Do Something Every Single Day To Improve Your Squash!


These articles are for players who have been playing over about 6 months. The term “improver” really refers to somebody beyond the total beginner stage, but not quite a club player.

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.

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.

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.

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! Footwork:

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!

Inside each of us is a number. And it is a VERY important number. That number is a representation of our fitness level and our mental fortitude.

How Many Squash Shots Are You?

Once you consistently take a player beyond his or her number you can begin to dominate. If you take a player way beyond that number, even for one rally, you are almost guaranteed to be in control for the next few rallies and if you continue to take them beyond their number in those few rallies the game is yours. It’s a bit like ten Pin Bowling, you add you score onto the next point. Once you go beyond their number in one rally it can be easier to do it for the next one etc. However, the natural tendency is for players to look for quick winners when they are tired and more often than not they will miss. Doing this over the course of a few points is good but over the whole match is better. As you play a game, get somebody to count the number of your shots per rally. You will notice that they are often around the same number. A few rallies will be shorter than others and a few longer than others, but there will be a small range of numbers. This can depend on the people you are playing but it should average out of a few matches. Now you know you number, it’s your objective to increase it by 1 shot per month. I bet you are sitting here thinking that’s easy, but it’s not. It also means that after one year you could play a minimum of 12 shots MORE per rally than when you started. And when you actually see how many shots you really play, you may be surprised. So how *do* you increase it? By making sure you don’t play anything silly. Against weaker players, see how long you can keep the rally going without “feeding” them. When under pressure, play defensive shots. I am not advocating simply hitting the ball to the back and becoming a…