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March 2016

You are not a machine.

Everybody loses sometime. Everybody has an off day. Everybody gets injured at some point. Everybody gets ill. Learn to accept those days, events and situations with grace. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying to win all the time, play your best every match, avoid getting injured and trying to stay health. It just means that we are human. Learn and grow from each experience and you will be a better person and player because of them.

Here is a simple, yet beneficial solo drill for you to try.

Sharing A Squash Court For Solo Drilling

Starting about 2 metres away from the front wall and face the side wall and stand close to it. start to hit some volleys to yourself (forehands if you are right-handed, backhands if you are left-handed). Keep you writs firm and make the shoulder do the work. Hit about five and start to slowly move away from the sidewall but parallel with the front wall. When you get near the left sidewall wall, move a little further away from the front wall and then start to move forward again. All this time you should be volleying the ball. If you make a mistake, go back to the beginning. Your objective is to make it past the short line, so about mid court. Advanced players should be able to make it all the wall to the back wall. This is a touch exercise, both mentally and for your shoulders. Give yourself 5 minutes break by doing something else and then try it on the other side. Keep a not of how many volleys you do without a mistake.

Hitting the ball AT the back wall is a last resort, but if played well can actually be an effective shot.

Can I Use A Red Dot Ball In Squash Solo Drills?

I used to play with somebody who hit between 20 and 30 shots per match off the back wall. Not out of necessity but because he chose to. The problem was that because he didn’t need to, he had more time and better position than most players do when doing it and consequently was very good at them. When you hit the ball off the back wall try to aim it so that it goes into the opposite front wall corner. Due to the spin of the ball (don’t worry you don’t have to try to hit any spin) when it hits the front wall it will almost always go parallel to the sidewall. So if you can make it hit the front wall as close to the sidewall as possible, it’s actually possible to make it hard for your opponent. Now, I fully realize that it’s easy for me to type these words but it’s much harder to do because if you are hitting it off the back wall then it must be a last ditch attempt to keep the rally going. But as I keep saying: Hit every shot with intention. Next time you get on court, try it and see what happens, you might be surprised.

“Perceived exertion” is the formal name given to how hard you feel you are working. It is notoriously inaccurate. Knowing how hard you are working is very important for making sure you maximize your training.

Heart Rate Monitors

Obviously, it’s possible to under-train, but did you know it’s possible to over-train too? Measuring your heart rate is a tried and tested method to have a more accurate measure than how you feel. That said, it’s still not perfect because it can be affected by so many outside influences, including time of day, temperature, humidity, general health of the exerciser, stress levels etc. However, it is still much better than nothing. You can purchase heart rate monitor from around 20 dollars/Euros/Pounds and these will often provide simple functions. Obviously, the more you spend, the more functions you have. But don’t waste you money needlessly. For your first monitor, the most basic monitor will probably be enough. Besides displaying your heart rate, two features that I believe could be useful for new users are the idea of zones and average heart rate over the workout. I won’t go into details here, but when exercising most people need to be between 60 and 80 percent their maximum heart rate (your estimated maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age). Some watches beep when you are above or below this zone. I couldn’t exercise without my heart rate monitor now as I have become so accustomed to using it and I truly believe my workouts are better for it. I can’t think of a cheaper and better method of ensuring you are maximizing your workout time. One last thing, did you know they even have heart rate monitors for horses?

You often hear about “being in the zone” and that refers to your level of focus but it can also refer to how aggressive you are. I played my best squash when I was angry. Not angry enough to verbalize i.e. shout but very close.

Those With Claws Eat Those With Hooves

Personally, I dislike the displays of aggression from any sportperson but in the heat of battle it’s hard not to let them overflow. However, what I really want you to start doing is playing from the first point with the same internal aggression as you do when the score is 8-8. In fact, a good practice is to start at 8-8 for a few games every now and then. It will teach you to not waste any points. I was often too relaxed at the beginning of matches because I knew there was a long way to go, but I wish now that I had fought with the same intensity in the first few points as I did in the last few. I can’t exactly say how you develop that skill, but start by finding out what your mental approach and state of mind is when you have played your best.As I mentioned above, for me it was when I was angry but also had a clear gameplan that I could stick to. Remember, nobody won a tournament for being too relaxed and friendly on court. I am not saying be rude and nasty to your opponent though. Sure, you can be nice for a few points but you need to be motivated for 99% the rest of the time. What I am saying is generate that fire in your belly from the first point. Imagine a best of five game match where each game was one point only. How hard would you try for those 5 points? Play THAT hard for EVERY point!

I love volleying the ball. I feel that it rushes the opponent and puts them under pressure.

Hunt The Volley

Most club players only volley when the ball comes to them but I encourage my pupils to “hunt” for volleys. Obviously, not every single shot but at last 5 more volleys per game than they normally play. But number of volleys alone don’t win matches. The volleys have to be good. Not necessarily winners, but a shot that poses a problem for the opponent. Your first step is to practice volleys alone, then with a partner and then within practice games. Keep you swing short and firm. The next time you play, try to hit a few crosscourt volleys off weak straight drives. Aim for the sidewall behind the service box about a racket’s height from the floor. If nothing else, “hunting” for volleys will make you more proactive.

What is the serve? The first shot of the rally, right? A shot to get the rally started, right? Technically, yeah, both answers are correct, but why not think bigger?

The Benefits Of Solo Practice In Squash

Don’t think about “serving the balls” but “starting the rally with the toughest shot you can play”.The best first shot really depends on your opponent, but the minimum you should be aiming for is to stop them hitting a winner and ideally force them to play a weak return.One small problem club players face in this regard is what the professionals do.Watching on a screen never really shows how difficult their serves are. How often have you seen aces in squash. *Even after all these years in squash, I’m never sure if that’s the correct word for a winning serve!*You also see many professionals hit fantastic nicks from serves and this can give the false impression that professionals just hit the ball without much thought to start the rally. They don’t. I can guarantee that if you were to face their serves you would find them quite difficult to return well.Almost all good serves hit the side wall before the returner has a chance to hit it.A ball coming off the side wall is one of the hardest for club players to hit straight, that’s why so many returns for difficult serves are hit crosscourt.When you serve make it as difficult as possible for your opponent to hit good return.In fact, when playing practice matches, make sure you go for some high serves, even if you hit them out – it’s worth the practice.