I often base our blog posts on my own weaknesses in squash and this article is no exception!
I've played a few tough matches recently and I began to find myself being caught off-guard during length rallies to the back of the court.
I instantly realised the issue, I was hanging back instead of being proactive in getting to the T. Hanging back has a huge range of negative effects on your game so I thought I'd cover it in a blog post!
Hanging back is actually something I've struggled with since squash first began to return after the first lockdown. It was like I'd lost a bit of proactiveness.
It's basically just me being lazy with my movement, however, fixing the issue has also proven to be pretty difficult. It seems to have become a bit ingrained into my game.
Anyways, I thought I'd explain the issue first, then I'll cover why it's so bad for your game, and what I'm currently doing to try to fix it!
So, what seemed to be happening frequently is that I'd be playing drive after drive and then all of a sudden my opponent would either take the ball early on the volley or play a drop or boast from the back, and I'd be nowhere near it.
The ball would have bounced twice before I'd even got in front of the short line.
This was happening in all of my games. When I played someone a bit better than me, I felt constantly under pressure in all rallies, and when I played someone who I should really be beating quite comfortably, it was a lot harder than usual.
My positioning during rallies to the back was about two or three steps behind the T, which is way too far back.
It's a bit of a paradox because this is very lazy positioning as it shows I'm not hunting for the volley and trying not to expend too much energy, however, as a result, I have to work even harder as my opponent dominates the T.
My opponent will use my poor positioning to move me all over the court, and, every time the ball goes into the front corner, I've got to run a lot further to get to it!
Image screenshotted from PSA YouTube
Apologies for the low-quality image above, it's screenshotted from a PSA YouTube video. The match is between Cesar Salazar (lunging at the back) and Marwan ElShorbagy (on the T).
Just take a look at Marwan's positioning, he's almost on the T line! He's also slightly to the left as chances are that Salazar is going to be hitting a backhand straight drive.
You can see how eager he is to move over, he's just waiting to try to take that ball on the volley, this is the sort of proactive approach that I need to strive for!
As I mentioned above, if he was standing where I've been standing (much further back), then he's not going to have an opportunity to take the ball early or put his opponent under any pressure.
However, in the situation in the photo, Salazar is already exerting a lot of energy to get what must have been a pretty accurate drive from ElShorbagy. If Salazar's return isn't tight, ElShorbagy will be able to pounce onto the volley and take it in short.
The earlier he takes it the better.
It's important to note that these guys are full-time professionals and non-professionals are less likely to have the reactions, speed, and accuracy to be able to stand this far forward.
However, the message still stands. That proactive positioning provides more opportunities.
Personally, I'm aiming to try to stand about half a foot further back than Marwan in that photo, but I want to try to consistently get to that position no matter how tough the rally is.
This will still allow me to capitalize on volleys and also to restrict the damage my opponent can do by taking the ball into the front.
I've got a lot of things that I'd like to work on at the moment, however, it seems like this is the most crucial to my game, so I'm trying to fix my mind onto my positioning when I play at the moment to try to ingrain it into my movement.
There's one drill, in particular, that's great for stopping you from being lazy and hanging back. The drill is basically just a conditioned game to the back of the court where the ball's first bounce has to be behind the short line and you're not allowed to volley.
However, the main condition is that each player has to touch the T with either one of their feet or their racquet after every shot they play. It's a lot more tiring than it sounds, but it works incredibly well.
To progress on from this drill, you can add the volley to the front of the court and remove the requirement to touch the T.
So even though you're not necessarily touching the T each time, you'll be hunting for that volley to get the upper hand on your opponent, which still forces you to move forward into a proactive position.
Anyway, I'm pretty keen to work on this myself, however, it's something I've also spotted in a lot of other players at my local club.
If you think you're guilty of hanging back, it's definitely worth trying to fix and it'll make your matches and rallies easier in the long run!
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