Wednesday, 11 December 2013

How much court should you walk on?

Efficiency in court movement

When moving in the squash court you should consider trying to move as less as possible whilst being able to control the center. 

The whole idea of efficiency consists of getting the job done whilst consuming the least amount of energy possible.

There are some fundamental concepts behind efficiency on court movement, those are:
  • Always come back to the center.
  • Move by following the shortest way to the ball (a straight line).
  • You know that concistency and accuracy of your shots is more important than making a single great shot.
  • You use the drive to build your rally and wait for your opponents mistakes.
After having internalized these concepts moving efficiently on court will be an afterthought in fact if you are looking for a way to constantly dominate your opponent you will want to play in a patient and effective way.

Having said that to move efficiently on court you need to realize two things:
  1. You have to extend your arm while hitting the ball, therefore you can stay far away from the ball when you actually hit it.
  2. There are parts on the court in which a playable ball (i.e. a ball that is not a perfect closing shot) will never go, therefore the court in which you should move and play is smaller than the actual court.

1-Extend yourself

By extending your racket when hitting the ball you are going to throw stronger shots.
Also by having a distant impact point you are going to need to move less toward the ball.

This also implies that there are parts of the court in which you should never walk on, for example you must always stay a good step away from the side wall, by not doing so you are going to hit the wall with your racket.

Check my distance from the ball video for insights and exercises.

2-The ball doesn't bounce on all of the court

We can divide squash's shots in 2 categories: Attacking and Defencive.

A defensive shot is going to be slow and high whilst and attacking shot is low and fast.

If you are an intermediate to advanced player you know when to switch between shots, because that's a fundamental skill you need to develop to build your rally and gain early advantage.

To further increase your understanding watch this video:

Both shots have something in common, they are ideally thrown near the backwall.
Fact is that when playing we are not perfectly accurate all the time, and the ball won't always be as precise as we want it.

What will happen is that the ball will come back from the backwall sometimes,and when it does you can realize that even if the ball was near the backwall for a moment, when it is actually played it is far away from it.

The same goes for every single shot in squash, unless it is perfect it will come out of the perfect spot in which it was unretrievable.

What I'm trying to say is that every ball in squash can be retrieved provided that you are in the correct position to do so.

Therefore there are some areas of the court (which are near the front and backwall) in which you'll never have to retrieve a all because it will never come there.

A note on why the all goes even in those spots
Sometimes the all will go where you can't retrieve it, but the nature of this sport is such that if the all goes there it means that you haven't tried to get it before.

Basically every time the all goes in a deadspot if you analize its trajectory you can understand that you should have tried to retrieve it before it went there.

A classic example is a perfect attacking shot, this shot can e sometimes unretrievale because the all doesn't com back of the backwall, but if you were to try to retrieve it before it went in the back of the court you would not have had any prolem.

That's why an attacking shot must be build with the rally, you can't simply do it and hope. Unless your opponent is away from the T the accuracy of the shot won't be enough because what you really need to score is that your opponent is in such a position that it doesn't allow him to reach the all in the perfect spot.

Now that you know this you can start planning ahead of your moves and realize where you really need to work on to become a master tactician on court.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The advanced court movement

A new definition of court movement

As i defined it before court movement is the skill of reaching the ball in a way that allows you to reach the ball and make a drive.

However for advanced players making a drive is not an issue, therefore their kind of court movement is going to be based on the idea of moving as efficiently as possible in a manner that increase your advantage, giving you the most powerful offensive options.

The way an advanced player moves on court is straightforward, they just move toward the ball in a straight line.

Then how come did i told you about moving as a horse piece in chess and to use the proper foot? 
The fact is that advanced court movement is way harder than it sounds, first of all you need to have the habit of coming into the T without having your feet stale, second it requires that you are accurate on your shots ad comfortable with using both feet and last but more importantly it requires you to have complete control of your torso for your shots.

As you may know we have a defined impact point for forehand and backhandi told you that by rotating your body you can change the shots you make, the fact is that you can do it also by simply rotating your torso ad using your wrist.

By changing the inclination of your wrist you are going to change the inclination of the racket plate at the moment of impact with the ball, instead by rotating your torso you'll actively move your impact point.

As you can see when you have this kind of racket skills it is fairly simple to move however you please and still be accurate.

An exercise to master the control of your torso

Here's a step you can take right now to rapidly be able to implement this information:
practice alone by staying near the front wall to rotate your torso to make different shots, you should be able to perform a drive, cross court and boast with your feet pointing at any direction, just by rotating your torso.

An advanced exercise consists of doing the number 8 which i call the butterfly, this is a famous exercise that can be done both with volley or by letting the ball bounce on the floor and consists of staying in the center of the court throwing the ball alternatingly in both front corners.

You can do this exercise to work on the volley, your accuracy and speed of preparation of the shot. However if you wish to learn how to rotate your torso you must do it without making a single step.

Once you become able to control your torso, wrist and to move in a straight line you will start to feel how and when to make some feign shots and it will be time for you to learn the secrets of deception.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

How to retrieve the ball from the backwall, conceptual approach.

Retrieving the ball from the backwall. A theoretical approach.

This is the theoretical perspective behind retrieving the ball from the backwall.

This concepts will be hard for you to understand until you have some practical experience, if you want some practical steps you can check this 2 videos.

The concept behind retrieving the ball from the backwall

The concept behind the fact that retrieving the ball from the backwallis hard is that the position of your body determines shots you make.

If you were to face the sidewall directly and have the ball in your impact point you will make a drive.

The problem with a ball near the backwall is that when moving there most players turn their body toward the back corner, forcing them to make a boast.

Imagine that your impact point is in front of you,like a straight line. 
If you have the ball behind you, the only way to have the ball inside the impact point is to rotate yourself, however if you can move closer to the ball while keeping your body facing the sidewall you are going to make a drive.

The problem with a ball near the backwall is that when moving there most players turn their body toward the back corner, forcing them to make a boast.

This is why the side step shown in the second video is so useful. In fact it allows you to move toward the backwall while keeping you facing the sidewall.

So, when thinking about retrieving the ball from the backwall try to find a way to have the ball in front instead of behind you.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Good Length, Attacking and Defending in the Back Court

What is good length?

Good length consists of the position of the ball that makes it really hard for your opponent to play a good shot.

The best length is situational, it depends on:

  1. How the rally is going , 
  2. Your placement on court ,
  3. The placement of your opponent.
For example:
When you are leading the rally there is no purpose in playing slow and high shots, you should make low and strong shots that go in the back court but don't come out of the back wall.

Typically good length requires that the ball comes in the corner and doesn't come of it.

Why should you play a drive above else

The drive is a straight shot that moves near the side wall and goes into the back corner.
By having this trajectory it makes it really hard for your opponent to counter it (especially if it is really tight to the side wall)
, compared to a cross-court that goes in the back corner which can be countered by forestalling it in the center of the court.

Attacking and Defending in the back of the court

This is the meat of the article, most of this knowledge is common sense. 
Yet the majority of us make this mistakes most of the time.

When in advantage (when we are leading the rally) we all try to score a point by using strong and low shot to keep our opponent under pressure.
The best way of doing this consists of simply continually using the drive and wait for your opponent to make a mistake.

However when in disadvantage, the last thing you want to do is to make a low and strong shot.
Although some of us can pull this off , by attacking on a low and strong shot while we are in disadvantage we are highly risking to make a mistake for example to throw the ball under the tin or in the center of the court.

That's why when you are in disadvantage your objective should be to reduce the pressure that's on you by using slow, accurate and high shots that reach the back corner.

By performing this shots you will be able to push your opponent in the back of the court while having the time to recover to the T.

How to: Attacking and defending in the back court

Monday, 28 October 2013

The backhand technique, for beginners and advanced players. + most common mistakes.

The backhand technique

The backhand is performed by closing both shoulder and forearm to prepare it and by opening the shoulder and using the forearm to make the swing.

A simplified way to make a backhand consists of simply using the shoulder while keeping the arm extended.

To make a proper backhand you'll first of all learn to add the forearm rotation and then you'll prepare the shot by closing the shoulder and the forearm, as if you were hugging yourself, and to make the shot you'll have to also learn how to extend your forearm when making the shot.

Watch the video to better understand the backhand technique.

One more common mistake on the backhand

In the video i talk about using the wrist improperly and overextending your forearm as the most common mistakes players make.

Another common mistake consists of cutting the ball which is caused by the fact that you make the swing by only releasing the forearm in an oblique manner which causes you to cut the ball instead of pushing it.

To change this error you just need to tweak your shot by making sure that your forearm makes the racket head go downward as if you were drawing a semi-circle with the racket head.
If you have this kind of problem try to watch the video again and move as i move.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The corridor

The best exercise for two players

The corridor is an exercise in which you and your partner alternatingly do drives, this means that you and him are going to oscillate between the back corner and the center of the court.

While doing this exercise you can tweak it a bit so that you can work on:
The corridor is a simple exercise to learn but really hard to master, to start you just need that you and your partner are able to throw the ball in the back of the court and that you both can retrieve the ball from the backwall.

Video Tutorial - The corridor 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Pendulum Theory

The theory of relativity applied to squash

Space and time in squash are the same thing, by moving more you waste time, and you need to move less in order to save time.

You can think of the players in all squash rallies as two pendulums.That are oscillating at the same frequencies when the exchange is even and that are desynchronized when one of the players cannot keep up the pace.

One good example is when two players are doing the corridor exercise (playing deep drives and exchanging positions from the back of the court to the T and so on), if they are evenly skilled they will rhythmically alternate the time in which they move for the ball and the time in which hey recover to the t.

But whenever one of the two players puts more pressure on the ball, moves less and/or is more accurate than his opponent, the rhythm will be changed and one of the players will start to accumulate lateness.

The lateness is going to manifest itself in the form of having to run faster, having to move more or in making worst shots than usual.

Considering the rally as a pendulum, one of the opponent is going to loose when he is so late that the opponents pendulum will surpass his.

As i said, the factors that determine this situation are multiple:

Whenever you are playing with your opponent you are trying to efficiently use your time/space to increase the distance between the two pendulums.By always keeping your opponent late you are effectively making him paying for his mistakes in terms of precision and energy.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Stroke & Let when the ball bounces off the backwall

Let & Stroke the simple distinction

Video tutorial

Explanation of Let & Stroke when the ball bounces off the backwall

When the ball bounces off the backwall some potentially dangerous situations can occur, especially if the ball is in the center of the court.

Usually when the ball bounces off the backwall and in the center, at least a Let will always be guaranteed.
However for a stroke to happen two requirements must be fulfilled:

  1. There must be a Stroke-like situation i.e. your opponent must be in a position in which if you would make a shot that goes straight into the front wall you would hit him.
  2. You must haven't rotate when going for the ball.

The first requirement is fulfilled most of the time.

However it is the second requirement that will help you make the clear distinction between a Let and a Stroke when the ball bounces off the backwall.

Rotating while going for the ball means that even for a brief second you are not able to see your opponent, this means that you won't known where he is and by making the shot you could potentially hit him.

Instead if you don't rotate it means that you are aware of where your opponent is and by stopping you will gain a point.

This rule has been developed as a safety measure.

Generally a stroke off the backwall is awarded only when your opponent makes a really bad drive (that is in the center of the court) and then he just sits on the T.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Staling on the T and why you should walk throughout your squash match

Staling on the T

Staling on the T is the phenomenon in which you are arrived on the T too soon, i.e. before your opponent has make his shot, this causes you to plant your feet on the ground making it harder to move again in an efficient way.

By staling on the T you are more exposed to unplanned shots from your opponent and in the long run you will consume more energy because you are constantly wasting your momentum.

The reason why you stale on the T is that you tend to rush when moving on court. What I mean is that everytime you see the ball you instantly move toward it and as soon that you have done your shot you rush to the T.

Although this is surely a demonstration of willingness to put in hard work, moving this way will hinder your game on the long turn and this movement pattern is surely not the ultimate destination you want to go reach.

Walk and keep your momentum

Try instead to walk as much as you can.
Do this especially with long shots, and for shots that bounces of the side wall.
In fact whenever a ball goes out of the side wall, the more you wait for it, the more it will come to the center, forcing your opponent to back off in order to avoid a stroke.

Also try to move slow whenever you are heading back to the T, in fact if you move slow and keep directing toward the T what will happen is that when your opponent will actually make the shot you will still be moving, making it easy for you to head directly toward the ball and keep your momentum.

To wrap up here's a simple exercise for you:
  1. Try to walk as much as you can during a match
  2. Make sure to keep your momentum when you are heading toward the T.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Top mistakes on court movement

Problem and solutions related to court movement

Court movement is on the top 5 basic skills you need to develop in order to amp up your squash.
Lack of proper training get shown pretty obviously by the following mistakes.
  • Moving too much
  • Moving oblique
  • Going too near the side wall

Moving too much

Movement on court should flow and be as efficient as possible.
Probably the most hurtful advantage to a player who has a lot of stamina is the fact that he moves too much.

By constantly running a player can reach the opponent's shots, yet only by moving with complete control and uttermost efficiency can a player take control of the game.

When playing most players tend to run toward the ball just as an automatic reaction, instead try to plan your movement in a way that makes you able to reach the ball with the least effort and the most efficiency.

As i said often: Court movement is the skill of being able to move efficiently toward the ball in a way that lets you make a drive and eventually choose not to.

The habit of moving too much on court has many consequences: it cause the player to consume more energy, it forces the player to position himself in a way that is not optimal (which makes the shots inaccurate), it causes the player to rush to balls that he could otherwise reach without any effort (such as in situations that are related to the triangle theory, in which waiting causes your opponent to place himself in a position that is unfavourable).

Running too much causes also the mistake of staling in the T, which consists of a player reaching the T too soon, and then staying there with his feet on the ground, which causes to loose momentum and therefore causes the next sprint to be slower and more energy costly.

Solution: Take the effort of learning proper court movement, try to walk constantly instead of sprinting and stopping.
Move slower when you are close to reaching the T to make sure that you keep your momentum.
Realise that some shots are more effective if you wait on them.
Take big steps, especially the last one when reaching the ball.

Moving oblique

The tendency to go straight toward the ball has its maximum expression in moving oblique.
Whenever you move oblique you end up placing your body in a position that doesn't allow you much choice.
This movement pattern has many consequences depending on the level of the player.

At starting level this will force you to make every shot as a cross-court. You will always have your body slightly oriented toward the front wall and that will cause you to make a cross-court as i explain in the body shot theory.

At higher levels moving oblique will cause you to:
  • Reduce your precision because your body is oriented in an improper way.
  • Move too close to the side wall, especially against short shots (such as the drop), by moving oblique the last part of your swing will inevitably hit the side wall, making it harder to hit the ball.
Solution: You should move by staying in the center relative to the sidewall as much as you can and move toward the side only if the ball is good enough.

To make this movement trajectory a habit i suggest that you take a little amount of time every single time you go in the court to do some ghosting as I explain it in the court movement video.

Moving too near the side wall

As I've shown in the court movement video, the swing in squash should be done with an extended arm, this gives you the chance of reaching the side wall by doing only one step from the center.
However if you don't practice maintaining the proper distance from the side wall (as shown in the image below)

You will come too close to the side wall and smash your racket.
This is costly (for the racket), energy draining (as the time goes by you end up running twice as much as you should have), and it ultimately hinders the chances that you recover the ball.

Solution: Extend your arm and move toward the side wall. Place your racket against the side wall while maintaining the extended arm, now watch your front foot (left in the right side of the court, right on the left side of the court).
You must never move inside the area that is covered by the length of your arm.
To make this a habit try to do this simple reminder everytime you fail to recover a ball that is tightly near the side wall.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The meta-game of squash

The tactic behind all the tactics - The meta-game.

When playing squash you definitely know how to move and play, also having a general knowledge of the tactics is important.
Yet there are some typically recurring situations that you have to be aware of.
What I'm referring to is not some sort of "content", the actual shots you play or the patterns you use, what I mean is that all squash matches go through some phases which I have identified as the following:

Begin: Study of the opponent.
Development:  Building the game/ Stamina challenge/ Asserting Dominance.
Closure: Keeping the nerves cool.

These are not defined by a specific moment, this are like big picture phases that occur during the game.

Beginning: Study of the opponent

At the early start you players don't know each other and have no idea what to expect. Even when you know a player, you should treat as if you had no idea how he plays, especially during a tournament match.

When studying the opponent you tend to play in a neutral style just to see where the boundaries are, to time your opponent's response time and generally his tactical style.

The two most important things you need to test against your opponent are his skills in being defensive and those at being offensive.
By understanding how he mixes those two facets of his squash you can categorize him as a:
  • Solid player
  • Sneaky player
  • Aggressive player
  • Defensive player
You will also be able to understand if he relies on running in order to keep himself in the game.
This is crucially important because against a great runner you can never take for granted that he is going to get tired, instead you should use the pressure to force some mistakes on him.

Development of the game:

During the development of the game both players will have a pretty accurate idea of how the opponent plays and what are the standard situation that results in a point been scored.
This middle part is where the game is actually played, because little by little one of the players is creating a gap that will inevitably result in him winning.
The gap I'm referring too is not based on the scores, it is a psychological gap.

In fact little by little one of the players is going to get the upper hand on the other not only by scoring more points or having more energy but also by having discovered more of the opponent's weak spots.
This process can be recognize when one of the players has a standard response to a certain situation, by understanding this mechanic you can use it to your advantage since you already know what your opponent is going to do.

At the same time as both players are building the game, another mechanic is taking place: The stamina challenge.

Except in rare occasions one of the players is going to have more stamina than the other. This forces the game into a particular dynamic: One of the players has to play quick points, whilst the other can go on at nauseam.

The fact that one player can last longer than the other will cause the least trained to be more aggressive and try to close more points.
At the same time, being more trained doesn't mean that you are going to be more accurate or smart in game, that's because even if you have more legs or breath you don't necessarily have more focus (even tho breathing properly cause you to have more oxygen in your brain, making you smarter and more accurate) this leaves the other player the chance of reverting the more trained player's advantage by forcing mistakes.

In fact the worst thing a highly trained player can do consists of forcing the rally to speed up.
If you have more stamina you can obviously maintain a high paced rally longer, yet by doing so you will give your opponent a chance to counter attack you and score quickly. Instead if you keep a normal pace and just wait for your opponent to make a mistake you'll have higher chances of winning and you won't risk anything.

On the other hand if you are the least trained player you should try to engage your opponent in quick rallies just to force him to make mistakes, allowing you to score quickly.

Obviously the more trained player will have the upper hand yet you can beat him at his own game by being smart and having great technical skills.

Sealing the deal: Keeping your nerves cool.

This bring us to the end of the match.
This is the time for the clutch comebacks and surprisingly long rallies with players that have no energy with the exception of the will to win.

For a deeply rooted psychological reason the last one or two points of a match have much greater importance than all of the others.

This has to do with our entitlement and our self-image, which determines what we think we should be able to do and what we think we can do.

Entitlement and self-image of course have a great importance throughout the match as they determine how are you going to perform in every moment of the rally.
That's because our mind tend to use concept as beliefs, self-fulfilling prophecies and habits to determine our behaviour.

Another factor is motivation, that is influenced by our skill, our likelihood of winning and our willingness to give it all (which is modulated by self-image and entitlement).

The last and more situational factor are the entitlement criterion: What we think we should have done (and have or haven't done) in order for us to deserve to win.

This are just some concepts that I'm surely going to expand in the future in order to apply them to squash and make sure you get the best out of them.

In the end keeping your nerves cool requires that you have the energy to play and the knowledge (whether it is proved by facts or sustained by belief) that you can do it. And, as always,  the only way to get result is to train and play hard.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Using the attacking boast

The attacking boast

Is a form of boast that has the purpose of scoring a point or forcing your opponent in the front corner.

The distinction between an attacking and a defensive boast consists of the trajectory of the ball:

  • In an attacking boast the ball is really low and it has the most speed possible, whilst a defensive boast is slow and high.

Learning the proper setting and target

Therefore to make a properly useful attacking boast you must learn the proper plate orientation and strength.
You can do this exercise by yourself (in the meantime working at your stamina and if you want on your drop shot), by doing boasts and drop shots, or with a partner, by alternating boast and cross-court.

Keep in mind that your target is the nick on the opposite side of the front wall.
Your boast should never bounce on the second side wall, otherwise it will give an advantage to your opponent.

The timing

On paper both boast and cross-court are weak shots. Those shots take more time than a drive to bounce twice, giving your opponent more time to react.
Yet those are the shots with which many players make the most point.
That's because by having the proper timing and possibly an ambiguous body language you can confuse your opponent and score quick easy points.

One of the most common situation is if you and your opponent are exchanging drives and you step toward the front wall and forestall the ball, in this situation if you don't make a volley you will probably be able to choose between a drive and a fast boast. This is the situation in which the attacking boast comes in hand.

What's my point here?

If you catch your opponent off guard by quickly changing your rhythm the attacking boast can be a really powerful shot.

I personally use the attacking boast often when i believe that my opponent is giving for granted that i will make another drive.
I think the boast is a really unbalanced shot and you should use it sporadically and not rely on it too much, even tho it provides a tiresome exercise for your opponent's knees, it has too many weak spot to be used constantly.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Let an in-depth look - Squash Rules

The Let

Whenever there is an obstruction to you reaching the ball, whenever your opponent doesn't let you reach the ball that you would have otherwise gotten, a Let is decided and the rally will be Re-done with the previous score and the previous positions.

Therefore a Let is assigned if your opponent doesn't allow you to reach the ball when it is your turn to do so, that's probably cause he will be inside of your movement trajectory.

Fine Distinction

If you move toward a direction, then move toward the actual direction of the ball but get obstructed by your opponent and don't reach the ball, you will not receive a let.
For a Let to be assigned you must have chosen the right direction toward the ball in the first place.
I.E. if you don't move for the ball in a proper way, you will not receive a Let, even if your opponent is in your way.

What I mean is that you must know where the ball is going and move properly, also you must realistically be able to reach the ball.

Other situation in which a Let is Assigned:

  • If you by making a boast that would reach the front wall, hit your opponent with the ball.
  • If the ball bounces off the back wall and you stop to avoid hitting your opponent (there's a finer distinction here that will require a post of its own)
  • If your opponents grab you, he will also receive a warning
  • If the ball breaks
  • If a potentially dangerous situation occurs such as when your opponent is close to you and you are not sure exactly where he is.
  • If your opponent is near but not inside your swing (if he would be inside that would be a stroke)

So those are the distinctions, any doubts? Comments? Please share them with me :)
-Train Hard

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Top mistakes in the game of squash

The mistakes of the game of squash - positive or negative?

In this post I'm going to share what I believe are the most common mistakes in squash, I think some of them are positive and you should try to make them as much as you can, other instead are just plain wrong and you should avoid them.

Top mistakes you should be making when playing squash.

1)Forestalling too much-being unprecise

In order the learn your own rhythm when playing squash, and to further enhance your skills you have to put yourself under increasing amounts of pressure.
The most consistent way to do so consists of trying to forestall as much shots as you can.
There are two ways in which you can increase the speed of the rally:     
  1. by hitting the ball sooner in respect of the time you are used to, you can try to hit the ball as soon as it bounces. 
  2. by doing as many volleys as you can, you can make a volley by simply making a step toward the ball. Make sure that you racket is ready!

2)Failing the drop shot

You should be consistently relying on the drop shot to score.
Whenever you try to make a drop shot and fail, pat yourself on the back and remember that you are working on your most important skill.

3)Not moving enough.

Whenever you are in an uncomfortable position, due to the fact that you are not moving enough, realize that you are doing the right thing, you just need more time to build the skill.

Top mistakes you should avoid.

1)Using the cross court too much  

The cross court can be very effective when playing against club players, however top players will instantly capitalize against that shot because it "opens" the court to them.

2)Not trying to close the point      

On one side it is really important that you constantly use the drive to build your game, on the other hand if you don't try to score you will not nourish your killer instinct and your natches will become dry and without passion.

3)Getting strokes

Your shots should be developed to the point in which you don't get any stroke against you.
Anything less than that is simply unacceptable.

4)Running too much.

If you are a fit club player you are probably winning many matches due to the fact that you outrun your opponent and by doing so you don't win because you play better technically, but because your opponent runs out of fuel.
Eventually you will find someone as fit as you with better racket skills and he will demolish you.
Try instead to learn proper court movement so that you move effectively, this will not only give you more stamina, it will make you a better tactical player.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Stroke: An in-depth look - Squash Rules -

The Stroke

Whenever there is an impediment to you making a winning shot, caused by the fact that your opponent is in front of you or inside of your racket swing space. A point will be assigned to you. This judgement is called stroke.

A winning shot is a shot that goes directly into the front wall.
Therefore everytime your opponent throws a shot near himself, and you are behind him, you will receive a point and a stroke will be assigned against your opponent.

When does a stroke gets assigned

A stroke can be assigned for many reasons such as:
  1. If you hit your opponent.
  2. if the conditions for a stroke are applicable after the ball bounces away from the back wall provided that you don't rotate yourself (I.e. you keep facing your opponent, this typically happens if your opponent makes a really terrible shot). 
  3. If your opponent is inside of your swing when you are making the shot.
  4. If you hit him with the racket after making the shot, the stroke will be assigned provided that you haven't done it on purpose (I.e. you made a regular, 180 degree maximum swing.)

Monday, 5 August 2013

Keeping the distance from the ball

Keeping your distance from the ball.

Video Tutorial

Staying away from the ball in squash is a crucial skill that you need to develop

The benefits are:
  1. You will move less
  2. You will hit the ball more powerfully
  3. You will have more control of the ball

By having your arm extended you will have more power and control and you will move less.
By moving less you will reach the ball faster and this will provide you two benefits: 
  • You will put more pressure on your opponent and you will be able to forestall more shots 
  • You will be able to stay in the center more often and more easily, stacking a great advantage on your side.

How do you learn the proper distance from the ball?

It comes with conscious practice.
First of all you need to learn the proper impact point which is just a little under the highest point of the racket.
You can actually feel a good ball from a bad ball by feeling the bounce that it does on the racket plate.

In order for you to learn the distance from the ball in squash you first have to train by standing still near the front wall. When you do so, try to stay as far away as possible from the ball, don't move closer to it, instead try to extend yourself. 

After you get an idea of the distance from the ball, try to increase it.
One of the best exercise to help you keep the distance from the ball consists of making drives and systematically doing a bad shot near the center so that you have to move in order to keep the proper distance,  you can do this both by yourself or with a coach.

You can reach the second level of this skill by practicing drives in the back of the court, every time you make a shot, make sure to touch the T line so that you are sure that you are away from the corner, then try to move as less as possible and maintain the ball in the back corner.

The third level of knowing the distance from the ball requires that you learn court movement.
When you'll learn court movement you will not only move less and more effectively, you will also hit better shots and generally be more effective on court.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Let & Stroke - Simple definition and distinctions - Squash Rules - Video tutorial

Let & Stroke

Squash rules

Squash have few simple rules.
Let and stroke and the distinction between them is probably the most important.
I made three videos: A simple quickstart and two in depth on both Let and Stroke.

The Distinction between Let and Stroke

Here's a simple distinction that will help you better understand these two concepts:
Let is about restarting the rally because your opponent didn't Let you go for the ball or some interruption occurred.

Stroke has to do with impeding the shot, your opponent didn't allow you to make you shot by staying inside of your swing (which is a risky thing to do) or by placing himself inside of your ball's trajectory.

Watch the video to better understand these concepts

Video Tutorial

Extra: Bonus video. When Strokes look like Lets, when Lets look like No Let and when No Let looks like Let

As you've seen from this video is not always easy to decide, the purpose of the following articles will be to make it easy for you to understand the subtle differences

If you'd like to better understand squash and improve your game at a high pace you can download my free e-book by joining my newsletter. Click here

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Using the "correct" and "wrong" step when playing - Squash footwork - Video tutorial

Squash Court Movement

Moving on court is a skill that must be developed constantly.

Yet, especially for new players there is a controversy: "Which foot should they put in front of the in order to make a correct shot?"
The answer depends on the level of the player.

Why a beginner must use the "correct" foot

The reason why I teach to always place the right foot in front of you when in the left side of the court and the opposite on the other side is that this way you are forced to rotate your body, this way, coherently with the comprehensive shot theory principle, you will make a drive which when you are a beginner is the most important skill to work on.

Now, when you are a skilled player you should simply stop caring about which foot to place. Especially when playing.

When playing you should not think about which foot are you using

What I mean is that when playing you will have already many other things to care about and the usage of your foot should be simply out of your conscious thoughts.

This is why I suggest you to train in order to be able to play all the shots with the same accuracy using both foot in front of you.

Learning to switch foots will help you for the following reasons:

  • You can use both feet
  • You can move faster by using the "wrong" foot
  • You can deceive your opponent
  • You are prepared for unusual situations
  • You can simply stop caring about which foot you use

Actionable exercises to work on your footwork

Make exercises in which you use both feet, for example you can make long drives that reach the backwall and at every shot you can change foot so that you are hitting one drive while having the left foot as your front foot and then switching and having the right foot as your front foot.

Otherwise you can simply make a series of shots in which you using the "correct" foot and another series with the "wrong" one.

Squash Footwork Video Tutorial

Thursday, 20 June 2013

How to retrieve the ball from the back wall :The side step technique - Video tutorial

Retrieving the ball from the back wall

To retrieve the ball from the backwall you must abide by many principles, such as:

  • Wait for the ball to bounce out of the backwall before moving for it
  • extend yourself to the maximum capacity
  • Bend your knees
  • Shorten the forearm to increase the space for your swing
  • Position yourself so that you can make a drive
The #1 mistake squash players make is that they move in a way that makes their body face the back corner, by doing so they cannot make a drive.

A huge problem when learning how to retrieve the ball from the backwall is that you need to stay far away, yet you have to be close enough to actually retrieve the ball.

A easy to implement solution I've found to this problem consists of making a side step toward the backwall.

The side step

Try this:
When moving for the ball (remember that you must move in a way that makes you stay in the center relative to the sidewalls and then eventually make a side step), when you are close to the backwall, make a side step toward the backwall so that you are really close to it, and then make a step toward the sidewall.

By doing so you will be able to make a drive which is the foundation of all of squash.

Here's the three step to follow:
  1. Move for the ball
  2. Make a side step toward the backwall
  3. Make the final step toward the sidewall.
By following these three steps you will be closer to the ball and it will be easier to retrieve it.

Video tutorial 

Friday, 14 June 2013

How to increase the strength of your shots - 3 tips to improve the strength and speed of your racket swing Video tutorial

Three Tips To Increase The Strength Of Your Shots

Video tutorial

If you have a grasp on the basics of squash, you understand that all the fundamentals are intertwined.
What I mean is that if you move correctly, you will tend to make more accurate shots, if you make accurate shots you'll tend to use the proper tactics of squash and score points whenever you can.

Therefore the easiest way to work on your shot is to work on everything XD

Now, let's get to the meat of this game:

To increase the strength of your shots:
  1. Create a stable base
  2. Open way before the shot
  3. Stay away from the ball

Create a stable base

If you place your legs in a way that makes you grounded you will be able to put more of your momentum and weight into the ball.
The best way to create a stable base consists of making a sidelong step and then bend your knees.

The most common error here is that many squash players tend to make their final step to the front of them, just like if they were on a balance beam.

Instead focus on creating a large base, like a circle.

Make sure to bend your knees and place as much of your weight on the front foot (the one you place in front of you when making a shot).

Open way before the shot i.e. prepare the racket soon

This is so simple and important and yet most of us don't do it.
If you place the racket over your should and then swing it you will use gravity to enhance your strength, but this just one side of the coin.

In fact I recommend opening the shot as soon as you know in which side the ball will go because by being ready to make a shot whenever you need you will be able to capitalize on the occasions that will happen during the rally.

I think opening is the most important foundation to all of squash because it allows you more choices which will lead you to dominate the rally.

Stay as far as you can from the ball

As i said in my introduction to squash video you don't have to walk on half of the court.
That's because if you extend yourself by moving properly and extending your arm you can reach the side wall from the center with just one step.

Plus if you stay far away from the ball your racket will have more momentum and therefore your shot will be stronger.

This is critical because many of the mistakes squash players make in court are due to the fact that they stay too close to the ball.

A rapid way to change this bad habit consists of always touching the red line in the center with at least on of your feet, this way you will build a habit of always coming back to the center relatively to the side walls which is more important than coming to the T.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Blindspots and the importance of being coached

Why you must be coached

This game is really fast.
Holding on to a single paradigm can give us a great perspective to start, yet if we are not open to changing our minds and our tactics we can easily held back our progress due to blindspots.

For example I've learned that is always best to make a drive to put your opponent behind and then close the deal only when he makes a bad shot.
Yet many of my opponent never make a clear mistake, they instead tend to make cross-courts which is a way to "escape" from a loosing drive battle.
If (and this is what I'm working on right now) I make a step toward the front and forestall the shot, instead of letting the cross-court pass by and then make a drive, it doesn't matter if I make a really accurate shot or just a decent shot. If I place the ball in the front of the court by forestalling the cross-court I score all the time.

Therefore, yes I'm using the drive to cause my opponent to make a cross-court (which by adopting this new perspective can be considered a mistake) and then score by forestalling it.

This is really cool. Yet only by adopting an open paradigm can I learn this skill.
In fact a friend is helping me, yelling me every time I let a ball slip.

What is a blindspot?

That's a really interesting thing: since for me it's automatic to let the ball pass by and retrieve it in the back wall, I don't even see the ball pass.
I really don't see it. It's like the ball disappear for my brain and the only way I can hit it is by going in the back of the court.

This is an example of a blindspot.
It means my brain is so used to waiting that it doesn't even bother to check if I can hit the ball by forestalling it.

A blindspot is a piece of knowledge my brain is taking for granted even tho I actually have no conscious knowledge of it.

Systematic Blindspot Elimination - I.E. Why you need a coach

The only way to keep improving in this game is by doing the hardest thing, swallow my pride and ask for others what are my weaknesses.
Now, generally some people are conscious of this or they understand it unconsciously.
If you talk to someone that can beat you, it doesn't necessarily mean that his hints will be useful.

You should listen to all advices and use only those that are really actionable.

For example in my case if somebody tell me: You should watch me and realize I make a cross-court.
This advice is useless, i know he makes the cross-court, I have to work on the response to that Stimuli.

A good advice is one like: When I make a cross-court I do it because I'm loosing the exchange and every time you wait for the ball to bounce off the back wall I feel like you are giving me a hand, you should always make a step toward the ball and forestall it. This way you will score.

This is a great hint, because it implies what is not working, the whole paradigm of the situation and what to do to fix it.

If you have a coach you should train at least once a week with him and he should watch you play also.
I believe 90% of the progress in this game can be achieved alone.
Yet is the final 10%, the difference that makes the difference, that matters when we talk about high level players.

-Train hard!

If you are starting out and need to grasp the basics , movement patterns you can check out my free e-book full with actionable tactics and exercise to work on your squash

Friday, 7 June 2013

Deception in the game of squash: Video tutorial on shots deception

4 Styles of deception in squash

Video tutorial

There are 4 techniques that I want to share with you:

  1. Vary the time in which you make the shot
  2. Alternate the "correct" and the "wrong" foot
  3. Use the wrist to change shot whilst making the same swing
  4. Move your body in a "wrong-tale" way

Deception in squash can be used in many different ways.
In the video I'm talking about five techniques you can implement right now.

How to learn deception in squash

-Vary the time at which you make the shot.

If you watch the ball closely you will realize that you tend to hit it in the same time, what I mean is that you are used to hit the ball at the same height, if you focus on changing this habit you can gain a tremendous advantage.

That's because if hit the ball as soon as it bounces you will put an enormous amount of pressure on your opponent.
Instead if you wait for the last second your opponent will have probably already reached the T and since he will have his feet totally on the ground, it will be harder for him to start moving at a rapid pace.

-Alternate the left and right foot

This is a really interesting tactic because changing your stance in this game can also change the kind of shots you can make.
By alternating the left and right foot when you make a shot you will give your opponent a hard time in trying to read you.
Remember that when you are in the front of the court you should use as many shots as you can such as:
-Cross Court
-Drop Shot
By making so you assure that your opponent won't expect the same shot ans therefore it will be hard for him to forestall you.

-Use the wrist to make different shots using the same swing.

This is big and very effective.
You can change the shot you are going to make by simply tweaking your wrist.
It is easier done than said.
By using the wrist you will be able to make three different shots whilst making the same swing.
-Drive -> Don't use the wrist
-Cross Court ->Use the wrist at the end
-Boast-> Rotate the wrist so that the racket is facing the side wall (i.e. it's head is pointing to you)

Combine the usage of the wrist with this other simple tactic and you are going to score much more points!
When the ball is near the front court, raise the racket like you are going to throw a strong shot and then make a drop shot.
This works pretty often because your opponent will react as if you are going to make a deep shot.

-Move your body so that it conveys that you are going to make a different shot than the one you make.

This works great if you are going to make a drive, you can rotate your shoulders toward the center of the court and your arm on the opposite direction so that it creates the illusion that you are making a cross-court when you actually make a drive.

Check this tactics in the video for more information!

End Note
This article is full of information that you may or may not know.
If you want to deepen the knowledge of your squash you can download our free e-book here

Thursday, 30 May 2013

What to do if you throw a ball in the center

What should you do if your ball comes back to the center.

This is the other side of the perspective that i talked about in the Triangle Theory Article.
What i believe is that you must always move in a way that allows you to rapidly come to the center, whenever you throw  a ball that comes back to the center you must run twice as fast and surpass your opponent and stay to his side so that if he makes a drop shot you can retrieve that ball.

Of course by doing so you will be at risk if your opponent makes a perfectly calculated drive, yet it is better to counter with a slow defencive boast than to give the point right away if your opponent makes a drop shot.

The idea is that you must be in the nearest place to the center.

Physically talking if your opponent is in the center you cannot go there, but you can come as close as you can to it if you go over your opponent to his side.

From that position you will have many more choices than to wait behind your opponent.
In fact the more you are stale on your feet the harder will be for you to move.

Instead from up in the court you will have a chance to forestall your opponent's shot (if he makes a drive), you will easily retrieve a drop shot and if your opponent makes a cross court you will actually gain an advantage.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Squash Tactics Video Tutorial

The Basic Tactics Of Squash

Squash is a fast paced game and you must first understand this game in order to play it well.

The basic tactics explained in the video are:

-Always come back to the centre

The centre is the nearest point to all the corners, when you are playing such a good squash that you are leading the game you will find that you are in the centre most of the time.
Yet playing well is useless if you don't have the habit of always coming back to the centre no matter what.

You see, if you don't always try to come back to the centre, there will be a time in which your opponent (by seeing you) will capitalise on this occasion and score.

When i talk about coming back to the centre i don't necessarily talk about going in the T.
There are times in which staying in the T can be harmful, for example if you make a strong drive that bounces high off the back wall.

Anyway although you don't always need to come to the T you must always stay in the centre relative to the side walls.
This is because you are always just one step from the side wall. Instead if you stay in one side of the court you are giving aways a great advantage to your opponent.

So as i teach you in my court movement tutorial: Always come to the centre relative to the side walls, and eventually come to the T.

-Use the Drive efficiently

The drive is the meat of this game.
By properly using this shot you will always force your opponent on the back of the court.

What you must understand is that the drive is not necessarily a shot made to score a quick point, it is a shot used to build your game.

Use it as a foundation.

The drive works like this:
You always make a drive, no matter what your opponent makes.
This way your opponent will have to go into the back corner and you will be able to control the centre of the court.
When you are in control of the T and therefore in control of the game you just have to keep using the drive until your opponent makes a bad shot.

Then it is time for the long short alternation tactic.

-Alternate long and short shots

The most basic tactics of squash states: Throw the ball in the corners, always where your opponent is not.

I'd change this tactic and suggest that you make many drives and whenever your opponent makes a shot that is not good (check my triangle theory for in depth explanation of the geometry behind a good or a bad shot) you simply make a drop shot.

This is the most simple yet most consistent tactic in the game.

Use the drive -> force your opponent in the corner -> make a drop shot. Wash/ Rinse/ Repeat.

The way squash works is that you and your opponent are on what is called PAR in golf until one of you makes a shot that is better than the one of the other.

Whenever this happens one player will be in disadvantage, he will actually have a little delay on the ball in respect to the player in advantage.

The way the delay gets managed depends on both players.

As a general rule if one player makes a great drive that is aimed at the back corner the game returns to a par or the table gets turned.

What i suggest to you is that every time your opponent is in delay you speed up the game a little so that the delay will actually cause an error.

-Watch your opponent

Watching your opponent is really crucial in two important ways:

  • To understand what shot will he be doing
  • To decide what shot you want to do

When playing at a low-medium level you can watch the body of your opponent, in fact the body is a accurate indicator of which shot is going to be played.

Instead when you play at an advanced level i suggest that you only watch the ball. That's because one of the pros's aim is to always fake their body communication.

So, whenever you are on court:
Always watch the ball, when you have to play it and when you have already played it.
When your opponent is going to make a shot always be aware of where the ball will go.

This is the crucial point. After your opponent makes a shot, you just need a millisecond to understand where the general direction of the ball is. As i suggested in the court philosophy article you should move in an way that leaves no room for error. 

The great new tweak i suggest you add is that when you are moving for the ball, you should turn your head to watch where your opponent is.
This ways you will know which is the best shot for the occasion.

-Be unpredictable

Easy said, hard done.
To be unpredictable is hard to explain, i suggest that you make sure to alternate some shots at specific points.

For example when you are near the front corner the standard moves are the drop shot and the cross court. But you can also do an attacking boast or a lob.

As a general rule do two of the standard shot and then change to something else.

This way your opponent won't be able to read you as an open book.

If you always watch your opponent and mix things up you will find it pretty easy to dominate on court.

Another shot that i love is the attacking boast when your opponent makes a cross-court or a drive.

There are situations in which your opponent makes a shot that is not good enough to force you in the back and you can make the boast in the meantime when your opponent is recovering to the T.
If used with moderation it usually gets an easy point.

Another shot that is surprising is the cross-court from the back wall done at the last second.
If you wait to retrieve a ball from the back wall your opponent will generally assume you are going to make a boast or a drive. If you instead move your body at the last second and make a cross-court you will surprise your opponent.

To wrap up i recommend you to play with consistency and always do in game what you practise in training.
Don't try to be a phenomenon, because the best is the one that has all the fundamentals down.

Friday, 17 May 2013

How To Make A Lob Video Tutorial

How to make a lob

What is a lob?

A lob is a slow and high shot that goes from that is typically done from the front area of the court and lands in the back corner.

It can be done both as a drive and as a cross court.

How do you make a lob?

To perform a lob you first have to make sure that your racket plate is facing upwards, then proceed to aim at the highest point on the front wall and make a feeble shot.

The lob is well known for the fact that if it is not retrieved with a volley it will typically score a point.

In fact you have to make sure that the ball reaches the far end of the back of the court and doesn't bounce from the back wall.

When Should I Make A Lob?

The lob is a funny shot, and it is also lethal is properly executed.
You should make a lob in two particular situations:

  1. When you are near the front wall and should make a drop shot, you can opt for a lob to mix things up
  2. When your opponent makes a drop shot and he is behind you, in order to avoid getting a stroke, you can make a lob. This will force your opponent on the back of the court.

Extra: Only for readers: Exercises for working on the lob.

Other than the lame exercises that you can do by yourself by making a boast and then making a lob, you can find a partner and do this amazing exercise:

Both players have to start from the T:
  • One player will make the lob (and therefore play in the front side of the court)
  • The other will make the volley

You can do this exercise and practise both a drive lob or a cross-court lob.
The player that does the volley will have a fun and hard time trying to catch your balls, he can do both a volley boast or a drop-shot (both on the same side of the court and in the opposite side of the court).

I suggest you try this exercise, it will be a lot of fun!

Free 15 page E-book and Newsletter!