Friday, July 4, 2014

Court Movement

Today I'm going to discuss some of the ways I like working on court movement. When I was young I remember doing a lot of 6 point drills, but I just did it without really knowing what I was trying to improve or do. So instead of just moving to move, here are some routines that I like and some tips for you while doing ghosting.

I like trying to visualize actually hitting different shots while I'm ghosting. Try and follow the ball into the corner and swing like you are actually hitting a shot. This allows you to groove your swing and can improve things like your racquet preparation without even hitting a ball. So also practice ghosting different swing paths/shots (not just straight drives).

I also like practicing different patterns. I believe it is important to be able to move from one spot on the court to every other. Some areas are more challenging to get into a neutral hitting position and should be practiced more. I also like moving from any of the 4 corners and following this with a volley across the middle. Instead of just working on your movement to the back all the time, try and visualize hitting a good drive and then getting back to the T and cutting the next shot off.

One issue with ghosting is that it is challenging to replicate a split step off of the T. So if you can do this in pairs you can have someone point to the next spot you will hit from. Don't point until they just return to the T. This should slow them down and forces them to get into an athletic stance to be able to push off in multiple directions. I remember hearing Gregory Gaultier talk about how his coach when he was young always focused on having an explosive first step off the T so he had a little more time and was more balanced when he got to the ball. I like this philosophy and don't see this very often with more junior or recreational players. If they do, they normally only push off the same (their dominant) leg no matter where they are headed, especially under pressure. So be sure to practice pushing off your right leg to go left and pushing off your left leg to go right.

You can use a mixture of ghosting and hitting a shot. I like either setting up a ball machine or just feeding for one shot and then having the person ghost to a noter area, again if you have a third person they can point where the person has to ghost after hitting the shot. And if using a ball machine it forces the person to get back to play the next shot within a specified amount of time.

It is important to practice hitting shots under pressure. And this means hitting shots on an open stance. Most people are comfortable doing this on the forehand but have difficulty doing this on the backhand side. When the ball is coming quickly across the middle and you cut the ball of you will be able to get set faster hitting off of your back foot. It is also important to be able to move into the bad corners and hit off your back leg. For example, a right handed player would start with their left foot first towards the back corner, put their right leg behind this foot and then take a final stride and hit off of their left foot. When you get efficient at this you can learn how to still generate enough pace on the ball to hit a pretty solid drive. And this movement pattern keeps you in a better hitting position then if you had gotten turned around (I can only think of one example, Alan Clyne) of all the top PSA guys I've seen that does this. He basically is facing the back wall and can't see his opponent and has enough difficulty hitting the ball back down the wall as his body (shoulders and hips) are no longer parallel to the side wall but the back wall.

Here is a movement routine I like doing and I use this as not just training for my athletes but as a fitness test (see diagram below). I put 4 racquets, one with the grip facing each corner. The athlete starts with 1 ball on the squash racquet (say in the back left corner). The person has to start at this point and at the start of my watch run thru the T and touch the ball onto the racquet in the front left corner and then back thru the T to the back right corner, then back thru the T to the front right corner and finally back onto the starting racquet. I stop my watch when the ball is back on the racquet and record the time and their hear rate. I do this in pairs with my athletes so their rest to work ratio is 1:1. When they get to 2 squash balls they have to bring the first one up to the next racquet and then come back for the 2nd one and then move them to the next racquet until they both are back on their starting racquet. Doing this with 1 ball is a sprint, but it is much more challenging when you get up to 3 or 4 balls. You can see I also like to record how challenging the athlete thought the test was. I do this for a number of reasons. I am always curious to see how hard the athlete feels they pushed and if they gave it their all. If they didn't set very good times, did they still perceive it to be quite tough? If so, you may have to look into this. I like this test because your results are based around squash movements and as you move more efficiently around the court and into and out of the corners you should lower your times and even this could mean your heart rate is lower (or at least recovers faster).



Name:
Date of test #1:
Date of test #2:



Time Heart Rate

Time Heart Rate +/-
1 ball


1 ball


2 balls


2 balls


3 balls


3 balls


4 balls


4 balls


3 balls


3 balls


2 balls


2 balls


1 ball


1 ball


Total Time=


Total Time=


Perceived Exertion Level (1/low to 10/very high)=


Perceived Exertion Level (1 to 10)=












Moving well in squash requires can also be improved by improving your leg (quads and calfs) strength and strength endurance. Remember strength endurance is more important in squash than max strength. You can increase your quad strength by doing walking lunges (forwards and backwards), biking, running, or doing squats. Also improving your anticipation and having a 'floating T' can dramatically improve improve your court coverage. While improving your agility, speed, and overall aerobic fitness will all also aid your court movement. I like recommending exercises like skipping and agility ladders to those that are a little heavy on their feet or flat footed on the T. If you're getting older and just can't cover the court as well then you need to hit better shots and limit what your opponent has available on their next shot. And of course playing smarter always helps! 

Ok, there are some of my tips for improving your court movement. Try some of these exercises and routines and you will start moving around the court more efficiently. Watching good players glide around the court they look so effortless. Some recreational players make the movements look so hard. If you play someone who isn't moving efficiently, just keep the rallies going and let him wear him or herself out while you efficiently maneuver around the court. I'll wrap things up on a quote I remember hearing about speed/movement. I think it's from baseball, but it applies to squash. it goes something like this, 'speed doesn't go in slumps.' Pretty self explanatory really. If you move well you will always be tough to beat. If you move well you will get more balls back and you will have more time and more balanced and therefore more options when you get to the ball. I believe Ramy Ashour's greatest attributes are his ability to anticipate and is court movement (besides the front right corner). Yes I know his shots are the best in the game, but if he didn't read the game as well or move so fast he wouldn't be able to hit all of these attacking shots and open up the court so frequently. 

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