Monday, March 25, 2013

Stockton Style

Pro Racquetball Academy Camp

What is the Stockton Style?  It’s a form of racquetball domination that unnerves opponents with aggressive play, deceptive serves, center court control and laser-guided passing shots.  It’s also the style of play being taught at the most dynamic racquetball camp in the country. 
     Stockton’s three-day Pro Racquetball Academy camp is a game changer for any racquetball player who’s ready to take their game to the next level.  Whether you’re a club novice, junior’s champ or open tournament regular, legendary pro John Ellis, USAR national team coach Dave Ellis and their renowned lineup of the best young IRT pros in the world teach the Stockton Style with so much fun and passion that the weekend feels more like fantasy camp. 
     Located at the nine-court In-Shape West Lane Athletic Facility in Stockton, California, the PRA camp begins Friday at noon with videotaped play of all 18 camp participants, followed by introductions, situational drills, stroke mechanics and game time with the pros.  Saturday’s full-day session focuses on serves, return of serve and doubles play, while Sunday is all about shot making, practice drills, limited serve games and indispensible one-on-one video analysis with John Ellis.
     The camp is well-organized, fast-paced and geared toward the player who prefers learning on the court instead of listening to lectures.  The degree of personal attention every player receives is phenomenal.  Each morning, Pro Academy instructors go over the day’s schedule and cater their instruction to each member of the camp so that everyone gets as much out of the day as possible.  With so many top-tier instructors eager to offer pointers, the potential for improvement seems limitless.
     IRT #4 ranked player Jose Rojas made minor adjustments to my drive serve, resulting in more power, accuracy and deception.  California State singles champion Bobby Horn showed me a reverse drive z-serve that is already throwing off my opponents.  National Juniors champion Jose Diaz modified our practice drills in such an intuitive way that the drills have become an integral part of my practice sessions.  Junior World champion Markie Rojas encouraged me to elevate my lobs serves for a higher arc, making them more difficult to cut off.  Coach Jody Nance gave me valuable tips for doubles play.  John Ellis demonstrated the effectiveness of favoring the cross-court passing shot in order to set up the down-the-line pass, and Dave Ellis offered pointers when playing against an opponent who likes to cut off ceiling balls. 
     Then there’s IRT pro Jose Serrano, who’s so articulate and enthusiastic when presenting his ideas that I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually sets a new standard for racquetball instruction in the future.  He’s that good!
     PRA’s in-house trainer Jesse Serna covers conditioning and tournament preparation with an efficient 30-minute warm-up routine.
     My one-on-one video analysis with John Ellis was a real eye-opener and helped identify small corrections that have already translated into an extra point or two in my singles game. 
     It’s mindboggling how much is covered in a weekend, but racquetball improvement is only part of what makes PRA’s camp so special.  What distinguishes this camp from all the others is that unless your name is Kane or Rocky, there’s an instructor here who can beat you.  In fact, unless you’re a top-20 pro, six of these instructors can beat you.  No other camp in the country can make that claim.  I was given so many pointers and new ideas from these amazing players that within one week after camp I was already elevating my game from “A” to “Elite.”
     There’s one more component to the Stockton Style that makes a weekend in Stockton an absolute must for any racquetball enthusiast.  It’s not just camp, but participation in a vibrant extended family that reaches beyond the insights of John and Dave Ellis, the delicious lunches provided by John’s mother Pat Ellis or the friendly banter with former pro Nick Irvine who sells racquets and gear from his makeshift pro shop.
     What happens at the In-Shape facility after hours when a camp day is done can only be described as magical.  The courts come alive with racquetball play that spans the spectrum of the sport.  Some of the best players in California, along with racquetball newbies, hit the courts ready to play.  On court 4, a father and his happy young daughter hit the ball back and forth.  On court 2, Jose Diaz played left-handed against an accomplished handball player.  On court 1, two of Chile’s finest young racquetball players played doubles with 14-year-old Daniel Rojas (another future racquetball star) and open champ from Hawaii Rob Collins, who plans to make Stockton his home later in the year.  On court 3, 13-year-old junior camper Mitchell Turner from Oregon played singles with another young prodigy his age, and for a few minutes in court 2 after Jose Diaz took the game left-handed in a squeaker, I tapped the ball to a young toddler so new to walking that he still had sea legs but was already holding a racquet and chasing down the ball as if his life depended on it.
     It’s this kind of atmosphere that makes the PRA three-day weekend so memorable. 
     My camp experience ended Sunday afternoon after three quick singles games with John Ellis, who ran me around the court like a confused beginner.  He used all the shots he and his pros had taught us, including his ruthlessly effective cross-court passing shot.  After scoring a handful of points to his 45, I was completely exhausted, my legs spent and my head overwhelmed with new serves, new drills and new ideas to plug into my game.
     For the racquetball player who wants to take their game to the next level, John Ellis and his team at the Pro Racquetball Academy offer the best racquetball camp in the country at an incredible value.  It’s a weekend every racquetball player should experience.  I can’t wait to do it again!

1 comment:

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