The lob and counter drop

Like many squash players I am a member of Squashskills.com and enjoy their training videos and programs a great deal. I have really enjoyed their focus on the lob and counter drop over the past couple of weeks. Covering these two shots in back to back weeks makes a lot of sense as you are in the same court position, at the front of the court for both. You also are in a similar body position for both shots and you hit both shots with your racquet out in front of you. Peter Nicol really does a great job in this video (Squashskills.com membership required) discussing how well the lob and counter drop complement each other. He focuses on the fact the counter drop takes the opponent deep in to the front corner and the cross-court lob takes them to opposite back corner. I want to focus on how having a good counter drop makes your lob easier and more effective. The opposite is true as well, having a great lob makes your counter drop easier and more effective.

I love to lob. I find it gives me more time to get out of the front corner. I also find it very rewarding to hit a lob that catches the side wall just under the out line that ends up clinging to the back wall. Hit perfectly it is difficult to return. You can win points outright and if even if you don’t win the point on that shot you have almost always forced a weak shot that you can attack. I recently noticed my lob was not as effective, against people I play regularly. I thought about it and there were a few reasons this could be true. Perhaps I was not hitting the lob as well as I normally do. Or, perhaps they had improved their ability to return the lob. Thinking about it more I realized it was because of their court position. When I went in to the front corners they were hanging back knowing I was most likely to lob. This made it easier for them to take the ball on the volley in the air before it hit the side wall.

Amr Shabana playing a counter drop

From this position Shabana could play a counter drop or a lob

The solution to this is of course is to use the counter drop more. The lob is more effective, and easier to get over your opponent if you can keep them further up the court. If they respect the counter drop, they should play a higher ‘T’ position to make sure they can cover it. This makes it easier to keep the ball out of their reach when it passes over them and it is much harder to volley a ball if you back peddling. If you can get them to think you are hitting a counter drop and they start to come in, it will make the lob even more effective. They must reverse direction, rush to the back corner making them even less likely to be able to volley the ball. It is also a terribly painful move to have to make as Peter noted in the Squashskills video.

The counter drop is of course made easier and more effective by using the lob. If you never use the lob and always drop once you have your racquet out in front of you in the front corners your opponent will likely be able to read that you are going to drop and can start to come in earlier. This will make it easier for them to cover your counter drop and be on it earlier. The earlier they are on it if it is off the side wall at all they will have more options and will likely end up in an attacking position.

It all comes down to deception and having different options. Having a both a good counter drop and a good lob gives you two good options that complement each other and make the other easier and more effective. If you want your lob to be more effective, make your opponent really respect your counter drop. If you want your counter drop to be more effective you must get your opponent to respect that you can get the ball to die in the back of the court and the lob is the perfect option.

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Time to get fit

Following up on our last post about Paul Coll today’s post is going to look at fitness. Squash is a tough game physically and being in good physical shape is imperative to performing at your top level. There are 4 key elements that I want to focus on. The 4 are endurance, core strength, flexibility and explosive power. The reason I am focusing on them now is twofold.  it is just about the new year so a lot of people will be making new years’ resolutions. I am also focusing on them now as I need to work on them myself! Watching Paul Coll’s run at the Channel VAS Championship a couple of weeks ago, really brought in to focus just how far athleticism can take you.

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Paul Coll – Superman the 2016 Channel VAS Champion

Paul Coll 2016 Channel VAS Champion

Photo credit to www.psaworldtour.com

What a great tournament Paul Coll had at the 2016 Channel VAS Championship. He put on an amazing display of athleticism and squash. Coll earned his nickname previously in large part due to his flying dives he made to get seemingly unplayable balls back. What impressed me the most with his play this tournament was how in control of his body he was. There was no need to dive. His movement to and from the ball was incredible. His tactics were also excellent. He was defensive when he needed to be and attacked when appropriate. The quality of his squash was also very impressive. Paul Coll really showed what a quality squash player he is at the Channel VAS Championship. Continue reading

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A review of the Salming Kobra Indoor Court Shoes

When Salming first started marketing their Kobra line I was very excited about the shoes. I made sure we ordered them right away and we were one the first stores in North America to have them.  I was excited to not only get them in the store I was also excited to get a pair for myself. The previous pair of Salming shoes I had been using were the Viper and I was interested to see how they would compare. Things that I wanted to compare were how well they perform and comfortable they are.

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Karim Abdel Gawad the 2016 PSA World Champion

Karim Abdel Gawad 2016 PSA World Champion

What a fantastic run Karim Abdel Gawad has had since the 2016/2017 season started. I have always enjoyed watching him play because he has such excellent control of the ball. The “Baby Faced Assassin” is such an appropriate nickname for Gawad. He looks so relaxed and casual but if you leave the ball loose the point is over. At the start of this year’s world championship tournament he was certainly one to watch but I don’t think he was a favourite to win. I know I was certainly expecting Mohamed Elshorbagy or Ramy Ashour to win. Gregory Gaultier and then perhaps Nick Matthew would have been my next picks. I was wrong in those picks and should have been picking Karim Abdel Gawad. Congratulations to Karim Abdel Gawad as he is the 2016 PSA World Champion! Continue reading

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A Review of the Asics Gel-Fastball 2

The original Fastball were a well-received shoe for us. They were an excellent alternative to the Blast 6 for those that were looking for a lighter, lower profile shoe. They are indeed quite light and keep the player very close to the court. The Fastball 2 pick up right where the original Fastball left off. They are light, comfortable, low to the court and offer excellent lateral stability. Mike McCue, one of our sponsored athletes recently switched from the original Fastball to the new Fastball 2 and he was kind enough to provide feedback on them. Mike has played in Asics Blast 4, Blast 5, Blast 6, Blade 4 and the original Fastball so he is able to compare them to many of Asics most commonly used models for squash.

Here is Mike’s report on the Asics GEL Fastball 2:

“The Fastball 2 is the latest incarnation of the Asics model that bridges the gap between the ultra-light Blade and bulkier new Blast models. Having recently worn the Blade and Fastball 1’s, there was no major shock transitioning to the Fastball 2. There is more support in the metatarsal area, which had been a bit thin in the past and could lead to some foot pain. The mold also easily accommodated my slightly wide foot, which has sometimes been a problem as well. Despite this reinforced support, the shoe is still incredibly light and barely noticeable when moving around court, which is always a good sign. The break-in phase was minimal and there were no problems with slippery soles. The Fastball 2 is an obvious choice for anyone who has previously enjoyed Asics footwear, and a new option for those seeking more durability out of a high performance shoe.”

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A review of the Head Graphene XT Xenon 135 Slimbody AFP Squash Racquet

I decided I wHead Graphene XT Xenon 135 Slimbody AFP Squash Racquetanted to give a racquet with a smaller head a go again as I believe it compliments my game. My game is not a power game it is more about moving my opponent around the court. I like to volley, I like to take the ball short and I really like to lob. When I am playing well and having success it is generally because I am moving well and because my control of where the ball is going is on. I try to make the court big for my opponent by hitting in to the corners and by hitting in to open spaces. The Head Graphene XT Xenon 135 Slimbody AFP Squash Racquet is really designed for control. While Omar Mosaad, “The Hammer of Thor” can certainly crush the ball with this racquet (he used its predecessor last season) it is designed around control and not power.

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A Review of the Tecnifibre Dynergy AP 125 Squash Racquet

One of the racquets I have been most excited about receiving in the past little while was the new Tecnifibre Dynergy AP 125 Squash Racquet. I was excited to get in for a few reasons. First I thought the Arch Power (AP) technology would really add a new dimension to the Dynergy series of racquets. Having one of the most exciting players in the world, Miguel Angel Rodriguez playing with it I thought would add some real excitement to the racquet as well. It is also the first racquet that Tecnifibre strung with the new DNAMX 1.20 mm. I have taken the Tecnifibre Dynergy 125 AP Squash Racquet out for a hit a couple of times now. I really quite like it! It is quite good for hitting drives and also good on the volley. Touch was also good.

Flying Miguel Angel Rodrigues with Tecnifibre Dynergy 125 AP

When hitting drives I found that while being light it had enough mass to hit effective length shots. I believe that its slight head heavy balance of 355 mm helps the racquet in this department. Its puts enough of the racquets mass behind the ball to help with hitting length shots. I did find that there was a bit of give in the racquet that was most noticed on off centre hits. On balls hit in the sweet spot I really felt like that ball took off and that the racquet was providing excellent response.

On the volley I found this racquet really help me establishing a good volley to length game. As noted above I really found a lot of extra spring to the ball when catching the ball in the sweet spot. This allowed to allowed me to cut off even difficult balls to volley and keep the ball high and tight with a shorter swing while still get the ball to good length. Having the confidence to do this allowed to hold the T more effectively which is definitely a positive.

The touch of this racquet was good as well. I find with light racquets touch can sometimes be a bit tough as you can’t feel the racquet head as much in your hands. While light the Dynergy AP 125’s slightly head heavy balance moved enough weight up in to the head to allow me to feel the head of the racquet enough to control my short balls. This allowed me to play effective drops and counter drops.Tecnifibre Dynergy AP 125 Squash Racquet

One other aspect of the racquet that I think is worth touching on is the string pattern. The Tecnifibre Dynergy AP 125 features a 16 x 16 string pattern that fans out from the arch in the throat of the racquet. As such it is a fairly open string pattern through the hitting zone up through to the top of the head. This helps with producing power and spin which is a real asset of the racquet. It is similar in this regard to the Powerbite series from Prince although not quite as open. The Prince’s Powerbite series feature a 14 x 15 stringing pattern. It is worth noting that with the strings being spaced out as much as they are at the top of the head shear string breaks are a possibility. Shear breaks are when the string breaks right where the string meets the frame. This happens most commonly when a player takes a hard swing at a ball and misses the sweet spot and hits the ball right near the frame of the racquet. The less strings there are to absorb the blow the more likely a string is break.

The Tecnifibre Dynergy AP 125 Squash Racquet is a very nice racquet to play with. I found it be very responsive to balls hit in the sweet spot. It was good to hit drives with, good on the volley and also good from a touch perspective. For a player looking for a good overall racquet and for a racquet that rewards them for hitting the sweet spot and gives them a bit of feedback when they don’t this is a great fit.

To learn more about the Tecnifibre Dynergy AP 125 click on the View in Store link below!

Tecnifibre Dynergy AP 125 Squash Racquet

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EC3D Compression Garments

I like many of you have seen both amateur and professional squash players using compression clothing on the squash court. For squash it is most commonly a calf sleeve or a long sock that comes up to just under the knee that is used. I had always wondered how beneficial they would be for an athlete. I did some reading on them to get an idea on the reasoning behind using them and what the purpose was. After my research I decided it was a good idea to add compressions garments to our product line-up here at Control the ‘T’ Sports.

ec3d Twist Compressoion SocksSo to start with how are compression calf sleeves or socks supposed to help? They are designed to increase oxygen flow and improve lactic acid clearance. Increased oxygen flow helps performance. It allows the athlete to perform better by improving muscle power and endurance. In squash this translates in to more speed around the court, for a longer period of time. Lactic acid build up can lead to delayed onset muscle stiffness commonly referred to as DOMS. It is quite common for squash players to feel DOMS the day after playing or training really hard.

My experience with using compression calf sleeves and socks has been very positive. The performance increase is really hard to measure for me. I believe I am moving around the court better since starting using them but it is hard for me to objectively measure that. Where I have found the most benefit in the sleeves and socks is in the recovery phase. I have found that I have been much less stiff in the calves since starting to use them. It has been a very noticeable difference.

EC3D CompressGo Universal Calf Sleeves BlackOne other aspect of them that I have found really beneficial is in wearing them before playing. I sit at a desk for hours at an end at work and I am certain doing so hurts circulation in my legs. It is common for people that sit at a desk for long stretches to suffer from poor leg circulation and even swelling in the legs. The best solution/prevention for me is to get out of my desk and get mobile, even briefly to get better circulation to my legs. Work can sometimes get in the way of that and I have definitely found wearing the long socks in particular to have really helped improve how my legs feel after sitting at my desk. I attribute this to improved blood circulation and in particular less buildup of lactic acid in my legs.

The line of compression garments we are carrying are from EC3D. EC3D is a Canadian based company. They have a full line of compression garments. Their product is not only used for sport but is used in medical applications as well. There are 3 core parts to EC3D’s compression garments. Medical grade compression, graduated compression and targeted compression zones.

From EC3D’s site:

Medical Grade Compression

“Compression is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).To be considered Medical Grade,compression level must be 20 mmHg and over.”

This results in:

  • INCREASED BLOOD CIRCULATION
  • INCREASED MUSCLE OXYGENATION
  • REDUCED MUSCLE INFLAMMATION
  • LOWER RISK OF INJURY

Graduated Compression

“Strategic compression zones stabilizing key muscles and reducing muscle oscillation. Stabilized muscles are able to relax so you’re able to stay in the game longer.”

This results in:

  • FASTER REMOVAL OF METABOLIC WASTE FOR BETTER RECOVERY
  • REDUCED FATIGUE DURING EXERCISE
  • INCREASED EFFICIENCY, ENDURANCE AND STRENGTH

Targeted Compression Zones

“Strategic compression zones stabilizing key muscles and reducing muscle oscillation. Stabilized muscles are able to relax so you’re able to stay in the game longer.”

This results in:

  • BETTER MUSCLE ALIGNMENT, POSTURE AND STABILITY
  • REDUCED MUSCLE OSCILLATION
  • STIMULATE BODY AWARNESS (PROPRIOCEPTION)
  • MORE POWER AND PRECISION

To check out our current selection of EC3D’s compression garment please click on the “View in store” button below!

EC3D Compression Socks and Sleeves at Control the 'T' Sports

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A Review of the Prince Textreme Pro Warrior 600 Squash Racquet

I was very excited to receive in to the store the new Prince Textreme Pro Warrior 600 Squash Racquet. We received it just over a month ago. I was quite interested to see if the Textreme that was added to the racquet would make the racquet feel different than previous versions of the same mold. The weight and balance of the racquet was also something that had me pretty excited about it. Its 129 gram unstrung weight and balance point of 353 mm was right around what I like. Having played with both the Prince Pro Beast 750 and the Prince Airstick 130 how the Warrior compared was also of interest to me. I have been hitting with it now for a few weeks and below are my findings.

Prince Textreme Pro Warrior 600 Squash Racquet FrontThe racquet that I have been most recently playing with before the Pro Warrior was Prince’s Pro Beast. The Warrior and Beast have a lot of similarities. The weight and balance are very close. The balance is the same and the Warrior is just 1 gram heavier. So there is certainly not too much difference in those specifications. The two big differences are the string pattern and the addition of the Textreme. I really found the Textreme Pro Warrior to have a really solid feel, free of vibration. It was very comfortable to hit the ball with. That is something that is important to me. I like the racquet to have a very stable feel, even as much as possible on miss hits. The Prince Textreme Pro Warrior 600 was terrific in that regard. I had noticed an improvement right away from the Pro Beast.

As mentioned the weight and balance are right around what I like. I had been playing with the Pro Beast 750 before switching to the new Textreme Pro Warrior 600 and the balance is listed as the same and the weight is only 1 gram different, with the Warrior being heavier. I think there is a little more to the weight and balance of the racquet then just the 1-gram difference though. I think it comes down to the stringing pattern. The Beast is a 14 x 15 string pattern, the Warrior a 16 x 17 pattern. As the measurements from Prince are for the unstrung weight the denser string pattern adds a bit more weight to the racquet than the 14 x 15 pattern does. In particular it adds that bit of extra weight in the head of the racquet

The weight and balance of the racquet are a really good combination. The racquet is light at 129 grams and with its 353 mm balance it is pretty evenly balanced. Being light and fairly evenly balanced it is quick to play which I like. I do like to take the ball before it gets to the ball as much as I can so I end up taking a lot of balls on the volley. I found the Pro Warrior 600 to be pretty quick to get back and through to the ball. Not quite as quick as the Beast but not a huge difference. I found it faster to get back and through to the ball than the Airstick 130 which makes sense as it is a just a bit lighter and its balance is less towards the head. I found the Warrior to be quite good for hitting straight length shots as well. I found there to be more overall accuracy with it compared to the Pro Beast which I was playing with most recently. From an accuracy standpoint it was more or less the same as the Airstick 130 which makes sense as it so close in weight and has the same head size and stringing pattern.

The new Prince Textreme Pro Warrior 600 Squash Racquet is a very exciting new addition to Prince’s squash racquet line-up. It is ideal for those that like the Airstick 130 but were looking for something just a bit lighter and with a bit more of an even balance. It is also ideal for those that like the Pro Beast 750 but were looking for more accuracy due to its denser string pattern. It has a really nice solid feel on contact and is well suited for those that like to volley but still have a racquet with enough mass to have an effective length game. I believe the difference in feel on contact is due to the addition of Prince’s Textreme technology.  The Pro Warrior 600 is a real winner. This is also the racquet that Ramy Ashour is supposed to be playing with this coming squash season. He did look to be using earlier in the year.

Prince Textreme Pro Warrior 600 Squash Racquet

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