Big difference in playing standard means a boring game – not necessarily!
A big difference in playing standard between two squash players can make for a boring game, and trying to “even-out” such a big difference in playing standard can be quite a tricky task. By “evening-out”, I mean playing the games in such a way that it’s fun, energetic and stretching – for both players, even when one person plays to a much better standard than the other. In this post I will discuss some techniques you can use, so that both players get a more enjoyable and stretching game.
In ‘normal’ circumstances, when a reasonably good (or very good) player takes on a much worse player, as well as the end result being pretty much a foregone conclusion, the games themselves can be less than ideal for both players. If the better player plays to his full potential, then usually the weaker player quickly becomes disheartened, and the rallies are very short. The better player doesn’t really get a chance to ‘warm up’ even, and it’s not a very enjoyable situation for either player.
So – what to do when you have such a big difference in playing standard between two players? I have a few suggestions that make for a better experience and certainly a much more enjoyable one – for both players:
Get the better player to weaken his game
The first option is for the better player to ‘ease-up’ a little and play a less aggressive game. It’s an opportunity for him to improve certain aspects of his game, and not necessarily always play to win each rally outright. For example the better player can concentrate on the preparation for a shot, ensuring that he is rock steady when he plays his shots, head still – and watching the ball hit the strings. This is not always so easy to do in a full-on match situation, but when he’s playing an ‘easier’ game, he can do this and really concentrate on it. With the better player not going for winners each rally this means that the weaker player has more chances to gain points during the game and this in turn makes for a more even score when there’s a big difference in playing standard.
Use handicap scoring
Another technique is to handicap the scores of the players. The method I have used to good effect is as follows. The first game is played using standard scoring, starting from 0-0. Whatever the end score is after the first game is then used to determine the starting score of each player for the next game. The difference in points scored in the first game by each player is used to handicap the better player. For example, if the better player wins 11 points to 3, then the weaker player starts the next game with 8 points (the difference between 11 and 3), while the better player always starts at zero.
This puts pressure on the better player not to make mistakes, as the weaker player now only needs to score 3 points to win the game.
Going forward after this second game, the handicap is varied with the result of each game, so that if the better player wins, the starting score of the weaker player is increased by one. If the weaker player wins, then his starting score is decreased by one. In this way, the games tend to be much closer – at least in terms of points scored – but it doesn’t really make each individual rally better/closer.
Change the rules
A third technique that can be used when there is a big difference in playing standard is to handicap the better player by changing the rules. For example, make it a rule that for the better player ONLY, each shot MUST bounce IN FRONT of the short line (the line on the floor across the court, half-way between the front wall and the back wall). Because of this, the weaker player knows ahead of time what type of return to expect from his opponent. He, of course, is not bound by this additional rule, and can therefore prepare himself to be in the right place to return his opponent’s shot. This rule can be varied so that instead of IN FRONT of the short line, the rule is that the better player must make his return bounce BEHIND the short line only.
Depending on the circumstances and how much of a big difference in playing standard there actually is, any/all of the above three techniques can be used in order to ensure more enjoyment for both players.