Body language is an essential component of squash and there are numerous ways that you can use it to your advantage.
Whether it's using your own body language to convey your physical state to your opponent or observing your opponent's body language and using it to make strategic decisions in rallies, it can really impact the outcome of rallies and even matches.
Body language is also a topic that I haven't really touched on in previous newsletters so I thought I'd focus on it in a blog post...
Body language can speak volumes on the squash court and I must admit I definitely don't think about it enough in my own game, so I'm hoping that writing this will encourage me to think about it a bit more.
There are so many ways that you can use body language to your own advantage and I think confidence is a good place to start.
Confidence is one of the most advantageous things you can convey with body language.
If you ensure that your body language is always conveying confidence, it can be a very powerful weapon. When you feel confident, you play better, it's as simple as that.
Let's say you've just had a huge rally (after which both you and your opponent will no doubt be tired), regardless of whether or not you won the rally, if you stand positively with your head up and with good posture afterward, it demonstrates to your opponent that you're ready and willing to do it again, and that could knock their confidence (while building on yours).
In fact, even the way you walk to the service box or return-of-serve position can have an impact. If you walk briskly in a positive style without dragging your feet, that shows that you're confident and eager to start the next rally.
My advice would be to always stand tall, keep your head up, and maintain eye contact with your opponent. This will help you assert your presence on the court and build that confidence in yourself as well.
I would even take this one step further and say that you should do the above when you're off-court as well. Chances are you'll be nearby your opponent in the time leading up to the match and if they see you looking nervous or tired or negative, they can use that as mental fuel to psyche themselves up before the game.
If you're not feeling too confident, try to stay relaxed and don't look too tense, it's very easy for your opponent to spot and, as well as gaining more confidence from this, they may switch their game up and play a more aggressive, attacking style of play.
Forcing yourself to demonstrate positive body language when you're not feeling confident inside can actually also subconsciously help you get more confident too.
With that said, I do know a number of players who like to play mind games. I've played against people who almost exaggerate their tiredness after rallies and then proceed to play a high-pace rally straight after that to knock their opponent off guard.
In fact, I was once in a five-setter and, in the fifth game, I won a big rally to go 9-5 up and then my opponent had to sit down.
I honestly thought he was having a heart attack, however, after he'd caught his breath and got back up, he proceeded to play a very attacking style of play with lots of volleys and I'm still pretty suspicious as to whether it was all a show or not.
I must admit, it worked well as he caught me very off-guard and I ended up losing 12-10 after that, which just shows the power of body language.
Do with that information what you will, but I think what it does show is that you can be very tactical and strategic with your body language and it definitely has an impact on the game.
Another element of body language I want to briefly touch on is celebrating your successes. When you win a point, celebrate it with your body language. Pump your fist, let out a shout, or even give a small smile. This will convey to your opponent that you are confident and in control of the game.
Of course, don't be too over the top, and remember to show good sportsmanship. There's a difference between celebrating yourself after a good shot or a long rally and rubbing it in your opponent's face.
Reading your opponent's body language can help you work out your strategy and build your confidence.
There are obvious elements of body language to look out for that can be telltale signs of your opponent's mental and physical state.
Are they hunched over? Are they breathing heavily? How does their movement look? What is their facial expression? Have they been taking a long time in-between points? Did they make any gestures that might indicate anger, frustration, or confidence? If you're serving, is their racquet up and ready or is it down by their side?
I mean, it's pretty simple when you think about it, if your opponent's body language indicates that they're either tired, nervous, or even frustrated, use it to spur you on for the following rallies and use it to plan your attack for the next rally.
If they're tired, extend the rallies and make them work as hard as possible. If they're nervous or frustrated you can capitalise on this by playing more aggressively and putting them under pressure and trying to force a mistake, plus, maybe it would also be wise to make efforts with your own body language to look as confident and in control as possible.
To sum up, body language is a crucial component of squash. By using your own body language to convey confidence, stay relaxed, deceive your opponent, and celebrate your successes, you can gain an advantage on the court.
By observing your opponent's body language, you can anticipate their moves, use it as mental fuel, and use it to formulate your own plan of attack.
I think most squash players are pretty aware of their opponent's body language, it's just important to act on it. But, I would also say that it's actually pretty difficult to consistently think about your own body language in a fast-paced squash match.
Hopefully, these tips inspire you to incorporate body language into your game plan!
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