Racquetball-How we Got Here!

Jim Winterton : January 22, 2019 2:21 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

I wanted to wait awhile before I posted these thoughts. Someone began a thread to make Racquetball Great and the thread took off. Almost everyone had great ideas. Before I begin examining some of the ideas I want to explain from my point of view how the crisis in racquetball started. When Racquetball began it was price structured like Tennis. You had to pay for court time. A club would charge a nominal fee for an annual membership and then you had to purchase court time to practice or play. The club pro was an integral part of the club management team because she or he was expected to generate income from those courts. When the 80s came around and inflation hit the economy hard, the payment structure of racquetball began to change. Following the lead of health clubs, sales people were hired, quotas were set, and racquetball was included in monthly dues. When that happened, most owners cut racquetball programmers and pros out of management. Since there was a monthly stream of income, leagues and other programs were not needed. I remember distinctly when the clubs I worked in went from worrying about percentage of court utilization to hoping that usage went down. Why? So they could put in fitness equipment.
At the same time this was happening USA Racquetball proudly announced they were a tournament organization. Other Acronyms sprang up such as WOR, NMRA, MRF,IRF, and most recently the WRT. All of these organizations fed off tournament events. Now admittedly lumping these organizations together is a little misleading as some do more than others to increase participation.

I like to use this analogy. In the 80s organizations were running tournaments to increase play and in the year 2018 they still are. If aerobics had done this there would still be people doing jazzercise in the clubs. Fitness re-invented itself over and over. From step to spin to rumba to yoga to hot yoga they are still re-inventing themselves much to club owner’s delight.

Racquetball has not done its part to help the health club industry. Racquetball is a natural referral activity. Learn to play and bring a friend. Racquetball is also a natural retention activity. Racquetball players stay loyal to friends they make in the racquetball area. Also Racquetball is a fitness activity.
Club managers are not usually racquetball players but are fitness industry people. That lends itself to total ignorance of racquetball and how it can help the bottom line.
The racquetball courts are vacant 9-11am and 1-3:00pm. So are the exercise rooms.
Managers need education and someone to help them promote racquetball to help promote membership.
There is no such place that I know of. There are a plethora of sales/fitness gurus. No such thing in racquetball.
That is the problem in private clubs.
Can you imagine a customer asking the manager if they had a certified fitness instructor and the manager saying no but we have a local weight lifting person who will teach.
That is what you get in racquetball. Hey, I was certified in 1981 so I’m good to go. Worse yet, I am not certified but I play therefore I can teach.
Lack of financial incentive to build racquetball and lack of certified help to build our sport even if the ownership had the desire. That leads to loss of courts and that is a huge problem.

Comments are closed

From worst to finals!

Jim Winterton : January 21, 2019 2:45 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

Local Legend vs National

I remember walking into one of my first tournaments. In came the rock star guys, the guys in the finals all the time. All eyes were on the top dogs.
In walked me . No respect does not even cover it. I had no clue what I was doing and got wiped out early! Very early! To be fair this guy was 3 ranked in the world as a pro and I knew I could beat him. Little did I know how long it would take me!!

Two years later I found myself in the finals against that guy, but I digress.
I got pretty good and was one of the top two in my city. However, I did not win a match in big tournament that brought in people outside the city for two years! Two years is a long time to take first round whippings! I realized these things.
1. I was a football player, not a racquetball player and that had to change.
2. I had to get help so I could address #1. I found a great trainer.
3. I had to beat the mental thing called the past! If I focused on the past beat downs when I played people it was all over.
4. I had to watch the best to beat the best. No video in those days and no internet of course. 8mm camera and projector and I burned literally a lot of film frames trying to stop and watch frame by frame.
5. Anyone who did beat me I watched in the next rounds to see how someone played them. I picked up a few tricks that way.
6. To win locally I had to play the best. That meant playing pros and nationally ranked players every chance I got.
In singles I finally beat the #8 seed and got to the second round. Then I beat that guy and got to the quarters. Yep, won that one and then I caught a break. The number one seed got sick and could not play. I won that match playing a lesser player and played the first guy I had ever played in a tournament.
The top dog had a huge fan base and everyone thought I would get killed in the finals. I won the first game. I lost in the breaker. I went from a nobody to a somebody in one tournament. Or did I?
Two years of training and learning led to “nobody to somebody” moment! It can for anyone of us if we stay the course, aim high and believe!

ps: Yes, I did lose, but knew I could compete at the top level of open. A week later I got a call from Luke St Onge, inviting me to the Penn State Invitational, the top 32 players in the NorthEast.

Comments are closed

Racquetball, Football, and Footwork!

Jim Winterton : January 20, 2019 2:11 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

Winterton Racquetball Academy Camp Talk continued!
Tom Brady is probably the greatest quarterback of our generation. During the bye week he flew to California to work with his coach. What did they work on? Mechanics and footwork. What does the greatest player in our sport work on? Mechanics and footwork. So………..
Hit the shot you want to hit, not the shot you have to hit!
Shot selection is a big topic in the camps and all athletes want shot selection.
Here is what the open/pro athlete asks of me.
“Just give me the advanced stuff not the basics.”
What they are really saying is, “Just skip the mechanics and the footwork part and give me shot selection!”
Unfortunately, with poor footwork and mechanics, you will get poor shot selection. If you move to the ball late-you will hit the side wall and if you move early and close to the ball you will go cross court of hit the side wall. Opponents know that and they will set up camp waiting for the ball to come to them. Good footwork and mechanics means you can hit the shot you need to hit based on your opponent’s positioning. Poor footwork and mechanics means you will hit the ball where you have to hit it, not where you want to hit it. If there is space between your body and the ball, an arm and racquet’s worth of space, you can hit the shot you wish to hit. No space and you will hit the shot you have to hit.

Comments are closed

Side Steppers

Jim Winterton : January 19, 2019 1:56 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

Sidestepping racquetball players!!
Camp will begin in a few weeks-here’s the gist of the camp!

#1 thing I say at all camps. Be careful stepping to the side wall. A few years ago I worked with a top pro at a camp and they did the video analysis.

After the first day they said, “Is it me or am I saying the same thing to everyone?” My reply was,

“Welcome to my world!”
Most racquetball players just develop games based on their local competition. This means stepping to the side wall to return drive serves to the backhand side especially. This leads to poor habits during rallies which leads to poor shot selection which then falls to poor positioning and finally to poor mechanics which leads to injury which can lead to your racquetball career being over earlier than it should be!
Coaches! This is for you! Learn proper footwork!! Athletes–if the ball is on your backhand side more than your forehand…that is a clue! Fix the footwork!
Sorry for the run-on sentence! So-work on happier and more parallel feet and use your lower body to hit the ball! There, now you have had my camp minus the video analysis, telestration, and specifics of footwork and mechanics!

Comments are closed

The Ref Hates Me!

Jim Winterton : January 18, 2019 2:01 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

Help! Everyone is out to get me!! Another one that floated across my desk recently!
Dear Coach,
Recently I played in a tournament and the ref was out to get me. Every call went to my opponent. The last straw was in the tiebreaker when I had a lead and my opponent skipped a ball in. The ref called it good. It was not even close. I was so ticked off and that one call cost me the match as I lost 11-10 in the breaker. Any ideas how to stop this stupidity on the part of the refs? This guy just did not like me!
Frustrated in Frisco!

Dear Frustrated,
It just so happens I saw the match you speak of and have a few observations.
1. The ref does not hate you and in fact the ref has respect for your game. I know that ref!
2. The ref could not see the ball as your opponent was in front of you and the ref was behind you at floor level. Thus, the ref had to do their best and guess.
3. That ref did not cost you the match. The ref missed one call at 8-7. You had chances after that.
4. You cost yourself that match when you went all hyper over one missed call. It was 7-7 when you lost it. By the time you recovered it was 10-7 in your opponent’s favor.
So how do you stop the ref’s stupidity? Maybe it is not the ref?
You are a good player. Own your mistakes and learn from them.
Coach W

Comments are closed

UnSolicited Testimonials! The Best!

Jim Winterton : January 17, 2019 3:24 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day
  1. I do not need a photo op with a top player for my cred! I do not advertise in magazines with my photo ops of great players. I have more of them than any coach out there, (including the Greatest of All Time)  and they all improve. I would rather someone like one of you reading this tout my abilities or someone I coach advertise for me. That is gold. Me telling you how great I am does not resonate too much. Here are a couple that came my way recently.
  2. “Over the years, I’ve been blessed to get a lot of great racquetball instruction from really really good local players -………….and others.  But I never really invested in a coach – mostly because when I was younger I couldn’t afford it.  So I decided to give it a shot recently to see if this old man might have a few decent games left. Again, I am lucky to know many of the truly great national coaches.  I picked the one I did for two reasons: (1) I always admired his work with the US National team and tried desperately to pick up whatever tidbits I could back in the day and (2) he focuses heavily on biomechanics – and trust me, my old bio needs a mechanic.I knew I had to have faith in the process and give it time.  Well today, I finally saw the kind of improvement I’ve been looking for.  I’ve been running the drills I was told to, but today I saw things start translating to other drills.  We’ve been talking mostly feet and hips.  Among other things, my splats which have been non-existent for two years finally raised their head.  Coach hasn’t even talked about splats, but suddenly there they were.  I’m getting my feet set better and hitting better shots both out of set-ups and extended sets. Racquet prep is better.  My arm / shoulder aches and pains are easing.  So while I really have to keep working on speed and getting set in the first place, I’m starting to see the improvement.  Today was probably the most satisfied I’ve been when I left the court as I have been in a long time. 👍
  3.  “Learned a lot from your camp. Many thanks again! Sending a few of the shots I took.
  4.  “Just wanted to share with you and say thanks once again for your advice. First off let me explain that I am 48 years old so not old but not exactly a spring chicken either… Big build, ……..so I am not looking to get in extended rallies for a living anymore. Main goal…. Develop and have a strong, flat drive serve. I just left the court and I really focused on what you said yesterday about staying behind the ball and using more of the legs and hips.. Results =huge increase in power without swinging harder and the ball stayed low and flat just over the short line. The guys I was playing were letting the expletives fly and I was grinning from ear to ear. Thanks again Coach.
  5. This one below from a guy who is online now as a “top coach” as I was breaking down his video and now of course he is using this info and winning tournaments! Since I am now a competitor I do not expect to get much credit for his improvement!

“Feels very awkward on the backhand in that stance. Just because I’m not used to it. Forehand feels very good but you can tell me when you see it. Good point on the top of the swing. Where should my strings be facing?

This will take a lot of work to correct… A lot of work! But I love it. 😀
6. And finally on air a few weeks ago..Thanks Champ!
“Winterton is more than a Racquetball Coach, he is family!” (KingKaneRB.Com)
Comments are closed

The First Pro I Ever Coached!

Jim Winterton : January 15, 2019 2:40 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

My first pro! Many people do not know this story so bear with me.
The year was 1975 and into my classroom came this little kid. I was teaching 7th grade and he was in 6th grade. He told me he was going to beat me in racquetball. He had never played. I met up with him at the JCC and played 2 games, then 3 and then 4. The kid would not leave the court. I knew he was going to be good. His name was Mike Levine. By his sophomore year in high school he had beaten me and a host of others. He was a national junior champion in 1978 and by age 14 he had won open tournaments and he was an amazing player.
We learned the game together and that is where I learned what I still teach today about the drive serve. Deception, power, speeds, and angles were all dissected and examined over and over on reel to reel Video tape.
Fast forward today-I sent a video to Mike of two pros playing in early rounds. He nailed it with an great analysis.
“Both players are hitting down on the ball and should be lower. Both seem like nice guys. Where’s the fire? I expect them to have tea together after their match.”
This is why I love to get fresh perspectives on the matches I coach. Yes, I see the same things but I want to make sure I see the same things someone removed from the fray of racquetball wars and personalities would see.
Mike Levine–The original Pro from Winterton Nation! Below: Mike VS Ruben Gonzalez circa 1980s. 

Comments are closed

All About How ,Not What!

Jim Winterton : January 11, 2019 2:35 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

So I did my semi-annual call to my fountain of information and mentor, Dave, last month. I never tire of talking to him about coaching football, racquetball, baseball, basketball and all sports. As a former number one Pro champion and top of the mountain guy, he is a fountain of information and I am lucky we get to share information. We discussed our experiences with other coaches in sports. Dave used this phrase over and over, “I coach differently than these other guys.”
So I asked this question and got an affirmative.
“By different, you mean you teach the basics and continue to dwell on those fundamentals while everyone else is teaching “what” to do rather than “how” to do it.
“Bingo, Jim, That’s exactly right!” Is the excited response I got.
Interesting how his teams fared better than the opposing coaches.
I got that in football, tennis, and now in racquetball. I coached tennis in the NorthEast. The kids thought practice would be cancelled because of rain or snow. Nope–wall hitting in the gym and serve hitting outside. Shovel the snow off the courts and get serving for 30 minutes until the tennis balls got too wet and heavy. We beat teams that our team had never beaten before after I showed up.
Never squander practice time!
These principles apply to all sports. Beware of the “what” coaches. Embrace the “how” not the what!
How do I hit that serve, forehand, backhand, ceiling ball, etc. Execute correctly and you have a long shelf life as a player.
Execute Incorrectly and you are a future orthopedic surgeon’s dream!

Comments are closed

Put the POW! in Power!

Jim Winterton : January 8, 2019 2:20 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

Power recipe! Want to improve your game? Get a personal trainer. Make sure it is a good personal trainer. Five Tips for good trainer shopping:
1. They are knowledgable about the demands of racquetball. Will never forget back in my open days a trainer saying “Wow light workout today huh?” I had just finished five games of racquetball and my legs were dead. The trainer had no idea how hard I had worked in those five games.
2. They switch up the workouts. If you know the same thing is coming every day you adapt physically and mentally. Changing exercises but working with the same muscle groups keeps the athlete engaged.
3. The demands use the same energy system as the sport as much as possible. That means 4-6 second bursts of footwork simulation that imitates the demands of racquetball.
4. They will take the time to get to know you. There are two types of trainers. Those who train clients and those who know people and train them.
5. They will push you to do more than you think you can do. More importantly, on days when you least expect it, they will back off your work and know you need a break from the intensity as you approach the over-training threshold.

Comments are closed

Meet the Coaches!

Jim Winterton : December 29, 2018 1:00 pm : Coach's Tip of the Day

I cannot be everywhere at once! Therefore I am beginning to use my pros that I instruct to teach others. That is how I became the Academy instead of the old WintertonRacquetball.Com!

This is a group of player/Coaches I recommend. More and more players are beginning to instruct because they need money. My kids instruct because they love teaching! There is a difference. All of these folks below are tournament winners, and some are World and National Champions.

Erika Manilla is a student in Flagstaff and her time is limited but she is an excellent instructor and player.

Jesse Giron is a PHD candidate at ASU and he too is an excellent instructor and player. He too has a limited schedule.

Thomas Carter does most of the work for me. Last summer, in Chicago he taught high school kids and played to quarters in the pro draw. He has done clinics for me in Montana, St Louis, and Atlanta. a tournament. His email is Thomas.F.Carter@yahoo.Com. Use the keyword CoachW for extra special care or just tell him I sent you.

Another pro I am trying to get on board is USA Junior Coach, Robbie Collins. I coach him and he is playing the IRT pro stops and works out of Northern California. He is an excellent instructor and I have sent folks to him for help.

Felipe Mercado is an International Coach Guru. In Junior Worlds he coached several World Champions and he resides in Bolivia also. We talk racquetball almost every day. You can reach him at felmer@gmail.com. He is extremely knowledgeable and a student of the game!

His friend, Manuel Flores also coaches in Bolivia and has produced several World Champions. His email is patotheking@gmail.com.

There are extensive bios on each of these coaches on my website, WintertonRacquetball.Com.

I consult with all of my coaching friends and we work together on several in common students!

Comments are closed
« Page 1 »