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Becoming a Professional Player – Part 4

by Dave Ellis

by Dave Ellis

The prospective professional player should check out his/her mechanics from the outset. There are two big questions in racquetball:  How should you hit the ball, and where should you hit it?  This communication has to do with how you should hit the ball, especially when there is a set up during a rally. Let’s contrast two types of racquetball strokes: the pendulum and the flat:

During the pendulum stroke (BH and FH):
The back shoulder starts high with the racquet raised and ends up low;
The front shoulder starts low and ends high;
The waist and hip movements parallel the shoulder rotation;
There is a high follow through with the racquet;
Body weight transfers nearly 100% to the front foot;
The racquet is angled downward like a tear drop on contact;
For a straight in shot, the point of contact is halfway between the two legs;
The back leg finishes straight up and down;
The pendulum stroke is pretty much a golf swing.

In contrast, during the flat stroke (BH and FH):
The shoulders, waist, and hips rotate horizontally;
The horizontal circles of shoulder, waist, and hip rotations gradually lower during the swing as the legs are bending throughout;
Body weight starts with 2/3 on the back leg with 1/3 on front.  During the swing, 1/3 of the back body weight is transferred to the front leg, ending with 2/3 on the front, yet still 1/3 on the back.
The racquet is parallel to the floor on contact;
For a straight in shot, the FH point of contact is just slightly behind the front foot;
For a straight in shot, the BH point of contact is just slightly in front of the front foot;
At the end of the stroke, both legs are bent at the knees, the shoulders should be facing the front wall or slightly rotated past this point; and there should be a low flat racquet follow through;
The flat stroke is pretty much like a baseball swing where the batter tries to hit a low pitch on the outside corner.

I strongly urge the prospective pro to have one of the well-known coaches, such as Winterton, Davis or John Ellis, check out his/her mechanics early in his/her career.   The problem with the pendulum stroke is that when contact is made even slightly too early, the ball skips.  When the point of contact is made, even slightly too late, that is, on the up-swing, the shot “skies.” Having a swing evaluation can help the player begin to change habits in order to flatten out the stroke.  A caution here: changing habits that have been developed over many years can be difficult and frustrating.  Work hard in practice using video often to evaluate what is happening with your strokes, and don’t give up.

Professional players hit the ball in many different ways, often including elements of both pendulum and flat swings. Consistency in executing rally ending shots off of set ups is an absolute must for success at the professional level.  To build maximum consistency, the professional player is advised to groove and use the flat swing.

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