- Racquetball is a great sport to help develop kids' physical and psychological skills regardless of the sport you coach
It is important that we look for innovative ways to develop children’s skills. Regardless of the sport that you coach, encouraging children to play racquetball is a great idea. Racquetball develops many skills that will transfer to any sport. And it can do so while kids are having a lot of fun. Let’s explore how.
What is racquetball?
For those of you who are not familiar with racquetball it is a game that in Australia is usually played on a squash court. Racquetball racquets are a little shorter but have a bigger racquet face than in squash, and the balls are larger, bouncier, and importantly they bounce more slowly. With the combination of bigger racquet faces and slower, bouncier balls, racquetball is a much easier game to learn than squash. In fact, in a relatively short time most athletes can start to play at a level where they can enjoy the benefits that I am about to discuss.
What are the rules?
Racquetball rules are very similar to squash. There is therefore no need to get into the specifics of changing from squash rules if you don’t want to. But here are a few of the basic rule changes:
Serving- You serve from anywhere in the front half of the court and after serving into the front wall you can land the serve anywhere in the back half of the court to be in play. You get a second serve if the first ball is a fault.
Scoring- While you can score any way you like, unlike squash, in proper racquetball every point is counted.
That is basically it. So once you have the racquets and balls children will be ready to go.
Why is racquetball so effective?
Because the faces of the racquets are bigger and the balls are bouncier and slower, as soon as kids develop the basic skills and get used to the bounce of the ball off the walls, it becomes very hard to hit a winner. This results in long points requiring stamina, agility, and mental toughness.
And play in racquetball is continuous. This means once a point is finished players must walk straight to their positions to begin the next point. This results in both physical and psychological challenges.
Developing physical skills
As kids improve their racquetball skills it becomes a great way to train endurance. This is because points start going for longer and longer. It’s not uncommon for one rally to last a couple of minutes. And because the kids are competing they naturally push harder than they would if they were to go for a run for example.
Racquetball also develops speed and agility. Racquetball points involve short sprints combined with rapid changes in direction. If you are looking to develop speed and agility there is simply no better way than intense racquetball points to do it.
Psychological skill development
Racquetball also develops psychological skills.
First, kids develop mental toughness and resilience within points. Often during points a child will set up a point to a place where he thinks he can finish the point. But because the ball is so bouncy often it doesn’t turn out to be a winner, the opponent is able to return the ball, and the child has to start again in trying to work the opponent out of the position. This develops the ability to maintain attention for long periods of time. It also develops acceptance of the difficult internal experiences such as thoughts and feelings that arise when the opponent recovers an unexpected shot.
Second, kids can develop psychological skills over time. When points are repeatedly long physical fatigue becomes a big factor. Under fatigue it is difficult to commit to being prepared to play long points that are required to be successful, and poor decision making often creeps in.
Racquetball naturally creates an environment that cultivates the development of resilience. Kids can work at continually focusing and committing to making balls under duress.
How to develop skills appropriately
When children are beginning racquetball, you can change the constraints of the game to suit their ability level as they develop their skills. There are many ways you can do this…
It is important to match the ability levels of opponents. For instance, if one child is of a higher standard you could do any of the following: Give the weaker child a scoring head start, make a rule that the stronger child’s winners don’t count so she can only win a point when the weaker child makes an error, or in the case that one child is much stronger you might have that child play with her non-dominant hand.
In the case that you have two children just learning the game you might begin by getting them to see how many balls they can rally to each other. It usually takes a little while for children to begin to respond well to the bounce of the ball off the side wall so once they can rally you can get them to start to direct balls at the wall as well and try to respond accordingly. The difficult bounces off the side walls of the court really develop attention and perceptual skills. Next, you can start children playing points. You might allow children to have two bounces instead of one at the start, progressing to one bounce only when they start getting the hang of it.
Racquetball is a great way to develop children’s physical and psychological skills in a fun way. It is particularly effective for kids who play sports that require good hand-eye co-ordination and agility.