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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on August 29, 2023

Experience vs. Youth: How To Beat The Up-And-Coming Junior

I've written a couple of articles on how to beat certain types of players and, to be honest, I've really enjoyed delving deep into those types of topics!

This time, I thought I'd investigate the lesser talked about topic of overcoming younger squash players. When I speak to a lot of the older members at my local club, they seem to really dislike playing juniors, and I can understand why.

Although I'm 26, I've certainly felt the sting of losing to a junior player who is newer and perhaps less experienced in the game than myself (in terms of years played). I can imagine this feeling is amplified when the age and experience gap is even bigger!

So, for this blog post, I'll define the junior squash player (going through their tactics, strengths, and weaknesses), then I'll dive into some of the best strategies that you can deploy to beat them.

Defining the Junior

I guess it's pretty straightforward to define what a junior is, any squash player under the age of 19 is generally classed as a junior player (as the oldest age category in most junior competitions is under 19s).

Unlike other styles of players (whose strengths and weaknesses may be harder to spot), you can be pretty certain when you're coming up against a junior player ahead of the match itself.

This newsletter does, however, bring into question whether 'junior' is actually a particular style of player.

Like everybody else, different juniors have different styles of play, so, I could get more and more specific with this topic the further I delve. But, I personally believe that you can make certain generalisations and assumptions for all junior players across the board.

Although some may be fitter or faster than others and some may be more patient than others, I do think that the majority of juniors share certain strengths and certain weaknesses.

The main factor that comes into play when defining the junior is experience. Juniors tend to have fewer years of experience in the game of squash than adult players do. It's unusual to encounter a junior with any more than 5-7 years of experience in squash (which is still quite a lot).

Of course, this isn't always the case, as people of all ages can pick up squash, but a player will have had to start at a pretty young age to have, say, ten years of experience playing squash, whereas many adult players have usually had a lot more experience on court playing competitive squash in comparison.

Experience plays a huge role in a player's ability to win points. I know a ton of older players who aren't necessarily physically fit or strong, but, who play squash like a game of chess, making them a nightmare to play against.

This comes down to sheer experience and court time against such a wide range of opponents over the years.

Given their young age, junior players are also generally a little weaker (physically) in comparison to adult players, as their bodies aren't usually fully developed.

With that said, according to a quick Google search, girls' bodies normally stop growing around the age of 16, whereas boys have usually finished growing by the time they're 19. But, I believe this is just referring to height.

Growing muscle and having the capacity to build muscle is a different and more complex topic (which is perhaps out of my expertise).

But, as a general rule of thumb, juniors tend to be less muscular the younger they are. However, the above stat may still be worth bearing in mind if you're playing against a junior girl!

Although they may be a little weaker than adults, junior players are also often very fit and full of energy.

Many juniors also get the squash bug when they first start playing, meaning they get instantly hooked on the sport, which is great! This means that they're pretty happy to spend hours and hours on court hitting endless balls without fatiguing or getting bored.

Last, but not least, another defining factor of the junior is mental capacity. This ties in strongly to experience, as more experienced players can often be capable of getting into the junior's head in attempts to break them mentally (if they can't break them physically).

So, junior players may struggle a little more with the mental side of the game... but more about that in the weakness section!

With regard to tactics, juniors tend to play a wide range of shots from a wide range of angles. They don't necessarily think too much about shot selection or pace, they usually just want to hit their favourite shots and win rallies.

This can make them pretty unpredictable too!


As mentioned further above, juniors tend to be very energetic.

When I've coached and watched juniors (especially those under the age of 16), it seems as though they never get tired. They'll run fast for every single shot and it won't affect them physically for the next point.

There are a bunch of reasons for this (and I'm not pretending to be an expert), it could be due to having a lighter frame, it could be due to the fact that they're unlikely to have previous wear and tear (such as injuries of conditions), and it's also likely to be down to more scientific factors that I won't delve into.

Anyway, this is a major strength for young players, especially since squash is so physically demanding (which is amplified as you get older).

Something that ties into the above is that juniors are very fast learners. This is kind of an evolutionary trait as children seem to be designed to be able to pick up new skills fast.

During adolescence, teenagers' bodies are more responsive to training stimuli, allowing for faster gains in strength, speed, and agility.

They're also often more motivated, enthusiastic, and dedicated to their sports pursuits. The junior's passion and energy drive them to practice consistently and intensely, resulting in rapid skill improvement.

What regularly happens is that an older player will perhaps beat a junior one season, then that same junior will improve at a very fast rate and figure out how to play older players, and then beat that very same player that they originally lost to the following season.

Another advantage that junior players have, which is often not really mentioned much, is their support base.

They often have access to training facilities, coaching, and parental support. This environment enables them to receive quality guidance and the resources for constant improvement.

Of course, this is a great thing as juniors are the future of our great sport! However, we're trying to figure out how to beat them this week!

In contrast, it can often be harder for adult players to find that same motivation and drive to improve their squash.

Lastly, I haven't mentioned actual tactics yet, however, this isn't necessarily a big part of juniors' games. Generally, speed, energy, and passion are the junior's biggest advantages.

But, with that said, juniors are often pretty fearless in their style of play. They do like to go for unorthodox shots and winners from all over the court.

This could very well be a sign of impatience and perhaps poor shot selection, but, if they can pull these shots off (which they usually can thanks to hours of playing on court with other juniors), they can be pretty deadly weapons.

This leads me onto the junior's weaknesses...


I mentioned at the end of the strengths section that junior players can be pretty tricky as they are not afraid to go for shots, however, there is a contrast to this...

The junior player generally isn't particularly patient when it comes to building a rally. Most of the time, juniors will be playing against other juniors (who play a similar style to themselves), so patience and a solid length game often don't come into it as much.

However, when they come to play against an older, more disciplined player who can build a rally, control the pace, and pin their opponent in the back to restrict their options, it can be a shock to the system of the junior.

I remember when I was around 15 and I first joined my club's box leagues, it was the first time I'd come up against any players older than 25, and I certainly got caught off-guard by the change in style.

Juniors often play a slightly more impulsive style of squash rather than deploying a strategy and thinking about every shot that they play, however, when they come up against a more experienced player who is able to capitalise on any loose balls and weak shots, it can be their downfall. 

Now onto the mental side of things...

Since the brain finishes developing and maturing in the mid-to-late 20s, it's quite common for junior players (especially younger ones) to become frustrated and agitated if they are losing.

Once a junior starts losing points, they may begin to lose their head and make mistakes.

This is usually down to a lack of experience and is perhaps the junior's biggest weakness. However, it just comes from a place of passion and the desire to win (and also perhaps requires a level of maturity that they have not yet reached).

I know I used to be absolutely devastated when I lost matches as a junior, I didn't necessarily get too angry or break racquets, but I certainly lost my head easily.

I also mentioned above that juniors are generally less muscular than adult players. This can restrict their ability to hit the ball with power.

With that said, it's important to note that big muscles don't necessarily mean that a player can hit the ball hard.

Ultimately, it's more about technique, however, I'd say that being stronger than your opponent is an indicator that you may be able to hit the ball harder than them for longer than them, and, it's pretty likely that you will be stronger than your opponent if they are a junior and you're significantly older than them. 


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

By the way, the picture above is of Amina Orfi who, despite being only 16, already has three PSA titles under her belt as well as a stack of amazing results in junior squash too.

She is currently World No. 43, however, she is playing at a top 20 standard according to her PSA Power Rating, which is just unbelievable.

Unfortunately, this newsletter probably won't help you beat Amina, but I thought she'd be a cool feature image for the article!

Anyway, here are some of the best strategies to deploy to overcome junior players...

Overcoming The Junior

Consistency, patience, and precision are your best friends against a junior player, especially with hitting to the back of the court.

Nothing will frustrate a junior more than being repeatedly pinned in the back corners (while their opponent is on the T) and unable to play any of the shots they want to play.

Aim to force the junior into awkward positions and exploit gaps in their court coverage. Take advantage of any opportunities to volley, especially if you're on the T, and choose wisely when to take it into the front corners.

When you do decide to take the ball into the front of the court with a volley drop, straight drop, kill, or tactical boast, just remember that it is likely that the junior will pick up this shot (as they're usually pretty fast at moving around the court), this is when you then carry on hitting balls to the back.

Mixing up the pace is also a great idea. If you constantly hit at a medium pace against a junior, they will eventually pick up on this, get into a rhythm of their own, and start to move you from corner to corner which is the last thing that you want.

Once they know the pace that you're going to hit a shot at, they can begin figuring out how to use it to attack and put you on the back foot.

So, if you deliver a flurry of powerful, low lengths followed by some sliced tight drives and floaty lobs, the junior will struggle to get into a routine and into their comfort zone.

Just make sure to stay as patient as possible and, although it may be physically tiring, try to keep those rallies going for as long as possible.

Remember, you're the more experienced player on the squash court, you need to use every bit of that experience to your advantage.

It will pay off in the long run, especially when it comes to the mental side of things, this is where you'll really have the advantage once you've put in the work to make rallies long.

If you can put everything you've got into the early points in every game to get an early lead, then you've got a very good chance of getting into the junior's head.

If they become convinced that they're not going to win, it's quite common for younger players to let their head drop and they'll concede some easy points rather than grinding until the bitter end!

Of course, I don't want to paint every player with the same brush, as I've seen plenty of mentally tough juniors, but as a whole, I'd say that the younger a player is, the more likely they are to lose their head when they're not in the lead.

With this in mind, that first game is absolutely crucial against the junior, you need to show them that you mean business, so make sure you come out guns-a-blazing right from that first point.

This means that you need to be fully prepared before the match, so, in the lead-up to stepping on court, ensure you drink plenty of water, do whatever you need to do to mentally prepare, then do a thorough warm-up.

Also, if you've played the junior before or seen them play before, then it is a good idea to formulate a game plan before stepping on court.

Once you're on court, make full use of the warm-up to prepare all of your shots for the match too!

Now, there are some more unorthodox things that I've seen older players use against younger players.

A couple of examples include taking a little longer than normal in between points to break up momentum and disrupt their rhythm, or, chatting to their opponent (in a friendly manner) in between points to distract them from the game at hand.

I don't necessarily condone practices like these, especially if the intent is malicious, however, I also know that older players who maybe aren't as physically capable of tackling the junior want to use everything at their disposal to gain an advantage.

The other way of looking at it is that this will certainly give the junior some great experience of their own to up their game. I know I learned an incredible amount when I started playing against trickier players older than myself when I was a junior.

The last point I'd like to mention is that it can be easy to underestimate the junior, but, that's when they're at their most dangerous. I've seen older players not take the game too seriously (or even go easy) against junior players, but, the junior won't learn as much from that and you also increase your own risk of losing if you do this!

Just because they are perhaps a little smaller than you, it doesn't mean that you're going to win, but, if you've got this far reading this week's newsletter, I imagine you're a player like myself who has felt the sting of defeat against a junior player before!

The sport of squash is changing all the time and juniors often present more experienced players with new challenges and styles all the time too.

As I always say, one of the best ways to improve your game is to play against new players as often as possible, so good luck!

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!

Published by Alex Robertson August 29, 2023
Alex Robertson