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Jay Jones is a former Hollywood stunt man and former professional racquetball player. He is one of the best conditioned athletes, regardless of the sport, in the United States.

A few years ago he wrote an excellent article in the now-defunct Racquetball Illustrated. In the article he compared a baseball pitcher's throwing motion to the way that a racquetball player strikes the ball on his drive serve and on his forehand. Although there are some differences in the throwing and striking motion of each sport, the stress on the dominant arm is remarkably similar.

Jones pointed out that a pitcher may throw as many as 100 pitches or more in a game, whereas a racquetball player would hit the ball on his driver serve or forehand at least as many times in a match.

However, a pitcher has four or five days of rest before his next start. Most avid racquetball players play approximately three times a week. This gives them a two- to three-day break at the most, which puts a great amount of stress on the arm.

There is even more stress on the arm if you're playing in a weekend tournament, which many local players do. If a player plays both singles and doubles, he could be competing as much as four times each day. This puts unbelieveable stress on your dominant arm.

Jones stressed that racquetball players should ease into the season, strengthen the muscles and tendons, increasing flexibility and doing extensive aerobic conditioning.

Most racquetball players are playing on a regular basis by the end of October. If you are in good physical shape and have good flexibility and aerobic conditioning, you should be ready to go. This isn't true of a great many players.

If you've exercised sporadically throughout the summer you would be wise to proceed very slowly before you start playing racquetball this fall. If you're in reasonably good shape, but haven't played racquetball in more than three months, you should proceed slowly.

If you're serious about your game, you could ask a personal trainer or an avid racquetball player what type of conditioning program would be good for you for the next 4-6 weeks. Regardless of what type of program you choose, you should concentrate on the arms, legs, back and shoulder muscles. Weight training, stretching, and aerobic training -- such as using the life cycle or treadmill -- are excellent choices, as is running.

Regardless of how much you train, you should be ready to strike the racquetball at a fairly high velocity when you start hitting on the court. You are the only one who knows what type of racquetball shape you are in when you first start to play.

In addition to being in good physical shape, you should have had your racquet restrung and have a high-quality pair of sneakers that are made for racquetball. Most important, wear eye guards with polycarbonate lenses at all times, for practice and actual play.

Practice on the court by yourself at least five times before you compete. Be sure to warm up and stretch before practice.

The first couple of times, you should practice 30-45 minutes. Don't try to hit the ball as hard as you can.

The third to seventh time that you're on the court you should increase your court time to approximately an hour, working on every aspect of your game. At the end of the session, if there is a shot that you want to work on, spend another 8-10 minutes doing so.

To complement your racquetball training, incorporate some weight and aerobic training on the off days.

Once you're ready to start actual competition, make sure you arrive at the courts at least a half hour before your scheduled playing time. This will allow you time to change, warm up and stretch before you actually play. After you've finished, stretch for another 10-15 minutes to let your body cool and not stiffen.

Top 10 getting younger

The recent Western New York Top Ten Women's Tennis rankings had the lowest average age, an unbelieveable 15.1 years old, since the rankings were first started 20 years ago.

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