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Is it just in our heads?

Published: 17 Nov 2007 - 17:54 by nmc8

Updated: 26 Sep 2008 - 07:20

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I have read many interesting posts on this site about rackets, string tensions, grips etc and have actually contributed to some of the technical questions however I am beginning to wonder if we take it all a bit to seriously and the reason is set out below.

I have just bought the O3 Black and have now played with it twice. The first time I lost 3-2 to a player who normally thrashes me and actually should have nicked it in the 4th and last night won 3-0 against one of our premier league guys when normally it is a tight 3-2 battle. All that has changed is that i had the new Prince O3 black in my hand.

Prior to getting the O3 black I had the o3 tour but I spent months and months trying different rackets and different string combinations (tech 305,225,ashway supernick etc) different tensions (28/27 to 26/25)worried about head heavy v head light, balancing points of the racket, how the grip felt and was the shape right for my hand etc. I read up on a lot of technical blurb about stringing and tensions etc as well.

Th new O3 black stills has its factory strings and factory grip, I have no idea what strings it uses and what tension the racket is strung at and the grip is nothing like my normal. I was planing on changing eveything to my normal set up when i had the time.

Now I am wondering whether in reality we are just suckered in to all this technical stuff where in reality if you are a good player with a solid technique and a good understanding of what you are trying to achieve on a squash court you can play with just about any racket.

Or does it matter and is this just me playing with a new toy and feeling the confidence that that may bring for the next few games before I get back to reality?

Your views would be welcome.



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From Adz - 28 Nov 2007 - 00:15   -   Updated: 28 Nov 2007 - 00:18

Well I'm gonna be the one who disagrees here!

Technology is pretty much the same in most racquets and clothing, but the subtle differences can make a HUGE difference in your game. When you get to a stage where you are essentially working like a machine...... swing speed, direction, balance, position etc etc...... then the subtlest change in your mix can have a serious impact on your game in the short term. Notice I say SHORT term! If you are skilled enough then you can adapt and alter to suit the new products relatively quickly, and the best of the best could probably alter within a few points or a game. But I have seen profesional players change their racquets between games as the one they were using doesn't "feel" right. I have also seen professionals use older models as they can't get on with the latest all singing and dancing stuff.

We have spent lots of time deliberating about racquet weights and grips and shoes and clothing on these forums, and we keep posting racquet reviews all the time. I seriously believe that the reason there is so much variety out there is due to a demand for different types of products. I for one have a huge problem with my ankles wanting to turn over mid game. Solution?

On shoes:

I use well supported shoes with a flatter heel section that stop my feet from rolling over. Other shoes which do not provide as much support have led to injury in the past.

On Racquets:

I believe that certain people use certain racquet types to suit their game style. Yes a good player can pick up any racquet and be good, but I defy Amr Shabana to beat Greg Gaultier if he had to use a 230g Wilson lump with 4 grips on it and string tensions in excess of 32lbs whilst greg got to hand pick whatever he wanted. I have recently changed from a Dunlop ICE Pro to use a Dunlop Aerogel Tour. Now there is a huge difference in balance with the Pro being more or less even balance, but the Tour being very head light. Not to mention the weight of one being 135g and the other 145g. When I first got on court (on my own) I was completely thrown by it. It took 15 mins to get my timing perfect and my touch shots correct. Now it feels like the best racquet I've ever owned..... but that may have been due to the strings:

On Strings:

Of all the talk about technologies, I find strings the biggest differentiator. I cannot sit here and take seriously anyone who tells me that it doesn't matter what strings are in a racquet! The difference of having a racquet strung at 32lbs vs 20lbs is enormous and certainly not in your head. It is a physics impossibility for a racquet not to be effected by the tension of strings or guage of strings present. I for one found the Dunlop M-Fil strings (the white rubbish they put in the new Aerogels) to be absolutely lifeless. There was no spring in the shots and no feedbackin the shots. Upon changing these to a slightly lower tensioned Ashaway Supernick XL Pro, the racquet felt completely different.

So back to the question at hand....... is all this actually in my head? Yes and no...... The feel of the strings and racquet and the support of the shoes actually exist in the technology and make up of the product, but the "feel" of these products exists only in my head. It is how I interact with the product which makes the products suitable for me. I consider myself a relative specialist when it comes to racquet understanding and technology and I feel confident in saying that I have fine tuned my selections to fit my style, my ergonomics and my mental state. The shoes have to fall into a certain range of support and cushioning. The racquet has to lie between a certain weight range and head size. The strings have to have a certain tension and guage. Why? Is it just to satisfy my own little world inside my head? Or is it because this achieves the optimum performance for my game?

Yes everyone has different requirements of equipment and yes everyone has individual feelings on the equipment that they use, so ultimately YES it is all in our own heads which technologies and equipment we choose. But NO it isn't just in our heads as certain equipment cannot perform the same functions as other equipment. A light racquet will never feel the same as a heavy racquet and tight strings will never feel as loose as loose strings, but it is how we tailor these technologies to suit our own needs and requirements.

Oh and just to add...... I HATE prince racquets. I had never been able to get used to the touch and feel until I tried the O3 Silver. The Tour is a very unforgiving racquet and tough to master, but the black and the silver as easier to use with a more general sweet spot and a different balance. THAT is how technology can change your game and that is probably why you like the factory set Black but never got it right with the Tour. One final example......... David Palmer....... If he could use any racquet, then why does he use a 160g instead of a 110g? Why indeed to professionals always stick to similar weight and balance racquets? Why did Ramy Ashour stop using head racquets for the Super Series and go back to Prince? Why did Amr Shabana use his old ICE Dunlops instead of his new Aerogel ones? It all comes down to how the technology suits your mental requirements.

So in cloosing,....... as a true fence sitter....... I say it may be in our heads, but technology can make a huge difference!


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From rippa rit - 24 Nov 2007 - 08:17

It sounds as though we are talking about intrinsic v extrinsic motivation now.

Take a good read.

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From drop-shot - 23 Nov 2007 - 17:23   -   Updated: 23 Nov 2007 - 17:24

Sure, in few words you said you agree, but (BUT) then you started about "flashy...", and this is what stays in your readers' mind.

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From rskting - 23 Nov 2007 - 14:41

drop-shot, what are my first five words in the previous post? I said I agree with the fundamentals.

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From drop-shot - 22 Nov 2007 - 07:53   -   Updated: 22 Nov 2007 - 18:37

I am afraid you missed the point. There is nothing wrong with funky shoes or flashy racket, but it is generally just the tool. Do you really write better if you have Exclusive Montblanc in your hand? Or you write good because you have talent and you practice that and you can write nicely even if you have simple pencil. I hope my metaphor is clear.

Last but not least - you may look stupid if you loose easily with your new flashy racket and your opponet uses 4 years old "XYZ" racket, huh?

nano-carbonic-meta-super-funky-technologies are great, but at the end of the day it is YOU and your qualities (footwork, wrist and technique)...

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From rskting - 22 Nov 2007 - 07:46

I agree with the fundamentals, but hey, it's the flashy new racquet and shoes that make you look good and feel good, so its all part of the fun! what fun is it if everyone is in whites and wood racquets since the 1800's? 

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From nmc8 - 18 Nov 2007 - 18:47

Drop Shot/Ritta,

At last some sensible observations about what actually matters when playing and improving at squash. I have been playing since I was 9 years old (Took a break from the game for 18 years) and have recently come back into it seriously. When I returned technology had changed from my last playing days and I bought in to it thinking that would be an easy answer. No the answer is hard work, good basics and a will to succeed. Its not which varation of which racket that ways a milligram more or less than the other.

I agree about the shoes/clothes concept but again the beauty of this game is it's simplicity. T shirt/socks/shorts/shoes/ball/racket and away you go.

It funny but the guys I play with who are getting better and better are the ones who practice-play-practice and play some more not the ones obsessed by the latest technology.

We need more discussion on technique,tactics,fitness,nutrition,coaching,drills etc this will improve us as players.


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From drop-shot - 18 Nov 2007 - 18:12   -   Updated: 18 Nov 2007 - 18:14

Hello again,

... yes I've been there, done that (thinking that Wilson nTour is The-Best-Squash-Racket-Ever-Invented) and writing a lot of hymns to the grips and shoes to come up finally to the conclusion that all of it is illusion (delusion?).

As Rita mentioned, reasonable shoes (good grip, cushioning, etc.) and racket (the one that suits you and you may forget about the brand, tension, balance and all that crap) will do the trick only if you are good trained and you've got the talent. At the end of the day you'll find out that it is 10% of talent and 90% of hard work to get "there".

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From rippa rit - 18 Nov 2007 - 11:55   -   Updated: 18 Nov 2007 - 12:01

nmc8 - I liked that post - it was straight from the horses mouth so to speak.

drop.shot  has worked it out pretty well over the last few years as he knows first hand - been there, done that!

About the equipment - yes, you need a reasonable racket with reasonable strings, and whilst the difference will seems huge, it mostly means lesser quality will mean harder work on court.

About the other gear - you must have good shoes (cannot play if you cannot move and grip the floor with fear of injury); you must have comfortable shorts and shirt with no chaffing, restrictions, etc but the look does not matter one bit except make you feel good.

About the winning - it is timing, placement, the opponent, confidence, applying yourself, attitude, determination, and any other things from the "head".

An unfamiliar racket might make some difference to the finesse shots,eg drops, lobs, serves, but playing on an unfamiliar court can also require the same adjustments, and patience; playing an unfamiliar opponent will generally need some settling period too.

Wow, there are some people on this forum who seem to have a racket for all occasions, eg the Wilson when I play Bill, the Prince when I play Tom, etc. and that is a bit too far fetched I think..... the hands have it as you suggest, but use the head too in a positive way.

The idea of being able to use a demo racket, try before you buy, is a great concept too.

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From drop-shot - 17 Nov 2007 - 23:45

True... I am only sorry for you (you spent enormous amount of money for the racket) :-D

Regarding the topic you touched: Tensions/ strings/ grips/ wight/balance/ throat/ dampers/ shoes/ brands... all those topics are more or less important but in reality it is up to you and your skills and qualities if you win or not. If you spend five hours a week on court and at least two with coach, you may get good results after 12 months. It does not matter what brand do you use. If you have reached the level that you can hit good lenght and width with you can take Dunlop, then Wilson, and Black Knight and you will see it all goes well...

I am afraid it's only us - club players who takes is so seriously about the shoes, socks, shirs and bandanas. But it's all marketing driven, so all the producers are happy to have us. Look at PSA pro players - they switch from ne brand to another (Ricketts from Dunlop to Wilson, Willstrop from e-squash to Prince) and they play brilliant, regardless all the differences in rackets specifications, sweatspots, head shapes etc.

All-in-all I think it's in our heads more than in our hands.

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