I squeaked with excitement when I saw an advert for a free racquetball lesson. Finally, I thought, I may discover some magic trick to turn me into a racquet sport pro and gift me powers of sporting excellence! A tall ask perhaps, but according to my volunteer instructor, I have potential. What that means exactly is unclear, though I fear it may be code for ‘hopeless case’.
Racquetball is played on a squash court, with what looks like a squash racquet and a squash ball. My first question then, and I believe it was a fair one: ‘Is racquetball just a posh name for squash?’ (That may have prompted a raised eyebrow from my patient coach). In fact the balls and racquets are slightly different and there are different rules of play – all of which escape me now but if you’re interested, here’s a great site that explains the differences.
Surprisingly my key learning was that how I served would dictate where the ball would end up. It sounds ridiculously simple but no one had ever explained it to me before.
You serve from a squatted lunge position with one foot in front of the other. That I could cope with. Now comes the technical (and confusing) part I’d not been taught before. The ball should be served from just in front of your foot or from just behind your foot depending on where you want to ball to land in the court. It’s such a subtle movement but it makes a heck of a difference; sending it either into your opponent’s quarter or back to your quarter. The instructor then served to me but I became frustrated when I was unable to hit the balls in the desired direction during play.
I’m increasingly convinced that my lack of racquet skills are born out of my frustrations to achieve perfection. I expect to get it right with just 45 minutes of coaching. In reality this self-created pressure makes trialling these sports, in short, a chore. I would liken my learning to play racquet sports to some people’s inability to learn languages. Thankfully I’m not too shabby on picking up a foreign phrase or two and I expect ‘racquetball extraordinaire’ isn’t going to charm the French waiter next time I’m in Paris.
I know I will never be a racquet sport genius, but I now have a far greater appreciation of how the position of a foot or a racquet or a ball can alter play and a deep respect for those who stick with learning sports I find challenging. The coach said I had potential, and perhaps that is true, but the pressure I place on nailing racquet sports in one session is too much for this little lady to handle.