Racquetball is awesome. The pace of play is fast, you can hit the ball off the ceiling or ricochet it off the back wall, and it gives you an amazing workout. Lots of gyms and athletic centers have available courts, and there are leagues for organized play for players of all skill and experience levels.
It doesn’t take long to pick up the rules of the game, and there are many ways to play with indoor, outdoor, singles, doubles, and a variety of three-player variants. But some people are hesitant to get started. Why?
Simply put: they aren’t sure what equipment they need. How many racquets? How many gloves? Are sports glasses required? What about shoes? All these questions can get overwhelming.
Luckily, you don’t need too much gear to start your racquetball journey.
Before we look at the more sport-specific equipment that you will want to pick up, let’s go through some of the more general apparel needed for racquetball. This is stuff that many people already have at home.
When you step out on the court, you need to be prepared to MOVE. Racquetball involves a lot of quick movements and sudden changes of direction. During a match, you move your arms a lot, and each swing comes with more rotational movement in your core than you might expect. You also may find yourself diving to return a shot!
Many players find that sleeveless shirts and tank tops work best for them, along with comfortable shorts with a nice drawstring. If you have t-shirts that breathe well and don’t impede your arms, then wear those.
Also, be aware that you will sweat. Sweatbands are great accessories on the court. You don’t want a drop of sweat getting in your eyes at the wrong moment!
Racquetball is played on a treated wooden court. It’s important that you don’t wear shoes that you’ve worn outside while playing on an indoor court. One or two tiny pieces of grit stuck in your sole can do a lot of damage.
Also, the floor can feel a bit slippery in some shoes. That’s why shoes with gum soles are recommended. They give the right amount of grip without leaving ugly streaks on the floor from players changing direction.
And speaking of changing direction—you will want good ankle support in your shoes and good cushioning around the balls of your feet and your toes. Racquetball incorporates a lot of lateral motion and lunging steps, so your footwear should be chosen to accommodate that.
This is probably the least surprising item we’ll discuss today. You need a racquetball racquet to play racquetball. But what should you look for in a racquet? Can you use any racquet from any other racquet sport?
A racquet for racquetball has a very specific shape. It’s much shorter than a tennis racket and has a wider head than a squash racket. It will also have a strap to put around your wrist for two reasons—you aren’t allowed to switch racquet hands during a rally, and you don’t want your racquet to slip out of your hand and hurt your opponent.
Many clubs with racquetball courts will have racquets that you can borrow to get a feel for the game. That’s a great way to get an idea of what you want from your own racquet.
To find the best racquetball racquet for you, you’ll want to consider three things—weight, balance, and grip. Heavier racquets give more power to your shots but can wear you out over the course of a match. Depending on how your play style develops, a medium weight or light racquet may work better for you.
Balance is also important to consider. A racquet that is head heavy can help increase the speed of your swing, while a head light racquet is more maneuverable—this kind of racquet is ideal for frontcourt play. An evenly balanced racquet is just that. It provides a good balance between power and control.
Finally, grip sizes can vary. Generally speaking, you don’t want a grip that’s too big because it will limit the snap you can get from your wrist. You also don’t want a grip that is too small for your hand because that can lead to over-clenching, which can then lead to an injury or condition such as tendonitis. So grab the grip that is as close as possible to the size of your hand.
As you encounter more experienced players, you’ll begin to notice that many of them wear gloves on their racquet hand. There are a few reasons players wear gloves. They help reduce blisters, allow players to use less force when clutching their racquet, and protect a player’s knuckles from accidental collisions with the walls and the floor.
Racquetball gloves are made from a variety of materials. You’ll see leather, neoprene, and even linen gloves! Many glove styles will incorporate several different materials such as mesh to help keep your hand from getting too sweaty and uncomfortable while you play.
When you consider buying yourself a racquetball glove, pay attention to the thickness of the glove and where the padding is located. Some gloves don’t have as much padding on the knuckles, for example, so if you have a habit of scraping your knuckles while playing, those gloves may not be for you.
The most important piece of racquetball gear besides the racquet and the balls is your pair of sports glasses. Protective equipment in sport is sometimes ignored by people who are playing casually, but sports goggles in racquetball are an absolute necessity.
Remember: even in a casual game, a racquetball can travel at speeds approaching 80 miles per hour—and if your opponent swings with a lot of power, a ball flying at 100mph or faster is not rare. If one of those shots hits you in the face, you may not be able to blink in time, and you could suffer serious corneal damage.
Luckily, many sports equipment companies offer extremely stylish eye guards. These aren’t like the goofy goggles you may have seen on people back in the ’70s. The chances are good that you’ll be able to find a pair of glasses that fits your sense of style.
If you wear glasses on a daily basis, you still need to get protective eyewear for racquetball. Normal glasses aren’t made to stand up to the kind of impact that can happen on a racquetball court and may not stay on your face while you play.
If you don’t wear contact lenses, you can still guard your eyes with prescription sports glasses. If you are looking to embrace a more active lifestyle, these are a good investment—even if racquetball doesn’t turn out to be your thing. If you’re going to be active, having eyewear that you don’t have to worry about breaking is a very good thing.
Whenever you purchase gear for sports, it’s always smart to know how to keep it in good shape. This equipment isn’t just an investment in a new hobby. It’s an investment in yourself and your health—so it’s important for you to keep your gear in good condition.
Maintaining racquetball equipment is actually pretty simple. Kits to replace worn out grips are fairly inexpensive. And most people already know how to keep their shoes and clothes clean.
Washing a glove may be new to you, though. The key is to hand wash your glove with soap and water, let it air dry, and while it dries, slip it onto your hand periodically to make sure it maintains its ideal shape.
You will want to monitor your racquetball racquet string tension. If you feel it getting loose, you may need to restring your racquet. In fact, most experts recommend restringing racquets at least twice a year.
One Last Thing
Once you have your racquet, your glove, clothes, and shoes, and your sports glasses, you only need one more thing to play racquetball—the ball. Racquetballs come in a variety of colors.
Some are colored to show their speed. Black racquetballs are the slowest to encourage long rallies, for instance. Some are colored for visibility purposes. Red racquetballs are most common in outdoor racquetball because they are easier to see against concrete.
No matter what color racquetball you choose, check to see if it has the IRT seal of approval on the packaging!
So gear up, warm up, take the court, and let the world of racquetball start you on an incredible journey!