Basketball junkie

Josh is talking about putting a team together. I was either going to work on my book or shoot baskets. So off to globogym I went.

Turned out to be some five on five shooting up teams and I promptly bombed in a three to get on the court. A good sign as I do not shoot a lot of threes anymore...

We were playing man and I remembered how much I love man. And as the game went on l started to to get the feeling back...I wa boxing out well, rebounding well, defending well...

We won the first game pretty handily, largely on the strength of one guy leaking out and another blocking shit after shot.

Next game I was on the other team and more of the same...solid d, lots of rebounding and setting picks.

It was the third game before I took a shot. That is not like me when I was good. I just do not have confidence in my ability to create a shot or make one anymore.

So I determined to get up some shots.

Problem is you have to get the ball in scoring position to take a shot...scratch that, you need to touch the ball...

So the next game I started demanding the ball...posting up, cutting the lane, grabbing offensive rebounds...

And the WHOLE game started coming back to me.

I hit a couple post ups and a wide open three from the top of the key...I was scoring again on top of the rest of the game.

Of course, I was most happy about a possession where I was defensively matched up against the guy who was indisputably the best player there...the shot blocking, three dropping dude who seemed to get to the rim whenever he wanted.

I got matched up with him in transition. My close out stopped his three and I recovered quick enough to get in front of him.

He tried the right and I knocked the ball loose...he spun left and I was in front of him. A couple more attempts each way and he tried a fade-away on the baseline I was able to contest.

Well then most people left. Next I played a game of crunch...and my confidence really started coming back.

I can still drive on people. My drive step pop back pull up jumper from the key is money.

I was good enough to have won if I had not run out of gas.

And then agreed to play two on two...

And that game felt like I was totally back. I blocked a shot, controlled the boards, posted up, and scored pretty much at will.

The crunch and two on two were just what I needed...practice with the ball in my hands against a defender and active defense. Looking forward to this season...I think it will have a touch of when I played a lot


1527 The Racquetball Chronicles

Warning; This post is not for the faint of heart; it includes nasty details.

It is no secret I have been battling my tri-annual nasty cold for a little better than a week. Free and easy breaths are almost a distant memory. Not having a clogged nose is something I have heard of but have no recollection of. Feeling good...well, I simply haven't.

This in turn has led to added fatigue and a lack of desire to "do things". It has required extra motivation to hit the gym, play racquetball, etc. But I do not want to lose the progress I have made.

I worked so hard to get down to a manageable, reasonable weight that I will not let anything get in the way if I can help it. So twice this week...maybe three times?...I forced myself out of the house to play racquetball anyway and hit the gym.

Well, today is the best I have felt in a couple weeks. Busted through my weights doing towards the higher end of what I can lift and then 25 arrived.

I really enjoy my games with him because of a couple things; first, he has kind of the same mindset I have matured to in my later years; he would rather play, even if getting crushed, than not play. So we play to the last second we hold the court. Second, he is so quick and agile that we have some very spectacular rallies and it makes me improve because otherwise I will not get the ball past him.

First game is usually a blowout. Tonight not so much...we battled hard to a 15-10 outcome. That was a good sign because he gets stronger as the night goes on. However, a real problem started developing for me.
I was indeed "sweating it out"...unfortunately, that meant about half the time I had a big nasty snot bubble coming out of my left nostril.

This A) impeded My breathing, B) felt nasty and C) as I repeatedly wiped it off on my wristband, rubbed my nose raw.

So after the first game when both wristbands were completely soaked, I no longer had a place to wipe it...because wet wristbands do not wipe off snot very well.

So now I am thinking about the nastiness of my nose and wristband and my inability to clean out that snot bubble meant my nose started itching.

Meanwhile 25 was playing at the top of his game...he was hitting successful pinch shot after successful pinch shot, my passing shots he was getting to, and his serve was "on". I, meanwhile, was struggling with my pinch shots...I kept either skipping them short or hitting them too high off the wall and he was so energetic he was getting to every one.

At one point he was up about 10-4 before I came roaring back to close him out.

This was actually a bad thing.

I get in these mindsets where I think I can come back from any deficit, I just have to "turn it on" and I will win. Okay, fair enough. But the bad thing is, then I get lazy.

Shots I could get to I think about the energy required and slough off, thinking I will just get the next point instead. I also let my fundamentals go...instead of dropping down and executing a weight transfer step into my shot, I flick my wrist off the wrong foot, off balance and assume it will work.

Now, the good part about me is I was blessed with so much natural ability that I get away with it way too often.

The bad part is...I was blessed with so much natural ability that I get away with it way too often.

Well, naturally I showed just enough hustle to win 15-11.

Which only reinforced my bad habits. And again dug a hole, about 6-0. Then I tied it at 6 and ran away with it, i think he might have scored 7 that game?

We play a fourth and I am getting lazier and lazier...the fatigue is much more mental than physical. I look at the ball, know I could get to it, but let it drop knowing I will just win the next rally. I start trying the spectacular instead of the basic, high percentage shot. And ironically the beat-downs are getting worse, he scores maybe 6?

Well, now my game is completely shot; I am serving casually, not hitting fundamentally, and playing a guy who is getting better every game. I am doing a complete disservice to him.

Time for my come-uppance.

He starts serving and builds a 6-2 lead. I score a couple quick ones and he scores a couple. Then I get serious. No more lounging on his serves, no more letting balls drop. I started playing my level best, knowing an 8-4 deficit is bad.

But he was playing HIS best game too. I hit a gorgeous passing shot...he saw it coming and was in perfect position. He drives me to the back wall, I pass down the opposite wall...he is there and hits a perfect pinch shot. 9-4.

I cut off his serve and hit a nasty return an inch from the wall on his backhand. He scrambles back and somehow takes it off the back wall. I hit a corner pinch shot, he gets to it and rekills. How did he get to it? Phenomenal effort, awesome shot.

11-4, 12-4. I cannot stop him. I am trying short returns, ceiling returns, pinch shots, passing shots, lasers to the corner, medium speed...he is everywhere, seeming to anticipate my every shot before I hit it. It was incredible.

Finally he gets to 14-4.

I run off three quick points before he breaks me. I hit a perfect return, basically a roll-out. I get to 8-14. He breaks me again, I break back instantly.

10-14. 11-14. He can feel me breathing down my neck. I think I have the game in hand. He breaks me. I am not worried. I hit a near-perfect return...and he hits the most beautiful lunging back hand corner pinch shot I have seen. I lunge for it and come up an inch short. He EARNED that game.

I love, love, love that it happened. Now his confidence has grown and also his skills have; he is getting quicker and hitting the ball better. Now every game is going to be a challenge no matter what I do.

He loves it too, saying, "I love it when you play all-out. It shows me where I need to be." So except for being a bit light on my serves, I turn it up a notch. And he turns it up with me.

Now the volleys are crisper, with repeated rallies where each of us thinks they hit the winner 2 or 3 times only to see the other guy hit one more shot that is just better.

We get stuck on 6-6 for quite a while and eventually he tires just a hair. Now the ball he earlier was returning is an inch beyond his racket. I win about 14-11.

Then we go to 14-14, each having a couple serves with the chance to win it before I pull off a corner pinch shot.

Game 7 he seems to have tired. By now I am carrying a paper towel in my pocket that between points I blow my, between every point. It is just nasty. But I am having way too much fun because the games are so competitive. This is the game I have been looking for.

When we are just a step slow I am actually much better than when we are both at the top of our games. The extra time I have to take slows me down, I settle into the shot, wait for the ball to drop, transfer my weight, flick my wrist and hit kill shot after kill shot after kill shot.

Huh. Good fundamentals equals good results...

Meanwhile he loses the biggest single advantage he has...those lightning reflexes and foot speed to get to every ball.

Now I am standing in the middle of the court moving him side to side, front and back. Points come easily for me and he has to fight for every point. He does score about 10, but the writing is on the wall.

We have been at it for an hour and 50 minutes, we are both gassed but go one more.

Now my serves are scoring again, my passing shots get him, and his serve has lost that critical component...location. He musters 6 points but when I close out the night on a passing shot that turns into a kill shot with two short bounces, we are both ready to be done.

Fundamentals. I need to work on fundamentals. Wait for the ball to drop, step into it, aim at the proper location. Impatience is my downfall yet.

But man do I love this game!


1524 Racquetball Chrinicles XVI

Been sick for a few days. Slept all day Sat. Went to church Sunday morning, came home and slept all day. Went to work Monday morning, came home early and slept all day.

So tonight was determined to get some exercise. 4 days off in a row is more than enough. Hit the weights, doing high resps with low weights. Then played 25.

First game I crushed him. It always seems to take him a game to get rolling. 15-4 and then it was time for game two.

I was feeling sluggish, having a hard time reacting...but I was playing really good position racquetball which let me get to every ball.

In game two he was more aggressive, he was chasing down every ball. It was hard to score on him and it was a good game, about 15-10 or so. Game three was more of the same; his superior energy was keeping him in the game.

A couple of times he buckled down and tried some fast serves and he was scoring well, but then he would go back to the half-lob and I was just killing it. It gives me time to set up and I was thinking about my shot, aiming halfway between my position and the wall which led to return after return right down the line.

So I learned that shot tonight.

Game four ii was ahead like 6-0, 8-2 and started goofing around a bit. Then it got close and I got serious...and he stepped his game up. I took my last lead at 12-11 and he ran it out to pick up his first win of the night.

He played exceptionally well...I hit passing shot after passing shot I thought would end the point and he just kept getting to them. It was awesome.

Game 6 I was determined to win. he was still getting to about every shot but i was connecting on a few pinch shots. It was back and forth with more forth than back and I ended up with another win about 15-10.

Game 7 he took an 11-10 and 12-11 lead, then I scored three straight. He scored 2 back. 14-14, anybodies game.

He served a nice serve tight to the wall and I blistered a perfect return that was practically a roll out.

I put a nasty corner serve, he almost got it past me, I made him retreat, his passing shot was just a bit high and I caught him coming in with a perfect passing shot of my own to win the game. I earned that one.

The final game bookended the first; we were both gassed, but he was not getting to the ones he got to earlier and it was about 14-4 before he ran off three or four points to make it respectable.

All in all I learned that when i play position racquetball I am very effective but enoy it less...I love to run and hit the spectacular shot. Speaking of which, he emulated my running corner pinch shot once was awesome, the shot of the night.


1523 The Racquetball Chronicles XV

All day I was out of sorts. My legs were aching and tired, I was fighting my trice-annual cold of doom, and just all over not feeling good. On top of that, I was very sleep deprived. Almost called off the game, but ultimately decided to see if I could "sweat it out". Plus I look forward to playing Coat.

Ended up having to cut my weight workout about 3 machines short...just not feeling it. Should have called it off right there, but some of the old drive is coming back...I will have to monitor that carefully so it does not get out of hand.

Anyway, you would not have been able to tell in the first game as I was playing exceptionally well. My serve was on, my passing shots accurate with touch, and my kill shots...well, I hit about four normal ones, then hit a running cross-court corner pinch that was about as good a kill shot as you can get outside of a roll-out.

It was a total domination, 15-4.

We sat down for a couple minutes and were back at it. I deliberately lightened up...he had made a comment that led me to believe the games were not as much fun for him.

Well, I toyed with him until he had about a 10-4 lead and then got serious. But there were problems.

First, I had intentionally lightened my serve and did not go back to the nasty one. Second, all the pinch shots and passing shots were now missing...and he wasn't. Third, I was quitting on chasing balls that I usually get to.

I could have overcome one of those. I could overcome two. But I could not overcome all three...and although I did tie it at 11 I think it was, he outplayed me the rest of the way and got his first win.

I do not mean the above to take anything away from him...I was going all out from the time he hit 10, he just raised his level of play and deserved the win. Every kill shot opportunity he took advantage of. Every mis-cue I made he capitalized on. All in all, he flat out played better.

Another short rest and back at it. Again I dug a hole, something like 6-0, then 8-2. I climbed back into it slowly but surely, though I am not sure how.

The thing is...I was 90% playing very well. I was being patient, I was letting the ball drop to my shoe-tops while set up in perfect position...and then hitting my frame instead of the strings. Two or three balls I missed completely.

He blamed it on my fatigue but I disagree. I had the energy to get into proper position, I thought about the shot I wanted to hit...I just missed the shots.

Still, because I was back to doggedly going after every ball hit, he just could not score enough points and I won about 15-11 or 15-12.

We elected to go one more game. By now he was dropping down and serving some tough serves whereas for most of the first three games he was doing a lot of half-lob and lob serves.

I was concentrating hard and when he gave me lob serves to my backhand I waited for the ball to drop, bent, shifted weight, kept racket level and hit return kill shot after return kill shot. The only chance he had to score was when he got his first serve in and I either did not return it or hit a poor return he could kill.

Still, he jumped out to yet another 6-0ish lead. T ONE POINT HE WAS UP 8-4. I fought back to tie it at 8-8. we then exchanged a half dozen or so service breaks before I ran it out. So yeah...I ran out the last 11 points.

Which is one reason I do not accept the "fatigue" argument for my poor shot-making in the 2nd and 3rd games. I just was not hitting it well.

My goal for the night was to work on my ceiling shot. We did have several multiple ceiling shot rallies, and he won the vast majority of them. I am still working on the correct contact point. I actually have more success on a smurfed up version; I hit it off the front wall about 2' from the ceiling but softly so it sort of dies in the back corner.

On the few occasions he left his ceiling shot short I did a good job of waiting for the ball to drop but a poor job of hitting an accurate shot.

In the first game I was deadly with my kill attempts, but struggled with them for the next three. I need to concentrate on my fundamentals. I hit them much better when I step back as I swing than leaning into it.

Overall, a very fun night of racquetball. And my 88% winning percentage against all comers is something I am proud of. Admittedly the games against BB somewhat inflate the totals, but I have played who comes. Looking forward to more play next week.


1518 Racquetball Chronicles XIV

Tonight playing JB. All day my legs were heavy and inexplicably I was feeling tired.

First game started and he looked...slow. Taking an extra second to get moving, an extra second to get to the ball..and when playing someone who hits the ball pretty fast and hard, that can spell trouble.

My serve was blistering and even when he returned it I was in good position and controlled the court. He did score 6 for the game, but it was never in doubt.

Game 2 he started strong, serving 6 straight points. Only one of them I think actually saw a rally. I scored 2, then he scored 2 more. He was returning every serve no matter how nasty, he was scoring on every kill shot opportunity, he was getting to my passing shots...I felt helpless.

Then I slightly adjusted my stance, started stepping back on my return and suddenly instead of him racking up points off his serve, I was killing every serve. But I could not score either.

Slowly I climbed back into it. 4-8. 5-9. 7-8. 7-9. 9-9/ He took one last lead at 10-9 and I scored the rest of the points to win 15-10. It was a tough, hard fought game. Worse, I was feeling winded.

Game three started out more of the same as he built a rapid 3-0 lead. I got a couple back, tied it at three...and then rolled my ankle. It did not hurt but I thought it should and played tentatively for a couple minutes.

Then I stretched it out, buckled down and destroyed him 15-8. towards the end I was visibly winded and even said, "It is an open question if I will run out of gas before I finish this.

He knew the games should be closer so we rested an abnormally long time and he suggested one more. Always up for a game I agreed.

And sure enough he served up 4 straight points.

But then I got my second wind. And suddenly it looked like I had been toying with him all night. No matter how good his serve I simply hit a backhand kill shot from the back row. When we had volleys he could not get it past me. If he was close to the front a simple passing shot. If he was behind me a kill shot.

When I was up 13-4 we had a rally where he induced a weak passing attempt, moved up and hit a touch shot that came back about a foot inside the very front service line. I was at a dead run when i hit it...and hit such a great corner pinch shot he had no chance it. From behind him I re-killed a kill shot at a dead run.

He just shook his head and said, "We aren't even playing the same game anymore."

I think that is the moment we both knew I have vastly surpassed him.

See, the thing he, he played really well tonight. And I STILL wrecked him. Even when he was ahead 8-2 we both thought I was going to win.

As he said to me, "You played spectacularly tonight." The thing is...he was a step slow, but he was ON tonight and it was a demolition.

I have improved so much it is unbelievable. And I still love the game, so that is good too.

And that is a shot I will long remember...dead run perfect rekill of a shot I should not have had a chance to get to. My instincts, reaction, position and execution were just that good.


1515 Racquetball Chronicles XIII

Something strange happened. For the first time in weeks I took proper rest. I did nothing Saturday or Sunday. Before the game tonight I did do my regular weights, but I was fresh and ready to roll.

25 started slowly. The first game was quick, efficient and brutal, a 15-4 maiming. And part of it was the freshness. I was relaxed, smooth, not straining to get to the ball and thus was able to blast perfect passing shots, strong pinch shots, and my serve was blistering.

Game two I relaxed the serve and we had numerous spectacular volleys. How spectacular? Other guys between games were coming by to watch our games and applauding after volleys. 25 was getting to everything and so was I. Strong passing shot...he retreats and hits a fantastic ceiling shot. I wait for it, hit a pinch shot...which he somehow gets to, and hits one of his own. Somehow I get to that and hit a long passing shot. he scrambles back, hits a ceiling shot. I retreat, ceiling shot of my own. He tries to hit it low, I lunge and think my pinch shot wins it...but he gets to it, only this time I hit a passing shot winner.

We must have had 6 or 8 volleys like that. He actually led 13-12 before finally bowing 15-13. We then had a similar game that ended 15-12.

As we were taking a water break, a guy asked if we wanted to play cut throat, but neither of us did...but that simple question put 25 off his game. The next 4 games were all 15-7 or 15-8.

We practiced his serve a bit, working on getting it lower and faster. It was starting to get nasty, but in the game he shifted his aiming point. The final game was another massacre, about 15-4 or so.

The thing is, I was hitting better shots tonight. It did not really matter that he played better...the extra spring in my step helped me get to every ball hit and the relaxed way I was playing meant I was scoring at will.

Learning from tonight; the casual wrist-flick seems to automatically put the right pace on the ball, whereas when I set up and swing fundamentally, my touch is poor. Something to think about.


1513 Racquetball Chronicles XII

Tonight JB and BB both showed up so we played cut throat. A few things. First, the Wilsonville court is brutal. After playing in the well lighted, spacious, ventilated courts at Hocken, it was a real shock going into the court where none of those things are true.

I struggled all night to see the ball because sweat was constantly in my eyes and fogging up the glasses. After game one they either had waterfalls or fog.

Second, I do not like what cut throat does to positioning. It makes it impossible to have good fundamental position for returning the serve.

Third, with one left-hander and 2 right handers, if the left and right hander set up properly, there is no place the serve has the advantage.

Anyway, we let BB serve first as he was theoretically the weakest player. I deliberately set it up so he would have an advantage of being able to hit it to either of our backhands...and so JB and I would each be serving to each others backhand.

Well, BB was serving better than I have seen him serve and hitting more and better shots. He surprised us both with running out to a 3-0 lead. JB was one and done.

Then i started serving. And I was doing everything "right". I was alternating who I served to. I was hitting to their forehands. I was just serving and hitting really well and shot out to a quick 7 points.

Next rotation was quick for the other two and I scored 3 more quick ones. Then they switched it up to where they were each to their I settled down lower and instead of trying to create rallies and alternating where I served, I found their trouble spot and just blistered it there repeatedly, racking up a devastating and convincing 15-6-3 or so win.

And quickly discovered I do not care for cut throat much. It is not often clear whose ball it is, you have to rely on the other me, racquetball is very much an individual sport. There is less action in cut throat and less still in doubles.

Anyway, the next game the shift continued, but this time JB was serving. And this time his strongest serve was to BB's backhand. And BB is the weakest of the three players. Unlike how I was playing, JB was relentless, putting every serve right there. He scored about 8 points before there was a return.

So BB and I switched, but it was much too late. Furthermore, it meant JB had a strong advantage as server while the other two had only disadvantages. I scored 7 or 8, I think BB got maybe 1 and JB won.

To me it was about as little fun as I have had playing racquetball. It was standing there watching one player take advantage of a clear mis-match that turned it from a game into serve, pick up the ball, serve, pick up the ball while the third guy watches people pass by outside the court knowing he will get no action.

Game 3 BB started strong, serving about 3 or 4 quick points. Then I scored about 3 with my serving to each player...except now it was to their forehand. So I had to really buckle down and dish up some mean serves. I actually scored an Ace to each of their forehands and created a weak return off a z-serve to the middle.

Rotate. BB scores a couple.

I score on a ferocious rally where I had to hit a passing shot past each of them, stop three kill shot attempts they made, and finally hit a spectacular kill of my own. I was so tired that there was no chance of another.

We continued this way, each scoring a point or two on our serve. BB was scoring his half off his serve and half off rallies, JB off his serve, and I was splitting my points.

I actually took a 13-11-10 lead and had the serve. I then missed about 4 easy kill shots as we kept rotating with BB scoring a couple. I got to 14, then BB closed the door.

So that was cool. We each won a game and lost two. It hid a lot of BB's and JB's weaknesses and took away my strengths. Not sure I will play too much cut throat, though. Just do not enjoy it near as much as I do singles.

BB and I then played a quick game of singles, but now his serve had deserted him and he was not returning as well as he had. It was pretty much a demolition and then we were done.

The lessons I learned tonight were not good ones, so I am going to pass on them. I do need to get the pinch shot down...and schedule better so it is all singles baby.


1512 The Racquetball Chronicles XI

My second time playing TA. This time he knew my growing talent. He came ready, if a bit sore...and I proceeded to step my game up.

My first serves were strong...they were low, fast, and right to the backhand corner. But i was also doing a good job of mixing them up...a little slower and higher, faster and higher, slower and low...mix in an occasional blast to the forehand, the occasional lob serve.

The thing is, I was moving the ball location, speed, and height so he could not just sit on one serve.

My shots during volleys were good, too. My passing shot was sizzling but not going long, my pinch shots were hitting correctly more often.

Quick 15-1, 15-3 games followed.

Then he got a bit of a serve down, my volleys climbed a foot or so and started missing easy returns, trying to hit them too fine. He responded with his best game of the night. When it was 13-10 I consciously thought, "Do not tense up. Relax, play your game and put the ball where you want to. You are, at this point, still better."

And with my game relaxed, I ran it out for the 15-10 win.

We were resting 4 or 5 minutes between games as he works his way back into shape. But it also gave me time to think about what I was doing. So I was consciously working on my footwork and correct racket position.

We had a couple really good volleys. I had about a dozen roll out shots tonight to go with 20 missed kill shots. He still does not have his shot back so he struggles to score, but I can see the skeleton of a really strong game and when he starts hitting it properly and reducing the mis-hits, I foresee some pretty close games.

Even as it is he is forcing a slight reassessment to my beloved fore court game as several times he hit beautiful passing shots I simply could not get to. But I still think giving him that slim margin for error is advantageous so I Will keep playing there. Maybe a step back.

Tonight, however, i closed out the last two games something like 15-6 and 15-8 or so.

Good time, good exercise.


The racquetball Chronicles x

My third week playing JJ, probably my favorite regular opponent. This is not meant or intended to be a slight on any of the others...simply an observation that we have more of the type of rally that is my favorite than any of the others.

He has excellent reflexes, good speed and the ability to read where the ball is going and get there. His shot selection is a little weaker than mine and his shot accuracy is pretty close to even.

I have three advantages over him;

1) I have a much, much stronger serve. He will occasionally hit one that gives me trouble, but it is seldom worth more than 2 or 3 points a game whereas when i bear down on my serve it is often worth 6 or 8 points, often even more.

2) I am just a hair quicker with longer reach...not much, but enough to make a noticeable difference.

3) I generally have better court position...though that is changing.

Anyway, game one was brutal. My serve was on, my return of his serve was on...he scored about 4 or 5 points but it wasn't that close. Did not even break a sweat.

Second game was more of the same. The funny thing is...he was actually doing a really good job of returning my serve but it left him out of position and usually gave me a good shot at either moving him side to side or else going for an outright winner.

As the third game was turning into a third demolition, I started experimenting with my serve...trying z-serves, varying the height and speed of my serve...and trying to set up rallies. I wanted it to be more of a game. And then I started getting sloppy in various areas of my game.

Instead of moving to the proper place to return serves I tried to reach for them. Instead of going after every ball I gave up on them if I did not think they would "get there" or if I thought I would not get there...when I lunge for those I get them as often as not.

And suddenly it was a dogfight. We tied at 13. We exchanged a couple service breaks. I got 14. He got 14. He served, i hit a beautiful return...and he somehow got to it and hit a perfect kill shot to win the game.

It made his night much better and the games got better after that as he scored about 10 or 12 points in each of the next two. Then I was up something like 4-2 and said, "Lets see if I can run this out."

Dropping low, stepping into the serve, angling it just so...the serves were low, fast and vicious. Every so often I would throw one to his forehand or hit one moderately high and off speed to throw him off.

Even when he returned them they were soft and perfectly positioned for either a pinch shot or a passing shot. I reeled off about 6 straight, he got a service break, I broke him back, went to about 14-2 and he scored a couple, then I served an ace.

Next game, more of the same. But he was discovering something. I love playing up by the wall. When he tries a passing shot, I leap sideways, usually reverse it to the far wall, and spring back to the center with a side shuffle leap.

He started hitting great passing shots beyond my reach. Some were perfect, bouncing twice before the back wall. Others I got to off the back wall, but now he had position and I had to hit defensive shots. More and more often, though, he did not let me get to them.

Still, it was another brutal beat down.

We decided to play one more.

He hit one of those trouble serves. 1-0.

He tried to sneak it to my forehand and I hit a perfect roll out to get the break.

My serve was low, hard, pinched the sidewall. 1-1. We then had a really fun side to side, back to the back wall, up to the front wall volley. He won it.

He went up 2-1. I tied it at 2. I started to creep away. 3-2. 4-2. 4-3. 5-3. 6-3.

The thing is, though, it was a point here, a couple service exchanges, a point there, a couple service exchanges...this was a tight, well played game.

We both were doing better at getting to the back wall in correct position and taking it off. We had a couple defensive ceiling exchanges. We had a lot of passing shot attempts. We had some cool kill shots.

8-8. It was tight. 10-8. 10-9. 11-9. 11-10.

This game was different. Usually when there is a game that is tied or close to it that late it is because I am in "cocky" mode where I just believe I can take the game and win it at any time, from any place. This time we were both trying extremely hard and he was playing as well as he has ever played.

But then my serve busted him twice. 13-10. A fun rally took it to 14-10. He broke me one last time with a beautiful passing shot return to my backhand off a nasty serve. I returned the favor.

I did a change of pace serve, he returned it, I moved him to back court with a decent passing shot, he tried a passing shot to my backhand which I turned into a night-ending corner pinch shot.

Overall, I think I had some solid improvement. My passing shots are more and more often bouncing twice before the back wall. My pinch shots are hitting the wall lower more often, being more difficult to return. I am doing a better job of reading where the ball will land, not where it will hit the wall. I am also selecting the correct shot more often instead of attempting low percentage shots.

But I am still hitting too many passing shots that go long, I misread a lot of shots as going to bounce off the back wall but not doing so, so being just a hair out of position, and I too often go for scoring shots from back court. So strategy will be a major working point the rest of the week.

And I will keep enjoying the game.


Racquetball Chronicles IX

Tonight was playing a guy I was introduced to through a mutual friend. I was very upfront about my playing ability...sort of. See, when we first planned this, it was a week ago...and I have played thrice since then.

I get better every time I play. Much better.

Anyway, he said something along the lines of, "Oh, it's okay...I will play left-handed to make it a game."

Sure enough, adjustments had to be made to make it a game. When I was ahead about 10-3 I severely relaxed my game. The funny thing game was not particularly "on" tonight. I was not hitting strong kill shots or spectacular passing shots.

I was simply getting to every single ball. Hit it high off the ceiling? I drift back, hit a rocket that made him hit a defensive shot. Hit it low off the front wall? I return the favor and move you side to side. Get caught on one side of the court and out of breath? Even a mediocre passing shot to the far corner will either score a point or a side out.

The problem is...I am not yet a skilled player, just an energetic one. So taking my foot off the gas turns me from a dominating player into a mediocre player. And he turned it into a real game, scoring I think 13 before we were done.

Once I slowed my frenetic pace I could not turn it back on that game.

Second verse, just like the first...I rushed out to a commanding lead, started experimenting...I tried developing a z-serve but was struggling with my placement. I tried (and missed) kill shot after kill shot.

He crept back into it and again scored a lot. At one point we were deadlocked at 11-9 for probably 10 minutes. It was ridiculous.

In the end, it was a relatively comfortable win, he might have scored 10 or 12 points but I always believed I could get the serve back and put him away.

By game three he was totally gassed. I was deliberately taking my time between serves and points to make sure we both had energy for the points, but as the game went along he let more and more shots he would have hit earlier get to the floor.

But before that, we exchanged service breaks three or four times apiece at nothing apiece. We then had an awesome rally. I blistered a strong serve, low to the backhand corner. He scraped the floor with his return. I punched it to the forehand corner. He hit a ceiling shot. I hit a ceiling shot. He went for a kill shot. It was a great shot but a spectacular lunge and flick of the wrist led to a passing shot down the far side of the court. He somehow got to it and hit a passing shot on me that I somehow plowed off the back wall. he had another kill shot that I not only got to, I hit a passing shot that scored the point.

No kidding, we probably played that point for at least a minute with several great shots and spectacular saves by each of us. Loved that volley.

I smiled, laughed, slowly extended my forefinger. "One. That is all that counted for. One."

And served a nasty ace that pinched the side wall and bounced twice before the safety line. "Two."

Soon it was 6-0...though in reality I had scored about 9, but we were both a bit tired and I had no interest in a skunk. He ended up scoring about 8 in the game (2 of which I added to his score when he was not looking) but it was not that close.

Overall it was extremely fun. I can tell when he shakes the rust off and gets in a little bit of shape he will be a tough match up. For now I consider it a quality win over a quality opponent.

And I can feel myself improving not just every night but often enough every single game. And I love it.


Racquetball Chronicles 8

I skipped reporting one session; we played two games of cutthroat and one singles game. In that, I played too passively in the first cutthroat game and the player I felt was the weakest of the three actually won.

In the singles game, I was against someone who has competed at a high level in the Oregon games and at least gave him a game, actually leading 13-12 before fading. He is too quick and I could not score off passing shots...which means I MUST develop an effective kill shot.

He did say he thought I was a really strong "C" level player so I feel good about that. He also strongly complimented my court positioning and ability to get to way more balls that I should.

The seco0nd cutthroat game I was ahead 14-8-4 when I stopped serving and started lob serving. This was residue of my game with T-mat. I never scored another point...

I am not a huge fan of cut throat. I do not go after the ball as aggressively and do not feel there is enough action. But I enjoy it enough to play again.

Anyhow, tonight I played Mr. J, the first guy I played.

The first two games showed just how far I have come. When I first started playing back on Dec 5th, scoring 6 points in a game was a great game for me.

Tonight I absolutely wrecked him in the first 2 games 15-3, 15-3...and neither one was that close.

First off, my serve is much, much better. I can consistently blast it down the wall into his backhand. Second, as he cheats further and further over, I just blast it into the opposite corner...his forehand, a right-handers backhand. And he is so far cheated towards the corner I typically serve to it is a virtually guaranteed ace.

Second, the serve that I initially could not return...low to my backhand corner...I returned every one including several outright winners and even the returns that were not winners drove him to the far back corner, allowing me to spring into my beloved mid court position.

Even when he hit solid shots that SHOULD have been winners, I was so quick I was getting to them and driving him to the back with passing shots wherever he wasn't. He was getting frustrated at his inability to get a ball past me.

So in serves, serve returns, court positioning and passing shots I was dominating. He hit more kill shots, but both games were absolutely devastating.

I could see he was getting down and that is not my intent so I did a couple things. First, I made sure to tell him a simple truth....he was inches away from every game being a competitive game. Hit the ball an inch lower and it is an impossible to return kill shot...hit it an inch closer to the ground from the back and I have to hit a defensive shot.

I also started experimenting...working on my z-serve, hitting fewer shots to the "ace" corner, etc. It is like practicing while playing a game. At one point I was ahead 12-8 and when he went to serve it was 8-11. I was okay with that. He scored one and at 11-9 we had about a half dozen service turns apiece.

He then scored a couple, I scored a couple...and relaxed thinking I could win the game at will. I did not use my advantages...speed, aggressiveness, and an attempt to get to every ball. He scored. He scored again. Suddenly it was 14-13, his lead. He served, I returned it, was set up to kill the point and win on my service turn when he hit his best shot of the night, a perfect kill shot.

Oops. Legitimately I should have won but got outplayed down the stretch when I relaxed and he took a hard-earned, well-deserved victory. Because the truth is, he tried harder and that is better play.

Also a lesson well learned.

All told it was a lot of fun and a great benchmark for me to see how far I have come.