When training, many players do drills without any concise objective in mind. Players tend to “rinse and repeat” a drill without focusing on important things such as footwork or shot accuracy. Whenever a player is about to start a drill, they should always have an objective in mind, concentrate on it, and works towards as they do the exercise. This is very important since it will help the player develop better muscle memory as well as improve their game more significantly.
The title of this post isn't an open invitation to vent your frustrations of the day, rather an important question about your thought process on court. This is an exercise in metacognition; thinking about your thinking.
I've discussed the concepts of deliberate practice and "10000 hours" in earlier posts, and those themes tie in well here. To review, several sports science/psychology studies have shown that it takes a minimum of 10000 hours of deliberate practice to truly master a sport (for reference, I am at about 8000 hours...and nowhere near a master).
Movement in squash is critical. It is imperative to move well to and from the ball. Often though when we arrive at where we expect to hit the ball we might not be in the best possible position. This can happen for a couple of reasons. It can happen if we simply misjudge the ball or if the ball comes off of the wall unexpectedly. When this happens the ball will most often be in a poor position for us to hit. One of the most common errors that players make is not adjusting and hitting the ball when they are now out of position. Of course as we play and practice more this will happen less but when it does happen it is imperative, if you have the time to move your feet and get to the best position you can to hit a good shot.
Few activities (healthy ones, at least) are as captivating as squash. People who have never seen it played in their lives suddenly become fascinated by the sport and play every day. It has endless new challenges and skills to master, and there is always someone better than you. In this post, I am going to detail some of the reasons I personally find squash such an amazing game. Ultimately, I think these observations can help simplify the game and make you a better player.
In the last post we talked about deception. In particular using a hold to add deception to your shot selection. Another very important method to keep your opponent guessing and off balance is varying your pace of play. Varying your pace of play can be an effective method to keep or change momentum in a match when needed. Changing the pace of your shots is also effective at keeping your opponent guessing. Squash is a very physical game as any squash player can attest to but it is also very mental. Varying your pace of play is a good strategical method to help control a match.
When should we play at a fast pace or at a slow pace? One of the best times to vary the pace of play is when you need to change momentum in a game. If your opponent is pressing hard and has gained the momentum trying to slow down the pace of play can often help. You can do this playing slower paced length shots using height to get the ball past your opponent. Lobs will work very well in this situation too.
In squash as your level increases and you are playing better players it becomes more and more difficult to hit outright winners. Points need to be constructed to be won. You very often have to hit a series of shots to get your opponent out of position before you can hit a winner.
One of the biggest differences between low to mid level players and higher level players is how fast they recover to the 'T' after playing their shot. One the most noticeable areas I see this on court is at the front corners.
It is extremely common to see a player rush up to get a boast or drop that their opponent has played to one of the front corners, hit a drop and then get stuck in the front corner. If their opponent gets to the ball earlier enough they can often end the point with a cross court drive as they have not been able to get back to 'T' to take that shot away.
This is just a quick tip that I received while taking a lesson a few years ago. I was working with a much more advanced player than myself and was having problems getting drives on the backhand side past him and found myself stuck in a losing pattern. The objective of the drill was simple, hit a good enough shot to get the ball past him so that I could take the 'T' position away from him and then try to keep him behind me by taking the ball on the volley. I was trying to play a hard drive down the wall all of the time and I was not able to keep it tight enough to force him to let it pass. I found myself stuck in the back court and not succeeding at all with the drill. He stopped the drill and asked me what I was trying to do. I said that I was trying to drive the ball hard down the wall past him. His reponse was simple. It is not working. You need to try something different. You are not getting the ball past me with pace so why not use height to get the ball past me. Hit it high enough that I can't volley it and will have to let it pass me.
I am watching a replay of the PSA World Open 2010 final between James Willstrop and Nick Matthew on PSA Squash TV and impressed with Nick Matthew's position on the 'T'. He is playing such a high 'T' position and putting so much pressure on James. Willstrop won the first game with some absolutely astounding accurancy but had to work so hard to do it. The second game was close to about 5 but after that Nick opened up a huge lead mostly because of the work James has had to do to that point.
Today I would like to discuss the hurry up drop shot. It is an extremely effective shot as it puts your opponent under time pressure. It is best used when your opponent has been forced to boast out of the back corner and has invited you to the front. Take the boast as early as you can and play a nice safe soft drop shot. The focus of this shot is to hit it very early, soft and to keep it tight to the side wall when it bounces. Do not worry about it being very low and tight to the tin focus more on hitting and early and keeping it tight to the wall. We are not trying to win with this shot we are making our opponent work really hard to get to the ball. Hopefully they will be late and hit something weak cross court so we can send back to the back corner and get them running the diagonal. The hurry up drop shot like many other shots is designed to put mileage on our opponent. Use it to make them run and watch the court open up later in the match when their legs are not as fresh as they were at the beginning of the match.