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These articles are for advanced players, who almost certainly plays tournaments and other competitive matches.

Yes. it’s that simple. If you play competitive squash during the winter, then a summer break from squash is not only a good idea, it might even be necessary!

Should You Have Summer Break From Squash?

Personally, I prefer summer squash. No, seriously. I hate the cold. I love how the ball bounces and how the game becomes very different tactically from the winter months. But that’s not the issue, is it? The issue is whether taking a break from squash is a good idea and I truly believe it is. Does it have to be in the summer? No, I suppose not, but for most people that is the best time. What’s important is to get away from the court and clear your head. There is a saying in English: “A change is as good as a rest”. This means that if you do something significantly different from your usual routine, then that might be as beneficial as actually resting. A lot depends on your usual routine and what you are doing differently, but for squash players, that could mean playing a different racket sport, or leaving rackets behind all together. Who doesn’t love swimming in the summer? Me, I freaking hate swimming! But I recognise the benefits. The summer offers plenty of opportunity to do different sports and the most obvious is swimming. Where I live, The Basque Country, most places have an outdoor swimming pool that is open between 15th June and 15th September. In my town, the cost is included in the membership of the sports centre anyway and it can be fun to exercise outside. Maybe you are not that lucky, but if you look around I am sure you can find some exercise that is cheap and will make a nice change from squash. Two more points to make. Firstly, doing some different exercise might give your body a chance to recover from a tough season. Even professionals take breaks in the summer because you can’t play your best squash all year round. It’s not possible. There have been many stories of people finally getting rid of long-term injuries during…

Here is the second in my series on Other Rackets Sports. In this article, I will describe Frontenis, which is a sport where tennis and squash had a baby – more or less.

Frontenis

The first thing to tell you is that Frontenis is played on a Fronton1. A fronton is also known as a Basque Pelota Court. There are a variety of types of court, some with one wall, some with two and others with three walls. The three wall variety is generally the largest. In addition to the number of walls, they also have lengths and heights. As you can see, it’s pretty complicated compared to squash. Also, the fronton is used for a variety of sports, all hitting a ball against the front wall though (I’ll be exploring some of those sports in future articles). Lastly, the three-walled variety have the right hand side wall missing. The front wall also has an area, just like the squash tin, where the ball is not allowed to hit. It’s about twice the height of a squash tin. Oh, I’ve put some links at the bottom of this articles if you want to explore the topic more. Frontontenis was invented in Mexico in 19002. It changed its name to frontenis a little later. Fronton courts were built around the world and its history is not very clear in the sense that people played similar, but independent games against walls for many years. This is where the history of tennis, fives, squash, rackets and lots of other games gets a little muddled. So, back to Mexico in 1900. It seems that a few famous tennis players started playing on a fronton with their tennis rackets and a tennis ball. This became popular and more people started playing it. At the time, there were a lot of fronton because Pelota games were incredibly popular. Essentially, people used to hit the ball with their hand against the wall. Over time, more people started to use a racket instead of their hand and the sport expanded into South America and then to Europe, around the 1920s, via Spain…

Does anybody else feel that shouting “SQUASH IS THE HEALTHIEST SPORT!” from the rooftops is a little silly?

I don't care if squash is the healthiest sport!

I understand that when a major publication ranks squash at the top, that’s good news and should be used to promote the game, but have you ever met a person who said “I play squash because it’s the healthiest sport”? No, I don’t think you have and neither have I. My issue with our sport using that data is that firstly we expect people to suddenly say “Oh my goodness! Why the heck am I not playing squash? I better find my local court and get healthy.” Plenty of sports and activities are very healthy, but we don’t suddenly start doing those. It is the same “data versus emotion” argument that appears all the time. People are presented with facts, but ignore them because it doesn’t fit with their world view or because they don’t care about facts! Secondly, I worry that in the past governing bodies, both specific (squash) and more general (government sports/health departments) have relied on that data to promote the game – see point one. if the only selling point we can think of is that then people are not going to play in enough numbers to keep squash growing or even surviving. We Need To Promote Fun! Squash can be so much fun. Running around and hitting the ball is in itself a fun activity. Couple it with a competitive element and add the social side and squash becomes the whole package. It’s not too difficult to learn, assuming we promote the use of the right ball!1 It can be played all year round, all around the world. It’s true that in some places the price is a little on the expensive side – at least I think so – and that has to be addressed by creating easy-to-build courts or by putting them outside2. If I were still in the UK and working within squash, one of the things I would do is try…

I am a traditionalist when it comes to movement. I believe that both over-running and diving are not the right way to move. However, when professionals players do something, I have to at least re-assess my assumptions because they are the pinnacle of the sport.

Over-Running And Diving In Professional Squash

It’s easy to not accept new fashion and trends, especially as you get older. I try hard top remain open-minded to as many things as possible. Just because something was done one way in the past and has always been done that way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it now. For example, I believe that the heavier wooden and early graphite rackets required a more strict swing technique than modern lighter rackets. That’s not to say that players can swing any way they want to, just that the range of acceptable technique has broadened. With that openness in mind, I’d like to look at one aspects of movement that have appeared in the last 10 years or so in the modern professional game. In a future article I will talk about diving. What Is Over-Running I was always taught that the last step towards the ball should be a longer lunge. This would allow you to transfer your weight into the ball, allow you more space to swing, and then facilitate the backward movement using your leg strength which would get you out of the way of your opponent and back towards the T in the fastest and most efficient way possible. I learnt this from Rahmat Khan, coach of the great Jahangir Khan. It’s not easy to do and does require very strong legs. Notice how Jahangir is about to place his foot on the floor and transfer his weight into the ball. No over-running here! The temptation is to bring the back leg forward to ease the work. There probably is a perfect compromise between keeping your back leg completely still and bringing it forward a little to make the movement backward faster, but too often amateur players bring that back leg right up to the lead leg and that’s a waste of two hole steps: one to bring it up, and one to move…

Let me start by saying this article was prompted by a dream. I don’t know about you, but I often get ideas when dreaming – some good, some bad. Let’s hope you agree this is one of the good ones!

Synchronised Group Squash Drills!

Honestly, I really don’t know if these ideas are crazy or cool. You decide. Below is a video taken from Twitter. It shows a group of children in China performing a synchronised bouncing drill with basket balls. It’s both impressive and scary, like a lot of these types of videos. But it got me thinking about whether it would be useful and fun for children to do this on a squash court. Bouncing a ball is a staple drill for getting children and sometimes adults to feel comfortable with a racket and ball. When you first start to play squash, the simple control of racket and ball needs to be developed. Just as driving a car is about control the car itself and then using that ability on a street with other traffic and changing situations. Getting children to be able to clap at the same time can be hard, so bouncing the ball in time to a leader or with others in the group might be too difficult for younger children, but there are so many variations of the “bounce the ball” theme; bounce and catch, bounce in the air (to variety of heights), bounce on the floor, bounce against a wall etc. All these take a fair degree of skill and doing them with precise repeatable results is even harder, couple that with doing it in a synchronised group, and hopefully you can see that this quickly develops into a highly skilful activity. A National Synchronised Routine Competition I couldn’t help myself and wonder whether if it proved popular if a national competition could be set up. A sponsor could be found who would help promote the event and the winning group (could be multiple groups from the same club/facility) would receive some sort of prize (maybe tickets to a pro tournament. Coaches would start their choreography planning 6 months before the submission time and the groups could…

Sting once wrote “Poets, priests and politicians have words to thank for their positions” and even though I can’t match the alliteration, I also believe that “coaches, trainers and educators” also use words to great effect, and just as importantly, players do too.

The Power Of Self-Talk

In many cases, and this post being one of them!, using words is the main way we communicate with our pupils and players.  As an English teacher, I am fascinated by not only the words we use (I’m slowly working on a book I want to call “Definitions and How They Define Us”), but how we use those words.  As a quick side question – as coaches, do we spend enough time considering the words we use and their effect on pupils and players?  I’ll be writing more about that someday.But what if we can’t use words?  What if we can’t speak?  Can we still communicate effectively?  How would our pupils and players respond?I’d love to share your experiences of *not* using your voice during coaching sessions, so please share. There was this one time that I had 6 hours of lessons with no break between each lesson.  They were a combination of 30-minute and 60-minute sessions.  I was able to have a drink between each one, but no other break.  By the last one my voice had gone and I was unable to speak without pain.  I didn’t want to cancel the lesson and there was nobody else to cover for me.  When my pupil arrived, I explained the situation and told her we were going to do an experiment.  I was not going to say a word during the lesson and only use visual and tactile communication.  Luckily she agreed and off we started.This lesson was working on her volley and without going into the details it went really well.  When necessary, I would approach her, move her racket into position and move it to emphasize the swing I wanted.   From that lesson forward, I often did “silent lessons” and the pupils seemed to enjoy them.Many years later, I was working with an up and coming junior who would often lose concentration during matches.  I decided to try…

Hard training describes the amount of effort you put it. Smart training describes doing the most effective training. Often we train “hard”, sweat, feel like we accomplished a lot, yet it could be the totally wrong thing required to make you a better squash player.

What's The Difference Between Hard And Smart training?

Let’s take a real example. You have a fantastic forehand kill from the middle of the court. You have this great shot because you have specifically practiced it. You did that because when you first started solo practice, it was one of the things you did better than the others shots. It’s nice to hit good shots, so you did it for longer than other shots. pretty soon, you love practicing this shot because you have become really good at it. You have even developed a reputation within your club as the “Forehand Killer”. Every time you practice other shots, they just don’t feel as smooth as this forehand. You do those other shots, but you probably do the forehand for twice as long. It’s enjoyable and you feel as they you really have a good training session. Who wants to hit shots they are not good at? Phew. I probably laboured that point, but I really wanted to drive it home. When we are good at something we tend to enjoy it. We tend to enjoy it because we are good at something. It’s a training-performance circle. We are not lazy. Those workouts and training sessions are hard work. We sweat and we ache the next day – it must have been a good session, right? Yeah, maybe, but was it the best use of your time? Time For Some Smart Training! Smart training requires you or somebody else asses your game and produce a list of 3 top priorities. That can be difficult, e specially if you don’t have a coach or experienced player to help you. However, if you are honest with yourself you can probably find one or two things that you know need serious improvement. Perhaps that backhand service return, perhaps that forehand drop shot, it could be anything. It’s clearly something you are not very good at – probably something you don’t like practicing.…