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Anticipation: Good or Bad??

Published: 19 Mar 2006 - 00:59 by SuperSage

Updated: 24 Sep 2008 - 16:19

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I think anticipation is more for the older and lazy players.
As a coach: I would never teach a young player to move on anticipation.
The world's best players all prefer to gain a good position and just move with the ball or opponent's strike.    A good example is Peter Nicol in his prime.  
Peter just gained position; waited and watched his opponent strike the ball, then did his split-step when he saw or heard his opponent strike ball and then move in the correct direction to intercept the shot. 
I have watched young players who have been taught to anticipate and they usually lose because of it.
They are too easy for experienced players to wrong-foot.
Being young and fit, they should be able to learn to play like Peter Nicol.
Peter Nicol will lose his fitness with age and thus his ability to react and cover the court so quickly.  Then he will need to use anticipation in order to get an early start to cover hard to get shots.
But he will no longer be in the top twenty players in the World by then.
Just like those young players  who already rely on anticipation may never get into that top twenty list.

I think the best tactic is to learn to keep your shots tight, so your opponent has a limited range of shots to play well and position youself to cover any shots in that range, but be prepared for unexpected or freak shots.  Just watch the ball and try and move (e.g. split-step) as soon as the ball is struck.  

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From SuperSage666 - 23 Jan 2007 - 22:50


Sorry Adz, I think we probably agree on most things.

I did not have any such structure to my coaching while our centre existed as though we had about the largest number of junior players in the state and I was the centre coach.  I could not put any such structure to my training program.

It was a very slack centre and I was never sure that the same juniors were going to be available week after week.  Because the centre manager would grab my juniors and put them into a team before they were really ready to play competitively, sometimes only two or three weeks after they started training.  I stopped him from doing this to my daughter, she was not put into competition for the first whole year,  which is why she probably got so high in her age group.

 Once these children were in a team, they considered themselves as not needing any more coaching and would just play competition.  Sometimes they realized that they needed coaching, especially after getting beaten by juniors that stayed in my classes and would come back fore some more coaching, with all sorts of apologies for leaving in the first place.

My normal charges would range from ages 6 to 15, but the centre manager would thrust almost anybody into my class, one beginner was even 55 when he was put with my class for some training.  But they were all absolute beginners.  My training would centre around how much coordination and skills they had already gained.   I centred most of my coaching on stroke technique with some static training to start with, then incorporate a mixture of  routines and altered games to make it fun.    I chose this path, because, even if they didn't turn up to classes any more, they still had a range of games and fun activities that they can develop their skills while they play them with their friends.  

I would also go out the back to the lawn and play other games like soccer, cricket, basketball, handball and hockey to develop other skills and develop other muscles, as I believe to start at such a young age and concerntrate on only one sport can cause physical deformities.  

So I believe in a variety of activities at that age to develop the body more evenly.

I admire your ability and adherence to such a training regime and I often wished I had the opportunity to do similar, but in this area, there are so many sports around that we find it difficult to implement such a system.  The children here drift weekly from one sport to another and I believe that it is good for them to do that.  One week I would have 12 or 15 attending, the next week might have only 4 turn up.  Sometimes 3 of the 5 turning up had never started before or 2 of them had returned from a class I held 2 years ago. 

I'm still proud of all of them and the majority of them are still enjoying squash, even 15 or 25 years later.

To me that is the main sign that I did my job well.

Many squash centres are thankfull for my coaching as it has equated to full paying club members at their centre.

That's what it's all about, not making champions.

Take Care Adz and keep up the great work.


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From Adz - 23 Jan 2007 - 21:39   -   Updated: 23 Jan 2007 - 21:49

Hang on, we agree on part of that last post. I never said anything about teaching anticipation skills to absolute beginners! I said about teaching them to children who already have base skills that are of a high enough level to challenge a more experienced and possibly more skillful opponent. Anticipation requires the ability to read the swing, footwork and body shape of an opponent and to be able to judge from those cues what shot the opponent is trying to make. An absolute beginner would never be able to do this. But as a player gains more experience and understanding of these they will naturally develop the ability to anticipate what their opponent will be doing. This natural anticipation can be focused by a skillful coach into an accurate ability to access one's opponent and the shot that they are about to make.

So has this entire tit-for-tat discussion been based on flawed information? My charges are mostly county-level juniors ranging from 10 up to 18 years old. Each gets taught the appropriate skills to their level:

  • At 10 it is about perfecting the technique and adding some other simple options to their game.
  • At 12 it is about devoloping options and generating time on the ball by moving correctly
  • At 14 we work on adding different paces to the styles of play
  • At 16 we work on disguise and pressure play
  • At 18 it is about polishing all of the earlier skills that were developed

I know that this is a very rough guide, and that each child is an individual with individual training needs. Some find the timing easy at 10, others find the technique difficult at 18. But at each level a child develops both physically and mentally and the traingin and skills should really try to match that e.g. it is no use teaching an 8 year old power play if they haven't yet developed enough strength to hit the ball hard. It is far better to get their positioning and timing of strike correct so that when the strength develops, the rest of the skills are already up to a high standard. Anticipation is a skill and follows very similar rules. A childs brain works faster than an adults, and it is widly known that children can gain understanding at a faster level than an adult (e.g foreign languages). Using this to an advantage, it is better to fdevelop reactions at an earlier age. This in turn can lead itself nicely into anticipation skills at around the 12 to 14 year old mark. A child who began to play at around 6, would have already learned the base skills by around 10, movement by 12 and positioning by 14. Add anticipation and reading into this mix and you have a child who's brain is firing on all cylinders who has the ability to move quickly and effortlessly to the ball, and once arrived they can hit the ball very hard with their quickly improving strength. Give them the ability to start to move a fraction before the opponent hits the ball and they can get there a bit sooner and play a variety of shots at pace and quality and all this at 14 (think Ramy Ashour!! - He probably was at this standard by 12! At 16 he won the world junior title!).


For the record, even though I have around 11 years of coaching experience, I have no formal qualifications at present. I have been offered a fast-track qualification by one National organisation (up to level 2 with 3 to follow within 6 months of completion), but turned it down at the time. Bits of paper do NOT make good coaches, and anyone with base skills and patience can teach complete beginners, and I admire them for it. I personally struggle to teach complete beginners, but find it easy to coach higher level players (notice the difference between "Coach" and "Teach"). The biggest problem out there is some people don't teach to the standard that they should. Everyone fits a natural level of both learning and teaching/coaching and this changes with time. I am currently most happy at the higher end (more coaching and polishing than teaching and developing), as many of my posts on this site might allude to.

Sagey, clearly you've had a huge amount of success with the lower level and mid-level students. It would be great to hear some of the techniques you used to get players through this and up to the higher levels as well as you did.

Rippa / Ray - perhaps we could have a new forum section dedicated to coaching methods and drills used to develop skills and abilities in students? SquashGame Coaching?



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From SuperSage666 - 21 Jan 2007 - 21:59   -   Updated: 21 Jan 2007 - 22:14

Troo, Rippa,

Though at the early stages anticipation is not a skill that is noticable as deficient in juniors. I had coached a lot of children with eye-to-hand coordination difficulties.  These I found challenging, especially a teenager who was recovering from brain injury created by a car accident.  

I have always kept an open mind on training techniques and read all the latest ideas from many sports (I'm big on cross-training) and apply little bits of training from multiple sports. Meditation and relaxation techniques from Yoga and Tai Chi and strengthening and stretching techniques I have learnt in Karate as well as some soccer and hockey training.

BUT: Anticipation is not in my books a skill that can be taught properly to a beginning junior. I see it as a skill that they can learn through match practice and by altered games.  I use altered games to develop both anticipation and deception skills which they pick up for themselves when they play these for fun.   Both players have a selection of two shots that they can play and set targets to aim for with each of these shots.   If they hit the target, they get one point, If their opponent doesn't get his/her racquet to the ball (two points).  If their opponent is moving to the wrong target, they get three points.    In this game (to ten points) they have to be deceptive or quick to score extra points and to stop their opponent earning points, they have to either move with the ball off their opponents racquet or develop some anticipation.  As they become more skilled at deception in these games, then the opponent needs to become better at either moving with the ball or develop good anticipation skills.     

But, they do forget:   I played one of my older students today and found he was missing my late cue on my boast which I shape up as if to play a drive and slice the racquet sideways at the last split second before impact.   I stopped coaching him a year ago, as he is out of my coaching level now (I'm only a beginners coach) and is being coached by the former World Masters Champion who takes over from me.   The higher level coach is big on teaching anticipation.

This junior was the best student I had, he is extremely fit, agile and quick to cover any shots I played, that is before he left my level.   I was dismayed because he would always get to my disguised boast then, but missed it every time today.  Simply because he has forgotten to watch for my late cue (dropping the angle on the racquet) and is moving on the early cue instead.   I also noted that he has started making useless comments and swearing at himself when I beat him in a rally.   I had to dress him down and told him to give himself more positive and useful self talk cues. 

I'm beginning to wonder what the higher level coach is really teaching him or if he is also getting coached by his father, who is a more experienced player than myself.  His father is often given conduct warnings for his swearing and attitude on the court.  

So I don't coach to a level where anticipation is a noticable deficit in their skills, only stroke techniques, exercise and relaxation techniques.   I just give them fun games for them to play amongst themselves that can develop these skills, but it is not a pressing concern.   My only role is to give them good start and make sure they enjoy playing squash.

After they move up to the next level of coaching, I just become another stepping stone they have to step over on their way to the top.  I just make sure I'm nice and slippery so they have a hard time stepping over me and slip back for a while.

Ciao,  M8



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From rippa rit - 21 Jan 2007 - 10:12

Sagey - hey, as a coach you must keep your mind open, as your ideas will keep changing as your coaching improves, and your students are the best teachers too if you watch them closely. 
Anticipation is something that is happening all the time in every area of our lives, and it is enhanced by our experiences.  That is why old squashies are tough nuts to play
There is a process for everything, and squash is no different, and as a coach, it is your job to strive to create a pathway for each of your charges to progress through the levels.  Simple example - at the basic level, not every student has good movement, and hand eye coordidnation, and just the lack of those two elementary things will impede anticipation developing. What ?? How?

  • If a student cannot identify their left leg from their right leg and it takes a couple of seconds to click in, that will impede movement.
  • If a student then moves to an inappropriate position on the court to retrieve the ball, that will also cause a delay (anticipation), eg stands front on, does not watch the ball.
  • If a player sets up a repetitive pattern of play, the opponent starts to anticipate, and moves appropriately, eg serves the serve into the same spot every time, so the opponent usually then gets "ready" for each serve with the racket swing, the feet, etc.
I am not saying you go out and say I am coaching anticipation today, but you structure the lessons so you create an awareness, and gradually introduce the elements that will enhance that area of the game.....and the more ways you can find to improve that area of weakness, the better your charges will enjoy the lessons, and improve their performance.
There becomes more than one part to the lesson, ie the theory, the explanation, the demonstration, the drill, the on court routine, the structured game practice, and so on.

It all takes time - yeah, I know that sounds boring, but it does work, and students do respond, and enjoy the challenge put to them.  Most of us know about this stuff, and often do it, even if we do not know why, or what for, and do it naturally, but not in a controlled learning environment is my point I guess.


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From SuperSage666 - 20 Jan 2007 - 22:05   -   Updated: 20 Jan 2007 - 22:12

Too true Adz,

I will probably never believe in teaching anticipation to juniors, just let them pick it up for themselves from watching moving with the ball off the racquet.  Because as juniors, all they see at the start is the ball.  This is why it is so hard for young players to call "Lets" as they are so ball focused that they cannot see their opponent. 

As they develop and practice, they start picking up more in their peripheral vision and seeing more of what is happening.  This is when they start noticing the face of the racquet, movement of their opponent's wrist and position of their opponent when they are striking the ball.  This is the stage when they also start to notice where their opponent is on the court at the time they have to strike the ball and start calling valid "Lets".

So this is the progress I encourage in juniors.   I just get them to stroke the ball consistently,  focus on the ball and move with it and let their vision broaden and take in other factors naturally.   Not as you and other coaches do and get them to look at their opponent's racquet and footwork and then have to refocus on the ball.    I think that is a bit too much to ask of a junior and disrupts the natural flow of their game development.

Though our courts have now closed:   The owner here is asking for $500 (Australian) per week lease for the 9 court centre (2 glass backed), I think it will be a long while before somebody takes it over and gets something happening again.  I was thinking about taking the centre over myself, but my wife, daughter and son's girlfriend all talked me out of it.   They are logical ladies :-D and know me too well, I'm too soft on people to run a business.

Take care all and thanks for the input Adz.

Maybe this topic might get discussed at a much higher level, like in the next coaching conference.

Couldn't see any mention of it in the last one.

Take care and enjoy


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From Adz - 19 Jan 2007 - 22:05

I'm sorry to say sagey that you may have disproved your case by contradiction!

You state that anticipation (or moving off early cues) is not a good thing for juniors to learn when starting out as against more experienced players they could be wrong footed by the more experienced players sending out fake cues. Surely a more experienced player wouldn't need to send out fake cues as they'd be good enough to beat a less experienced player by other skills. Also if a starting player really is good enough to beat a more experienced player (who in theory would have better skills), then by definition the less experienced player must be good enough to understand the cues being made by their opponent and thus have them developed by coaching and training.

What is even more interesting is that a player who is good enough to disguise their early cues is certainly going to be good enough to move the ball around the court and make their opponent work harder. Having any tool to combat this must be an advantage to the weaker player! Now I'm still a little overweight and don't hit the ball that hard, but I've beaten players who can hit the ball more accurately and harder than I can, simply by reading their shots and moving a fraction before they strike the ball. Without this the ball would have been dead before I even reached it.


One very interesting program I watched recently looked at the ability to dodge a bullet (in this case a paint-ball pellet). The subject was tested in front of a firing squad of three shooters. I believe they were hit 16 times out of 20. Next they were subjected to training to pick up on two different cues - sight and sound. Each was trained seperately using blindfolds and ear-plugs. For sight the subject had to move from the visual cues which occurred just before the pellet was shot. For the sound they had to react to a whistle from each direction of the shooters. After the traing the subject was tested again and I think only got hit 9 times. It goes to show that moving off certain cues after conditioning can work much better than simply going off your own natural senses. Perhaps coaching a player to react to cues (including jsut as the ball hits the racquet) can help to improve their reactions and ultimately get them better at moving at the right times!

Ultimately I think it probably is best that we disagree on this one. You claim to have a tried and tested method of encouraging players to move just after the strike by moving appropriate to the ball, and I claim to have a tried and tested method of encouraging players to move just before the strike appropriate to the cues. Neither of us will change the other's mind on this and we can only offer descriptions of our methods and reasons for others to read and understand.

But it is always interesting to understand different methods of doing something, so thank you for your patience and explanations on this thread!



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From SuperSage666 - 19 Jan 2007 - 21:38

Well: I think this subject is almost finished with.

So I will elaborate on my initial post with what I think is an extremely good reason for not teaching anticipation.  

Namely in that the most common anticipation taught is "Early Cue" anticipation that occurrs at the start of the stroke.  As stated in that post, they often start moving too early and get caught wrong-footed by the more experienced players.   But: An even worse problem associated with teaching students to move on the early cues is that they then don't see the late (more accurate) cues presented by their opponents because they are already moving.

I coach juniors to move with the ball coming from their opponent's racquet.  This way, the student get's to see the "Late Cues" that occurr just before and at the striking of the ball.  They even get to see the early cues as well and get to see the differences in the stroke that occurr when a player is faking the early cue and trying to be overly deceptive.  They also don't get wrong footed by those silly young players who waste time and energy in feinting (deliberately missing) the first stroke to start their opponent going the wrong way.  Because they are only interested in the ball being actually hit, they usually clobber the resultant weaker return.

Thus they develop a much richer perception of their opponent's stroke and abilities and a much higher degree of anticipation than they would if I used the usual "early cue" anticipation coaching techniques adopted by many coaches. 

Some of the notes I have read from past coaching conferences and all the studies I have had access too,  only seem to confirm my theory.  One professional study of strokes, found that the angles (wrist to forearm to upperarm) and planes of professionals strokes are all very similar.  Thus there are common elements that cannot be altered without ruining the effectiveness of a stroke.   By teaching juniors these angles and planes in their basic stroke technique, they not only develop extreme skill in stroke production, but also their perception of their opponent's strokes and therefore their anticipation skills.

I think that almost wraps up my case.

Adieu mates,


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From SuperSage666 - 16 Jan 2007 - 22:27   -   Updated: 16 Jan 2007 - 23:34

True, about losing if you don't use skills correctly, but at age 13 and only playing for 1 year is hardly enough time for any junior to be able to utilize anticipation skills that require many years of play to develop.  I used my daughter (I will refer to her as "Missy") as an example because she had only 1 year of preparation and had only played a small group of players (hardly enough to develop any level of anticipation) and her opponent in that instant (also 13) had been coached and played pennant for 5 years with many junior competition titles, so should have developed anticipation skills to a much higher level.   The reason they picked on Missy's backhand at the start was that Missy was going soft on her previous opponents (felt sorry for them) and played very loose backhand shots to give her opponents a rally.  The other teams coach evidently read this as a weak backhand.

Missy (with her lack of anticipation training) managed to make it to number one in the state and number four in  Australia in her age group (though she didn't train as hard as many of those she left behind) with her main rival in the state (who was trained by one of the top Institute of Sport coaches) not being able to win a game off Missy.  This opponent, after two years of trying to get past Missy also gave up playing squash, giving me the impression that something was wrong with her coaching as well.   At age 16, Missy made "State Country Ladies Champion".  Missy has dropped squash training to pursue her university studies but still plays amongst the top ladies in the state.

Perhaps Missy would have made it to the top in Australia, had she bothered to train harder, but more likely, she would have burnt out and not enjoyed her squash as much.  I'd rather have Missy enjoy her squash for life than burn out to get a title, especially in a sport that doesn't pay much at the top. 

Keep yr racket up 


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From Adz - 15 Jan 2007 - 18:39

I have to say, I'm not entirely sure about what the story about your daughter has to do with anticipation or reading the game by the players. It sounds to me like the other coach had taught his player nothing about anticipation or reading the game, otherwise his player wouldn't have played to your daughter's strengths.


I've seen a similar aged category play (U13 girls) county match and have to say that it was clear how well some of the girls read the match even at that age. One of the girls (whose dad also plays at a senior county level) had extremely good shot play and anticipation and completely demolished all of the opposition on the day.


It really comes down to being taught how to use the skills correctly, which is something I alluded to in my first post on this thread. Use them correctly and gain a major advantage, use them incorrectly and you'll lose to players who are much worse than you.


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From SuperSage666 - 13 Jan 2007 - 16:56   -   Updated: 13 Jan 2007 - 17:37


An observation I forgot to mention about studying the clips of matches between Jonathan Power and Peter Nicol.  Jonathan , when at the peek of fitness, should have had an advantage over Peter with his shot playing ability and reach.  Especially when Peter was a little injured.  But the big difference we noted about their game was that Jonathan would use the early cues most of the time and often be caught out wrong footed by Peter.  Peter nearly always used late cues (sometimes just followed the ball without reading cues) and never got wrong footed in the games we saw.

This late cue occurrs usually right at or so close to the striking of the ball that it can be considered as moving at the stroke.  As stated, in my initial post.  This means that just as the opponent's strings grip the ball, Peter is going into his 'split step'  (gaining energy) and as the shoulder and racket face give away the final flight of the ball, he is moving in the right direction to intercept the shot. That one eighth of a second or so is all he needs to start movement and gain position to play the shot.  

I've never seen a time while watching videos of world championships, when a player has left an opening for his/her opponent to play a kill from the opposite side of the court.   Unless that player has slipped or fallen when playing a cross-court .  Nearly always the non-striker is somewhere near the middle of the court and moving when the ball reaches the opponent. Even when boasting out of the back corner (unlike many club players who seem to nest in the back corner).




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From SuperSage666 - 13 Jan 2007 - 14:45   -   Updated: 13 Jan 2007 - 16:32

Thanks Adz,

From some of the classes I attended  and studies at the VIS and timing shots on video tape, the time between the last stage of preparation (where most cues are generated) and striking the ball is about a quarter of a second.  This is regardless of the power of the shot.  A quarter of a second can equate to half a court coverage with a quick jump.

So Adz, you are quite right in that reading the cues properly will give you an advance (a bit less than quarter of a second, depending on your reaction time to the cue) on reaching the ball and being able to capitalize with being in a better position to return with a nice and tight reply or more time to deceive your opponent .

  Where, to mis-read a cue will put you that quarter of a second in the wrong direction and even if you manage to reach the ball, you will unlikely be in a good position to reply with a tight shot and no time for deception.

The thing with the watching and stepping of video tapes, especially those of Peter Nicol's, we did notice that against those who are great at varying their shots and disguising their cues (often by using their body to block Peter's vision of it) like Jonathan Power.  Peter would move onto the "T" just as Jonathan struck the ball.  Peter then would have to pick up on a late cue (movement of the shoulder or racquet at the start of follow through) and with the power generated in his legs by doing a split step, he would still make it to the ball in plenty of time to reply with a tight shot.  These late cues are often more accurate than the early cue that can be used deceptively, the late cue never lies.   But you do have much less time to respond, like about one eighth of a second.  But that is still a chance to start a leap in the right direction.

I often use the early cue to deceive my opponents, as I always go in for a front corner shot as though I am going to drop, with my racquet down.  I've been told by my daughter (VIS trained) that it is wrong and I should go in with my racquet high.  But my drops are extremely tight and if my opponent doesn't start moving on cue, they won't be able to make a return.  If they start move forward as I am preparing for the drop, I will use the strength in my wrist to quickly flick an accurate and very high cross court lob (rarely come more than 6 inches away from back wall and usually right into the corner) which puts them under extreme pressure.   Even against players of a very high level, this has been a winner for me.  The lower level players just swear and curse at me for doing it. The mid level players make it back to the corner too late to do anything with the ball and the higher level players will play a reasonable return off some of these, but never a great return, often leaving the court wide open for me to hit a winner.

So, again I emphasise that this is good for training of advanced players to learn cues and how to interpret them, but I have only ever been a junior (beginners) coach and at this level it is always about just having fun and I would let them learn this stuff from another coach who has been a World Masters champion and played against many ex world champion players.  This coach knows all the cues and would take over from me if my student reached an adequate level.   At the beginner level, the scientific side of squash doesn't exist, it is all about fun.  And those who I have observed at coaching beginners and some parents who also coach their own children, often get caught up in trying to teach "Anticipation" to the detrement of the children's progress.   My juniors often end up flogging their students when they have only been training for half the time.

For instance: My daughter, after only one year of training and three months of playing pennant came across a girl in the interschool competition who has been well coached and had been playing pennant for 5 years.  I saw her demoralize all the other girls at the number 1 level and listened to her coach between matches, talking about moving when the other girl starts her swing and how to anticipate my daughter's swing (who she was to play next).   My daughter has had no training at all in anticipation, only what she has picked up by playing me and another lady I would send her on the court with for a hit.  The maximum score reachable in this timed match was 50 points, which this girl reached against all her other opponents.   

I had taught my daughter to have the same preparation for all of her backhand strokes, but she lacked this on her forehand, where she would often drop her racquet down when moving foreward and giving herself less options. Girls at 12 years of age don't have strong enough wrists to flick decent lobs.  Her coach hadn't picked this up and told this girl to put the ball deep on my daughter's backhand.    I stood there behind him thinking "Please do".  

Another mistake this girl made was to boast to all her friends watching that she was going to get another 50 points. This got my daughter angry and was less likely to have any pity, as my daughter is a softy.   This girl started by (as she was told) placing the shots deep on my daughter's backhand which my daughter replied with a cracking kill drive straight down the wall.   The girl didn't learn and my daughter just kept cracking the next few backhands straight down the wall to perfect length.  She anticipated my daughter's high preparation as another drive and started to move to the back corner when my daughter decided to boast and caught this opponent deep in the back corner looking silly.  The girl then started crying and looking up at her friends and coach, sobbing," what can I do?" She evidently wasn't enjoying the game and I felt sorry about that, because at this level I want all children to enjoy their squash.  Her coach by waving his hand (now disallowed) indicated to put it deep on my daughter's forehand, and my daughter gave these shots the same punishment.  My daughter got the 50 points and left this girl with 3 points and creating a pool of tears. My daughter's team (half the members having only been coached for a few weeks with no prior squash experience) made it to and won the State Secondary School Finals. Many years later, they all still enjoy hit of squash whenever they can. 

A year later, this girl mentioned above, decided to give up squash completely, when she watched  my daughter and I training together and learnt that she had to compete against my daughter to get to top in her age group in the state.  I think that was a result of some extremely poor coaching and made my resolve to leave the science of cues and anticipation out of my coaching.

All for the love of squash,


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From Adz - 10 Jan 2007 - 00:42   -   Updated: 10 Jan 2007 - 00:43

Well I'm going to add my opinion to this one (just because I like a good debate!).

Guessing is really bad. Making an assumption based on little to no evidence is a sure fire way to get your butt whooped on court by someone who can hold their shots for that fraction of a second longer, or someone who can disguise their shot accordingly. As juniors we often get taught by coaches to play a given shot at a given time (e.g. the best return of serve is straight down the line and tight). As juniors play other juniors who are machined in this manor they come to expect EVERY service return to be a tight return down the rail. We know that this simply isn't the case in the competative world.


Ultimately it does come down to your definition of guessing against assumption. In fact I think assumption is the wrong word to use completely as it is far too ambiguous for what we are trying to describe. Try using the word "Reading". I always teach my students to understand what it is to read the game, but never instruct them on WHAT to read. Every player is different and the cue from one player won't match the cue from another. Visual cues are a huge part of life from the very moment we open our eyes as new-borns. In such a fast paced sport as squash they become even more important. I highly doubt that Peter Nicol only moved after his opponent had made contact with the ball. If he did then he'd have NEVER reached a single shot played by John White. The human body cannot reach a kill shot on the other side of the court without first having momentum in that general direction. It is physically impossible. You have to have good positioning and have your weight going in the right direction BEFORE the ball is made contact with.


Teaching a junior how to understand simple cues and how they lead to different shots gives them a huge advantage in the way they play the game. Without this they are slow to react and get out paced and out hit by a fast striking opponent. However moving too soon before the ball is stuck only leads to giving your opponent time to alter their shot and leave you going the wrong way. The difference is subtle but dramatically important at higher levels of play.

After a match I played recently I was approached by someone from the crowd who wanted to know how I was always in the right place to paly my opponents shots. My opponent was very fast, very fit and had excellent reactions, but I always seemed to be half a step ahead of him. The only reason was beacuse I read the game far better than he did. The slight twist of his shoulders before a crosscourt. The ball position before an attempted kill. The drop of the racquet head before a dropshot. I read it all before he played it and moved appropriately. If I had waited for him to play his shot I'd have lost and been out paced, so I used the reading to my advantage in the same way that I teach all of my juniors to do from the first moment their opponent strikes the ball in the warm up. I teach them to look at body position before each type of shot. Shoulder, wrists, knees, feet, legs, racquet head, ball height, ball position, EVERYTHING!! Look for the cues and learn to react to them (kind of like a poker player in a professional tournament!).

"anticipation is more for the older and lazy players"

I have to say that a statement like this is quite funny and made my laugh when I first read it. I invite anyone to try telling the worlds best players and coaches this. They'd laugh and walk off thinking that you didn't know what you were talking about!


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From shib - 09 Jan 2007 - 23:28

hi can anyone explain to me the exact mechanics of the split step ( like the timing and how to land) or give me some tips? I would really like to stop being flat footed at the T. thanks!

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From rippa rit - 07 Jan 2007 - 08:07   -   Updated: 07 Jan 2007 - 08:10

There have been studies on squash anticipation conducted at the University using sophisticated equipment.. There is no doubt better players, irrespective of their fitness levels, can move into position alot quicker than extremely fit lower grade players.

The squashgame link might assist reading the cues.

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From Viper - 06 Jan 2007 - 18:26

I think one of the most amazing things about the top players IS their incredible anticipation skills, they  DO move so much early than us mortals and it is rare that they are completely wrong footed showing they do not guess but rather read the opponent so well.

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From SuperSage666 - 06 Jan 2007 - 17:45   -   Updated: 06 Jan 2007 - 17:58

LOL to Rippa,

Well put. 

As I stated, at the early stages of development, ( prior to students developing the required "spatial awareness" of the squash court and the physical properties of momentum and resultant velocity and spin considerations).  Anticipation is just  guessing.   And uncalculated at the best.

At the more advanced levels with more knowledge of the above laws of physics and better or more adept awareness.  This becomes a little more scientific and a more calculated guess. Also at this level there are still a lot of miss-hits that just confuse the issue.

The observant junior who hops, skips or does the now famous "split step" at the moment the opponent hits the ball, will have enough energy generated in their legs to cover most of these miss-hits as well.  Those who are flat footed at the moment the ball is struck will not have enough energy generated or time to make it to a well placed shot.  This is the problem I noticed one poster mentioned.   They are evidently not moving at the time the ball is struck. There must always be movement at this time or you will never reach a high level in squash.  Some coaches teach players to time their movement  reach the "T" as their opponent strikes the ball, so they can move more easily than they can if they stopped at the "T".  

At the very top level: Anticipation becomes a case of the most likely outcome for a particular and individuals  variation of a stroke, but you always have to be prepared for the odd miss-hit, etc....

These laws are all covered when teaching stroke techniques and the different  variations of these strokes.  It is these variations that the student will pick up from observing other players and opponents.  This is the first stage of a student naturally learning anticipation.  No prodding from the coach required.

For an extremely dedicated and determined junior (a rarity):   They will have gained a lot of knowledge about physical properties and actual outcomes of each stroke and variation of that stroke through observing and playing against many opponents, along with highly developed spatial awarness from lots of time on court, to produce a highly skilled and tuned athlete.  A future champion.

For the rest of them: It just about hopping on a court and enjoying a great hit.

Keep on squashing,



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From SuperSage666 - 06 Jan 2007 - 17:03


I agree with some of the comments.

At the early stages of development, we should coach juniors to be aware of various feet, racquet and body movements that can be used as queues for anticipation, but I don't think we should press the issue on juniors.   As most of the replies to my post have stated, it is experience that will allow the player to pick the right queues for anticipation on each particular opponent and some queues will be common for all opponents.

This is my main argument:  I don't teach juniors to anticipate from the start, because it is something they will master by observation while trying to move with the strike of the ball.

I have watched juniors who have been coached by other coaches to anticipate and they were getting easily beaten by my juniors who had a couple of years less experience.  Because at this early stage (the first five years of playing) anticipation is really just guessing.

My mentioning of Peter Nicol comes from watching his videos and from careful study of his coaching clips and rarely did he start to move prior to his opponent's strike.  He would start his "split step" the moment the ball was visible from his opponent's racquet.  I slowed all of these right down to frame by frame and showed it to some of my students who picked up the same conclusion.

I agree that picking up that very last turn of the wrist, racquet face or angle of the shoulders can give a player an advantage in a rally, but it can be used as a deception tool as well.

We are all aware of what possible range of shots can be played  from each position on the court and can limit this range by keeping the ball tight against the wall.  This is what I first teach juniors, the  trick for juniors then is to be able to anticipate what shots a particular opponent favours from each of these positions and how to anticipate it.   This an observant junior will pick up for themselves by simply playing that opponent.   If they miss this, then it will be my job to point out to the junior what they missed observing so they will be aware next time they play this person.

But, I refuse to get juniors to study anticipation as a way of winning at such an early age, just mention it like. Hey, did you see how sally twists her wrist right back when she is going to boast, or how tom shortens his volley preparation when he is going for a drop, etc.... Then let them notice it for themselves.

Adios amigos.


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From rippa rit - 20 Mar 2006 - 08:47

You know SuperSage,aprice,JJSooty and Slavi
  • I think what, maybe, has confused this thread is the word "anticipation" and the other term "calculated guess"?
  • If we could sort that out first then we would be almost there.
  • So, we have sort of agreed when speaking of anticipation big words like spatial awareness, momentum, force, speed, velocity, biomechanics, etc relate to our squash game.
  • The term "calculated guess" is something we do every day without reference or research but just use the "gut feel" as the basis for the decision...sometimes with a good result, and sometimes with regret.
It is over to you SuperSage to put this forum topic on track?

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From raystrach - 20 Mar 2006 - 07:25

hi all

i am just hoping that supersage comes up with a better argument than mine. we are all learning continually. i will be quite happy if i can do so here. I think on this occasion we are talking about different things. I will see of i can find a link to the aforementioned research.

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From rippa rit - 20 Mar 2006 - 07:14

JJ - so what was the conclusion?

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From JJSOOTY - 20 Mar 2006 - 02:27

Noticed how they have a very nice way of putting down peoples arguments in here!

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From raystrach - 19 Mar 2006 - 11:17   -   Updated: 19 Mar 2006 - 11:19

hi super sage

i am very glad you have the courage to say what you think - we need more of it from our members!!

from what you are saying, I think what you are talking about is "guessing", not anticipation. a few years ago a friend of mine, as part of a degree, masters or whatever did a scientific study into anticipation.

It turns out the top pro players actually know where the ball will be hit before it is struck. by the time the brain tells the body to move (reaction time) and the muscles react, depending on the athlete, they will actually start to move any time from slightly before the opponents strike till slightly after the opponents strike.

It is the ordinary club player who waits until the ball is struck before moving - that's why they're so slow!

the other thing that the pros have is a "feel" for the game. The very best tend to know intuitively what will happen in certain situations against certain opponents at certain stages of a match. This helps them prepare for the likely options. (remember, that  each option slows decision making time exponentially - 2 choices take 4 times as long not twice as long) These two aspects  ie
  1. Knowing what will happen by reading the physical cues of the opponent (racket swing body position etc etc) and
  2. Reading the opponents game (state of the game, stage of the game, habits of the opponent etc etc)
go to make up a players "anticipation" skills.

Only mugs will "guess" what is happening before it actually happens, but at the same time, if they wait until after the ball is struck before they decide to move, they will cop a hiding. (even of we move at the rate of 20sec per 100 mts, if we wait for 0.2 sec  that is 1 mtr distance - how many balls would we miss if we were 1 metre behind the play all the time)

I guess we need to be careful how we define anticipation

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From rippa rit - 19 Mar 2006 - 07:09   -   Updated: 19 Mar 2006 - 07:12

Morning - after looking through the posts I thought I need to revise the meaning of "anticipation" and here is a good one from my simple dictionary:
  • preconception
  • expectation
  • the introduction of a note before the chord about to be played
So, those meanings really fits perfectly into our game. Agree?
The more experienced, the more we anticipate, the quicker we move/react, the more clues we pick up, the wider the periphery.
I better be careful when I am driving down the road today as I may not be able to break quickly enough if I wait till the lights turn red before I stop, yeah

My comment to a coach would be that we cannot teach "anticipation" but we can teach "how to read the cues" and what those cues mean on court, the same concept applies as when we are driving down the road.  Mind you, thinking about driving, a rally driver I could not be.

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From drop-shot - 19 Mar 2006 - 05:39   -   Updated: 19 Mar 2006 - 05:39

Just to be short:
Anticipation is a mental achievement that you are able to achieve through years of training. Not necessarily yoga , in my opinion it's another level in your training sessions. Through the basics of strokes and movements you go to mental preparation, tricks, flicks and innovations... Look at Gaultier or Willstrop career and you will see thet through the years of hard training they've developed pretty good and effective "anticipation" level in their game.

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From aprice1985 - 19 Mar 2006 - 03:25

I am glad i am not coached by you to be honest.  Anticipation is key for my game and i am 20, if you know where the opponent is most likely to put the ball you will be ready for it, hit it better and be more likely to make or hit a winner.  Anticipation will only come with practise and much of it will be subconcious, yes it can fail and you will be wwrong footed but often in those situations you need to be moving early which watching and waiting will not allow.

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From JJSOOTY - 19 Mar 2006 - 01:48

A certain level of anticipation can work though.  If the body movement of your opponent makes it obvious where they are going to place the shot then it is a good way of preparing yourself and making sure you are balanced to head in the right direction. 

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