Hello – below is the third installment of our new USA Racketlon Newsletter. If you have any feedback or stories to share for next month, please let us know! Enjoy!
October was focused on USA Racketlon development and FIR World Championship preparation. Patrick Moran sat down with “Thirty Love” podcast, hosted by Carl Bialik, to discuss what racketlon is and the future of the sport here in the United States; learn more about his interview below. In addition, this month we decided to add a new section to the newsletter that is focused on player development that will include tips and tricks each month regarding one or more of the racketlon sports. Learn more about FUNdamentals in this month’s Coaches Corner.
With the FIR World Championships less than a month away, Team USA is getting ready to compete. We announced our team on social media on October 12th. FIR re-shared our post on their international platform. Long story short, the world will be waiting. Be on the lookout on Instagram and Facebook for updates on Team USA throughout the World Championships.
Team USA 2019
Headed to FIR World Championships from the United States this year is a unique team – from highly experienced players to beginners. We are very proud and excited! Learn more about each of the members of Team USA below:
Introducing USA Racketlon’s 2019 National Team:
· Team Captain – Patrick Moran: 2019 will be Pat’s second World Championship appearance. At the 2018 WCs Pat went 4-0 in team play. Pat is from Detroit, MI and currently lives in New York City. When asked his favorite racquet sport he was undecided – he loves them all!
· Katrin Maldre: 2019 is Katrin’s third World Championship appearance. Katrin represented the United States in Switzerland at the 2018 WCs and in Bulgaria at the 2012 WCs. Katrin currently resides outside of Chicago, IL. Check out our player spotlight below for more about Katrin.
· Emil Patel: Emil will be returning to the WC stage for the second year in a row. Last year he had a 2-2 record. This East Hanover, NJ native prefers squash.
· Steve de Luca: This will be Steve’s first appearance on the World Championship stage. Steve is from Chicago, IL and prefers any racket sport but table tennis is bottom on his list.
· Shree Dhond: Rounding out Team USA is Shree Dhond from Easton, CT. Shree will be making his first world championship appearance. Shree’s favorite sport is table tennis, perfect balance to compliment Steve!
The way the tournament is shaping up, Team USA will be in the same group as teams from Great Britain, India, Austria, Germany and Afghanistan! Best of luck to Team USA!
“Thirty Love” Podcast
Earlier this month, new USA Racketlon president Patrick Moran had the privilege to sit down with tennis podcast “Thirty Love” to discuss racketlon. Patrick shared that the moderator, Carl Bialik, did a great job of leading the conversation and keeping him on task. Bialik has great content out on the “Thirty Love” podcast and has written for the Wall Street Journal and FiveThirtyEight. Check out the complete interview here – “Thirty Love” podcast.
Looking for Sponsors and Tournament Venues
As shared last month, we are continually looking for opportunities to develop relationships with sponsors to help develop the sport here in the United States. If anyone has any connections with nutrition, fitness, apparel or racket sport vendors and sponsors please let us know. Also, anyone who has any connections to companies that would be interested in sponsoring our events and/or Team USA, please let us know.
In addition to sponsors, we are also looking for new players and venues for tournaments. If anyone has any new players that would like to be included on our communications or if you know of some ideal venues for tournaments, please let us know and we will work to assist in any way necessary. Thank you for your help and support.
Coaches Corner: FUNdamentals (Justin D’Antonio)
Hi folks and welcome to Coach’s Corner! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Justin D’Antonio and I love to WHACK (balls over nets). Join me here as I share the competitive skills I have learned in the sport of racketlon, each of its components individually, and occasionally some other awesome racket-sports I have discovered along the way! Every month we will focus on one aspect of one racket sport that has helped to transform my game and make me a more proficient whacker! The subject of this month: racketlon fundamentals!
Based on my experience, I have found that the best way to get to the next level in any racket sport is to go back to the basics and perfect the building blocks of your game. Breaking things down step-by-step is the easiest and arguably the most efficient way to improve your game. When training for a sport like racketlon, time is valuable and efficient training is important. There are worlds of differences between each racket sport but the fundamentals we must develop parallel in importance: serve, footwork, forehand, backhand, strategy, and fitness.
Service is the first hit of the ball in any racket sport you play, and it is first on this list due to that and its integral importance. The serve sets the tone for every point played and is the one time when a player has complete control over how the ball is played. A good serve can immediately put the server in a winning position by forcing the opponent to hit a weaker shot or even an error, while the opposite is true of a poor service. In addition, if you miss your serve, you immediately lose the point to the opponent*, and you CANNOT give your opponent free points in racketlon. In tennis and table tennis, a majority of points are 4 hits or less, meaning the serve makes up more than 25% of the average rally! The serve is also one of the easiest things to practice on your own… all you need is a court! Thus, service should always be near the top of your list for training in each racket sport. Additional resources for perfecting your service game are below:
Footwork is often an afterthought in racket sports, as people try to get the ‘perfect swing’ or hit the ball with more power first… This may impress your opponent but without footwork, your execution will go out the window under pressure. Footwork should be considered when developing every part of a players’ game in any racket-sport! It is crucial not only to cover shots hit all over the court, but to achieve the highest shot quality by maintaining your balance, saving your energy and aligning your body in a consistent way to hit the ball with power and accuracy. Footwork should be trained on and off the court because a good match can be very taxing on the body, so having the energy left in the end of squash or tennis can make the difference if you need to grind out a few points! When your movement to the ball is clean and natural, this makes the transition between sports smoother. We will cover footwork in depth for many shots in different sports in future letters, but here are some links to start with:
Forehand & Backhand (Strokes) – The ‘meat’ of any point in a racket sport consists of what tennis players call ‘groundstrokes’ but the way in which you stroke the ball is drastically different from one racket sport to the next. Tennis is mostly played with topspin strokes, squash is mostly backspin, badminton is pretty much no spin, and table tennis uses every type of spin you can think of! The swing of the racket in each sport has gradually evolved over time based on the dimensions of the court, the technology used in rackets and the technique of the top players in each era. What each racket sport shares is that the forehand tends to be preferred while backhands tend to be considered a weakness. Regardless of your abilities, we will talk in the coming months about how to capitalize on your strengths, protect your weaknesses and improve the quality of both!
Watch this video about the forehands of the four sports by Canada’s beloved champion, Jeremy Easterbrook! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zntXNXJPR48
TT Backhand – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-gQutk9tgo
Badminton Backhand – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYpfNE48SDo&t=367s
Squash Backhand – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAFNl975Myw
Strategy includes court positioning, shot-choice, deception, and other psychosocial mind-games that go on in and between points in any head-to-head-sport. Racket sports offer an unlimited psychological challenge on their own but racketlon is a whole different beast with the added dynamic of optimizing your game and picking apart the opponent in four different sports! On top of all this, we will talk about handling high-pressure situations like coming back from a big point deficit or playing the dreaded gummi-arm point! We will have input here from Alan Chu, PhD. in Sport Psychology and ITTF Level 1 coach!
Fitness–I put this last not because it is least important, but more so because I consider it the “caboose” of the fundamentals, with over-arching positive effects on every part of your game if done correctly. Exercise, stretching and dieting will increase your explosiveness, longevity on the court and prevent injuries that will keep you out of the game (trust me, I know injuries). It may not always be fun but look out for future issues regarding proper physical preparation of the legs, core and arms for each sport, along with proper nutrition to get you to the end of a tournament in one piece!
We can improve each of these fundamental building blocks by training the following four quality aspects: consistency, technique, variety, and power. Every month I will provide resources for you to indulge in the topic further as well as routines or drills for you to work into your training time on or off the court! If you are limited in your training resources, never fear, I will also share my tips and tricks on how to work around the limitations and obstacles of the every-day citizen striving for racketlon glory, Stay tuned for a boat-load of racket-sport knowledge and feel free to shoot me an email if you have any feedback or a recommendation for a future Coach’s Corner subject.
Player Spotlight – Katrin Maldre
We are proud to announce that this month we were able to catch up with the #1 USA female competitor and World Champion, Katrin Maldre! Enjoy learning about one of our most experienced and decorated players.
Katrin was born in Tallinn, Estonia and came to the United States in 1995 for a master’s program. During her studies, she married her husband and has stayed in the US since. Currently she lives in Oak Park, Illinois, which is part of the Greater Chicago area.
Racketlon was introduced to Katrin through an Estonian newspaper article recognizing the achievements of local players. Having had a deep background in table tennis and a growing love for tennis, Katrin was interested in checking this sport out. At that time, Katrin admits that it was incomprehensible to her that somebody could play all four sports at an elite level. Like many of us, she figured that everybody had their one strong sport and then tried their best in the other three sports. This turned out to be far from the truth. Katrin shared that the best players are good at all four sports. A fun fact about Katrin was that during one of her first tournaments, she won table tennis 21:2, but then lost squash 0:21! What a rollercoaster!
Katrin has a unique story regarding her background in each of the four sports. She started playing table tennis at age seven and represented Estonia in youth competitions for a period of years. Prior to learning about racketlon, Katrin had very little exposure to badminton. She joined a predominantly international group at her local YMCA in Oak Park. Through this group she was exposed to many different styles and attitudes but admits learning the game was not easy at all. Finding a place to play squash in Chicago has turned out to be the most difficult thing for Katrin, with the closest club being 10 miles away – which in Chicago traffic is an eternity. Most of her squash activity takes place on racquetball courts. Tennis was introduced to Katrin through friends, and for years she just played socially. In the Oak Park area there are an abundance of hard courts available as well as a group of very passionate people, so it was easy to start playing.
In 2009, Katrin participated in her first racketlon tournament in Milano which unfortunately ended early due to an ankle injury. Being Katrin’s first athletic injury, she was hesitant to continue playing. Katrin said “I thought that this all may not be for me after all. However, I’m really glad that I stayed and can now play for the Team USA in Leipzig this Fall.” This will be Katrin’s third World Championship appearance.
Katrin has achieved much success in her racketlon career including: a bronze medal from Women 45+ 2012 World Champs in Stockholm, 1st place among Women 55+ last year in Zürich, three-time Women’s A Singles champion at the Massachusetts Racket Masters, and bronze in Mixed Doubles with Alan Plater in a very competitive Doubles World Championships 55+ draw last summer. Katrin shared that nothing beats being able to call yourself a World Champion and her first place among women seniors last year in Zürich was indeed the high point of her career.
Over the years Katrin has met players from around the world. In fact, her most memorable moment left her thankful and made her feel that there is a real racketlon community. Last summer in Oudenaarde, Belgium, she experienced a terrible head injury. While lying in the hospital, many came to see her and so many more from the racketlon community wrote her encouraging messages.
If you are visiting or live near Chicago, you may find Katrin at the Oak Park Tennis and Fitness Center, where she plays tennis and hits squash balls. Additionally, she plays badminton at her local YMCA. Katrin occasionally plays table tennis at Franklin Park gym but more often travels 25 miles each way to Schaumburg Table Tennis Club – which offers consistently good competition.Please share any recommendations for future featured players to usaracketlon@gmail