Fran Davis headshot 200


Last month I discussed the importance of routines as we are creatures of habit and perform best when there are no surprises. In order to obtain optimal performance levels, you need a pre-performance routine, which improves your accuracy, consistency, and timing. Now I’ll describe how to take it up to the next level to create a ritual, which is a specialized routine.

A ritual is your own personal behavior that you use to play your personal best because it triggers your muscle memory and sets you on automatic pilot. Professional athletes all have unique rituals that get them deeper into their game, their performance, and their ultimate mind–body state (i.e., the zone), and so can you.

Remember, a routine is derived from a behavior (bouncing ball 3X), which turns in a habit (a behavior 7X), then a routine (a healthy habit). There are many samples of routines/rituals in my book, “Championship Racquetball” in Chapter 9, P. 221-223, so check it out they will really help.

All my athletes, from legendary pros like Jason Mannino and Sudsy Monchik to top-ranked players on the tour today like Rocky Carson, Paola Longoria and Taylor Knoth. ALL have rituals. Their rituals start the night before and include the morning of the match, driving to the club, prior to the match and then in the game.

Let’s examine what tools Rocky and all my athletes use to develop routines by taking a closer look at all 3 sides of The Sports Racquetball Triangle: Conditioning, Mental, and Physical Skills

Left Side of the Triangle


Since we are in-season now, you should be making the following adjustments to your training schedule:

1- Cut back on the aerobic conditioning (AC-cardio respiratory training for endurance) to 2X per week.

2-Increase your intensity level of speed play (SP-anaerobic quickness, agility, balance and speed) still doing footwork drills 2X per week.

3- Cut back on strength training (ST-weight training builds power, explosion and speed) to 2X per week and work on more reps and less weights to work on maintenance.

Rocky’s conditioning routine/ritual:

 “I head to the club 3 mornings a week after I drop my kids off to school. Since I am in-season I meet up with my trainer and I do 2 days of intense footwork drills with him as well as lighter weights. I never miss as the routine keeps me grounded, very focused and accountable.”

Use the techniques in my book Championship Racquetball, Chapter 10, to develop your conditioning routine.


Eating 3 well-balanced meals and healthy snacks with LOTS of water throughout the day keeps your body a lean-mean fighting machine that never gets tired or dehydrated, which would adversely affect your performance.

Jason’s and Rocky’s eating and drinking routines: They both eat a healthy balance of protein, fat and good carbohydrates based on their body weight for all 3 meals and drink no less than two 2 liter bottles of water throughout the day during heavy training days as well as during tournaments.

Right Side of the Triangle

Mental Skills 

All successful athletes thrive on rituals and routines that help their minds and bodies to relax and focus on the essentials of the upcoming competition. Everything in sports is a learned behavior, so each consistent pre-competition ritual that an athlete does automatically sets up in what I call his “Ideal Performance State.” If these rituals are performed regularly then the athlete is on automatic pilot and enters each competition in the Ideal Performance State.

Night Before 

Get to bed at a reasonable hour the night before the match to get a minimum of eight hours of rest a night.

Morning of the Match 

After your good night’s sleep, make sure you eat and hydrate properly with enough time before your match.

Driving to the Club on Competition Day 

Put your windows down a little; nostril breathe in the fresh air; have relaxing, nonverbal, alpha-state music on the radio; park all unnecessary thoughts outside of your mind; and begin to compartmentalize for your event.

At the Club 

Find your psychological home—or your comfortable place where you can retreat into your head for pregame preparation—stretch, and go over your game plan. This is your safe place to totally get into your competition mind-set.
In the Game Players have very specific rituals that ground them and make them feel right at home within themselves and on the court.

Jason’s routine to be in control of his emotions:

 “One hour before game time I rode the bike for 10 minutes to break a sweat, then stretched for no less than 20 minutes and then 30 minutes on the court hitting every shot and serve I was going to use. I DID NOT talk to anyone, not even Fran, as it was GAME ON.”

Paola’s routine to be in control of her emotions:

 “One hour before my match I get on the elliptical with my iPod and head phones and listen to some motivational tapes as it allows me to be calm and in control of my emotions when I play.” 

More details on rituals can be found in my book, Championship Racquetball, in Chapter 9.

Base of the Triangle 

Physical Skills  

 Since you are in-season your physical skills will also be adjusted, as you need to be doing more movement drills as well as playing:

1-You will want to do less stationary drills (except if you are working on a shot, serve or return of serve that is costing you games/matches) and add more moving and hitting drills utilizing combination drills alone as well as partner drills.

2- Add more playing, at least 3X per week, unless you are in a tournament week.

Paola’s routine to drill, practice and play is like no other: 

“I drill, practice or play three days per week late in the afternoon after I head home back from school and grab a bite to eat. I make sure if it is a playing/sparring day that I have my workout partner picked and ready to go once I get there and warm up thoroughly.”

There are various ways to drill, practice and play to improve your game in my book, Championship Racquetball, Chapter 8.

ALL of my players from the professionals led by Rocky and Paola to the amateurs I coach know the value of a routine/ritual. All of them at one time or another in their careers took a match for granted and did not utilize their routine/ritual on or off the court and it cost them dearly….a very hard lesson to learn. Heed their advice and use your routine/ritual religiously.

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, but now you will have the tools to do it and 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 more tips and 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 Davis is a 2004 racquetball Hall of Fame inductee, Racquetball Woman of the Year 2009, Coach #2 International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Pro Player, Rocky Carson; Coach #1 Women’s Pro Player, 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