The new season is officially here and I am absolutely thrilled!
I hope that you've all had a great off-season. It's been the perfect time to relax and enjoy the outdoors a little more, giving your mind and body a bit of a break from the tough nature of squash.
But, now squash is back and it's time to get into the swing of things again. The beginning of the season is arguably one of the hardest times for squash players, as it can be very hard to dust off those cobwebs.
Depending on how much you've played over the summer, that first match or training session back can be hard (especially in the following days). With that said, this is also a good time to remember why you love squash so much, and hopefully, embrace the challenges of the new season with open arms!
In this article, I'll be talking a bit about my personal plans and goals for this season, and will then give some recommendations for you to plan your own season.
The main goal of this week's article is to get you hyped up for squash again (like I am), so hopefully I can do that...
My Plans For The Season
Last season was a bit of a strange one for me because I spent the first half travelling around Canada (which was an amazing trip)!
I managed to play some squash in Canada but, unfortunately, it was nowhere near enough to be able to play at the standard I was hoping to when I got back to England.
I returned from Canada for the second half of the season so I still had plenty of team games left to play for my local club (Northern RFC) and another club I play for in a different county (Bannatynes, in Durham).
I remember trying to get as much training in as possible before my first match back, but, I also remember that it was very tough going on my body and mind.
I certainly struggled in my first few team matches, losing out to some people that I used to beat before I went away. This definitely took its toll on my confidence, but, thinking back, I also learned a lot from it.
I managed to bounce back towards the final couple of months of the season and was happy with the level I was playing at by then.
Now, the reason I'm talking about this is because I'm actually doing a similar thing this year. I'm currently travelling around South America and it looks as though I will, again, be back in England in time for the second half of the season.
Sadly, I don't think I'll be able to get much squash in while I'm here, but, I'm doing plenty of hiking, running, and workouts to stay as fit as possible.
I haven't been out here for very long so far but I'm already missing squash a lot, however, I'm also thinking hard about my plan for getting back to squash after my travels.
Since I experienced a very similar situation last season, I feel a lot more prepared for a return to squash after being out for three or four months this time.
Last time, I made the mistake of trying to throw myself straight back into things by playing as much as possible (being constantly sore as a result), then still being frustrated when I didn't play as well as I did before I went away travelling.
Even though I hadn't been playing, I had quite high expectations for myself with regard to who I wanted to beat and how often I wanted to play, which was definitely a mistake.
This time around, my first point of action when I get back to England will be to return to routine (rather than just playing as much as possible).
Since I will be back just before Christmas, I should have a month or so to ease back into training. I want to start off slow, mainly just doing some light drills and routines a couple of times for the first two weeks back.
Then, I'll try to progress into some friendly matches to get my body used to competitive gameplay again with the rough aim of playing one friendly and one or two training sessions per week (up until my first team match).
I want to try to minimise my risk of being stiff and sore from training (although I will not be able to avoid that completely) by warming up and cooling down before and after any sessions.
Once I'm back playing team squash (which is either one or two matches per week), I'll listen to my body and switch things up.
I'd like to try to play three times per week in total when I can, however, if I have two team matches in one week, I'll keep the third one as light as possible.
Last season, my main mistake was looking at each individual player and deciding whether I should win or lose against them, then being frustrated when I lost against someone I thought I should beat.
This time around, I'm going to try to focus on myself rather than my opponent during matches. I want to think more about how I played and what I did right (and wrong), rather than fixating on the result itself.
The biggest thing (and possibly the hardest thing) that I need to aim to do, is to not be too hard on myself when I don't play very well. It's definitely easier said than done, but, after learning from my experience last season, I think I'll deal with it better this season.
I'm also aiming to enter at least three or four tournaments during the second half. I always enjoy tournaments and love playing against new players, so this is a must.
Luckily a lot of my friends also like to travel around a bit to play tournaments, so I shouldn't struggle with this goal.
A more specific part of my plan is also to get back into the 8000s on Squash Levels by the end of the season.
I've talked a bit about Squash Levels in the past, but just as a refresher, it's basically a massive database of squash players that gives everyone a score and ranks them based on all of their previous results.
It also gives accurate predictions of whether you should win or lose against certain players, if you beat someone who has a higher score than you, then you will go up and they will go down (based on the scores in the match).
Anyway, I'm currently in the 7000s, however, I know this is likely going to go down a little when I get back for the second half (because I may be struggling against players who are perhaps a little lower than me on Squash Levels).
Last season, it took about two months for me to be somewhat confident in my game again. So, based on that milestone, I'd like to start trying to improve my Squash Levels after two or three months of being back in England.
Last, but not least, many people's plans in squash involve improving specific elements of their game (e.g. their length game or their winners), however, for me in my situation, I think I just need to focus all my efforts on getting back up to scratch in the second half.
But, I also want to try my best to stay fit and strong. I do plenty of running and some weightlifting already, so, if I can keep this as part of my routine when I'm back playing, I'll be happy!
Planning For Your Season...
Enough about me, now it's time to get you hyped up for the coming season!
Different players take different approaches in the off-season, some people like to not play at all, others just play every now and again, and some people like to play all through the off-season so they come back the same or even stronger when the new season starts.
Regardless of what you did in the off-season, I hope you're excited to be playing again!
As you gear up to step back on court, I think it's important to soak in the enthusiasm that comes with a fresh start. The start of a new season is almost like a chance to hit the reset button.
You'll have new goals in mind and new challenges ahead too.
For some, it can be hard to rekindle that drive and enthusiasm after some time off, however, try to think about some of your wins and big moments from last season and how they made you feel, and try to tap into that.
Think about your favourite parts of the sport that you have missed and will experience in the new season too. For example, for me, team squash is absolutely my favourite part of the sport.
That competitive atmosphere (whether you're playing home or away) and that collective desire for your team to win is electrifying for me. Then, the social side of things when we all sit down for food and a drink afterwards is just as fun.
Of course, your favourite part of squash might be different!
A plan of action for the coming season (such as mine that I talked about above) can also help you get hyped up for squash because it allows you to paint a mental picture of what your ideal season would look like if you reached all your goals.
It’s certainly working for me!
So, when it comes to putting together a plan, it’s important to set some specific and realistic goals. What is it you’re looking to achieve? Is it a win against a specific player or rival? Is it a tournament win? Or is it as simple as upping your fitness? Do you want to improve your technique?
Whatever it is, try to make sure it’s somewhat measurable, but most importantly, that it’s achievable.
Then, you should begin mapping out the steps that will help you reach those goals.
With that in mind, part of your plan could also include revamping your training routine. If you’re working on patience and consistency, perhaps you should include length-based drills in training.
If you’re working on some more specific technical stuff, such as altering your swing or movement, perhaps it would be worth getting a coach, filming your training, or just asking other squash players for their advice.
Whatever it is you want to achieve, it’s definitely worth thinking about your training and how you can use it to reach that target.
Another important point is that getting back into training in and of itself can be tough. Try to ease into it rather than just going all out in the first few weeks of the season.
You don’t want to burn out right from the start!
If you can, see if you can find some local players or friends to hit with on a regular basis so you can start to stick to a training regime.
I know many players just like to play friendly matches rather than drills, however, I’d strongly advise trying to incorporate some drill routines into your plan if you can find a training partner who wants to too.
Some squash clubs run training camps at the start of the season for this very reason. Greystone Racquet Club (where the Control the ‘T’ Sports store is located), for example, is running a four-week Rust Remover Clinic.
The clinic will be held every Monday evening and participants will undergo some training (which will include drills and routines), then, the session will end with a 30 minute yoga session.
This kind of thing is the perfect way to ease back into the new season.
If your local squash club isn’t offering something like this, then perhaps it may be up to you to take the initiative to try to get a group together to meet regularly and train. The more the merrier!
Lastly, some final bits of advice for getting back into squash in the new season…
If you’re looking to get more involved in squash while upping your game, see if you can join a local team if you don’t play for one already.
As I mentioned earlier, team squash is amazing because you get to play new players, be part of a team, and have some good fun and chat after matches.
Tournaments are also great for meeting and playing new players, so if you hear of any tournaments nearby that you can attend, I’d highly recommend it.
Do some research online and ask around, I’m sure you’ll find something!
Generally, try to remember not to be too harsh on yourself, especially for bad results earlier on in the season. Everyone gets back into the swing of things at different speeds.
Embrace those new challenges ahead, but, most importantly, don’t take things too seriously. It’s easy for the fun to be sucked out of squash if you’re getting frustrated and emotional any time something doesn’t go your way.
Celebrate each of those small wins that indicate improvement or take you a step closer to your longer-term goals. It’s a sign of progress and you deserve a pat on the back!
Whatever happens in the new season, try your best to stick to a routine and stay focused on your goals. Your season plan is the roadmap to your targets, so stick to it and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.
And finally, best of luck to you all…
Squash is back!
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