Squash News From Around The World - Serious Squash
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Mar 13 2018 12:30PM
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
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
Check out Serious Squash on Youtube, Facebook and Instagram for the most regular posts. Also, be on the look out for some new items coming to the Serious Squash Shop!
Jan 29 2018 1:38PM
When I was competing as a player and working on my game I did a LOT of solo hitting. I didn't take a lot of lessons and have very much guidance. I would spend multiple hours each week trying to improve my swing and consistency of each one. There are certain shots that are more challenging to practice without someone feeding for you. We can't practice the return of serve without a partner and getting into the flow of consistent feeding to groove certain swings is difficult to accomplish by yourself.
From time to time I would gain access to a ball machine and I found them extremely useful. As a coach I now use one all the time. It's a fantastic learning tool and allows me to watch a swing and even film it in slow motion while someone is hitting multiple swings. I coach at St. Michaels University School in Victoria, BC and we are fortunate to have the Squash Cannon at our disposal. The Squash Cannon allows you to change the velocity and height of a shot as well as the interval time between shots. There is a built in heater which you can adjust which keep the balls warm. You can also use to alternate between 2 shots and we ordered ours with a remote. I often use the machine as 1 feeder and I use a ball and feed for another shot which makes it great to work on movement patterns too.
Today I am excited to announce that Serious Squash is now an official endorser of the Canadian made Squash Cannon and I will be helping to promote their great product. Please email SeriousSquash@SquashCannon.com if would like more information on the Squash Cannon. Below are a few clips I recently posted to the Serious Squash Youtube channel where I'm using the Squash Cannon to work on some backhand volley drops. Stay tuned for more videos and tips on how to best operate the Squash Cannon if you are fortunate enough to have access to one!
Jan 12 2018 10:24PM
I am once again running 2 weeks of Spring Break Junior Camps here in Victoria, BC at the Victoria Squash Club. The camps will run from 9:00-3:30, Monday - Friday. There are 2 weeks to choose from and I will be helped out by Giselle Delgado, #1 Chilean player, finished 5th in Canada in the Women's Open last year and she also plays professional on the PSA World Tour. The camp is limited to 12 kids and at this moment there are still 10 spots available.
These camps are just a few weeks before Canadian Nationals so we will be focusing on matchplay/tactics/condition games, sport psych, on and off court training and you will also receive a 1 of a kind Serious Squash camp souvenir. Simply select the Monday for the week your chid would like to attend here on the Mindbody site/app: Camp Registration
If you have any questions please email me at info@SeriousSquash.com
Jan 8 2018 8:36PM
What is the point of a squash rally? What are you trying to do? Hit the ball away from your opponent? Hit the ball to the back? Many players have no strategy or just a very basic one and when we play someone like this you can have a certain amount of comfort in this. We know what shots we should go for and when we should play defence. Most people play pretty predictable, whether it's the right shot or not they hit shot x from position y without fault. I love playing people like this because often they are making predictable, yet poor decisions. If someone was predictable, but hit very good shots and with good choices that's a completely different beast, but we are talking about 99% of all us amateur squash players out there.
Getting your opponent out of their rhythm can not only help you win more points, it can also help you tire out and frustrate an opponent. Let's g through a number of ways which you can do this.
1) Don't be afraid to open up the court. Are you just playing straight dives until you get a loose ball? Is your opponent cheating with their movement because you never take any risks like playing the odd boast, drop or kill shot from the back. Even from the back of the court, if you have time and space and you pick the right time you can apply a lot of pressure by mixing things up with a short attacking ball.
2) Be super patient/disciplined. It's amazing what can happen when you get into a few 30+ shot rallies. All of the sudden your opponent could start to slow down and force mistakes. Simply extending the length of the rallies could take your opponent out of their rhythm if they enjoy the short quick fire types of points.
3) Pick up the pace. If you have the ability to do this you can really change the game. The ball gets bouncer, your opponent has less time to react to your shot. Changing the pace can definitely take an opponent out of their rhythm, especially if they like a controlled, medium or slow paced style of squash.
4) Aggressively hunt the volley. If you can volley a lot and not let the ball get to the back wall very often your opponent will tire quickly. You can hit volleys to all 4 corners and really work a player around and they will be unaccustomed to having such little time between shots and how fast they need to move. If you can do this you are most definitely controlling the points and going to win the war.
5) Use angles. Many people have difficulty covering boasts and crosscourt. It's also much harder to hit tight off of an angle than it is a straight shot. Some people also do not turn well and get caught leaning expecting the straight ball. I also love playing a few intentional shots down the middle. Even good players struggle with shots hit right at them. It's just not something practiced or expected. If you can hit a few good middle shots. disguise a boast and/or trickle boast your opponent is sure to never ask you for a rematch!
6) Slow the pace down. Some people just love a fast style of squash, so why play into their hands? If your opponent can do this better than you try and take pace away from them. This is what is known as the old lob, drop game. But if you want to play this way you have to practice it, because it takes a lot of ball control and focus to be able to play this way successfully at a high standard. It's also a style you can try for patches within a match perhaps to extend a few points or even just to keep your opponent off balanced with a blend of height and paces.
7) Vary your pace. Many players tend to get into a 1 pace hitting. Even when they go short they hit heavy. Your opponent will eventually get more comfortable with your pace of play if you never change it up. There are also times when lifting or hitting down on a ball can be more effective. Just be cautious about getting stuck playing at 1 pace for an entire match unless that's your intention.
8) Get on the ball early/hold the ball. Getting on the ball early isn't simply about volleying. It's also taking a length before the back wall when you can and jumping on short balls earlier then you normally would. If you get on the ball early you force your opponent to recover to the T quicker and this will tire them out faster. If you have the skill you can also now decide if you would like to hold the ball (as example of this to the right where I've set up nice and square for a straight drive and late in the swing I rapidly accelerate my wrist/forearm to change the angle of the shot). Messing with the timing that you hit the ball is not only fun for you, but incredibly frustrating and exhausting for your opponent. I've done a lot of short hitting over the years, so this is something I do which makes the court play quite big and can make it easy to control rallies against most amateurs.
9) Contain your opponent. This is a style you would hear all the commentators say guys should try and play like against Ramy Ashour. Hit it straight so we can't use his amazing attacking skills. Anytime you play a boast or crosscourt and it isn't hit in the perfect spot it's asking for trouble. I also find this strategy can test someones focus and fitness. If you can get an attacking player into a rotating straight drive type of rally you are taking them out of their comfort zone. Maybe they are not very fit or they try forcing the ball in short. So you see, sometimes doing nothing is a strategy and it can be highly effective.
10) Change your serves and return of serves. People get into habits at how they start a rally. Most people only play 1 type of serve to start a rally and the same 1 or 2 return of serves. Even if struck well our opponents will do better against these shots as the match rolls on simply from the repletion and practice. If you can add in alternate serve or return once in a while it can lead to a different type of rally and you might even catch your opponent asleep at the wheel.
I also suggest taking your time between points if your opponent is rolling off the points. I don't mean intentionally long stalling tactics, but you do get some time between points. Don't let them rush you if they're winning. Likewise for when your'e rolling. Get up to the service box and hit your serve and keep the momentum going when you've got it. A lot of this has to do with your opponent still mulling over their last mistake and starting the next point without refocusing. It's also highly effective when someone is upset, angry or tired. I call this fair gamesmanship, just don't be a jerk about it.
People want to feel skillful when they play and they want to look and feel good about their game. We all want consistency and we tend to play people we like competing against and whom play the styles of squash we enjoy. We basically don't like change and this is what makes us become more predictable ourselves. If you really want to expand your repertoire try and play different styles and levels of players and pick 1 of the above methods and see if it works. Try a new 1 the next time and eventually you'll find the right combination, that is if and until they adapt and you have to again make adjustments to their adjustments. This is now a chess match about adaptations. Just have fun with it and don't be afraid to experiment.
Even simply adding a condition to yourself in a match (without your opponent knowing) can be highly effective. You can even switch it up game from game. This could make it quite tough for your opponent to continually attempt to adapt to your adjustments, which also means you are the one dictating the game, not your opponent and this is what today's post is all about.
Check out all the mech at SeriousSquashShop.com I've reduced some prices on what is left while I consider what to add to the shop next. There are also 2 instructional films which can be purchased digitally. The Secrets Of Solo Hitting and Mastering Deception both come with money back guarantees and can be streamed and downloaded here: SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos
Other Serious Squash updates: deciding between a sponsorship proposal or producing a Serious Squash signature limited edition frame. I'm also starting to brainstorm ideas for the 3rd instructional film. The last 2 weeks of March I'll be running full day advanced junior spring break camps. Registration is limited to 12 kid per week. If you have a child interested in attending please email me at info@SeriousSquash.com for more information. In June I'm still sorting out details about a trip to Brazil to run some clinics for a bunch of clubs. If you'd like me to do this in your country please contact me as the summer is filling up quickly. I'm hoping to play the world masters in July and I run a lot of local junior training sessions here during July and August too.
Lastly, I'm always looking for more connections with Serious Squash. If you have a company that you feel would work well with Serious Squash please feel free to contact me. If you'd like to advertise on my page, discuss endorsements or if you have a project or project that you would like to team up with me on don't hesitate to ask.
Dec 23 2017 1:52PM
I'm home for the holidays and I've been filming some practice sessions with my brother back at my old club. Follow Serious Squash on Facebook, Instagram or Youtube to check out some of these new drills and condition games. Here'a a little peak at some of the recent posts.
Covering The Boast
Spicing Up Your Rotating Drives
Straight Drive vs. Straight or Crosscourt Drive
More condition games and drills will be posted daily so follow along for some of my favourite drills. If you like these drills check out the 2 full length instructional films for sale in the SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos The Secrets Of Solo Hitting and Mastering Deception are both available to download and stream and they both come with a no questions asked money back guarantee. All merch in the shop is also 50% off at the moment with the code 'iamserious' Happy holidays from my family to yours!
Dec 14 2017 2:34PM
The mental game has always been one of the most interesting areas of sport for me. I've studied it at school and read a number of books on the subject, but understanding and teaching it are two entirely separate things. In this post we are going to look at some various sport psych areas that are critical to playing and competing at a high level and also getting the most of your practice sessions. Below are a variety of some diagrams from chats I've had with my kids this season so far about the importance of focus, refocusing and capitalizing on opportunities when your opponent has a lapse of focus. When someone loses their focus, especially a kid it can lead to easy points and often this quick run of points can be the turning point in a match. Let's take a closer look at each diagram.
This first photo is an analogy of a simple screw a carpenter would use. We discussed how if you are a threaded screw you are prone to becoming unscrewed quite easily. A list of times when people are most vulnerable were made under this section. On the left we discussed how a tougher screw would be hard to get out of it's place. A really experienced and tough screw would also be able to screw in a bit tighter when they feel they've let it slip a bit. We made a list of a few ways that people can be tougher to unscrew; basically becoming tougher to crack mentally no matter how challenging the situation.
In the main part of this diagram we talked about chipping away at your opponent mentally and physically. As you get to a higher level it takes time to wear out your opponent and make them lose hope in winning. Greg Gaultier and Paul Coll are great at doing this because they are so tough to win a point against as they get everything back and don't make mistakes. They make any player dig super deep just to win a point, let alone 3 games. In this list we discussed signs of someone who has lost hope and the symptoms of someone who has been broken mentally and/or physically. Perhaps you lost the game, but it took everything out of your opponent, so if you are fresher and they are spent you are still in a great position even down a game.
We also talked about potentially doing this after a big rally where you and your opponent are hurting, but you feel you can disguise your pain and by serving right after can also psychologically defeat your opponent because they may be expecting you to take time and could be shocked that you are not experiencing the same pain that they are. This of course is risky as if you can't physically or mentally back it up and your opponent calls your bluff you can be in trouble. Finally we talked about when you should take time prior to a serve, which is basically the opposite of the times you shouldn't.
In the next diagram we made a list of when people tend to lose their focus. Staying focused can be incredibly difficult in challenging environments or when you get tired, upset or into long rallies. What the kids did after discussing focus was they made a little chart on the inside of their court. Each kid has their own little table where they would simply make a little dot after every rally they played where they were not focused or lost their focus during the point. I found this exercise beneficial for the kids because it helped them understand their concentration during the match and made them take time to sort of reset to write up the dot and put the marker down by the court door. This of course has to be built upon so they can use a refocusing strategy which we have also talked about on numerous occasions.
In the fifth diagram (below) we discussed the area that your zone for your best squash is. I drew a diagram of a dial and scaled it from 1 to 5 with 1 being sleepy, fatigued which are all low and negative arousal levels for playing a high level of squash. At the opposite end of the spectrum, at 5 was angry and nervous which can both be detrimental to your performance as well. Depending on the individual personalities and your style of squash you'll probably play your best squash somewhere between 3 and 4 on this range. We need to constantly be self-regulating our emotions and arousal levels while we're competing and also training. Experienced players will be able to make adjustments quickly before they get too far from their optimal range, while kids generally wear their emotions on their sleeves, both positively and negatively and often need a lot of encouragement and pep talks between games and after matches to help them reset.
If you enjoy sport psychology as much as I do or have played a lot of competitive squash you'll appreciate many of the issues discussed today. All of the concepts sound simple enough and possible to execute, but are just as challenging to learn as any other skill set. Strategies that worked for me may not work for someone else, so finding new ideas to help people come up with a strategy that works for them is key. Sport psychology is an expanding area of elite level sport and many kids have begun not only learning more about this area, but working with sport psychologists too. From time to time I also use visualization and relaxation, breathing techniques to help people focus, relax and imagine themselves playing their best squash and handling challenging situations successfully.
Serious Squash is having a merch sale. It's currently 50% off all merch with the code 'iamserious' on SeriousSquashShop.com I am trying to clear out stock and make room for some new ideas. We will see what comes next. Also, if you haven't already done so check out the two Serious Squash instructional films, Mastering Deception and The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. They can both be downloaded from the Serious Squash Shop and come with a money back guarantee. Below is a short preview of the films.
Nov 30 2017 1:23PM
Earlier this week I did the 120 shot ghosting routine. Many years ago Squash Canada would use this as a fitness test for it's top athletes. Even watching my own movement here I noticed how I made technical errors in routine skills near the end of the drill as fatigue set it. Let me explain how the ghosting works and then at the bottom I'll post the video of my attempt.
As you can see in the image below I drew this out. In diagram 1 there are 2 separate movements patterns, both going front to back. You hit 20 shots per side with no break between. The middle diagram is the diagonals so after you complete these this is 80 shots. Finally you ghost the back 2 corners for 20 shots and the 2 front corners for a total of 120 shots, equivalent to a 240 shot rally! I believe back in the day they wanted this test completed in under 6 minutes, possibly under 5, but I'm not certain. I did it 6 minutes and 27 seconds, but I'm definitely not training to play professionally so I'd say it's pretty good for a coach.
Some tips when you do this:
1) try and hit a variety of shots and visualize the ball you are striking
2) don't worry about stopping at the T since it's a timed test
3) use both legs to hit off of
4) hit some drives and drops and lobs from the front. Drops are easier to clear and it's easier to stay further from the ball so yes I could have went faster if I did all drops from the front, but I wanted to practice my movement off of other shots to and from the front corners
5) get right into each of the corners for each shot
6) I like focusing on shaping up early for my shot anytime I do ghosting so remember this isn't simply a footwork and aerobic exercise
Here's my video:
Currently all Serious Squash mech is 50% off with the code 'iamserious' I leave for the Canadian Junior Open on the 8th and am on holidays until the end of December. So if you want to get some new squash gear for the new year order before the 8th. Also, be sure to check out the 2 Serious Squash instructional films (The Secrets Of Solo Hitting and Mastering Deception) which are both also available at SeriousSquashShop.com
Nov 24 2017 10:02AM
I've entered a recent skill challenge onto a Canadian Sport Centre contest. It's for TSN and anyone who has a cool trick or play from their sport can submit an entry. We'll see how squash stacks up to the other sports and plays. Here's the link to the video if you'd like to have a look at it.
Nov 13 2017 11:21PM
It was just over 1 year ago that Serious Squash and Eye Rackets joined forces. Eye Rackets was a cutting edge company which has signed many of the top PSA players and I really liked how they had no bumper guard on their frames (I always shaved all of mine off previously). I was extremely picky about racquets so switching from the Harrow Vapour I used for more than 6 years was a big deal. I thought it was super cool that they saw a unique opportunity and potential in what I was doing with Serious Squash and so much so that they made me a great offer to join their team. A year later and we've decided to go our separate ways.
Hopefully you all enjoyed the skill challenges I produced for Eye Rackets. Now as I figure out which company I will team up with next, Serious Squash will continue to put out the best and most creative squash squash content on the net. I've already been in touch with a couple of companies about partnering up with them so stay tuned for updates as I expect something to get worked out by the new year. I intend to be thorough with the next company to ensure the best possible fit and am in rush to make this decision. Until then best of luck with your squash game and thanks for all the support.
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