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Improver

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.

There is a lot of common ground between boxing and squash. I have played some tough matches and felt as if I had been in a fight the day after – you too probably!

Float like a butterfly, Sting Like A Bee

“Hit and move” is an often heard phrase in boxing and we would do well to heed it in squash to. I have previously covered moving back to the T faster than moving to the ball and in this article I want to look at that in a little more detail in the back of the court. Essentially, your swing should provide the movement momentum to start the move back to the T. At the moment of impact you should be moving towards the ball ever so slightly as this means that your body weight is being used to maximum effect. Then, you follow through with your swing – not too wildly though!, and smoothly make you way back to the T. At club level you often see players hit a crosscourt from the back and then watch the ball without moving, then after a half-second begin to move. It’s easier to do this for crosscourt shots as the ball is not coming back to your position. If you don’t move when you you hit a straight drive you would be in the way and that’s often why lower levels of squash players hit more crosscourts. “Hit and move”, “Hit and move”, “Hit and move” should be a mantra you instill in yourself. With practice, you will have more options when you get to the ball as you would have had more time to get to the ball in the first place. https://youtu.be/0OMYcVkXLQk

Let me get straight to the point.
The moment before your opponent hits the ball, you should do a little jump, with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. This movement, gives you the “bounce” effect that means you can move faster to the ball.

Let’s All Do The T Jump

The moment before your opponent hits the ball, you should do a little jump, with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. This movement, gives you the “bounce” effect that means you can move faster to the ball. In fact, it is a form of plyometrics, which is the idea of compressing the muscles in one movement to allow them to release at greater power than from a static position. That’s why plyometrics is so good for you and what is the most common plyometrics training? Yes, that’s right, skipping. Perfect for boxers and squash players. Once your heels touch the ground, it takes more time to get moving than if you were bouncing. The timing of the jump is crucial because if you do it too early all benefit is lost and you will probably be slower. If you do it too late, you will be in the air when the ball is moving and by the time you land, you will be a little late. The key is to start to jump JUST before you think the ball is about to be hit BUT don’t jump too high. You are just doing a little bounce to make sure you are ready to pounce once you know where the ball is going. Like everything worth working for, you will need to practice until it feels comfortable. If you can, watch some professionals matches on YouTube and focus on this aspect of their movement. Especially, Nicole David, who moves so beautifully. Lastly, notice what happens when a player hits the ball off the back wall and the opponent at the front. He or she often waits….and waits….and waits before hitting the ball. This waiting make it hard for you to guess the moment to jump and you often see players become static, making that much harder to get moving. 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

Foam rollers have become quite fashionable over the last few years and for good reason. Foam rollers allow you to massage yourself easily and cheaply. You can carry them in your bag and use them on almost any surface, including the wall.

Foam Rollers

They come in two types: solid foam, with various surface treads and ones with a plastic inner core and an outer foam surface. They are easy to carry and use and provide a perfect post-match/training cool down. I highly recommend you try one a few times, you should notice the difference in a few days. No for my confession: I don’t like them. I find them awkward to use, although I do see and feel the benefit. I have an alternative which I will tell you about another time, but just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean you won’t. Essentially, you roll your body over and around them and your body weight provides the pressure for the massage. They can work the legs, back, shoulders and arms. I’m pretty sure you local gym already uses them, so try and check them out. https://youtu.be/hTXG-0tugUU

The second bounce is often used in squash to talk about where you want the ball to land but why is it so important? Let’s start with some questions.

Why Is The Second Bounce In Squash So Important?

Where do you need to be before the ball bounces?No where. You don’t need to be anywhere at that point. Where do you need to be on the first bounce?No where. You don’t need to be anywhere at that point. Where do you need to be just after the first bounce?No where. You don’t need to be anywhere at that point. Where do you need to be just before the second bounce?You NEED to be near the ball. This is your last chance to hit. If you miss this chance, you have lost the rally and therefore the point. Okay, I may have laboured the point, but the second bounce gives the player the maximum time to get to the ball. Players general leave the ball until the last moment to hit. “Why rush when I can take my time, right?” With regard to a straight drive, you are generally trying to make the second bounce in the back wall nick (the join between the floor and the wall). If the second bounce is too, short you could be giving your opponent an easy shot. If the second bounce is too deep, you could be making it easy for your opponent. Remember, deep second bounces just come back off the back wall. Of course, this is all quite hypothetical because it is very rare that we see a perfect second bounce land in the nick. But why is that? Well, because your opponent knows that if they leave it, it will be harder to retrieve, so that hit it before it gets there. Ideally, you would be hitting it a little longer so that the opponent wants to leave it come off the back wall but then realizes that is going to be harder and has to rush. What all this is doing is putting minute amounts of pressure on your opponent. Over time, this pressure gets too much and…

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

For this article, I am writing about fitness work, not playing practice. Training with a partner is one of the easiest ways to increase your fitness level.

Train With A Partner But Not All The Time

It helps in 3 main ways: Consistency – Not missing sessions because somebody is waiting for you. Work Level – You always work harder when somebody is next to you doing the same thing, or shouting at you to do one more rep! Quality – Having somebody watch what you are doing, even if they are doing it themselves means they can sometimes see any incorrect technique. I advocate training partners but not all the time. At least some of your training should be alone. Squash is a solitary sport. We have our opponent to play against and that drives us to greater heights but when it comes down to it we are alone on court. Alone, but with the training behind us. However, if we only ever train with somebody, when we are about to give up during a match we become accustomed to expecting a “push from our partner” but it won’t come. Yes, we might hear them from the balcony but like boxers we are alone in the ring/court. Training alone is tough but it make us mentally stronger. That slight reduction in work load compared to training with a partner is worth it in my eyes for the extra grit you develop. https://youtu.be/-1EeNriiRN0