Racquetball footwork drills
Racquetball is a fast-paced sport that is full of split-second strategic decisions. The ball can come at you from several different angles and directions throughout a rally. To best prepare yourself to handle any shot from any direction, the best thing you can do is run footwork drills.
Whether you run drills as part of your pre-match warm-up or take the time to specifically practice your footwork, taking the time to focus on your feet will help take your game to the next level.
Why is Footwork Important?
Footwork is important in any racquet sport. In the same way that a boxer generates power for a punch from their legs, or a pitcher uses their wind-up to generate rotational power to throw a fastball, a racquetball player can use their legs to create more powerful shots.
Good footwork also helps you cover significant ground on the court while maintaining control. If you’re turning every which way to run as fast as you can to catch up to a shot, you will not win many points.
It’s for these reasons that tennis players run drills to improve tennis footwork. And just as footwork tennis coaching can improve a tennis player’s game, many of the same techniques can be applied to racquetball.
Footwork drills: tennis vs racquetball
The primary difference between the racquetball footwork drills and tennis drills can be found in the amount of distance covered laterally. Tennis courts are wider than enclosed racquetball courts and don’t have balls coming in off a back wall or even off a ceiling.
So when running racquetball footwork drills, it’s essential to focus on tracking the ball and keeping your body in position to make effective shots no matter where the ball is coming from.
What Does a Good Shot Look Like?
When you watch people play racquetball, you can tell the difference between good and bad shots pretty easily. You know a good shot when you see it. But making a good shot is a different matter.
To get the best accuracy and power behind your shot, you need to make sure your feet are working in conjunction with your arms. To do that, you need to recognize the timing of your swing and how you move into it.
It’s fairly common for beginners to sprint to the ball before they hit it. This can make changing directions difficult but worse from a mechanics standpoint. This also means they are often closer to the ball than they should be to make a great shot.
When your body is too close to the ball as you swing, the motion of your shot gets jammed up. And if you’re swinging backhand, you may even clip your knee with your arm as you swing. Shots that you hit like this are going to be sitting ducks for your opponent.
To make consistently good shots, you’ll want to keep your body as square to the ball as possible as you move towards it. Then make one lunging step toward the ball as part of your swing. When swinging with your forehand, you want to lunge with the foot opposite your racquet hand. For your backhand, lunge with the foot on the same side as your racquet hand.
So how do you move around the court so that you can track the ball and take lunge steps smoothly with every strike?
Utilizing Shuffle Steps and Pivots
Because racquetball is a game that requires a player to change directions frequently and be prepared to hit a ball that could be coming from just about any direction, players should avoid crossing their feet as much as possible.
Staying on the balls of your feet and taking shuffle steps will enable you to change directions quickly and avoid tripping over your own feet. In racquetball, a shuffle step is a motion you make when you bring one foot over to meet your other foot before moving the second foot in the direction you want to move.
By pivoting and using lateral shuffle steps, you can keep your chest square to the ball as it travels, allowing you to make a strong, decisive lunge step as part of your swing.
It may take some time to get used to moving like this, but this type of movement is much more efficient when playing racquetball. Using strong pivots and decisive shuffle steps lets you work smarter on the court.
What Footwork Drills Can I Use to Improve my Game?
The best racquetball drills focus on building proper mechanics into your muscle memory so that you move intelligently on the court without thinking about it. Here are a few examples to help you get started.
This drill uses the serving lines and the receiving or encroachment line to measure distance. Start facing a sidewall with your feet on the back serving line. Move laterally toward the front serving line and reach down to touch it with the hand on the opposite side of your body from the line. Then move laterally in the opposite direction and touch the receiving line with the hand opposite it. As you repeat this drill, be sure that you never cross your feet as you move from line to line. If you’re tall enough, try to keep one foot on the rear serving line when you reach down to touch the other lines.
Again, this drill uses the serving lines and the receiving line. Stand facing a sidewall with your legs on either side of the back serving line. Pivot toward the front serving line and continue the motion with your upper body, bringing your opposite hand down to touch the line. Then pivot back to your starting position. Then pivot to the receiving line and continue the motion with your upper body, bringing your opposite hand down to touch the line.
You can combine these drills if you like. Make a side step, then pivot and touch the ground, pivot back, shuffle step back to center, then shuffle step and pivot in the opposite direction. The key is growing accustomed to moving without crossing your feet and carrying motion through your body from your legs to your arms.
When you’ve grown comfortable moving on the court, combine that movement with your racquet. Hit a lob serve and practice tracking the ball’s movement until the time is right to take a lunge step toward it and swing. Keep hitting lobs. The key as you start is working out the mechanics of your swing. As you get more comfortable with your swing, start going for more power. Try to keep a rally going with yourself for as long as you can. Use your forehand and your backhand.
Practice Makes Perfect
Running footwork drills will improve your movement on the court, help you make more powerful and more accurate shots, and take your game to the next level. Of all the racquetball tips and tricks out there, nothing can improve a player’s game faster than a focus on footwork. Also, a pair of great racquetball shoes is a must.
Good footwork doesn’t happen in a vacuum, though. You have to put in the work to make your feet do what you want. But when you run footwork drills regularly and incorporate those fundamentals into your game, the difference will be significant.
So what are you waiting for? Step to it!