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Whatever happened to racquetball?

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Smallpotatoes, Aug 21, 2006.

  1. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    This week, I interviewed an 81-year-old racquetball player. We both lamented how the sport isn't anywhere near as popular as it was in the '70s and '80s.
    When I was in middle school and high school (and later, college), there were courts everywhere and waiting lists to get on those courts. There was also a pro tour with somewhat famous players like Marty Hogan on it.
    In the '90s it seemed like interest in the game kind of died out. Now there are nowhere near as many courts as there once were.
    In my early 20s I belonged to a club that had courts. I never played as much as I would have liked, but I really enjoyed the game. It was a decent workout and a lot of fun. I had a hard time playing the ball off the back wall, however.
    Anybody still play and does anybody know why it's a dying or dead sport?
  2. Ledbetter

    Ledbetter Active Member

    Good question.

    I played some when I was younger, though tennis was always my primary sport. The club I belong to has a few courts, but I haven't used them. I don't know if it's because people want to be outside or because it's maybe one of those sports that parents need to pass on to their kids.

    The guys I know who do play it are diehards who play during lunch at the Y three days a week.
  3. azom

    azom Member

    There's a group of about five of us from my paper who played consistently during the winter. I introduced most of them to it.... I quickly fell from first to fifth on the skill level.

    That said, I think it's tougher to start the game now than it was. There's not too many beginners out there. The folks doing it, mostly, have been at it for a while now.
  4. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    Maybe because the only way to play is to pay dues to join a club?
  5. Claws for Concern

    Claws for Concern Active Member

    Weird that I still see racquetball courts around town where I am and they're always not being used.

    Kind of like the last few years that some of the places that once had tennis courts are now roller hockey rinks.
  6. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Really good question. When I was in college in the late 80s, we used to play every week. You had to sign up well in advance to reserve a court. It was pretty popular. I haven't played much since. My gym, which I am leaving for a new gym this week, has squash courts, which some people play racquetball on. But I have played maybe a handful of times the last few years. I don't know why I don't play more. By the way, squash is a sport I just don't get.
  7. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    The original question wouldn't make a bad feature story BTW.
  8. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    Ragu, how can you play racquetball and not "get" squash?

    Racquetball is essentially a simpler, easier to play form of squash.

    It's squash with instant gratification. Very North American.
  9. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    You hit the nail on the head. It's the instant gratification. You wail on a racquetball and run your ass off trying to catch up to this bouncy thing that is richocheting all over the place. Squash is nothing like that. The ball is hard and moves slowly. There is a lot of skill involved, but it is just incongruous to me. In a ball and racquet sport, when you slam the hell out of the ball, it should fly and then bounce up at high velocity. A squash ball deadens when it bounces.
  10. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    A 1998 article from Rubber & Plastics News:

    Racquetball took a big hit in national participation during the past decade, but thanks to a core group of fanatical players, the sport is surviving the decline.

    In 1987, racquetball had 10.4 million American participants who played at least once per year, according to the American Sports Analysis, an annual survey conducted by American Sports Data Inc. of Hartsdale, N.Y.

    But by 1993, national racquetball participation had dipped 28.8 percent to 7.4 million, and by 1997 was down 40.4 percent to 6.2 million, the survey said.

    Much of the participation decline was ...



    According to a Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, racquetball participation was up 13.5% from 2003 to 2004.

    Reasons for Racquetballs Growth
    Web Racquetball believes much of the increase may be attributed to the surge of new Mega-Fitness Clubs across the country that have built racquetball courts for their members.


    You can buy their 2006 report for $125!



    Here's a NYT article from Chris Ballard in 2000 that has a bit of history of raquetball participation:


    Aerobics knocked it out of favor in the '80s and '90s, but the slide halted by the time this article came out.
  11. JR

    JR Well-Known Member

    There's actually two squash games. When I first started playing--sometime around the early 70's--I played the "American game" where the court was smaller and the ball was hard as hell and each shot was like hitting a fastball. Then the "international" game came into favour--I don't know anyone who still plays hardball squash and the soft ball turned it into a finesse game. I guess it's chess compared to checkers.

    I loved playing (haven't done if a few years) and still think it's the best 45 minute competitive workout you can get.

    I played some racquetball and quite frankly, found it boring.
  12. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Damn. Never saw this thread before the crash ...

    I play racquetball a little. Emphasis on little.

    I have my own racquet, a cheap $30 one from Big 5, but enough to keep me playing. The public gym (owned by the county) that I'm a member of has six courts in decent shape, and there's a dedicated group of firefighters and city workers that come in 1-2x/week and play during the lunch hour(s).

    But they're on the All-Madden level, and I'm on rookie level, so I can't play with them. And none of my friends have ever played it, so it's hard to find someone to play with.

    So to get a good workout when I want to smack the ball around, I devised my own "rules" to play solo. It's very subjective, but basically a variation of the baseball-based "wall games" that I came up with as a kid.

    I play three "innings," top and bottom halves, and keep score for both "teams."

    When I'm pitching (top half-inning): I serve it as hard as I can. If the ball gets past me on the first bounce, the other team gets a home run. If it gets past me on 3 bounces, it's a triple. 5 is a double and 7 is a single. If I hit it 10 times in a row without it getting past me, it's an out. ... 3 outs, end of inning. Ghost-runner rules apply! ;)

    When I'm hitting (bottom half-inning): I serve it as hard as I can. If the ball gets past me on the first bounce, it's a strikeout. If it gets past me on 5 bounces, it's an out. If I hit it 7x in a row, it's a single. 10 is a double. 12 is a triple. 15 is a homer.

    I'm not in "game" shape, so it's hard as fuck for me to run around for 15 straight volleys and get a home run. (Sometimes I cheat, especially if I'm losing late.)

    Also, my bullpen sucks.

    Three innings usually takes about 45 minutes or so. Pure running around the court, no time to rest during a point because you have to follow your own shots. Helluva workout. I love it.
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