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training to compete up a grade

Published: 05 Feb 2007 - 09:40 by msc

Updated: 24 Sep 2008 - 16:17

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Hi fellow squash players,

Question for you: I'm a female squash player, playing Womens Open squash (not at pro level, just in the upper levels of limbo between A and pro-Open) wanting to compete at Mens A level in some tournaments where they don't have the Open Womens avbl. The past 2 years I have been competing at the Mens B level and won a Mens B tournament at the start of the season. I am 30yrs old, keep generally fit, cross-train most days with some strength/agility programs done 1-2 times per week, play squash 4-6 times per week (I've found 4-5 times per week optimal to avoid mental and physical burnout, most of the people I play are not interested in drills, so they're matches).

This weekend I played a Mens A tournament and got beaten in the second round 3-1 by the 2nd seed. Whilst very happy with my first 1.5 games (volleying lots, varying shots, dropping occasionally) where I was ahead, after a long rally in the 2nd I felt my performance noticeably deteriorate as my body was tired, I wasn't getting enough oxygen to my brain or legs, and I made some poor decisions in shot selection + lost a fair bit of length on my shots.

Question: What is the best way to train to sustain a match at the level required? Is it -

a. play more Mens A players, some intervals on the track or on the court (to cope with lactic acid)

c. do more drills, again with A players/coach to teach efficiency/cope with lactic acid or

d. a combination of the above?

I don't want to play more than 5 times a week as any more means I lose the enjoyment, I guess I should make one of my other squash days/sessions involve some of the above training methods...? Thoughts, ideas anyone out there may have found when stepping up a grade? Cheers

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From msc - 06 Feb 2007 - 06:49

Thanks Raystrach, some very good points. My speed/retrieval is probably what has got me this far to be honest - the skills bit is a little behind but I am working on it, particularly my drop and lob game...I guess basically it's the natural progression of stepping up a level, struggling to raise the bar then learning from each experience to continue improving - just a bit of a shock at first!! Cheers

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From raystrach - 06 Feb 2007 - 00:47

hi msc

not having seen you play it is hard to comment, but "skill" was not one of your proposed ,methods of improvements.

apart from issues of overtraining or preparing yourself poorly, your skill level is a huge factor in running out of steam. lack of skill (relative to your overall standard) may be causing you to do too much running. Also, your tactical decision making might also affect your fitness.

because you are playing so often, at least some of your sessions should inlcude a strong concentration on these elements. you do not have to win your practice matches, so work on specifics.

another thing that may be of significance is your type of fitness. you may be doing too much aerobically and not enough anaerobically. take off speed (or lack of it) is a big determinant in the women's game. most women that play the game at the upper club level lack explosive power. this weakness can expose itself in a number of ways from lacking the speed to take advantage of opportunities to slowness around the court especially movement to the front of the court

have fun!

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From msc - 05 Feb 2007 - 15:31   -   Updated: 05 Feb 2007 - 15:33

Hi Rippa,

Thanks for that, I'd forgotten to consider those more obvious (and yet overlooked) things. I DID go into the tournament slightly overtrained and did not do much carb eating (overly) in the leadup. Just figured my form was good so I'd just keep plowing on...My opponent was tall and played a fast game and whilst in the first game I had the tight length and caught him out with a few short tight drop shots I think mentally I may have rushed at it after getting the first game, and got caught up in the pace rather than "breathing" and trying to steady my brain (and shots) in the rest of the match. The 3rd game I hit loose so he moved hardly off the T. The last game I tried harder to move him off the T and it worked but then I'd finish off with an error or loose ball....

A guy who has regularly seen me play at tournaments commented on my impressive form in the first 2 games but thought "mentally" something had happened in the last 2 to me...he may be right, I often find in hindsight review that my thinking becomes too "blinkered" (ie lose creativity) and rushed (not being patient), it has cropped up more recently as I play higher level games now that I think about it. Maybe I should write myself some little "breathe" "patience is the game" and "have fun (creativity)" notes for between games...with some questions I don't ask often enough - like what you suggest for different types of opponents.

Thanks - back to the drawing board!!

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From rippa rit - 05 Feb 2007 - 14:40

msc - I am not convinced that you are not fit enough.
I do not know a few things, eg your height, your weight, your resting heart rate.
A few other things too I do not know -
1. you may be overtraining coming up to a tournament and depleting your body of the energy and freshness.
2. are you calorie storying (glycogen) for 3 days prior to the tournament - you know the one about spaghetti and rice stuff (especially the night before the tourny); and then the banana before going on court; hydrate etc.
3. are you an anxious athlete and get a bit panicky too and breathless, shallow breathing?
4. do you play hell for leather, especially if the opponent ups the pace and power (typical of a male game) and waste energy during these long rallies, and hope your opponent makes a mistake or do you play smart with your power and furness, and sort of pace yourself using tight controlled length?
5. is your opponent skillful or just a hitter, runner, and retriever?
6. did you have a game plan to suit that particular opponent?
7. playing a male opponent who is young, strong and fit (testosterone) will mean the female will have to play smart and dominate the center as far as possible, keep the shots tight to the walls, looking for defensive returns which give opportunities to play shots.

Sometimes more is not better, and I can understand how the fire can go out if you train too much.  Can you relate to why I am asking any of these questions?

I don't know if you have been to the Squash Library and looked through the submenus of Physical Conditioning, as well as Squash Tactics, especially the section About the Opponent.

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