Ball beside yellow raquet

What Is Racquetball? The Origins and History of the Court Sport

What Is Racquetball?

Racquetball, sometimes called paddleball, is a super fun racquet sport played on an indoor court with a hollow rubber ball. Unlike most racquet sports, racquetball is played without a net or out of bounds areas. All four of the court’s walls along with the floor and ceiling are all legal playing surfaces in racquetball.

​The Origins and History of Racquetball

​While we’re answering the question of what is racquetball, it is important that we talk a bit about the origins and history of the sport.

Racquetball is a relatively new sport. It was created early in the 1900s by combining several popular sports like handball, tennis, squash, and jai alai. The game first appeared in the United States in the 1920s.

A professional handball, tennis, and squash player from Greenwich, Connecticut named Joseph G. Sobek has been credited with the invention of modern-day racquetball. He was working at a rubber factory in the 1940s when he designed the first rubber ball used in the sport today.

In 1952 Sobek founded the Paddle Racquet Association. From there he distributed rules for the game to all of the YMCAs in America. Racquetball quickly gained in popularity. In fact, by 1969 racquetball had become so popular around the world that a man named Robert Kendler founded the International Racquetball Association. That’s when the name of the sport was officially changed to racquetball.

Racquet and the blue ball

                                                      Image Source: Flickr

​Today there are more than 20 million people worldwide competing in the sport.

There has been a world championship held every year for the sport since 1981. And in 1995, the International Olympic Committee approved racquetball as an official Pan American Games sport.

Racquetball enthusiasts have high hopes that one day it will be an official Olympic sport too.

The rules of racquetball are established now but they can vary slightly by region or country. Australia, for example, plays the game in a standard international squash court which measures 32 feet by 21 feet. But Americans play in a court that measures 40 feet by 20 feet. The Australians also consider the ceiling to be out of bounds. In America, the ceiling is legally in play.

​The Objective of the Game

As we answer the question of what is racquetball, let’s talk a little about the game’s objective.

In racquetball, your objective is to win rallies by returning the ball or by serving so that your opponent can no longer keep the ball in play.

A rally will be over when a hinder is called. A rally is also over when a player or team doesn’t hit the ball before it bounces twice or when a player or team is unable to return a ball in a way that it hits the front wall before it hits the floor.

​Types of Racquetball Games

You can play racquetball with either two players (singles) or four players (doubles). There is also a variation of the game that you can play with three players called cut-throat.

When you play cut-throat, one of the players serves to the other two opponents. If the server wins a rally, they earn a point. However, if they lose the rally, then one of the other players becomes the server.

​Points and Outs

You score points in racquetball only when you are serving. A point is earned when you serve an irretrievable shot, called an ace, or when you win a rally.

If you are playing doubles, then when the first server loses his serve, the second player on the team will then serve. It’s side out when the second server loses his serve.

​Match, Game, Tiebreaker

You win a match in racquetball by winning two games.

In racquetball, you play the first two games of the match to 15 points. You only need to win the game by one point. If each player wins one game then you will need to play a tiebreaking game. The tiebreaking game goes to 11 points, and you need to win by at least 1 point.

​Equipment You Need for Racquetball

While we’re discussing what is racquetball, you should be aware of the equipment required. One of the things that we love about this sport is that it doesn’t require a bunch of expensive gear and equipment.

Basically you just need four things:

​Health and Fitness Benefits of Playing Racquetball

While we’re talking about what is racquetball, it’s important that you know that there are many health benefits to playing the game.

For one thing, it burns a ton of calories. On average you will burn between 640 and 822 calories per hour of play.

Another thing that we love about the game is that it works nearly every muscle in your body. Because you are using large muscle groups for sustained repetitive motion, you will burn more fat and calories.

Throughout a typical game, each player works at a constant rate of 75 to 85 percent of their maximum heart rate.

An average racquetball game takes about 20 minutes. And in that 20 minutes each player will run a distance of around 3,650 feet. That means you’ll run more than two miles in one hour!

You will get both aerobic and anaerobic benefits from playing racquetball. You will benefit from the sustained high-level heart rate along with the quick bursts of energy.

​Racquetball Tips for Beginners

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses

In order to be successful at racquetball, you are going to have to learn how to diagnose your partner. Take time during your warm-up to find out your opponent’s weaknesses. Are they weak in backhand shots? Do they have trouble with low shots?

During the warm-up make sure that you offer a wide variety of shots and speeds so that you can find where your partner’s weaknesses are. Then take advantage of those weaknesses during gameplay.

​Try to stay in the center of the court

​Avoid your opponent

​Hit to the back court

​But avoid the back wall

​Stop hitting balls into the ground

​​Learn from experienced players and videos

​What Is Racquetball? The Bottom Line

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is racquetball,” hopefully you have a better understanding of this exciting sport.

Before you start practicing you should read through all of the rules of the game. It’s also a good idea to pair up with a more experienced player so that you can learn the proper techniques from the beginning. It’s a lot easier to learn how to hit the right way than to later have to unlearn bad habits.

Now we want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments section below what you think about racquetball. Are you new to the sport? Do you have any great tips for other newbies? Share those with our readers too.

Best of luck with your game!

​Featured Image Source: Unsplash

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