A lot of beginners find the backhand very difficult at first. Some don’t have the patience to keep trying and begin to swap hands to play forehands on both sides. Just like using two-hands was considered terrible for squash, swapping hands breaks the tradition and is immediately dismissed by some players and coaches.
Is it really that bad though? Is it even allowed? DO other sports do it? There are so many questions. Let me try to answer them. For this article, I sue the term “swap” and “switch” interchangeably.
Let’s Start By Defining It
Instead of holding the racket in the same hand all the time, some players move it to the other hand. Most people have a dominate hand and for most people that’s the right hand, so they naturally hold the racket in that hand. In the same way they hold a pen in that hand and hold their toothbrush in that hand.
However, that’s not always strictly true. Ross Norman, World Champion in 1988 and the first person to beat Jahangir Khan after 555 matches, sued to play with his right hand and write with his left. Also, you don’t have to be ambidextrous to swap hands to hit the ball. The people who do, sometimes still have a dominate hand that they use for everything else.
Would he be better off swapping hands?
Are You Allowed To Swap Hands?
There is nothing in the rules that says you can’t. The only rule I remember related to holding the racket says that the racket must be held in the hand at the point of contact; so no throwing the racket and hitting the ball!
Whether the actual swapping would cause distraction or interference is open to interpretation, but it would have to be a very exaggerated movement to do that. Players occasionally drop rackets and can continue playing and many players spin the rackets between hits, so I don’t see any issue with switching hands.
What Are The Advantages?
Most players, especially at club level, can hit the ball significantly harder on their forehand than on their backhand. They might even feel they have more control on that side too. Unless you are prepared or forced (see below) to improve your backhand, your forehand might always be more dominate. Swapping hands gives the short-term feeling that it’s easier. Whether that is true in the longterm is debatable. By swapping hands, you have two shots that are more or less the same power and control. Although, I feel that the non-dominate hand will always be slightly weaker than the dominate.
The second reason I can see that players feel it is advantageous is that it’s so unusual that it cause opponents problems; specifically tactically. You don’t have a clearly weaker side to attack. Do you hit down the middle more to confuse them? But then you are hitting weak shots. It’s a tactical conundrum – but only if you overthink it. Just player tight and wide squash and let that be your tactics.
What Are The Disadvantages?
The actual motion of swapping hands can mean that the player doesn’t perfectly hold the racket at the moment of impact, but it can’t be too serious or players wouldn’t do it. As you do it more and more, I suppose it becomes muscle-memory and you stop focusing on it.
There is also the issue of the ball coming at you. When that happens, most times the only way to hit the ball is with a backhand motion/swing, but if you are in the middle of changing hands, that becomes almost impossible. At least, that’s the theory. In reality, the ball coming at you is not very common and the player could simple keep the racket in their hand and rotate their arm and racket face. What I am saying is that this “issue” is not insurmountable.
That's a beautiful swing; there's no need to change that.
Why Is It Not More Prevalent?
I have never personally seen a coach actively encourage a player to use both hands. I would probably discourage its use too, but I also feel that players should be allowed to use any technique that is not dangerous to themselves or their opponent. If a pupil came to me adamant that they didn’t want to improve their backhand and only wanted to use the forehand, then I should do my best to help them.
The reality is that most coaches, especially with juniors, will force players to stick with one hand. I honestly don’t know if that’s the right approach, but it’s what happens.
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Do Other Sports Use It?
Yes, but probably not sports you have heard of. For example, where I live people play Basque Handball and both hands are used, although that’s much easier to understand as it’s probably impossible to hit a backhand using just your hands. Frontenis and Pala are two other sports where 99.99% players swap hands. If they can do it, why not squash? Well, the answer is that the time available in squash is much shorter. There’s very little time to swap hands in squash, but in Frontenis and Pala you have much more time. There may be others, but that’s at least 3.
Pala Corta: You can't see it here, but the playerrs will switch hands whent he ball is close to the wall.
Personally, my backhand is better than my forehand and I feel that most advance players feel the same. I can hit the ball just as hard with control as my forehand and I am probably hit tighter shots than the forehand. Notice that a LOT of pro rallies are down the lefthand wall for right-handers. Therefore, I feel playing with one hand is better, but as I have said, we should be open to the idea that we are missing an opportunity to play the game o squash in a new way.
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