December 2019 Newsletter

As we say farewell to 2019, we are excited to share about some upcoming goals and events for 2020. Behind the scenes the USA Racketlon Board is working to help grow the sport and bring more opportunities to players in North America to compete on home soil. In addition to reading about what is in store for 2020, enjoy this months’ Coaches Cornersection, focused on “Racketlon Tennis”. We also caught up with Shree Dhond and were able to hear about his first time trip to World Championships last month. In this month’s Call to Action we want to hear of your interest in representing USA at the 2020 World Champs in the Netherlands in August 2020 – all skill levels welcome and encouraged! 

Announcements

MA Racket Masters Registration is now open

We are proud to announce that the 4th Annual Massachusetts Racket Masters will take place April 11-12th, 2020. Registration is now open! For those who aren’t familiar with this tournament. It is the original USA Racketlon tournament and the only North American tournament that is on the FIR World Tour. In past years, top players from Canada, England and Hong Kong have come to Northampton, MA to compete. If you have any questions about the tournament, contact tournament director, Andy Stenson at astenson@fourriverscharter.org

Follow the link here to register!

2020 North American Tournament Preview 

Last month we shared a preview of the 2020 FIR World Tour. Check out the full list that has been released on racketlon.net. This month we are happy to share the current dates for any 2020 North American tournaments. For the full list of North American tournaments, check out Racketlon Canada’s website: HERE. As more tournaments are added throughout the year, we will share any updates in future newsletters. 

DateTournamentLocation
Feb 22, 2020Granby RacketlonGranby, QC [Canada]
Mar 28-29, 2020*Battle of the RacketsRochester, NY [U.S.A]
April 11-12, 2020Massachusetts Racket Masters 2020Northampton, MA [U.S.A]
May 16-18, 2020Mississauga RacketlonMississauga, ON [Canada]

USA World Championships 2019 Experience (Shree Dhond)

Shree Dhond represented Team USA at the FIR World Championships last month. He helped to propel USA to a 4thplace finish in the Challenger Cup.Read first hand below about his experience. 

In November, I had the pleasure of joining the USA Racketlon National Team to compete in the 2019 Racketlon World Championships in Leipzig, Germany. As a first timer on the international stage, it was reassuring to play with an experienced team, including captain Patrick Moran, Katrin Maldre, Emil Patel, and Steve de Luca. Throughout the competition, we fought with strategy and persistence. And while we brought forth a diverse skill set, we all shared a common competitive spirit and sense of sportsmanship.

As I reflect on the event, one notable takeaway comes to mind. Racketlon at the highest levels is a humbling experience. While I personally struggled with squash relative to other sports, this was a very common experience for many players. Competitors who may play one of the sports at a national level and dominate during competition will likely get bested at one or two of the other sports. This is the great equalizer in Racketlon, which not only grounds many of the athletes we met and competed with in Leipzig, but also gives everyone a continual drive to learn and improve. In this vein, I feel more energized than ever to get back on the court and keep practicing.

I’m very proud of the U.S. for a strong showing and coming away with 4th place in the Challenger Cup. Until next year!

2020 USA Racketlon Goals 

As we have shared over the past few months, growing the sport of Racketlon in the United States is our top goal. In 2020, we plan to continue to build awareness through social media and monthly newsletters. In addition, stay tuned for an announcement regarding our “revamped” website. We hope to make the website a valuable source for all players to find key information. Another goal for 2020 is to send two or more teams to FIR World Championships. Other countries bring several teams and we feel it is our time to have a strong representation at Worlds. President, Patrick Moran will share an informational sheet in the coming months that will include what you need to know about Worlds. Last, but not least, we are going to push our marketing campaign. Our objective here is to start by reaching out to colleges and universities to build awareness and relationships. If we can get more students and staff aware of our sport, we hope to attract players and discover future tournament venues. If you have any suggestions on who we should contact, please email usaracketlon@gmail.com!

Call to Action: World Championships

Last month we added the Call to Action section to the newsletter because we want to hear from you! This month, we would like to hear your thoughts on participating at the World Championships, representing Team USA. This tournament is multi-leveled and teams consist of five players. There are two male singles matches, one women’s singles match and a doubles match (predominantly men’s doubles). Each sport within a match is played to 11 points and points are totaled as a collective team. Other countries send multiple teams, who participate at many different levels. Our goal for 2020 is to send at least two full teams. Our question to all of you is, are you interested?! If so, what additional information are you looking for to help make your decision easier? Please send your thoughts to usaracketlon@gmail.com

Coaches Corner: Tennis – A Set of Games to A Set of Points (Justin D’Antonio)

This month we will discuss adapting your tennis game to be most effective for Racketlon. One of the few distinctions between Racketlon and its 4 component sports is the scoring, and this is nowhere more prevalent than the set of tennis! In a regular set of tennis, you may be able to go for a full force forehand winner or a big second serve, knowing you have the rest of your service game to recover if unsuccessful. In a Racketlon set, when every single error you make counts as a point against you, you may not be so apt to take risks. Massachusetts Racket Master’s 2019 Men’s A singles finalist, Allen Fitzsimmons, said “tennis is completely different from ‘Racketlon tennis’”!

In the classic tennis format, there are major shifts in momentum and aggressive play depending on which player is serving. A player may try to attack with a low percentage serve return if they are playing a stronger player who they do not expect to break, because they have nothing to lose! In Racketlon tennis, it’s better to be slightly more conservative and return serve with higher percentage shots – to try to get into a rally. If you are the weaker player in tennis, the more shots you keep in play increases your opponents’ likelihood of making an error. As the stronger player, it may be easy to lose patience with a slower rate of play and try to end the point early, but the best way to take advantage of your skill differential is by playing a safe offensive game and working the point until you have the opportunity to hit a very low-risk winner. But what does a ‘low risk’ point look like? How do you win a point by playing safe? Let’s take a look!

It is a shame that retired professional tennis player Brad Gilbert is past his prime, as his mindset and play-style would have worked flawlessly in the game of Racketlon! In his book Winning Ugly, which I highly recommend, he speaks extensively about how to maximize what you’re doing on the court. Brad has coached beginners all the way up to number 1 world ranked player Andre Agassi, but this message applies to all of them: 

Don’t try to be perfect, you have to learn to just be good enough.

Accepting your game, as what you have, will allow you to make a game plan to get the most points possible. This means choosing what shot to hit per situation that most often forces your opponent to hit their weakest shots into your strongest shots. For example, if your backhand is weaker, be willing to play more of your forehand shots crosscourt, because if you hit down the line on your forehand side, it gives your opponent a much easier opportunity to play a shot cross court to your backhand with an angle where the ball will be moving away from you. Or if you are playing a pusher who loves to reflect back all your offensive shots from ten feet behind the baseline, focus on consistency not power. To attack a pusher, you may first need to play a midcourt ball that will double-bounce inside the baseline to pull them in, and pounce while they are out of position! If you are interested in studying more strategies and plays that you can implement during matches based on your strengths and the style of your opponent, check out  The Singles Playbook by Fuzzy Yellow Balls.

When you go for a winning shot, make sure you give yourself a margin for error, since missing the shot is an immediate point for your opponent. Don’t aim to paint the line, use the rule of 4’s; give the ball 4 feet of space over the net and aim your shot for 4X4 foot zones on the court. If tennis is your newest sport as a beginner to Racketlon, your best long-term path will be to get as much time on the court working on your serve and groundstrokes, developing a consistent motion and adding as much topspin as you are comfortable with to get the ball to arc back down to the court as you hit harder. In the short-term, it may help to practice simplifying your strokes for when you are under pressure from a tennis specialist. The spin and speed they generate may affect your balance and timing, so a quicker, flatter swing should compensate and keep you in the point longer. 

Brad Gilbert says the quicker you move to the ball, the more options you have, and the better chance you have to win. Not all players are blessed with relentless speed though, so preparation is just as important. Moving back to the center of the court immediately after every shot and split-stepping as your opponent hits the ball allows you to react to your opponent’s shot the quicker. If you do have speed but are not as strong of a tennis player, try standing deeper behind the baseline as well to give you more time to track down and set up for a return. Note this may not work if your opponent is hitting wide angles because you will have to cover MUCH more ground. In this case, developing a slice is effective because the stroke is less complex, the backspin makes it tougher to attack, and it slows down the rally, giving you time to recover when your opponent hits a shot that pulls you out of position.

Tennis is a game of numbers, in and outside of Racketlon, but the odds change slightly when every winner and every error you make immediately go right on the scoreboard. Racketlon is the ultimate sport of comebacks, so whether you step on the court to a huge deficit or are neck-to-neck against your greatest rival, you need to have a plan of action that applies pressure but still makes the opponent earn every point they get! Check out the videos below, and try out some of these strategies next time you get out to hit some tennis balls. Happy New Year!

Player Spotlight – Steve de Luca

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This month we were able to catch up with 2019 Team USA member, Steve de Luca. Enjoy learning about Steve and his Racketlon journey.

Steve currently lives in Chicago with his wife and three boys. Prior to moving to Chicago in 1987, he spent time in Canada and Italy. He was born in Montreal, Canada and lived there until the age of four. At the age of four his family moved to Northern Italy, where he spent the next 10 years. He then moved back to Toronto, Canada and completed high school, undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Province of Ontario. In 1987, Steve moved to Chicago to purse a broader global career.

Steve started playing Racketlon exactly two years ago. He describes his history with Racketlon as a “progressive addiction”. He first heard about Racketlon from a Wall Street Journal article. He had been thinking of some greater athletic challenge – like a triathlon – but when he heard of Racketlon he knew that would be the ticket. He entered into the 55+ tournament in Mississauga, Canada in 2017 and fell in love with the sport.

Steve is the only one in his family to play racket sports but this hasn’t stopped him. He started playing tennis in the mid- 60s where he used wooden Slazenger and Dunlop rackets. Now he plays in 2 singles leagues and a doubles league at a 4.0-4.5 level. He has come a long way from wooden-racket tennis, and if pressed he’d say that tennis is his best racket sport and the one he plays most often. While in Toronto, one of North America’s big squash capitals, Steve played some serious squash starting in 1983. He has played hardball squash and international squash at C and B levels. Currently he now plays about once a week, and tries to play in an occasional tournament. He grew up playing table tennis outdoors in Italy against all the German tourists, where he found that he could beat them with a flip-flop rather than a TT bat. After moving back to Canada, he joined what became the second largest TT club in Canada, in Mississauga. He practiced 3-4 days a week, entered tournaments, got a rating of 1840, received a top 10 rating as a U18 junior and later played for his university team. He took a long siesta from TT until Racketlon in 2017! Steve played badminton in high school but stopped playing until picking up Racketlon. Steve considers badminton his worst racket sport and jokes that he is always looking for the “Goodminton” to show up in his game. He now practices once or twice a week during the 75% of time he is not traveling around the world for business. He shared “I look for excuses for not going to practice, and my wife notes I’m always complaining about it. Remember, she’s always right.”

Steve had the opportunity to represent Team USA at the World Championships in Germany this November. We asked him about his experience and he said “I was truly blessed and thankful for Racketlon USA, and its members, for inviting me to be a part of Team USA. I enjoyed the relationships built with each team member, both athletically and personally, very much. It was an honor I’ll never forget, and am eternally indebted to the team for this great pleasure. Perhaps the best moment in Leipzig was during the US National Anthem. For the first time ever, I heard it as a participant and country representative, rather than just as a spectator. Every team member fought for every single point, holding up the Racketlon reality that every point is sudden-death critical! I was fortunate to also win two of my three matches in the 60+ age bracket. As fate would have it, I was beaten by a Canadian guy who came from my home town of Montreal but I’ll be back at him in 2020!”

Check out Steve at his local clubs:
• TT: Wheeling Park District and Vernon Hills Park District clubs
• Badminton: Shannon Paul Badminton Academy
• Squash: Lifetime Fitness
• Tennis: College Park Athletic Club

Please share any recommendations for future featured players to usaracketlon@gmail.com.

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