Baseball Is Seen As The Truly All-American Sport To Activ Racquetball After 40 – How to Beat the Younger, Faster Player

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Racquetball After 40 – How to Beat the Younger, Faster Player

My return to the racket began six months ago, shortly after my 42nd birthday. After one session in the 4-wall ping-pong chamber, I quickly remembered why I love this game. Action. Speed. Aggression. Strategy. Lateral Movement. Body Slams. Trash talking…Racquetball has all that – plus a great cardio workout. After an hour, I was spent.

The next day I remembered why I stopped playing. Ouch. Sores in places I forgot I had them. However, within a few weeks of playing regularly 2X a week – and with a diligent warm-up routine – my body acclimated quickly.

I’m not a doctor or a professional athlete, but I like to play sports and stay active, and I’ve learned what to do to keep my aging body in check. If you want to get back into the racket (and come on… I know you will!), here are three areas you need to focus on to keep playing… and winning.

1. Don’t write checks your body can’t cash

The adrenaline rush of games can motivate you to make games that will punish your body. The two most common injuries to the body are: diving for the ball and running into the wall. Add to that joint hyperextension and hitting the ball too hard and you have a recipe for a seriously stressed body after the court session. If you play several times a week, these painful hits and pulls can turn into serious injuries that will take you a long time to recover from. If you’re over 40, you probably have a few more LBs than you did when you were playing in your 20s. The extra weight combined with heavy kicks and lunges will lead to heel bruises, knee strains or back pulls (or all of them!). I’ve had them, and the only way to recover is usually to do NOTHING for long periods of time – and that’s just not fun.

Don’t let your pride get the better of you. I lost a lot of players who fought well for one game, but I couldn’t come back the next week to play again.

Use your head. Stretch at least 15 minutes before playing. Preface your stretching with a short jog. Play against the side walls for at least 5 minutes. Practice playing low to the ground – it’s the low lunges that lead to muscle pull, so warm up that muscle behavior before playing.

Treat your wounds as soon as possible after the battle. Don’t be a hero and limp for a week – if you do, you’re setting yourself up for a long-term, excruciating injury. Ice, jacuzzi, asprin, wrap, etc. Sleep so your body can heal. Take glucosamine for joints. If you take care of your body, it will acclimate…just don’t expect it to bounce back to the way it was in your 20s!

2. Equip yourself

Goggles, shoes, racket gloves and knee braces. This is your necessary battle gear.

Yes, glasses can fog up…but eyeballs can’t be replaced. Every time I think about taking off my glasses – I end up grabbing the cup. A compressed racquetball hitting your eye socket can suck out your eyeball instantly. Enough said. Bring 2 pairs and rotate them when one gets blurred.

Shoes. You need good shoes that fit well. Don’t grab your old sneakers – get new shoes. You don’t have to spend a fortune. Get 2 cheap pairs that you can rotate to give the shoes time to recover. If your ankles are a bit out of practice, you might want to consider basketball shoes for extra support. If you turn your ankle, you’re on injured reserve for a long time. Or, you can wrap your ankles before playing. Hey! It’s not about looking pretty…it’s about winning!

Racket glove. It protects your wrist from the strain of the carpal tunnel to grip the racquet. It’s worth the small investment.

Knee support. I’m not a big guy…170 pounds, 5′ 10″ – and I’m in good shape. But, I wear knee braces, and I’ll tell you why. Because my knees were kicking. If you want to play hard, eventually you’re going to jump after the ball or fall off the floor. You’re a warrior – you can’t help it! In the heat of battle, your knees will hurt, but the next day you’ll be sore. And every next game… it’ll get worse and worse. Soon you’ll have to stop you play for a while. Let’s face it – you’re not 20 anymore. Your body needs time to recover. Plus, you have to go to work on Monday and still be the pack mule for all your family’s junk! Make sure you have enough body for your family!

Don’t show up with velcro knee pads…you don’t tile! Simple slip-on, breathable latex knee supports that aren’t so stiff as to restrict movement will help your knees survive.

3. Winning strategy: placement and positioning. It’s especially important if you’re playing younger pairs that have energy to burn. To save energy, you have to play smart. Smart play involves placing the ball in the right place and placing the body in the right place on the court. Hitting the ball hard does not win games. Putting the ball where your opponent is not good. Make the bastard run away. Let them dive. Let them beg for mercy!

Here are some gaming tips I’ve learned that increase your odds of winning.

1. Quiver O’ Serves. You should have 3 or 4 good serves in your arsenal. Vary your service. Look around before you serve to see where your opponent is. The backhand corner shot is good, but let it play off the side wall before it falls. Hit the one that goes to your opponents ankles – fast. Mix in a dying lob into the high corner that you can’t play from the back wall. Throw in a quick backhand that hugs the wall. Once you get your opponent to hit your serve, keep switching it up and feeding serves quickly. Don’t give them time to prepare.

2. Body positioning. In general, in terms of position, try to stay in the middle of the field. If you are against a wall, hit the cross wall so that the ball returns to where you are – which forces the opponent into the wall. Do not interfere with the ball. If your opponent is forward on the court, knock them back with a ceiling shot that knocks them back. If you find yourself in a corner, get out of it and get back to the center as quickly as possible. Stay in the middle.

3. Wait for the ball. When you get a good forehand shot, don’t blow it. If you see a lane where you can hit the ball, make sure you are ACCURATE with your shot. If you’re all fired up, you’ll hit it too hard and the ball will bounce too high, allowing your opponent to recover by going back to the back wall.

If the ball goes past you, it’s not big. Turn around and play from the back wall. Play your game, not your opponent’s game.

4. Find your Achilles heel. Play a variety of shots early in the game to find your opponent’s weaknesses. But don’t experiment when you have the killer shot. Kill. Play with your opponent when you can afford it.

5. Keep Serving! You can’t score if you don’t have a serve. If you’re returning serve, it’s time to GAME ON. Return the service at any cost. Don’t let your opponent run into a card. How do you do it when they have bad service? Learn how to read your opponent’s body language. Usually the server will ‘telegraph’ their move by switching their feet, turning their hand, dropping their shoulders. These little ‘reads’ will give you that extra millisecond to hop on that server and get that SOB out of the server box.

6. Placement, placement, placement. Make your opponent run, jump, dive. EVERY shot should be difficult to return. That doesn’t mean it has to be a killer shot or a hard ball. To place the ball where your opponent isn’t, you need to know where he is! Which leads to my next tip.

7. Watch the ball and watch your opponent. Develop your kung fu senses. If your opponent flinches, they will generally have poor returns (except for the occasional LUCKY kill shot!). Try to predict where their next hit is going.

8. And finally, my favorite tip. If you really want to get better, play at least 2x a week and play with someone better than you! My regular partner beats me almost every game. He’s just a good Ninja. A huge arsenal of deadly serves. A wicked killer shot (forehand and backhand). And a great strategic player. This guy played competitively when he was younger and never stopped. BUT, I get him and I beat him a few times. I prefer a challenge to a victory. I easily beat other racketeers.

BUT… I don’t recommend getting obsessed and playing 5+ times a week. You will beat your body and burn your thirst for the game. Find some regulars to play with and stick to the schedule.

Have fun, train, play hard and let those young guys RUN!

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