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February 2016

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan? I believe so. Knowing what you are going to hit a long time before you hit it, can keep your mind clear and that process of avoiding distraction can make that shot better.

Is a Bad Gameplan Better Than No Gameplan?

Deciding what to hit moments before hitting a ball leaves you open to making crazy decisions. Having a gameplan allows you to focus on that. It might not be the best gameplan against that particular player but that’s not the important part. Having or developing self-control can be the difference between winning and losing. Every now and again, pick a gameplan and use it in a match. Keep with it until the end of the match. That last part is important. It builds mental strength. I remember a student of mine playing a club match, she was the number 1 string and hers was the last match. She lost the first two games and we changed the gameplan to something that we thought would work. She won the next two game, making it 2-2. In the final break, she said she was going back to playing her way because she thought she could win. I tried to convince to stick to the gameplan. She changed the gameplan and lost. Maybe she would have lost even if she hadn’t changed the gameplan but I don’t believe so. Once you have decided on a gameplan KEEP USING IT. You might not win each match with a particular gameplan but by trying to plan each point as it happens will be worse.

There is a lot of common ground between boxing and squash. I have played some tough matches and felt as if I had been in a fight the day after – you too probably!

Float like a butterfly, Sting Like A Bee

“Hit and move” is an often heard phrase in boxing and we would do well to heed it in squash to. I have previously covered moving back to the T faster than moving to the ball and in this article I want to look at that in a little more detail in the back of the court. Essentially, your swing should provide the movement momentum to start the move back to the T. At the moment of impact you should be moving towards the ball ever so slightly as this means that your body weight is being used to maximum effect. Then, you follow through with your swing – not too wildly though!, and smoothly make you way back to the T. At club level you often see players hit a crosscourt from the back and then watch the ball without moving, then after a half-second begin to move. It’s easier to do this for crosscourt shots as the ball is not coming back to your position. If you don’t move when you you hit a straight drive you would be in the way and that’s often why lower levels of squash players hit more crosscourts. “Hit and move”, “Hit and move”, “Hit and move” should be a mantra you instill in yourself. With practice, you will have more options when you get to the ball as you would have had more time to get to the ball in the first place.

Let me get straight to the point.
The moment before your opponent hits the ball, you should do a little jump, with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. This movement, gives you the “bounce” effect that means you can move faster to the ball.

Let’s All Do The T Jump

The moment before your opponent hits the ball, you should do a little jump, with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. This movement, gives you the “bounce” effect that means you can move faster to the ball. In fact, it is a form of plyometrics, which is the idea of compressing the muscles in one movement to allow them to release at greater power than from a static position. That’s why plyometrics is so good for you and what is the most common plyometrics training? Yes, that’s right, skipping. Perfect for boxers and squash players. Once your heels touch the ground, it takes more time to get moving than if you were bouncing. The timing of the jump is crucial because if you do it too early all benefit is lost and you will probably be slower. If you do it too late, you will be in the air when the ball is moving and by the time you land, you will be a little late. The key is to start to jump JUST before you think the ball is about to be hit BUT don’t jump too high. You are just doing a little bounce to make sure you are ready to pounce once you know where the ball is going. Like everything worth working for, you will need to practice until it feels comfortable. If you can, watch some professionals matches on YouTube and focus on this aspect of their movement. Especially, Nicole David, who moves so beautifully. Lastly, notice what happens when a player hits the ball off the back wall and the opponent at the front. He or she often waits….and waits….and waits before hitting the ball. This waiting make it hard for you to guess the moment to jump and you often see players become static, making that much harder to get moving.

One of the great things about playing club team matches or tournaments is having to adapt to new circumstances and situations. Obviously, the biggest of those is the opponent but also the court and surroundings are very important too.

Learn To Adapt To Different Court Conditions ASAP

Obviously, the biggest of those is the opponent but also the court and surroundings are very important too. The more often you have to adapt, the better your chances of learning to do it faster. I’ve often heard players complain that by the time they felt comfortable on court, it was too late. This can even more important when both players are new to a venue as in a tournament. Getting to a new venue as early as possible helps reduce the feeling of strangeness but that’s only part of the story. Some players are less affected by different courts than others. I believe that one of the reasons is that they have put themselves in those sorts of situations as often as possible. There is also the idea of actively adapting. When you get on court, feel the walls. Do they feel hot, cold or even damp? Is there a difference between the each sidewall or parts of the frontwall? Looks for these differences during the warm up. Play a few boasts and move forward to hit a straight drive back to your opponent. Not only will this help you physically warm up but it will also allow you to test the walls and floor. Don’t forget the height of the court. Play a few lobs to get a feel for the lights and any obstructions. Lastly, don’t forget the back wall. Make sure you play a few longer drives to see the bounce on the backwall. What I am trying to explain is that every time you go on court you should be learning about your opponent AND the court. Of course, if you are playing on courts you know very well, then this is not so important but playing on courts new to you can change the course of matches. Again, obviously, the opponent is the biggest challenge, but do not neglect to consider the court too.…

I like my pupils to have a shot selection system that they easily understand and can be used in matches. It’s called the traffic light system. You have probably guessed how it works already. Each moment has three potential states: Attack (green), Choose (amber/yellow) and Defend (red).

Traffic Light System of Shot Selection

Over various coaching and training sessions, the student begins to clearly identify the Attack and Defend situations. The Choose situations are by far the most difficult to get right because they often depend on more elements and minor elements than the other two. For example, if your opponent plays a weak shot and you are in good position, then that is a potential Attack shot. Whether you decide to attack or not is another matter but identifying the Attack position is easy. Same goes for the Defend shot. If you are under pressure and need time then it is clearly a Defend shot. Now imagine that the ball is a couple of ball widths away from the wall, it’s not moving too quickly and you are on the T. What is this? Different levels of players call it different things. In fact, the less-able players often call it Attack more than the better players, which is incredibly interesting. The use of the exact words of Attack, Choose and Defend is also open to a lot of interpretation. There is also the point that the majority of drives down the wall are actually Attack shots disguised as Defend. You have little chance of losing the point directly from these shots but you might also be fortunate and get a weak return. In essence, the higher the level the more polarized the shots come: they are either Attack or Defend.

I was never a great player. I could explain that I didn’t start until I was 17 years old and it was too late by then but the reality was I didn’t have a coach. For the year or so I did have one, I made huge gains, in fitness, technical proficiency and tactical awareness.

No Matter What Your Starting Age or Level, Always Get Coaching

No Matter What Your Starting Age or Level, Always Get Coaching

The mistake is to think that you are too old or have too many bad habits to be able to benefit from having a coach. It’s not true. Yes, the younger you start getting coaching, the better, but just because you can’t become world champion doesn’t mean you should try to improve or try new sports. You play sport because it is good for your mind and body. I recognize that receiving coaching is not cheap but if you find the right coach for you, the money you do invest will be worth it. “Invest” is exactly the word to use here because the benefit comes in the future. Also, don’t think that your coach will want to change everything about your game and make you go back to basics. Everybody can improve by making small changes. Tell the coach exactly what you are hoping for out of the sessions and assess whether you have achieved your objectives after a few sessions. If you have, great, keep going, if not, then look elsewhere. Don’t expect immediate success, although it is possible to immediately improve, it depends on what you are working on. Realize that finding the right coach for YOU is much more important than who the coach is. Just because a coach used to be a great player, doesn’t mean he or she is the best coach for you. Just because a coach has been coaching for many years, doesn’t mean he or she is the best coach for you. The best coach is the one that listens to you and works WITH you. You might need to try a few coaches until you find the right one. Good luck.

Foam rollers have become quite fashionable over the last few years and for good reason. Foam rollers allow you to massage yourself easily and cheaply. You can carry them in your bag and use them on almost any surface, including the wall.

Foam Rollers

They come in two types: solid foam, with various surface treads and ones with a plastic inner core and an outer foam surface. They are easy to carry and use and provide a perfect post-match/training cool down. I highly recommend you try one a few times, you should notice the difference in a few days. No for my confession: I don’t like them. I find them awkward to use, although I do see and feel the benefit. I have an alternative which I will tell you about another time, but just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean you won’t. Essentially, you roll your body over and around them and your body weight provides the pressure for the massage. They can work the legs, back, shoulders and arms. I’m pretty sure you local gym already uses them, so try and check them out.