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What is Racquetball?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 23, 2024
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Racquetball is a popular indoor sport, played with wood rackets and a hollow rubber ball. While at first view racquetball seems to incorporate many of the rules of tennis and handball, the truth is that racquetball is a unique sport. Invented in 1951 by Joe Sobek, who was looking for a fast-paced alternative to tennis, it quickly caught on.

By 1952, Sobek had formed the National Paddle Rackets Association and codified the rules of the sport. Because racquetball could be played in existing handball courts, the game easily spread throughout the country. Racquetball hit the peak of its popularity in 1974, with an estimated three million players in the US alone.

While a racquetball court is clearly defined by a series of red lines indicating service and reception areas, the standard rules of inbound and outbound don't apply in a racquetball court. For starters, there are no out-of-bounds areas in the court: the walls, floor, and ceiling are acceptable bouncing areas. The 40 x 20 foot (about 6 x 12 meters) room has a service box and a receiving line, which the players must respect during serve, but there are no other restrictions once the serve has been made.

The rules of racquetball are pretty straightforward. As long as the ball hits the front wall without bouncing on the floor, the serve is valid. The ball is allowed to bounce an unlimited number of times on any walls and on the ceiling before touching the front wall, as long as it never reaches the ground. A point can only be scored by the server, either because the ball is not returned by the opposite player or because the ball bounces on the floor before reaching the front wall. Points can also be scored if the ball hits a player, or if a player switches hands during a rally or touches the ball with his or her body.

Racquetball is usually played by two players, though some variations include up to four. Players can choose to make offensive or defensive shots, which are defined by the height and speed at which the ball is struck against the wall. Offensive shots aim for the low corner, making it difficult for the opposite player to reach the ball before it hits the ground. Defensive shots are aimed primarily to the ceiling, based on the idea that this will make the ball bounce deep into the court, usually traveling over the player.

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Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By Sinbad — On Nov 19, 2011

I have actually only seen racquetball played in movies and in the gym, I have never played myself. It looks like it would be a lot of fun, and easy to get a game together since it only requires two people to play.

I like that racquetball has limited amount of rules, as a lot of rules can be overwhelming and exhausting to try to remember.

Racquetball seems like a very fast-paced and fun sport. It seems like a good way to both get in shape and have a good time.

By manykitties2 — On Nov 19, 2011

My friend and I just started playing racquetball at our community center and was wondering if anyone can recommend some good equipment for beginners?

Right now we are using racquetball gloves and racquets on loan from the center, but we would really like to get our own. While we appreciate the equipment loan, the stuff is kind of old, so I doubt we are getting the full experience playing with items that have seen better days.

Also, do you think that any racket would be OK for a beginner, or should they be a certain weight or size? We're not really sure where to start when it comes to buying equipment. We just want something new.

By MrSmirnov — On Nov 19, 2011

When I first started playing racquetball at my local gym I didn't really know any of the racquetball rules and just enjoyed going into the court for a serious cardio workout. After my friends got involved though we started to take things more seriously and recently won our first racquetball tournament.

While the racquetball tournament was a small one, it was still a great feeling to be doing something athletic with a bit or recognition at the end. Now I am looking forward to improving my racquetball serve so that my parter and I will do even better in the next competition.

By gravois — On Nov 18, 2011

I have always been interested in racquetball and would like to play more but it seems really expensive.

You have to buy the racquetball racket and the special racquetball balls. Then you often have to join a racquetball club that has specialized courts. Often times these will have some kind of racquetball shop that sells all kinds of racquetball gear and clothes and equipment that you never even knew you needed.

It is a great game but after a while is begins to seem kind of classist. There is a reason that you don't see many poor people playing golf and racquetball.

By nextcorrea — On Nov 17, 2011

I play racquetball twice a week with a good friend of mine at a club we both belong to.

Up until just a few years ago I had never played racquetball but now I am hooked. I really look forward to those weekly games and I can feel it if for some reason they get canceled.

Racquetball is great exercise and it gets the heart racing and the muscles growing. I have lost almost 15 pounds since I started playing regularly.

I also just love the game. There is so much skill and strategy involved. There is a big tournament coming up at the club and i think I have a decent shot of winning.

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
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