Racquetball Rapid Fire

A look into the game of racquetball
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Racquetball is a rapid-fire game that’s basically easy to learn. It’s loaded with challenges and strategy while being an intense workout rallying with a hard rubber ball.

Joseph Sobek is credited with inventing racquetball. A professional tennis and handball player from Greenwich, Conn., he was frustrated by a lack of indoor sports so he created a game in 1949 called paddle racquets. Eventually it came to be racquetball, a vigorous sport with millions of competitors across the globe.

The game is played on an enclosed court with either two players pitted against each other or four players in a doubles match.

According to New Hampshire Racquetball Association president Chris Zalegowski, getting started is fairly inexpensive with lower-end racquets for about $25, a can of racquetballs a few dollars and eye guards costing some $10. Zalegowski says eyewear is a critical piece of equipment players should never play without. Players often wear gloves for a firm grip. An indoor court or tennis shoe or racquetball specific shoe is worn.

“There are definitely more expensive alternatives but are not necessary until you reach a higher level,” he says.

As for the court, they’re found in cities like Nashua, Concord and Portsmouth. Generally courts are open to health club members but there are also guest day passes. Though racquetball is a year-round sport, many players tend to gravitate outdoors for other pursuits in warmer weather. The state tournament season is from September to April.

And if you’re interested in learning how to play, the NHRA is a good first stop for information.

“The racquetball scene overall is very exciting and we have some very passionate players, club owners, juniors and enthusiasts who love the sport and the energy that surrounds it,” says Zalegowski.

So join in.


San Diego tennis pro Bob McInerny coined the term racquetball, which became its official name in 1969.

Expert Advice: Chris Zalegowski

Manchester’s Chris Zalegowski is president of the New Hampshire Racquetball Association, an organization that promotes the sport and oversees organized racquetball throughout New Hampshire. He is a former nationally ranked open player.

Can you tell me a bit about the New Hampshire racquetball scene? Racquetball in NH has a very strong following of energetic people from all walks of life that have a strong passion for competition, exercise and social camaraderie. We currently have more than00 10 racquetball clubs within the state that host junior programs, socials, tournaments, clinics, and leagues. We average about 12 racquetball tournaments per year.

Is racquetball like tennis? There are a lot of similarities between the two sports but the truth is they are fundamentally different in terms of mechanics, scoring, strategy and equipment. Racquetball is a much faster game (ball speeds over 150 mph) in a smaller court size (20 ft. wide by 40 ft. long). The time between rallies is shorter (which keeps your heart rate elevated throughout the match) and you are always moving frantically and changing directions in the blink of an eye.

How are games and matches scored? Games are played best 2 out of 3 to 15 and a tiebreaker to 11. Score is kept very much like volleyball where only the server can score. You can go 10 minutes or longer without scoring a point.

What’s the best way to learn? Get onto a court and play. The shotgun-like sound of the ball hitting the front wall is energizing. No one would ever think chasing a little blue ball would be so much fun. However, there is a lot of moving body parts when playing racquetball so it is highly recommend you get a lesson from someone who knows and understands the game to avoid injury to yourself and to your opponent and also to learn the basic fundamentals of the game.

What type of athlete is drawn to the sport? All types of people of any age and skill level are attracted to this sport for a variety of reasons. Racquetball can burn between 600-800 calories per hour and it works every major muscle in your body. It is a full body workout and it is fun to do.

During doubles, doesn’t it get kind of cramped on the court? Absolutely. To play doubles effectively you have to be aware of where everyone is at all times. Understanding the rules and knowing what shots your opponents are allowed to take will help you determine where on the court you should be while a rally is in progress. But the most important thing to know is that safety comes first. If you are unsure where your partner and/or opponents are, then don’t take the shot. Simply hold up and replay the rally.

If I join a league, how do you challenge other players? Most leagues are flex leagues, which means you call your opponent up and schedule a time to play your match. We have found this to be the easiest way to run leagues. After your match you record your scores and then the following week you schedule your next match. Usually at the end the top four players with the most points enter a playoff to determine the league champion.

Gear Box

Racquetballs come in a variety of colors. The Pro Penn Green ($3.75 for can of 3 balls) gets accolades for its visibility and durability. Widely used in tournament play.

The aluminum Wilson Zombie ($19.99 racquet) is an affordable option for a beginner manufactured by a respected company.

The lightweight goggle-styled Impulse from Head ($9.99) offers comfort and eye protection at a reasonable price.

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