My seven-year-old nephew, Jimmy, is obsessed with superheroes. They are all he talks about and every shirt he wears proudly depicts their images. The other day while visiting him, Jimmy asked me who my favorite superhero was, but before I could answer, he grabbed the conversation back with great excitement and named off all his favorites — Superman, Batman, Wolverine, Spiderman, Ironman, and the villains they battle to keep the earth safe.
On the drive home I had my nephew’s superheroes and their villainous arch-rivals on my mind. Somewhere between his house and my driveway, I began to see an interesting correlation between superheroes and villains and the main reasons that Racquetball players fail to perform at their optimal level.
Utilizing the superhero analogy, most players must battle Racquetball’s arch rivals on the court every day. How many times have they materialized at an inopportune time and stolen a game or match away from you? Stopped you dead in your tracks? Ruined yet another come back? They even hunt down the Pros — no one is immune. So what should you do when you are confronted by them?
Don’t let The Skip Monster beat you. I have seen many players skip their way right out of a match. So many times we become impatient and try to do too much with the ball, like mishitting an awkward shot from deep court, or skipping an easy setup when your opponent is completely out of position.
How do you evade and defeat The Skip Monster? First, you must distinguish between an offensive and a defensive shot. When off balance and hitting from the back court area or returning the ball from a difficult position, make a defensive shot such as a ceiling ball, an around-the-wall ball or a passing shot. An offensive shot should be selected when you are well balanced and in good court position or when an opponent is in poor court position. It is critical to be patient with your shot selection. If you are to ultimately lose a game, allow it to be your opponent’s talent that wins. Above all, don’t beat yourself.
Avoid The Mindless Blaster. Ever experience making the same poor shot selection over and over again, convincing yourself the next time you take the same shot it will work? This enemy is very seductive because it feeds off your ego. Your heart tells you a change of play is needed, but your mind argues that proof of overcoming this bad spell can be broken with the same shot finally executed successfully. Oh yes, the spell can be broken, but at the expense of loosing too many points to your opponent.
How do you steer clear of this Mindless Blaster? Anytime you fall into this grove of negative play, stop and refocus. Realize this shot might be one that you can normally make with ease, but you’re just not able to hit it now. Quickly review what shot options have been working and immediately change to one. Your ultimate objective is to force your opponent to hit a defensive or weak return, permitting you to keep or retake center court. This allows you to maintain constant pressure on the other player, control center court, and dictate play. You can always revisit that shot at a later time.
Keep The Choker at bay. Everyone has been preyed upon by The Choker. Ever play a match when you were easily beating your opponent, only to have them make a strong comeback and win the game, leaving you helpless to do anything about it? Or my favorite…getting nervous and tightening up as you play a perceived “lesser” opponent because you are expected to win?
How do you crush The Choker and close out the match? When you feel The Choker coming on the court, compose yourself and take several deep breaths. This will allow you to regain your focus. Too many players forget this simple exercise. If needed, use your timeouts to collect and channelize your thoughts in a positive way. Your called timeouts will often break up your opponents winning rhythm. But the most effective way I’ve found to beat The Choker is to forget who you are playing, focus on the task at hand and enjoy the moment. If you do that, you will finish the match with a smile on your face knowing that you gave your best effort, and most likely a get well deserved win under your belt.
Now get out and play like the superhero you are!
Aaron Embry is an AmPRO Clinician; lives in San Diego, and works the sport full time. He has been competing and coaching for over 30 years. For professional instruction on how to play your best “inside the box”, please contact him at 619-339-9979 or www.PlayRBall.com. You will benefit from his experience!
Many thanks to Dr. “Bud” Muehleisen and Matt Schultz.