Racquetball court 101
One of the most fun things you can do at the gym is to stand at that glass wall and stare at the fast-paced game going on inside. Want to know what’s even more exciting? Try learning to play the game yourself. It’s not complicated, and getting on the racquetball court is a great way to exercise your body and your reflexes. It’s not only a good cardio workout, but it’s incredible for strengthening your core and coordination.
The rules are mainly based on the court’s layout, so that’s a natural place to start.
The Racquetball Court
Racquetball is fairly unique in the world of sports in that it is played in a relatively small room where all surfaces are playable. There is no net and no out-of-bounds. Because every part of the room is part of the playing field, racquetball court dimensions are very specific. A regulation racquetball court measures 20 feet in both height and width and stretches for 40 feet. Racquetball court construction rules require that courts be built to these specifications.
The lines on the floor create the framework for the game itself. Understanding what all the racquetball court lines are, as well as their functions, will give you a good foundation toward understanding the game. This racquetball court diagram illustrates the standard way in which all regulation courts are laid out.
- The Service Area – When a player is serving, they must do so from the service area. This is the area between the two parallel lines that run across the middle of the court. These lines are the service line and the short line.
- The Service Line – The line closest to the front wall is called the service line. It marks the front boundary of the service area.
- The Short Line – The line at the rear of the service area and closest to the back wall is called the short line.
- The Receiving Line – The dashed line between the short line and the back wall is called the receiving line. The player who is receiving the serve must wait behind this line until they return the ball or the ball hits the floor on a legal serve.
- The Service Box – These lines are reserved for doubles play. They are perpendicular to the other lines we’ve discussed and run from the service line to the short line, eighteen inches from the nearest sidewall. In doubles, this is where the server’s partner stands while the ball is being served.
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, you’ll need to know how to work within the racquetball room. Like most racquet sports, one of the players serves the ball, while the other receives. Once the ball has been served and returned, the players take turns returning the ball in what’s called a rally. The rally is over any time the ball fails to hit the front wall prior to hitting the floor or if the ball hits the floor more than once before being returned.
If the server wins the rally, they get one point and continue serving. You can only score a point if you’re the one serving the ball. On the other hand, if the receiving player wins the rally, they become the new server. You play two games to 15, with a tiebreaker if necessary.
When you’re the serving player, you must begin your serve in the service area. Your back foot may touch but not cross the short line. If your foot breaks the plane and touches the area behind the line, it’s called a foot fault. If you get two faults on your serve, it’s called a side out, and the service changes possession to the other player, so you want to be careful to stay inside the service area. As you follow through on your serve, your front foot may touch and even cross the service line but must not cross all the way over it. This is another instance of a foot fault.
When serving, you must bounce the ball off the floor one time before striking it with your racquet, and it must hit the front wall before hitting any other surface. If the serve hits any other surface before hitting the front wall, it’s an automatic side out, and the receiving player becomes the new server. Once you’ve served, you must remain inside the service area until the ball has crossed the short line.
If the ball doesn’t cross the short line before hitting the ground, it’s a fault. It’s also a fault if the ball hits the back wall before hitting the floor, so it’s essential to practice your serve power and angles to keep your serves legal and avoid faults. As you get used to the size of the racquetball court and the strength of your stroke, you can deliver much more powerful serves that are hard for opponents to return.
When you are on the receiving end of the serve, your turn begins behind the receiving line. You can start anywhere in the area behind the line, but most people start closer to the back wall, so they have more room to return the serve, but not so close, so the back wall impedes their stroke. You can return the ball from anywhere in the back area, but you cannot cross the receiving line until the ball has bounced. Once you return the ball, the entire court is fair game.
Sometimes you want to cram a couple more competitors into the room. In those instances, the game is set up to accommodate doubles. The game is played pretty much the same, but with a few differences in place to account for the extra players.
First, when it comes to serving, the server’s teammate must wait in the service box with their back against the wall and both feet on the ground until the serve crosses the short line. Once the ball crosses that line, both members of the serving team can move freely.
The team receiving the serve plays the same way in doubles as they would in singles, except each of them takes a side behind the service line. Generally, each teammate plays one-half of the racquetball court, but you can switch and shift as you see fit.
When the receiving team wins the rally in doubles, they don’t automatically become the serving team like they would in singles. This is because each player gets an opportunity to serve on their team’s turn. You need two side outs to change possession in doubles.
Other than that, doubles are pretty much the same game as singles. Keep in mind that when you’re playing doubles, space is at a premium, so you need to be careful not to hit other players. If someone is too close to safely swing your racquet, you can call a hinder, which means your play was obstructed by another player. If that’s the case, the server starts the rally over again.
Getting out there
That’s really all there is to it. With this information, you can jump onto the racquetball court and convince people you know what you’re doing. Now you’ve just got to find a court near you. Many local gyms and community centers have racquetball courts you can use, and you can meet other players there. The community is always looking to take on new members. Why not give it a shot?