Don't Let The Ball Bounce Twice, Don't Hit The Tin, And Don't Hit It Out!

You can't be serious? Are you telling me this is actually real advice?

20 June 2024 / 5-Min Read / Translate



I was recently asked, "what's the funniest advice you have ever heard given?" And at first glance, the advice "Don't Let The Ball Bounce Twice, Don't Hit The Tin, And Don't Hit It out!" is so obvious, facetious and down-right insulting that it is easy to dismiss it. "DUH!" is often the response to such advice. It's almost as annoying as "Win the last point. That's the only one that matters." which is true, but come on!

Some Background

So why am I even writing an article about it? Because it is actually great advice. Ask yourself this: Of all the points you have lost in your squash career, how many were great winners from your opponents? It's impossible to provide an accurate estimate, but I am going to take a guess and say 10%.

Things become a little unclear when we consider forced and unforced errors (link), but if we keep our assessment simple, you make more mistakes than your opponent hits winners. And even if that statement is not correct, the ability to keep the ball going when you are under-pressure is probably a more valuable skill than being able to smack crosscourt nicks from anywhere on the court.

Let's look at each piece of advice in turn and delve (no, ChatGPT didn't write this!) a little deeper into its true meaning.

Don’t Hit It Out

I've started with this one, because it's probably the least occurring option. However, it should be the most occurring option. WAIT! Am I now asking you to actually hit the ball out? Yeah, kinda. Let's look at a couple of situations where hitting the ball out might happen and why it might be a good thing.

Firstly, the serve. while I don't want you to hit lots of serves out, I do want you to sometimes be trying to hit great serves, and that usually means high, deep serves. Every now and again, the occasional "out" serve at least means you are trying to hit great serves. That said, during very important matches, I suggest using your trusted serves.

Two professional squash players looking at the ceiling.

Pro squash players always use the full height of the court.

Secondly, defensive lobs. What is better: a lob that is too low and easily returned by your opponent or a high lob that might go out? Well, a lot depends on the situation, but just like the serve, if you never hit a lob out, then you are probably not hitting them high enough. I know that is a gross generalisation, but I do believe it is a good guide.

The court is so much higher than most amateurs realise. Professional squash players are never afraid of playing defensive shots when the situation demands it. Amateurs could improve a lot just by adopting that mindset.

Don’t Hit The Tin

The Tin. Oh boy! Of all the ways to lose a point this has to be the most frustrating. You got to the ball, you were able to hit it, yet for some reason you thought that 1mm above the tin is the ONLY place to win the point. No other position on the front wall would do. You were convinced that if the ball hit 2mm above the tin, your opponent would obviously hit a winner.

Yes, that previous sentence is a little harsh, but let's be honest, many, many times, if you play the ball that low it's going to be a winner for you or a winner for them, and that binary thinking is never good. I hold the belief that if the ball is played to the right place on the court, at the right time, it never needs to be 1mm above the tin. Going short is about making sure your opponent is not in a good position to reach your shot, and that often means behind you (but not always). It means being balanced and well-prepared in your positioning and swing, and finally, it means being committed that your shot selection is right.

A pro squash player lunging to reach the ball.

The lower you get, the higher the tin seems.

It's like hitting the net in tennis, badminton, padel or pickleball - it takes away the opportunity for you to win the point. I mean, I know that sounds obvious, but once the ball goes over the net (or tin in squash) the opponent has the responsibility to hit it back.

There's a lot that can happen between it hitting the front wall and your opponent hitting it. Back when I played tennis, my coach; Mr. Harry King, drilled it into me that even though the ball could be going out, the wind might keep it in or the opponent might hit the ball not realising it was going out. Squash doesn't have those two elements but the principle is the same: you can't win the point if your shot is not in play.

Don’t Let The Ball Bounce Twice

Honestly, this is the most difficult piece of advice to follow. Simply saying Don't let the ball bounce twice sounds patronising. Nobody let's it bounce twice on purpose.

However, we often give up reaching or chasing for a ball and that is really what this piece of advice is about: attitude more than physical reality. Diving has become part of squash and even at amateur levels it can be seen.

A view of a pro squash player's feet and the racket hitting the ball just above the floor.

Stretching and lunging instead of running can make a huge difference in reaching the ball.

I'm not a fan of diving but it certainly does show your opponent that you are willing to do anything to keep the ball going. Outside of diving, learning to stretch, reach and lunge for the ball can get you a lot more pick ups than you usually get.

Remember, under such extreme pressure, you should be playing high defensive shots. Force your opponent to hit "one more winner" and who knows, maybe they will hit a weak shot or even a tin thinking they have to hit the ball low to win the point.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, these three pieces of advice are almost insulting. But perhaps we just don't want to admit that they are true and valid. Amateur squash rallies are shorter than pro squash rallies. Part of that is fitness, but another part is patience and commitment.

I don't want to turn you into what we used to call "hackers", players who. never attacked or tried to win the point - that's boring squash. What I want you to do is wait for the right opportunity.

The next time you play, I challenge you to adopt these 3 principles and see how well you do. Good Luck!

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