As I said, if you can have coaching when you first start to play ANY sport, that will likely save you a lot of trouble in the future. In general, beginners tend to use the wrong grip because it feels most comfortable and swing in a way that ensure maximum chance to hit the ball - which sounds sensible, but it's a short-term success. As you get better, you will begin to realise the limitation you have created.
Fear not though, because learning the correct technique doesn't take too long and will allow you to play shots from all parts of the court with proficiency.
Why Practice Alone?
The point of playing a sport is, well, playing! Running around, trying to win points and having fun are all part of the "playing", and for beginners that's often enough to see quick improvement. However, not everybody has a playing partner that is available as often as they want to play or as enthusiastic. And squash is one of the few sports where playing alone is not only possible, but with some planning can be a lot of fun.
When you play against somebody you hit every other shot. When practicing alone you hit EVERY shot. That means twice as much practice. It sounds a little silly, but by being on court alone you are doubling your practice hits. Secondly, your partner might not be exactly the same standard as you, so it's possible playing against them could be either too hard or too easy.
Playing alone also allows you to focus on YOUR weaknesses and the things YOU want to improve. I want to stress this point. When practicing alone, you should spend 75% of your time on your weaknesses. It's easy to fall into the habit of doing the things you like and are good at, and neglect the things that need improvement.
During solo practice, you also have the opportunity to focus on your technique and timing. During games, you sole goal is to hit the ball and this often leads to unusual technique. It's amazing how the "need" to hit a good shots overrides the long-term desirability to swing correctly.
Lastly, hit alone takes more skill that playing! WHAT? How can that be? Well, when you play against somebody, you can hit the ball anywhere. When you practice alone, you have to hit the ball accurately back to yourself. It takes more control to do that.
What Should You Practice?
Knowing what you need to improve is important knowledge, but even beginners often realise their limitations. If you don't know what you should be focusing on, then ask other players, as they can often help. As I have already mentioned, ideally having some coaching will really help as the coach will tell you what you need to practice.
As a beginner, more or less anything you practice will help, but lots of new players need to practice their backhand - so make sure you spend time on that (see my video below).
Keep It Simple AND Interesting
Practicing alone isn't complicated, but it should be fun. So I recommend the following guidelines until you are more confident and can create your own training plan.
Do each drill for a short period of time - no more than 3 to 5 minutes. Any less and you won't get the benefit, any more and it might get boring.
Use a timer - A stopwatch or a simple app on a smartphone is perfect.
Alternate different shots - For example, try to hit shots into the service box on your forehand for 3 minutes, then do some backhand volleys near the front wall for 3 minutes, then back to the forehands in the service box.
Use targets - In this case it might be an area of the floor or it might be a consecutive number of shots. For example, using the forehand shots into the service box, see if you can hit 5 consecutively. remember, you will be doing this for 3 minutes, so you might be able to get multiple sets of 5 consecutive shots. Adjust each target to make sure it's challenging.
Use a red dot ball - Even if you can hit a single yellow dot well, a red dot ensure that it will always be bouncy enough to have fun.
Do it with a playing partner! - A lot of people think that you should play as much as possible, but practicing brings so many benefits I would advise new players to spend 15 minutes of their court time practicing. Two people can practice at the same time and just swap sides after each 3 minutes. You could even have a little competition about who can hit a target first.
At some point in the near future, I will produce some videos and posters detailing some drills for new players. However, just practice shots back to yourself from different parts of the courts is enough to get you started. Follow the guidelines above and things should be fun and effective.
Watch This Video To Improve Your Squash
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