There are many different ways to play the game of squash, however, more often than not, the characteristics of different players can be categorised into a specific player profile.
I've written quite a lot of content about these different styles of players and the profiles they generally fit under. Of course, most players don't fit 100% into these profiles, their strengths and weaknesses often align strongly with one compared to the others.
From the grinder, whose fitness, patience, and pace can often carry them through the toughest matches, to the 'shot maker', who accurately places shots from corner to corner catching their opponent off-guard to win points.
There is a large number of different player profiles, however, there's one that I've only touched on once very briefly a long time ago that I would like to delve into further, and that's the 'squash veteran'.
In this article, I'll be defining the squash veteran, their strengths and weaknesses, and, most importantly, how to beat them...
Defining the Veteran
Now, I'm going to try my best not to offend anyone here, however, by very definition, the squash veteran is usually on the older side. To be a squash veteran, you need to have been playing the sport for a long enough time to understand it inside and out.
So, for the sake of defining the player profile, I'd say (very loosely) that the squash veteran is generally aged around 50 or older, and, they generally have 10 or more years of experience playing the sport. For perspective, I'm (Alex) in my mid-20s.
They tend to have a deep understanding of court positioning, shot selection, and tactics, allowing them to control the pace of the game and strategically exploit their opponent's weaknesses.
The squash veteran's shot repertoire often includes unorthodox techniques that catch other players off guard, making them entertaining to watch and an absolute nightmare to compete against.
As crafty veterans, they possess a strong sense of court awareness, reading their opponents' movements and predicting and anticipating their shots accurately.
Mentally, they're usually composed and measured, giving them an air of wisdom and experience both on and off the court.
While their physical abilities may not be as dominant as that of younger players, they more than make up for it with their intelligent and strategic gameplay.
I remember the first time I encountered the squash veteran when I was a junior aged about 14 or 15. I'd been playing squash for a good few years by this point, however, I'd only ever really played matches against other juniors in tournaments.
I faced my first squash veteran after entering my club's internal leagues, and the gentleman (aged around 65) completely dismantled me. He was controlling every rally right from the serve and was then hitting a winner within 3 or 4 shots every single time.
Being young, I remember being so frustrated. I did not enjoy that match at all, however, my coach had watched some of it and told me (and my mum) that these were the types of players I needed to be playing to up my game and adapt to new types of players.
Looking back, it was easily one of the biggest learning points in my squash career, and it's a testament to the fact that it's so important to play different styles of players if you want to improve your game.
I stuck with the internal leagues for a good few years after that and also started playing team squash, so I was playing against players of all ages and styles two or three times a week, and my game came on leaps and bounds from this.
After a while, I became much better at figuring out what style of player I was facing and knew the tactics I needed to deploy to beat them.
Now, fast-forward about 10 years or so, I like to believe that I personally have enough experience to feel as though I know what I'm talking about and to be able to go into such detail about the squash veteran.
So, what are their strengths and weaknesses?
The squash veteran's number one asset is their brain (at least in my opinion).
They often have an incredible squash IQ. The countless hours of playing the game has given them the expertise to know exactly what to do, and when to do it.
With regards to shot selection, the squash veteran tends to be able to make their opponent do a heck of a lot of physical work without having to do a lot of physical work themselves.
By taking into account their opponent's playing style, strengths, and weaknesses, they can then tailor their shot selection throughout the match to do as much damage as possible.
This also extends to the mental side of things, which is another one of the veteran's biggest strengths.
They generally tend to remain composed under pressure, staying focused and resilient during crucial moments.
When rallies are this short, the veteran's opponents often get sucked into this style of play, feeling pressured to take more significant risks or become frustrated by their inability to gain a foothold in the match.
They even sometimes use unorthodox tactics to get into their opponent's heads in between points, such as taking a little longer (wiping their hand for example), chatting with their opponent, and chatting to the referee too.
If they can get their opponent frustrated mentally, that's half the battle won already for the squash veteran.
Of course, to execute this tactical genius in a match situation, the squash veteran needs to have the shots to back it up, and, of course, they do.
They can generally play very short drop shots, very high and accurate lobs, and super tight lengths, leaving their opponents with few options.
The veteran is usually very good at strategically varying the pace, angles, and depth of their shots, moving their opponents all over the court and leaving them unable to do much with the ball.
Their shot selection is also often unorthodox. The squash veteran is excellent at keeping opponents guessing, off balance, and off time. Their ability to execute unexpected and unconventional shots often catches other players by surprise.
While the squash veteran is undeniably skilled and experienced, they are not without their weaknesses. Identifying and capitalising on these vulnerabilities is essential to formulating an effective strategy to overcome their crafty gameplay.
Again, hopefully, this doesn't offend anybody, but, due to their age, the squash veteran's biggest downfall tends to be physical endurance.
Just note, if you come up against an older player, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, automatically think that they are going to be slow and tire easily. I'm always shocked when I watch some of the older players from my local area. We've got players well into their 80s and even 90s who still move fast and well!
With that said, generally, you will often be able to use your own physicality and fitness against the veteran to tire them out (hopefully). They may be slightly less strong when lunging or be able to endure less than younger, fitter players.
The veteran is also somewhat vulnerable to fast-paced play. Maintaining consistent pressure and avoiding prolonged breaks between points can prevent them from settling into their preferred rhythm.
Another weakness can be predictability. Although they often play unorthodox shots, they often do so early on in rallies, meaning that it becomes easier and easier to spot patterns in their game and their positioning when they're going to go for certain shots.
Lastly, although I mentioned that one of the squash veteran's strengths is often their mental resilience, it is still possible to get into their head. For example, if you're consistently showing that you're willing to put the work into rallies, this may begin to take its toll on them mentally, but more on that in the next section...
How To Beat The Squash Veteran
So, based on the above strengths and weaknesses, it should now be easier to formulate a game plan and strategy on how to beat the squash veteran.
First off, playing with pace and extending rallies are your best friends. If you can take balls early and hit them hard and low consistently and often, it shouldn't take too long to begin to take its toll physically on the veteran.
Of course, this is easier said than done as the veteran is known for their accuracy and tightness, but try your best to intercept and hit hard when possible. Capitalise on any opportunity you get to volley and control the T.
However, just a quick note, if the veteran is on the T, you need to make absolutely sure you get the ball past them using pace and keeping it tight against the side wall.
If they get the opportunity for an easy volley, they won't hesitate to step across and chop in an accurate winner.
When it comes to shot selection, try to mix it up as best you can. Play from corner to corner with the aim of keeping them pinned in the back as long as possible, then take it into the front both straight and cross-court to catch them off-guard. Use cut and slice to try to make the ball die as quickly as possible too.
Angles and deception are also your best friends. Usually, an older squash veteran will struggle to twist and turn. If you can show one shot then play another and force them to perform uncomfortable movements, it will take its toll on them physically.
Use boasts, kills, last minute cross courts, and even reverse boasts if you have to!
Mentally, as difficult as it may be, try your best to keep your composure during intense moments and crucial points. By staying focused and composed, you can stay focused on your own game plan (rather than get sucked into their game), force errors, and capitalise on any lapses in their concentration too.
Court temperature does play a big role against the squash veteran. If you're on a cold court, their short drops and deep lobs will die quicker, however, if you're lucky enough to be on a warm court, you can also use this to your advantage.
Although there's not much you can do about the temperature of the court itself, you do have some power over how hot the ball is, so another tip is to try your best to keep the ball as hot as possible.
This will help you minimise the impact of the squash veteran's short shots to the front as the ball will be bouncier. If you're on a hot court, this will be pretty easy to do, however, unfortunately, if you're on a cold court, you're going to have to put a little more work in.
Try to hit with power more often than normal (but try to ensure that this doesn't mean a compromise on accuracy).
Another key tip is to make sure to take note of the veteran's personal weak points. Identify and target areas of the court where the veteran may have difficulty retrieving shots, they may have a slight injury, or struggle lunging in a certain corner.
Consistently challenging these vulnerable zones can create openings for offensive opportunities.
So, to sum up, keep the pace high and try to keep the squash veteran off of the T if you can. Take the ball early and mix it up as best as possible, volleying at every opportunity you get.
Use angles, use deception, but, most importantly of all, stay disciplined in your plan. The moment you get frustrated and fall into their game is the moment that they will gain confidence and begin to pullahead.
Remember, facing the squash veteran is an opportunity to test your skills and rise to the occasion. Embrace the challenge, learn from the experience, and continue to refine your gameplay.
By strategising effectively, exploiting their weaknesses, and maintaining your mental composure, you can increase your chances of achieving victory against the crafty and skilled squash veteran.
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