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How to move off the dreaded plateau

Published: 02 Oct 2006 - 12:07 by Viper

Updated: 24 Sep 2008 - 14:58

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Playing reasonable squash at a reasonable pennant level but I am not content to tread water.

I am hitting balls once a week on my own, playing club practice weekly, pennant weekly and getting a lesson about ever 4-6 weeks.

This activity seems just to be sustaining my results, maybe some tiny improvements but not the steady improvement I am after.

So is the answer more lessons, more solo, more games ?

What do people think.

Mind you i could well have reached my potential.....

 

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From rippa rit - 14 Oct 2006 - 18:15   -   Updated: 14 Oct 2006 - 18:19

Viper - you said you were solo practicing 45 minutes a week? Smart thinking.
Sure the cross court lob is the easiest, and also something that your opponent can wait to volley (they step back into the back court, just as you are about to hit the ball if you do this shot too often - 'cos that is what happened to me) - hence the reason to have a good drop too or alternate reply.
There are various ways to try to master the straight lob, particularly off hard attacking squash when it is most valuable, eg

  • Stand around the T area and drive to length, turn and chase the drive, and return with a lob down the wall (a lob from behind your body so to speak and body basically facing the back wall), move back to the T, if you cannot then drive the return, boast it, run up and cross court toss the ball, and repeat down the wall.....yes, a bit tiring, but a good way to practice by putting yourself under pressure.
  • Stand at the corner of the service box, drive to length or to bounce off the back wall,  move to drive or lob as the ball comes off the back wall.
It is necessary to practice lobbing and driving when chasing the ball.
It is ok to stand in one spot to try to groove in the stroke but unfortunately that is not how it happens in a game.

This is hard solo practice but also good for your fitness and movement.

Give it a try, if that is not what you are already doing, and let us know.

PS - it could be that we are talking about different things here - I am not referring to recovering impossible shots, but playing tight and controlled, waiting for the opportunity to attack, without busting your boiler.

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From BizarreCo - 13 Oct 2006 - 19:55

Personally I think the cross-court lob is a far easier shot to master, and have seen this sentiment echoed by many players who have mastered the shot. It allows for a great margin of error in its execution. Simple rules are:

  1. DISGUISE the shot as much as possible to keep the opponent guessing - a good lob will have a similar start to the swing that a good drop shot will have, simply altering the wrist position slightly and following through the shot under the ball.
  2. Imagine that your opponent is stood exactly on the T. You opponent is a tree. His/Her legs are the trunk and the span that they can reach with their racket is the branches. Now as you know, hitting a squash ball through the branches of a tree can be done, but it's likely to get caught by the branches on the way through. Solution: LOB OVER THE TREE.
  3. Disguise and height are nothing without a PERFECT LANDING. To master this shot you need to play the perfect length and width on this shot so that the ball comes off the SIDE wall and along the back wall, making it virtually impossible to return unless the opponent has moved into a solid position along the edge of the back wall.

The difficulties in playing the perfect straight lob are the same but far harder to master. You still need DISGUISE (or your opponent will read the shot and stand behind you - STROKE anyone?). HEIGHT can help with the stroke situation, and also get the ball over your opponent, giving you both recovery time and a stronger position with your opponent retrieving at the back. A PERFECT LANDING needs to drop BEFORE the backwall and die into the corner (technically a perfect shot will die into the nick, but that's a little too lucky to hope for every time!).

The real difference, and the one that make the straight lob much harder than the cross-court lob, is the WIDTH involved in the shot. If you get the width wrong with a straight lob the ball is coming back out from the side wall for an immediate stroke, or going too close to the wall at the peak of it's height and going out of court. Without getting excellent width, the straight lob can cause a lot of difficulties - ALL THE MORE REASON TO PRACTISE THEM!!!!!

 

A great practise routines that I used to do for half hour a week for THREE YEARS with my old coach was to imagine a large square in the middle of the court (use the back, central corners of the service box and mirror them toward the front of the court. This will create a square(ish) box to play in. If you can stand comfortably INSIDE the box to play your shot, then it should be attacking in nature as you are in a good position. If you get pushed outside of this box, then the shot should be defensive or tactical in nature. Attacking from outside the box causes you to be out of position for your opponents return. Play safe and get into positon quickly. Perfect shot to do this with is THE LOB!

 

Adz

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From Viper - 13 Oct 2006 - 18:04

I do use the lob a bit but mostly cross court.

Obviously it comes down to how well you hit the shot but a down side can be the lob being cut off and volleyed, putting you under even more pressure.

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From rippa rit - 13 Oct 2006 - 17:48   -   Updated: 13 Oct 2006 - 17:50

Viper - Deep tight lobs are an essential part of a player's game.  Why:

From behind the opponent -
  • They give you a chance to get to the T when the opponent has hit a good tight shot (one you cannot attack because of its position, eg close to the wall, in the corner)
  • When the opponent is trying to increase the pace of the game making you move quicker and forcing you to make errors or be sucked into running and hitting and not thinking.
  • When you are a bit tired and need a bit of time to get your heart rate down.
  • When you want to frustrate your opponent and get all his winners back into play.
  • When the opponent wants to attack but finds the ball too tight to really wack.

From the front -
  • Gives you time to get to the T or recover from the front.
  • It is an alternative to a drop so keeps the opponent guessing.
  • Gives you a chance to get out of the way so the "stroke" word is not happening.

In fact this shot is all that is required until the opponent hits a ball you can attack and at the same time be in position.  If you are not in position there is no point in wacking the ball and then leaving yourself open to be put even further out of position.
Take a look at this link to refresh yourself

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From Viper - 13 Oct 2006 - 17:30

When should you play those deep tight lobs ?

And when should you not play them ?

I tend to get stroked sometimes when I play along the wall to the back of the court from the front of court position. This happens when the receiver is positioned behind me of course.

 

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From rippa rit - 13 Oct 2006 - 07:59

Viper that is good to hear.
So you are training smart now.  Sometimes more is not necessarily better?.
Hey, if you win in three the fitness element is not so critical.
Solo practice those deep tight lobs down the wall as that can really help when tired and under pressure.  Besides, it can frustrate the hell out of your opponent.
Good work.

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From Viper - 12 Oct 2006 - 21:43   -   Updated: 12 Oct 2006 - 21:45

Small update.

I cannot find the time to train anymore ( plus I get sore if I do) than I am so I have looked more closely at what I actually do during my current time on court.

First thing I changed was a more structured solo session. 45min on court where I run through practice drills in a set sequence.

After 2 such sessions I won well at pennant recently and I won more in the fashion I have been looking for, ie good length and clean striking of the ball.

 

So I am a little bit pleased, and thanks to those who offered advice, it helped.

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From BizarreCo - 05 Oct 2006 - 19:11

There's a "star drill" that I first heard about from reading a Khan Squash Playing Tip on another website. Here's a brief run down:

Number the corners/sides:

  1. Front left corner
  2. Front right corner
  3. Left Service Box
  4. Right Service Box
  5. Back left corner
  6. Back right corner

Now move through the points:

Start on the T, stride and lunge to 1, recover backwards to T, stride and lunge to 2, recover backwards to T, as you arrive rotate to left and lunge to 3, return with rotation back to T, continue rotation to face right and lunge to 4, return with rotation back to T, continue rotation and step and lunge to 5, return with rotation and side stepping through the T, continuing with rotation, step and lunge to 6, return through T (as you pass through you have completed 1 set), and begin second set.

Do 4 to 6 sets as fast as you can (I consider myself to move quite well and can do 4 sets in just under 40 seconds).

Its a tough routine, but it does get you moving "correctly" around the court, and once you'v done it a few times, you seem to be preprogrammed to get back to the T as quickly as possible, which can't be bad.

Adz

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From manavbhatia - 05 Oct 2006 - 14:00

Hi,

I would like to add that in addition to drills, lessons and matches, your endurance is a must. A few things that I have brought into my squash schedule are:

-- run up and down a lot of stairs. Find a tall building near you, start at the bottom of the stairs and keep running all the way up, without stopping, then jog down the stairs and repeat. I do repitions of 8-10 floors. This will make you super fit and quick on the courts.

-- add some jogging to this, and that wiill help too.....

-- definitely do a lot of crunches... atleast a 100-150 a day. Your abdominal muscles are one of the most utilized muscle groups during a match, and you have to keep them tight.....

-- thirdly, do ghost drills on the court (without a ball), where you start at the T, run to the front-left corner, swing, back to the T, and keep going to all corners, swing and back to the T. This is simulating a hard rally, and if you can keep it going for about a minute, you are doing good. Do about 5 of these when you do solo drills.

I had hit a plateau till about 3 months ago, and then I started doing all this. I find that I am much quicker on the court, I have a much higher endurance, and I am more balanced when I am hitting my shots, giving me much higher accuracy and confidence, which leads to more patience as you get better.

Manav

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From markinjapan - 04 Oct 2006 - 19:59

Alot of the drills I was thinking of are done with two people.
The first thing I notice when I watch a high class game is the pace. There is a big difference between the open class and a A class match in terms of speed. Bringing yourself up a notch in terms of mobility will up your game.
A drill I love is:
Player A: boast
B: drop
A: counter drop
B: Hard cross
A: boast
Do 5 mins on each each with a 30second-1min break inbetween. Repeat with player B having the option of one more drop OR the cross after player A's counter drop.

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From Viper - 04 Oct 2006 - 00:11

Thanks Ray, I am beginning to understand this:

 

"improvement is seldom linear , it is usually a series of wavy steps. two steps forward, one step back. "

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From raystrach - 03 Oct 2006 - 12:43

hi viper, most of the suggestions below are good. 

a couple more things...

  • is your coach watching you play? i have had players play like geniuses in the coaching sessions  - go to watch them play and it's like they are other people!
  • it takes a while to implement changes so you must keep them in mind and re evaluate constantly.
  • the video is a good idea because sometimes we think we are doing one thing but the truth is sometimes  different to our imagination.
  • very few players that i know of have achieved their potential - for whatever reason. if you think you can still progress, you will - as long as you really believe it!
  • improvement is seldom linear , it is usually a series of wavy steps. two steps forward, one step back.
keep at it!

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From BizarreCo - 02 Oct 2006 - 23:20

Ah! While I think about it, we've had a few "mis-communications" with the names given to shots (hense the reason I described the "butterfly" routine. Just for clarity:

3 wall boast - Comes off side wall (1), front wall (2) and then other side wall (3) before bouncing on the floor.

2 wall boast - Comes off side wall (1) then front wall (2) and then bounces on the floor.

 

Adz

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From BizarreCo - 02 Oct 2006 - 23:18

Some solo drills I'd suggest are:

  1. Tight lengths - See how many straight drives in a row you can hit that land within 6 inches of the wall and behind the rear line of each service box. Consistancy is the key to this one! To add a bit of variety to it, try to see how many you can hit within a given time.
  2. "Butterflies" or "Figure of 8s" with a twist - Standing in the T area, play a forehand shot towards your backhand side, so that the ball strikes the front wall, then the side wall and comes back to the middle. Follow with a backhand shot towards your forehand side also striking the front wall and returning to the middle. Keep this going with vollies so see how many you can do. To add variety, set the ball up with one shot to aim to volley into the nick with the next - BUT you have to try to keep going if the ball "pops up". This will work your vollies, kills and recovery shots.
  3. Volley trails - Try to keep the ball to a volley for ten shots from fron to back on each side. You need to keep the movements small and work your way backwards gradually. Add variety to this by working your way down the middle of the court, alternating shots from forehand to backhand.
  4. Lob-Boast routine - This is a really tough one to do unless you're pretty fit. Start with a 3 wall boast from the back of the court, move through the T and retrieve with a cross-court lob. Move through the T to the back of the court and 3-wall boast again for retieval with a cross court lob. Work both sides. Variety would be using a straight lob, but this is seriously boardering on superhuman if you can keep it up for any length of time! Tip would be to get your lob as slow and high as possible to give yourself time to move from front to back (that's why you use a 3-wall boast).

Adz

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From Viper - 02 Oct 2006 - 21:34

"courtwork drills" ? Can these be done solo ?

Sounds like two person drills only, yes ?

If they can be done solo what drills do you suggest ?

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From markinjapan - 02 Oct 2006 - 20:45

For every game you play, do at least one hour of drills. Lots of courtwork drills that have you under pressure. I think combine that with what you're doing and you're bound to improve.

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From Viper - 02 Oct 2006 - 19:12

Thanks, some good ideas there, I will put some of that into practice.

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From BizarreCo - 02 Oct 2006 - 18:08   -   Updated: 02 Oct 2006 - 21:33

Viper,

More solo practise is always a good place to start, but make sure you get your techniques checked by your coach first (remember practise makes permanent NOT perfect!). Once you have your technique perfected by a coach then solo practise will definately improve your shot play.

To improve your match play (tactics and movement etc), try to get competative friendlies against players who are a bit higher standard than you. Not enough to give you a sound thrashing, but enough to beat you regularly whilst still pushing you to your limits. Try to get someone to video the match for you, so you can see where and how you are being beaten. Tailor your training to strengthen your weakness and build on your strengths.

Is it also time to get ANOTHER coach? Even the best coaches in the world aren't the best at EVERYTHING. Perhaps another coach will see something in your game that your current one misses, or doesn't think is a problem.

At this stage its the small steps forward that will make the biggest changes. Don't expect huge improvements overnight if you're already at a high standard!

Hope this helps!

Adz

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