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Okay, you may not be a Star Wars fan, but hopefully you got the reference in the title.

Where the ball bounces on the floor is key, but it is a secondary target. Players can make the ball bounce in the same point on the floor by hitting it at different speeds and heights on the front wall. So even though it *is* a secondary target it has to be viewed in combination of the speed at which the ball is moving AND the angle it hits the floor.

Use The Front Wall, Luke!

Phew, that sounds like a lot to worry about when you are running around trying to stay in a rally. Let’s keep it simple. Try focusing on where you ball hits the front wall, specifically the height. You will need to adjust the height based on a number of factors: the time of year, the court temperature, the brand of ball used and the general condition of the court. I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent, but this is one aspect of why playing club team squash can be so good for you – you have to learn to adapt to different courts. Playing on the same courts ALL the time is like playing the same person all the time and hitting the ball at the same speed. VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE! Back to the front wall. Start with the cutline – that’s the horizontal line on the front wall. Try hitting it when playing a straight drive using 80% of your power. Where does the ball bounce first? Is the second bounce near the back wall? It should be. If it is too short, hit a little higher next time, if it is too deep, hit a little lower. It’s not rocket science. As with a previous article entitled “Hit Every Shot With A Clear Intention”, this process of finding your height and aiming for it will automatically make your drives more consistent. For crosscourts, you will need to aim a little higher because the ball has further to travel. Now that you have a solid base to work from you can begin to adjust the speed and height with more confidence. If you have the opportunity, watch yourself play and mark on a piece of paper where the ball its the wall or better still, get somebody to do it for you from the balcony. The resultant sheet doesn’t tell the…

I was recently asked to discuss making sure than when players are not with their coach, they do the right thing.

This goes back to my previous article entitled “Really Understand The Objective Of Any Routine You Do” but it also goes deeper and wider.

You Have To Be Your Own Coach 90% Of The Time

It’s your coach’s responsibility to ensure that you know what you should be working on and the elements to focus on. However, ultimate responsibility of your improvement lies with you. You are the one who actually has to do the hard work and put in the hours of training – and yes, they will be hours. Ideally, you should work WITH your coach in ensuring your training without him or her is beneficial. If necessary, ask him or her for at least one, preferably two and at most three things that you should be paying attention to when you are playing, pairs/group practicing or doing solo routines. Then make sure you report back. If he or she doesn’t ask, tell your coach what happened and discuss ways to improve your next sessions without him or her. https://youtu.be/-kctlZ8KYk8

I can’t find the clip but I remember watching a match between Ramy Ashour and Gregory Gaultier. In one moment, Mr. Ashour was in the forehand back corner and played a crosscourt, but he hit it with a little deception and slower than he had been.

Vary Your Speed And Height

The ball came towards Mr. Gaultier and he mis-timed his straight drive and it dropped short. Mr. Ashour stepped forward and killed the ball in the nick. Mr. Gaultier walked to return serve and you could see by his manner and facial expression he was angry with himself. For me that’s a great example of how varying your speed can cause your opponent to play weaker shots. Imagine this: You start playing somebody and that person hits the ball really hard all the time. At first, especially if you are not sued to it, it is a rush and difficult for you, but over time you get better and better at reacting to the shots. This is a natural thing – the body adapts. It’s how we get fitter, faster and stronger. What smarter squash players do is constantly and consistently vary the height and speed of the ball. Not by much, I’m not talking about smacking it one moment centimetres above the tin and then floating it centimetres below the outline the next. Slight variations cause more problems to players than big ones. It takes practice to keep good length and keep it tight to the wall but it’s worth doing. Essentially, you are trying to break your opponents rhythm. One more thing. Once you become better at this, playing defensive shots also becomes easy. You will feel comfortable slowing the ball down when you NEED to after having done it when you CHOOSE to. Lastly, if you are curious as to why I referred to them as Mr. Gaultier and Mr. Ashour it is because I don’t know them personally and I feel that’s the right way to address somebody you don’t know. https://youtu.be/xZA0AY-ZuF4

I hate generalizations but like most people, especially educators, I often use them. Today, I am going to present an idea that in general is true but obviously not always. I need to you to read this with an open mind.

Move Back To The T Faster Than To The Ball

How fast do you need to get to the ball?  My answer is as SLOW as possible. How fast should you get back to the T?  My answer is as FAST as possible. Let’s look at the first one. How can it be possible to say as slow as possible? Well, the idea is that you never want to get to the ball too early. You will waste energy getting there without any benefit to you. In some situations you might be able to play the ball earlier but that’s not always preferable. The idea is to get there when you NEED to but not before. With regard to the second point, the faster you are back on the T or the right place for the situation, the less options your opponent has. Most club players do it the other way around: get to the ball as fast as possible and then move back slowly to the T. Watch a few professional matches on the Internet and see how they move. You will be surprised at how quickly they get back to the T. Try it for yourself. You will probably find it hard to move to the ball at the right speed and quite hard to rush back, but it’s worth it. https://youtu.be/-1EeNriiRN0

One of the most versatile pieces of equipment is the resistance band. It’s inexpensive, easy to carry and can be used for a huge range of exercises.

Resistance Bands

There are three main types of resistance bands: short closed loops; often used for the legs, tubular bands; often with handles and can sometimes be used in different resistance combinations and plain old narrow sheets. I am not going to be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each type or even suggesting which exercises you should do. All I want to do with this article is encourage you to try them. Squash players need power and agility and while using weights won’t cause you to become “muscle-bound”, having a better way to get or stay strong is always preferable. Resistance bands allow you to use the full range of motion at speeds that won’t injury you but reflect what happens on court. They allow you to use them as part of your warm up or training and even for stretching. The problem is that they seem to have had bad press in that they are seen by men as only used by women or you won’t be able to build muscle mass. Both are misconceptions but squash players don’t want or need muscle mass anyway! Being able to use them almost anywhere is a great feature and I remember a few years ago using them in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 lounge while getting a few funny looks, but I managed to get a short workout while I waited for my delayed flight. For less than 10 Pounds, Euros or Dollars you can buy a piece of equipment that could improve your squash. I challenge you to buy a set and use them for one month. https://youtu.be/-1EeNriiRN0

Bruce once said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” It’s a wonderful quote and can be adapted to any sport.

Bruce Lee’s 10,000 kicks and How It Can Help You

For squash, 10,000 is not that many shots. A solid solo session should have around 2,000 shots, so a Monday to Friday daily session has 10,000 already. Let’s increase 10,000 to 100,000 shots and pose a question. Which is better?20 sessions of 5,000 shots50 sessions of 2,000 shots100 sessions of 1,000 shotsor 200 sessions of 500 shots Before we try to analyze that question, let me ask you another. Have you heard of the phrase “10,000 hours of practice makes you a master”? If not, Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. A quick web search will reveal plenty of interesting links, including a BBC video. Now, if you practiced for 1 hour per day for 10,000 days that is 27 years, 5 months, 3 weeks and 4 days. Getting a bit silly now. What I am trying to highlight is that the total number of hours is perhaps not the most important thing. It’s the combination of practice sessions and time per session. But there is one more point to consider and that is the time between each practice session. If you leave too much time between each session the benefit of that session starts to fade. There is no scientific research here but experience tells me that, within reason, the more often you do something the better. A thrice weekly session of 30 minutes would be better than a weekly session of 90 minutes. I am sure you can imagine that concept in whatever field of learning you wish to apply it to. So that leaves us with this: number of training sessions, the time of the sessions and the time between those sessions are all important. Let’s go back to my original question. Even though I haven’t performed any scientific tests, I believe that the best option is 100 sessions of 1,000…

I am a HUGE fan of solo practice. Not enough squash players do it and I believe that is partly because they don’t know what, how or why to practice. As a coach, that’s part of my job to clarify those points to my pupils.

Sharing A Squash Court For Solo Drilling

For this article though, I want to assume that you regularly hit the ball on your own as part of your training. When we play matches we feel pressure. Pressure to win points. We get a little nervous in various situations, especially after a long rally when faced with an opportunity to win the point. Ideally, our training should prepare us for what we will face in real matches. The next time you go on court, I want you to have prepared a routine that contains five or six different hitting routines, each with a set number of shots. For example, 30 forehand drives whose first bounce lands in the service box, 30 forehand volleys with one foot in the service box at all times, 30 forehand volleys with you standing about one racket length away from the frontwall, forehand/backhand volleys in the middle of the frontwall, move to the backhand side doing the reverse of the forehand routine. Here’s me trying to get down low! Phew, that’s 7 exercises. Now do then without a mistake in any. If you make a mistake in any of the exercises, go back to the complete beginning. If 30 is too many, start with 10. Do it until the time finishes or you have completed it. I guarantee that when you are close to finish you WILL feel the pressure, especially if the ball is close to the sidewall. It’s a GREAT way to partially rec-create the same pressure you feel in a match and the feeling of doing the routine is so exciting. It makes you want to do more routines like that. Try it and tell me what happens. https://youtu.be/J9MMKkGc_dw