24 December 2022 / 3-Min Read
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I've been debating with myself whether to write about New Year's Resolutions, but have decided to address the topic indirectly. Partly because for most people New Year's Resolutions don't work and partly because for squash players January is in the middle of our season.
I believe finding the right goal setting system for each person should be a high priority and diferent systems can work in different parts of you life: health, academic, work/business, family, hobbies etc. So the idea I am suggesting you try in this article is very casual. There's no change or commitment required as far as time is concerned, it's just what you do on court. There's no requirement to win more points, to wake up earlier or do anything different in your training: just change the decisions when playing squash.
As you have seen from the title, I am suggesting that you set yourself a monthly tactical goal. So the first thing to do is make a list of possible tactical goals that would be interesting for you. I'm pretty sure that you want me to give you a list, and I will, but what you should try is not the same as another player, so it is important you use my list as inspiration and not consider it as the best or only list.
Writing something down makes it feel more important. You don't have to share the list with anybody, in fact, some people say sharing the list is a bad idea and some people say it's a good idea. Personally, I believe it depends on the goals themselves and more importantly your character. Some people work harder when they know other people know their goals, whereas some people prefer to keep private goals and work towards them that way.
Some goals I publicly announce and some I keep to myself, but in either case, I write them down. Start a squash notebook and use a few pages for your monthly goals. Write the month, the goal and then at the end of the month, how you did and your thoughts and feelings about the goal. I'm not expecting you to write a story, just to clarify your feedback. Imagine that you have to send me brief report each month to chart your progress.
You don't have to plan a full year in advance, but at least three months, which is only three targets, would be fine. That said, based on the results of each month, feel free to adjust the 2 other months. Anything you write down is to help you, not limit you, so adjustments are fine. Ideally, the plan would be a natural progression in the tactical targets, rather than a random list, although there can be some benefit in that approach too.
Once you have decided which targets to use, written them down, planend them, that doesn't mean you have to use them every single time you go on court. You need to do them often, but use your common sense. if you have a very important match and feel that this tactic won't work well and you really want to win, then play your normal game. But remember, the more you do it, the more likely it will help.
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Below are a few suggestions. Feel free to sue them or adapt them, or even ignore them and create your own.
+ Only straight drives from the back corners. Vary the height and speed though.
+ Every boast your opponent plays, you respond with a straight drop or crosscourt lob.
+ Serve to win the point, even if you hit some serves out. Do this for the first game only.
+ make the first three points of every game as long as possible.
+ Volley every single service return - NO EXCEPTIONS. Don't try to hit it hard though unless you can control the ball.
+ Volley more often. Try to count how many volleys you play in each game and write them down.
+ Play the first 4 points of every game defensively. Imagine it is match ball against you and you need to be patient.
+ Focus on your crosscourt drives. Aim to hit the side wall behind the service box.
+ Select forehand or backhand and every other shot in the back corner must be a working boast.
A bad gameplan is better than no gameplan. By trying these ideas, you may lose some matches, but you will learn something. Either that you need to improve some shots or that they don't work against that opponent. Of course, it would be easier to select each tactic based on each opponent, but the purpose of this concept is to develop the skills to use the tactics well.
Remember, the tactical target you select should be based on your playing characteristics, and work on areas that you need to improve. If you already have a great boast, hitting more boasts won't be maximising your time spent on court improving. Choose wisely!
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