10 September 2022 / 3-Min Read / Translate↗
I've written about this idea before, but I wanted to promote it again and in more details. We all like challenges; the mountain, the race, the score etc. It seems to be in-built in us from birth. Children love playing, but as soon as you score the game, there's a twinkle in most children's eyes. A clear way to define "winner" is almost too irresistible.
Walking onto an empty squash court alone is similar to a writer facing a blank sheet of paper. You have the option of doing anything you want to. But for many squash players, that freedom is in fact a problem. But this article is not about your planning a training session, which by the way is hugely important, it's about challenging yourself. Walking onto the squash court with a clear purpose makes solo practice so much more satisfying and effective.
Start with a single shot. For example, standing two metres away from the front wall and near the side wall, hit straight forehand volleys to yourself. Not too hard, not too soft. Simple swing, control wrist and short follow through. Easy? Maybe. How many can you do with no mistake? Maybe 10, 20, 50, 100? Whatever you can do, say over 100, take half of that as your guide, so in this case 50.
Your challenge target is 50 shots with no mistakes. If you make a mistake, start counting from zero again. The single shot challenge is just the introduction though. in most cases, it's not too hard, depending on the shot and the quality your decide to accept. For example, if you were to hit straight forehand drives to the back, where the ball must bounce once on the floor, then off the back wall and hit before it hits the floor again, all within the service box width 25 times consecutively, that's really challenging.
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tWe are going to combine single drills into combined routine.
Now go and stand near the front forehand corner, and hit a forehand volley to hit the side wall, which will then hit the front wall. It will come to your backhand. Hit the backhand volley to the front wall, which will then hit the side wall and come to your forehand. How many of those can you do with no mistake? 25, 50, over 100? Again take half the total as your guide. As before, don't hit it too hard nor too soft.
Next, stand near the front wall, but in the middle of the court. Hit a forehand volley so that it goes to your backhand. Hit the backhand volleys so that it goes to your forehand, and so forth. How many? Let's say 50. Go into the backhand corner and repeat the first and second drill, counting your maximum each time.
So far, you have performed 5 different drills, basically repeat two types of shots on each side, plus the middle drill. Take you lowest score, say 25, and use that as your overall challenge score guide. Now start on the forehand and hit 25 forehand straight volleys, on the 25th shot, move into the corner and hit 25 forehand/backhand volleys. Again, on the 25th/26th shot move to the middle of the court and do the forehand/backhand volleys against the front wall. After 25 move into the backhand corner and perform the two drills. All shots with 25 shots.
If you make a mistake at any point in the drills, stop, go back to the starting position and start counting from zero again.
I guarantee that the first couple of drills are quite easy, then as you get towards the end, you become a little more nervous - nobody wants to to have to start again, right - and the final straight backhand volleys can be quite nerve-wrecking!
Perhaps 25 shots is too easy for you, in which case, increase the number to 50. I rarely recommend any more than 50 shots for any one drill. If you can hit 50 without mistakes, it's better to increase the quality. For example, in the challenge routine above, i would increase the speed of my shots and/or hit only below the service line. In other drills, I would reduce the allowed target area if the ball bounces.
As I started with, a single shot can be challenging, but I feel the really interesting aspect is when you combine shots into "Challenge Routines". Select the shots that work on your weaknesses more than your strengths. Personalise the routines to suit your needs. Keep a notebook (more on that soon) so that you can accurately chart your progress.
If you want to take it one step further, do the challenge routines in-between ghosting sessions
Solo Drill is what you make it. If you go onto court with no plan, no challenges and nothing interesting to do, you will be unlikely to gain anything from your time and effort. By using the "Challenge Routine" system, you give yourself a clear objective. Take command of your improve, by using this system the next time you go on court.