20 December 2022 / 3-Min Read / Translate↗
Let's start with other activities. Do proficient painters enjoy painting more than beginners? Is that even a fair comparison? How about people who are learning a musical instrument? In that case, I do feel there is a stronger correlation between ability and enjoyment. Playing a musical instrument is about being able to play the notes properly, whereas painting is expressing yourself. Perhaps sport is somewhere between art and music in this context?
Do we really think that professional squash players enjoy playing squash more than club players? I can't say I have ever heard that view expressed. But I know how frustrating it can be when you first start to do a new activity and your lack of skill is apparent. Of course, frustration is not the same as lack of enjoyment, but there certainly could be a relationship between ability and enjoyment.
As I said in the introduction, I don't believe it's a linear relationship, but rather it might take "jumps", and these jumps occur as the ability to perform different skills becomes clear, or in the case of squash, the ability to hit certain shots. And let's not forget the feeling of accomplishment when we master a new skill or ability. That feeling adds to our enjoyment. It makes all the hard work worth it. Improvement without effort is somehow unsatisfying.
The three basic shots that I feel related to the jumps, after the most basic of all; the drive, are volley, drop and boast. Not necessarily in that order, but once you can hit those shots I do feel you see squash in a new light. Players begin to see squash as more tactical than "how hard you can hit it". The ability to move your opponent to the front with either a drop or boast opens up the possibilities in ways tennis and badminton can't. I made a mistake early in my coaching career of discouraging a student from learning to play the drop because she hadn't got much better at drives. Looking back, I should have begun teaching her to play soft shots as that would have allowed her to enjoy squash more. She stopped having lessons the week after I said she should forget the drop for another month and concentrate on her drives. From a technical point of view, I was right, but my action didn't consider the enjoyment aspect.
As I just said, the volley, the drop and the boast really change the game of squash, but it's the back corners that represents the change from beginner to Improver, or whatever names you want to use. Being able to get the ball out of the back corner shows that the player has at least the bascis of a proper swing working and the ability to judge bounces and positioning. Just to be clear, I'm not saying that everybody who can get the ball out of the back corner as a good swing, but as a general guide it works quite well.
Rallies will begin to last long, meaning the pressure builds up, both physical and mental. You get more tired because of those rallies. Even if each rally is only three or four shots more on average, you quickly notice the difference. Gone are the rallies where after a couple of shots you get a 30-second rest.
You will also begin to notice that easy winners are fewer and farther between. A more patient approach must be developed, you have to make tactical choices, which up to now were based purely on what shot you were ABLE to play; now you have to choose what shot you WANT to play. A seemingly small jump in ability that I personally feel causes a huge change to how squash is played.
Yes, I believe it does. I believe is allows you to get a greater insight into why squash is loved by so many people. Hitting the ball up and down the wall can seem to non-players boring, but when you are doing it, there are some many aspects that go unnoticed by non-players. It's one of the reasons that I feel squash will never be a popular sport to watch on TV by non-players, whereas tennis is - but that's for another article!
If you are new to squash and reading this, I recommend you put as much time and effort as you can into learning to swing the racket properly with the express intention of being able to get the ball out of the back corners. I truly believe it will allow you to see squash in a completely new light. It will allow you a glimpse into the mental aspect of squash that is often overlooked by new players.