The line between 'proper technique' and 'individual technique' has become more and more blurred over the years in squash.
When I started out as a junior in the early 2000s, coaches generally taught one generic technique to all players.
As the sport has progressed, coaches now seem to follow more of a hybrid approach that allows players to experiment and find their own personal style whilst still having the main core technical elements that make a good swing.
Ultimately, I think that's a very good thing, but it can become quite difficult to define when 'individual technique' crosses the line to become 'bad technique'.
It seemed like an ideal topic to unpack in a blog post!
I've touched on this topic a few times in previous newsletters, but I've never really gone into that much depth before.
I'm going to try not to go into too much detail about specific elements of swing technique, instead, I want to stay focused on why it's important to be aware of your own personal style and why you should avoid scrutinising every element of your swing that doesn't match the 'generic' style.
As I mentioned, when I first started playing, coaches taught a pretty standard 'generic' technique to all players and would generally try to procure every player's swing to match one style.
However, when I got into my mid-teens, I was lucky enough to have an individual coach who would try to get me to tweak certain elements of my swing to access more power and make it more deceptive.
These tweaks were quite unorthodox to say the least, and they involved actually altering parts of my swing to be far more wristy than usual, which went against the 'standard' technique.
I'll not go into these specific changes, but they basically involved me rolling my wrist a lot in the wind-up before I hit the ball on both forehand and backhand (you can kind of see this in the photo a little further down).
Anyway, I also received regular group coaching with groups of around 10 players and the coach of these groups disagreed with my individual coach's methods quite strongly. So, for a short while, they were both teaching me different techniques, which probably wasn't great for my game.
With that said, the group coach was a level 4 qualified coach and an incredible mentor who had been playing squash for over 25 years, and my individual coach was a level 2 qualified coach who was a lot younger but still a very talented player.
Something that I'll never forget is that one day, the group coach told our group that he'd received the next level in his coaching qualification and that, on the coaching course, they'd discussed how squash has progressed to become faster and orientated around improvisation rather than standard techniques.
It was like he'd had a revelation and it was really interesting to see. Moving forward, he adapted his coaching methods to take into account different styles of swing and he would weigh out the pros and cons of player's individual styles without trying to make everyone play the same.
It was so refreshing to see that he wasn't stuck in his ways and was willing to grow and adapt!
Something that's probably quite important to mention is that I'm from England. English squash players (in the past more than the present) were generally known for playing a slow, steady game and having a large, early racquet preparation that would lead to a large sweeping swing style.
Although this worked well in earlier days, the game has grown to be faster and more improvisation orientated as I mentioned before.
If you follow professional squash, you'll know very well that Egyptians are currently dominating the game and have been for some time now.
If you look from player to player, the techniques of Egyptian pros all look completely different. Ali Farag, Mohamed ElShorbagy, and Mostafa Asal all have completely different swings, yet they're all in the top 5 players in the world.
The same goes for the women's PSA World Tour, Nouran Gohar, Hania El Hammamy, and Nour El Sherbini also all have different swings and they are the best three women in the world according to current rankings.
The Egyptian style of play promotes creativity and deception. The Egyptians' unique swings can be used to send opponents the wrong way, play the ball at a multitude of different timings, and ultimately put some serious strain on their opponents both physically and mentally.
Ali Farag is currently men's World No.1 and his swing is very unorthodox, wristy, and so deceptive. If this isn't enough evidence for individual technique, I don't know what is!
To put this into a basic perspective, given the speed that squash is played at, there is often no time to prepare and execute the 'perfect technique'. With that in mind, there can't be a 'right' technique for each situation either, it's all about improvising and adapting your swing for the best possible outcome.
But what does this mean for you?
Your technique (and how easy it is to change), depends on a number of factors such as your level of play and how long you've been playing.
If you're quite new to the sport of squash and you're still developing your swing style, it should be easier to spot and change certain elements of your swing.
With that said, at that level, I'd highly advise getting a coach to help with this. A good squash coach will help you build a technique that works well for you and your coach should also be able to spot features of your swing that may be bad or unhelpful.
Try watching the pros and analyse their techniques in different situations, taking note of how they adapt their swing depending on their position, where the ball is, where their opponent is, and what shot they're trying to play.
If you're a club-level player who has played squash for quite a long time, it might be harder to make changes to your swing (if that's what you're looking to do).
A lot of players at my local club tend to use the same swing for most shots, so with that in mind, perhaps looking to work on deception and practicing tweaking your technique in different situations could give you a competitive edge and take your game to the next level.
It's quite tough to put this topic into words. Perhaps the general message I'm trying to convey is that you shouldn't restrict yourself to a generic swing, don't be afraid to improvise and experiment.
Try out a shorter backswing, add a bit of wrist, play around with timing, if you find something that feels right and works well, then just keep procuring it and practicing it until it becomes more engrained into your general technique.
In my research for this article, I stumbled across an excellent piece from Andy Whipp at SquashMad on this very topic and he absolutely nails it with this:
'The key to a “good technique” is a swing which will allow the player to make contact with the ball exactly how they want to – irrelevant of what their arm did before contact. There is not just one “good technique”.'
I couldn't have put it better myself.
If you'd like to read more about this topic, or read about it from a different perspective, I'd highly recommend checking out Andy's article (click here), but please make sure to come back and check out our Around the Web section after!
Anyway, I hope you gained something useful from this, I know I did!
I actually benefit a lot from writing these newsletters as it helps me grow more as a player and unpack certain topics as I write.
Being a coach myself, this topic, in particular, was very interesting to write about and I'll definitely be taking some things away from it myself.
This article was taken from our On The 'T' Newsletter, if you're interested in receiving more content like this, please feel free to sign up using the subscribe section located at the bottom left of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!