Tag Archives: tactics

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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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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The Fascinating Game of Squash

Few activities (healthy ones, at least) are as captivating as squash. People who have never seen it played in their lives suddenly become fascinated by the sport and play every day. It has endless new challenges and skills to master, and there is always someone better than you. In this post, I am going to detail some of the reasons I personally find squash such an amazing game. Ultimately, I think these observations can help simplify the game and make you a better player.

Perhaps the coolest thing about squash is its approximate, indefinite nature. Even the best players in the world rarely play perfect shots or points. This is why there are so many different successful styles and approaches. There is no single way to win at squash. Unlike “closed skill” sports such as swimming and running, where the same task is executed ad nauseum, there are literally thousands of decisions and actions being made every second that determine the outcome of a point. Closed skill sports tend to follow a simple equation: talent + hard work = success. However, “open skill” games like squash have no guaranteed formula for success. There are infinite combinations of movements and angles that can’t all be mastered. We all know someone who is annoyingly talented and hits the ball straight and clean despite playing once a week. Likewise, there are players who train excessively hard for minimal gains. Talented players seem to have an innate understanding of the angles and how to put the ball in the most difficult place. Without athleticism and coordination superior to their opponent, they manage to make people run laps just to stay in the rally! Jonathon Power is a classic example of a player who understands the game. I think this is why he can still challenge the best in the world despite being retired for six years and not training.

Another cool facet of the game is the psychology of winning. Mental toughness and determination are big reasons why less talented people often end up beating the naturals mentioned above. I can’t count the number of times I have seen a seemingly inferior player frustrate their opponent by running down every ball and forcing error upon error. Eventually, the talented player runs out of ideas and folds.

Both of these approaches are completely valid strategies for winning at squash. As the saying goes, people ask “How Many, not How”. How you win matches isn’t what counts when the dust has settled…how many matches you won does. So don’t obsess yourself with learning a certain style or playing perfect squash. In fact, the term perfect squash is really an oxymoron. Find a style you are comfortable with, and play each match on your own terms. Having a clear plan and sticking to your strengths is one thing I always do when I am playing well. Part of the beauty of the game is the ability to express yourself through your playing style. It is always surprising how much easier it all seems when you rid yourself of preconceived ideas about how it should be played, and do what feels natural.

 

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Squash – Pace of play

In the last post we talked about deception.  In particular using a hold to add deception to your shot selection.  Another very important method to keep your opponent guessing and off balance is varying your pace of play. Varying your pace of play can be an effective method to keep or change momentum in a match when needed. Changing the pace of your shots is also effective at keeping your opponent guessing.  Squash is a very physical game as any squash player can attest to but it is also very mental. Varying your pace of play is a good strategical method to help control a match.

When should we play at a fast pace or at a slow pace?  One of the best times to vary the pace of play is when you need to change momentum in a game.  If your opponent is pressing hard and has gained the momentum trying to slow down the pace of play can often help.  You can do this playing slower paced length shots using height to get the ball past your opponent.  Lobs will work very well in this situation too.

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Squash – Holding your shot

In squash as your level increases and you are playing better players it becomes more and more difficult to hit outright winners.  Points need to be constructed to be won.  You very often have to hit a series of shots to get your opponent out of position before you can hit a winner.

As it is so difficult to hit winners you definitely need to take advantage of the opportunities that your opponent gives you.  When your opponent has hit a ball that you can attack in the mid or front court giving yourself options is key.  Not showing your opponent the shot you are going to hit is even more important.  Holding your shot is a very effective way of doing this.

What is holding yout shot?  It is being in position to hit the ball early but waiting to play your shot.  Why do we hold our shot?  To force our opponent to wait and hopefully catch them flat-footed or better yet get them to guess. If we catch them flat-footed and have hit a quality shot they will most likely be late to the ball and will hopefully give us something that we can attack again and keep them on the defensive and working hard.  If they guess and pick a direction before we have played our shot we get to hit the ball the opposite way they are going and have a real opportunity to win the point outright.  At the very least they are going to have work very hard to get to the ball.

Deception in squash is key and one of the best ways to fool your opponent is make all your shots look as similar as possible. Learning to really hold your shot will definitely add to your deception and make it harder for your opponents to read the shot you intend to play.

 

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Squash – Clearing your drop or counter drop shot

One of the biggest differences between low to mid level players and higher level players is how fast they recover to the ‘T’ after playing their shot.  One the most noticeable areas I see this on court is at the front corners.

It is extremely common to see a player rush up to get a boast or drop that their opponent has played to one of the front corners, hit a drop and then get stuck in the front corner.  If their opponent gets to the ball earlier enough they can often end the point with a cross court drive as they have not been able to get back to ‘T’ to take that shot away.

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Squash Tip – Stuck in a losing pattern? Change it!

This is just a quick tip that I received while taking a lesson a few years ago. I was working with a much more advanced player than myself and was having problems getting drives on the backhand side past him and found myself stuck in a losing pattern. The objective of the drill was simple, hit a good enough shot to get the ball past him so that I could take the ‘T’ position away from him and then try to keep him behind me by taking the ball on the volley. I was trying to play a hard drive down the wall all of the time and I was not able to keep it tight enough to force him to let it pass. I found myself stuck in the back court and not succeeding at all with the drill. He stopped the drill and asked me what I was trying to do. I said that I was trying to drive the ball hard down the wall past him. His reponse was simple. It is not working. You need to try something different. You are not getting the ball past me with pace so why not use height to get the ball past me. Hit it high enough that I can’t volley it and will have to let it pass me.

While the example above is about trying to pass your opponent on a rail shot on the backhand side it applies to all parts of the game. If you find yourself stuck in a pattern that is not working you need to change it!

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Nick Matthew – High ‘T’ Position

I am watching a replay of the PSA World Open 2010 final between James Willstrop and Nick Matthew on PSA Squash TV and impressed with Nick Matthew’s position on the ‘T’. He is playing such a high ‘T’ position and putting so much pressure on James. Willstrop won the first game with some absolutely astounding accurancy but had to work so hard to do it. The second game was close to about 5 but after that Nick opened up a huge lead mostly because of the work James has had to do to that point.

The high ‘T’ position really allows Nick to attack short when he chooses, especially on his forehand side. The width that James has to get on a crosscourt drive to prevent Nick from volleying it is unbelievable. He is having to nearly catch the side wall at the centre of the court to get it behind Nick. Even when he does attain that width Nick only has to take a couple of steps back because of the angle and still play it without really having to give up too much ground.

Nick is also using a great hold on his drives while being so high on the ‘T’. This is forcing James to have to recover so quickly to the centre of the court, because he has to respect the drop before being sent to the backcourt to retrieve Nick’s drive.

Nick’s use of the high ‘T’ position really put so much time presure on James Willstrop that it really broke him down by mid match. James did have a much harder time getting through to the final than Nick did which definitely contributed to the fatigue but Nick’s play truly exposed it. A brilliant display of good tactical squash. Definitely shows that value of recovery to the ‘T’ quickly to dictate play.

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Squash – The hurry up drop shot

Today I would like to discuss the hurry up drop shot.  It is an extremely effective shot as it puts your opponent under time pressure.  It is best used when your opponent has been forced to boast out of the back corner and has invited you to the front. Take the boast as early as you can and play a nice safe soft drop shot. The focus of this shot is to hit it very early, soft and to keep it tight to the side wall when it bounces.  Do not worry about it being very low and tight to the tin focus more on hitting and early and keeping it tight to the wall.  We are not trying to win with this shot we are making our opponent work really hard to get to the ball.  Hopefully they will be late and hit something weak cross court so we can send back to the back corner and get them running the diagonal. The hurry up drop shot like many other shots is designed to put mileage on our opponent.  Use it to make them run and watch the court open up later in the match when their legs are not as fresh as they were at the beginning of the match.

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