Most sports have techniques to learn and skills to master, and squash is no different. While most participants get involved for a fun way to stay fit, a good number of players have a competitive streak and want to get better and better at the game.
Today we’re going to take a look at some common errors made by players, and how they can be overcome over time to raise your game and continue to improve. Some are very simple to correct in no time at all, while others can take years to fully master.
Taking Time To Warm Up
Warming up is important in most sports, but squash is one of the best examples to avoid injury. The body needs time to adjust from being relatively inactive to being able to accommodate the strain of the movement sports can create.
With squash specifically, the game requires a lot of sudden bursts of energy to get around the court quickly and return the ball in time. Failing to warm up before the tempo of the game rises can significantly increase the chances of injuries to muscles, joints and ligaments.
Even a short warm up of a few minutes can reduce the risk of sudden painful injuries, so is highly advisable.
Recognizing Your Fitness
We cannot all be Olympic grade athletes, and most of us would settle for simply being able to maintain a jog for more than a few minutes.
Squash is incredibly demanding physically, especially when played competitively. It’s actually one of the few sports that is tough to play very gently – the nature of the game means that you need to put a certain level of effort in to keep the ball in play before the second bounce. Similar sports like tennis and badminton can be played by beginners and those playing for fun at a much slower tempo, while squash has a quicker baseline speed to keep a rally going.
If you are starting from a relatively unfit place, and in particular if your opponent is in better shape than you are, keep that in mind. Just like people recognize in tennis, good shot selection and strategic play can go a long way in overcoming a shortfall in fitness.
Over time, as you get in better shape, that practice in using the brain will also grown and pay dividends in improving your game, and you’ll be physically capable of moving faster and playing for longer too before tiring.
While fitness improvements and learning to warm up well can see short term results, mastering shots is something that can take a lifetime in the court. Having said that, it’s not a simple switch from beginner to world class. Gradually practicing your forehand and backhand swing will quickly help you get a feel for instinctively striking the ball.
There are two key elements to playing the ball, with the first being selecting the shot you wish to play and maneuvering yourself into position, and the second striking the ball correctly with the racket. That impulsive and spontaneous instinct developing will allow the whole process to go from overwhelming to do in the time available to becoming almost automatic as you become more comfortable with the game on court.
Gripping The Racket
Holding the racket correctly is important, and that should come as a surprise to no-one. The best way to explain how to hold a squash racket is visually, so rather than put it into words, let’s use a video by squash coach Philip…
As you can see, holding the racket isn’t rocket science, but being aware of how to do so properly means avoiding bad habits getting ingrained in your game as a beginner and becoming difficult to shake off as you improve.
Good grip on a squash racket means that you’re able to execute the maximum range of shots, and you’ll know the racket just ‘feels right’ in your hand as you line up your next shot.
Due to the sheer speed that the ball travels around the court, there’s one simple rule that every player should follow for the best chance of getting to the next ball to hit – Return To The T!
No, it’s not a sequel to the last blockbuster film, return to the T simply means you need to make your way back to the middle of the court after playing your shot.
The T is usually a red intersection of the left ant right court with the mid-line, so you’re aiming to be mid way between the service boxes on the mid-line of the court ready to move to take the next shot. The theory here is that’s the position where you know that you’re minimizing the furthest you’ll need to run to get to the ball, in turn having the maximum possible time to choose your shot and play the ball.
Eyes On The Game
A common mistake newer player make is watching their opponent. Rather than getting distracted by what the other player is doing, you should always watch the ball. That means you’re getting the quickest possible fee for where it’s heading – in other words where you need to be!
Power is Important, But Not Always High Power
It can be tempting to always hit the ball as hard as possible, but remember that you’re trying to beat your opponent. That means that a range of power in hitting the ball is available to you. By all means, if the opponent is stranded near the front wall, giving the ball a terrific whack might mean they cant get to it in time, but conversely, if they’re at the back of the court, a gentle short to leave them scrambling to reach it may be more appropriate.
Use Your Brain
While we already touched on this relating to fitness, any sport is as much about strategy as it is about fitness, strength and experience. Of course, all of those things can work together, but without strategy, the full synergy will not be achieved.
Many players rise to greatness against their opponents by having a solid and reliable game plan, and that’s something that can be unique to each player. By understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be wonderfully placed to get the best out of your game, and emerge victorious against players you thought were out of your (squash) league!
The Squashy Summary
Taking your time to build good habits on the squash court won’t just make you a more formidable player, it will also make you safer on the court. Taking the time for spend a few minutes warming up with a low paced knock about or doing a few stretches could save you weeks or even months off the court recovering from a painful injury.