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Response Time?

Published: 15 Nov 2006 - 23:40 by SamBWFC

Updated: 26 Sep 2008 - 07:48

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Don't know if that's an appropriate title and I hope this post makes sense.

I was watching a doubles match at my club last night, the two coaches and the two top seeded players playing. Obviously, the game was a lot faster than a singles game, more volleys etc. What I noticed was, their response times are a lot quicker than my own.

Say the ball came near them, their racket was straight up and ready to return the ball. I have problems in doing this, is there any way I can practice this? It's as if I can't lift my racket up if a quick return is made by the opponent, and it's frustrating the hell out of me.

I've thought about doing some weight training in order to find it easier to get the racket up and ready, (I'm no weakling haha, I don't know what's going wrong!) is this a good idea? Or is there anything else I should practice? By the way, I don't hold my racket down to the floor when I play, I just have it at a normal height. Thanks,


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From BizarreCo - 21 Nov 2006 - 23:04

Oooooo.......A bit of a technical query! Good......

<stretches writting finger>

Are you sitting comfortably? Good! Then I'll begin!


I've had a very similar problem with junior players who have just began to improve on their basic technique. The principles involved are to get the racket into a practical and comfortable position in plenty of time before the shot. Reference has been made to having your racket up by the first bounce of the ball. Although I'm not going to say that this is wrong (as all of this comes down to the individual's preferences), I will say that that is not what I teach my juniors.


Movement and flow is as fundamental to the game of squash as it is to dancing or martial arts. Without getting it right you will look unbalanced, un-coordinated and quite frankly rubbish! As harsh as that may sound (and I've said to many students face to face!), it must come with an explanation......

Every shot is made up of:

  1. Positioning
  2. Timing
  3. Power
  4. Placement

By following these fundamentals you can vastly improve your game. It souinds like you have difficulties with 1 and 2.

Firstly find your comfort zone for your shot. This is the ideal swinging distance away from your body (mine is about 40 cms in front of my lead foot). As the foot acts as a pivot for your body weight during the shot, this 40 cm becomes a small arc (think of having a pen on the end of your racket that draws on the floor as you turn). ALWAYS try to hit the ball within this arc region, as this will be your optimum striking range. If the ball isn't in this range then you haven't moved into the correct position - you go to the ball, it does not come to you!

Now comes the bit that your original post alludes to..... TIMING! Think through the perfect shot in your head:

  1. Looking for where your opponent is playing the ball to
  2. Racket up whilst moving to where your opponents shot will arrive (that arc area!)
  3. As the ball arrives at that area you have moved into, landing in perfect position for you to swing and strike cleanly at the ball, directing the power and placement as you desire to play the shot that you want to play!

That is the fundamentals of positioning and timing during shot play. Now the question is:


I always start my students off with some basic movement drills to get their body positions into the correct placement to play a shot. Without the correct position you have no chance! you should always arrive at the ball within your perfect arc and with enough time to play a variety of shots. If you can't do this then the game is moving too fast for your playing ability..... SLOW DOWN THE GAME!

Once you have the basics of movement and positioning in place (your foot part of the shot), you now need to look closely at your timing and swing (the arm part of your shot). Get your racket and stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold your racket with the correct grip and place the edge of the racket on your nose (the edge that is closest to the ceiling during a forehand shot). Now turn to your left as if you were turning to play a shot..... notice that the racket comes around with you and ends up wanting to move into a poised position above your left shoulder. Now return to the start. Now turn to the right, moving into shot position. Once again the racket wants to move with you over your right shoulder. Despite the fact thet you might look and feel very silly doing this, practice turing from side to side in this manner for about 5 or 10 minutes. Add some steps between the turn for some variety, but always bring that racket across your body and on/in front of your nose.


This is where I hate the internet as a teaching medium as I cannot SHOW you how to flow into your shots. Please excuse the exaplanations below as they are a bit "rough and ready"!

Movement to the ball in classic positioning requires the foot closest to the front wall (front foot) to be slightly ahead of your other foot (back foot). The front foot acts as a pivot for your weight, whilst your back foot acts as a balancing aid. In the swing you should start with your weight on the back foot and transfer your weight through your hips and onto your front foot. At the same time this should coincide with your shoulders moving. You racket should be up with the holding arm shoulder being pointed slightly backward with racket in poised position. Dip the other shoulder into the shot in a forward circular motion as the hips turn and the weight transfers onto the front foot. Practise this religiously the same way that you practise hitting the ball in the middle of the racket. It is just as important! Get this right and your worries about timing will be over!

In summary:

Positioning - Get yourself moved into the right place on the court, but more importantly with your body in the right shape to play a shot. The more you practise it the more you do it by instinct. After time it can become second nature (like the coaches and top seeds you mentioned!).

Timing - Part of positioning is getting your racket in the right place relative to your body. The rest is getting the strike of the ball to occur at the right time relative to the ball's position and speed. Wrong timing leads to snatched shots, mishits and complete failures! Get the swing right and hit the ball cleanly in your perfect arc area.

Power - Not mentioned anything on this, but basically it is a mixture of the weight and speed that you put into the ball whilst making the swing (which you've perfected by getting your position and timing right!)

Placement - This is the height and direction of the ball which you can change in your favour by getting into the right position and giving yourself enough time to have options on your placement and power of the ball.



  1. Ghosting the perfect shot from first movement to arrival to swing to follow through and returning to the T.
  2. Racket on nose drills - they may look silly but they really do hammer home the importance of keeping your racket in a poised position
  3. Doubles - If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!! Doubles is a great way to improve your speed of reactions and shot play. Always play safely and shose people with good shot skills to play against - there's less chance that they'll hit you with their racket or the ball!


Good Luck!


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From rippa rit - 21 Nov 2006 - 07:49

Sam - just keep trying different ideas and it will surely be a combination of all of these things that will make the difference.  Here is another idea too:

  • When you are moving about the court waiting for the opponent to chase your shot and prepare with footwork, racket prep, etc have "wide eyes".  (Take in a much info as you can and get a big picture).
  • As the opponent gets in the "ready" position for the stroke, and of course while still watching the ball, start to have "narrow eyes" as you  focus on the actual swing/grip/ball positioning.
I suppose you could relate this to driving,. What?  Well, as you drive along you take in a large amount of the road and surrounding areas, but as you come closer to the real action, eg at the lights, you focus more specifically on what is happening in the traffic, like who is going where, distance speed, etc. and act accordingly.

Ever thought about that before?

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From SamBWFC - 21 Nov 2006 - 07:18

Just had a solo practice and took some points from replies into consideration.

Before I went on court, I had a think as to why I was taking so long. I took Ray's point into consideration that the 0.2 seconds are essential, so I decided that as soon as I'd played a shot, even if I knew I had a lot of time to prepare for the next one, that I was prepared IMMEDIATELY after carrying out the initial shot.

I must say the results were impressive. I took Rita's recommendation of playing volleys constantly. I didn't count how many I did in succession, but I noticed a clear increase in response time.

Come to think of it, a lot of this stuff is basic common sense! I'm still very grateful for all your help.


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From rippa rit - 16 Nov 2006 - 23:20   -   Updated: 17 Nov 2006 - 08:25

Sam - there are several reasons for slow response time so I guess it would be a good idea to look at all of the reasons and then decide which is the most important and in what order.
So here they are:
1.  Ray has spoken about the cues you get, and how soon you get those cues, eg knowing when it is to be a forehand or backhand stroke, long or short ball, hard or soft hit.  And depending when you get the cues (how soon) will depend how much time you have to prepare for the stroke.  So  you must watch the ball at all times, keep moving as the ball is in flight  so that  you get the best view of your opponent hitting the ball, and, eg try to  observe the  length of their swing, the speed of the swing, the position of contact with the ball, the angle of the racket face, the height of the ball when hit, the position within the court, etc.
2. Having done all of the above, the racket swing/preparation can really slow down the execution of the shot (which is what I was referring to) and particularly if you want to intercept the ball (volley) - if your racket work is long, sloppy, and loopy, and is not efficient, the swing is hard to manouvre into position ready for the stroke that comes quickly, as that causes loss of racket head control.  Work on having a compact, efficient swing.
Try standing about 1m in front of the T and continually volleying on the forehand for about 10 consecutive shots, and see if the racket is controlled, and the ball is controlled; then do the same on the backhand.  If only one or two shots are controlled it is most likely there is too much slack in the stroke.
3. If you cannot see the ball, always move to a position where you feel comfortable to watch the ball, as well as the opponent hitting the ball, without fear of being hit. This will help anticipation.
4. Sometimes we look but do not see, or stand mesmerised for a few seconds before the feet come into play too, which causes a delay in response.  Just as the opponent is about to strike the ball start to get onto the ball of your foot ready for take off.
5. Try not to position yourself too close to your opponent as they are preparing to hit the ball as you are most likely to take your eye off the ball, and maybe even fear being hit, so move away so you can take a good look and get all the cues from your opponent.

Any of this make sense?
Here is the link to Squash Library/Squash Tactics/Decision Making which might also help.

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From SamBWFC - 16 Nov 2006 - 22:32

Hey thanks for the replies. I'll have a bit of a practice today, I'm playing against a weaker opponent today so it should be easier to find the cues and prepare.

I didn't really understand what Rippa Rit meant though, sorry.

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From raystrach - 16 Nov 2006 - 09:09

dear samBWFC

lets just say the time between when the opponent hits the ball and when you hit it is about 0.2 secs. not a lot of time.

obviously the things that previous respondents said are correct, but there are a  number of things that must happen before the ball gets anywhere near the point where you want to hit it. you need to be ready to hit it when the opponent swings and hits. by that stage you should know what is happening to the ball. waiting for the ball in flight is probably too late.

this involves the preparation for the return  - looking for the cues that give you the time to prepare early enough. i have spoken about this in other posts (a quick search might give you some articles) and in our library. technique itself is very important, but if nothing is happen between the ears, nothing will happen

you must use that 0.2 sec wisely.

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From rippa rit - 16 Nov 2006 - 07:47   -   Updated: 16 Nov 2006 - 07:48

Sam - about your racket preparation. 
When you finish a shot your racket will virtually be in the correct position for the next shot without doing anything at all except move your feet/shoulders into either a backhand or forehand position.
Try it.  Move your body/shoulders/feet and the racket will be all part of that movement.
You get that?
It is so simple but it will be a bit difficult to change your habits - get on the court and do some ghosting to try to get this rhythm going.

Let us know.

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From nickhitter - 16 Nov 2006 - 02:10

I've never played doubles.....but one thing that helped develop my sense of timing with 'racket up' was that your swing should start when the ball bounces! that way more often than not you hit the ball at the top of the bounce. Now most players, when first trying this, are convinced that they are swinging way too early but once you get used to it you realise how easy it is to time. Obviously this doesn't apply to vollying in a strict sense but anything that works on your timing helps. Racket back before the bounce, swing starts when ball hits the floor. worked for me.

with regard to vollying, I am currently practising figure 8's to develop my vollying timing and doing that for any length of time really sharpens you up!


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