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Improving consistency

Published: 10 Feb 2011 - 10:04 by stube40

Updated: 18 Feb 2011 - 07:25

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Hello everyone. This is my first post.

I'm an ex-badminton player who played badminton for 25 years before taking up squash 7 years ago when I emigrated from Scotland to Australia.

Over here in Oz I'm now a B-grade player, which is another way of saying a good club-level player.

All through my badminton career I was plagued by inconsistency. One day I was awesome and timing everything sweet, then next day I was shockingly bad, completely mis-timing and hitting it off the frame. These traits have followed me into squash.

I know alot of people suffer this - especially having just watched Andy Murray suffer from what appears to be something similar in the finaly of the Aussie open. Hence, I'm not expecting to cure the problem - however, I'd definitely like to minimise it.

I think the problem is two-fold for me personally: (1) My brains ability to control my limbs precisely varies from day-to-day and (2) when court conditions vary (eg different court temperature, ball bounce, different string tension) I'm extremely poor at adapting.

Over the years I've tried to work out what contributes to the first problem: I've tried experiementing with/without caffeine. Eating before/after. Trying to find a link between poor sleep and poor play etc etc. So far I've never come up with anything solid other than when I'm physically exhausted I'm significantly more erratic (no surprise there then).

I feel that the only way to reduce the impact from the second problem is training is a variety of different environments/conditions, which at my stage of life is tricky to fit in. However, if I was advised that it was the only way forward then I would make the time.

This is just a very general, open post and I'm interested to know what other's thoughts are.







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From rippa rit - 18 Feb 2011 - 07:24   -   Updated: 18 Feb 2011 - 07:25

Take a bit of time to look at our tabs with many training hints, etc.  Shadow play or ghosting can be done at home if you have a bit of space to set up an area to move and swing your racket. That definitely will improve muscle memory too.  Then combining the specific squash movements into the swing will develop fluent movement.  Of course try to set up a situation that is closely related to playing a game. Do the ghosting in small bits gradually introducing another element until the whole rally is achieved, then similutaneously add new shots till the exercise is rather like playing a routine/drill.

Pay attention to detail as you segment the practice, ie grip, wrist movement, racket work, swing, footwork, balance, and recovery away from the area once the swing is completed with each phase.

Hope you get this.

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From rippa rit - 13 Feb 2011 - 08:04   -   Updated: 13 Feb 2011 - 08:06

Of course muscle memory is a wonderful thing and something that stays with you forever, well, more or less.  When it comes to hitting a ball it sure works for me; when it comes to swimming I would probably drown.  Hence the need for repetition in practice.  But, it needs to be perfect practice too 'cos it is very easy to practice the wrong technique, the wrong shots at the wrong time. etc. Always practice your shots as if you were playing a game especially when you introduce movement into the practice; some shots are just not meant to be played from all parts of the court and depend on a lot of factors when choosing to play a particular shot, eg the lob is more a tactical shot and will give you more time to recover, the drive is to decrease the amount of time, a drop shot is a shot to make the opponent move forward/run; the volley is to let you keep in front of your opponent and decrease the amount of time the opponent has, etc.. Having said that if your lob is too low and not well placed it can be suicide; if your volley lands on your opponent's racket the placement is no good; if the drop shot is done while the opponent is standing beside you it may also be suicide, and so on.

Consistency I think is more about skill which is defined further "consistency with a high degree of accuracy".  There are some people with awful technique who have become consistent on certain shots, but generally not a variety of shots from all parts of the court. If these players are considered to be pretty good players they usually are very fit and win more by wearing their opponent down either physically or mentally.

There is more. This is why this game can be fascinating.

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From stube40 - 13 Feb 2011 - 06:40

The muscle memory thing defintely makes sense.

OK, so now for my next problem. As a busy career-minded husband, father of two, it's a very long time ago that I was a teenager with no responsibilities putting in 5-days a week on the badminton courts, with at least 2 of them being devoted to training. Now I'm lucky if I can visit the squash court twice a week for an hour at a time.

But, I appreciate that if I want to improve then I need to make the time. However, If I do start training again then I'm looking for ways to fine-tine and prioritise that training to my main needs - in this case improving my consistency. If anyone has any tips that would get straight to the point in the shortest possible time they'd be greatfully received. Note, this is not another way of saying I'm lazy and want short-cuts, it's simply real life and me being realistic. I'm fully prepared for the answer of  "no pain, no gain" and "there are no short cuts to training" etc. But, there is also good ways to train and other ways of training that are less productive. So, I'll open that one up for comment.

Another thought is how to manipulate my practice games with friends to incorporate a little training. I used to do this in badminton. For example, since my smash was my main shot and I relied on it alot I'd play practice games without using it to promote other shots. Similarily with squash, sometimes I will throw in a cross court drive rather than play up the wall just to try and catch my opponnent out. Clearly, the cross court isn't promoting muscle memory so I could try taking that shot out during practice games. For sure, there will be many rallies that are difficult to win if I'm constantly playing up and down the same wall until my oponent moves the ball somewhere else - but then again, I'll be playing the same shot again and again looking for a perfect length and a nick to win it . This is something I dont  do at the moment since I'll eventually cross court it rather than aim for a nick (because I'm not good enough to get nicks regularly). Maybe this will inherently help a little towards the muscle memory.

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From aprice1985 - 13 Feb 2011 - 01:56

 I think it about what is often termed "muscle memory" whereby repeating an action in training leads to that action becoming the automatic one when under pressure.  I played squash a couple of weeks ago just after a training session with my coach where we worked on the straight drives and they went well.  In the match they were appalling, I was tired and so my body reverted to what it was used to so my footwork went, I couldn't hit straight and gave too much away cross court, repetition of the footwork will lead to it being ingrained.  The more you practice the luckier you get (or in truth the more consistently you hit the shots and move right)

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From stube40 - 11 Feb 2011 - 15:16

Thanks for your reply.

It's very interesting that you focus on the physical side of things since I had always believed that the problem was mostly a mental one. However, reading your post is definitely making me think twice - I think you may be onto something!!

I will follow the links you advised and do some research then report back.





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From rippa rit - 10 Feb 2011 - 21:05   -   Updated: 10 Feb 2011 - 21:08

Welcome to the forum.  Your problem with consistency would not be yours alone. The more fluent the swing, and movement to the ball the less chance for inconsistency in the placement of the ball. Anything at all loopy or wristy will make ball control more difficult though might give a bit more power. When there is a lot of slack in the backswing movement that causes a delay in preparation which can cause a timing problem.

The more direct your racket and the least amount of movement and jerking the better, and especially if you want to volley.  Badminton players seem to be really good at overhead shots, but definitely flick a lot more than squash players as I understand it.  Take a look at our videos (under the tab squashgame gold) and the squash technique tabs and closely look at the economy of movement in racket preparation as that I believe is the key to working on being consistent.  Once you get the swing right, then it is lots of repetition to groove it in. 

About the Andy Murray final at the Aussie Open I thought he was "flat" and did not have the stamina to push himself forward for such a hard match with those long powerful rallies The previous match probably was his best due to his ability to bouncee back, but not in the final.

Let us know so we can follow your journey through this.


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