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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on April 13, 2023

Hanging Back During Rallies? Trying One Of These 3 Drills...

I recently went away skiing and had a couple of weeks off squash, and, after getting back on court, I've come to the conclusion that it's always my T positioning that suffers the most when I have time off squash.

Although my shot accuracy and fitness usually take a bit of a hit after not playing, it doesn't take too long for that to come back naturally after a few drills sessions and matches.

When it comes to my T positioning, I find that, unless I make a proactive effort in training to improve it, it tends to remain quite poor which is frustrating!

Since I've had to improve my T positioning a number of times in the past after time off squash, I have a select few favourite drills that I think do the best of job getting my positioning back to scratch.

Now, your situation might be different to mine, but I know that this an issue that many many players struggle with.

But first, what do I mean by hanging back? Well, hanging back is essentially the same as having a bad T position. Ideally, after every shot, you should move back to the T and position yourself a step (or half a step if you're looking to attack more) behind the T line.

However, a very easy trap to fall into (especially during longer rallies or as matches reach their later stages) is not moving all the way back to the T after your shot. Instead, when players hang back, they position themselves around 3 or 4 steps behind the T after their shot.

This primarily happens during length rallies when moving back to the T from the back of the court as players will begin to make the assumption that their opponent is just going to hit another length and that they won't need to move as far to retrieve that shot if they're already stood further back.

This often happens quite subconsciously, but, before you know it, your opponent has played an attacking boast or a drop from the back and you have to work even harder to retrieve it.

This is the main issue with hanging back. It gives your opponent the opportunity to put some serious pressure on you.

Hanging back can have an even worse impact if you play a weak length and don't make efforts to get back to a positive T position when your opponent is already in front of you, as they opponent can then jump on the volley and take it into the front early meaning that you have to scramble and rush to retrieve that shot.

It's quite easy to spot if you're struggling with hanging back. If you often catch yourself in that negative T position at the end of rallies, or, if you find yourself getting nowhere near the ball before it bounces twice when your opponent takes it into the front, this indicates that you may be hanging back.

The habit of hanging back tends to creep in unnoticed but then becomes more noticeable once you start losing rallies because of it.

However, there are a bunch of drills you can do that help you build that positive T position back into muscle memory pretty fast!

Below are three of my favourites. I have purposefully excluded basic ghosting from this list as I know most players (myself included) really don't enjoy it! Unless you're a full time pro, I imagine you'd prefer to keep your training sessions as enjoyable as possible.

Not only will these drills cure the habit of hanging back, but they can also help you be far more assertive in your positioning. If you're serious about taking your game to the next level and put the pressure on players you've previously struggled against, I'd highly advise trying out these drills to work on your T positioning.

Let's dive in...

1. Touch the T

I have actually written a newsletter on this drill before quite a while back, however, it still remains as one of my favourite drills of all time for improving your T position.

Physically, it is a pretty tough one so you'll get a good workout too!

There are a bunch of ways you can mix up and vary this drill, but ultimately, the main feature is pretty simple, you have to touch the T after every single shot you play, with no excuses.

You can either touch the T with at least one foot after every shot, or, if you want to make it a tiny bit easier, you can touch the T with your racquet after every shot instead.

You can play this drill with two (or more) players, unfortunately, it can't be done solo.

This is a great drill for progression and adding in new rules as you go. My advice would be to start off with the condition that every shot has to land first bounce (or second bounce if you're a more advanced-level player) in the back of the court, and that neither player can volley the ball.

This means that the rallies should last longer and you'll not get as tired as fast! You can use the whole back of the court (which includes crosscourts), or you can just keep it to straight drives on either side if you prefer.

I would also say to do it without incorporating scoring at first (until you and your partner are both used to the drill).

As you both (or however many of you are playing the drill) get used to it, you can start to make it more competitive by adding in a scoring element and also adding in the volley. The volley can make things far more physically tough, however, it also punishes weak shots and forces you to think about tighteness and accuracy.

Now, if you're an advanced level player, you can also incorporate the front of the court into this drill, however, as you might imagine, this will most likely make the rallies a lot shorter and make things a lot more physically demanding.

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2. A Boast And A Drive

This drill also involves a partner who will be the feeder, this means that you can switch between who is doing the drill and who is feeding so you get a bit of a break between goes.

This break will be much needed as you'll be thrilled to hear that this is quite a tiring drill too!

Anyway, the feeder will stand in the back corner on either forehand or backhand side (but we'll say the forehand side to start with just so I can explain the drill more clearly) and the other player doing the drill will start on the T.

The feeder will start by playing a boast, then the other player will move into the front of the court and play a crosscourt back to the feeder (before moving back to that perfect T position).

The feeder will then play a medium or soft paced deep straight length to the back of the court (and then will have to move out of the way), and the other player then has to go and retrieve that shot and play another straight drive back to the feeder who will then play a boast.

Essentially the feeder is feeding from the same corner for the whole drill and, in this case, the other player is moving from the front left corner to the back right corner and then just repeating that.

As this drill should be played pretty continuously, the movement from the front corner to the back corner will probably not involve stopping on the T for long (or at all) as it's quite a far distance to cover in a short space of time.

However, the movement from the back corner back to the T should be used to practice that positive T position. Although, at this point, you know that the feeder will be playing a boast, this will encourage you to position yourself further up the court in anticipation which is still a good thing.

You and your partner can then swap places and swap sides so you both get a go in every area of the court and this is when you can progress the drill...

Once both players have the routine down, the next step is for the feeder to start mixing it up. So now, the feeder can choose whether to play a boast or a straight drive to the back, meaning that the other player has to cover both the front and the back of the court (as they would in an actual match situation).

This is where it can get really physically tough, but this is when your positive T position will be really tried and tested!

3. Anchors

This is another personal favourite of mine and it also involves two players. It could almost be classed as a progression from the previous drill, however, it involves even more corners of the court.

I believe my coach named it anchors so that's just what I call it but I'm not sure if anybody else has another name for this drill.

Anyway, anchors involves the feeder staying in one of the back corners for the whole rally (as they are anchored there).

The feeder starts the drill by playing a boast and, after that, they can play into any of the other three corners of the court. The other player then has to play every single shot back into the feeders corner (with the first bounce in that quarter).

The feeder can't play any shots back into their own quarter, so they essentially have the front to quarter and one back quarter to play into. This means that the player doing the drill has to be ready to go into the front corners at all times and will need to maintain a pretty positive T position to cover that area of the court.

However, they need to also be ready to move into the back corners as well.

Ultimately, I'd say that the 'touch the T' drill is great for helping you return to that positive T position when moving out of the back of the court, and 'anchors' is a little more focused on encouraging you to return to a positive T position when moving back out of the front corners.

Both of which area equally important!

You can adapt and add conditions to the anchors drill to suit your standard, for example, you could make it a little easier by saying that the ball can bounce second bounce into the anchors' quarter. This makes it easier to play on after that crosscourt from the back of the court, which can be tricky to dig out.

You can also mix other drills into this one, for example, my coach used to make me do 'touch the T' during the 'anchors' drill at the end of our sessions which was pretty brutal!

A Bonus Drill For Testing Your T Positioning...

Now, if you've tried out a few of these drills, I'd say it's time to begin putting your positive T positioning to the test in more of a full-court style drill.

The idea of this bonus drill is that you start the rally like normal with a crosscourt serve and the condition is that each player only gets two shots to take it into the front of the court per rally.

So, everything has to bounce first bounce (or second bounce) behind the short line, and you're allowed two shots that land in front of the short line per rally. If your opponent retrieves both of them, then you have to play everything else to the back or you lose the point.

I find that this drill does a great job of simulating an actual match situation because, when just doing drills, making a mistake doesn't really matter too much as there's not necessarily a point at stake so players are more keen to take balls short.

However, since there is a point at stake in this drill and because you only get two chances to attack to the front of the court, players will be much more conservative with when they actually take it short (which emulates a high-pressure match situation well in my opinion).

Anyway, this drill is great for stopping players hanging back during rallies as, although you know many shots are going to go into the back of the court, you still really have to focus on covering those front-court shots as they can come in at any time!

Final Thoughts...

Hopefully, if you suffer from poor T positioning, or, if you're looking to step your game up, you'll be able to incorporate these drills into your routine.

They can be pretty phsyically tough so I imagine it might be quite tough to convince your training partner to do them with you, so good luck with that too!

Ultimately, I really think that having a positive T position is how you take your game to the next level. It encourages you to volley more, attack more, and helps you dominate the T and stay in control of the rally.

If you ever watch professional squash matches, just take a look at how far forward some players stand on the T. I'm not saying you should try to stand in the same spot as that may be a bit too tough, however, it just goes to show that this is a tried and tested tactic for improving your chances of winning and competing with the best.

Your homework is to watch footage from any recent match featuring Mohamed ElShorbagy, as his T position is absolutely absurd. It allows him to keep his opponents pinned in the back and he can attack much more often.


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 April 13, 2023
Alex Robertson