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