Note: This was a brilliant article by Ken. It should be read by all market people, all athletes, and all others. I'd like to retain Ken to teach my children a few things. I wish I knew and practiced all these things. vic

"Feet-work" for Racquetball Court Movement

Ken Woodfin

How you move on the court greatly affects how you play because ultimately when you aren't there you can't create your competitor's despair.

First, here are movement suggestions for your feet, or "feet-work", and how to build these skills. Second, we'll progress to tactical feet-work and how using certain feet-work skills will raise your game in specific match situations.

I. Feet-work Skills

• Stay Active

Keep your feet alive. And begin from the middle! Here we start with simple principles and then we cover other effective and innovative movement skills.

- Keep moving

When you close in on a ball, take small adjustment steps as you read the ball. Keep your feet light and moving so you may adapt to the bounce of the ball. Play the ball instead of allowing it to play you. Think of it as when your feet stop moving your brain may stop, too! So keep your feet alive, your mind open, and then react and stay active right up until you can just about reach out and pluck the ball out of the midair. Then set your back foot, wind up as you walk into your shot and stroke confidently.

- Go Middle

After you stroke the ball make it *your* tendency consistently to move middle. Even in a slower paced rally, like a nick lob game or ceiling ball exchange, simply *take a walk* back middle. That walk gets you in prime coverage position. When you stay on the fringes of the court, such as against the back wall, up against a sidewall, or locked in the service box after serving, you leave yourself way out of position. Take a more proactive, tactical approach and seek control of the middle. From the middle you may move where you see the ball going or you may move to allow the required straight and crosscourt shots owed your competitor. Now let's explore faster ways to move about the court and always return to the middle.

• Athletic Body Position

How tall are you? Play a little bit shorter than your full height. Why? Know that as soon as you stand up too tall, you have to drop down to move, burning up your moving time. Also, when you bend down too low, you first have to rise up a little to move most efficiently. Slightly bend at the waist. Flex your knees and ankles. That slight body coil spring-loads your whole frame to be ready to move about the court more easily and smoothly.

• Be "ambi-footress" - Start on Either Foot

Choose to avoid being, for instance, just right footed, like you may be right-handed or right eye dominant. Learn to start out equally well off either foot and you'll be able to move about the court even more efficiently and quickly. You can teach yourself to be "ambi-footress". Place your heels flat up against the back wall. Step off aggressively with one foot. Sprint off the wall for a short distance. Return. Switch to the other foot. This exercise is done for two reasons. One, by learning to take shorts sprints off the wall, you train yourself to eliminate a possible false step backwards, while you step off strongly with the lead foot to begin your sprint. That forward only move makes you faster because you don't start going forward by first going backwards. Two, by switching feet and drilling with both, you teach yourself to step out equally well with either foot as you move about the court. That duality makes you a more versatile, efficient mover and harder to back into a corner.

• How to Shuffle Step

Most players are very familiar with the shuttle step as a form of court movement. Here is a short primer: Start near back wall facing either sidewall. Drop down a little height-wise and slide step sideways away from the wall using the foot furthest from the wall. To complete a shuffle step, slide the trail foot sideways, bringing it up next to the first landing foot before you continue your sideways shuffle.

• Power Down to Stop Shuffle Step

As you reach the service line or first line, put on the brakes by bending your lead knee and then flex your trail knee to lower your body. This knee work gracefully stops your forward momentum. The braking move lowers you center of gravity. Bending your knees uses their natural shock absorption to slow down your body when moving about the court. The ability to stop puts you in better, lower position to: (1) perform a balance stroke, or; (2) "freeze" to cover as your competitor strokes, or; (3) bolt to take off in another direction. How do you *bolt* best?

• Why Use Crossover Steps?

The crossover step gobbles up ground from the get-go. To teach yourself to crossover, again do the shuffle step from the back wall toward the service line. When you approach the first line, again put on the brakes by bending the outside leg and then flex the trailing leg. The control method first: As soon as you stop, push off the lead, outside leg and step off in the opposite direction with the trailing leg, the one furthest from the line. Take off in a sprint towards the back wall and slow down well before you reach the wall. That's the SLOW way! Now let's learn the faster, crossover way.

- Crossover As You Learn

To incorporate the crossover, repeat what you did before by shuffling to the service line. This time, when you get to first line, bend that outside, lead knee, then inside, trail knee, brake, and push back as you pivot off both feet (on the pads behind the toes). Then stay extra low as you turn your hips and shoulders and crossover aggressively with the outside, trail leg. Make it a big crossover step. Drive your arms, even pumping with the one holding your racquet, as you dash your very best to the back court. This big crossover step simply makes you faster. The crossover step works for several court coverage situations, such as …

- Dash Forward

When you're stuck in the back court or right up against the back wall and you can see the competitor placing a low kill in the front court or when you see a high ball about to fly way off the back wall, use your jets to dash forward. How: First step crossover into a low, arm pumping all out sprint. Stay low and run quietly or avoid stomping. On the way decide which shot you should hit? Take off running with the ball making sure the ball is away from you. If the ball is flying off the back wall, keep it in the corner of your eye to avoid it running up your back. Use the racquet in your hand and pump both arms to run to where you think you can intersect with the ball while letting it drop extra loooooow.

- Play Keep-away vs Always Drop Shooting

Front court rundown shot tip: get up sideways to the ball and selectively use soft drop shots against a rapidly closing competitor. Be ready to snap off an angled pass toward the least covered back corner. Only when the competitor checks up and backs off to camp on your pass should you hit a soft, disguised dropper.

• Just Jump

An advanced form of the shuffle step is a flick of the feet into a small leap or jump. The jump is used to begin your move or jump to a stop. The player jumps back, sideways or forwards off both feet at the same time. The jump is used to instantaneously adjust your positioning to: (1) clear for your competitor; (2) approach the ball, or; (3) start your run. The landing of the jump is ideally soft and springy, ready for more movement. Still lots of little adjustment steps remain to get in the best position to cover or to flow into a ball that's still reacting to walls or spin. Both an analogy and a metaphor may help explain the ease of the jump and the importance of still moving after landing.

- Leap to Start Analogy

Watch basketball players standing along the free throw lane. After a made fee throw the players do a little rising up leap to get their engine running before they head down court to switch ends. That leap on court can be a little more plyometric or a rapid leap to move over some distance. Learn to emulate a b-ball player by getting yourself in motion.

Mighty Mouse Swoosh Metaphor

Oftentimes players land like Mighty Mouse just even with the ball as if to say, "Here I am to save the day!" But really Might Mouse has lots more still to do. Landing a little behind contact allows for momentum to be built up in the post landings stroke. Coiling back and then stepping into the ball or at least moving forward into the ball is best done with little adjustment steps, then weight back and through, and timed body prep and uncoil.

• Split Step Potential

A technique well known in tennis is the split step. In serve and volley tennis, as the server approaches the net, at the "t" formed by the center line and the back line of both service boxes, the net rusher spreads his feet to a two-footed, paused landing type hop versus coming to complete stop. He reads the situation and then takes off toward the angle where he sees or *expects* the ball to be. The same principle of using a split-step may be applied to racquetball, too.



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