How do you play racquetball? If you are looking to understand the basics of the official racquetball rules, here’s an exhaustive guide from our racquetball expert.
Racquetball, a ball game that is very popular in the USA and also known as Paddleball, is probably most similar to the game of squash. (you can check the differences between squash and racquetball here).
It’s a very fast game and you need to be super-fit to play, although you can get super-fit the more you play. It’s a game that is played in a court that has four walls and a ceiling.
There is no net, all four walls and the ceiling are used and there is a painted line on the forward facing wall that serves as the net. Players use racquets and a ball and the strokes are very similar to tennis shots, but the similarity almost ends there.
We’re going to tell you a little more about the sport, which will hopefully get you thinking that yes, you want to learn how to play racquetball and its official rules.
The Origins of Racquetball
Racquetball was first played in the USA around 1920. It was created by Joseph G. Sobek, a professional tennis player, who thought up a game that could be like tennis but played indoors (there were no covered or indoor tennis courts at that time) and also, not take as long.
He looked at tennis and handball and came up with racquetball, a game that could be accessible to many players. The game took off and slowly, racquetball courts were built into sports clubs and at colleges, and the rest is history.
Racquetball became a professional sport in 1969 and the International Racquetball Association was formed.
How’s Racquetball Now?
Racquetball is a much loved sport, and a sport that is well followed and well regulated.
There are competitions and tournaments, annual world championships and the sport is being considered for the Olympic Games, giving it a whole lot more kudos. It’s a fun game, an energetic game, a competitive game and one that requires skill and dedication – you should give it a try.
Now we are going to look at how to play racquetball.
The Rules of Racquetball
To play racquetball you do need to go somewhere where there is a regular racquetball court (a sports club or racquet ball club), own a racquetball racquet although many places have them for hire, and own a rubber racquetball ball.
These are also available for hire. Then you need the right attire – regular sports clothing with a pair of sports shoes – and a lot of energy and a little competitive drive.
There are slightly different rules in different countries. We are going to give you the American rules.
- Play on a racquetball court that is 40 feet x 20 feet and 20 feet long.
- You can play on a squash court too, 32 feet x 21 feet.
- All four walls can be used, as well as the ceiling.
- The game can be played as singles, two players, or doubles, four players.
- There is a short line in the middle of the court, 20 feet from the back and the front wall.
- The back section is divided into two halves, one for the server and the other for the receiver.
- There is ‘serving boxes’ on both sides of the court, behind the middle line.
- Once the serve is cast, the whole court is open for both players.
- The serve must reach the front wall, over the line, without a bounce.
- The serve must rebound back over the front line without a bounce.
- The side wall have higher lines than the front wall and the ball must be below these high lines.
- The back wall does not have any limits, neither does the ceiling
What Does the Term, ‘once the ball is in play’ Mean?
It implies it has been served from one side, over the line of the front wall, rebounding without bouncing before the middle line, it is then open play.
Players make use of both sides of the court, any part of the court, and all the walls and ceilings. The ball must be hit towards the front wall, but can be done in such a way that it rounds to the side walls, or front the side walls.
The ball can bounce once only, or not at all if the player prefers to volley, and must stay within the lines where there are lines.
If you want to learn how to play racquetball without a coach, it’s a good idea to watch a few online racquetball tutorials or go and what a few games where you can see exactly how do you play racquetball.
It’s not complicated at all but it is easier to learn the game by watching, rather than by reading about it.
What is the Objective of Racquetball?
Players want to win rallies.
A rally starts with the serve and continues until one player make a mistake – does not return the ball after one bounce only, hits the ball below the front facing wall line, or above the side wall lines. A player will also lose a rally if the ball does not make it to the front wall, before any of the other walls.
You only get points when you serve. When you lose your serve, the serve goes to the opponent.
If you want to know what are racquetball double rules, they differ slightly in that both team members get to serve, before the opponents get to serve.
This means if one player on a team serves and wins, he keeps serving. If he serves and loses, the serve goes to his doubles partner. Only when he loses his serve, does the serve go to the opponents.
Racquetball is a really quick game. Think of it, the rubber ball is rebounding from all four walls and the ceiling. Players need to be speedy on their feet, while also mindful of not crashing into the other player.
How to Score in Racquetball?
- Each game is made up of 15 points.
- You can win a game with a lead of just 1 point, i.e., 15 / 14 gives you the win.
- Matches are the best of three games.
- The last game, if there is a third one, is best of 11 points, and also needs a 1 point win.
- When you win a serve, you win a point.
- When you lose a serve, no points are scored.
What Happens if Ball Hits Opponent’s Body?
Depending on the situation, a ball hitting an opponent could lead to different outcomes. A dead-ball hinder occurs if a player is hit by a return shot but if the shot doesn’t possess the momentum/velocity to get to the front wall, it won’t be termed as a hinder.
The rally will be lost by by the player hitting the ball.
Any player who gets hit has the right to stop the rally but that needs to be done immediately. In come cases, the hit can be deemed as avoidable. Point is replayed in case a rally is deemed to be a dead ball hinder.
Much like this, play in racquetball will be stopped as soon as the ball hits anything which has been defined as a court hinder before the start of the match.
Body contact in racquetball can become a cause for a hinder if it results in the rally stopping in order to prevent an injury or it stopped a player from making a return. However, racquet touch on follow-through isn’t a hinder on most occasions.
What are Avoidable Hinders?
There are multiple ways in which an avoidable hinder can happen but all of them lead to one conclusion, a loss of the rally. An avoidable hinder isn’t always an intentional one.
Below are the ways in which an avoidable hinder can happen:
- Failure to move
- Stroke interference
- Blocking & Pushing
- Intentional distraction
- Obstruction of the view
- Equipment/apparel loss
- Ball hit out of the court
Who can play Racquetball?
As soon as you can hold a racquetball and understand the rules of the game and how is racquetball played, you can play the sport. No, seriously.
It’s a good idea to learn how to serve and how to do a forehand, backhand, volley or smash, which most players have already learned in tennis.
You don’t have to be a tennis player at all to play racquetball, and there is much more wrist action in racquetball than in tennis, but the shots are similar. If you can play tennis, you can play racquetball!
Looking for the rules of other sports similar to racquetball? You can find all of them here.