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My big weakness

Published: 10 Jul 2011 - 08:08 by Philslow

Updated: 08 Sep 2011 - 16:07

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Hi everyone - new here

I am an average club player in NW England (lower leagues!). I am fit and quite fast; opponents often comment on how sweetly I hit the ball. I'm not a great volleyer but passable, drop shots OK; my drives are my strength, straight and cross; boasts are reasonable to good. I love to get into long ralleys; often after matches opponents say how the 3-0 score does not at all represent the game (that's me on 0!). OK so I take a long hard look at my game and I find that I am consistently being wrong footed on boasts played by my opponent; often taken half court, I find myself way out of position. Some players who rely on boasts as their killer shot beat me hands down whereas I feel that I am a far better complete squash player .. very frustrating! Even when I hit decent lengths the "boasters" can often make a volley boast and win the point - I just don't seem to see them at all, despite watching the player.

So can anybody offer any advice please? This is a huge and annoying hole in my game and it loses me so many games it's depressing. Is this a common problem?


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From squashgodfather - 08 Sep 2011 - 16:06   -   Updated: 08 Sep 2011 - 16:07

If in doubt go for a nick, is my policy

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From markus.readus - 17 Aug 2011 - 19:16   -   Updated: 17 Aug 2011 - 19:16

 Hi Phil,

Your game actually sounds quite a lot like mine! I move very fast, love getting into long rallies, technique is ok, and is improving, but that's probably the weakest part of my game. I find myself losing to people with very tight drops and trickle boast shots, though I think I should be beating them. My approach may also be relevant to you, here's what I did.

1) Hit the ball less hard, but tight on the side wall. I'm a fast mover, and need to use this to attack rather than defend. If you're fast and on the T, then you can get to everything very quickly, which gives you more options (think disguise and hold) when you get to the ball, and you can put more pressure on your opponents. If youre fast but often out of position then the best you hope to do is stay in the rally only to have to retrieve another attack from your oponent. Play the ball slower, and above all else, make sure you get back onto the T (unless youre really sure of your winner), so that you can retrieve whatever the other guy throws at you.

2) That leads onto 2, if you are now in a position to pick up your oponents boasts, really punish them for it. A counter drop can be a nice way to start, or the cross, or the drive. Even consider a good lob. Whatever you play, remember to start mixing it up later on. You may start my playing crosses or drives, but when a game gets nearer the end, play a drop, or hold and drive... do something different. They're left standing. If you can get to their boasts early, you have the time to be creative and severely punish them. I'm increasingly finding that hold and disguise (such as slowly dropping the racket for a drop but then snapping the wrist through at the last minute to send the ball to the back, it doenst have to be hard if its wrong footed the opponent) are more effective than pace. They'll stop trying to play boasts when they're constantly being killed for it. 

3) This leads a little onto 3, which is at this point they dont know what to do, you're always on the T, and you're picking everything up. They either have to play more conservative, probably the better option from their point of view, or they start to panic and go for smaller margins and start hitting the tin. 

All of that comes from point 1. Stop hitting the ball to hard, and above all else, make sure its on the side wall. This doesn't mean always play things slowly and straight, but mix it up. Attack with hard shots when they're behind you, play it high and slower when they're in front of you. You can start to be a bit less predicatble, which disrupts their rhythm. If you're fast, play so that you use your speed to attack, not just defend. Give yourself time to get to the T. 

Good luck,


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From squashman - 12 Aug 2011 - 12:20   -   Updated: 12 Aug 2011 - 12:22

Hi Phil,

There is already some very good advice on here but I'll throw in my 2 cents worth as well.

Although you may be loosing points regularly from boasts, I think it's more likely that the lead-up play is the cause of your troubles, rather then your retrieving ability. Even though you may be fast and a good retriever, if you're consistently out of position you have very little chance of winning difficult matches.

There are a few elements of your game that I feel you need to work on.

1) Length. This includes both straight and cross-court drives. If your opponent is cutting off drives regularly then your shots aren't tight enough, you should be aiming to make your opponent retrieve from the back of the court.

This will make it much harder for them to play an attacking boast and put you in a better position.

2) Mix up your shots. It sounds like you rely on hard deep shots too regularly; by all means hit deep shots in order to give yourself court position, but once you have the positional advantage you need to mix up you shots.

Also, don't be afraid to play slower, higher shots on occasion instead of hitting every single shot as hard as possible.

3) Volley. I will just reiterate on what the people before me said about this. It is crucial to volley as your game improves and you play harder opponents. Learning to volley effectively is difficult and frustrating but it's something that you should really look at working on.

The reason for this is that volleying gives you the ability to control the court and put your opponent on the defensive which will help you in winning points.

4) Train with a partner. If you can arrange to have some training sessions with a partner I would suggest starting out with the classic boast and drive routine. Although this routine is quite bland, it is very worthwhile, especially if you are having trouble reading boasts.

Obviously once you gain skill and confidence you can move on to more complex drills, but this really is a useful drill.


Good luck



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From barnhead - 09 Aug 2011 - 07:10

Hi Phil,

I read your post and  think a lot of what you say is related to our game last month. You did rally well and I think I can give you a bit of helpful feedback. Technicaly you are a very good player and whereas I'm not solely reliant on it,  I do like to boast. But you open yourself up to it in a couple of ways. You have a good drive but your problem was you were moving too early and not looking at the ball which opened you up for the boast. My advice would be don't commit yourself and always look at the ball. A lot of the boasts I played I waited and hit the ball when you were looking at the front wall, which means you are always going to react slower. Also try and focus more on hitting a tight drive. Anything that you drive from the back that comes out mid court leaves you open to a drop or attacking boast. Focus on hitting tight and to length, at a pace that allows you to return to the T. A lose powerful drive is bread and butter for a player like me who loves to hit attacking boasts. It is easy to generate power and difficult for you to get from your back corner position to the front of the court in time. Finally mix it up. You focus a lot on your drive and sometimes you need to take a risk. You are a good player. Have confidence in your boasts and drops. look for lacks in your opponants concentration and exploit them. You hit a lot of balls early. Try holding your shot and looking for your opponant to commit then make a decision. I'm not sure you are techically a better player than me  But by opening yourself up like that you leave your opponant with an easy route to victory.

If you ever fancy a game or doing some drills grab my number of the board and give me a call.



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From Corkscrew - 09 Aug 2011 - 02:24

Rita's advice is spot on but IMO much before you start focusing on volleys I suggest you focus on the following basic aspects of the game (based on same struggle I had for several years not being able to properly read/retrieve boasts):

1) Lenght: boasts played from the back of the court actually bounce far from the front wall. the closer your shot is to the middle of the court, the harder it will be for you to retrieve the boast. With a little practice you will start to realize  that, unless he plays an inch perfect shot, a boast played from the back of the court is actually a weak shot which should put you on the offensive.

2) Reading boast: do lots of boast and drive drills, always keep an eye on the ball from the T using peripheral vision. It takes years to properly read balls trayectory using peripheral vision, but once you start reading it you will be reacting a fraction of a second faster and you will be surprised how much quicker you are onto the shot. Always look at the ball, and not your opponen'ts body or racket. This is hard, which is the reason why advanced players focus on developing deception.

3) Position: if you hit good length you should have enough time to get to the tee. Once you are there, get the racquet up, watch the ball and stay on your toes. Mentally: assume your opponent will play a good shot and prepare yourself to run.

3) Responding the boast: the right answer to a boast situation is a good drop, easier said than done though.  If you are finding yourself a bit off-balance when reaching to the front focus on one shot only: lob. Get under the ball and lift it as high as you can. Again, this does not come naturally and you need to do a few drills to get a good feel for the lob off the boast. Don't underestimate a good lob, the likes of Peter Nicol was notorious for responding front court shot with a tight lob.



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From SamBWFC - 05 Aug 2011 - 08:08

 Hi Phil,

A bit irrelevant to your question but I'm based in the north west too and you sound like a similar player to me, I always get the same comments that technically I'm an excellent player but mentally I'm not, and I end up losing games as a result. If you ever fancy meeting up for a game I'd be more than happy to do so!

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From rippa rit - 14 Jul 2011 - 14:11

There are many volley solo drills and I would leave the figure of 8 until I was a competent volleyer. It is very skillful and the players in our videos are top young up and coming world class players. Start the drills in front of the short line, take it slowly at first until you can build up to maybe ten in a row.  What variety is there, eg repetitive backhand volley, repetitive forehand volley, one forehand and one backhand, overhead volleys, volley pats moving across the front of the court, and that will keep you going. Keep going back to the videos and looking at the key points with the technique, eg firm wrist, watch the ball, open racket.

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From Philslow - 12 Jul 2011 - 07:39

Thanks you guys - this is quality feedback .

I really appreciate this - I'll let you know how it goes.

One point .. I find it difficult to find players willing to do drills but I am very happy to do solo drills myself. I can certainly work on straight volleys on both sides; is the figure of 8 volley exercise a good drill or does it just look pretty?!

Thanks again.

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From rippa rit - 11 Jul 2011 - 20:07

Before worrying too much about tactics, etc I would concentrate  hard to become a really good volleyer. If you do not volley you are not a top player and let many opportunities pass to the back of the court hence the habit of running back, even before the opponent makes their shot, leaving yourself prone to be wrong fotted.  So the smart players just rally a few more times and suck you into a false sense of security, and un beknown to you, gradually you move a little further from the centre court,retreating to the back corners, and that is the time the opponent picks to cut off the ball with a volley boast. Even if you were able to get the boast back into play it is likely the volleyer will then cut the return off, by making you go helter skelter to the back immediately taking away your control of the game.  Next time you get caught, do not move, freeze and take a look at where you are positioned on the court and whether you were leaning onto the back foot preventing a quick change of direction..

Once you can volley you have to be hungry for every ball that goes past the T and the first thought is to cut it off and allowing you take command of the court/game.

What next?  Go to the Dills/Routines section of and start training very specifically on solo volley drills and follow up with pair routines, also restricted games. Look for a training partner of about your standard, and do less playing games, and more training, then of course finish off with a game is always good.  Take a good look at our training videos to see how they work if you are not sure on how they work.

Good luck.. take the challenge and you will not regret it.

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From Philslow - 11 Jul 2011 - 00:16

Thanks for all this hamburglar. You may well be right on point 1 - I'll work on that first. I can handle boasts from deep in the court (I guess I have that extra bit of time to chase the ball) and I will often drop them, it's those boasts from half court that catch me out and your first point makes perfect sense - nobody can play a boast if the ball is 2 inches from the wall (well not us mere mortals anyway). Once again thanks - you've given me something to aim for. I watched some video footage on the web after the post and was surprised to see that even the pros sometimes have problems with those half court boasts!


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From hamburglar - 10 Jul 2011 - 15:30

Hi Phil, I think you know and describe your game well. I think this is what my game was like 4-5 years ago. It's such a zen game that it's hard to know what you need to improve until you've figured it out yourself. I can only describe what's worked for me.

If you're watching your opponent, hitting decent length and width, you should be able to get to any boast. I used to be a retriever chasing a lot of balls, but have found several things that work for me now:

1) hit smarter, not harder. Hit good length AND width. If you play position well, there's no way that you should be beat by a boast, especially if you hit deep AND tight. I'm guessing if you're hitting deep, you're not hitting tight also.

2) anticipate the shot that will be hit. If you do step 1, it will be easier to know when your opponent has to boast with a deep ball, and has to hit rail with a tight ball. It's not just a matter of watching your opponent, it's also watching his preparation, body position, etc.

3) volley more. Sounds like you're quick to the corners, but if you do steps 1 and 2, you shoud be quicker to cut off the ball and volley. Work harder to volley, not to hit from the corners

4) are you redropping any boasts that you get to? If you're just driving the boast to the back, you're just helping your opponent.

that's what's worked for me. I think you say a couple of conflicting things, you can't be the more complete player if you're finding yourself out of position.

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