26 September 2022 / 3-Min Read
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I developed a theme of asking some of my pupils what they did for a living and using that to frame squash concepts so that they might better understand them. I vividly remember two examples:
1. Ballet dancer. One time, a professional ballet dancer came to me wanting to learn to play. He was a COMPLETE beginner. It was very interesting to see his movements become more fluid in a much shorter period of time than most other new players. He loved the idea of ghosting as it felt simply like rehearsal to him. However, what he wasn’t very good at was decision making. Over time, I tried to present the idea of shot selection as the idea of a dance that had certain fixed movements, but within a range of few options.
2. Actuary. This was even more interesting. In case you don’t know an actuary is like an accountant who has to make risk assessments – it’s much more than that, but that description is enough for us now. His movement and technical skills were limited at best, but boy! did he use his skills to his advantage. We would discuss why this type of training was better for him than others and why some shots, while looking great if they won the point, didn’t often work. He seemed to click when I framed it like that.
So I asked readers of the squash subreddit what they did for a living and tried to explain squash concepts in terms of their profession. I don’t guarantee that it will help you or even make sense, but I’ll try. I haven’t added the responses to my description here, but you can read them if you follow the link above. This article should be viewed as entertainment rather than a rigidly researched scientific analysis of job function in relation to squash tactics!
This is all about seeing the bigger picture and thinking long term. You have a plan and stick to it. Things you do or don’t do now pay dividends later in the match. For example, save that boast until they least expect. The same goes for your training. Most want instant gratification, but you are smarter than that. You know that working on something now, may not bring immediate effect, but next month you will be reaping the rewards.
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Similar to the landscape architect, you think longer term, but perhaps have the advantage of having developed the ability to solve urgent issues. For example, you have a game plan that is just not working. Instead of being stubborn, you formulate a new plan and reassess after every game. Your ability to objectively assess your and your opponent’s game is what makes you a dangerous opponent.
While the overall responsibility may lie with the plant manager, but without you the whole plant would be chaos. You handle the pressure well and can “think on your feet”. Being an engineer means you understand the science behind the systems in place and trust them. Some say your squash lacks creativity or is even boring, but more observant watchers know it’s effective. You do what needs to be to win games, even if it’s not pretty.
Quick note: I drove a forklift for a few years. One of those small ones with the little wheels at the back, mainly used in the warehouse to move pallets around, especially high ones. Anyhoo. You are excellent at judging distances, heights and speeds. The key is to use that knowledge effectively. Watch your opponent like a hawk and then when you know what they are going to do, be ready with your devastating response. You always try to make each shot as difficult for your opponent as possible. Not flashy, not too creative, not amazing – just simply effective.
Rarely praised, not often thanked, as a caretaker, you work silently behind the scenes keeping everything running smoothly. A “jack of all trades, and a master of none” really doesn’t do justice to your skills and abilities. While you may not be a master, you have to do everything really well, and the same with your squash. However, on court you ARE a master at using your skills to keep your chances alive. You find solutions to tactical problems with the tools at hand – your good shots and their weak ones.
You have a customer face, in the same way you have a game face. You show your happy face in difficult circumstances, as many do in similar jobs. You can use this skill to hide your emotions during the game. You don’t want to give anything away to your opponent. You can work and play under pressure, knowing what to focus on and what to ignore. Noisy or disruptive things outside the court don’t affect you.
Tactically, you use pre-planned and practiced patterns well, that means having trusted combinations of shots that you don’t have to think too much. For example, if your opponent boasts and you have time, you drop it to make them work, if you don’t have time, then you lob it.
DETAILS! That’s what you focus on. You can’t afford silly mistakes mislabeling items or performing the wrong tests. That ability to focus on the “here and now” is what helps you play your best squash. Sure, you plan and think about what needs to be done, but a game plan is useless if you are not thinking about each shot as you play it. Your concentration is your weapon.
Metrics are what matter. You can objectively asses which of your sales reps are doing what they are paid to. In the same way you can use that skill on court. If one shot is not working that day, don’t get emotional over it, just change it. Same for your job. You do your best to support your workers because they are more productive that way. If they need training to overcome a weakness in their sales approach you give them that training and the same for your shots. If you need to improve something, you train it. In some ways this approach is similar to an accountant, who may look at how the points are won and focus on ensure that happens more often.
Patients and opponents both needed a personalised approach. What works for one player, may not work for another. This leads you to start with a generic gameplan, that you constantly and carefully adapt to each opponent. Your ability to make observations and adjustments, make you a much-feared opponent. And let’s not forget your patience (pardon the pun). You know that some things take time and you are happy to keep doing what your are doing if it brings results. Operations and matches are NOT races.
Space is important. Cramming lots of information into a set area is not the goal. The goal is to create something that communicates what is needed in an attractive way. On a squash court you understand how the space works, how to move things around to your maximum benefit. If your opponent is spending too much time in one place, especially the T, then you are not doing your job well.
Typefaces, lines, colours and shading represent all the different types of shots you have. If you can’t use a particular shot well, they you have to adapt. The court is blank page or screen area, your shots are typefaces etc and your opponent is the information. Put the information on the page in a way that you control.
Opponents, like students, are all individuals, and as individuals you need to tailor your game to best exploit their weaknesses. Observation comes naturally to you, as do reports, so take a few moments after important matches to note down some thoughts about the player. Imagine you have to speak with their parents next week and give them a brief report.
There’s also self-assessments. What did *you* do well and what could be improved? Lastly, there’s lesson plans. These translate to game plans, which can be used to give structure to your shot selection, but like all good planners, there is a degree of flexibility in their implementation. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you homework!
Carefully excavating a site requires attention to detail and the ability to control your excitement. This can translate into playing defensively to ensure that you are not rushed into a silly shot. Perhaps your ability to take seemingly mundane information, and extrapolate habits, customs and routines of the culture being studied could help you understand your opponent better than others. Are they boasting because it’s their best shot, or because movement to the front is one of my weaknesses, or because they are under pressure?
You select a language based on the project’s need, in the same way you select a gameplan based on your the opponent you are playing. Python is great for data analysis, but you wouldn’t use it to develop a mobile app. In the same way, on court, you vary your shots depending on your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. In addition, you can call functions, DLLs or, as they were called when I learnt to programme at school, sub-routines. These are shot combinations that can be reused in a variety of situations. For example, you might play 2 straight drives, followed by a boast, looking to volley their deep return shot.
I’m going to assume you mean chemist as in manipulation of chemicals, rather than the British meaning of pharmacist. Your ability to understand combinations is what forms the basis of your squash style. Take any individual shot and alone it has limited value, but combine it with another shot and 1 plus 1 suddenly equals 3. Before I give you an example, it’s important to note that these combinations are personalised to the opponent – what works for one, may not work for another.
It’s also worth remembering that it’s also not simply a case of hitting the ball to the corners each time. So, for example, opponent A may hate playing against high straight drives that aim to limit them in the back. They take risks and play shots that are sensible, just because they lack patience. Opponent B, on the other hand, may relish this style, so you need to respond with every shot in a different corner – this breaks their rhythm.
This response was not written by me, but I thought it too funny to omit.
As in the chair, on court you goal is simply to inflict pain on your adversary. You care less about winning, and more about causing suffering. While your clients grind their teeth, you grind them down on court. After the match, you give unsolicited advice to your opponents on how they can improve their game, not unlike a token toothbrush after a root canal.
Even though I said in the introduction that this article should be viewed as entertainment, there is a serious aspect too. Viewing the same thing from different points of view can help you gain a more personalised understanding. In my opinion, explaining something in the same way to every type of person is not good coaching, not matter how good that explanation is.
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