Squash News From Around The World - Serious Squash

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At the Canadian Junior Nationals recently I was talking with another about the future of Canadian squash. He said he wanted the Canadian flag to represent a specific trait at international competitions just like Egypt, England and France does. Canada is such a large, spread out country and quite diverse in ethnicity and the style of squash we play and our taught. My comment was that we had to be know for giving it absolutely everything we have. Not all of our national team members are going to have the shots and fluidity of the Egyptians or move as powerful as the French do, but we can always, and I believe must be willing to outwork our opponent.

See effort and sheer tenaciousness is something that I believe Canadians would stand behind and something that is needed to be successful at the highest level in squash. This is the exact trait I would say that Rodrigues displays each and every time he steps on court. Rodriguez also hails from a country which lacks depth of professional squash players, yet he has managed to find his way right to the very top of the heap and it was his passion and effort that brought him to where he is this day and allowed him to capture his first British Open championship.

When I watched the final of the men's British Open this past weekend I couldn't help but admire Rodriguez's tenaciousness. He dived at least 9 or 10 times and not once in the entire match did he ever give up on a ball, or appear down on himself. This is why he's always a crowd favourite and so fun to watch. You think all pro squash players would have these attributes, but it's not true. When many players get way down in a game or a match, the often believe that they are too far out of position or behind on the scoreboard. When this happens they will go down without too much of a fight because they either have lost hope or are being sensible and saving energy and focus for later in the match (or if the match is almost they may have given up belief that they could come back so why continue to give it all). I don't believe you can turn on and off your ability to be tenacious when it's most critical and when you have the highest odds of winning a point or match.

Rodriguez, as per usual didn't give an inch the entire final and that might have been the difference when they got to the end of the 5th game. When a game or match is only decided by a point or two and your opponent is being worn down, that extra effort you made to stay in a rally might just be what makes the difference and when it happens on the grandest of stages it shows us all just how important this vital quality is to winning squash at the highest level.

Sure Rodriguez has excellent ball control and has become smarter with his shot selection over the years and these traits no doubt helped him win this prestigious title, but I felt it was deserved because he absolutely never gives up, ever, ever, ever! That doesn't mean he's the best player, or doesn't lose, but it does always make him a pest and an extremely tough defeat. As a coach this is what we always look for most and admire in our students. There are many highly technically skilled players who have never had such great success as Rodriguez and I think that's why we all were cheering for him to pull it off on Sunday.

Also being one of the smaller guys on tour it's motivating for all the kids (and adults too!) out there who are shorter than their peers. It shows that heart really can be more of a weapon than skill, genes or any other trait which we don't always have control over. ElShorbagy gave a tremendous effort too and appeared to be running on fumes for half of the match so I feel like it's appropriate to commend him on his effort. But he's #1 in the world and has won so many titles and he's also a big strong guy, so I was very happy to see the underdog, Rodriguez capture his first World Series Title and such a historic one at that.

Over the past few years we've had very few shocking champions in the mens' game besides when Ashour disappears with injuries and comes back months later to win a title. But we know that the major events are mostly contested and won by the guys at the top of the ranks. When Rosner won the Tournament of Champions we were all shocked, but he is still a top ranked guy and has pushed and defeated most of the top guys at some point in time. Rodriguez was unseeded and although he was ranked as high as #4 a couple of years ago, he had a super tough draw including Ashour in the first round and Farag in the quarters. I don't know what his career records were against those two, but I imagine they were not too good. So it was really great to see him and Kandra both have phenomenal and unexpected results. I love watching the best players play, but I also don't want the head to head results to always be the same.

This is why they play the game; because anything can happen if you give it a shot, give it your all and have faith in your ability. It doesn't mean you are going to win every time you step out on court, but you will give yourself your best shot, regardless of where you're from, your stature, your draw and your previous results against certain players. If there's one thing I'd like to point out to the kids I work with from Rodriguez it's definitely the tenaciousness and passion he has for the game. Goliath doesn't always win, even when he's won countless times before so step into the ring swinging and play to win. And finally, remember that being fancies is a trait that we can all possess, it's a mindset and something that you have to look at yourself hard in the mirror and ask yourself the hard questions. If you don't know if you posses it just ask some of your opponents, they most definitely will know.

Well the original plan for this July was to head to the Japan and Hong Kong Junior Opens and do some coaching and recruiting for the school I work at. Things have changed quite quickly and now I have an even busier summer of traveling and coaching planned.

Why did I call off the Japan and HK trip? Well I pride myself on being open and sometimes outspoken on my blog so here it is. The school I coach at cut my salary by a significant amount for this past year so I decided not to go overseas and recruit for them. I only found out about the reduced salary after the season was completed so I was just as unhappy about them not telling me as I was with the actual reduction in income. How did I go the whole season without knowing about this? I know this sounds crazy, but I never saw what was included on my contact and normally I always get a detailed breakdown for each season. This year the final dollar figure seemed similar to the year previously so I didn't think it was necessary to ask for a copy. But when I went to invoice the school for some coaching a few weeks ago for some work which is normally not included in my contract this is when I was showed the breakdown of my contract and it said the work I had done was included. This was also when I noticed my significantly reduced retainer. I asked if this was an oversight and if so I wanted to be compensated for it, but they claimed our squash season had been shortened hence the intentionally reduced salary. And for the record our squash season has been the same length for the past 3 seasons!

I have no idea what is going to happen next season, but as you can imagine I'm quite concerned and unhappy with what transpired at the end of this season; are they trying to cutback spending on squash or passively push me out the door? I've been at the school for 7 years so far and I've developed dozens of competitive juniors and varsity athletes and this is the strongest the program has ever been. There are a number of kids who have and are continuing to come to this school because of our squash program which means the school profits off of their tuition and one day off of these kids as alumni who had a great time playing on a terrific squash team. As you can tell I'm quite confused and was caught completely off guard by this.

My kids, the assistant coaches and the city of Victoria are all so amazing and I'd be really upset if I had to leave. For now I will coach my kids to the best of my ability over the next few months and I'll wait and see what coaching jobs pop up over the summer. If you have a lead on a coaching position, preferably high performance and/or the junior level anywhere in the world please feel free to email me (Chris Hanebury) at info@SeriousSquash.com and I'd be happy to send you a copy of a my resume.

As things at work and my recruiting trip were falling apart, Squash Canada asked me to coach the Canadian squad at the Cologne (German) and Dutch (Netherlands) Junior Opens. At the completion of the Dutch I'm flying to Chennai, India as the manager/assistant coach for the Canadian Junior Boys Team as they compete in the individual and team events at the 2018 Word Junior Championships. This means I'll be away for about a month straight so if you order anything from SeriousSquashShop.com while I'm away please have some patience with the shipping. Please note that the digital films can still be ordered and fulfilled instantly.

While I'm away Giselle Delgado (whom I coach with) will be running the local junior training sessions and then I'll be back to run them in August. We will be running 4 x 2 hour sessions for all of July and August so if you have a kid that will be in the area over the summer please reach out to me and I will tell you how to register for the sessions. We do a mix of on and off court training and it's limited to 12 kids per session. Monday and Wednesday 9:30am-11:30am and Tuesday and Thursdays 1pm-3pm. Competitive juniors only.

Unfortunately my busy month of coaching means I will also miss out on an opportunity to play in the World Masters in the U.S. this summer. It's not every day that you have an opportunity to work with the Canadian National Team so it was an easy choice. This trip also means my blog posting will be lacking in July, but I should have plenty to write about upon my return.

The 2018 World Squash Federation Coaching Conference is in Australia this September and I haven't been there yet, so that's a possibility if I can afford it and depending on where I'm working. I guess this is proof that squash can take you to lots of new places, wether it's competing, coaching or spectating.

Right now there is a $25 discount on Serious Squash yoga mats with the code 'stretch.' Enter the code at checkout. They're available in pink and black. Follow Serious Squash on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube for the most regular posts. I'll try and do some posts while I'm overseas this summer too so you should see some clips of some great Canadian juniors kicking some butt! Go Canada Go!

I apologize for airing my dirty laundry in this post, but I stand behind the truth and my work as a coach and I want my place of work to be held to the same standard. What they did was completely unprofessional and perhaps this means it's time to move on.

All squash players and coaches now that squash burns the most calories per hour compared to any other sport. We also know that there is nothing more gruelling and also rewarding than a tough squash match. The media and squash players alike are aways trying to promote squash as the best sport because it involves strategy, is good for your health and can be played in almost any city in the world in a short window of time. Some players squeeze in a match at lunchtime and generally squash players have to be relatively fit to play points of 10+ shots and matches lasting over 30 minutes. But is it possible that too much squash can actually be bad for your health?

I'm just 36 years old, but I've had to deal with a lot of overuse injuries the past few years. I had my first knee surgery which was due to wear and tare. The surgeon also seemed assured that I'd be a repeat customer. Most of my injuries the past few years have revolved around my back and ribs. I'm not a tall person, just 5 foot 7 and maybe 150lbs and perhaps my stature and the amount of torque I put on my body has a lot to do for the decades of overuse injuries.

Too much of anything is not good for the body, but how do you get really good at something without putting in a lot of practice? I played a lot from the age of 10-14 and then didn't tough a racquet for about 5 years (or I'm sure I'd be in worse shape now). I played a lot of sports when I was young, but when I was 12-14 and from 19-36 most of my active life and sport has revolved around squash. Back in university I would get knee pain jogging just a few kms, but playing squash didn't bother my body. Somehow my body had slightly adjusted to squash, but the imbalance caused by the years of repletion would not allow me to do a repetitive non-squash exercise like biking or running.

Chiropractors and physiotherapists have always noticed right away that my body is off balanced and overdeveloped on one side of my body. But even for those who don't pay sport we use one half of our body more than others. We have a dominant arm, leg and even eye, yes that's right eye. If you want to know which eye is dominant you simply place yours index fingers and thumbs together to make a diamond shape and raise it to the ceiling. Place some dot or making within this area and then close one eye at a time. The marking will only show up in this area in your dominant eye. I recall a chiropractor once using a machine he was using with Olympic athletes to help reset my eyes. I had to wear this fancy pair of glasses and some lights blinked in a specified order which would help reset your eyes so you would use both again. This is just an example of something that overtime with overuse we naturally develop. You can imagine how much more things can become imbalanced when it involves hitting a shot with our same arm and playing 80-90%+ of our shots on our dominant leg.

The past two years I've been working with a personal trainer once or twice per week and I've been doing some spin classes and doing lots of physio and massages. I'm basically trying to work on my imbalances so I can not only be healthy enough to compete again, but also so I can coach and not continue this trend of over developing one side of my body. I've done a lot of floating and recently starting doing some acupuncture plus I stretch and roll almost daily. Basically I'm at the point where if I'm not proactively working on rebalancing and strengthening my body I will get injured pretty quickly and the longer I continue trying to coach and play competitively while I'm a bit injured the more likely it is that this will become a chronic and more serious injury which again could lead to another surgery.

While I was back in Toronto for the junior nationals I was talking with an old trainer of mine form when I was a junior. After telling him some of the issues I've been having the past few years he recommended I begin taking eldoa classes. I've just started taking classes this week so time will tell how this will help my body longterm. I would try to explain what it is, but it's probably simpler if you just google it. I've heard many Olympians are starting to do it and it can be helpful for people like me who have imbalances and some spine/hip imbalances. I just got back from a physio session this morning and basically my body is still pretty twisted and this is why my back has been bugging me the past month. I started playing more the past month to prepare for nationals, but this in turn hurts my body more. So the more I play, the more I have to do off court to prevent injuries and balance my body from the strain and overuse and pounding it takes from competing. Now I know why many coaches don't compete anymore; it takes a LOT of off court maintenance and training to be able to play at all, let alone play regularly and be able to prepare properly for a tournament.

So I ask you once again? After reading all of this is squash good for me or slowly crippling me? I never wanted a desk job because I wanted to stay active and healthy, but little did I know that too much of squash can be just as bad on my body. From my experience I definitely feel like squash players, even young juniors need to do more cross training and off court maintenance. What exactly you do off court is not so simple though. Certainly some mobility work (both strength, motor control and flexibility) can really help, but you will also likely need to find some other exercises which can help you become a more well rounded better athlete. Exercises like yoga, cycling, running (unless you're already too imbalanced), rowing machines, skipping or just playing other sports can all help.

As juniors are continually trying to beat one another and are pushed to become the best they can possibly be, you have to be careful not to jeopardize someone long term health and well being just for some short term success. Practice hitting shots of both legs, stretch/roll, do strength work and play other sports. Sometimes an assessment from a good trainer or physio can help you be proactive. It's much better to plan ahead and prevent injuries from happening as opposed to waiting for problems to build up.

All this being said, I'll keep playing squash as much as my body all allow. I need to make sure I eat healthy, get a good nights sleep, rest when my body needs it and spread out my tough on court sessions. I also need to stay on top of my stretches, physio and hopefully doing eldoa regularly will improve my general mobility and back health. And if I had to go back in time and talk to myself as a junior I would tell myself to make sure I did off court training year round and if they had physios and personal trainers back then I would have told myself to invest in them, because it's one thing to be active off court and another to do it properly and to best offset the imbalance caused by so much squash. I still haven't completely figured out the right method for me, but it's improving and I certainly believe this is information that should be made available to all keen squash players, especially the kids. I'll leave you with a quote from my club as a junior, 'get fit to play squash, don't play squash to get fit.' I finally get it!

Check out the SeriousSquashShop.com for merch and instructional films. There's plenty of gear and 3 films available for download. Below if the trailer for the most recent video, The Advanced Secrets Of Solo Hitting (& Movement).

Well I just finished the Canadian Senior Nationals and finished 2nd in the 35+ division, again. It was pretty sweet this year that they brought in a glass court for the event. It's too rare that anyone get to play on a 4 wall glass court now that the NSA has shut down. Although having this court was great (and you can see below that it looked awesome) it takes some time to adjust to it and was not all it was cracked up to be. Imagine a tennis player going to the French Open having only have ever played on hardcourts? And further yet and was unable to even hit on the courts prior to the tournament?

Not all squash courts are created equal! 

The tournament started with the open event qualifying matches on Tuesday which were played on the traditional panel courts and in Calgary there's an altitude factor so the ball is noticeably quicker and more difficult to put away. Not too long ago they used to use a green dot in Calgary, which was called the altitude ball. I guess these balls didn't bounce true so they aren't used anymore. This tactically and physically really changes the matches and is a big reason why Calgarians seem to always fair well when they play at home and don't do quite as well when they play at sea level. And for the record, yes the person that beat me in the finals was from Calgary. His game clearly suited the elements better than mine. But this post is not about my squash, nor is it too complain for losing my match. The masters events are just for fun for me, but my experience of playing some matches on the regular courts and the finals on the glass court give me a unique perspective for the open events.

One big problem with putting up a temporary show court is that it takes a lot of time to plan and set up. The court was not put together until Tuesday night and the open matches were starting at 10am on Wednesday. Some of the pros I know requested to get practice time on the glass court in the morning before their matches and were unable to. There were only 4 or 5 time lots and they were full. This meant that this small select group of athletes got to practice on the glass court while their opponents did not. You could see the result of this in the quality of the first round matches. At altitude on a glass court, with large white sponsors writing on the front wall made it very difficult to pick up the ball and volley. There were also lots of crazy, lucky bounces in the back corners. I've never seen so many top players aced in my life!

I like to think I have pretty good racquet skill and it was pretty frustrating to not be able to control the ball like Im accustomed to and feeling like the only style that was effective was to try and bash the ball and hit everything deep which also happened to be my opponents style of play. So basically my only shot of wining is to outplay my opponent at his own game; I don't like my odds and I too would have needed some practice time on the court if I was going to have a shot at wining. But if the pros can't get on to practice I know I have absolutely no chance of doing so. I can only imagine for pro players that are training full time how frustrating this must be to feel kind of incompetent. The better player should win and I don't think this was always true. The player who suited this style of play won. The style that suited the glass at altitude was fast and low drives. You could get away with more crosccourts than normal because it was very tough to see the ball early enough to volley.

I know that a club only hosts nationals every so often, but I thought it was completely unfair to allow only some of the pro players to practice on the glass. Either all or none of them should have been allowed practice time. When I walked into the glass court to warmup for my finals I was worried when I could barely see my first volley drive I hit. It took almost 2 full games to adapt to the court and by then it was too late. I think my game fits a glass court as I have deception, volley a lot and have a good attacking game. For the masters finals they rated the tin on the glass too which made it even harder to use the front of the court. At least for the pros they got to use the 17" tin. But I thought only the top few players seemed comfortable on the court and I heard many complaining. I played on this same court 6 years ago, but at seas level and with a low tin and without the white logos on the front wall and I don't remember having any trouble seeing the ball or using the front of the court. This time was much difference.

At altitude I think they should lower the tin to 15" to make the game more like a proper squash game. In squash you should get rewarded for creating an opening and taking the ball in short well, but with the bounce of the ball (and on the glass court the difficulty of seeing the ball), most of the time players were punished for going short if it wasn't absolutely spot on. Since it was tough to track the ball and it was moving quicker than normal most peoples short games were definitely far from spot on and confidence is such a hug factor for people short game, so once they miss a few or hit a couple of lollipops they tend to become tentative.

It's true both players have to deal with the conditions, but I still like the way squashes become more attacking and fun to watch. If you saw any of the live stream you'll know that this wasn't Canada's best version of squash nor is it the style being played at the pro level. I think all tins should actually be lowered even for recreational players and in time I'm sure that will happen. When you change the elements like the altitude and court it certainly evens the playing field and gives certain players an edge. Is all this complaining based on my biased result or a true fact from the event? Oh and I haven't even mentioned how silly it was having to wear all whites in the Glencoe too! I got away with my off-white Serious Squash tees so I'm happy I didn't have to go clothes shopping for sports gear. I know there was a guy who played 7 matches all in the same shirt and pair of shorts! lol

For all of my complaining it was a fun week and a well run event. If the glass court practice times were sorted out better I wouldn't have much to complain about besides not being able to adapt well enough to the conditions. Next year nationals is in Toronto so we'll see how many Calgary players repeat their title defence and how the style of squash changes. Oh and by the way I won a buckle and a medal, yes that's right a buckle :/ I really don't like complaining and making excuses, but I suppose that's what I've done..

Here's a link to the draws if you want to se all the results: http://squashcanada.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/draws.aspx?id=D1BF2F57-1EB0-4183-A2A0-8CAB9AE232C2 If you want to see my match from the final you can check it out. Go to the 1:24 mark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sksdpBIlNg0

We miss an easy drop shot and then another. Next thing we know we tense up and push our drops and hit them without any confidence and as they get worse we just abandon our short game altogether. We've all been in a situation like this. Do you try and grind out the win without your drop or do you continue going for it and if so how long do you stick with it if it's not working?

This past weekend at the Canadian Junior Nationals I coached some kids who made some simple errors and began to lose confidence in their short game. Nationals is more important than a regular practice or league game so what can we do to get back on track when this happens?

When I think back to a similar situation in 1 of my matches the advice that helped me most came from a coach who insisted I play the shot when the opportunity was presented. The insistence helped me hit the ball short with some conviction, rather than doubt and my short game actually was meh sharper the next game and I ended up winning the match.

When I make a mistake now because my arm or hand is a bit too tense I simply shake out my hand afterwards to remind myself to stay lose. I always found it difficult to stay relaxed on the forehand side and play the drop when a smash was much less risky when you're not feeling too sure of your drop shots.

Another way I've helped myself get back on track in the past is to attack the 2nd good opening I got in a rally. Sometimes when we get an early and unexpected opening we aren't prepared to take the ball in short and don't get set properly. If we build the rally a little more and have the confidence to create a second opening later in the point I always found there was a better chance that I would be expecting this opportunity and I'd hit a higher quality shot.

Know what your go to short shot is. Even if you haven't given it much thought you probably have a certain attacking shot which is so engrained in your game that you don't have to think about how to play it and you can execute it quite consistently. If you can create an opportunity to use this shot it can get your short game going and your confidence along with it.

Another method I began using later on in my career is to focus purely on shot selection. Whenever I made an error on the execution I would never get upset at myself, because at least I was playing the right shot and in time the accuracy of these shots will eventually improve. If I simply had go even up on the right shot because of lack of confidence, sure I might have won a rally, game or match that I may not have, but I also may tarnish my long term growth if this becomes a go to habit because I believe every game, match and tournament must be won.

What I tried doing with some of my kids this past week was getting them to completely move on and forget about their errors. I tried reinstating how good their short game was and install some confidence in it. If you make a few mistakes in a row our confidence, anger and lack of focus are all vulnerable and it's really the mind that we need to be weary of and in control of when we face these bad patches. Even the best players in the world have lapses in focus, execution and shot selection, but they learn how to get their game and mind back on track quicker before they defeat themselves.  Like I mentioned above, learning to have a positive outlook on a mistake can be quite a rewarding perspective. In stead of looking at the obvious mistake we made, perhaps we should commend ourselves for creating such a good opening. And if the opening wasn't there, that's a whole other story.

I know another coach who told me the most important drop shot in a match is the first one you play. if you hit a good one you feel confident to take another one in, but if you miss and miss badly doubt can creep in. We are all vulnerable to doubt and the fear of making mistakes. If you are nervous or settling into the match it can be a good idea to build your openings and wait to settle your nerves or for a A+ opening were you can properly set up the space and your body for the well struck short ball.

Remember if you create a really good opening and your opponent is way out of position you don't need to hit the ball half an inch above the tin. Aim for tightness and think of your drops and boasts as working/pressure shots and look to follow up on the next ball if it's returned. There's also other ways to apply pressure than just drops. Try a kill shot, working boast, an attacking drive, picking the pace up or simply stepping up on the T and volleying more.

Another way I like to get my short game going is to play some heavier drops or kill shots. These shots are struck with more force so there is less chance of you pushing your drop or decelerating.

Really you need to commit to every shot you hit, especially short shots. Hitting a shot with confidence makes all the difference in the world. If you're thinking don't hit tin you're probably going to hit tin. Yes, just like don't hit your golf drive into that pond to the right.

If you really want to have the best possible short game you have to work on it every time you step out on court. Learn how to take the ball in short different ways, from different nights, angles, spin and speed. There's 10 short game drills in The Secrets Of Solo Hitting which can help too. Here's a link to the film if you want to purchase it. You can steam it, download a copy and it comes with a money back guarantee. SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos

Is your child going to play in the 2018 Japan Junior Open or Hong Kong Junior Open this summer? I'm officially coming and representing St. Michales University School on a 2 week tour. We have a few kids participating and some others who are interested in the school playing. If you are interested to learn more about St. Michaels and our squash program I would be happy to set up a meeting with you or simply have a chat during 1 of the events and of course I'd love to watch your kid play. 

St. Michaels is a boarding and day school in Victoria, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. I'm finishing up my 7thyear of coaching at the school. We have 3 coaches, 4 courts, 1 middle school competitive team and 3 senior school competitive teams. Each team has between 8-12 kids with a total of 30-35 on the 4 competitive teams and another hundred or so that play recreationally. 

The competitive teams train 3 x 1.5 hours as a team per week and run a weekly junior league and offer private lessons. We take a group to a number of tournaments each year across British Columbia as well as the Canadian Junior Open and the Canadian Junior Nationals. Our season runs from September to March and until Nationals in April for those participating in it that season. This year we have 8 kids playing. We have 2 kids seeded 3/4 and a number of kids ranked in Canada. On top of the school
squash programs I also run spring break camps and 4 x 2 hour training sessions weekly for all of July and August. We have a number of alumni who are and have played on a number of different collegiate squash teams in the Canada and the United States.

For more information on SMUS website is www.Smus.caand you can email me at Chris.Hanebury@smus.ca if you would like to set up a meeting during my trip. 

Japan Junior Open July 25 – 28
Hong Kong Junior Open July 31 – August 4

Serious Squash is proud to present the newest instructional film to the collection. This is a short 15 minute mini film on an a specific advanced training session which can be tailored to players of all levels, right up to the very best in the world.

Movement is so critical in squash and is as if not more important than our technical skill set. The Advanced Secrets Of Solo Hitting (& Movement) discusses some of these common problem areas and with a fun and challenging game called 'Around The World' you can get much more out of your time on court. With this session you will find greater focus on each and every shot plus you will improve your movement. Quality practice > quantity of practice.

Here's the trailer for the film. If you like what you see pick up your copy of the film for just $5 at SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos It also comes with a $5 discount code for either Mastering Deception or The original Serious Squash film, The Secrets Of Solo Hitting.

Mar 20 2018 5:32PM


We all know that pace is an important part of squash. If you hit the ball consistently hard it will move faster and get by your opponent faster. It's also just fun when you crush a ball and the sound it makes off the front wall. When you're in the back of the court hitting with pace can help  ensure your opponent cannot volley your length. When you're in the front, hitting with pace can again keep your opponent from cutting off your shot. Not only can pace make it harder for your opponent to volley, it can also make the ball bouncier which many people struggle with. As the ball heats up many of us have more difficulty controlling the ball and can't bring the ball short well.

Back at university I played a boy who later went on to win the CSA Individuals and he hit the ball so hard and the ball got so warm that I struggled to hit a regular serve. It was to this day the bounciest ball I've ever had to use in match and it felt like I was playing a game of racquetball. He of course was used to this pace of the ball and the bounce and was much better equipped of controlling it. If you've ever experienced something like this you know that nothing else really matters if the pace 1 player is playing at is much higher than the other person can handle or is used to.

The big question here is do you need to be able to play pace or simply handle pace? Handling pace is perhaps more important than being able to apply pace yourself. I've seen many times where someone plays at such a high pace they eventually tire themselves out as their opponent just continues to chip the ball and waits for the right time to deliver the knockout blow. See it can be quite tiring to constantly be hitting the ball hard. Just hitting the ball hard in itself is not enough of a weapon if you are playing someone who moves well and can handle/control the pace you are hitting with.

If you however play a very slow pace you will find it difficult to apply consistent pressure on someone. When you get your opponent out of position you will have trouble hitting say a low hard attacking drive before your opponent can catch up to the ball. So yes, even if your opponent can play at a higher pace than you, you still have to be able to inject pace at the right times.

Again, back at university I remember hitting with an alumni who was still quite a strong player. Back at this time I didn't get a lot of feedback on my game so I was happy to receive some from him. He told me I could do everything well, but I needed to be able to play with more pace. I'm not a big guy, about 150lbs and 5 '7. So before I did lots of solo hitting I had trouble playing against bigger and stronger men. I also remember a good drill I was told to practice to improve my pace. I was told at the end of every practice to play a game or 5 minutes of rallies where I just try to hit every ball as hard as I can. Obviously there are times where I'd be late to a shot and I couldn't' hit it very hard, but the idea is to learn how much physical and mental energy and effort it takes to play a high pace. If you are going to try this I recommend you don't swing hard when the ball is tight to the sidewall and you also need to have reasonably sound biomechanics or you could injure yourself.

So what other tricks are there for learning to generate more pace? I don't have a long lever (arm) or a lot of mass to put into my shot, but I can hit the ball with a good amount of pace pretty consistently these days. A lot of solo drills helped me a lot. I really liked midcourt short hitting drills which helped strengthen my forearm and groove my swing. Hitting with pace also has a lot to do with timing. You can have a great swing, but if your footwork is off or you can't lunge properly you are going to have trouble playing at pace within a rally.

Pace really starts from the ground up. You need to have a solid base of support and if possible being able to transfer your weight from your back hip to front hip is really key. Also learning to rotate your shoulders to connect your core makes a big difference too. When you do this it makes your backswing bigger and it engages your larger muscles. When most people try and hit the ball with more pace they use their arm to swing harder and their arm gets straighter or further from their body. But really it's about weight transfer and rotational core strength. When you link these things together into the swing it becomes part of a biomechanical link which allows small people to hit the ball hard.

Here's a clip from the Serious Squash Youtube channel demonstrating the weight transfer from back to front hip. Notice the solid foundation/base of support. 

If you are simply trying to get adjusted to handling pace and less interested in hitting with more pace you could also try and practice with a bouncer ball (red or blue dot). Doing this will allow you to learn how to control a bouncier ball. You will need to cut your drop shots more and the ball will be higher when you strike it.

Some other tips for increasing your pace: try looser strings. Some strings also are more springy and produce more natural power. Improving your rotational core strength and range of motion. Footwork to get behind the ball. Working on your lunging and squatting will help you get lower and stay balanced when you hit the ball hard even if it's low or you're slightly late to the ball. If you're not athletic and you haven't been doing any strength training you won't be able to play pace under any bit of pressure in a match. Play around weight and balance of the racquet and find which gives you more pace. Hitting a LOT of balls/solo: the more you hit the more you will improve your timing. Do some feeding drills or finish with a condition game like I mentioned above where injecting pace is the priority. Rotate your shoulders, but your racquet shoulder should lower under your chin (your shoulders don't rotate parallel to the floor). You can also play around with the angle of the racquet face; slightly closing it will allow you to hit it harder as spin from an open racquet face takes pace off of the ball.

If you want more information on solo drills to improve both your accuracy and pace, check out The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. This was the 1st Serious Squash instructional film which was released almost a year ago and has already sold close to 300 copies. It comes with a no questions asked money back guarantee. Here is the trailer and you can purchase a digital copy here: SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos

Mar 13 2018 12:30PM

Learning To Fall

When people first start learning to ski they are taught how to fall so they are not scared of this happening and injuring themselves. When I thought about this I started comparing it to squash and learning how to fail, or lose. See for some reasons we've come to think of losing a competition as a form of failure. Almost all of us have stepped out on the court often and played trying to lose than playing to win. We worry abut who we are playing and what the result should be. It's no wonder we normally play our best squash when we are up against a stronger opponent where we don't have any pressure and they do.

 I know a loss in a big tournament has bugged me for a year or more. I now try and give a short window(5 minutes) after to learn from the match and then completely move on. Unless you've filmed the match or are going to discuss it later with your coach it's best to let a loss or win go as soon as possible.

A squash match isn't like a test in school or any other test for that matter. If you prepare properly you generally know you are going to be successful, but in a squash match only 1 player is going to be the winner on that given day. Failure isn't something anyone enjoys and generally makes us want to train harder so we can succeed next time. But once again this doesn't mean that success is a given. If you prepare to the best of your ability I believe it can take off a lot of pressure and improve your confidence heading into a match, which are both very important to improving your likely of being successful, but it doesn't guarantee success. In fact, nothing guarantees success in sport, that's why we play the game.

One of the hardest things to teach a kid is to give everything they have to try and win, and even a little bit more, but that it is still okay if they do not. This is why as coaches we talk about process goals so often. When we set goals based solely on outcomes they are in many ways out of our control. This again makes me wonder if it's possible to redefine success from your matches so that you are always successful? Obviously if we break success down into some controllable categories it can be. I like to focus on the preparation leading up to the event/match, the effort and competitive level and if the athlete was able to experience the zone. Experiencing flow show a level of focus and being able to calm ones nerves, shake off bad moments which is essential to playing at a high consistent level of squash.

We could also talk about tactics, but nobody gets tactics completely right all the time. But if we focus on playing the right shot we will help our long term development most. Many people think that playing the shot that they are most comfortable with and will mess up less is smartest, especially in the big points, but this is also going to limit your growth and development in the long run. If you continue messing up on the right shot over and over in a match, at some point you need to put it on the back burner and work on it more in practice, but to never play the shots you're working on until they're perfected shows you are again focusing solely on the result and not the better picture. So when we look at measuring success on this level, someone could win a match, but not be successful. It's really all a matter of how we define success.

We care about winning and losing. We care about our ranking and doing our best, but these are all factors that will take of themselves if you focus on the things within your control. It's extremely difficult to let go of the fear of losing or being defined by your level of accomplishments, but it can also free you up to play better squash, with less pressure and ensure that you will enjoy playing for a longer span of time because it's more about the journey of becoming the best you can possibly be than it is about focusing on only winning each match you play. This means you won't be one of those old men are your club who still throws a temper tantrum in the C consolation draw. So yes, basically try your very hardest to win each and every time you step out on court, but don't focus on winning or let the outcome define if you were successful :)

There's some new Serious Squash products coming to the store soon. There will be a very limited number of custom designed yoga mats an another new product coming out in a couple of months. There are still lots of tees and 2 instructional films for sale. Check it all out at SeriousSquashShop.com

Feb 24 2018 11:50PM

Where And When To Shoot

I recently worked with a student on her shooting. She's a young junior and has great hands, but at times would shoot from anywhere at anytime. I have no problem with people making mistakes in their progress of becoming great squash players, in fact it's absolutely necessary. I grew up as a very attacking player and lacked discipline so I know there is an optimal balance in here somewhere it's just about understanding it that is so tricky. As I've gotten older and played at a higher level I have a deeper understanding of the pros, cons and risks of shooting and playing aggressive squash. Squash is definitely becoming more and more attacking so I normally promote this and let players choose which style of play they want to play. I might prod with a few questions if I sense poor selections are a reoccurring theme, but I also enjoy seeing people taking the initiative and making things happen on court.

What I did with this junior was I had her draw up a diagram of when she should, shouldn't shoot and where it might be ok to shoot. Below is a version that I did on the 'maybe area to shoot from' which I chose as the back of the court. We are taught to focus on hitting length from the back of the court and to get our opponent behind us before applying pressure from the midcourt area, but as our skill set improves we can take the ball in short from the back if the time is right. I thought about the different scores in a match where shooting from the back is ok and when it is not; area like when I'm having a lapse of focus, I'm tired, lacking confidence, angry or other specific scenarios I know the odds are against me while in other more positive situations I can attacking with a higher degree of success. I first started with a basic list of 3 categories titled 'Shoot', 'Don't Shoot' and 'Maybe Shoot' before moving onto the following diagram.

Squash can be pretty dull to play and watch if we are too patient and the rallies drag on without the use of the full court and moving our opponents around. This weekend I've been watching some of the Men's College Team Championships live feed and I noticed how much the general tactics have evolved, some for the better some not. In my last year of playing varsity squash we were still playing to 9 where you had to serve to win a point. Now everyone can bring the ball in short half decently and thinks they can hit nicks in a pressure situation. Greenly the kids are faster too and can often make up for their poor shot selections, that is until they come up against a real top class player.

When I was playing at university most kids were very patient, basic and fit. Now it looked like most kids were using the front of the court for a third or more of their shots and quite often at the wrong times. I saw kids going for nicks when they were behind their opponents and fatigued at the end of a long gruelling rally, off return of serves when they were down gameball and I saw many losing their focus and basic structure in their games. I also felt like their basic length was not very accurate, which is understandable if they don't play it all that often. That being said, I did also notice some kids who just can't apply pressure against fast opponents. So finding the balance between structure and playing aggressively is a real key point for me when I'm watching people play, coaching or when I'm competing as well.

I don't like telling someone not to play certain shots, because I like people to think for themselves and to be creative and engaged in their match, but there are clearly ways we can all be smarter about where and when we use the front of the court. Do you go short when you're off balanced, tired, under pressure, upset or simply because you think you can make the shot event though it isn't the best option? Your opponent's skill set pays a big part in when to use the front too. Do they hang too far back on the T or are they super quick? Is the ball really hot and bouncy? The amount you 'shoot' or use the front of the court will also vary as the match go on. As people fatigue and the ball slows down there will be more openings to use the front of the court, so just because you're an attacking playing it doesn't mean you have to come out guns blazing form the first point. It also doesn't mean you have to hit 33 nicks to win a match.

After watching these college matches I thought shooting would be a helpful topic for all of us. Find the balance and learn where and when you want to go for your shots. And if you want to improve your short game work on it all the time. The Secrets Of Solo Hitting has 10 of the best solo drills for working on your short game and Mastering Deception will teach you some great drills to improve your shot selection, anticipation, disguise and deception. Both films come with a money back guarantee. Pick up your copy today at SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos

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