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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Imagine burning up to a thousand calories and hour and having fun doing so

Bob Jackson of Madison is an Advanced Level American Professional Racquetball Instructor and has played the sport since 1979. Employed by Head/Penn Racquet Sports, he was mentored by former world champion Andy Roberts and played collegiately at Memphis State University under U.S. Team coach Larry Lyles.
"For beginners, a team sport background will help you. Footwork is the key, and a lot of practice," Jackson said. "Honestly, the worse you are, the better workout you get. If you keep your feet moving and have fun, you really will burn up to 1,000 calories an hour."
Jackson has won Open tournament divisions all over the country and said it took him five years to win his first C bracket, which he did in 1985. But noticeable improvement can be made pretty quickly.
"Lessons are a great way to start and learn the game the correct way," said Chris Baker, a Florence native and the general manager of The Courthouse location in downtown Jackson. Baker and Bob Jackson are the only two licensed racquetball instructors in Mississippi.
"A basic racquet, glasses and racquetballs will only set you back thirty or forty dollars, and most facilities have equipment you can borrow," Baker said.
The Lakeland branch of The Courthouse has four courts. There are three at the northeast Jackson location, located just off Old Canton Road. Baptist HealthPlex in Clinton has a pair of courts, and you can play at the YMCA at I-55 and Fortification, and at the recreation center at Jackson State University.
"I'd say it takes six months of playing two or three times a week to get competitive," said Sammy Young of Brandon, who was introduced to the game by a college buddy in 1984. "I'm still playing once or twice a week. I see a lot of younger players (at the Lakeland Courthouse) in the Tuesday night leagues."
WAPT-16 chief meteorologist David Hartman played racquetball while in college at Penn State, then picked it back up in 1993 and has won many tournaments over the years. Like Young, Hartman played a lot of tennis in the past.
"The racquetball swing is with the wrist, while the tennis swing is with the entire arm," Hartman said. "You'll get better by playing better players and learning to anticipate your opponents' shots. There are lots of angles to learn."
Jackson, a billiards enthusiast, compares racquetball to shooting pool because of the angles. He said that more recreational racquets are sold today than ever before, even though tournaments are much smaller than a generation ago when Chuck Miner opened The Courthouse and brought the sport of racquetball to Jackson.
"There are not as many courts these days, so the tournaments are smaller," Jackson said. "But more people are playing, especially college kids."

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