The Five Stages of Racquetball

I was reviewing some notes from legendary basketball coach Don Meyer this morning when I came upon his observations about the five stages of coaching. Coach Meyer is a coaching icon who will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches and teachers in the history of the world. He coached basketball at Hamline University, Lipscomb University, and ended his coaching career in Aberdeen, South Dakota as coach of the Northern State University Wolves. Coach Meyer held the record of most wins by a men’s basketball coach until it was surpassed by Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in November 2011.

When I read it over and began thinking about it, I’m quite sure these stages apply to racquetball players and coaches as well. Here are the five stages of coaching from Coach Meyer:

  1. Survival: You don’t know what you don’t know.

  2. Striving for Success: You want folks to recognize you can coach.

  3. Satisfaction: You relax, better set another goal, be the best, and want to get better.

  4. Significance: Making a difference. Changing lives, hopefully for the good. People want to study your program. Very apt to get fired for the wrong reasons. Folks get jealous.

  5. Spent: No juice left. Can’t do it anymore.

I’m certain this applies to racquetball coaches everywhere, but I think these stages also refer to players. During the survival stage, players are just getting by and enjoying the game with a limited knowledge of game strategy, swing mechanics, practice methods, and training requirements.

Players quickly move on to the striving for success stage. I’m 100 percent sure that any racquetball player out there with a competitive bone is his or her body reaches this stage, in which you want people around you to recognize that you are a good player.

A lot of players reach the satisfaction stage. They have a certain level of success, perhaps winning a few tournaments which make people aware of their racquetball skill and potential. But a lot of players also get stuck in this stage. Some people reach the satisfaction stage and stop setting new goals, mostly out of a fear of failure. After a certain amount of success and after experiencing the feeling of winning tournaments, plenty of people stay at the skill level they have had success in and stop striving to play up into the next skill division. With the ego happy about winning, a lot of players don’t have the intestinal fortitude to take the lumps that are required to move up in skill level.

The significance stage comes for the special few who have set themselves apart from the pack and reached a significant level of success. Everybody knows who you are in local tournaments and you become recognizable in regional events. Jealousy becomes recognizable in a select few that are envious of your status. Not everybody is going to be happy for you. This jealousy can either ruin players or drive them to work harder to reach a higher level of play. Either way, racquetball players reaching the fourth stage of significance help raise the level of play around them. People try to figure out how you are getting better, emulate your training methods, and begin experimenting with their own ideas on how to improve.

Spent is a stage that none of the great ones want to reach during their playing days, but it comes for everybody eventually. At a certain point there is a level a play that can’t be sustained because of the limitations of age, injury, or other outside factors.