If You Are A Squash Player, Think Like A Football Team

It doesn't matter if you think of Soccer or American Football when I say "football", all that matters is you think of a team sport where each player has a different role.

09 November 2022 / 4-Min Read / Translate

Clearly there are huge differences between individual sports and team sports, and benefits and drawbacks to both. Sometimes squash players need to view things from a different perspective to get a better understanding of their tasks and goals on court. I have always found it useful for individual sports players to imagine themselves as a complete team, because the reality is you ARE a complete team. You have to do all the jobs: you are the strikers, the play makers, the defenders , the manager and the trainers.

If You Are A Squash Player, Think Like A Football Team

My local team Athletic Zornotza: Aupa Azules! (up the blues!)

After reading this article, I hope that you walk onto court with a new idea about how to approach playing. A planned approach rather than a "hit and see what happens". Let's look at each basic position and relate that to squash. In the introduction, I mentioned Soccer and American Football, but I will be using Soccer/Association Football as the template. I freely admit I am not an expert or even a fan of football, so forgive any errors related to specifics.

Play Makers

Over the years, these have been called different names, but a general name has been midfielders as that's where they spend most of their time, but I prefer the term "play maker". Your role in this position is the support the defenders and feed the forwards. Nothing you do should be risky, your task is to calm the panic, create opportunities without exposing your team to risks and to keep the pressure on your opponent.

In squash terms, I call these types of shots "probing" shots. They are the working boasts, the deep drives and the volleys. Taken in isolation, no shot allows your opponent an easy return, but you also hope to create a weaker return from them. All those deep rallies you see in pro squash matches are variations of probing shots. When played well, they don't even look spectacular, but they open the court for more attacking shots.

TAKEAWAY POINT: You need to create viable opportunities to hit winners, but you can't go for winners from defensive situations - that's reckless squash. A team full of play makers would be pretty frustrating to watch - all the chances would go without goals.

The Defenders

Often the unsung heroes of matches as they stop their opponents from scoring. The more you play a sport, the more you realise how important defending is. It’s not glamorous, but it’s needed. Professional squash players are so much better at playing defensive shots than club players. They realise the importance of higher, slower shots to give themselves time, to negate the probing shots of their opponent. You only need to watch how many lobs a pro plays to understand the difference in approach to defence.

Too many clubs players see defensive shots as weak shots, but the reality is often the opposite. A great lob can turn a defensive situation into an attacking one. Even just changing the pace of your deep drives can give you enough time to recover, and that’s a key point. You MUST be on the T BEFORE your opponent hits their shot. If you are not, then you have either played the wrong shot or played the right shot badly.

TAKEAWAY POINT: Negating your opponents probing and attacking shots is a skill worth learning and implementing. Become known for your lob in a world of hard hitters. A team full of defenders would be boring to watch – waiting for your opponent to make a mistake is a valid tactic, but not every single point.

The Forwards

These are the players that receive the most adulation as they score the goals. Their efforts are often more dramatic than other players’ and their stats are the ones most repeated. On a squash court, the strikers are the kill shots – the shots where you are trying to hit a final winner. A nick, a low drive, a soft drop, a disguised flick. But just like on the pitch, these shots or players NEED the play makers, the defenders to ensure they have the support they require. A team full of strikers would be a goalfest, just at both ends of the pitch!

TAKEAWAY POINT: Every player needs the ability to hit winners, but as a percentage of the shots you hit, they are quite small. Don’t place more emphasis on these shots at the expense of the foundation shots.

Support Staff

You will also need to be your own support staff; the coach/manager, the physios, the trainers, the equipment managers etc. When injured, you need to be as objective as possible to ensure your longterm health. yes, we all “want” to play, but is it the right thing to do? Are you playing too much instead of spending a little more time training? These are all difficult questions, but you have to answer them.


The final point I want to make is related to formations. Each team manager has their own style of player, where they emphasize different elements within the team, and so it is with squash. Some player prioritise different elements of their game, for example, for some the volley is their primary probing shot, for others, the boast. The point is that just because you “think like a team” doesn’t mean you lose your individuality or creativity.

Feel free to experiment with different formations, the different emphasis on your strengths and weaknesses as well as your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Having the best players (shots) is only useful if they are used in the right way!

Final Thoughts

Often times, it’s how we approach a situation or problem that determines you effective we are at solving that problem. Each opponent is a “problem” and your “tactics” are the solution. By realising that you have different roles on the squash court at different points in the rally can allow you break free of bad habits and also allow you to use your style of play in a proactive manner.

Remember, you win as a team and you lose as a team.

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