BETTERSQUASH

Better Than Nothing - Why Even Doing 5 Minutes Solo Drilling Is Worth It

If you want to improve, you have to practice. The more, the better - more or less. But what's the minimum that will make a difference?

10 May 2024 / 3-Min Read / Translate↗


Introduction

If somebody said to me "Hey, Phillip! I did 5 minutes of solo drilling today." I might say "Well done!" if the person never drills or I might say "Is that all?" to somebody who usually spends 30 minutes solo drilling. But in both cases what they did was better than nothing.

You could easily argue that 5 minutes of solo drilling is a waste of time. Especially if it is an isolated incident. There's no doubt that consistent practice is an absolute must when it comes to improving.

But I feel that thinking 5 minutes is a waste of time is not a good mindset.

Two squash players focused on the ball.  Original photo by Petteri Repo.  Used with permission.

Both these players did more than 5 minutes solo this week!

Everybody Has To Start Somewhere

From the moment I started playing squash, I loved solo drilling. It suited my character and helped me improve. Not everybody is lucky like me, and yes, I consider myself lucky that I can perform an action again and again, and not get bored. Many people feel solo drilling on a squash court is boring, and I do understand that point of view. Especially when they don't know what they should be doing. But there are plenty of things they can do to make it more exciting.

But everybody has to start somewhere. Making the first step, no matter how small is important. Building habits and learning to enjoy something requires taking that first step. But not just step, the first press up, the first crunch, the first early morning bike ride - the first ANYTHING! 5 Minutes solo drilling might be that first step and if that's the cause - well done.

Never Too Long

One mistake new players make is that they believe that more is better. And, up to a point that is true. But you should always end your solo drilling when you are still hitting the ball well. The moment you start to notice a decrease in quality, it's time to either change the drill or stop. Any time club players continue after then are not hitting the ball well, all they are doing is reinforcing bad habits or worse making muscle memory of poorly executed swings.

5 minutes practicing your serve, for example, is plenty of time to begin to notice an improvement. Better to do short but often sessions than longer, less frequent ones.

Keep Changing Drills

Make sure you change drills every few minutes. If you really are going to spend just 5 minutes drilling, make it six and do three 1-minute drills on each side. I've seen so many people give the advice of "spend 10-20 minutes on each side, hitting the ball to the back". How mind-numbingly boring would that be for a newish player? Very! Never let it get anywhere never being boring.

When youa re under pressure, that's when your true skill shines through.  Original photo by Petteri Repo.  Used with permission.

Controlling the ball when stretching is key to great squash.

Not Just Solo Drilling

I've used solo drilling as the main example, but the point stands for other training too. If you and a friend went on court and played a length-only game for the first 5 minutes of every squash court session, that would be great. Or if you perform some pairs drills for 5 minutes before your match, every time you played, that would be fantastic.

Five minute stretching every day would really help, as would 5 minutes of core or leg strengthening exercises. Don't think that if you can't perform a full 30 minute training session, it's not worth doing anything. NO! 5 minutes *IS* better than nothing.

Mindset Is Just As Important

I love this following phrase: "The hardest machine to operate in the gym is the door handle to get in." Sometimes we just need to turn up and do something. That mindset is so important. We all know how hard it can be to motivate ourselves sometimes. Having the mindset of "I'll go and do 5 minutes and see what happens." is a good way to make yourself get up from the sofa and start to do some proactive.

Taking every opportunity to build more skill is a mindset approach, not just an availability challenge. Perhaps you need to spend a little more time on court to appreciate the joy and benefits of solo drilling, and starting with 5 minutes makes that transition easier.

Final Thoughts

Is 5 minutes going to improve your squash? Probably not, but if you start with 5 minutes twice a week, you have crossed a line from "just playing" to "playing and practicing" and that line can be tough for some people. So if you need a sign to start to do some training - this is it!

We would all love to be able to dedicate a couple of hours per day to our squash. But Real Life often has other ideas. Building habits can be more important in the long term than any short term improvement.

Little and often is generally better than a lot with long breaks in between. Next time you go on court, do your 5 minutes solo drilling and you will be pleased you did.


Common Phrases Series

This article is part of a monthly series where I take common phrases and use them as the basis for an article that will help you improve your squash.

This is the first one, but once I publish the others, I will list them here and in all the articles from the series.

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About Me

I am a squash coach with nearly 40 years experience; teaching complete beginners through to professionals.
Currently, I call myself an "online squash coach" as I rarely coach on court.
I enjoy working with club players and strive to present information in an entertaining and engaging way.


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