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If I Only Had Time

Published: 09 Jun 2008 - 10:01 by raystrach

Updated: 09 Jun 2008 - 19:41

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If you are old enough, you might recall a song with a similar title to this post, recorded by some bloke with a deep  voice (whose name I can't quite recall - although it might have been Long John Baldry). The line following may well have been: Greatness in Squash would be mine.

The game of Squash is all about time.

So when you have two players of equal ability, fitness, determination and skill, the one who gives themselves more time and their opponent less, will usually win. What can achieve this difference?

Decision making.

When playing a match, I always breathe a sigh of relief when an apponent decides not to volley, but chooses to let the ball go to the back wall. It gives me a breather (i usually need it badly) and it puts them further behinid me, giving me the chance the read their shot and make my own volley whilst they are still behind me.

decisions like the one above make a huge difference in a match, especially when decisions like that are made time and time again throughout a match. I have referrred to team mates in previous posts, who are not natural volleyers, but soon as they start making their volleys, their level of play increases significantly.

However, whilst volleying is a classic case is taking time away from your opponent there are many other ways:

Varying your play

When a player is faced with responding to increasing numbers of options, the time taken to repsond to those options increases exponentially. EG. If it takes 0.1 secs to react to a single option an opponent  has, it will take more like 0.4 secs to react if the opponent has two options (not 0.2 secs) By being predictable, your opponent will react quicker, consequently being able to hit the ball earlier

Watching your opponent play their shot

By carefully watching the opponent, you can gain cues from their body and racket position, racket speed and swing path. All this gives you a better clue as to what might happen, giving you more time and helping you to react earlier.

Improving take off speed and technique

If you can take off quicker, you can get to the ball earlier, reducing the time your opponent has to recover

Better racket preparation

Having the racket  better prepared enables you to play the volley or any other shot at the earliest time possible, again taking time away from your opponent

Taking the ball earlier

One of the biggest tasks when coaching all standards of player, is to get them to move into the ball and hit it earlier, not wait until the ball reaches them. This often happens when a player is caught behind on the drive. The player in front plays a shorter drive than they would otherwise like, but instead of the player behind moving forward to take it early, they stay behind, waiting for the ball to come to them. This is one of the mortal sins, in my coaching book.

Keeping the ball deep.

When the ball is hit deep, the opponents return must travel almost the entire length of the court before it hits the front wall. this gives you time to see what is happening, and increases the chances of your being able to make the volley whilst the opponent is behind. this is when you can go short.

Jansher Khan was the best player I ever saw at doing these things. Although not a flashy player, he was incredibly deceptive, always took the ball at the earliest opportunity and kept the opponent guessing when it came to strategy. He always seemed to be playing on a far smaller court to his opponent. He hardly seemed to do any running, yet the opponent covered twice as much court.

This perception was created by the fact he seemed to make the correct decisions nearly everytime he hit the ball. Every shot had a purpose. This showed, as he went through the early to late nineties almost  without defeat, when at his best.

I don't think any of us are going to quite reach those heights of greatness, but we could go some way to being the best we can be by taking a leaf out of his book.

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From Viper - 09 Jun 2008 - 19:41

Excellent advice Ray.

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From mike - 09 Jun 2008 - 14:44

After making a mistake on a volley I once had an opponent tell me it was better to wait for the ball to go past, and hit it after it'd bounced off the back wall. Luckily I was unconvinced. A volley can (sometimes) be a more difficult shot and it can require more physical effort but going down the path of improving my volleys and fitness was definitely worthwhile. I think it's very important to have the shots and fitness to apply pressure to your opponents when you have the chance.

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