Davis Cup match lasting a whopping 4 hours and 59 minutes and LOST THE MATCH!!!!  Seventy-eight aces is the equivalent of 13 games worth of points and yet he lost the match…staggering. But what can be gleaned from this?

(***by the way…do you know the two players involved in the longest Davis Cup match in history? Hint: one of them was from the USA)

Radek Stepanek fought his way through a blizzard of aces from his opponent, but he never gave up.  He battled for the pride and respect of his country, and of course for himself.  This match featured two men who are not household names in this country, or in most of the tennis world unless you are a dedicated tennis fan (which I am).  However, in this glorious moment, they each made history.   They were as prepared as they could possibly be, and seized the opportunity to shine.  My question is…How ready are you for your big time?

When you face a player with a huge serve, what can you do?   One of my first suggestions is…don’t panic!  A lot of players that have a huge strength such as a strong drive serve also have a complimentary weakness that can be exploited.  In the case of Ivo Karlovic, he is about 6′ 8″ and is known for not being very fleet of foot.  That was a nice way of saying he is really slow.   So, on the returns that did go back into play, Stepanek did have the advantage.

If you can manage to get a serve back into play, you might have a good chance of winning some rallies.  When facing a big serve, do your best to disrupt the server’s rhythm.  Most players who have a big serve want to get into a groove, and that typically is a fast pace of play.  By using the 10 seconds between rallies to your advantage, you can slow a player down and still be within the rules.  By making them wait before each and every serve, you greatly increase your chances of them making errors on their serve.  Disrupting a players’ service rhythm can be the difference between taking a beating and having a shot at winning.

Again, as I have stated in my book over and over, and also in previous blog posts, be conservative on the return of serve.  When you do get a look at a return, the last thing you want to do is to dump it into the floor going for too much.  Hit passes on your return when given a chance for an offensive return, and go to the ceiling whenever you are not completely set up.  Hitting a ceiling ball as a return is a good strategy against almost everyone you play, but especially against someone who is drive serving.  The reason is that they have a lot of ground to cover after hitting that serve to retrieve your ceiling ball return.

Most big servers are also people who are aggressive shooters, and therefore prone to mistakes.  By getting them deep into the court, and making them run to cover every ball you put in play, you greatly improve your chances of winning that match.  Because a drive serve leaves you so far forward in the court when you follow through, the server will usually arrive late to the ceiling ball return.  This increases the odds of an error from them, and also makes them expend a lot of energy.

After 5 hours of Davis Cup tennis, Radek Stepanek was able to win by grinding out rallies and never giving up hope.  You can do the same thing on the racquetball court as well.  Neutralize the big serve by making the server wait and disrupting their rhythm, then be conservative on your returns.  Make the server earn every rally by covering the most court on every rally.  Drain their energy by making them work hard to win rallies, and this will increase the chances of them making some service errors and giving you a shot at winning the match.

You can buy the full book versions of my return of serve strategy and more in Racquetball 101 and Percentage Racquetball from the Racquetball Warehouse website.

***The longest Davis Cup Tennis match in history was between John McEnroe and Mats Wilander, and it lasted 6 hours and 22 minutes.

by Darrin Schenck

ASU Racquetball Head Coach

Posted in Racquetball Tips | 166 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 »