Finding themselves restless, bored and drowning in end of-the-semester assignments, a group of friends ventured out to the Dow on a chilly November evening. It was there that they fell in love with racquetball, a sport that involves hitting a ball at a wall and sometimes at your friends. What started out as a lark became a sacred preoccupation and nightly ritual. This small band of men has since become closer, happier and perhaps healthier – although I recently watched them annihilate a family-sized bag of Sun Chips in record time, so the jury is still out on that one. What exactly is racquetball?
If I’m being quite honest, I’m not too sure myself. I’m aware that it’s played in a little room by swinging one’s racquet at a rubber ball, and goggles are recommended for players both recreational and professional. But I don’t want to spend too much time philosophizing about the intricacies of the sport, so let’s call it “angry tennis” and move on. Nick Wyatt is a history/ classics major and former ’21 puller (ooh rah, anyone?). When he started playing racquetball, he hardly expected it to become the sensation that it now appears to be. He was just going out to the gym with some buddies, hoping to spend an hour or two out from under his massive workload. When asked about his biggest takeaways from playing regularly, Wyatt said, “Racquetball is a huge stress reliever. If I have a lot on my mind or something that’s stressing me out, playing with the guys helps put me at ease a bit more than other ways of stress relief.” Wyatt’s take on racquetball is consistent with that of the writers at Medium, who see racquetball as a great stress reliever with even more comparative benefits than other sports.
They cite the intensity of the game as a way to take one’s mind off of worries and to-dos. It’s hard to freak out about finals when you’re running back and forth, trying to nail your friends in the head with a little rubber ball. Jos Espinosa, an exchange student from Puebla, Mexico, joined in on the fun upon his arrival to the U.S. this past January. While most of his energy is spent in his major field of biochemical engineering, Espinosa loves to unwind nightly by playing racquetball with friends. “Racquetball made me able to get a better friendship with the people I know. While we play, there are always laughs and good moments. Therefore, my friendship with the guys who I play with became better and more solid,” said Espinosa. But deeper friendships aren’t the only benefit that he’s experienced since starting to play racquetball.
“Racquetball is also a time to get in touch with me. While playing racquetball, I feel closer to my mind and my body, and that makes me get a better handle on them. I can control my body, my movement, my speed, and my reflexes. I become more agile.” Experts at Health Fitness Revolution agree that racquetball is a great exercise in hand-eye coordination, as well as cardiovascular fitness. On average, someone playing racquetball for an hour will have run more than two miles. Furthermore, the game makes you smarter. It enables your brain to react faster and make better decisions in high-stress situations. Carter Damaska, Anchor photographer, and John Vander Vliet, who was featured in the previous installment of the Dow Diaries, round out this small band of racquetball fanatics.
While Vander Vliet uses it as a supplement to his daily workouts, Damaska is happy that racquetball has become a way for him to commit to daily, vigorous exercise. He, too, says that playing racquetball has brought him closer to his friends and that he’s less stressed out whenever he gets home from the gym. Playing racquetball has changed the lifestyle of this group of friends, as well as their social dynamic. It has brought down their stress levels, alleviated winter boredom and introduced wild antics. Feel free to ask any of the guys about the “secret weapon.” Racquetball, as best said in the words of Nick Wyatt, is a “10/10 game” and is a fulfilling way to burn an hour, especially when you’re spending time with friends. Special thanks to Taylor Dunn, for her contributions that made this article possible.