Becoming a Pro

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.

Looking For A Coach? You Should Be! Part 6

Dave and John Elllis

Dave and John Elllis

Becoming a Professional Player #6

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

“Everyone needs a coach, whether it’s a top level executive, a graduate student, a homemaker, a homeless person or the President of the United States” - Anthony Robbins

By definition the aspiring racquetball professional is goal oriented, driven, and exceptional. To be successful he/she must maximize his/her talents and be willing to address any weaknesses. This means seeking the assistance of a qualified racquetball coach. A qualified coach will provide the player perspective on what is needed to continue his/her professional development and improvement. Experience in coaching at the professional level, and references are certainly important qualifications.

In hunting for a coach, look for a person that knows the game and is able to analyze and advise you with respect to strategy, mechanics, and shot making.  He/she should be passionate about racquetball and be able to effectively communicate his/her thoughts on the game.  He/she should work to motivate you to want to continue to increase your shot making percentages, no matter how high your ranking has become. Your coach should be willing to spend time watching and analyzing video.  He/she should be able to work closely with your physical fitness trainer.  He/she should be flexible and above all take time to listen to you and your ideas.  A professional coach should help you be a professional. Assisting with travel arrangements, promoting publicity, budgeting prize money, obtaining sponsorships, and other income earning opportunities would also be positive qualities.

Coaching may be thought of as two fold, preparation and game coaching.  Preparation is concerned with both maintenance and improvement of on court and off court skills. Game coaching involves developing strategies for victory and making critical adjustments during a match.  For your coach to be able to do this, he/she needs to have a clear idea of what shots and serves you can execute consistently.   For example, a coach should not advise the player to cut off a desperation shot into the back wall during a match if the player’s cutoff skills are inconsistent.  Rather, the coach should be determined that the percentage of successful executions of that shot is increased in practice, so that later it may be employed during competition.

As a professional player, you will be admired.  Many recreational players will want the best for you and try to help.  They may offer advice on racquetball strategy, playing, equipment, shoes, diet and any number of things.  Here it is important to maintain communication with your coach so that he/she knows what you are thinking. A good coach is there for you, and is there to make you better. Be open with your coach about your game. Your coach will understand that sometimes it might be good to get an outside perspective.  It is essential that the player keeps the communication open and positive, so that your coach knows the advice you are receiving and can help you evaluate it.

If it becomes time to part ways, be open and honest with your coach.  He/she should find out your intentions from you directly, rather than hearing it from secondary sources. Your coach may have dedicated much time, emotion, and effort to helping you and this would be only common courtesy. The coach and player relationship is special, and can be a significant advantage for the aspiring racquetball professional.

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.