Although this is the third in the coaching series, you do not need to have read the previous two articles (Part 1 & Part 2) to benefit from this one. In fact, this one is very different from the other two. Not everybody is lucky enough to have local coaches they can visit. Here are a few ideas if that is true for you.
I also want to say that not everybody can learn effectively on their own. Pro-active learners enjoy the process of finding and using information themselves. Some players need to be given the information. Don’t worry if you find active learning difficult. Not everybody is suited to it.
It is possible to just play and improve that way. I call that passive learning – learning without consciously trying to learn. Generally, this way of learning is slower than active learning.
Watch Coaching/Tips Videos
You probably already do this. There are plenty of great squash coaching videos available and I hope you watch some of mine. The two things I want to mention are, firstly, find a coach that you like. There’s little point in watching a coaching video if you don’t like the style of presentation. the information might be great, but you won’t enjoy it and learning should be fun.
Secondly, don’t watch lots of videos and try to improve all aspects of your game. Select one aspect and watch videos related to this and then get on court and focusing on improving that one aspect of your squash. You don’t have to master it completely before trying to improve another aspect, but you shouldn’t be working on more than 2 things at the same time.
Focus on one or two aspects of your squash at any one time.
Read Articles Or Books
Well, you are reading this, so I suppose this one is obvious. But there are plenty of good articles available online for free that you can read. There is definitely great advice out, but also some bad advice too, so be sure to keep and open , but critical mind. Try whatever is suggested and see if it works for you. The same goes for books. Most are quite old now, and besides some very formal and strict technique advice, most of what was written 20, 40 or even 60 years ago is still true today.
Most of the information in articles and books is the same. You just need to find a presentation style you like.
A stable base to hit a forehand
Watch Professional Squash Matches: Either Live on on Screen
There are plenty of YouTube channels that contain free professional squash matches and I have compiled a list for you↗, there is also the PSA Squash TV service, which you must pay for, but contains hundreds of professional matches in HD. Of course, if you can go to a live match then you get the benefit of the atmosphere too, although you mist the option of a quick replay anytime you want.
But it is important to differentiate watching a squash match for pleasure and watching a squash match to learn. I made a video called How to watch a squash match↗. Essentially, you should focus on one of two things. Firstly, focus on one player. Forget the ball, just watch one player. Look at how they move, how they swing, how fast they get back to the T etc. You are trying to learn as much as possible from them. At the end of the game, focus on the other player and see if you can notice a difference.
Secondly, forget the players and focus on the shots played. Look for patterns. Notice how the speed up and slow down rallies. Notice how often they play straight return of serves. Notice how often they volley and what type of volleys they play. Notice how often they lob and boast. See if you can notice the different types of shots that each player likes to play.
Go with the specific intention of analysing and learning from the players, not just “watching” a match.
Play Different Players
I have written about playing different players before, and I recommend you read that article for more information. Essentially, playing different players forces you to solve different problems. Each player has a set of strengths and weaknesses on the day you play them. You do too. Each day you play, those strengths and weaknesses may be slightly different. The key to winning matches is finding the right solutions to the way each player plays.
Playing the same people each week can be a lot of fun, especially if they are all more or less the same standard, but it doesn’t really help you improve as quickly as playing different players. You can do this by visiting club nights in other facilities, joining local leagues or even entering graded tournaments. A graded tournament is where you play against players of your own standard/level.
By playing different players you have to adapt to different styles and this can really improve your squash.
Miss purple shorts is lighty out of position
Ask For Advice
There is a lot of wisdom and knowledge within the squash community. Most people are happy to share that wisdom and knowledge if you ask. Not everybody will give you great advice, especially when it comes to technique, but it costs nothing to ask! By talking to more experienced players, you can reduce the time it takes to learn certain things, especially tactical things, in squash.
As with watching videos and reading articles or books, you need to carefully consider what you are being told. What worked for one player, night not work for you. The only way to know is to try it. Give it enough time to see if it works, but don’t keep doing it for too long if it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, it just means that it wasn’t suitable for you. Accept it and move on.
Asking for advice is free. Listen to what is aid, try it and see if it works for you.
Experiment With Different Styles
This last one is a little controversial and certainly isn’t suitable for everybody. This is not something I would want beginners to try either. If you have good enough body awareness, you can go on court and swing with slightly different styles. It’s important that you make small changes to your swing and see how they feel. Sometimes things feel good in solo drills, but just don’t work in real matches.
Examples would be how early you prepare, what position you prepare your racket, the distance between you and the ball at the moment of impact etc. Essentially, you are coaching yourself with trial and error. It’s not a perfect way to learn, but if you don’t have any other option and want/need to improve your technique it can be useful. I made a video called 5 Things To Do On Your Bad Days↗ which goes through a similar process.
Experimenting through trial and error *can* work for some players, but you must have good body awareness.
Hoping to improve, but doing nothing about it, is a waste of time. With a little thought and planning, you can take control of your improvement.
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