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How to respond to tactical cues


  • Tactical cues can give a focus during a game or match.  It is also a way of training so the response to these cues become automatic.
  • Coaches can use these cues to train their students so the response to instructions in-between games is clear, yet only one phrase has really been spoken.
  • Tactical cues can gives a clear train of thought and provides a focus for the ensuing game.

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PSA Squash TV - CIMB Malaysian Open 2012

Do it your way

We all have a style of play that suits us best, eg
  • Hard hitting
  • Steady and controlled (crafty) .
  • Volleying (attack)
  • Drops (play short)
  • Playing touch
Remember you are the boss, so play it your way as much as possible.  It is easy to forget our style of play (our strengths) and get talked into playing the game our opponent wants us to, when we lose our initiative and play "negative".

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How to be aggressive

Putting pressure on your opponent
  • Get in front of your opponent.
  • Hit and move away quickly.
  • Move to the centre of the court before the opponent strikes the ball.
  • Volley as much as possible
  • Get to the ball quickly, balance (pause/steady) and make a decisive stroke.
  • Give your opponent less time to play their shot.
  • Hit hard when in position.
Problems from aggression:  Rushing, hitting the ball too hard without placing the shots, over-hitting the ball, cramping the stroke.

Video Resources

Video clip training skills for aggressive

This solo volley practice will help introduce more pressure into your play by:
  • Sharpening up the volley skills
  • Improving the racket work
  • Give better wrist control and strength in the wrist
  • Build confidence when in the middle of the court

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Use the four corners of the court

  • Tactical players have to keep thinking about their play.
  • It is necessary to keep assessing if the tactical process is working.
  • Sometimes we have a great plan and seem to be doing all the right things but it is not having any effect on the opponent.
This section gives some excellent training ideas so that players can develop various strategies to suit the difficult opponents.

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Making an Impression

Shots that will take the opponent into the corners.
Play to the four corners, eg
  • Length
  • Volley
  • Volley boast,
  • Drop
  • Drop volley
  • Boast
  • Toss
  • Reverse angle
These shots, not only go to the corners, but have an element of surprise happening to your opponent.
By playing the backhand wall all the time, often we only play three corners and the opponent only has to run half the court distance.  By moving your opponent around the four corners, the distance travelled is increased considerably.  Not to mention the amount of twisting and turning that can happen while chasing to these corners.

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Keep an element of surprise in the game

Why mix up the game?
Mixing up the speed, angles, shots, throws the player out of rhythm and balance.  In some cases this also makes the opponent confused not knowing where to run next.

A word of warning - if trying to take control and confuse or deceive  the opponent, be sure to have them under pressure, eg hitting to the corners, or the plan may come unstuck.

The main idea really is not to become too repetitive, eg play two long one short, two short one long, one angle one straight, one hard one soft.

Video Resources

Video clip using the 4 corners

Disguise, deception, and delay makes the opponent not certain of where to run

This video clip shows how to keep the opponent guessing by:
  • Keeping the racket work and approach to the ball similar for all shots.
  • Altering the time delay in striking the ball.
  • Having control of the swing and wrist.
  • Not giving out too many early cues to where the return will travel.
  • Keeping the opponent off balance.
  • Increasing the distance the opponent has to cover.
  • Changing the pace of the game.
  • Upsetting the opponent's rhythm.

Video Resources

Video clip Backhand Return of serve options

Backhand Return of Serve options, Drive, Boast, Drop Volley
This method of returning serve will:
  • Keep an element of surprise in your game
  • Break up the pace/flow of the game
  • Move the opponent around the court
  • Keep the opponent moving to all corners of the court.


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Stop the opponent from getting in a groove

If your opponent is:
  • Hitting hard - slow them down, toss from the back but tight.
  • Playing slow - speed up the game, hit hard and volley.
  • Deceptive up front - keep the opponent out of the front of the court unless you are in front of them.

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If things are happening too quickly

What if the game is too fast to gain some control?
If the game flows too quickly (fast) it is difficult to -
  • Play drop shots
  • Catch them out of position
  • Get them going the wrong way
  • Know where the opponent is on court
  • Played controlled touch shots
Play tight tosses from shots off the back wall.
Play cross-court tosses or floats off the boasts.
Attack when the ball is loose (anywhere around the middle of the court).

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Give the opponent less time

How do I adjust my game?
  • A touch player likes time to play the ball.
  • If you rush them around they get anxious to play shots, so keep the pace on the ball and keep the rally going. Vital to keep the shot tight too.
  • Chase down every ball to get it into play.

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Strive to stay in front of your opponent

Keep touch players behind you.
Go for the shot while you are in front and have control of the rally.

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Watch for the back-pedalling

Is the opponent gradually moving back?
  • Often, as the rally gets longer, especially with length, the opponent gradually edges back from the T.
  • Boasts are ideal shots to surprise, executed quickly, when the opponent back-pedals

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Make the opponent turn and go back

Fast running players often do not really move back to the T but hit, watch, and take off forwards never really settling at the T.
  • By delaying the front court shot, hitting the ball back to where the opponent came from, can catch them careering forwards towards the front of the court.
  • Keep the returns tight as good volleyers might be hunting to hit the ball on the full.

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Wait for the right time

Steady and patient
  • When we feel psyched up to play we try to win too quickly.
  • Sometimes we win the hit-up but lose the match because of our anxiousness.
  • Always remember your game plan. 
  • Have a plan before going on the court.
  • A basic plan is an ideal way to start a match.
  • Wait for the right time to play the winner.
  • Go for the shots when the ball is loose, however, be sure not to hit the "tin".
There is no use having a complex plan if the basics of good length, and control of the centre/rally is lacking in your basic game.

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Getting in the mood

It is too late once on the court to worry about your state of mind.  Use three stages of waming-up and take about 15/20 minutes, eg
  • Stretch and flex
  • Mentally rehearse the game.
  • Think about what you are going to strive for.
  • If you know the player, and his game, you should have a specific game plan to suit that particular opponent.

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Take one step at a time

Keep it simple, one step at a time
When we are anxious to win we can try to do too much too soon and get confused; changing your mind and making errors. 
Do things, point for point.  Take things one step at a time, eg
  • First, good length
  • Second, tight length
  • Third, move to the centre, etc.
And be patient.
Being patient does not mean to slow your movement down and lose authority in your shots.  This all takes practice.

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