CHANGE OF DIRECTION SPEED is an often overlooked element of movement skills, but it is the most important in racquetball. There are four types of change of direction speed that we’ll work on: side to side, forward and backward, turning and running, and jumping.
Now that we have addressed moving faster, let’s talk about moving more efficiently. In this sport, if you move quickly, but not efficiently you will often overrun the ball or jam yourself. This is a major problem since you will not be able to develop consistency, accuracy, or power, leading to frustration. The key factor in racquetball is accelerating quickly in order to get to the ball, but when you are getting into position, you need to be able to decelerate. Being able to accelerate and decelerate on demand is the only way you can develop your attacking forehand and penetrating backhand in a game situation where the ball is traveling at speeds of over 100 mph. Dan Obremski, our fitness expert, gives us a great example of this acceleration–deceleration principle. He clearly remembers that when he was competing at the professional level, one of his peers sought the instruction of a speed trainer. He worked hard and returned a much faster athlete. The problem, however, was that he worked on starting speed only, and so he was off balance and overran many of the shots he used to hit with ease.
Jason on the other hand, has the ability to work his way around the court such that no ball is out of reach. He may sprint left, hit the ball, and shuffle back to midcourt. In an instant he lunges or dives forward, picks himself up off the ground, and backpedals into center court. The next shot may be behind him, so he has to make a quick hip turn and sprint back to retrieve the ball, again running to center court after the shot. In just one rally Jason is able to change direction forward and backward, side to side, using a quick hip turn, all while staying light on his feet. The more types of speed you can develop in your training program, the more shots you will get to, thus taking your game to another level, your “championship level.”
Check out our book “Championship Racquetball” Chapter 10, for specific exercises on ways to improve your “change of direction speed”.