Tag Archives: squash training

Help! I’m trapped in the corner and I can’t get out!

Do you struggle to gain control and keep control of the T?
Do you find yourself constantly behind your opponent?
Do you feel as though you are frequently scrambling and under pressure?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, then you are likely finding yourself trapped in the back two corners and struggling to fight your way out.

As complicated as this game may seem at times, it is pretty simple to determine why you are finding yourself behind your opponent.

  • Poor Length
  • Loose Shots
  • Minimal Volleying

Poor Length

You’ve heard it a million times before. “Get the ball deep to gain control of the T”. That said, not all length is created equal. The length required to put yourself in control of the game needs to be quality length. What makes length quality length? There are several things to consider when hitting good length; two elements in particular can aide in adjusting and improving your long game: Weight & Accuracy of shot. These two elements work in tandem with one another. Are you hitting too hard, too soft? Too short or too long? Finding the right mix is magic!

Too hard/too long: You don’t want to crash the ball hard and high into the back where you are essentially “over driving” the ball. In this case your opponent can basically maintain their position on the T and wait for it to bounce off the back wall – yet again jamming you in the back of the court.

Too soft/too short: The opposite of the over drive is hitting the ball too high and too soft. This will provide your enemy with a perfect attacking opportunity, with the ball landing short of the service line and ample time make an aggressive offensive shot. Not only does this shot set your opponent up for a potential winner – it most definitely does not get you out of the corner and onto the T.

The optimal ball to hit from the back to get out of trouble is a lifted drive.
Getting the ball high on the front wall will get you the depth to move your opponent. Hitting the ball with a soft lift will provide you the time needed to get out of the back corner and establish yourself on the T. The softness of the shot should also keep the ball from sitting up for your opponent to pick off of the back wall. The goal is to get the second bounce of the ball just before it reaches the back wall.

Loose Shots

Getting the proper depth of the shot is ideal, but if the majority of the balls you are hitting are loose and coming through the middle, you are still in trouble. You are basically feeding your salivating opponent juicy fruit for them to pick off as they please. For you to move them off the coveted T, the balls not only have to have the right pace, but they also need to be tight to the wall (within 2 floor boards) on rail shots, and cross-courts should have good width (ball hitting side wall just behind the back of the service box). If you have a lob in your repertoire – use it! If you don’t, I highly suggest adding this shot into your game. It is a brilliant defensive shot that gives you time to reset and gain control – and sometimes much needed composure.

Minimal Volleying

You may be reading this and saying to yourself, “I hit good length. I keep the ball tight… Why am I still scrambling in the corners??” The most likely answer is – You are not volleying the ball! If you are in mid court and choose to move back to take a ground stroke instead of up to take a volley – you are relinquishing your T position to your opponent when they are not forcing you out. As the late great Patrick Swayze famously said “Nobody puts Baby in a corner’” so why do you keep putting yourself there? Test yourself the next time you are on court. Get high up on the T and tell yourself that no ball is going to get past you. You might be surprised at how often your tendency is to let a volleying opportunity slip away.
You need to fight to keep the T. Don’t be passive and let the ball lead you into the deep dark woods at the back of the court. Be more aggressive and take the ball early. Not only does this keep your T position. It also puts your adversary under pressure.

If you are yelling, “Help, I’m trapped in the corner and can’t get out”.
Putting these simple tactics into motion are the key to opening your cage.
Good, tight length – VOLLEY, VOLLEY, VOLLEY.

Nicole Garon
Squash Pro & Program Director
Brantford Movati Athletic

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Battling the Broken Body Blues

Staying Focused During Injury

Well, lets face it – Injuries suck.

As an armchair athlete or a competitive, dedicated and somewhat obsessed athlete as myself – it is torturous.  All you want to do is ignore the pain and play. Hop in a time machine and avoid the injury all together, or jump forward past the ridiculously, painfully slow rehab to a full functionality you and  – PLAY. All options of which are completely unrealistic – especially ignoring the pain ; )

Many would say we are juvenile  and completely obsessed with play. But the fact of the matter is without the physical outlet, we would be completely “untamed”. If you can relate to this, and are currently suffering an injury holding you back from your sport – then perhaps my words might be of help on your track to recovery, or at least make you chuckle.

No matter what the injury is, an incident, an accident or good old fashion wear and tear – the result is the same.  You are unable to play the game you love until you rehab your limb and life back to some semblance of its former self.

I can only speak for myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you will be able to relate to my point of view.

For me, throughout the process of rehab – time has not only slowed to a drunken snails pace, but at the same time gone into warp speed. My knee seems to be making the smallest most minuscule improvements on a weekly/monthly basis (and at times feels as if it is going backward), while at the same time the Squash season is running toward me like Usain Bolt.  This juxtaposition is grossly unfair and at times makes one feel like giving up all together. Yes, I am talking about the anger and gloominess that are part and parcel of injury. This is what most of us have to battle – and this is how I am battling the “body broken blues”.

Staying Active

Ridiculous I know. If I could be active I would be playing squash. At any point I would much rather be playing squash than on cardio equipment. That said, my knee simply will not allow for certain movements – and those certain movements are all required for squash. My staying active saviour has been Spin Classes. Not only is it a phenomenal workout (which helps burn the built up energy), but it is also a brilliant cross training tool for squash. Working the legs at intervals helps build the endurance and speed required for intense squash rallies. When the knee is ready to take on squash movement – at least I won’t be too far behind in fitness.

Staying on Top of Rehab Exercises

Let’s face it, these exercises are not fun. There isn’t a point system, there isn’t an opponent to conquer. To me I have had to look at this as a personal challenge to get myself back into action and feeling as strong, stable and secure as possible – as quickly as possible. Someone tells me it will take a month – I work my butt off to make it happen in 3 weeks. Yes, I have a competitive nature and I try as much as possible to use it for good not evil ; )

I have to remind myself (quite often) that as boring and as silly as these rehab exercises may seem – they are actually accomplishing something, stick to it!

Staying Focused

Have a goal in mind. Not just getting better – but an actual deadline goal.

Personally without a set date/event on my calendar staying on top of rehab would slip in priority. It is so easy to not do it for a day, and another day slips by – but then I look at the calendar and that tournament date is looming, getting closer by the second. I have no time to dilly dally, I have to remain focussed on improving the functionality of my knee. I tell myself , “You want to play – do the work to get there”. Please note! Choosing a realistic goal is essential, otherwise disappointment will be a very hard cold slap in the face. Discuss your goals with your doctor/physio or whatever healthcare practitioner you are working with. Ensure that they know what you are aiming for. They can help keep the goal sensible as well as aid you achieving those goals.

Staying Positive

Its pretty simple really. Play is fun. Work is not (and rehab is work). Unfortunately in this situation one must be done to allow the other to happen. Progress is slow, frustrating and down right maddening at times. After all “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is very true indeed. All I want to do is get out on court and play my favourite game. I miss squash, and missing something generates the feeling of longing and sadness. There have been times where I get “testy” and “edgy” because I am not able to do what I love. In a sense I am like that child that is moody because I can’t have ice-cream before I eat my broccoli. So I simply must eat my broccoli. Therefore I have decided to take small bites so I can finally get my ice-cream. The improvements are slow and small – but they are not unimportant. If I didn’t acknowledge the little improvements I would only see what has to be done, not what has been done. I am not the most patient person in the world (far from it), but this has taught/forced me into being more aware of the big picture.

This has been my journey with the “broken body blues” and how I have been dealing with the daily task of rehab. Hopefully something in this has resonated with you or at least has provided you with a sense that you are not alone!

Mantra of the day:

“Small bites will eventually get me through the broccoli to that divine bowl of ice-cream!”

Keep on Chomping.
Nicole Garon
Squaush Pro & Program Director
Brantford Movati Athletic

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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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How to Take Full Advantage of Squash Drills

When training, many players do drills without any concise objective in mind. Players tend to “rinse and repeat” a drill without focusing on important things such as footwork or shot accuracy. Whenever a player is about to start a drill, they should always have an objective in mind, concentrate on it, and works towards as they do the exercise. This is very important since it will help the player develop better muscle memory as well as improve their game more significantly.

During any drill a player should always be aware of where they are situated on court, as well as where they want to hit the ball. If a drill requires to move between different areas of the court, the player currently doing it should always rotate back to the ‘T’. Many players ignore this since they know where the ball is going to go during the drill; for example, if two players are doing a boast-drive drill, both players might move from corner to corner (front and back, respectively) instead of going back to the ‘T’ after every shot. Furthermore, on any drill that focuses on rotation around the court, e.g. boast-drive, players should also concentrate on hitting good shots and not just hitting the ball back. Both of these things are important for various reasons, such as: improving muscle memory, accuracy, position awareness, and rotation to the ‘T’. But most importantly, applying this will help much more in real match situations since the players are essentially simulating the shots and movements they want to perform on court.

Another good example of a very common drill where players tend to forget what the real objective is, is the length rotation drill on one side of the court. Many players, including me, stand at the back and on the side where the ball is being hit at or they rotate back to the ‘T’ but not enough. Basically they wait for the ball to come to them since the drill is happening on one single quadrant of the court. On such a drill, players should again concentrate on rotating to the ‘T’ properly as well as hitting accurate shots. Going back to the ‘T’ correctly after every shot will help develop speed and agility which will be necessary when playing a real match. This is an advantage since a big part of the game is keeping the ball deep and being patient, so good rotation is essential. Furthermore, players should focus on hitting the ball tight as well as where they want the ball to bounce first. Personally, I believe that a player should try to hit the ball on the same spot every time for about 3-5 consecutive shots, then choose a different spot and repeat the same process throughout the duration of the drill. This will aid muscle memory and accuracy which will lead to better shots in a real match.

Before doing any type of drill, every player should always keep something in mind to work towards to. Drills are designed to improve a player’s game but this can only be achieved by how the player decides to approach the drill. Taking full advantage of the drill is the one thing that will help a player improve their game; there are always different things that can be worked on at the same time on any given drill!

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Easy Drill to Improve Your Front Court Shots

This week I was training one-on-one with my coach, and we decided to improve my game at the front court by working on: taking my time, starting my swing from the same position every time, making a shorter swing, and using my wrist more. The reason he told me I needed to do this was to incorporate deception on every shot, as well as increase my accuracy while retaining the same amount of power as before. Surprisingly enough, by the end of practice I was hitting better shots at the front with a shorter swing that always started from the same spot. It was very helpful and I believe it’s worth discussing so that other players can try it out as well.

The first thing we worked on was quicker racquet preparation. I stood on the ‘T’ while he fed me the ball on the front court. The idea was to have the racquet ready before getting to the ball; as soon as he fed the ball I would first get my racquet up and then I would get to hitting a shot. A lot of players start their swing as they are close to the ball and this is not a bad thing; but, on quick shots and under pressure, this will take too much time from the swing, possibly leading to hitting a loose shot. If however you have your racquet prepared before reaching the ball, once you get to it you will have more time to think where to return the shot. This is the first step, and if you wish to do this, you should concentrate solely on having your racquet ready before moving to the ball.

Once I was able to get to every ball with my racquet ready beforehand, we moved on to hitting every shot from the same position with a shorter swing. The first thing we worked on was to have a shorter swing. The reason for this was to be able to hold the shot for as long as possible so that the opponent has less time to read it. The idea here is to concentrate on using the forearm and wrist instead of the whole arm to generate power; the same amount of power can be generated using a shorter swing by generating more racquet speed in increasing the velocity on the forearm and wrist movements. Then, I would concentrate on getting my racquet back on the exact spot every single time in order to create uncertainty on what type of shot I would hit next. Try having someone feed you easy to return shots so that you can concentrate on your racquet preparation, footwork, and making a shorter swing. From the same position you can hit: a drop or cross court drop, a low and hard length or cross court shot, a boast, or a length or cross court shot to the back of the court. All of these shots are possible due to the shorter and faster swing and I believe any player can see the advantage of being able to hit multiple shots from the exact same racquet position!

Towards the end, we worked on including the wrist more to improve accuracy. This is a bit harder to explain as it depends on how every player feels about using their wrist. The main thing we concentrated on was hitting the crease or ‘nick’ with both drop and kill shots. Also, we concentrated on stopping the swing almost immediately after hitting the ball, i.e. having a much shorter follow through. Having a full follow through when trying to hit accurate shots is not ideal since there is more racquet movement and therefore more influence on where the ball is going. A shorter follow through will keep the ball in line as the effect of the racquet going through it is minimum. If you want to improve accuracy on the front court you should concentrate on using just the wrist to give direction to the ball. However, there is no ‘textbook’ wrist movement so you should find your own comfort zone with wrist shots. A great way to practice this is having someone feed easy, loose shots at the very front of the court and hitting the ball using the wrist only, i.e. no forearm or upper arm movements, and always having accuracy as a top priority. Always keep the crease in mind, trying to hit the ball about 2-3 inches above the tin. This way you can become comfortable with your own wrist movement that gets you the best shots. Furthermore, you should always keep in mind your balance as it is essential for accuracy and better shots; you can read more on this here.

Finally, we practiced hitting different shots from different places on the front court while applying everything we learned at the same time. Always keep in mind your body and racquet position, keeping your head down, and your wrist movement. Having said this, if you are looking to improve your front court game you can try out this very helpful drill. The best way to do it is to take it step by step while concentrating on each step’s main goal to finally include everything in one single movement. It is always good to try new drills to improve any aspect of your game, so give it a try and see how your game can improve.

Please feel free to leave your ideas, opinions, thoughts, and/or questions on the comment section below and we will be more than happy to help you!

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Types and Importance of Defensive Shots in Squash

Squash is a very fast-paced and aggressive game that requires a solid defensive strategy as players can find themselves under pressure from their opponent a lot of the time. In the game of squash whenever a player is under heavy pressure from their opponent, defensive play is essential to both regain control of the rally and to conserve stamina. When in trouble on court there are different shots and strategies that can help a player recover from an undesired situation and get back to an attacking position. Continue reading

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What’s On Your Mind?

The title of this post isn’t an open invitation to vent your frustrations of the day, rather an important question about your thought process on court. This is an exercise in metacognition; thinking about your thinking.

I’ve discussed the concepts of deliberate practice and “10000 hours” in earlier posts, and those themes tie in well here. To review, several sports science/psychology studies have shown that it takes a minimum of 10000 hours of deliberate practice to truly master a sport (for reference, I am at about 8000 hours…and nowhere near a master). Continue reading

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Squash – Move your feet

Movement in squash is critical.  It is imperative to move well to and from the ball.  Often though when we arrive at where we expect to hit the ball we might not be in the best possible position.  This can happen for a couple of reasons.  It can happen if we simply misjudge the ball or if the ball comes off of the wall unexpectedly. When this happens the ball will most often be in a poor position for us to hit. One of the most common errors that players make is not adjusting and hitting the ball when they are now out of position. Of course as we play and practice more this will happen less but when it does happen it is imperative, if you have the time to move your feet and get to the best position you can to hit a good shot. Continue reading

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Squash – The Lunge

As squash players the lunge is something we are all familiar with.  I was practicing movement in to the front court with the help of my coach and one thing that we were working on specifically was how far forward the leading knee can go. If your leading knee goes too far you can lose balance on the shot you are playing.  Also if you go too far you will also not have the same strength to push back out of the corner.

James Willstrop

James Willstrop Lunging for the ball at the MWT Wullhouse Quarter Finals.

Photo credit to SquashSite

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Long Way to the Top

I recently read a book entitled “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin. Clearly this is an attention-grabbing headline, and flies in the face of many people’s beliefs about world-class performers in all fields. The notion of the book is that natural talent/gifts don’t necessarily exist. Rather, greatness is a product of many factors conspiring to provide an opportunity for someone who is willing to dedicate almost their whole life to this task. The book goes to great lengths to dispel the myth that greats such as Mozart and Tiger Woods were simply gifted in music and golf respectively. The author explains that to become world-class, a person needs to complete a minimum of 10 000 hours of deliberate practice at their chosen activity (more on this number later). Even “child prodigies” like the two mentioned above had put in far more than 10 000 hours of study and practice before the age of 16; they weren’t simply better than the rest by nature.

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