Friday, 22 February 2013

Squash Tips Video # 4 - How to retrieve the ball from the backwall

How to retrieve a ball from the backwall

SquashTips Video #4 

The ability to retrieve the ball from the backwall is the milestone in the  great path to mastery in squash.

In order to be able to retrieve the ball from the backwall you must have already learned:
  1. The Proper Grip
  2. How to Open the shot
  3. How to make a great swing.

Technical explanation

These are the two new skills you will need to add to the 3 mentioned before in odrder to retrieve a shot from the backwall:
  1. Stay as far away from the corner and the ball as you can.
  2. Hit the ball after it has bounced from the backwall

1)Stay in the center and keep your distance

 Extending the arm and hitting the ball as far as you can is a great way to move less, this habit must be implemented when working on your shot. The less you move the better.

To stay as far as possible from the backcorner make it a habit to stay in the center in respect to the side walls, simply keep a feet on the T line. This way you're sure to keep the distance from the ball and if needed you can extend yourself.

2)Wait for the ball to bounce before moving

Learning the proper timing to hit the ball requires a ot of practice, but with time you will be ablr to predict correctly the bounce of the ball and therefore you will be able to act accordingly to it.

As a general rule, always hit the ball at the last moment after it has bounced from the backwall.
This technique has many advantages:
  1. It makes you stay away from the corner untill the last moment
  2. The later you make the shot the farer the ball will be from the backwall
  3. The farther away the ball from the backwall, the less you will have to move.

Step by step how to

You will need time to get used to how the ball bounces off the wall.
To start throw the ball with your hand against the backwall and try to hit the ball with the simplest shot you can make.

When you are comfortable in doing so, begin to stay on the T line and make the step toward the side wall only when the ball is bouncing off the side wall.

Learning the proper timing will require a lot of practice, but if you conciously work on it you'll soon realize that you can reduce the size of the court on which you actually have to walk on.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Squash Tips #3 The swing + Video

How to make and train a perfect swing in squash

So the key concepts when learning the swing in squash are:

  1. The simpler the better
  2. The impact point is always in the same place

The simpler the better

The easiest way to make the swing is also the best one.
The point is to have the least resistance so that you can have the maximum result with the least effort.

To do so use the shoulder to generate power, that's because it is the bigger muscle you use and the distancefrom the racket gives you more leverage which generates more momentum.
That's also why you shoul always make the shot with the arm as extended as possible. (for now focus on using the shoulder)

So, use the shoulder to make the swing.

Another key concept that is intertwined with opening consist of the usage of the wrist.
Simply don't use it.
The wrist is used a lot by professionals, but thats because they master all the required skills.

When starting out instead you must prepare the wrist when you are preparing the shot (opening) and then leave it like that and don't move it.

The forearm must be relaxedly exetend, don't rely on it to generate power, simply leave it extended.

The impact point of the swing is always in the same place

This is very important because it means the following:
  1. Your body position determines where the shot will go
  2. You must move in a certain way to make a good shot
  3. You can learn the "proper" way of making the swing and then change it to trick your opponent

The Forehand Swing

In squash the swing must be prepared before you do it, this means bringing the racket up.
When the racket is up, your arm pit will be opened.
To make the swing simply close the armpit, extend your arm and hit the ball as far from you as you can.

The best swing is the simplest.

The Backhand Swing

The backhand swing is a little more complex.
That's because you have to hit the ball a bit on your side, not in front of you.
To open the swing simply close forearm and armpit, it's like you're hugging yourself.

To make the backhand swing simply open the forearm and then open the armpit.

If're starting to play squash now, simply use the shoulder to make the shot and leave the arm extended.
I suggest you to watch the video to understand.

The exercise to work on the swing

Simply stay in front of the wall and make the ball bounce by making the shot.
Use your elbow to generate power.
This simple exercise will profitably teach you how to play untill you reach the back wall, which will be the topic of our next week's video.

Train Hard!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Squash Tips #2 Opening + Video

Opening the shot

Open means being ready to make the shot.
To open mean that you are ready to hit the ball.

It is such a common mistake not to prepare the shot before moving toward the ball.

Why opening?

Squash is a fast game, so fast that preparation is more important than execution, that's because if you prepare your shot in time, you cannot fail.
Hence opening is the basic foundation upon building the skillset of the squash champion.

The most common mistake: putting the racket up and not opening

There is a difference between opening and putting your racket up, it is not aesthetic but practical.

If you put your racket up and when you go for the ball take the racket down and then make the swing you are wasting your energy and getting less by investing more.

To learn how to open you need to use your proprioceptory skills to understand when the movement is correct and when it is not.

How to open

To open simply place your racket at the impact point, it is the point in which you hit the ball.
Then turn your wrist in a ways that makes your plate turned up (so that your ball have depth) and then leave your wrist like that. Stop moving it.

Then open your arm-pit for the forehand or close it for the backhand, the backhand also requires you to turn your forearm near you. If you find it helpful just leave the racket on your shoulder.

From this point you're ready to hit the ball.

How to make opening a habit

To make opening a habit you need to consciously focus on this skill.
The easiest exercise consists of staying in the T and before making a side step (mimicking that you want to make a drive) raise your racket in a way that let's you open.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Squash Tips: Exercises to improve efficiently

Variability is the best thing

When training in squash we have two problems:

  1. We have the ego and our self image that makes us tend to do the thing we already know.
  2. We need to find our blind spots so that we work on the skills we need to improve.

So here's a list of exercises that will take you occupied for the months ahead.

Solo Exercises

When training alone we must always be leaning toward the edge and do the things we are kind of average on.

The problem is that as the ball keeps on staling on the floor we tend to start doing the things we already know how to do (for example 50% of player remains stuck on doing long backwall drives.).

Instead of creatively avoiding the training, simply try to do easier things, remember that strength is just a tiny factor in squash, instead control and precision are definitive factor hence you must work on them more.

I'm going to write on-goingly harder exercises, i suggest you to check them all out since you can never know what will work for you.

What to focus on

When starting never demand too much from your performance, you must simply choose a skill to focus on and make sure you train on that particular skill.

Since you have to make conscious effort to improve your technique it's always good to work on only one skill at a time, when you are good at that it will become automatic.

Of course the outcomes (i.e. depth and precision of the ball) are important but you should be focusing on using the right technique not on doing great shots, they will eventually come natural.

I made an in depth article about managing your learning curve for newbies.

For advanced player what you must be focused on when making the exercises is to always fine tune the things you already do. 
For example if you're good at making drives you then must focus on walking less and extending yourself more, make a series of drives and always touch the T line with a feet before hitting the ball again.

Learn to really catch a ball from the backwall by making slow drives and making it really hard for you.

So let's get into the list!

The Exercises

All these exercises are developed with the usage of the babystepping technique.

1)Start by dribbling the ball against the front wall

When starting just focus on feeling the ball on the racket, try to maintain control over it.
Make sure you use the elbow to generate power and try to maintain a firm wrist

2)Develop depth in court and try to make the ball go into the serving box

When your coordination will improve you'll find it easier to make faster shots, just keep doing them until you reach the back wall.

3)Stay near the backwall and hit the deep drive.

This is a great test for your racket skills because you need to open, move and swing the racket correctly in order to retrieve a ball from the backwall

4)Learn how to retrieve the ball from the backwall with efficiency and hit the deep backwall drive

Start simple. If you want to train simply throw the ball onto the backwall and start to get a feeling of how to do it there are four main keys:
  1. Take the racket UP
  2. Stay as far as you can from the back wall
  3. Wait for the ball to bounce out of it even if it means it is lower
  4. Bend your knees

5)Make a series of drive on one side then make a cross-court and go on the other side.

This exercise is important to build power and stamina when making shots, try to do as many as you can.

6)Train the volley with the babystepping principles

Stay near the front wall and just hit the ball, make a step back when you can make 50 shots in a row.

When you are able to play a decent volley, alternate the volley with strong deep drives and try to always forestall the volley shot as much as you can.

7)Drive -> Boast -> Drop

Stay near the back wall and play drives, then make a boast (start with a high slow one) and go near the front wall, do the best drop you can and try to retrieve it. 
Then keep doing drives to go back to the backwall, you can make the volley in this moment. 
Repeat for as long as you can.

8)Create your own,

 You can add a cross court to exercise number 8 or use the lob instead of the drive. The important thing is that you mix it up to work on whatever skill you need.

9)The butterfly

The butterfly is a fantastic volley exercise in which you place yourself on the T and play volleys near the angle between the front and side wall in a way that makes the ball bounces back (hit the front wall before the side wall).
This exercises makes you work on the speed at which you open and the precision of your volley.

When you are able to play the butterfly consistently try to change the shots, alternating from "cross-courts" to  volley drives and then come back to the butterfly.

Exercises for two players

When playing in two the most important thing is clarity, both players must agree on which skill to work on otherwise it will be a mess and the training won't give it's fruits.

1) Long drives 

You can replace running on the treadmill with this exercise: Always go back to the T and give a hard time to your opponent by throwing the ball in the back corner.
When doing this you can focus on different skills such as:
  • Precision
  • Depth of the ball
  • Strength and Speed of the ball
  • Moving as less as possible 
  • Maintaining control of the T
  • Playing volley to keep high pressure
I recommend you to train at least 30 minutes per week on this specific routine.
You can also make variation in which you can play the drop or cross-court after a certain number of rallies

2) Boast vs Cross-Court

This exercise is a knee breaker, one player is in the front corner and the other is in the opposite back corner.
The player in the back can only play boast, while the one in the front can choose between cross-court and drop.
If it makes a drop, the player in the back has to choose to play a cross court or another drop.

3)Only long shot games

Make a game in which you can play only shots that bounces over the middle line. 
It's a great way to work on the depth of your ball.