Coaching

A Little About the RYDF Board

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The Reaching Your Dream Foundation is a collective of people who want to see the sport of racquetball thrive with new energy and growth. When we formed over a year ago, we knew it was important to engage racquetball with the guidance of a board that understood the need for open inclusion at the professional level.

Initially, our group of board members was defined by several criteria. The first and foremost trait was passion for how the sport of racquetball can help develop the personal and professional growth of young, elite men and women athletes. And more importantly, promising players who do not have the resources to reach their racquetball dream.  Furthermore, board members had to be open to branding and identifying the foundation with sports in general through our Fitness Forever messaging and programming.

The incorporation of RYDF was formally granted by the State of California on April 1, 2014.  We incorporated with seven board members including three officers: a president, a secretary and a treasurer.  Our initial board members included two physicians, an accountant, a pharmacist, and three other members. As we grew, we knew we also needed a broad base of business and professional experience. There was also an understanding that race and gender diversity was key to understanding and our board is very reflective of this type of thinking.

At the end of May 2014 we held our first annual meeting where we added two more members.  At our second annual meeting in June 2015, we added another two members, including Jose Diaz, a well-known IRT player. At our meetings, we try to incorporate professional marketing training and communication workshops as often as opportunities allow.

When we established our board’s bylaws, we set the limit of board of directors to 15 members.  We currently are at 11.  We plan to slowly expand to the maximum number based on finding people who not only share our collective passion but also add particular value towards guiding RYDF to sustainability.

Recently, one of our board members, John Dalisky was asked to begin a dialogue with Eric Muller, the President of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT).  During our first year of activity our main focus was on the younger players of the World Racquetball Tour (WRT), although we did sponsor rooms for players who also participated in IRT events. The advent of our new agreement with Rocky Carson, who is the current IRT #2 ranked professional, will provide a more comprehensive relationship with the IRT. We believe Rocky will make a powerful spokesperson for the Reaching Your Dream Foundation and help guide our younger players towards positive growth and opportunity.

Our group is dedicated to being agile in our growth. We are committed to engaging racquetball with progressive ideas and support. As dedicated as our group is, we can’t do it alone. We will critically need support from you, the racquetball community. If you believe that professional racquetball can enrich the lives of young professionals in truly positive ways, stand with us. Consider a tax-deductible donation to the Reaching Your Dream Foundation. Help pave a foundation of growth in racquetball, while more importantly, building on the future of young professional racquetball players.

Becoming a Professional Player - Part 2

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Becoming a successful racquetball pro requires the proper mental attitude.  Above all, there needs to be a totalappreciation for the precision involved.  At the highest level, it is a game of inches. An inch or two on the front wall target will separate a successful drive serve from one that comes off the back wall for a set up.  Inches to the right or to the left can make the difference between a successful passing shot and one that is hit at an angle that will bring the ball to where the opponent is located.

A couple of inches can make the difference between a perfect ceiling ball and one that comes off the back wall. Those players that think they can win by just hitting the ball harder or by thinking they can get everything, do not see the importance of the necessary precision.  Sure, power at the proper moment and retrieving are important. To become a successful pro, the importance of shot precision must be must exist in the mind of the player to an extent that he/she is totally self-demanding.

This attitude must be taken to the practice court. I have an expression as coach, “Make it boring (for everyone except your coach).”  That is, “Do not fail to hit a rally ending shot when the opportunity is there.”  The greatest player ever, Kane Waselenchuk, understands this perfectly.  With him, it’s all business, get the match done, and get back to the hotel room. One of our players has said, “But the game is not fun if the rallies are so short.”  To be a successful professional, the attitude must be, “kill or be killed.”

Becoming a Professional Player - Part 3

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In racquetball we can isolate “angle” and “power.”   Both are critical, but our prospective professional must understand that angle is the more important.  A very simple but important exercise is to place an object on the floor, moving it to different places all over the court.  Our player should work hard to gain command of front wall targets by dropping and hitting from many different places on the court, attempting to direct the shot towards the object. 

 

The angles need to be instinctive, and can actually be constructed geometrically.  After the drop and hit practice, move on to direct feeds and feeds off the back wall.  The cross court angles must be mastered.  If a cross court shot is hit too sharply, it comes off the side wall to center court.  If the cross court shot is hit too directly, it will pass through center court.  Both errors offer your opponent a chance to end the rally with a straight in kill or pass shot. 

Poorly executed down the line shots hit the side wall and come to center court, again for set ups.  Another valuable exercise is to place an object on the floor that can represent the position of an opponent.  Our pro can practice hitting shots that are directed away from the opponent.  Of course, here again, “angle” is of critical importance.

Cliff Swain to host racquetball clinics for RYDF

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The Reaching Your Dream Foundation is excited to announce that racquetball legend Cliff Swain will be in Northern California to play in the World Racquetball Tour (WRT) event to be held from September 5-7 and then spend the next few days providing his excellent and very popular lessons and clinics throughout the Bay Area. 

For more information about the WRT event visit R2 Tourney Link.  Join Cliff and other world class racquetball pros at the WRT Stockton even and sign up for a lesson or clinic with Cliff September 9th or 10th. More to come on these clinics in the next few weeks so stay tuned!

Becoming a Professional Player - Part 4

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The prospective professional player should check out his/her mechanics from the outset. There are two big questions in racquetball:  How should you hit the ball, and where should you hit it?  This communication has to do with how you should hit the ball, especially when there is a set up during a rally. Let’s contrast two types of racquetball strokes: the pendulum and the flat:

During the pendulum stroke (BH and FH): The back shoulder starts high with the racquet raised and ends up low; The front shoulder starts low and ends high; The waist and hip movements parallel the shoulder rotation; There is a high follow through with the racquet; Body weight transfers nearly 100% to the front foot; The racquet is angled downward like a tear drop on contact; For a straight in shot, the point of contact is halfway between the two legs; The back leg finishes straight up and down; The pendulum stroke is pretty much a golf swing.

In contrast, during the flat stroke (BH and FH): The shoulders, waist, and hips rotate horizontally; The horizontal circles of shoulder, waist, and hip rotations gradually lower during the swing as the legs are bending throughout; Body weight starts with 2/3 on the back leg with 1/3 on front.  During the swing, 1/3 of the back body weight is transferred to the front leg, ending with 2/3 on the front, yet still 1/3 on the back. The racquet is parallel to the floor on contact; For a straight in shot, the FH point of contact is just slightly behind the front foot; For a straight in shot, the BH point of contact is just slightly in front of the front foot; At the end of the stroke, both legs are bent at the knees, the shoulders should be facing the front wall or slightly rotated past this point; and there should be a low flat racquet follow through; The flat stroke is pretty much like a baseball swing where the batter tries to hit a low pitch on the outside corner.

I strongly urge the prospective pro to have one of the well-known coaches, such as Winterton, Davis or John Ellis, check out his/her mechanics early in his/her career.   The problem with the pendulum stroke is that when contact is made even slightly too early, the ball skips.  When the point of contact is made, even slightly too late, that is, on the up-swing, the shot “skies.” Having a swing evaluation can help the player begin to change habits in order to flatten out the stroke.  A caution here: changing habits that have been developed over many years can be difficult and frustrating.  Work hard in practice using video often to evaluate what is happening with your strokes, and don’t give up.

Professional players hit the ball in many different ways, often including elements of both pendulum and flat swings. Consistency in executing rally ending shots off of set ups is an absolute must for success at the professional level.  To build maximum consistency, the professional player is advised to groove and use the flat swing.

Becoming a Professional Player - Part 5

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by Dave Ellis, Coach, USA Racquetball and Jesse Serna, Conditioning Coach for the 209

If you want to be a successful professional racquetball player, you’ll need a physical trainer.  You just have to have one to be able to match up with your opponents.   Best scenario would be to have a trainer that is also a racquetball player.  However, trainers and strength coaches familiar with tennis, basketball or baseball should ensure that there are sport specific understanding, exercises, and overall training. Make sure that your trainer has a degree in exercise science or is nationally certified by one of the major associations (NASM, ACE, NSCA, ACSM). Make sure you ask for references, because a good trainer will be happy to share their success stories.

There are seven important physical training needs, which at times, overlap: injury prevention, conditioning, strength training, flexibility/mobility training, agility/foot speed development, pre and post-match planning, and nutrition counseling.  Racquetball is a demanding physical challenge, and we believe that the importance of each of these is somewhat obvious.  Simply put if you get hurt you get worse. Strength and flexibility training are vital for injury prevention making it possible to participate at 100% for the entire season. Power and mobility training allow large, initial steps to the ball, while foot speed/agility allows for the “little adjustment steps” before hitting it. Proper conditioning promotes quick recovery after long rallies, and makes it possible to last through that tough tie-breaker.  Pre and post-match routines should be set to both prepare for a match and then to prepare for the following match. That means taking care of what you put in your body, not just what you do with your body.

Let us caution you, however, about a danger of fitness training.  If a complete program is done religiously, you will feel better, be more attractive, be stronger, be more flexible, and you will be healthier overall.  This phenomenon can result in a form of “exercise addiction,” where on court practice can begin to be ignored in favor of physical fitness workouts.  Both conditioning and on-court practice are super important, but remember, no one ever hit a game winning shot from the TRX station, nor from the pull up bar.  It is interesting to us to watch an overweight, out of shape player dominating a match.  With serves and rally shots, the player can control center court and really hardly even had to move.  Beware of the trap of ignoring the on-court practice for the precision that you need to play at the pro level.

The Importance of Partnership Part 7

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Becoming a Professional Player- Part 7

by Dave Ellis, Coach, USA Racquetball and Jesse Serna, Conditioning Coach for the 209

“We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.”

- Benjamin Franklin

Dave Ellis & Jesse Serna

Dave Ellis & Jesse Serna

Our previous blog was about acquiring a coach and then working cooperatively with that person. Finding the right coach can often be a difficult, and sometimes an expensive, task. Experienced professional level coaches are few and far between. Yet, it is essential that our prospective professional gain perspective into what is happening when he/she plays. It’s absolutely necessary that a second set of eyes be there to provide information and feedback.

An alternative to working with an experienced coach is to form a partnership with one or more professional players. Frankly even those players who are coached can benefit from a partnership with another player. This is very workable, especially if the players live in the same area. A partnership can be mutually beneficial in a number of different ways:

• A partnership allows valuable on-court practice activities. Set ups given by each other can serve to improve particular rally skills. Serves and returns can be rehearsed together. Drilling together will have tremendous value, particularly if each is both encouraging and demanding of the other. Situation games and matches will be easy to plan and execute. • Off court fitness training while working with a partner, can be motivating and efficient. Partners can push each other and also hold each other accountable to a training regimen. • When scheduling permits, partners should game coach each other. While assisting your partner within game coaching, you practice the ability to analyze and make corrections in real time. • Post-match discussions with partners can provide valuable insight. Studying together video of each other’s play, along with that of other professionals, can make an often-tedious task more fun.

• Travel planning and sharing of expenses is crucial. By booking flights together when inexpensive, sharing rides and places to stay, your sponsorship dollars can be stretched just a little further. • You are an aspiring professional racquetball player, thus not a lot of people will understand your dedication and lifestyle. A partner is uniquely qualified to understand time management issues, dealing with school, job, and family, as well as the time required of both you and your partner during on and off court practice. • Partners look out for each other. For example, while partner A is playing a late evening match, partner B can obtain food before restaurants close. Of course, there are often social events that may require a designated driver.

An essential accord, which should be made by partners, is that each other’s improvement and welfare are a mutual effort. Needless to say, each partner has to feel the help of the other for the relationship to be of maximum benefit and to continue on into the future. There will be those moments where partners have to play each other. After all, racquetball is an individual sport. These matches need to happen without destroying the “teamwork bonds” that have been developed. This can be difficult, but good sportsmanship and fair play especially need to be the rule in these cases. Good luck with this situation. It’s a tough one.