I wanna get better

Hey, I wanna get better!

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better

I Wanna Get Better, Bleachers – Jack Antonoff and John Hill

[I struggled for a while to see if I could substitute some racquetball references into the lyrics above, and I have not yet succeeded. -clumsy/grace, my grip was broken…]

A lot of the momentum in current physical fitness trends and new fitness businesses revolves around people wanting to get better, via programmed variety and in person coaching. Examples of this are Crossfit and OrangeTheory Fitness, among others.

Crossfit pioneered the concept of the ‘WoD’, or Workout of the Day. This centralized programming / recommended workout was (and is) available for free from their website. Discussion and videos of how to do each of the exercises is also available on their site. Gyms (Crossfit Boxes) can take these default exercises and customize them for a client’s needs and abilities. They will adjust quantity, weight, or substitute exercises as needed. High intensity interval training is a portion of their approach, with their intensity defined as ‘work’, AKA, weight moved a distance over time. A good coach at an established Crossfit can handle 10-20 participants doing the same workout and provide guidance on form, function, and motivation.

OrangeTheory Fitness has a similar concept, but their workouts aren’t publicly available the way Crossfit has done it. Each day, the headquarters sends out the recommended workout to the franchise locations, and the local coaches will run group classes from that workout in a one hour session. The class will have video of any weight or body weight exercise and a suggested number of repetitions. The coach can/will help the client adjust the amount of weight, the number of repetitions, or provide alternate exercises in case of prior injury. A coach will provide a demo of the form, feedback on client’s form, and keep the session moving and motivated. A good coach at an established OrangeTheory Fitness location can handle ~24 participants in a session. High intensity interval training is a portion of their approach, with heart rate monitoring defining the intensity the client is exerting.

It seems that racquetball should be able to adopt some of these same concepts. First, I’ll discuss the things that could work, then some of the things that would hold this idea back.

Positives:

1) There are a number of experienced coaches that could come up with the Workout of the Day. {Dave Ellis, John Ellis, Jim Winterton, Fran Davis, Tom Travers, Jim Hiser, Cheryl Gudinas, Cliff Swain, Sudsy Monchik, numerous currently touring pros, etc.}

2) For most exercises or drills, there are already videos available on YouTube or in the USA Racquetball USAR-IP Instructor’s Certification. For any that aren’t freely available, video recording is now extremely cheap and videos can be hosted on YouTube or Vimeo, even if you want them to be behind a paywall.

3) Players can be their own coaches for form. They can buy a cheap $60 digital video camera and put it on the glass wall of their court (if they aren’t playing in concrete rooms) and then review the video immediately after the exercise.

Drawbacks:

1) The vast majority of racquetball players are only playing for recreation and exercise, they aren’t practicing outside of the games they play against their regular opponents. (So the potential market is very niche.)

2) Racquetball books are really cheap on the secondary market. I’ve purchased 17 racquetball books from Amazon and their used book resellers in the last few years. Most of the books can’t be bought new in any case. Drills and exercises discussed in these books are already being used by the potential market that do want to raise their level from recreational to D, C, B, A, Elite, or Open.

3) Coaches can’t effectively handle more than about 4 players in a single court, if they are going to demonstrate the exercises, give feedback on form, and provide motivation. To handle more players at once, the camp/clinic concept and/or multiple instructors are required, which takes a multi-day investment that is difficult to justify for many compared to the ~one hour sessions of Crossfit or OrangeTheory.

What are your thoughts? Is there any way to apply the successful strategies of Crossfit and OrangeTheory Fitness to racquetball improvement? What other positives or drawbacks have I missed? Drop me a line via the Contact page if you have a comment.

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JT RB

I am a racquetball enthusiast in Austin, Texas.