Shane Vanderson: Q & A Part 2
How has the drive serve rule changed the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT)? Learn about one pro’s perspective, how it’s affected his game, and more. Shane Vanderson opens up in the second half of the questions we put to him in a Q & A.
There was a lot of talk before the 2010-2011 IRT season about the new rule changes, especially moving from one-serve to two. How do you think the change has affected the pro game this season? Your game?
I think the rule changes have done exactly what we (the players and Board) thought it would do. It has added a different element to the game, which had been lacking in recent years. It has made how the courts play a more important role to some people, for example faster courts have been giving an advantage the better drive serve players, which was neutralized by having one serve. It hasn’t speed up the game, and it hasn’t changed the game too dramatically. The other rule changes are subtle, but they have made a big difference in the enjoyment of watching a match. I know I enjoy watching matches more than I used to.
It was tougher for me to adjust to two serves than I thought it would be. I feel like just now, I’m starting to get comfortable in executing the way I want to and used to do. Maybe tougher isn’t the right word, but it was a longer adjustment period than I expected. I thought I would be able to drive serve all the time, and the guys are still good at returning drive serves. It took me the first few tournaments to realize that always drive serving is not necessarily the most effective route for me to win matches, and I think it cost me a match or two early in the season. I’m starting to feel more confident in my drive serve and what I want to accomplish with it, and what to expect from it. I think I was expecting every serve to be an ace, and that’s not the right approach to be effective. It’s very nice to have the option, but for me, and my game style, there is a time and a place for it. Over the last 10 years, everything I have done has been to develop a very effective lob game, and have done well in my career putting pressure on opponents that way. I feel like I had to learn all over again how to put pressure on my opponents with my drive serve, as I haven’t really had to use it since my Jr. career.
The other rule changes, where relatively easy for me. I don’t hit the ball after rallies, and I adjusted to the time between rallies relatively quickly.
How has it affected your goals for the season? What are your goals for the season?
My goals for the season had nothing to do with whether there would be two serves or not. My goals have become simple, especially in the last couple months. My goal is to compete every time I step on the court, and to enjoy every moment of it. Embrace the tough moments, enjoy the good ones, smile as much as possible, to challenge myself, and never give up. I’m lucky enough to play a game for a living, and I play my best when I forget it’s a business, and remember its a game, and a challenge. I don’t care who I play, or when, or what for, which hasn’t always been the case. It sounds so easy, but it’s probably one of the toughest things players have to deal with turning professional. The less worries, I think the better chances of someone playing their best, and everyone has worries, you just have to learn do forget about them…I suppose.
I’m always reviewing my goals and objectives, and they can be modified, but over the years I think I have simplified it to the point that they should not have to be changed very much. I know what works well for me, I know the mindset that I play my best in, and my goals reflect that. Those are my goals and they work for Racquetball as well as outside of the court as well, whether it’s camps, representing my sponsors, or life in general. If I do those things, I truly believe the outcomes will take care of themselves.
Are you and Mitch Williams still running your Racquetball U camp series? If so, how many are scheduled?
We are! We were planning to do one in December, but when Mitch got hurt, and I was dealing with my person things, the timing wasn’t right, and we didn’t want to do a camp that wasn’t up to our standards. With our busy tournament schedule it’s been more difficult this year to run our Racquetball U camps.
We are going to take a look at the schedule coming up and try and figure out some dates and locations. Our best time to do camps is in the summer, and it’s also the best time for people to work on their game before the tournament season, but unfortunately many people don’t want to give up a weekend in the summer to take a camp. There are a couple challenges we have with running our camps. We need to a location usually with at least four courts, and we limit our camps to 16 people, because we think it creates a better experience. So after expenses and splitting the profits between the two of us, we are not making a lot of money, and because of this we usually have to have at least 10 campers to make the camp worth our effort. So far this hasn’t been a problem, but it’s also why we research and have to put in a lot of work before the camps even happen.
The camps have been a great experience. Much more rewarding than I originally thought they would be. I think when we did out first one, we were pretty scared, and wanted everyone to have a great experience. As it turned out, Mitch and I, not only are good teachers, but interact very well with each other, and it’s a big part of the experience. People who take the camp can’t always tell if we are good friends or worst enemies. Which is funny to us, but the feedback has been awesome, and we have done a great job so far.
There is more we want to do. Right now, it just comes down to time and money…like a lot of things. Without divulging too much, I know we want to expand the website, and we want to be able to do more video critiquing, reach more people, as well as other things to improve the business. Unfortunately, we have our other business we have to focus most of our energy towards.
Generally, what’s your training schedule like? i.e. frequency, types of activities (racquetball versus off court)
I get asked this question all the time, and it’s so tough to answer, because it changes constantly. I think people always want to know if they do this, than this is going to happen, and it’s not exactly that easy and everyone is not the same. Everyone has different abilities. There are many different factors that determine what my schedule is like…how I’m feeling physically, when the next tournament is, how I’m playing, what I need to work on, ect.
Generally if it’s mid season, and assuming I’m playing okay, then I spend about one or two days on the court for around an hour, and two or three days off the court for about 1-3 hours, but it can change at any given moment. I understand some people need structure, but I’m not that way. If I go for a run, I go until I can can’t run anymore, or I go as fast and hard for as long as I can, and then when you want to give you go longer and harder. It’s pretty simple. It might be 2 miles or it might be 6 or 7. I know if I’m dogging it, and I know if I’m improving based on how I feel. I am a “feel” kind of guy, and I know numbers have their place, but isn’t the end all be all. I’m the kind of guy that thinks the NFL combine is the dumbest thing ever.
It’s important to mix up cardio with anaerobic stuff such as sprinting. At this point in my career I know what my weaknesses are, and I know what I need to work on to be better. I think I train more efficiently now than I did when I first got on tour. There was a time when I gained a lot of muscle, but it didn’t equate to me playing any better, and actually made be slower on the court. But I had to learn that through experience, otherwise, I would have never known. Also, there was a time when I was in the best shape of my life, but I was so tired after training I didn’t practice as much and my game suffered. It’s constantly a balancing act.
I think also most people don’t realize to a the top level of any sport or career for that matter, you have to be an outlier. In essence you have to be that 1% that lies outside the norm. You have to be a freak. The way you do this isn’t by doing the same things as everyone else, it’s by doing more, or by doing something different. This is why every pro can tell someone everything they know and not worry about them becoming better than you.
Your online presence is very striking with your website’s running feed, video, Facebook, etc. …can you talk about how fans interact with you and on the site? Has it allowed you to connect with people in ways you hadn’t before — such as “meeting” them online and then later in person at tournaments?
Well, the short answer is that I like technology and I like doing it. It’s really fascinating to me from a personal standpoint and a marketing standpoint to see how the world is changing how it communicates, and interacts. I can look up any question I have about anything in a matter of seconds…that is unfathomable almost. Businesses are communicating differently, and the older models of advertising and marketing are being challenged. Five to ten years ago, unless you were an IT guy, I’m not sure you would have known what SEO stood for, but now I would bet that most Managers and Executives know the importance.
The longer answer, is when I first got on tour I realized really fast that I needed to create more value for myself, because I had not won as many tournaments as others, and I wanted to a place to send potential sponsors. At the time not many pros had websites, and the few that did were not anything to write home about. I had a blog for a while, but writing isn’t a strong suite of mine, and I wasn’t too comfortable revealing that much about myself. Now, with Twitter and Facebook, I can usually get the point across in 300 characters or less. The funny thing is I’m a pretty private person, so it’s challenging to have that much of a presence online, but keep my private life private. Sometimes it’s tough to do, but I try and stick to racquetball related stuff, and insert my humor and sarcasm every so often to give it that personal touch. I used to be worried that people would not get my humor or sarcasm, but now I don’t really care as much as long as I find myself funny!
I’ve had fun with it, but it’s funny how times change…basically everyone has their own website now…it’s called Facebook. So now the challenge is to stay ahead of the pack. Now I have my website, Facebook fan page, twitter (vandyinc), Youtube, and Foursquare. Each one has their advantages and disadvantages, and some are more popular than others, but they all give fans more access than ever before. The website, has my general information, and isn’t updated too often. There are updates, but they come from my twitter, and Facebook fan page. My Facebook fan page get’s updated the most, but it’s cool because it tracks marketing stats, such as impressions and demographics. Twitter is kind of a mixture of things. I’m not sure yet were it’s place is, so it’s kind of in beta testing, as with Foursquare. The challenge is to keep them all updated.
Your commercials on the IRT Network are cool and amusing — what’s it like to be in a commercial?
It was so much fun to do the commercials with Racquetball Warehouse. They are such a great company, and great group to work with. They had their own in-house production staff, which was pretty cool to see them work their magic. It took all day to film all the commercials, but we were having so much fun it I don’t think it mattered. I met the staff and owners. They treated us like first class athletes, which is always nice, because I have to say, sometimes that is not always the case. Some people, I think mostly unintentionally belittle us because we don’t make as much money as other pro-sports, and therefore, we are not as “important.” I’ve run into this a lot with some Athletic Clubs.
One of these days, I hope Racquetball Warehouse runs a blooper real, like they did with Rocky. My girlfriend, at the time, was an aspiring actor, so it was very cool to relate a little more with her and her work day, like the stress of learning and delivering lines and looking good on camera. The only difference was I didn’t have to audition, and the expectations were pretty low for us, but I like to think we did a pretty good job!