17 September 2022 / 3-Min Read
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Yesterday, I wrote about watching great squash. It can not only motivate and inspire you, but it can also help develop good tactical habits. It does that by utilising a deep psychological need, which is to be the same as the rest of the group. It’s passive learning. Learning without being conscious of trying to learn. But what if you wanted to be more active? Well, read on to find out how to do that when watching squash.
It’s important that you watch high quality squash. I don’t mean any disrespect to the millions of recreational players, but it is unlikely you will improve much by watching them. Remember: you don’t want to be the same as this group, you want to be the same as the great players – so watch the great players. Finally, all three methods below can used whether you are watching live or via a screen.
This is how you watch now probably. You probably focus too much on the ball, which by the way doesn’t really teach you anything, and you listen with the sound on and to the commentators. if done well, the commentators will be both entertaining and educational. It’s how 99% of people watch sports.
It’s how I watch the highlights of the NFL American Football matches every lunch time. My objective is to enjoy the athleticism, skill and drama of each game. Sometimes the commentators say stupid stuff or repeat themselves, but it’s not easy to create interesting observations all the time. But when it’s finished I want to go out and exercise. If the same happens with you for squash, then that way of viewing has worked.
The next way to to pay more attention to the shots players play. In general I advise focusing on one player at a time. Begin to notice when they attack, when they defend, when they volley or boast. I’m not asking you to have a notepad and record the types of shots, I mean you can if you want to, but just by becoming more aware of the shot selection as a whole can be enough.
It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of the rally, but try to stay disconnected. You are watching for reasons not emotions. I clearly remember watching a James Wilstrop match as part of a Free Game Friday on the PSA Squash TV YouTube channel and much to my amazement, he didn’t hit one boast for the whole game. HOLY SCHMOLY! Not only is that technically very hard to do for most amateurs, from a self-control point of view it’s near impossible
The main benefit of this type of watching is noticing how patient most players are. Winning matches isn’t about hitting quick, impressive winners, but more about beating your opponent down slowly. There’s no knockout punch in squash. You have to think longer term and play shots that use the walls to great effect.
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I would definitely like you to notice their defensive counter-drop. Notice how high they hit it. This is a shot that more amateurs should play. In fact, tomorrow’s article will be about this exact point.
Again, I highly recommend just watching one player for this. Focus on one aspect of the ability. For example, how they move. Notice how quickly they begin to move back to the T after hitting the ball. Notice how they actually seem to walk back, rather than run. Notice how they take lots of adjusting steps before committing to a final longer lunge. If you are watching live, notice how quietly they move most of the time. The list could go on.
If you want to watch swing production, focus on an area that you struggle with. Maybe defence – how high they hit the ball, or how wide. Notice where shots hit the wall. Notice their preparation. I am not suggesting you rush home after the match and try to copy exactly how they swing, although that wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but I am suggesting taking some ideas and principles and fusing them with your swing and style into something that works for you.
I would especially recommend watching their backhands and how varied they are, yet all produce great shots. That’s an important point: there isn’t one perfect swing that everybody should adopt. They all might follow the same principles, but there can still be individual styles.
Watch one player at a time. More or less ignore the ball unless you are watching where it hits the wall and how that makes life difficult for players – certainly don’t follow the ball and forget the rest! Keep your objective simple: don’t try to watch both players for their swing and their shot selection. Watch with the intention of learning, not just enjoying. Watch the same game/match multiple times – you will be surprised at how much more you notice the second or third time.
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