Playing the Percentages

“Playing the Percentages” is what I teach, preach and live by. It is how I coach Rocky Carson and Paola Longoria and how I coached Jason Mannino and Sudsy Monchik and ALL my other students. No matter what level of player you are, pro or amateur, “playing the percentages…in other words playing the odds” is a philosophy I have always supported and encouraged players to play by. It not only works in racquetball, but in many other sports…let’s take a quick look:

1-Basketball – If you had one second left in a game and you were down by one point would you want to take a lay up, a foul shot or a 3 pointer Obviously, a lay up is the highest percentage of all 3 shots and you’d have a greater chance of scoring and winning the game.

2-Football – If you were down by 2 points with 3 seconds left would you want to hit a field goal from 2 yards, 20 yards or 40 yards out? Obviously, from 2 yards out as it is the highest percentage chance that you’d score and win the game.

3-Golf – If you were putting on the green and you were down by a stroke would you want to putt when you were inches away from the hole or a few feet? Obviously, you would want to be inches from the hole as the percentages are higher and you’d have a greater chance of you getting it in the hole.

Now let’s see how “playing the percentages” works in racquetball: Racquetball is NO different. Here is an important factor to keep in your mind when deciding what shot to take when….30% of all balls can be killed from the dotted line. A kill shot is defined as a shot that hits 6 inches and lower on the front wall and bounces 2X before the short line. Therefore, the further back you go in the court the less likely you or your opponent will be able to effectively kill the ball. So when you are playing you want to keep these percentages in mind. Good rules of thumb are as follows:

1- When you are in front of your opponent and you are shooting the ball that is when you should kill or pinch kill the ball as you are closer to the front wall (your target) and your percentages are higher.

2- When you are behind your opponent and you are shooting the ball that is when you pass (hits 18 inches and lower and bounces 2X before the back wall) as you are further from the front wall (your target) and your percentages are MUCH lower than 30% to kill the ball.

3- When you are off balance or out of position you want to go up and hit either a ceiling or Z ball rather then try and shoot it because your percentages of hitting a winner diminishes drastically.

4- When you are returning serve you are approximately 38 feet from the front wall and your percentages are EXTREMELY low of effectively killing the ball. Remember 30% of all balls can be killed from the dotted line, therefore “playing the percentages” is VERY important in this situation because if you take a low percentage shot like a kill or pinch two things can occur:

a-You could skip the ball and give your opponent a gift, an easy point; or

b- You could leave it up and your opponent is up in the front court after
serving and they can take advantage of your mistake and score an easy point.

Your goal should be to move the server out of the middle and put them in the most difficult position to score which is the last 3-5 feet of the court. This is done with a pass or a ceiling…2 very critical shots you need in your game. If you watch some of the most consistent players on the tour like…Rocky Carson, Paola Longoria, Kane Waselenchuk, just to name a few you will see “PLAYING PERCENTAGE” racquetball at it’s BEST. I have been analyzing videos of the pros for over 20 years and I have watched so many great players and great athletes never reach their potential because they “play low percentage” racquetball and try to shoot and kill everything from everywhere on the court….no matter what. Their philosophy is “live by the sword, die by the sword”. Take it from me and Rocky, Paola, Jason and Sudsy “PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES” is the philosophy that will win you more points, more games and thusly more matches. Our records speak for themselves.

– Fran Davis, Tour Partner & Coach