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Game Improvement

Published: 03 May 2008 - 05:18 by KingKhan

Updated: 26 Sep 2008 - 07:02

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Hello Everyone,

I've been playing squash for about a year now and I've started to get a little frustrated because I see no improvement in my game.

I do about two hours of solo practice a day, hitting forehand and backhand drives. The coach tells me my shots are pretty good during practice but somehow I can't seem to hit them right during the game. The coach points out that I don't take the racquet back before hitting, I get too close to the ball and I don't bend down enough. He says I need to concentrate on what I'm doing during the game but when I play everything seems to happen so quickly that I find it hard to get to the ball, let alone concentrate on my swing.

I've asked him to help me improve my footwork (which is simply awful) but he insists that I need to get my basic shot right in the game before I move on to footwork and movement. I don't know whether this is the right solution. Should I practice all aspects of the game at once or go step by step?

Some people have told me that doing a lot of solo practice will automatically improve my shots during the game whereas others say that I should play more games. I'm not sure which approach is right.

You see, I'm from Pakistan and even though we've produced some great players over the years, the coaches haven't been that good. Little kids are asked to just get in the court and hit the ball around as hard as they can. There's no formal training, a player plays the way that feels right to him. In such a situation it becomes very difficult to get proper advice.

I know this is quite a long post but I'd be really grateful if any of you guys could help me out on the things I've pointed out. I love squash and not being able to play it properly takes a lot of fun out of it.

Thanking You,

King Khan (someday)

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From rippa rit - 22 Jul 2008 - 08:14   -   Updated: 22 Jul 2008 - 08:18

mike's tips are very sound. This frustration can happen at all levels as we strive to go a little higher. The problem is when you are trying to change many things in your game/technique it takes time to bring it into a match, as the flow of a comp game is so unpredictable as the opponent strives to win. The idea of playing/practising with a lower grade player makes a lot of sense as you will have more time, and less pressure.

With the racket "ready" movement, I question if in fact the racket is actually back as you move into position.  Often players take the racket back, and then as soon as their feet move, their racket sort of takes on the momentum of their feet, and I have even offered to "put a shoe" on the racket hand. Ghosting will help this part of your movement, as you can stop mid-way and "freeze" and take a look.

With solo practice I would spend some time just hitting one drive at a time, then prepare again for another to get the technique right (throw the ball high and soft onto the side wall as a feed).  Have your key words in your head too, eg racket back, balance, shoulder to the target, get down to the ball (allow at least two racket lengths from the ball before lunging) weight transfer, pronation/supination, follow through to the target, and if you get that right you should hit a good tight drive.   The vital results here to strive for are consistency,  tight length, and corners.

Simple pair routines are good too if you can get someone to feed balls with you.

If those comp matches are too tough it might be an idea to drop down a grade or give them a miss for the time being.  I agree with Mike, when you try to do too much during a match you get too confused; until it all becomes automatic the hard play is probably undoing some of your good work.

Let's know in a few weeks how it is going.


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From jetlee2 - 22 Jul 2008 - 01:27

Mike gave some great advice.. #1 SLOWDOWN is the key.. I am not really a Squash pro or a squash coach but I have played and beaten some former squash pros before and I noticed RUSHING is the key. I've watched some guys play beautiful in practics or drills and in real match (no.. it does not have to be in a tourney.. it can be a real match that count for one bottle of gatorade) the guy starts rushing his strokes.. Under pressure situation, he tries to hit harder, it means the ball comes out more often, he tries to hit more difficult shots so he'll make more unforce errors and the guy start RUSHING.. even some easy put away shots, he just rush to it rather than fake, pause and placement to put the ball away... So my advice is slowdown.. play within yourself.. even you're down 0-8 you still have a chance to come back and beat the other guy.. I used to give a B squash player to serve first and 8-0.. Yup.. we play for a few drinks.. I think the first 2 times I lost but after that the guy had no chance..

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From mike - 03 May 2008 - 07:47

I'll start my response with a disclaimer -- which is that I'm a C or B grade player with no coaching experience or much formal training, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I have however improved pretty consistently for the 2.5 years I've been playing at a club.


Ok, I think there are two aspects to practice with your shots. The solo practice can help "groove in" your shots and technique so that they occupy a place in your muscle memory. The idea being that you get used to doing things the right way that it becomes automatic. As you know, when you're under pressure (physical or mental) it's very hard (and not desirable) to be thinking about the mechanics of hitting the ball. Better is to have the technique ingrained so you can focus more on what's happening with the rally (player positioning). Grooving the shots should also reduce the error rate.

The other aspect is match practice which is getting used to being in pressure situations, where you don't know which shot to expect, you're tired and by the sounds of it probably rushing. You can't really get better at the pressure situations by doing only slow-pace solo practice.

IMO both of these aspects should be practiced to improve your game.

I think the crux of your problem is that your under too much pressure in your matches, OR you perceive the pace of the game to be higher than it is. You are either being rushed, or rushing yourself (panicking) and your shots are falling to pieces during play.

I know I have often fallen into the trap of getting into a "race" with a fast, powerful opponent. I would keep running faster (with less control) and hitting harder (bad shots) and create a viscous cycle of loose shots and chasing.

If this is happening to you it's important to slow the game down. Play more defensive shots that are tight and restrict your opponents options. Don't be in a rush to finish the rally, just work your opponent and wait for the right opportunity to attack. It can seem counter-intuitive to slow down when your opponent is blasting you off court, but in this situation control is so much more important than power. You need to have faith that if you keep playing tight shots you will eventually force an error or a weak return that you can attack.


"Should I practice all aspects of the game at once or go step by step?"

Both. I think of it as "doing laps" of the shots required in a game. As a beginner the length-drive and defensive boasts are probably the priorities to learn. As you get better you can add drop shots and attacking boasts to  move your opponent and attack, then lobs to help you defend when under pressure.

Once you have the shots mastered to a basic level, you go around again and improve the quality, or perhaps add the odd piece of deception. Get the drives closer to the side wall, get the defensive boasts to land in the nick, get your attacking boasts to bounce twice before hitting the side wall, get your drops into the nick and so on.

I think improving your footwork throughout the process is critical. Footwork and movement is crucial. When under pressure it determines the shot you can play even more than your swing, it helps you recover for the next shot, and it helps  you clear the ball so you don't concede too many strokes or lets.


I've rambled a bit here, and I think my response is quite scattered, so I'll finish with what I think your priorities should be (remember that grain of salt, as I've never seen you play)

  1. SLOW DOWN. Stay calm and methodical during a match. Don't rush. It may seem impossible against some opponents, but it's very important. If your mind is racing you have little chance of winning.
    If you're under a lot of pressure you may need to find some lower graded players to have a match with to regain your calm in a match situation
  2. Practice some ghosting on  your own to improve your movement. Focus on being balanced during the shot and recovering smoothly
  3. Have fun. If you're doing straight drives for 2 hours a day you'll probably get bored and frustrated. Mix it up and do 5 mins of hitting really hard to get a feel for the ball at pace, practice lobs or continual volleys or even hit with your non-playing arm for a while to get a little bit of coordination on that side of your body :)

Good luck.

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