A review of the ASICS Gel-Blade 6 Indoor Court Shoes

If you are serious about performance and want to get the most of your game possible you owe it to yourself to check out the Asics Gel-Blade 6 …

The choice of many top players including TeamCT members Mike McCue, Nick Sachvie and Samantha Cornett the Blade is designed for the player that wants the absolute best in performance. Light and extremely low to the court the Blade allow you to really feel the court which allows you to move your best.

We asked Mike McCue to give us his opinion on them and here is what he wrote:

“The Asics Gel Blade is an old favourite that has been re-introduced for the new season with some noticeable improvements.. The Blade 6 is a performance shoe with an extremely lightweight, flexible design. There is less support through the mid and forefoot. particularly when compared with other Asics models like the Blast. With bulkiness kept to a minimum, the shoe fits snugly around your foot and feels almost weightless. Being lower to the floor allows for engagement of the entire foot when making an explosive first step, changing direction en route to a ball, and the all-important recoil out of the shot. Upon switching to the new Blade, I immediately felt an improvement in my movement laterally and into the front corners.

The trade-offs of this design are decreased stability and durability. Heavier players may find themselves wanting more support, and the smaller base requires well-balanced movement. I did suffer a few slips during the “break-in” phase while the rubber sole was slightly shiny. These issues subsided after a week of daily use. Overall, I would definitely recommend the Blade 6 to advanced players who are willing to make these minor sacrifices in favour of major performance benefits.”

I really like Mike’s review of the Blade and believe it articulates well who the Blade is designed for, and who they are not meant for.

The Blade are like having a sports car with a stiff suspension and very low profile tires. You are going to feel the court in the Blade much like you would feel the road in a pure performance based sports car. You are trading a nice cushioned feel to gain better performance.

For the player that is looking for a court shoe to get them around the court as fast as possible the Asics Gel-Blade 6 is perfect. The very light weight of the shoe adds as little weight as possible to keep from slowing you down on. The extremely low to the court design provides the best energy transfer from each stride you take.

Looking to explode off the ‘T’ with your first step? The Blade are going to allow you to do just that.

From a lateral support perspective the shoe itself is not aiding you that much, other than by keeping you low to the court. Other shoes like the Salming Viper 5, of the Asics Gel-Fastball 3 have a noticeably wider base in the forefoot area but for an athlete with excellent balance and strong feet and ankles the Blade perform extremely well. They allow your body to do the work naturally. In a shoe with more cushioning you really do need the shoe to aid in lateral stability. The Blade allows your body to engage as it is designed to do, to provide the lateral support required for squash.

If you are a serious athlete and are looking to take your movement to the next level you owe it to yourself to take a good hard look at the Blade 6, they will help you get the most out of your game …

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A review of the Asics Gel-Fastball 3 Indoor Court Shoes

Are you looking for a light, high performance pair of indoor court shoes? If so, take a serious look at the Asics Gel-Fastball 3 …

The Fastball 3 are a very light, low to the court, high performance indoor court shoe. They are designed for the player that values performance most and wants their shoes to allow their feet to work very naturally …

One of our TeamCT players, Cameron Seth has just recently switched to using the Fastball 3 and we asked him to give us his feedback of the shoe.

Here is Cameron’s review:

“I’ve been using the Fastball 3 Asics shoe for a month now and I can safely say this is one of the best shoes I have ever used. I’ve tried a lot of different shoes in the last few years. Most recently I’ve been using the Fastball 1, but before that I have tried Salming Viper, Hi-tec Infinity Flare, Prince NFS and Black Knight.

The Fastball 3 is a change from the Fastball 1 and 2, but it is a change for the better in my opinion. The first thing I noticed when I put them on was that they have a very wide base of support in the forefoot. I felt very stable and as if I could really feel the ground. All the Fastball shoes are low to the ground (compared to the Asics Gel Blast for example) but in the Fastball 3 I felt even more connected to the ground than the Fastball 1 and 2. I also found that the material of the shoe is softer and more comfortable than the previous versions. As with any Asics shoe they are durable, well made and look great. I have the black and orange style, they have some colour but they aren’t too flashy.

The only thing I think might have been a bit better on the previous version of the Fastball is that on the lateral side of the shoe they’ve made a small dip in the rubber that wraps along the outside of the shoe. Not sure if this was an aesthetic choice by Asics, but I’ve found for me that when pushing off laterally the old Fastball grips the floor a little better.

Overall the Fastball 3 is a great shoe and I’d highly recommend it.”

As Cameron noted the Fastball 3 do keep you very close to the court. While they do have Asics’ Gel in both the heel and forefoot area in the forefoot there is not much of it. That is by design. By keeping you so low to the court they really do provide excellent performance. They allow your feet to work very naturally…

As you add more cushioning, and thus lift into a court shoe the shoe needs to do more of the work for you to provide the necessary lateral support. While the Fastball’s wide base at the forefoot area helps the shoe provide excellent lateral support, its low to the court design really allows the foot to work naturally to protect against outward roll.

The upper of the Fastball 3 is incredibly soft, light and comfortable

The design makes them very comfortable to wear and play in of course but it also more importantly contributes to the design of the shoe. As a soft, light, and low to the court shoe the design of the Fastball 3 is more minimalist in design.

If you want to get the highest performance out of your squash game, you need a purpose-built indoor court shoe. The Asics Gel-Fastball 3 is exactly that type of shoe …

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Are you ready? Tournament season is here!

It is terrifying how quickly the weeks speed by. Here we are at the beginning of October and not only are the pumpkins already out on the porches with Halloween candy crowding the grocery aisles, but we are getting into the thick of it with tournaments (which to some, might be scarier than those Halloween ghouls).

If you have yet to play in your first tournament of the season, I am sure you are about to embark on one very soon. Sometimes starting a season is daunting and can be rough on the body and the brain. If you want to avoid some of the strain on both, it might help to prepare for the oncoming season accordingly.

First and foremost – WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?
Are you looking to peek for a certain tournament? Are you aiming to have a specific seeding or standing by the end of the season? Are you defining success by beating that ONE person you have struggled with over the past few seasons? Or are you just looking to perform well and have fun? No matter what your goals may be, it is good to have awareness of what they are before you head off to compete. These objectives will determine how you prepare for competition.

Secondly – MAP OUT YOUR SCHEDULE.
Depending on your goals it might be essential to hit specific tournaments throughout the season. Make sure you check out the schedule in advance and book those calendar dates. Blocking out the schedule should show you when you need to rest and recuperate and make some decisions on whether certain competitions should be on your schedule based on your needs.

Thirdly – ACCLIMATIZATION TAKES TIME
No matter what your goals are, sometimes the start of the season can be rather bumpy and somewhat ugly. I for one played in a tournament this past weekend and was rather disappointed by my caliber of play. It was sloppy, undisciplined and unfocused. Thankfully I was able to scrap my way through, but even with the goals of tournament being to “just having fun” and “warm up for the season ” the lack of quality in my performance was disappointing. So I had to remind myself, of a few things:

  1. A competitive frame of mind is a hard thing to hold. It takes practice to maintain that focus. Give yourself a few tournaments to build up the discipline required to keep the focus necessary to perform well.
  2. The body also reacts differently in a tournament atmosphere than it does in league or casual matches. You can have a casual match that pushes you to the limits and you don’t feel as fatigued as after a tournament match that maybe didn’t feel as physically challenging. You should be prepared for this, and be a little gentle with yourself during the adjustment… (not easy to do, I know).

Last but not least –  ENJOY IT!
Squash is such a wonderful sport with a fantastic community of people.
In the words of the late great Jim Mason, squash is the triple “F” – Fun, Fitness and Friendship. Don’t deprive yourself of some brilliant life experiences and connections. Get out there and get into the action!

If you haven’t checked out the Ontario schedule yet… here you go: http://www.squashontario.com/tournaments/

Nicole Garon
Squash Pro & Program Director
Brantford MOVATI ATHLETIC

A Review of the Salming Hawk Indoor Court Shoes

The Salming Hawk are a revolution in the design of indoor court shoes …

The Hawk is built from the outsole up. They provide exceptional grip and good stability on the court. They also provide excellent cushioning while also providing excellent performance.

This post provides our take on the exciting new Salming Hawk and how they might benefit you, the squash player…

After the review of the Salming Hawk you will also find a section where we review the technologies Salming has incorporated in to the Hawk. We provide Salming’s description of the technology and once again provide our take on them.

Salming Hawk Indoor Court Shoes

Technologies Included in the Hawk:

  • ROLLBAR
  • T.G.S 62/75
  • EXOSKELETON FULLY INTEGRATED
  • ERGO HEELCUP
  • HEXAGRIP
  • RUNLITE2
  • SOFTFOAM
  • RECOIL ERF

Here is Salming’ description of the Hawk:

“Dominate the court in these indoor shoes. Hawk features a low to ground profile fueled with energy, stability and an impeccable grip. The ExoSkeleton inner cage is connected to the lacing system and offers excellent support. The HexaGrip outsole featuring two LMSplus 8°areas allows for stability during multidirectional movements. The new midsole Recoil ERF – Energy Rebound Foam – with its added offset cushioning heel area (SoftFOAM) provide energy return and comfort in every step. The upper is a 3 layer construction with air mesh for maximum breathability.”

Our take:

The Salming Hawk are a terrific blend of comfort and performance …

They are designed for the player that is looking for excellent cushioning but also wants a very high performance pair of indoor court shoes.

Cushioning is important in an indoor court shoes to protect your feet and joints from the hard movements we squash players have to make. As we age, we tend to need more cushioning in our shoes. Too much cushioning though, or the wrong type of cushioning can hurt performance …

The Hawk provides excellent cushioning in the midsole of the shoe in both the heel and the forefoot area of the shoe. The heel is a straight cushioning foam designed to protect against hard heel strike which is very common in squash.

In the forefoot area there is excellent cushioning provided by an Energy Return Foam (ERF), called Recoil ERF, that not only provides great cushioning but also provides energy back to the player. This helps mitigate the loss of energy found in a shoe with too much cushioning or that does not have ERF.

The upper of the shoe is a 3-layer upper. It consists of:

  • A soft, comfortable inner mesh layer
  • A fully integrated Exoskeleton layer that really locks the foot in place
  • A mesh layer on the outside

The inside and outside of the shoes being mesh helps keeps the weight down and really allows the Hawk to breathe well. The fully integrated Exoskeleton layer provides the structure the shoe needs to keep your foot locked in place.

The tongue of the Salming Hawk is quite unique in an indoor court shoes as it is very thin and made of rubber material compared to a traditional thicker tongue. Looking at it I was not sure how it would feel but it is very comfortable. It does not bunch up at all and you virtually don’t even notice it is there. Considering how comfortable the upper of the Hawk is, it is a smart design choice.

Overall the Hawk is a very comfortable pair of indoor court shoes. Other than the exceptional cushioning underneath my feet I hardly noticed I was wearing them which is the mark of a good pair of shoes …

Now on to the performance of the Salming Hawk …

The Salming Hawk perform very well on the squash court. They are not an all out performance shoe like the Salming Viper or Asics GEL-Blade though. The Blade and Viper are very low to the court and have much less cushioning. As such they are a bit harsher on the body. The Hawk provide much better cushioning while still performing quite well. They provide a good balance between comfort and performance.

The Salming Hawk is uniquely constructed from the outsole up rather than the upper down. Salming’sHX120 outsole with Hexagrip wraps up over top of the bottom of the upper rather than the upper coming down to meet the outsole.

This design really gives you incredible grip all around the outsole. No matter what direction you are heading, or where you weight has shifted the outsole of the Salming Hawk is going to provide excellent grip.

Salming’s LMS+ system found in both the heel and forefoot area on the lateral side of the shoes that provides good stability. The LMS+ unit flares out 8° to provider a wide base to help protect your foot from rolling outwards. It works extremely well and the Salming Hawk provide excellent lateral stability.

They are designed for the player that wants their shoe to provide good stability, performance and cushioning all in a light and breathable design. If that sounds like you don’t wait to pick up your pair …

Shop for Salming Hawk

SALMING TECHNOLOGIES

ROLLBAR

Salming’s description: “An increased radius on the inner side of the outer sole, facilitates rolling the foot inwards and toe push off. Reaching for that stop ball in squash or covering a shot in floorball is made easier with the RollBar™ technology.”

Our take: The key benefit of the Rollbar technology is the aid it provides in pushing off towards the ball. When you dig your foot in to the court to push forwards, Rollbar allows the foot to work inwards towards the toe to provide better push off. Additionally, the shoes are very firm in in the toe area to maximize energy transferred to the court and provide the best possible drive.

Salming T.G.S 62/75

T.G.S. 62/75

Salming’s description: “Torsion Guide System. The distance from heel to the ball of the foot (62% of the shoe) has been designed with extra stability, which ends in the so-called ”ballet” line, a 75° angle. In front of the 75° line, we have equipped the shoe with greater flexibility to stimulate the foot’s natural movements. TGS 62/75 takes all of the gait cycle criteria into consideration. At the same time, it softens the strains caused by friction during lateral movements. The shoe bends in exactly the right places, stimulating the foot’s natural lateral and forward movements.”

Our take: The back portion of the shoe is firmer and designed to improve balance and stability. The forefoot area of the shoe has been designed to allow more freedom of movement to allow your foot to move and perform naturally. The split comes at the ballet line. If you were to drive your heels up off the floor so that your weight is on your forefoot area the “ballet line” is where your foot would leave the floor. It is also where Salming has designed the shoes to flex. The front part of the shoe is more flexible. The back 62% of the shoe is firmer to provide maximum stability.

Salming Exoskeleton

EXOSKELETON FULLY INTEGRATED

Salming’s description: “The fully integrated ExoSkeleton connects the lacing system for support and stabilizes the midfoot. A thin durable breathable mesh. A gusset tongue construction, where the tongue is integrated with the interior of the shoe making sure that the tongue always is in preferred position”

Our take: This is one of the key components of Salming’s Hawk. The shoes is largely made of mesh. The fully integrated EXOSKELETON provides the necessary support to the shoe. The EXOSKELETON  is the little bands that come up from under the foot then around the foot and in to the lacing area of the shoe. They are very light but very solid and keep your foot in place inside the shoe. This is a critical component in lateral support as if you foot starts to slip outwards when planting the foot on a lateral movement your weight will start to transfer outwards and this increases the risk of injury. It also decreases performance.

Salming Ergoheel Cup

ERGO HEELCUP

Salming’s description: “To stabilize and fixate the heel, which is key to providing a great fit and comfort, we have developed a new anatomical Ergo Heel Cup that is slightly longer than the average heel cup.”

Our take: Salming’s description is clear and it is also very accurate. The Ergo Heel Cup helps keep your heel locked in place in the back of the shoe to prevent it from slipping upwards. This keeps the back of your foot from rubbing against the shoe and prevents blisters.

Salming Hexagrip

HEXAGRIP

Salming’s description: “A new very durable lightweight rubber compound – HX120 – that features Salmings HexaGrip™ pattern designed for the best possible grip on all indoor surfaces.”

Our take: Hexagrip was first introduced in the Kobra series. It is an update to the rubber that they use on the outsole of the shoe. The rubber is formed in a hexa pattern, a 6 sided pattern to provide the best possible grip to the court. HexaGrip provides incredible traction. To maximize your movement you need your court shoes to have the best grip possible and HexaGrip is exceptional. Good grip on the court is also important from an injury prevention perspective as if you slip on the lunge you risk tearing muscles. Salming XR112 with HexaGrip is their top of the line outsole material.

Salming Softfoam

SOFTFOAM2

Salming description: “The SoftFOAM™ – is a cushioning compound featured in the heel impact zone designed to reduce impact forces and increase comfort when lunging. The SoftFOAM™ heel insert area has 70% better shock absorbing properties than standard EVA midsole..”

Our take: Squash is full of very hard movements. Foot impact is almost always a heel strike and due to that indoor court shoes should provide excellent cushioning in the heel. Salming’s SOFTFOAM2 does just that. It absorbs impact very well and provides excellent protection to your feet and joints.

Salming Recoil ERF

RECOIL ERF

Salming’s description: “The material in the midsole is a newly developed compound named RECOIL™ ERF – Energy Rebound Foam – which is a super lightweight cushioning compound that releases a higher rebound energy effect.”

Our take: Salming’s Recoil ERF is a competitive difference for them compared to most other manufacturers. Not only does Salming’s Recoil ERF provide excellent cushioning, it also returns energy to the player to help mitigate the loss of energy that might otherwise occur. This helps you, the squash player, get around the court as fast as possible without sacrificing comfort.

Shop for Salming Hawk

 

Working Through the Slump!

We have all hit a dreaded “Slump”. This is when everything is off. Your shots are loose, the tin grows taller with every swing, your movement is awkward, even your trusty bread and butter shots have seemingly vanished all together. The worst of it is, the harder you try – the nastier it gets!!

Whether it be a game, match, week, month or more; a slump is horribly frustrating for any athlete. For now let’s focus on the immediate situation, hitting a bad patch within a game. So what is the key to breaking out of that raunchy performance when your “A” game has abandoned you?

1. STAY CALM

Yep. So hard to do, but essential none-the-less. Do not allow your emotions to kick-start the panic cycle. The more frustrated, aggravated and irritated we become; the tighter our bodies get. A stressed body contributes many negative factors into the game. Gone are the loose mobile legs, smooth swing, and confident shot selections. In come the tight shoulders, tense swing, sluggish untrusting legs and impulsive, forced shots. All of which allow more ugliness to seep into the game, affording your opponent to easily take advantage of (and clean up) the slop.

2. BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Try not to self correct or coach in that ever so damaging tone that is way too easy to slide into.

“Stop doing this. Start doing that… Idiot…Bleep, Bleep… etc. etc.”

Guess what? This does not aid in leveling out the bumps in the game. It only further contributes to the problem. The more we focus on what we are doing wrong, the more entrenched those actions become – stop feeding the beast! Instead of berating yourself, try to turn that negative self talk into something more comforting.

“Alright. No worries. This will pass. You’ve got this. Just breathe etc. etc.”

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE

You can’t merely power through it by hitting harder, trying shots that are not normally part of your repertoire and forcing winners from a defensive position. Now is not the time to be clever or creative. Now is the time to stop the frantic noise in your head and remove the complexity. Now is the time to be a minimalist. Go back to the basics. Execute good length, and good things will come of it.

Remember, there are good days and bad days – everyone has them. There are more than a million reasons that this particular day you may be a little off. It could be the simple fact that your opponent is playing spot on, forcing you out of your groove. The trick is to not let it all trickle in. Sometimes it is important to accept that you are not at your best and be okay with that. Even the recognition of that fact can help calm the mind and body enough to shake the dust off. That in itself might be all you need to turn things back around.

So, when your “A” game abandons you. Be Calm. Be Kind. Be Simple.
Good luck.

Nicole Garon
Squash Pro & Program Director
Brantford Movati Athletic

Off Season Squash

If you are suddenly needing to cut your lawn twice a week and struggling to find squash partner who’s not on the golf course – then Summer has arrived!

Summer signifies the end of a hard fought squash season. But as they say “ All good things must come to an end” and for good reason.

Squash is a tremendously demanding sport both mentally and physically. With the competitive season at an end it provides many of us with a much needed body break to recoup and repair from the general physical wear and tear, but also a bit of a brain unwind as well. It is important to refresh and rejuvenate, otherwise it could cause full on burn out (and possible injury).

Golf, cycling, soccer, tennis, baseball, rugby… whatever your summer sport of choice is, get out there and do it! Our Canadian summers are short and those perfect sunny days are quite coveted. My suggestion is to enjoy it while you can. The sleet, snow and chill is always lingering in the not so distant future. Seek out the sunshine, play in the sand, enjoy a pint on the patio and get your fill of vitamin D.

This mixture of play and relaxation can be quite healing. To me it is an essential part of the off season. Without a bit of a break and different routine life (including squash training) can start to feel like a week with no weekend.

With that said, if you are looking to maintain or improve your skills over the summer, there are things you can do to catapult yourself past opponents who let the racquet and body rust over the summer. Look at your game and determine where you would like to improve. Is it your Speed /Recovery time? Strength? Shot selection? Racquet work? Strategy? Whatever it may be, now is the time to focus on how to improve in those areas.

Speed Work/Recovery Time:

There are several things you can add to your summer routine to help increase your speed and recovery time. Court sprints. Ghosting. Interval Sprinting/Training. Spin classes. Plyometrics etc.

Strength:

It is hard as a player to fit in weight work during the season as there are countless court hours as well as tournament demands. Several strength exercises have too long of a recovery period for a squash player to plan around (especially leg work – we really need our legs)! Now is the perfect time for a squash player to hit the gym. Remember, you don’t want to lift for muscle mass, you want to lift for strength. Too much mass can slow you down on court or impede your swing. Lift for muscle endurance.

If the above two items are a key goal for you to improve on, I highly suggest you check in with a personal trainer or look online for specific squash strength training and speed drill regimes. There is information out there to help you create a program that suit your needs and objectives.

If shot selection, racquet work and/or strategy happen to be your required area of development; summer is the perfect time for taking lessons. When taking lessons it is inevitable that things will start to crumble and get frustrating as you try to make the changes. Doing that during the season can have some exasperating effects, and many people tend to regress to their old habits in order to feel more in control of their games. It is not an easy thing to make technical changes but you have to break the eggs to make the omelette. Therefore I suggest you break the eggs now and make it messy when the score doesn’t matter. If you are eager to make these improvements over the sunny season you should be on court at least once a week (one lesson/one game). Summer squash is great for working on these maddening specifics and fantastic for building endurance. The ball is hot which tends to keep the rally going longer – keeping you on the move.

In conclusion summer should be what you want it to be …

A body and mind break from the game for recuperation, straight through to full on training to take the squash world by storm when the season hits this coming fall. Whatever you choose to do – good luck and have fun!

One last word of advice. Make sure to take some time to enjoy our short and sweet Canadian heat. A nice cold beer on the patio after a sweaty summer squash match is a beautiful thing!

Cheers

Nicole Garon
Squash Pro & Program Director
Brantford Movati Athletic

The 2018 Canadian Squash Championship

The main draw of the Canada Squash Championships starts tomorrow!

No, I am not playing but 3 of our sponsored athletes are. Mike McCue, Nick Sachvie and Sam Cornett all start their quest to win the 2018 Championship tomorrow.

Samantha Cornet

Photo Credit Squash CanadaMike was the very first athlete we ever sponsored.

Mike is a very hard worker and has made some great strides in the last couple of years. Mike beat his seeding

in last year’s National Championship taking out Andrew Schnell in the semi-finals.

I was lucky enough to be able to see the match in person and Mike played incredibly. I was really impressed with how he held his composure and played his best squash when it mattered most in that match and was able to close it out.

I am sure that Mike is looking to improve on his finalist position of last year and win his first Canadian Squash Championship.

Good luck Mike!

Nick Sachvie

Photo Credit Squash CanadaAt this time last year we did not sponsor Nick Sachvie. Nick was someone I had considered reaching out to see if he would be interested in working with us and that discussion started in person at last years’ Championship.

Nick’s 2016/2017 was a really dominating one in Canada. He really separated himself from the rest of the Canadian players. That culminated in Nick winning the 2017 Canadian Squash Championship without dropping a game.

Nick’s 2017/2018 season has been a tough one as he has struggled with some injuries. Thankfully he his most recent play on the PSA World Tour sees him returning to form just in time for the Canadian Championship.

Best of luck Nick in defending the Championship!

Samantha Cornet

Photo Credit Squash CanadaSam is a 3 time champion winning in 2013, 2014 and again in 2015.

Sam is a tremendous player and is Canada highest ranked woman on the PSA World Tour. Sam’s rank at present is number 35 in the world. Right behind her, ranked 36 in the world is Hollie Naughton who won the Canadian Championship in 2016 and again in 2017.

I am sure this year’s Women’s Open draw of the Championship is going to be a really tough one. I am hoping that Sam can reach the final and take the title this year.

Best of luck Sam, we will be cheering for you and hope to see you hoist the trophy!

I am really excited to watch the 2018 Canadian Squash Championships. While I am not going to be there in person I will be watching the results and hopefully watching the live streaming of as many matches as possible. Good luck TeamCT!

Inspiration Is A Powerful Thing

Think about the basic sports we have been exposed to over the years.

  • Hockey
  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Golf

All have massive TV exposure. How do you think the general public gets inspired to play? Try new things, new shots, new moves? How do you they choose their favourite players? Why do they select certain jerseys etc.? They see the game and the athletes in action. They hear the commentary and learn the strategy. They mimic what they see (monkey see, monkey do). They are absorbing the game visually and learning through the influence of entertainment.

This is what the game of squash has needed for a long – long time.

We are FINALLY getting there with the introduction of SQUASH TV.

If you have not been exposed to Squash TV, I highly recommend it. They have made watching the game of squash a truly engaging and thrilling experience. The all glass courts and multiple camera angles pick up everything from sweat drops to slides and smashing nick outs. Never has the game been so accessible and never has it been more exciting. The commentary informative and completely entertaining. The players are not only incredible athletes showcasing their phenomenal skill, but they are characters we end up routing for (or against).

I have been playing this game for several decades and thought there wasn’t much else to add to the extraordinary sport of squash. I was wrong. I get very inspired (and rather fired up) after watching the pros in action. I find myself adding things to my game that I wouldn’t have even thought of before seeing someone like Ramy execute it like a surgeon! Not only does it help improve my own game, but as a coach, I can use it to help demonstrate certain shots, movement and strategies to students. It is a remarkable tool that I am very grateful for.

Squash TV has a positive impact on the game. Maybe one day it will get to the networks, but for now there are a few ways to check it out and catch the excitement.

If you don’t have to have a subscription (which I do – and obviously LOVE), you can catch highlights on Youtube and special editions such as “Shots of the Month”.

If this doesn’t get you revved up to play, I’m not sure what will!!

NICOLE GARON
Squash Pro & Program Director
Brantford Movati Athletic

Ramy Ashour – The Grasshopper Cup 2018 Champion!

I confess I did not believe I would be writing a post about Ramy Ashour winning the Grasshopper Cup when the tournament started. It has been a long time since I have seen Ramy Ashour play at that level for an entire match, let alone an entire tournament.

Ramy Ashour The Grasshopper Cup 2018 Champion

Photo credit to www.psaworldtour.com

What an incredible display of squash we squash fans have just witnessed. When I started writing this I had just finished watching the final against Mohamed ElShorbagy and what a statement Ramy made. Ramy’s length and width amazing, his use of deception was incredible, and his retrievals simply unbelievable.

Joey Barrington made note of a comment that Mohamed ElShorbagy had made before the match about how good Ramy’s width and length is. I don’t always think that is what people think about when they think of Ramy’s play. His incredible shot making is what comes to mind when I think of Ramy’s top game. That is all setup though by putting immense pressure on his opponents by such an incredible base game. Watching the match there were so few opportunities for ElShorbagy to attack from the centre of the court. Not only was Ramy getting the ball past Shorbagy a great deal of the time he was really forcing him to deep in to the back of the court. That good length and width really put a lot stress on Mohamed physically.

Ashour is also an incredibly deceptive player. He is capable of using such a short swing and still generating enough pace to get the ball past his opponent. That short swing really forces his opponent to play a high “T” position to be able to cover Ramy’s incredible short game. That opens up the back court for Ramy and makes it so much harder for his opponent to cover the back court. It is all about the options he has from the same swing. There is also often a subtle delay in Ramy’s shorter swing. That delay forces his opponent to have wait for the shot to be played making them that little bit later to the ball.

A healthy Ramy Ashour is possibly the best retriever on the PSA World Tour. While Ramy is certainly fast from point to point I believe it is his incredible read of the play that makes his such a good retriever.  He seems to be able to wait to just the right time to start moving to the correct location for where the ball is going. He does not seem to get fooled very often about where the shot is going to be played. His first step is also incredibly quick. So while there are probably players that are faster point to point, and others that are more powerful movers Ramy’s read of the play and incredible reaction time make him incredibly difficult to break down.

What an incredible treat it was to get to watch a completely healthy Ramy Ashour play! It has been a long time since we have had the chance to see such a performance. Ramy’s basic game, use of deception and incredible retrieving skill make his such a tough player to compete against. Add in his legendary shot making ability and Ramy is one of the best of all time. Congratulations to Ramy Ashour on winning the 2018 Grasshopper Cup and I truly hope that we get to see Ramy compete in many more events in full health in the near future! The PSA World Tour is always incredible but having a healthy Ramy Ashour competing for titles makes it even greater.

 

Tournament Play Preparation

Tournament play can be very taxing both mentally and physically …

There are several difficult matches spaced out throughout a day and throughout the weekend. There are spectators and crowds that can be distracting or nerve-wracking depending on what you are used to. There could be people there you haven’t seen for a while that wish to catch up and socialize, as well as individuals that may want you to see their matches and give advice.

The food provided might not be available when you need it, or it may not be what you need to properly fuel your body. Depending on where the tournament is, you may not be sleeping in your own bed or have the comfort and convenience that home offers.

All of these factors affect game play. If you wish to perform well and have goals of success at a tournament (or tournaments), it is essential to prepare accordingly.

Now, how does one prepare? It is a personal thing, and you need to figure out what works best for you. That said; there are some basics that should be taken into consideration with the two vital buckets being Physical and Mental.

BUCKET 1 = PHYSICAL

Everyone knows that squash is physically demanding at the best of times. Training to be fit enough to play multiple matches and ensure you can recover between games is par for the course.

  • Trust that you have done the proper pre-work for fitness and endurance.
  • The key to the physical part of the tournament is the RECOVERY.
  • The keys to recovery are – REST. HYDRATION. NUTRITION.

REST

Lack of sleep can have significant negative effects on performance and recovery. It can slow the body down physically as well as cognitively (you need to move and think in squash). Making sure you are getting proper sleep leading up to a tournament can help prepare the body as well as the mind.

Rest doesn’t only mean sleep it also refers to taking a body break. Leading up to the tournament, take at least the day before off of squash. Do some solo drills and light hitting to keep the confidence up, but if you can avoid the hard grinding matches a day or two before the tournament, your body will thank you!

HYDRATION

The week of the tournament make sure you are hydrating. Take in less sodium and less alcohol and drink LOTS and LOTS of water. Proper hydration helps reduce the soreness that you will feel after hard matches. Staying hydrated during the tournament will also help reduce stiffness. Finally, make sure you are drinking enough water after your matches to replenish the fluids lost during your games.

NUTRITION

It’s true, you are what you eat. Consume crap, perform like crap.

In other words, eat well. Skip the processed and fast foods. Instead, fuel your body with whole foods with high nutritional value. You will have the proper energy required for high-intensity aerobic and anaerobic activity, as opposed to the quick burn and burn out energy of processed food. Make sure you also pack food to have with you. As noted above, you may not be able to tap into the food available at the tournament due to match times, or food options. I always have several protein bars, apples, bananas, etc. in my bag that I can tap into if and when needed to maintain the fuel required to perform.

BUCKET 2 = MENTAL

Now that we have the physical basics covered, we can tap into the mental portion of preparing for a tournament.

As much as squash can be mentally demanding, tournament play is even more draining. There is something about the intensity and environment that can make a seemingly regular match feel very wearing. Call it nerves if you wish or tension; the fact of the matter is that tournament play amplifies our internal personal pressures and expectations of performance (even if we are consciously unaware of them – they are there).

How do you counterbalance the additional fatigue of amplified expectations and nerves? Know that it is coming! Once you are aware of the intensification, you can offset it.

RELAXATION

Have a routine that you know relaxes you. It could be listening to music or sitting in a dark silent room. It could be meditating or going for a walk, or simply some deep breathing. Whatever it is that gives you a sense of calm, practice that and be able to tap into it. Calm the mind and reduce the surrounding clutter. Not only is this routine important to do before a tournament, but also after your matches. This should be part of your warm down to reset your frame of mind. There are a great deal of distractions at a tournament; matches to watch, people to socialize with entertainment and events etc., etc. My advice is to carve out some down time for yourself before and after your matches to get the mind focused and prepared.

VISUALIZATION

If you have been to the host location before, visualize the courts – see the environment. Put yourself there and get comfortable with it. If you have never been, perhaps look it up on the web to get a visual sense of the layout etc. Having a sense of a place and layout can help reduce potential anxiety.

When visualizing match play, make sure you add people to the crowd, those who will be cheering for you as well as your opponent. This will help prepare you for extra bodies and extra noise outside the court.

Last but not least, when visualizing your match see yourself in success mode. See yourself making winning shots. A positive mindset will help you be more confident and more confidence provides the right frame of mind required for squash, that ever so difficult combination of “Calm, Energized, Patient and Attacking”.

Squash is an exciting and challenging game, which is only further exaggerated by a tournament environment. Knowing how to deal with this environment and the emotions that competition can create will help you be more successful at tournaments.

The competition season is heating up.
Dip into both the MENTAL & PHYSICAL buckets for a little sip of help!
Good Luck!

NICOLE GARON
Squash Pro & Program Director
Brantford Movati Athletic