Tag Archives: tips

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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Squash – Movement to and from the ball

Movement in squash is probably the most important aspect of the game. It is also one the things that really separates different levels of players. When moving to the ball there are a few key elements to consider. Most of the time if you can you need to get on the ball quickly to have the option of putting time pressure on your opponent. You also need to approach the ball in a manner that leaves you options as to where you hit the ball. One of the most critical points of moving to the ball though is leaving yourself in a good position to move off of the ball. I believe this is probably the biggest differences between high level players and lower level players. Continue reading

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Squash – What’s your target?

Squash is a bit of a funny game when it comes to where you are trying to hit the ball.  Most of the time you are trying to hit the ball off of the front wall so that it goes past you in to one of the back corners.  Hitting the ball in to the back corner so that it does not come out is your objective but should it be your target? 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 – 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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Squash – Early Racquet Preparation

I had a chance to discuss racquet preparation with the pro at my squash club today and we went over some things that I knew but were definitely good to have reinforced. Early racquet preparation has some real benefits. It gives you more options as to what shot to hit. It also improves deception making it harder for your opponent to figure out what shot you are playing. Another benefit is it allows you to adjust quicker to a ball that takes an unexpected bounce.

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Swing Like a Pro

The swing is one of the most important and scrutinized aspects of every player’s overall game. Good technique allows a few important things to develop in your game: consistency in ball striking, ability to hit the ball from compromised positions, and deception.  It is something that cannot be swept under the carpet; you will struggle to pass a ‘C’ level of play if you have major technical deficiencies. Most errors ultimately come from some sort of technical miscue.

One of the best ways to improve your technique is by watching top players and analyzing theirs. Be wary of trying to copy the aesthetics of your favourite pro’s swing though. Ramy Ashour, for example, has a swing that no one would ever teach a beginner. He has superhuman wrist strength and racquet head speed, and takes almost no backswing. Nick Matthew is another example of someone with a slightly unorthodox swing. However, there are some key points you can take from almost any top player. I think anyone can incorporate the following five tips into their swing while maintaining some individual flair:

1)      Keep your space from the ball. Most people get far too close to the ball. This not only decreases your potential power (the arm is strongest when fully extended), but also brings your body further from the ‘T’ and deeper into the corners. Spread yourself out as much as possible, let the ball come to you, hit quickly and take a short lunge back to the ‘T’.

2)      Hit the ball with a flat racquet face. Of course, everyone is taught to hit the ball with an open face to ensure consistency. But hitting the ball flat (or even slightly topspin) will increase the heaviness of your shot, and keep the ball lower as it travels through the court. Particularly useful when hitting from a position of advantage. Jonathon Power was a master of this.

3)      Use less arm when digging out a tight ball. When the ball is buried in the back corner or glued to the wall, taking a full swing will often lead to an error (and broken racquet). You can subtly control your racquet using only wrist and hand. You might have to hit a defensive shot, but it’s better than the other option. The tighter the ball is, the shorter the swing should be.

4)      Take a longer follow through. Following through will noticeably improve your power, but it will also help keep the ball straighter. If you can limit your backswing and instead rely on your follow through for power, you will minimize the inconsistencies that cause errors.

5)      Get in position to hit early. This is also a movement tip, but even when your opponent has played a soft drive or weak boast, get your feet and racquet set early. You will feel like you have tons of time to the hit the ball, and it affords you the chance to incorporate some deception. Without any crazy fakes or flicks, simply standing with your racquet up will freeze your opponent or lead them to guess.

Try to make use of one of these tips every time you practice. A match isn’t a great opportunity to bring in a new technical element for the first time. Good luck!


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Squash – The cost of a bagel

Thursday night is league night for me in our regional league.  I play B level and myself had a pretty straight forward match.  Our #1 though was in very tough playing the top player in our league, one of the top under 19 players in Canada. The junior used to play at our club until he went to University so these two have played countless time before.  The match ended with the expected player winning but not without some interesting twists and turns along the way.

The pace of play for the outset was really fast and hard.  Both players are extremely fit and their movement is astounding.  The ability to retrieve balls that look like they are not returnable is quite amazing.  The first game was tight the whole way through with rarely more than a couple of points between them.  Our #1 was able to close it out in extra points though I believe 15-13.

Games 2 and 3 went to the junior but were tightly contested.

Game 4 is where it got really interesting.  The junior got off to a quick lead and kept adding points and our #1 was having no success getting on the board. At around 5-0 there were murmurs in the crowd of a possible bagel.  The junior was digging in and our #1 looked like he could not figure how to win a rally.  Even when he was really extending the junior the ball kept coming back.  This is where the really interesting turn came.  The lead eventually got to 7-0 and there was a clear focus from the kid on getting the bagel.  He definitely knew it was possible and wanted it.  Our #1 knew it too but for the last few points had worked the kid all over the court and even though he had lost the rallies it was clear who was doing way more work.  At 7-0 a very hard and low unexpected boast ended the run and the hopes of the bagel to bring the score to 7-1.  That 1 point was huge of course but the work that our #1 made the kid do was even more important.  The game completely turned around and the score kept getting closer.  The change in the match was not only physical it was also mental.  There seemed to be a definite focus on getting the bagel and when that was lost there was a mental let down as well. The game eventually got to 10-9 for the junior.  Remarkably close considering the score had been 7-1. The kid did manage to close the game out and thus the match but it definitely looked in question.

It was a very entertaining match to watch.  The 4th game was definitely an incredible affair with a couple of lessons to be learned.  If you are the player that is struggling to win even a point against a tough opponent don’t give up hope.  Mental toughness is imperative.  If you are in the rallies and really making him work focus on that.  Don’t let the negative aspect of the score deter you.  See the positive in how you are extending your opponent and realize the work you are making him do will pay dividends later.  Look for a let down in focus. If you are the player way out in front remember the goal is to win the match not bagel your opponent.  Certainly you do not want to give up any cheap points but keep focused on the match and its outcome not on winning a personal battle, getting the bagel, and in the process risk losing the war.

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Control the ‘T’ Sports is pleased to introduce Mike McCue

We are very excited to announce that Mike McCue, an up and coming PSA Tour player will be blogging for Control the ‘T’ Sports.  Mike has been playing squash since the age of 10 and is currently 18-years old.  He finished his junior career as the #2 ranked player in Canada.  His current ranking on the PSA Tour is #234.  Mike trains under Jamie Hickox and Jamie Nichols at the National Squash Academy in Toronto.

Mike’s posts will focus on squash from the perspective of someone that is turning professional and trying to make it on the PSA Tour.  You can expect posts from Mike focusing on his training, training tips for other players, life as an up and comer on the PSA Tour, coverage of tournaments he plays in and other topics related to squash.  We hope you enjoy his posts!

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