Do Something Every Single Day To Improve Your Squash!

Beginner

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

What is the serve? The first shot of the rally, right? A shot to get the rally started, right? Technically, yeah, both answers are correct, but why not think bigger?

The Benefits Of Solo Practice In Squash

Don’t think about “serving the balls” but “starting the rally with the toughest shot you can play”.The best first shot really depends on your opponent, but the minimum you should be aiming for is to stop them hitting a winner and ideally force them to play a weak return.One small problem club players face in this regard is what the professionals do.Watching on a screen never really shows how difficult their serves are. How often have you seen aces in squash. *Even after all these years in squash, I’m never sure if that’s the correct word for a winning serve!*You also see many professionals hit fantastic nicks from serves and this can give the false impression that professionals just hit the ball without much thought to start the rally. They don’t. I can guarantee that if you were to face their serves you would find them quite difficult to return well.Almost all good serves hit the side wall before the returner has a chance to hit it.A ball coming off the side wall is one of the hardest for club players to hit straight, that’s why so many returns for difficult serves are hit crosscourt.When you serve make it as difficult as possible for your opponent to hit good return.In fact, when playing practice matches, make sure you go for some high serves, even if you hit them out – it’s worth the practice. https://youtu.be/hTXG-0tugUU

One piece of advice I give and live by is “never be thirsty”. Drink small amounts of water at regular intervals.

Never get Thirsty

If you are thirsty, that’s your body telling you that you have left it really late to drink. It’s a delicate balance between rushing to the bathroom all the time and not drinking enough. Your body NEEDS water to survive and being dehydrated, even a little, will significantly reduce your physical capabilities. You will need to find the right amount of water for YOUR situation, but start today with at least 1.5 litres and adjust accordingly. It’s such a simple topic but with a little effort can bring a real difference in your performance. I have a sports drink bottle that I fill 4 times a day. I use that because it makes it easy to know how much I have drunk. One last thing, it IS possible to drink too much but you would need to be drinking over 5 litres per day for that to happen, but that doesn’t mean you should be drinking 4 litres per day either! Just be sensible. https://youtu.be/-kctlZ8KYk8

I was never a great player. I could explain that I didn’t start until I was 17 years old and it was too late by then but the reality was I didn’t have a coach. For the year or so I did have one, I made huge gains, in fitness, technical proficiency and tactical awareness.

No Matter What Your Starting Age or Level, Always Get Coaching

No Matter What Your Starting Age or Level, Always Get Coaching

The mistake is to think that you are too old or have too many bad habits to be able to benefit from having a coach. It’s not true. Yes, the younger you start getting coaching, the better, but just because you can’t become world champion doesn’t mean you should try to improve or try new sports. You play sport because it is good for your mind and body. I recognize that receiving coaching is not cheap but if you find the right coach for you, the money you do invest will be worth it. “Invest” is exactly the word to use here because the benefit comes in the future. Also, don’t think that your coach will want to change everything about your game and make you go back to basics. Everybody can improve by making small changes. Tell the coach exactly what you are hoping for out of the sessions and assess whether you have achieved your objectives after a few sessions. If you have, great, keep going, if not, then look elsewhere. Don’t expect immediate success, although it is possible to immediately improve, it depends on what you are working on. Realize that finding the right coach for YOU is much more important than who the coach is. Just because a coach used to be a great player, doesn’t mean he or she is the best coach for you. Just because a coach has been coaching for many years, doesn’t mean he or she is the best coach for you. The best coach is the one that listens to you and works WITH you. You might need to try a few coaches until you find the right one. Good luck. https://youtu.be/0OMYcVkXLQk

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