I've been playing squash for around 15 years now and I've seen lots of changes and advances in coaching over the years in order to cater to the different playing styles.
In the past, a very traditional style was coached to all players, and finding your own personal style wasn't necessarily encouraged as much. Everyone was taught to lunge in on their right foot for backhands, to lunge on their left foot for forehands, to have the same grip throughout the match etc.
Recently, it's become more apparent that people have different styles that work for them, and now, within the world of coaching, coaches are beginning to encourage people to experiment with their own style of play and see what works for them.
I think this is absolutely great, it allows players to get creative and differentiate themselves from other players too.
With that in mind, I thought I'd talk about a somewhat unorthodox technique that has hugely helped my game over the years... changing your grip during the rally.
Squash players are all different, this is one of the reasons why I find the sport so interesting. Players have different techniques, swings, movements, and different styles overall.
There are orthodox and unorthodox approaches to play, there are players who play with more of a traditional style, there are more modern style players, and everyone has a style and a technique that works for them.
When I first started playing, I was always taught that I should have the same grip throughout the rally, no matter what shot I was playing and where I was playing it from.
For the first few years, I was only participating in group sessions, meaning that it was sometimes hard to get advice and tips that were specific to me and my own playing style.
I had my squash grip revelation when I began to get one-on-one lessons from a private coach.
We were working on digging balls out of the back corners (something I'll talk about shortly). My coach told me to move my grip further up the throat of the racquet so I can dig balls out better.
I remember questioning him, 'change my grip? In the middle of the rally?', it sounded mad!
But I gave it a go over the next few sessions, and it helped my game hugely. This was the first point at which I began embracing elements of non-traditional play.
After years of practice and experience in altering my grip, I've come to the conclusion that there are two key areas that this helps in squash. Deep at the back of the court and deep in the front of the court.
Deep in the back corners
A lot of points are lost deep in those back corners, especially amongst beginner and amateur level players. Digging the ball out of those corners can be one of the hardest things to master.
As I briefly mentioned above, when I was working on this, my coach would teach me to slide my hand further up the racquet. I'd sometimes move my grip so far up that my hand was partially higher than the grip itself.
This will certainly feel a little strange if you haven't tried it before. The idea is to just get used to sliding your hand right up to the top of the grip, this gives you a lot more room to use your wrist and flick the shot out.
Since there is barely any room for a large swing in this scenario, the only momentum you'll be able to get behind your shot is from your wrist. It's hard to explain why without waffling, but you can access so much more wrist with this altered grip.
Just try it out and see for yourself, grab your racquet, hold it in your regular grip at first, and see how fast you can whip through a swing (only using your wrist). Then alter your grip to be further up the throat and try it again, you'll be able to get a lot more flick with your wrist!
As soon as you've played your shot, you can move your grip back down to the 'regular grip'.
I often mention that learning this technique was one of the biggest boosts to my squash.
Image from PSA website
Deep in the front corners
I believe this grip alteration is one that is less talked about.
If you take a look above at the picture of squash professional, Omar Mosaad, you can see that he's stretching for a shot that looks pretty hard to reach.
It's a very deep lunge and his racquet arm is fully extended. In instances like this, in which you have to reach a difficult shot from at the front of the court, it comes down to very small margins that decide whether you get to the ball in time or not.
Every little adjustment you make to your swing, movement, and grip can mean the difference between reaching that shot or missing it. It often comes down to centimetres and even millimetres!
This is where the grip alteration comes in.
Again, if you look at the picture above, you can see that Mosaad's hand is very far down his grip. Similarly, in the image below of Miguel Rodriguez, you can see his hand is very low down on the grip, so much so that it seems like he's using his fingertips to actually hold the racquet.
Obviously, this image of Rodriguez is pretty extreme, however, it really shows the grip alteration I'm talking about very well.
If you slide your hand down the grip to the bottom (and even put it into your finger tips rather than the palm of your hand), you'll be able to reach that extra couple of centimetres.
Image from The Squash Company website
How to practice changing your grip
If you've never tried altering your grip mid-rally before, it can be very difficult to build into your game.
The best way to start is to just stand and hold your racquet with a regular grip, then just practice switching between the regular grip, to the 'high up the throat' grip (for digging balls out of the back), 'bottom of the racquet' grip (for reaching balls at the front.
Once this starts to feel more normal, then it's time to implement it into your drills and gameplay. Again, this will feel a bit weird at first, but it will eventually become ingrained into your game.
It takes a lot of thought at first, so when training, try to make these grip alterations the main focus in your head with every shot. Then, just practice practice practice!
This is a more general tip and isn't necessarily unorthodox, but I think it's just worth mentioning. I coach a lot of players who grip their racquet very tight, so tight in fact that you can see the whites of their knuckles.
This isn't good and will hinder the control and flow of your swing. It can also lead to injuries and strains in your hand and wrist. Squash is an intense sport and it's very easy to start gripping the racquet too tight without realising it.
Make sure to maintain a relaxed grip on the racquet throughout your swings and shots. This will make it a lot easier to alter your grip during the rally as well.
Just don't relax too much or the racquet will fly out of your hand!
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