Watch Those Feet!

It is important to remember the rule regarding leaving the service box early after serving. If you (or your partner in doubles) steps over any part of the back line (the “short line”) of the service box before your serve passes that line on its way to the back of the court, it is an out. You do not get a 2nd serve when this occurs! This rule usually comes into effect when you lob serve, as it takes a while for the ball to pass the short line. Hard hit serves usually cross before you have a chance to step out. So get used to timing yourself out of the box appropriately, and remember to look for this when you are the referee of a match!

BAC Juniors Shine at 2012 Junior Nationals

Bellingham Athletic Club

Five junior players made the trip to Fullerton, California for Junior Nationals at the Meridian Club, also the site of Adult Nationals last month.  These five were stellar in their performances and we are proud of them!

From Bellingham, the Birnel family represented well as three brothers took to the courts.

Jake Birnel played in Boys 14 Singles and Doubles, making his way to the semi finals of singles, where he lost in a tiebreaker to his doubles partner, Mauro Rojas. He went on to defeat Wayne Anton Ive to claim 3rd place in the Gold Division. In Doubles play, Birnel and Rojas took 2nd place in the Gold Division, losing in a tiebreaker to Barth and Benson. Jordan Barth was the first place winner in both singles and doubles.

Jordan Birnel entered Boys 12 singles, and found tough competition in his age group, losing in the gold round, but coming back to take 1st Place in the White Round of the Olympic Flight format.

Nick Birnel stormed Nationals, playing in three events: Boys 10-, Boys 10 Doubles, and Mixed 10 Doubles.  He fought his way to claim 4th Place in the Gold round of 19 competitors. Nick then went on to win 1st place in both Boy’s and Mixed Gold Doubles. Way to go Nick!

From Lynden, WA Ryan Holz and brother Jeremy Holz made their presence felt!

Ryan Holz played in Boys 12 singles and doubles. In Singles, after losing his first match, Ryan came back with some great play and took first place in the Red Division.  In Doubles, he and partner Sean Henry from Indiana teamed up to play great doubles and took second place in the Gold Division, playing five matches.

Jeremy played in the 10- Boys division lost in the quarters after a great tiebreaker win against Julius Ellis of Stockton, CA.

View complete results on the R2Sports website.

Be Ready from the Start

When you’re waiting for your league or tournament match, or just that grudge match with your weekly playing buddy, be sure you have prepared to play your best from the first point. Too many people run into the locker room, grab their racquet, and declare themselves ready to go. The first 10 points of the game are messy, and you are not hitting your best shots. Your mind might be ready, but your body may need a little help. Get on a stationary bike for about 10 minutes and get your circulation going. Find a warm spot – maybe the sauna – and do a little stretching routine to help your muscles loosen up and be ready to cooperate when you take the floor. Spend the time when you’re stretching visualizing your swing…. Feet turned like a batter at home plate, ball over the plate like a pitch, and your racquet swinging out over the plate as you turn into the shot. Finish your stroke. When you hit the court, take your practice shots just as you visualized them, and be ready to play ball!

Using the Lob Serve

A lot of racquetball players neglect a serve that can actually be a good weapon in their game. The lob serve – that high, arching soft serve that travels to the back corner of the court – isn’t just a second serve to get the ball in play. It can be a valuable tool if you learn to hit it correctly and use it against certain opponents. Some players only use this serve if their first serve is short or long. Many of the game’s really great players use this as a first serve on a regular basis. If your drive serve – that hard, low shot to the corner – isn’t working because 1) you’re off that day, 2) your opponent hits harder and lower than you do, 3) you’re so slow at getting out of the service box, you should consider using a lob serve as your first serve. Hard hitters can get frustrated at the lack of pace on the ball, and if you hit it correctly, it will force your opponent to hit an overhead backhand – one of the hardest shots to execute on a racquetball court, OR a tennis court. So if that hard hit serve isn’t impressing your opponent, save it for another day and lob!

Warm Up for a Match

Pre Court:

  1. Find a stationary bike, tread mill, rowing machine. Get on and do a slow gradual start for about 10 minutes.
  2. Stand in a forehand position and swing a forehand swing 50 times. Start with a shorter stroke, thinking of perfect form and work your way up to a full body swing.
  3. Stand in a backhand position and swing a backhand swing 50 times. Start with a shorter stroke, thinking of perfect form and work your way up to a full body swing.
  4. Stretches: Find a quiet place and stretch biceps, triceps, calves, hamstrings, groins. Every part of your body that you’ ll need to stroke and run.

On the Court:

Develop a warm up plan that you use consistently – every time you warm up for a match.

  1. Stand behind the short line close to the side wall. Hit 10 – 20 forehands down the wall. Concentrate on hitting the ball flat and using a complete stroke.
  2. Stand midway from the short line to the back wall. Hit 10-20 forehands down the side wall. Concentrate as in #1.
  3. Feed yourself balls off the back wall and hit your forehand down the wall, 10 – 20 times.
  4. Feed yourself balls off the back wall and hit your forehand pinch.
  5. Practice ceiling balls down the wall until you feel you can hit them with accuracy. Concentrate on full strokes and correct velocity. Switch sides with your opponent and do the same sequence on your backhand side.
  6. If you have the court to yourself, practice a pinch shot drill before you start the match.
  7. If you have the court to yourself, practice your drive serve and lob until you feel comfortable.

Handling the Blast Shot

How many times have you experienced the awful feeling of trying to catch up to your opponent’s shot when it flies from front wall to back wall and zips by you toward to front wall again? This should be a time when you’re thinking, “Automatic point for me!”, rather than worrying about what to do and what shot to make as you chase the ball down. You may even be sensing that you are totally out of position for the next shot. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

A missed ceiling shot is most often the cause for the above situation for most experienced players. For beginners and some intermediates, it’s just an errant shot that flies too high in the court. If your opponent hits a ball that is obviously going to fly directly from the front to the back wall without bouncing, you should:

  • Take off at top speed to the “top” of the service box.
  • Pause and turn sideways to locate the ball as it comes toward front court.
  • Set yourself for either a forehand or a backhand shot.
  • Let the ball continue to come forward until it falls to a height at your knees or lower, if you can.
  • Let the ball come to the front of your stance: pulling it forward from behind you makes you lose control of the shot.
  • If you don’t have a sense of where your opponent is, don’t start trying to locate him/her now. If you take your concentration and eyes away from the ball, you’ll surely miss your shot.
  • Shoot one of two shots: 1. Directly into the front wall, in front of your body, so that the shot “kills” as low as possible and heads down the wall to the back corner. Or 2. “Pinch” the shot into the side wall so that it rolls around the front corner of the court, as low as possible. Both of these should produce an end to the rally as long as you WAIT until the ball is only a foot or two (depending on your abilities) up from the floor when you take your shot.
  • Avoid shooting crosscourt as much as you can!!! Hitting away from yourself usually means you’re hitting to your opponent and you will be out of position to retrieve the next ball.

You can go into a court and set yourself up with these “fliers” in order to practice your return. If you practice the return over and over, that feeling of panic should leave you in an actual game situation, and you’ll begin to think “Automatic point for me!”


Fairness, the practice of the sport, respect for your opponent and respect for your official. These are all key points that make up Sportsmanship. At the BAC it is essential to display good sportsmanship. Whether it is in the hallways between games, after a long exhausting match, or losing to a dear friend. It is important that we share this respect for the sport with our opponents. Demonstrating fair and honest game play seems easy and should go without being said. But at times we do forget. BAC has a huge number of Jr. Racquetball players. We must remember the important points that make up sportsmanship to assure that these new and upcoming players will also have a successful and fun time on the court. It is always great to see high fives, shaking hands and congratulating each other! Keep it up Racquetball players!

Comfort Zone

This means fining new people to play. If you play the same people on a regular basis, you will get to know their game all too well (and they will know yours). It allows you to get away with things you can’t with a different opponent, and it sets you in a trap of using the same shots too often because they work against your usual playing partner. Playing different people forces you to think about your game and expand your shot selection and serves. It also allows you to see different game styles and shots that you may not see playing your “regular” opponent. You can also get a better workout when you play people who hit unexpected shots. So don’t stop playing with those favorite people, but find a way to add a new opponent to your circle of racquetball friends. Here are some simple suggestions that work!

  1. Sign up for Wednesday racquetball league. We do the work – you just show up, and you’ll have new faces to play each week.
  2. Come to singles challenge court nights at the club.
  3. Enter a tournament. If you don’t want to travel, we have tourneys here at the club that are a great way to step up your game and meet new players.
  4. Travel to a tournament. There are some great tournaments in Washington State and some further away that can be a great road trip! Here’s a link to the tournament list on the WRA website.

I guarantee your game will improve and you might make a new friend in the process. I see friends from all across the state and the country when I travel to events. It’s great fun and it has made my game much better in the process.