Watching the ball at all times may seem like a simple and elementary strategy that everyone does automatically, but you will be amazed at how many players do not watch the ball. By watching the ball, you gain valuable information and more time so you can better determine your opponent’s shot, serve or return of serve and react faster to the ball.
a) If your opponent is the offensive player hitting:
– If you see that he is going to hit the ball behind him, you can probably expect the ball to hit the sidewall first.
– If your opponent is hitting the ball above his head, you can probably expect him to hit a ceiling or an overhead shot.
– If your opponent is reaching to hit way out in front, you can probably expect the ball to go crosscourt.
b) If your opponent is serving:
– you can see where they drop the ball, which helps you anticipate their serve to get a better jump on that serve.
c) If your opponent is returning a serve:
– you can determine whether they are going to take a defensive shot up to the ceiling or offensively, shooting the ball.
Use the techniques in my book, “ Championship Racquetball” to understand “Watching the Ball” (Chapter 7, page 194).
Watching the Ball is a must for my “Championship Team,” Paola, Rocky, Taylor, Sharon, Connor, Jordan, Spencer, Lexi and Wayne. I encourage each and every one of them to watch the ball at all times, as that gives them an added advantage of making an educated question on what their opponent is going to do with the ball.
Let’s examine what tools Rocky, Paola, Jason and all of my athletes use for “Watching the Ball” by taking a closer look at all 3 sides of The Sports Racquetball Triangle: Conditioning, Mental, and Physical Skills
Left Side of the Triangle
In order to maximize on a conditioning program to help you watch the ball I have some great conditioning drills you can do with a partner.
a) Forward Drills
You are in the down and ready position in center court with no racquet.
Your drill partner is in front court with two balls, one in each hand. Their arms are extended out to the side, at shoulder level. They will drop one ball at a time. You must pivot, turn, run, and catch one ball then the other. Give them back the balls, then run back to the down and ready position in center court ready for the next set of ball drops. How far away from you they are in the front court is determined by how fit and fast you are. As you improve, they should move further away from you a little at a time. Do this 1-3X based on your fitness level. As you become more fit and faster add more sets and remember have your drill partner move further from you.
b) Side Drills
You are in the down and ready position in center court with no racquet.
Your drill partner is in on the dotted line with two balls, one in each hand, arms extended out to the side, waist high. They will drop one ball at a time toward a sidewall. You must pivot, turn and run or shuffle to catch one ball before returning to center court immediately. Then they’ll toss the second ball to the other sidewall. Throw the balls back to them, and immediately get back to center court in your down-and-ready position for the next set of ball drops. As you improve and are able to catch the balls, then they should throw the balls faster and faster. Do this 1-3X based on your fitness level. As you become more fit and faster, add more sets. Remember to have your drill partner throw the balls faster so you have to react quicker.
Use the conditioning exercises in my book, “ Championship Racquetball” to understand your conditioning level, which will lead to “Watching the Ball” better because you will be stronger and more fit (Chapter 10, pages 237-257).
You want to make sure you are routinely eating right and drinking lots of water as your body and mind NEEDS this in order to think clearly and focus on “Watching the Ball”.
***Check my book, “Championship Racquetball” for specific information on your NUTRITIONAL needs.
Right Side of the Triangle
Ideally, you want to get into a state of total concentration and focus on the court because that is when you play your best. Concentration is total awareness, giving your undivided or fixed attention to the game. Focus is the narrowing of concentration onto a specific thought, idea, or object to a central point. In other words, you concentrate on the game and focus on the ball and your opponent, which helps you, play smarter racquetball.
The more you play, the easier it is to hold your concentration. When you are getting ready for an important tournament, league match, or game, you want to play lead-up tournaments or matches just to get your focus and concentration into shape for the upcoming big event; we call this tournament toughness, or TT. Some matches last more than 90 minutes, and it is great training to get your brain to concentrate on the match and focus on the ball for that length of time. When you are totally one with the ball, we call it the “cocoon of concentration.” You use pinpoint focus (seeing the center of the racquetball) and broad focus (seeing the whole court) during your match. Practicing trains your brain to do this more easily.
Use the mental skills in my book, “ Championship Racquetball” to understand keeping your concentration and focus, which will help lead to “Watching the Ball” (Chapter, pages 228-229).
Base of the Triangle
I learned a very simple tip from an occupational therapist years ago about watching the ball. She told me if athletes were having trouble watching the ball, paint white lines going all around the ball using liquid white-out. This is primarily used during drill sessions, but of course could be used during practice games as well. Try it as I think you will be pleasantly surprised on how much more you watch the ball.
ALL of the players I coach, from the professionals led by Rocky and Paola to the amateurs, know just how important it is to “Watch the Ball”. By focusing on the ball that will win you more points, more games and thusly more matches. Their records speak for themselves.
In the next issue, I will continue to build your Championship Racquetball Game one level at a time so you too can be ready to become the champion you always dreamed of becoming, by giving you the tools to make it a reality. Rocky ‘s and all my athletes “Championship Racquetball Games” stem from their focus on ALL 3 sides of the triangle working together so they can develop into top competitors. Without a shadow of a doubt, they KNOW just how important it is to do the work. They are living proof it works and their titles substantiate it.
For details on more personalized instruction, a weekend camp, instructional DVD’s, our book, Championship Racquetball, and our APP (coming soon), ALL which covers all aspects of the Sports Racquetball Triangle and more, please visit www.FranDavisRacquetball.com.Fran Davis is a 2004 racquetball Hall of Fame inductee, Racquetball Woman of the Year 2009, Coach #2 IRT Pro Player and 1X US Open Champion, Rocky Carson; Coach #1 Women’s LPRT Pro Player and 4X and present US Open Champion, Paola Longoria; Coach Jr. World & National Champion, Intercollegiate Champion, & IRT Pro Player, Taylor Knoth; Coach Intercollegiate Champion & LPRT Pro Player, Sharon Jackson; Master Professional Instructor/Coach USAR-IP. International Racquetball Tour.