The Fight or Flight Response in Racquetball
by Justin Johnson
The fight or flight response is an essential tool for racquetball players to utilize if they hope to compete at the highest levels. Why? It sharpens your reflexes. It makes you quicker, faster, stronger, and more in tune to what's happening in the environment around you.
When you go into a racquetball match without any nervousness at all, it can be extremely dangerous. During those times when you are overly confident – too confident – it becomes difficult to compete appropriately and it becomes harder to snap yourself out of that mode as well.
There is a level you reach during a match when you are "nervous" and unsure of what the outcome is going to be. Your adrenaline kicks in, you're amped to compete, and that rush seems to take you to another level physically. You enter another dimension of reaction and intensity and it’s almost as if you perform better when you are afraid of what the outcome could be...
Before you jump into the comments section to lash out about how you should never play scared, let me clarify. When I use the term afraid, I'm referring to that feeling of nervousness and that feeling of not knowing what the outcome will be when going head-to-head with another tough competitor. During those moments you find that your game tends to rise to an entirely new level when you utilize that fear - that not knowing feeling - to your advantage. That’s when you experience firsthand how other great players can bring out the best in your game as long as you don't let that fear eat you up inside. If you can learn to appreciate that fear, you can use it to your advantage.
Rickson Gracie, who is arguably the greatest mixed martial arts fighter to ever live, said that he was always afraid when he entered the fighting arena. He said it was a grave mistake not to be afraid.
As racquetball players we are not MMA fighters. We don't physically attack each other in that 20' by 40' court or club each other with racquets. But what Rickson Gracie talks about in terms of being afraid applies to our sport as well as mixed martial arts. You need that extra surge of adrenaline to take your game to the next level.