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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on May 29, 2024

Talking To Someone Between Games

Have you ever had to talk to someone and coach them in between games during a tight match?

It can be pretty daunting, you don't want to tell them the wrong thing and you don't want them to lose and it to be your fault either. Or at least that's what many players think when they haven't really done it before.

On top of this, many people also believe you need to actually be a coach to be able to help your friend or teammate in between games. This, of course, is not the case either.

I'm here to put these thoughts and theories to rest.

So, with that in mind, I thought I'd focus an article on the topic of coaching people between games. I want to use this article as a chance to encourage everyone to try their hand at thinking tactically, coaching, and mentally encouraging their teammates and friends to win matches.

I'll be giving some of my best tips, approaches, pieces of advice, guidance, and ideas to allow you to do your best when it comes to coaching in between games...

Just a bit of preamble before I delve in...

I remember when I was younger and playing tournaments with my friends, and, since these tournaments were all over the country, our coaches didn't often attend (which is understandable).

This meant that we often had to coach each other.

I remember at first, I used to be really nervous about it, especially if a friend of mine was losing the match. I thought they might blame the loss on me, or, they might not want to hear what I had to say.

It was the same in team matches (as I played for a few different teams when I was younger, whether it was the county, my local club, or even my region).

However, over time, I got more and more used to the duty of coaching and talking to players between games. I then got even better at it when I gained my Level 1 Coaching Qualification from England Squash too.

Fast-forward to now, and I absolutely love having the opportunity to try and help coach a friend or teammate to victory during an important match.

Contrary to popular belief, you definitely don't have to be a certified coach to be able to help your teammate between games.

You don't always need to come with a tactical masterplan filled with genius strategies. Sometimes, just your very presence can help your friend or teammate reset and prepare for the next game.

So, without further ado, here are my tips and approaches for coaching in-between games...

Keep it simple

Remember, assuming the marker is timing the break in between games, you only get a couple of minutes, you need to make them count.

There will already be a lot going through the head of your friend or teammate since they're in the heat of battle.

You don't want to confuse them and fill their head with too much stuff.

If you already had a game plan that was discussed before the match began, make sure to reinforce that (unless something has changed), or, if they've just come off after the first game and you've noticed some weaknesses in their opponent's game, just give them a very brief explanation of it.

For example, if you notice that their opponent is hanging back from the T during length rallies, you can just tell your teammate that you've noticed this, and to build a rally with a few lengths, then look to take it early to the front as soon as they start to hang back.

That's all, you don't need to add anything or give too many examples, just hammer the point home in their head that they need to suck their opponent further back and then look to get on the ball early, attacking to the front.

Just keep things as simple as possible, focusing on one key area to focus on (or maybe two at the very most).

This also applies if you notice something that your friend or teammate is doing wrong, for example, if you see that they're hitting too many cross courts, just mention to reduce them and then also explain to them why that will help them in the context of the match too (e.g. it will stop allowing their opponent to predict and capitalise on the weak cross courts with volleys and kills).

By keeping your advice simple and understandable, you help your teammate stay calm and focused.

This clarity can be particularly beneficial during high-pressure situations, allowing them to concentrate on making the necessary adjustments without feeling overwhelmed.

The goal is to provide clear, actionable feedback that can make an immediate impact on their game, and, that they can keep in their mind during rallies.

Focus on positivity 

When it comes to positivity, this is all about the energy you're giving off and the language you're using when you talk to them.

Your tone of voice is very important when coaching someone in between games, you need to make sure to be sincere and sound confident without giving off any kind of defeatist connotations with the language you use.

Getting your phrasing right is vital and can have a bit impact on the mentality of the player you're coaching.

For example, saying something like 'you keep hitting the tin' or 'you're making too many mistakes' sounds almost accusatory and very negative.

Instead, try something more along the lines of 'let's work on getting those shots a bit higher, they don't have to be perfect and if you start getting them in, you'll be making your opponent do a lot more work'.

This type of positive reinforcement can help build their confidence and keep their spirits up, which is essential for maintaining focus and determination throughout the match.

The goal is to make them believe in their own ability to turn the game around and stay competitive. This is a much better approach than making them think too much about their own weaknesses.


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

Reinforce their specific strengths

This is somewhat similar to my previous point about positivity, however, reinforcing your teammate's strengths makes things a little bit more specific to their gameplay and the match in question.

Every player has their unique strengths, and it's vital to remind your teammate of what they do best.

If fitness is one of their strong points, for example, encourage them to draw the rallies out and make them longer rather than going for winners too early on, to capitalise on this strength.

This can help them regain confidence, maintain a better mindset, and focus on leveraging their skills to win the next game.

You can also zoom in more specifically on the ongoing match in question.

If they're winning, don't just tell them they're playing well, tell them specifically what they are doing that's working well and why it's working well against that particular opponent, then, just remind them again and again to hammer it into their mind.

Whether it’s their accurate drives, fast court coverage, or their ability to take the ball early and put pressure on, emphasize these attributes and encourage them to use them more effectively.

Are they volleying well, are they mixing it up effectively, what exactly are they doing that is allowing them to win points?

By reinforcing their strengths, you help them play to their natural abilities and create a game plan that maximizes their chances of success.

Let them vent

Now, it could be argued that this point kind of goes against my previous point on positivity, however, whether your friend is playing a tough match, not playing well, or perhaps had some bad decisions from the referee, they may just want to get their emotions out now they're off the court.

I think that this is actually a good thing, you just need to make sure that they manage to get everything out that they need to as soon as they come off the court, and then you can use the rest of the break time between the game to try to encourage them to forget about their frustrations and mentally move on to the next game.

Just remember to keep your focus on positivity when you do have the chance to say something. I know this may be hard if they've just ranted for a minute or so, but, it's crucial.

Allowing your friend or teammate to vent serves a few purposes.

First, it helps them release those pent-up emotions and frustrations, which can otherwise cloud their judgment and affect their performance in the next game.

Also, sometimes, just having someone to listen can be incredibly therapeutic and can help clear their mind.

While they are venting, your role is to be an empathetic listener (as not fun as that sounds). Try your best to nod in understanding, maintain eye contact, and show that you are genuinely listening to what they have to say.

Avoid interrupting or offering solutions until they have fully expressed their thoughts and feelings.

You can also show that you acknowledge the validity of their emotions, however, sometimes they may have clouded their judgement of themself too, so, sometimes it's best to just keep quiet and, when they're done venting, go straight into the tactical side of things.

Look at it from their perspective

It's easy to think 'what if I'm not helping them' or 'maybe they don't want me to be talking to them', but, you've got to put yourself in their shoes.

It's always nice to receive coaching from your own friends and teammates (I know I always really appreciate it), so, it's fair to assume that your friend will appreciate your input too.

On the slim chance that they don't want your tips, or, they would prefer to just use the time to reflect on their own, then any decent person will just nicely let you know that they don't want any coaching on this occasion.

Of course, in the heat of battle, tensions may be slightly higher so it's important to give someone the benefit of the doubt if they do seem a little short with you, just don't take it to heart!

Consider their perspective.

They may be feeling frustrated, nervous, or even overwhelmed by the pressure of the match.

In these moments, having a supportive teammate can make all the difference. Your encouragement and guidance can help them feel more confident and focused, which can ultimately lead to better performance on the court.

Another important thing I'll mention is that coaching is not about imposing your ideas or strategies onto them in this situation, but rather about offering support and assistance based on their needs and preferences, especially if they're beginning to struggle mentally.

If their mind isn't in the game, there's no way they're going to be able to execute a tactical, strategic approach, so just focus on that mindset first.

Take note of their reactions and cues, and adjust your approach accordingly.

You don't have to be a coach!

I know I've touched on this already, but, I think most players would agree that having somebody there to speak to between games is better than having no one there.

You don't always have to give them any tips or advice if you feel a little out of your depth.

Sometimes you can just sit with them and talk about the match. Ask them how they think they're doing, what they think they're doing well, and where they think they're falling short. This allows them to work things out for themselves without you having to do any definitive coaching.

As a level 2 qualified coach myself, I still frequently don't have to give specific tactical advice, sometimes positive reinforcement and motivation is all a player needs.

However, you don't even have to do that if you don't want to!

I remember when I was a junior and my mum used to come to all of my tournaments with me and watch all of my matches (I mean she had to because she also drove me to all of them).

My mum's tactical squash knowledge is pretty minimal (I don't think she'd mind me saying that), however, she would still often come and sit with me in between games if I didn't have a coach there, just to give me some positivity and mental reassurance.

Even as a huffy teenager back then, I can still admit that her presence calmed me down a lot, especially if I was losing.

So, I guess the main message is not to underestimate the power of simply being there for your teammate or friend.

Your support, whether it's through coaching, listening, or just being a calming presence, can have a massive impact on their performance and overall experience on the court.

Overall, coaching your friend or teammate between games is not about having all the answers or being a certified coach, it's about being there for them, helping them play the best they can play, and making sure they enjoy their experience.

So, next time you find yourself in the coaching role, embrace the opportunity to support your teammate or friend and help them reach their full potential!

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 29, 2024
Alex Robertson