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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on May 18, 2024

Saying Goodbye To Another Squash Season

With the warmer months now here, many of us have either played, or are about to play, our last team matches, tournaments, and even friendlies of the squash season.

I often try to write up an end-of-season blog post with a nice summary of my own season and my plans for the off-season and next season, however, a couple of weeks back, I also played quite an exciting tournament for my local county team.

Since that was my last tournament of the season I also wanted to do a write-up of that event as I feel as though my performance summarised my season quite well.

So, for this article, I'm going to mainly focus it on the inter counties tournament, however, I'll also feature a second section about my off-season plans and my hopes for next season too...

Let's dive in...

So, for this tournament recap, context is quite important!

First off, I should note that I was actually away travelling during the first half of this season, so that was pretty much automatically written off.

Understandably, after a good 4-5 months off-court, I was pretty rusty when I came back (which is why I'm not going to go into much detail on my season as a whole).

I did dive straight back into team squash for the second half and played a couple of tournaments, however, my main focus was on training to get back into the swing of things properly.

I put a lot of effort into getting my squash fitness back as well as my shots and, most importantly my length game.

It was quite a tedious, frustrating process at times, but, right towards the end of the season, I could see my training starting to pay off.

I have been (and am still) trying to make quite a drastic change in my playing style to take early balls and volleys more often, and, to be more patient and accurate with my lengths before taking it short (I've always been more of a shot-making type player, however, I think to get to the next level, this is the change that is needed).

I think I've made some good progress on this and have started implementing it into my matches.

This is where the inter-counties finals team competition comes into things, which is the last tournament of the season for me.

I would say that my squash was finally up to scratch just in time for this tournament, so, I was very excited to be playing!

I have played for our county (Northumbria) a good few times before, however, it's always a prestigious thing getting to represent your local team against some of the best players in the country.

Since we were in the premier league for this event, the standard was very high.

Generally, our goal as a team is to win one of our first two matches so we can stay in the premier league for the following season.

A bit about the inter-counties, every county puts together its best team of five players (and brings one sub too). In my case this year, I was the sub for our county (Northumbria), so I was actually pretty lucky to be playing.

So, to put it basically, our team had three matches (two on Saturday and one on Sunday), and we needed to win one of the two on Saturday to stay in the league (with the one on Sunday just being a play off for a final position).

As I said, the standard was incredibly high so we had our work cut out for us.

I didn't play our first match against Warwickshire on the Saturday as I was sub, so I was just there for coaching and support.

Unfortunately, our team lost that match (I can't quite remember the score but it was either 3-2 or 4-1). This meant that we had to win our next match against Avon county to stay up.

So, without going into too much detail, one teammate had lost their match and the other was 1-0 down by the time I was going on court (as we were using two courts).

Thankfully I wasn't on last so there wasn't as much pressure on me when I was going on.

Based on our Squash Levels scores, I was predicted to lose my match (as I'm in the 8000s and my opponent was in the 10,000s I believe).

I had also played this person a number of years back when I was at university and won 3-1, however, if I remember correctly he may have been slightly injured or off his game for some reason.

Either way, I usually love these matches because there's less pressure on me to win because I'm not expected to, but I'm still in with a chance. But, since I was playing for our team, I must admit I was pretty nervous.

I lost the first 11-7 but the rallies were all pretty tight.

From a style perspective, we were both pretty similar players. My opponent was going for a lot of angles and shots, meaning that rallies were generally on the shorter side, but very fast-paced.

I still felt as though I was in with a chance as, if I could extend the rallies a little and keep my balls tight, he was still going for risky shots and made mistakes quite frequently too.

Thanks to the coaching I received between games, I was able to implement more of a gameplay going into the second game and I managed to win that one 11-2.

I think this was partially a lapse in my opponent's concentration and partially due to many of my shots coming off.

My opponent tightened his game up a bit and we both started playing a lot safer in the third now the match was in full swing. I lost that third game 11-8 but it was still all to play for.

The fourth game was really close, I can't quite remember what the score was in that game but I remember fighting very hard for every single point. We were both putting in a lot of work physically, although I think I was probably doing a little more as my opponent was just that little bit tighter with his length game.

I managed to win that fourth to bring it to 2-2, however, I'd put so much effort into that game I was struggling physically quite a lot.

Mentally, I felt very up for it, I was really enjoying the match and felt as though I was playing well, however, as soon as the fifth game had started, I could feel my body struggling.

I wasn't reacting well to shots and was being sent the wrong way very easily, I felt as though my brain was reacting to the shot, however, my legs were a second or two behind.

Unfortunately, I lost the fifth game 11-2.

I think there were a few reasons for the loss. I think my opponent was a bit up and down as he maybe thought it was going to be an easier match at first, then had to step it up in the games that he won.

Partially, my body let me down so, moving forward, I think I definitely need to do some work on my strength and fitness (in particular my leg strength as I felt on the edge of cramp during that fifth game).

Also, my length wasn't quite tight enough, especially in comparison to my opponent's, which gave him a number of opportunities to go for his shots and winners (which he was very good at executing).

This is what led to me doing more work than him, and, what made it more difficult for me to win points.

So, from a personal perspective, I was obviously a bit gutted that I lost, however, I was still very happy with how I played and with the fact that I took two games off a player who should have beaten me 3-0 on paper.

However, the worst part of this was that our team ended up losing three matches and winning two, meaning that we were being demoted out of the premier league for the first time in four or five years I believe.

If I'd taken that fifth game, we would have stayed up.

It's quite a hard pill to swallow from that perspective, however, I think all three of us who lost were in the same boat as our matches were all pretty tight.

Below is a shot my friend took from my match, it's not the greatest but I thought I'd feature it anyway!


On the Saturday evening, our team and all the other counties tend to have a big night out which is always a lot of fun, so, we drowned our sorrows over some beers in our hotel bar, then, went into Nottingham city centre to meet all the other teams and players.

As I mentioned, I've played for the county a few times before and the night out is always great.

There's not too much to say about it really, but, this is another reason why playing for a team and playing tournaments is one of the best things about squash.

Everyone's so friendly, you make a lot of new friends, and, you get to see people that you perhaps haven't seen for a long time who live further afield too.

If you scroll down a little bit, I've also featured a photo of our men's and women's county teams having a pint and getting ready to go for a meal before the night out (that's me waving).

It's worth noting that our women's team did a lot better, I believe they reached the final and came second on the Sunday.

Of course, we still had our match on Sunday morning against Kent, and, our punishment for losing on Saturday was that we had to play at 9am (after the big night out).

The match on Sunday was mainly just a playoff, so nothing was at stake other than our dignity and Squash Levels points.

Considering the hangover and early start, I was again pleased with how my match went on Sunday morning.

It was a player who was a similar standard to me (and who was also a similar level of hungover).

I'll not go into too much detail on the match, however, I won 3-2!

So I'd had two tough five setters and a night out in the space of about 17 hours, which was pretty tough on the body.

We were both going for more shots than normal since we couldn't really utilise our fitness. There was some poor mistakes from us both, however, I think I had the edge when it came to moving him around the court.

I believe our team won that match 3-2 but I'm not certain.

Anyway, that's a little run down of my last tournament/event of this season, and, overall, it wasn't quite the success our team had hoped for, but, I was still very happy with how I played.


The Off-Season

Now, the off-season is looming and the weather is getting warmer. I'm actually writing this article from Edinburgh as I'm away for the weekend with another one of my squash teams (Bannatynes).

We're not playing any squash, we're just here for a bit of a city break (although we did just play some padel which was a lot of fun).

Anyway, I know many amateur and club-level players use the off-season as a time to take a step back from squash and do more outdoor activities.

That's very understandable, especially if you've played a lot of squash throughout the season, it can get a bit exhausting mentally, and it can be easy to burnout and lose your love for the sport a little if you overdo it.

So, whatever your plans are for the off-season, I just hope you make the most of it!

Personally, I like to carry on training squash when I can. My local team (Northern) have managed to convince our club chairman to give us weekly courts on a Thursday evening to do some group training.

That started a couple of weeks ago and it's been great so far.

I'm hoping that attendance stays up throughout the Summer period. If we can get at least four players to turn up and use the two courts we have, it's definitely worth it.

However, I'm also a big fan of the outdoors, so, I definitely play less squash than I do when it's in season.

I love running, trail running, and hiking, and of course, Summer is the perfect time to do that.

I'm very lucky with where I live in England as I'm very near the coast with a lot of nice British beaches (where I like to run and walk the dog), plus, we're also very close to an area called the Lake District, which is basically like the UK's version of the Canadian Rockies!

There's an infinite number of mountains to climb and hike as well as lakes to swim in and small towns to visit and stay in.

It's just a couple of hours drive from my hometown in Newcastle and my friends, family, and myself go as often as we get the chance to.

Of course, with next season always in the back of my mind, I like to try and stay as active and as fit as possible (even if it's not from playing squash), so, these hikes and runs are great for maintaining my fitness and getting ready for next season.

I've been thoroughly enjoying my squash since getting back from travelling and have noticed some real impacts from my training. I really feel like the work I've been putting in is starting to pay off and I want to keep this momentum for as long as I can so I can step up my level a little.

I want to try to play at least once or twice per week up until the new season begins.

When it comes to targets for next season, I don't really have anything tangible. Things are a little up in the air with regards to our teams and who is going to play at which position, so, it's hard to make goals based on who I'll be facing next season too.

I think my main focus is just to get fitter, get more consistent with my length game, and start to get better results against those better players.

I'm very aware that this isn't the case for most or many of our readers though, and, it's very important not to feel guilty about taking some time off court.

It's definitely the right time to do it and you've earned it after putting in the work for another tough season.

One piece of advice I will give is to still try to get back on court a month or so before the new season begins if you can.

If you've ever not played squash for a month or two then gone back on court, you'll know just how rough it can be on your body, so, if you can ease back into it a little earlier, your body will be ready for regular match play again in no time.

Anyway, thank you for reading this week's newsletter, and I hope you've all had a great squash season. I also hope you all enjoy your off-season, whatever it is that you do! The main goal is to try to keep your love for the sport, if you can do that, you're always winning.

See you all next week!


This article was taken from our 'Control the Kitchen' 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 May 18, 2024
Alex Robertson