Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Improve Rotating Drives and Length Games

I've noticed some bad habits evolve from doing repetitive length drills. Of course these drills are important to practice, but I believe they can be improved by slightly adjusting the drill. The challenge for almost anyone doing these repetitive drills is that most people begin moving too early and often start moving backwards before their opponent has struck the ball. There are a number of damaging things occurring when this happens. People don't watch their opponent as closely as they would in a match setting, they are also not moving properly, they will be at the ball with more time than normal and perhaps most damaging is that they are giving up the T and the potential to volley before their opponent even hits a good enough shot to force them to the back.

The first thing you can try is to just use your imagination, try pretending that on every drive your opponent could hit anywhere. This is a simple approach, but I find can be challenging to maintain for a lengthy period of time. So if this simple idea doesn't work for you here are some adjustments you can make to your length drills and your game will improve. 

1. Your opponent has a boast option. If you get it back with a drive (or cross court length) then you now have the boast option and they have to watch closely each shot because you have this in your pocket. 

2. If you are doing straight drives only, try allowing a crosscourt length off a volley from in front of your opponent. Although this will still lead to some issues with moving before your opponent hits the ball, at least you both will be holding your ground on the T and not moving backwards before your opponent hits the ball. 

3. Use the actual T, yes right up on the T. Having to move this far up will accomplish two thing. You will not time to move back before your opponent hits the ball and you will have to move efficiently into and out of the back corner. Although this may not solve the issue of watching, it should improve your movement. 

4. One player can hit straight or crosscourt length, the other just straight length. This will be challenging for the player that can only hit straight and will force them to watch, but it can also let the player hang back on the T. So if you try this drill and you are the one hitting just straight drives, try and fight for the T position and don't give it up so easily! 

5. Length game plus 1 short shot per rally each. This will make both player watch closely and if they are hanging back on the T then take advantage of this by attacking short. 

6. Length game plus you can go short on the volley. This is a popular one and a good one. No hanging back or getting lazy on this one. 

7. Length game and you get points for every volley you hit. Although the front of the court cannot be used here you are in a race to get to 21 volleys. This makes both players fight for the T and because it is competitive it seems to make people watch closer and anticipate. 

8. Last one is toughest. One player can hit anything the other can only hit straight drives. Winner of the previous rally can only hit straight drives in the following rally. 8b. Can also do the same but one player can only hit straight or crosscourt length and their opponent can hit anything. 

Try some of these drills/condition games for a few weeks. Have patience when trying these because if you have been doing just rotating drives or length games it will take a while to adjust and break out of your bad habits. Remember doing these drills for a few weeks or months will enable you to watch and anticipate better, move more efficiently, cover the court better, will allow you to volley more, and of course improve your length!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Long Term Tactical Development

I believe that most juniors don't think about what style/type of player they want to become. I believe this is important to discuss with kids early in their development. How do they enjoy playing? How does their coach play or like you to play? How do the top players at their club/school and other role models play? Which shots are they have success with will also influence how they develop. The challenge here is that winning and losing often interferes with how a kid is learning to play. Kids make mistakes on a specific shot and avoid it. Making mistakes is an essential part of learning and I feel it's how these mistakes are interpreted that mould the future of the athlete playing style.

When I play I don't get upset when I make a mistake if I feel it was the correct shot to play. I tell myself something positive like 'good choice' or 'stay aggressive' meanwhile I get more upset at myself for making a poor decision even if it results in winning the rally. And I know with the number of decisions one makes in a match you are bound to make a number of good and and so good choices, so understanding and accepting this is important. Just learn from it and refocus before the next point.

So here is where I believe is the 'fork in the road' in the development of any squash player. If they make a mistake on a shot, for example a straight forehand volley drop should they not go back to it again? Does it depend on the 'importance' of the competition they are in? For junior players I don't believe that it should and I know this can sometimes result in a few more errors and even a loss in that match. But what the athlete will learn is that they are more focused on their own development and playing the right shot at the right time. In my humble opinion coaching someone to avoid playing a shot is limiting their creativity and development. I understand coaches, parents, and yes of course the athletes all want success now, and that doesn't mean you can't have it, but I would never want success now at the cost of success down the road and limiting the ceiling of my potential as a squash player.

If a player is missing a certain shot and doesn't have an efficient technique to hit it then this is something that should be taken into consideration. Also if a player is missing a certain shot numerous times in a match and is getting upset then what can you do? You could have a strategy for getting back on track, say playing a long hard next rally after this mistake occurs and then after that point get right back to your game plan. Also it is important to discuss strategies for 'big points,' up or down game or match ball, or tied in over points, do you still go for the same shots you normally do or do you play a bit safer? What about when your opponent is self destructing? Do you still go for the same shots you normally would or do you let them keep handing you points? This is up for debate, but I believe it is all about the players focus. If you are focused (in the zone) then you play your shots almost instinctively and I believe that a focused and confident player wouldn't pass up a good attacking opportunity regardless of the score.

As a coach, parents, or fellow squash player it is not up to us to tell a kid how to play this game. There are after all many ways to be successful and win rallies, games, matches, and tournaments in squash. We can offer suggestions, but I feel that the athlete needs to figure this out on their own. Look to role models that have similar body types, or styles that you admire and watch how they play.

Remember that squash is a game and if you don't enjoy the style of squash you are being taught you likely won't enjoy it and are more likely to drop out of the sport. As a coach we are in a position to help the athlete choose how they will develop and what style of squash player they will become. Even though it doesn't seem like a big decision at the time, it's a fork in the road as I believe it is difficult to change the style you play later on in your squash career. As much as I want my athletes to have success now I would never compromise their long term development for short term outcome gains.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Keeping your Head Still During Contact

There are a few people I coach (no names mentioned!) that move their head as they hit the ball. A couple of these players are tall and get low too late and are dipping their head as they hit the ball. This is something that us shorter people don't have to worry about as much and is not the focus of this post.

Some people that are smaller in stature have another problem with their head moving as they are hitting the ball. This isn't just limited to people that are shorter or thin, but anyone this is trying to overhit the ball that their technique falls apart. Looking at some frame by frame video from beside the player you can watch at their head and shudders rotate along with their swing (not after contact). Besides not actually watching the ball as they hit it, opening up your shoulders before you contact the ball will decrease your consistency (especially on your straight drives and drops).

Similar to those that are trying to overhit the ball there are those that are too worried about getting back to the T that they also open up their shoulders too early and begin clearing before they actually contact the ball. This is a very fine line because the top players will look as if they are clearing before they hit, but the timing that they do this is the important part. If you watch a top player on video, frame by frame you will see their head is still and their shoulders don't open up as they contact the ball (besides for head and shoulder fakes!).

So what can you do if you are moving your head or opening up your shoulders before you hit the ball? Here are some exercises I do with my athletes. I start with basic feeding drills and ask that they keep their head down and hold their follow through until they hear the ball hit the front wall. This will be quite challenging in itself. Another visual tool that may help them watch the ball and keep their head still while hitting is ask the athlete to look for the yellow dots on the squash ball. Doing this focuses their attention onto the ball and ensures that they are watching and likely keeping their head still.

The main think to when doing these basic drills is to give them plenty of time to recover after they hit; you should start with no or very little pressure (depending on the athletes ability). Once they feel comfortable doing this, then you can try and speed things up a bit. I do the same thing but start putting them under a bit more pressure with the feeding. This makes it more difficult to get to the ball in a a balanced position. For example, if we were focusing on keeping their head still on the backhand drive I could do a drill such as this. I boast, they hit a forehand drive, I volley drop (not too good) and they hit the backhand straight drive while holding their follow through and keeping their head down until the ball hits the front wall. I don't volley their drive to give them time to do this before repeating again. As the player progresses make the drills more challenging and then record some more video to see if they have made the adjustment.

Obviously one cannot hold their follow through and keep their head still/down after they hit for a noticeably period of time in a match setting. But I guarantee that they will see the results in the drills. You will need to focus on this for a significant amount of time to permanently change/learn the skill. I also recommend avoiding the temptation to hit the ball as hard as you can. Just like in golf if you put everything into it likely your technique will not hold up and your ball will not go where you want it. After all if your drives and drops are that much tighter you can afford losing a couple of miles per hours and the smallest fraction of a second of recovery! If you don't believe me watch the top pros smash and dash hackers (or technically dash before they bash) players on the tour! Accuracy and power is great, but if I would give up a little power for improved accuracy. Look at golf, I don't see any of the world long drive competitors making a living on the PGA or LPGA tours!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Shot Notation

Are you predictable? Do you play in a specific pattern? Here's how you can find out.

Most recreational players hit the same 1 or 2 shots from a given spot on the court, even some professional players do this..but it works for some of them because of their precision. They get a ball here and hit it to there. But what about the creative players, those that have some flair, or those that have a lot of options from every position on the court? Those are the players that keep you on your toes the most and are difficult to play as it is very challenging to anticipate. 

Here is an example of a chart you can use to analyze yourself. You can video yourself or have someone monitor your while you're playing. First pick one area of the court you would like to monitor. As in the example the player is in the front right corner of the court under no pressure and hey hit straight drives just 15% of the time. You would then fill in the other shots from this same area and under similar amounts of pressure. 

Time Allowed to Execute Shot (no pressure, moderate amount of pressure, under pressure)

Shot Option(s)/ Type

Estimated Frequency of Use (%)

Rating of Shot Ability and Consistency
Example: No Pressure
from front right corner
Straight attacking drive
Moderate, not consistent enough

Afterwards you can analyze and see not just how many options you have from a certain spot on the court, but how frequently you play which shot. This does take a little bit of work to monitor, but you can improve your game dramatically by finding the right balance for you from each spot on the court. Maybe you need to play a few more drives or add in a new shot. Maybe these shots will make your ceosscourts more effective. When you play around with the percentages you will find what percentage of shots work well against who. Maybe your predictable hard crosscourt to your opponents backhand always works, well keep doing it..and try playing some stronger opponents and see if they pick up on this and how they take advantage of your predictable shot selection. 

Another way you can track your shot selection is with the dartfish iPhone mobile app called Easytag. You can divide the screen into equal portions and simply  tough a corner of the screen where the shot lands. The app colours the areas that are hit to the most and the areas that you seldom hit to. 

Finally, if you are avoiding hitting some shots because you lack the confined or the ability to do here are a couple of options you can try. 1) Try some condition games that don't allow you to hit the shots you play most frequently. 2) Try some drills where you practice 'coupling' your preparation and approach to the ball. This means that you shape up/prepare the same way for 2 or 3 different shots. If you do this well, your opponent will have to wait on the T until the ball is hit and you will make them react (vs. anticipating) which means if you execute your shot you should put them under a lot of pressure if not win the point outright. Disguising your intention should be taught when learning the basics of squash and is something that will help improve everyones squash game! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Shot That Sets Up The Volley

It's no secret that most people don't volley enough; they are too comfortable moving to the back of the court and often start moving backwards before their opponent even hits the ball. There are also those that hang so far back on the T that even if they do volley their opponent is probably already in front of them on the T making a volley to the front of the court risky. There are others that have technical flaws in their volley mechanics or lack confidence in their volley so they don't look to play the ball out of the air. As interesting as these areas are, I am not going to cover them today, instead I am going to talk about the shot that sets up the volley! If you want to be able to volley more and have easier receiving shots to volley the quality of your 'shot that sets up your volley' needs to improve. 

If you hit the ball tight to the either side wall most opponents cannot hit the ball crosscourt and if they do it comes lose through the middle. So please, if you hit a tight shot, move your T and look for either a stroke (if they are in the front) or to volley a weak drive (if they are in the back). So the easiest?? way to get more easy volleys is to hit the ball tight! Ya I know, doesn't take a genius to figure that out.   On a similar note, hitting good dying straight drives can be challenging to get down the wall with and pace, if you hit a dying length and your opponent is forced to play the ball before the back wall and hopefully under pressure, stretch out and on their back leg, you will likely get a weak receiving ball. Recognize these opportunities and don't let them pass you by without looking to volley the next shot. 

Another way to get more easier receiving balls to volley is by hitting wider and deeper cross courts. If you hit this shot well your opponent 'should' not be able hit the ball back crosscourt, at least not by you. So try and hit good wide and deep width and this will limit your opponent to a possibly weak drive or a boast. 

A third way to get easier receiving balls to volley is to improve your attacking boast. If you can hit a good two wall boast and/or your opponent is hanging back or not expecting it they will likely be late to the front of the court. Being late to the front corner on either side makes it very difficult to straight down the wall with any pace. So if you drag your opponent up to the front of the court with a good boast, anticipate a crosscourt length and look to cut it off. The later they are to the ball the weaker the receiving ball will likely be. 

And finally, this is a great way to get more easier receiving balls..tire out your opponent! Once they are fatigued they will often be late to the ball, run too close to the ball, have their racquet up late, etc. and all of this put together means they will be hitting the ball lose and will probably crosscourt more. When someone is tired and hanging back on the T, is slow clearing, your volleys don't even need to be as good to put them under pressure. 

As a bonus note..a good serve can set up an easy volley too! Don't just put the ball in play on your serve and even worse don't hit a good serve and let an easy volley go right by you. 

So in summary, hit the your straight drives and drops tighter, your crosscourts wider and deeper, work on your 2 wall attacking boast, improve your physical conditioning, and serve better and you will set yourself up for easier volleys. If you don't hit a high quality shot against a good player you probably won't have much of a chance to volley so there is no point in just telling someone to volley more if they aren't setting it up. Once you've figured out how to set yourself up for easier volleys, keep an eye out for a future post where I'll discuss some tips on improving your volley including some of my favourite volleying drills and condition games. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Improve Boast Drive

This relates back to an earlier post about I made called an 'Advanced Approach to Basic Squash Drills.' Here I am going to give you some tips on how to improve one of the most common squash drills, boast drive. It is not only an effective drill to warm up, but you can work on a number of different things while you are doing this. I will list some areas that the boaster can concentrate on and some that the driver can work on.

The Boaster
- movement to and from the T (getting back to the T before the driver hits the ball - the lower and harder you hit the ball the more difficult this becomes)
- you can be aware of how your racquet is while you're on the it to one side, up or down? which is best is for another discussion
- getting back to the T in a skip + 1 step, this is done by staying as far out of the corners as possible (if I can do it you can!)
- try and get your boast to stay as short as possible
- volley 2 wall boast
- changing your grip (down on the racquet) when you need a little more reach
- hitting a boast off of your non-dominant leg
- driving to yourself first if you can before boasting
- boasting off of a tight drive (I do this by opening my racquet face right open and slicing across the ball)
- work on your 2 wall boast
- have fun, go for some 3 wall boast nicks!
- make it competitive and play it as a game to 3 or 5
- make it even more challenging by having to touch the T with the butt of your racquet (yes, with your hand still on the grip) after each boast

The Driver
- racquet preparation! my rule is you should be shaped up before you step into your shot
- vary your racquet preparation, try shortening your backswing on your forehand especially as this will make it easier to hit a drop or a drive
- bitt of different legs
- i like trying to hit very flat on an attacking drive, focus on flattening out the racquet head through impact
- take the ball early, as the ball is still coming up
- have a still backswing before you start your downswing
- spacing, try and imagine the service box line running right up to the front of the court and try and keep your back foot out behind this line at all times. If you can do this you should be able to get back to the middle with just one step. You may also not be getting your hips/butt down low enough if you are unable to do this.
- even though you are only hitting straight drives, imagine you are setting up for another shot (deception) and try and hit it straight, or imagine that you are set up identical to another shot you could hit. As Roger Flynn calls this 'coupling,' or disguising your intentions, having two or more shots from one set up.
- focus on squaring up your hips and shoulders, or pointing your toe to the side wall to get squared up to the side wall to hit your most consistent drives
- watch for the dots on the ball to make sure you are seeing the ball hit your strings and are keeping your head still
- try some deception, get onto the boast early and with your racquet ready and try to delay your shot
- focus on having a nice full swing, if you are getting too close you won't be able to do this
- use targets (real or imagined) for your drives
- and finally I love trying to get the angle of the drives right along the side wall (yes, like Shabana!). If you're drives or too short or too long, then you should focus on the depth or pace.

And last but not least, pick one! Don't think about too many things or you will overcomplicate your basic and warm up drill. But you can see from the list above why I like this drill and why I use it frequently in lessons, there is always something to concentrate on!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Zen Squash

I've read many books over the years about sport psychology and because of my experience competing in squash I always found in quite interesting. The Inner Game of Tennis and Zen Golf were the first books I read that talked about Self 1 and Self 2 and the idea that you are not your mind. These books lead to others and eventually I started reading some books specifically about the 'zone'. These books gave countless examples of athletes who experienced this and ways that once could enhance their odds of experiencing it. One of these books I read mentioned and recommended a book called 'Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind' by Shunryu Suzuki. I knew very little about Buddhism and zen and thought I would check it out. I ended up reading a few other books about zen while I was at it (Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness and an Introduction to Zen Training. I'm not going to go into the details about buddhism, but I would like to talk about some of things I learned from these books and how they can apply to your squash game.

The main thing I learned in these books was how difficult it is to just be, to be totally in the present and at one with both your body and mind. I think the only times I can really ever do this is when I'm playing a good game of squash..which may explain why sport can be so enjoyable. These books mostly talked about zazen, which I interpreted it as sitting in a correct posture, focusing on your breathing, which will eventually allow you to just should allow thoughts to enter, but not force them out of your conscious mind, just let them drift away and eventually you can learn how to be in the present/now. It sounds much easier then it is.

So how does this relate back to squash? Well it's no secret that to play your best and most consistent squash you need to maintain your focus. Thoughts often drift to the past, about bad decisions or shot, a poor referee decision, or maybe the game that got away, or worse yet maybe something not even about your match. Thoughts also tend to drift towards what may or may not happen in the future. This agains takes your focus away from the ideal mindset for playing squash. The past and future are out of your control, what is in your control is the Now!

So how does zen or meditation help your squash game? Well I believe that it can have a huge impact, but it is also very challenging to sit everyday when we live such busy lifestyles. Being able to get into a relaxed and present mindset can be equally as challenging. Our brains make it difficult to not think about what has or may happen. Accumulated years of this way of thinking can be quite draining and is not helping your squash game. Having control of your mind and concentration is an essential skill in any sport including squash and more importantly can allow you to enjoy your life more by living in the Now! Which as Eckhart Tolle states 'the more you are focused on time - past and future - the more you mss the Now, the most precious thing there is.'

In your everyday life you can try and experience things that are happening now; especially everyday things you ordinarily do without thinking (like eating a bowl of cereal, driving or hitting a squad ball, you may be physically there, but your mind is not). This is where the famous quote fits in nicely, 'don't forget to stop and smell the roses,' so I suggest doing so as much as possible. The more you are able to do this, the more you will be able to just be!

To experience zen or the zone in a squash game I recommend focusing on your breathing, especially between points.  I also suggest having a preserve routine which includes a deep breath, and making sure you stick to it before each and every point. Part of your routine could include looking at the dots on the ball, a mark on your racquet, wiping your hand on the side wall, allowing you to refresh your thinking, clear your mind of the past or future and reset it here in the present. When a point is over it's over, don't start the next rally until you have gotten over it or you will suffer the consequences in the next point.

And lastly, on a bit of a side note, if you have the opportunity to do so, I recommend trying a float tank. I'm lucky that my friend here in Victoria recently opened the Victoria Floathouse ( which has 3 float tanks filled with salt water. There is no sound or light and you feel weightless in the salt water. I have found that this makes meditation much easier. I go once a week and I feel that it not only reduces stress and tension, but I enjoy the peacefulness in my mind. Floating allows me to just be in the now. If you're fortunate enough to live in a city where they have a float tank, I highly recommend enables you to be in the now, it quiets your mind/ego, it improves your quality of life and oh will improve your squash game!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Benefits of Keeping a Journal

I'd like to talk about keeping a squash journal. If you're a competitive junior or take your squash serious this is an easy way to improve your development. The most difficult part is making this part of a daily routine so I suggest doing this before you go to bed each night or maybe after each practice session or match. If you're a coach, maybe you need to make a set time at the beginning or end of practice for your kids to make an entry. You can also just write when inspiration strikes!

Now I'd like to discuss some areas that I recommend writing in your journal and you will see why this is such an effective learning tool. 

1. Writing out your goals and monitoring your progress. After a tough loss or a disappointing day, or even if your motivation is feeling low, take a look at your goals, most importantly your long term and dream goals as these can give you the boost you need. 

2. Writing out your strengths and areas you are currently working on improving. 

3. Write out a great quote from someone that you find empowering and motivating. 

4. Keep track of your daily training, what you did, how long you did it, how well you performed, were you satisfied with your session, etc. This is a good one to look back at if you feel really well (or not so well) prepared for a tournament. Were you overtraining, not focusing on the right areas, or did you feel and play great? You can also monitor your things like how you performed in fitness tests, track your heart rate and recovery rate which I will cover in a future post. 
5. Keep track of tips you get from your coach or top players. This can help reinforce what you are working on so you can practice it even when you're not in a lesson. This also makes sure you clearly understand your own squash game and you are taking the initiative over your own development. 

6. Write out how you want to play, does it change depending on the opponent, the court or tournament condition? Do you perform better against certain opponents and not so well against others? Keep track of how you played against these players and if if it was successful. Either you can keep playing the same way and stick to your game believing that you just need to improve and better execute your plan, or you can try to play slightly different and see if this improves your result. This is a very important area for learning more about squash and becoming a smart player that can very their game. 

7. You can monitor you nutrition. This is very important to perform at your best. Are you eating enough carbs? Are you hydrating before, during, and after properly? What do you eat while on the road at tournaments? Does this hinder your performance? Also good idea to track your weight. You can weight yourself before exercising and after to see how much fluid you need to replace (1.5L per kg of body weight lost). 

8. You can also monitor your sleep. If you are sleeping too much or not enough it will difficult to perform your best. If you are tossing and turning the night before a big tournament match then write about this. Maybe you should try some breathing and relaxation techniques to help calm your mind and body. 

9. Use it also as a personal journal/diary to track your feelings and thoughts. This doesn't have to be just about squash. You can express yourself in your journal and even without sharing this it can help you feel better. Maybe you are playing squash for the wrong reasons or maybe you don't enjoy competition but feel forced into it. Maybe you are trying to live up to someone else's goals for you. These all create pressure on you and writing about these can help sort out why you are doing what you're doing. Hopefully you can get yourself back in a better frame of mind and if you do I guarantee you will play better.

Hopefully I've outlined some of the benefits of keeping a journal. This can be done with pen and paper or on your computer. If you really want to improve your squash game and be the best that you can be, start writing! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Solo Hitting Drills

Now that the summer is here and you can't find a partner to play with, I figure it would be a good time to talk about one of my favourite training routines. People ask me how I got good at squash and this is probably the main reason. I always enjoyed just hitting the ball by myself and improving my forearm strength, grooving my technique, and of course trying to improve my accuracy and power. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve and most people never do it! So here is a list of a few solo practice drills that helped my game over the years. You can find video examples of some of my solo exercises on my Youtube channel at cchsquashpro. Here is a link to an example of my solo hitting routine including some of the drills I mention below:

I've also recently produced an instructional 64 minute video titled 'The Secrets Of Solo Hitting.' It contains over 30 of my favourite solo drills and it includes lots of tips on how to improve your solo practice. It's available for purchase at and I'll refund your purchase if you don't love it.

1. Straight drives - yes an obvious one, but trying adding a twist to it. You can put down a target or two, vary the height and speed of your drives (as most people tend to hit at one tempo on their drives!), try and watch for the yellow dots on the ball to improve your concentration and ensure you are keeping your head still when you practice, and I like trying to hit drives hard aiming for the back line of the service box and hitting it again before the ball hits the back wall. Many people like waiting and taking the ball after the peak of the bounce and if you're one of those people you will find this drill very difficult.

2. Short hitting - stand in front of the short line and hit the ball under the service line. As you improve speed up and lower your short drives. This will burn your forearm if you keep it going and will help groove your swing. Alternate hitting off of your left and right foot so you improve your ability to transfer your weight into your shot. Highly recommend this drill!

3. Short volleys - same positioning as short hitting, but this time you don't let the ball bounce. As you improve try and increase your speed. You can also move toward and away the front wall to make this drill more challenging.

4. Side wall drives - this is a great drill for beginners, intermediates and some advanced players working on their technique. Hit the ball from your forehand into one sidewall so the ball hits the other sidewall, now hit a backhand into the sidewall so it goes back to where you started. This is a good one for working on racquet preparation, stepping into the ball, spacing, and many more. If you get good at this, try and hit all your sidewall drives within the service box width and if you get really good at this try and hit the service line on each shot!

5. One corner hard low drives - this is a more advanced drill and allows you to hit the ball with more pace and because of the angle you hit the ball it hits the front wall just before the sidewall. This slows the ball down just slightly so you have enough time to hit it hard and get your racquet up again. You should stand in front of the short line and if you are right handed you would aim into the front right corner. If you can keep this drill going for a minute or two with some pace you will really feel it in the forearm. One of my favourites!

6. Figure 8's - one of the most popular solo hitting drills. Players should start on the bounce and work up to the volley. When doing them on the volley gets easy then try hitting the ball harder and under the service line. Try and see how many you can get in a row. I don't know what my record is but probably somewhere around 400. If that gets easy try some of these

7. Drops on the bounce - don't forget to practice your short game! When you get an opening in a match you have to be able to instinctively bring the ball in short with consistent precision. I always liked doing this with a warm ball (so after figure 8's). I hit a high 2 or 3 wall boast and cut the ball into the nick and then hit another high boast to the other side of the court and try and do the same. When doing this practice dropping into both corners from your forehand and backhand. Also attempt these drops with different angle of a receiving ball, where a 3wall boast is coming back towards you the 2wall boast is going away from you.

8. Volley drops - I liked doing these while I'm doing figure 8's. But I also practiced them by doing straight short volleys from around the short line. I would hit 2 or 3 volley drives and then I would hit a volley drop and repeat this.

Of course there are many other things you can do to get creative. Sometimes I would practice would a blue dot to get used to a very bouncy ball and this made it more challenging to hit precise drop shots. I also recommend doing solo hitting after a tough workout once in a while as you'll see how challenging it is to get on your feet and hit the ball well when you're body is fatigued. And if you're really keen you could mix in some ghosting or court movement into your solo routine. Because after all when you play a match your heart rate is elevated making every shot more challenging, especially fines shots. Lastly, if you want to be really good, video yourself and take a look at your technique and how you're hitting the ball. I'm sure you will learn something from this and will improve much faster.

If I see you around the club and you want a demonstration of a drill let me know! Good luck and enjoy your solo practices!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Advanced Approach to Basic Squash Drills

I've always preferred and believed that drills with options (or condition games) were the best because they enable you to think, to watch, and to react to your opponent. After all, squash is an open skilled environment as we attempt to hit with great accuracy under pressure while choosing which shot to hit in a fraction of a second. No wonder I have a job! Of course option drills are imperative for players at all levels and I still believe they are the most important. But I believe that basic and repetitive drills are also invaluable for all levels of squash players. Here's why..

The problem I believe with these basic drills for most players (for example, boast drive, drop drive, or rotating drives) is their lack of focus. When doing a repetitive drill like this I always encourage my athletes to have a very specific focus. This might be footwork, shortening their backswing, or preparing their racquet earlier, flattening out their racquet through impact, hitting of their non-dominant leg, adding pace or using height, squaring up their shoulders, etc. The list is endless of things that one can work on and I encourage everyone to select one area as your focus while doing your next basic drill.

An advanced/professional player may have a different focus, for example they may be working on the accuracy of a shot from a certain area off of a specific receiving shot or they may be concentrating on shot disguise or deception, or just the consistency of the accuracy on a shot, whatever the case the same principles for progressive learning holds true.

Once the athlete is able to correctly make this adjustment to their swing or footwork, they should attempt a more advanced repetitive drill. I recommend alternating this shot with another shot allowing for contextual interference to occur (which basically means time to forget what you were doing and having to come back and reproduce the desired action). This will reveal if the change in their technique has sunk in. If it has, then add another shot or two in between the area you were focusing on.

Here's an example of a drill progression I use. If a student and I had been working on their footwork to hit a drive from the front right corner we may start with drop drive and progress to boast drive and then to drive drive boast (so they are driving out of that corner). Or a more advanced sequence would be that the one player can drive or boast, while the player who was focusing on their drives out of the front right corner has to wait until their opponent boasts and then they have to repeat this skill set they were practicing.

Remember: there should be a focus in any drill or condition game. Even if it is just for your 1 warm up drill before you play a match. Don't just do it without consciously trying to focus and improve a part of your game. Practicing smarter is better than harder in my opinion. If you don't know what you 'should' improve, take a lesson or ask a top player at your club. If you ask any of my students they will all probably say either shaping (racquet preparation) or spacing (between you and the ball), so pick one of those as they will likely apply to you as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Well I don't like talking about myself and I certainly don't have all of the answers to your squash game. I have played since I was 7 years old and had some success as a player as a junior, at university, and now in the masters division! I also have my BA in kinesiology, my masters in Coaching in Studies and am trained as a provincial coach. More importantly I coach everyday and watch a lot of squash. I'm always analyzing the game and trying to come up with new and fun ways to teach the sport to all levels and ages.

It is my hope that with this is virtual squash coaching office I can reach a wider audience and share some of my expertise...and since our society is becoming more integrated online and I don't have an actual office where I coach I figured I would share some of my favourite drills, condition games, fitness tests, and thoughts about squash. This is meant more directly to the kids that I work with, but am happy to share whatever I can to whoever is looking for some tips and help with their squash game.

I don't know exactly how often I will update this and what I will write about, but I will try to keep it interesting and make you think. Because I believe there is a good time for any shot on a squash court, that a technically or physically weaker player can still be victorious with smart tactics and/or being mentally tough. I also believe that there is more than one way to do something and to do it well, so I don't like using the terms 'must' or 'have to', I will stick to terms such as 'should' or 'preferred', but again this only my opinions, and I'm not always right and I don't have all the answers. I encourage everyone to think rationally about each concept and topic on their own. In the end this 'should' develop a more enhanced understanding of the sport and of themselves.

Good luck to everyone that plays this great sport! If you have any questions or wants my opinion on a specific subject let me know.