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These articles are for players who have recently started squash, although even improvers and recreational players may benefit from reading some them.

Just a quick idea today. Slight changes in demeanor can affect how people respond to you and how you feel within yourself.

Head Up and Shoulders Back

Don’t lean over with your arms on your knees. This shows your opponent you are tired. No matter how tired you get, keep your head up and your shoulders back. This will give the impression of strength, both mental and physical. There is also the metaphorical meaning of letting your head drop or having your head down, signifying acceptance of defeat. Keeping your head up displays a willingness to face your troubles. Show strength – feel strong. https://youtu.be/xZA0AY-ZuF4

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 watched a father and son practice a few years ago and it was very interesting to watch. For most of the time they were doing silly shots while chatting.

When You Practice Next, Do Something Silly

When I say silly shots they were not trying to hit everything hard and perfectly accurate. They were experimenting with angles and speeds and bounces. This can be a very valuable lesson for younger players who are often told (notice that word: told!) to hit the ball hard and to the back. I’m not saying that is bad advice but sport should be fun and pupils should learn THROUGH sport. This kind of activity can be useful for all ages and every now and again you can find an idea that translates into match play. Perhaps you started hitting really high, slow and tight drives to the back and suddenly realized how effective they can be as a defensive shot. Or maybe it’s a different kind of boast. What I am suggesting is the practice can be fun too and should be seen as a hard session. In fact, I often finish my solo sessions with some sill shots just to finish the routine on a fun note. Try it, you may find a new shot. Oh and that father and son were both exceptional players, in fact both were or are professionals! https://youtu.be/hTXG-0tugUU Footwork: https://youtu.be/-1EeNriiRN0

There’s a misconception in squash that says you should only play people better than you and if it were true very few people would play other people. Sometimes we have matches where one day I win and the next you win, but often you know who is better.

Don´t Only Play People Better Than You

Putting aside whether you know or not, there is definitely value is playing somebody you know you are a bit better than. It allows you the opportunity to practice aspects of your game that you wouldn’t normally be able to. Keeping the rallies going for a bit longer is a good example. Slightly higher but softer drop shots or more defensive shots. The list is almost endless. So, if you are given the opportunity to play weaker players than yourself make sure you make the most of it – don’t just beat then but improve as well. That way, both players will benefit and everybody wins! https://youtu.be/QzDdDswBYAI

Something that has always bothered me from a refereeing perspective is the inconsistency regarding accepting players’ calls.

Refereeing Inconsistency

When a player calls his or her shot down, we applaud their honesty and accept the call without question – at least I’ve never seen any referee not accept a player’s call except me once and that caused a shit storm in that match, I can tell you. We assume that they “know best” and blindly believe them. I use blindly purposefully because often the ref can’t see that particular situation clearly – that’s why they accept the player’s call. Now, when a player says they got a ball but the referee says they didn’t, whose view is upheld? The referee’s of course. And there is the consistency. I am not suggesting that we accept players’ calls when they say they got a ball, I am saying that we never accept a player’s call. If the referee thinks a ball is good but a player calls it down, then either the referee’s decision stands or a let is played. We definitely don’t want more lets in squash, but I do want more consistency in refereeing – as I am sure you do. Video Squash Coaching from the comfort of your sofa! There will always be injustice is sports calls and matches can be won and lost on bad calls, but that doesn’t mean only referees make bad calls, so do players. Who is to say that the player isn’t wrong when they call their ball down? Replays on SquashTV often show players saying they got a ball when they didn’t. I am NOT saying they are cheating, I am highlighting how they get things wrong. I suggest we take ALL decisions out of the players’ hand and keep it in the referees. Honest players can continue to call their balls down but let’s not continue to blindly accept them https://www.youtube.com/embed/xZA0AY-ZuF4