Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mohamed Abouelghar Match Analysis

So today I want to discuss one of the players from one of the matches I just watched from the Hong Kong Open. I watched Borja Golan of Spain vs. Mohamed Abouelghar of Egypt in a second round matchup. Spoiler alert!!! For those that haven't yet seen it and are planning on watching it, stop reading here and go watch their match and then finish reading this post...none of the games were very tight and Borja won in 5.

I remember seeing Mohamed play about 2 years ago at a tournament in British Columbia and thought he was destined to be a top world class player. Mohamed was such an attacking player. I remember he attacked on a straight drop off of every backhand return of serve. I thought it was so different and he was having success with it because he was so consistent and most players were not use to this pattern of play right from the start of the rallies. I also remember him having a tremendous forehand crosscourt nick drop shot that he disguised so beautifully.

Currently Mohamed is ranked #42 in the world is just 20 years old. He pushed world #7 Borja to a fifth and deciding game. A fifth game which Mohamed gave away to his opponent. You've got to make your higher ranked opponent beat you! But in the fifth game Mohamed started well as he hit an amazing return of serve crosscourt volley nick on the backhand side. This tied the game at 2 before be lost a number of consecutive rallies. He made lots of uncharacteristic unforced errors and gave away a lot of easy points on strokes. Obviously this proves the importance of the mind in squash and also experience. I can't help but think he state thinking about the finish line. This is why there is a term 'he still plays junior squash' line that we've all heard. This means they don't believe they can win and try and do too much or they lose their focus and if you keep it close and stay tough you can eventually run away with a points and then the match. Just keep it close until this happens.

I haven't watched one of Mohamed's matches in a few months and being one of my favourite players I thought I would share my input from this match. I always enjoy analyzing squash games. He's already got 3 listed coaches and I heard he's been working with Shabana. So maybe if it doesn't work out with Shabana he'll be looking elsewhere for some advice;)

Here's my take on the match. The glass court is very bouncy in Hong Kong and I think in some areas of Mohamed's game this was advantageous and in others it hurt him. The way this helped him was that he has a very short backswing and is great to hold and flick the ball all over the place. It also means longer and more physical rallies against an elder opponent. The bouncy court also meant that Borja's deadly boasts would be easier to retrieve, which I think Mohamed got every one back.

Here is where the lively court hurt Mohamed. His attacking shots from the back were often hit too heavy and setting up Borja to go on the attack. I also felt like Mohamed tried to hit his length too hard all the time and often it came up a bit short. Especially in the first game when Mohamed's length landed in the service box, he would often move behind Borja instead of cutting in front of him. I think this showed too much respect for his opponent and for an attacking player this is a passive movement pattern to get into. Mohamed also let Borja return straight back to the T from the front corners. Mohamed is allowed direct access to the ball when Borja counter drops but there were a number of instances where his access was blocked.

To go along with the fast courts, in the 5th game Mohamed tried to hit some shots too fine and made some mistakes. After 1 or 2 easy mistakes it becomes psychological. Would he have done the same on a slightly cooler court? I don't know. I also thought that he tried to hit most of his shots flat or with a slight overspin on his backhand, even when he was under pressure. I prefer opening up the the racquet face and hitting it a bit higher. In my opinion Mohamed tried to play too aggressive off of good length from Borja and popped out a number of loose balls on the backhand side. If he had opened up the racquet face and chipped them down the wall I think he would have been better off. You don't want to be stuck behind Borja as he takes his space and is difficult to get around. Easy to say from the sidelines. It's easy to sit here and play Monday morning quarterback, but he's the one out there doing it and moving his way to the top of the game.

So I know this is a lot of feedback from just one match, but I have a couple of more points. I think that Mohamed having such a short backswing on both sides makes him deceptive from anywhere on the court when he is at the ball with time. But when he does this from the deep on the backhand side he cannot clear as quickly because it's a short and choppy swing as opposed to a full swing and using his follow through to clear to the middle. And in doing so this means he has to get closer to the ball. I thought there wasn't really a flow in his movement from the back backhand corner to the T. Especially on a hot court, you aren't going to win or set up too many short attacking shots from the back corner so I would like to see him concentrate more on hitting his spots on his drives and using his holds and flicks more sparingly in the back of the court.

One of my favourite shots Mohamed can hit is on either side. He does it well a few times in the match. He really shows a straight drop and then at the very last second he instantly flicks his wrist and goes for the crosscourt nick on a drop. I remember this shot from watching him play in Vancouver and I know it's something that can only be used sparingly but it is beautiful to watch.

Ok, very last point I want to mention is that I would do more with my serve if I was Mohamed. Why do they just put the ball in play I'll never know. And often the ball never even hits the side wall. Oh and maybe that wasn't my last point, because I would also like to see Mohamed use a lob more frequently. Of course this is hard to do on a fast court and since he has such a quick wrist he probably feels like can attack from any position. At the pro level the lob may not seem like much but it's become one of Ramy's best shots and it makes it incredibly difficult to win a point against him.

So there it is. He's just 20 and already #42 in the world. He's fun to watch but in my opinion still has a lot of room to improve his game. He's already beaten some top ranked players and pushed a couple of top 10 players to a 5th game. This is what I would talk to him about if I were his coach. It would be interesting to hear what he thought of his match and what he's working on in his game these days. I have a feeling he wouldn't be very happy with how be played against Borja and that he felt he could have and probably should have won. Clearly the more experience he gets on the big stage, on the glass courts against the top players the better he's going to do. Mohamed, if you're reading I know you didn't ask for my feedback, but here it is.

If you've seen the match let me know what you think. What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? That's what's so great about squash...there are countless ways to play this game and to do it successfully.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Match Situations

Today I got thinking. How do you handle an opponent that you don't enjoy playing? What if you're opponent runs into you, is rude, doesn't call his lets or his shots out or down? We have all played someone like this at one point or another. We cannot avoid it in tournaments and therefore some people avoid playing competitions altogether. Can you pretend it doesn't bother you? Can you take extra time to refocus when they've made you angry? Is there a way you can play this person and not let it get to you? After all if you do, this plays into their game. And that probably isn't going to suit you. So I know this is a tricky enough match situation. I have a list of a lot more below. 

Below is a list of possible situations that could occur. They are sorted into various categories to help you find what you are looking for. These situations are designed to help you prepare for potential situations in a match or tournament. This can increase your confidence to deal withthese situations as they arise and should help you maintain your composure.

Some of these questions are to get a sense of your competitiveness and fair-play. If the athlete fails to comply with how they said they would act then they have their answers to look back at and rethink the scenario and their answer. Ideally this will help you put winning and competition into perspective and will allow you to compare your on-court actions with how you want and expect to act and respond to various situations. If you are having trouble reacting how they would like to, then new strategies should be considered, or perhaps it will just take some practice and repetition.

I could probably write 100 posts or so; 1 based on each hypothetical question. I may just get to that over time. But for now I want you to prepare yourself for the upcoming season. Don't wait until you've encountered a difficult situation on the court or as a ref, think about it now and prepare yourself for these scenarios. 

Here is an overview of the categories
  1. You
    1. Strategy and tactics
    2. Match preparation
    3. State of mind before and during
  2. Opponent
  3. Crowd
  4. Referee
    1. Reffing You
    2. As the ref
  5. Possible Team Situations
  1. You
    1. Strategy and tactics
  • What would you do if your opponent is attacking off almost all of your serves and is hitting a large percentage?
  • What would you tell yourself if you miss an easy shot?
  • What if you miss two easy shots in a row?
  • What would you do if the pace of the game is much higher than you're accustomed to?
  • What would you do if your opponent is having no trouble volleying your length? (on just the right or left wall? on crosscourts or straight length? When you're hitting from the front of the court?)
  • Your opponent makes a low percentage attacking shot winner off of what you thought was a good shot? (what if your opponent does it on consecutive rallies?)
  • What would you do if you believe that your opponent has better length than you?
  • What would you do if you believe your opponent has better attacking shots than you do?
  • What would you do if you believe your opponent is fitter than you?
  • What would you do if you believe your opponent is faster than you?
  • What would you do if your opponent plays at a faster pace than you are accustomed too?
  • What would you do if your opponent plays lots of lobs and drops (with little or no pace)?
  • What would you do if your opponent has good deception (flicks and holds)?
  • What would your strategy be if you have to play someone who is quite tall?
  • What would your strategy be if you have to play someone who is pretty thin?
  • What would your strategy be if you have to play someone who is short?
  • What would you do if you have to play someone younger or older than you?
  • What would you do if you had to play someone from the opposite sex?
  • What would you do if you had game ball(s) and your opponent ties it up?
  • What would you do if you had game ball(s) and your opponent ends up winning the game? (what if they were match balls?) (what if you know you have to play again soon?) (what if you're next opponent is watching?) (what if you are playing someone you think you should have beaten a lot easier?)
  • What would you do if you lose to someone you think you should have beaten and now you have to come back and play again?
  • What would you do if you have to play a good friend?
  • What would you do if you have to play someone you look up to?
  • What would you do if you had to play someone you have never beaten?
  • What would you do if you had to play someone you have never lost to? (has never challenged you?)
  • What would you do if your strategy isn't working after the first few minutes? (after the first game?)
  • What would you do if your opponent makes the adjustment to your strategy after the first game and he/she win the second game? (do you have the ability to play a different style, do you stick to what you were doing thinking that your opponent can't keep it up or got lucky for a game, what if they won the third game?)
  • What would you do if you feel you are having a slow start to the match?
  • What would you do if you notice that you aren't sticking to your gameplan?
  • What would you do if you are serving for a big point, maybe a game or match ball?
  • What would you do if you won the first 2 games but are very physically exhausted?
  • What would you do if you had failed to capitalize on a number of game balls in a row and your opponent is now within a single point of tying the game?
b. Match preparation and equipment
  • What would you do if your court opens up early and you aren't ready? (what if you're coach isn't there and they are pressuring you to get started?)
  • What would you do if the court is slippery?
  • What would you do if the temperature in the facility and court is very warm?
  • What would you do if the temperature in the facility and the court is very cool?
  • What would you do if the ball is very warm and bouncy?
  • What would you do if the ball is skidding off the floor?
  • What would you do if the ball has a small seam that looks like it is going to break soon (but doesn't)?
  • What would you do if the ball is not as bouncy as you are accustomed too?
  • What would you do if your mouth is dry before your match? (and during)
  • What would you do if you haven't fully digested your food and you are about to start your match?
  • What would you do if you have a short turn around for your next match and you are physically depleted? What is your regeneration strategy?
  • What would you do if your eyeguards fell off during a point?
  • What would you do if your opponent's eyeguards fall off during a point?
  • What would you do if you are a little sore going into a match?
  • What would you do if you are feeling sick before a match?
  • What would you do if you are having trouble at home, with a boy/girlfriend, at school, and you find yourself thinking about it before or during a match?
  • What would you do if you didn't have time to warm up properly before your match?
  • What would you do if there was no room or equipment to warmup on
    What would you do if you just get to a tournament and have to go from the car right onto the court?
c. State of mind before and during
  • What would you do if you feel yourself getting nervous before a game?
  • What would you do if you feel nervous in a warmup?
  • What would you do if you feel nervous at the beginning of the first game?
  • What would you do if you have trouble getting to sleep the night before a match?
  • What would you do if you are too relaxed before a match?
  • What would you do if you were expecting an easy match and then in the warmup you realize it might be difficult? (what if you hadn't warmed up properly?)
  1. Opponent
  • What would you do if your opponent appears overly confident and is taking you lightly?
  • What would you do if you believe your opponent is faking an injury?
  • What would you do if you believe your opponent is pretending to be sick or physically exhausted?
  • What would you do if your opponent comes out and isn't trying? (but you had taken it easy and then he/she starts to pick things up?)
  • What would you do if your opponent doesn't take a break between games?
  • What would you do if your opponent doesn't take a break after the 4th game and they look exhausted?
  • What would you do if your opponent doesn't take a break after you just won the game handily?
  • What would you do if your opponent plays a double bounce? (with and without a referee) (single occasion or on multiple occasions)
  • What would you do if your opponent isn't clearing properly? (with and without a referee)
  • What would you do if your opponent calls the wrong score (no referee)?
  • What would you do if your opponent appears to be stalling between points? (when you're serving/when they're serving) (with and without a referee)
  • What would you do if your opponent bumps into you? (and the referee isn't defending you?)
  • What would you do if your opponent isn't clearing properly?
  • What would you do if your opponent is calling an excessive amount of 'lets'? (with and without a referee?)
  • What would you do if your opponent has a dangerous or reckless swing?
  • What would you do if your opponent crowds you? (and you hit him/her?)
  • What would you do if your opponent hits you with the ball when they should not have hit the ball?
  • What would you do if your opponent hits you with their racquet when they should not have hit the ball?
  • What would you do if your opponent calls your shot down or out (when it wasn't)?
  • What would you do if your opponent is rushing to serve between points?
  • What would you do if your opponent isn't wearing eyeguards? (what if your opponent is crowding you?)
  • What would you do if your opponent is yelling or cursing at themselves? (what if they start distracting you by throwing their racuqet, hitting themselves with their racquet?

    3. Crowd
    a. Audience
  • What would you do if a girl/boy you like is cheering for your opponent during your match?
  • What would you do if the crowd is rowdy and very loud?
  • What would you do if the crowd is largely cheering for your opponent?
  • What would you do if the crowd is applauding when you make an easy, unforced error?
  • What would you do if the crowd is being obnoxious or sarcastic?
  • What would you do if there is nobody watching?
  • What would you do if you can hear an exciting match going on nearby?

    4. Referee
    a. Someone reffing you
  • What would you do if your opponent is constantly foot faulting?
  • What if your opponent continuously argues with the referee? And what if the referee starts siding with them?
  • What would you do if your opponent misses a shot and plays it good (and the referee misses it)?
  • What would you do if you feel the referee has it out for you?
  • What would you do if before the match even begins that you think that the referee does not care for you?
  • What would you do if the referee is being friendly with your opponent? (before the match? Between games? Joking around?)
  • What would you do if the referee is a friend of your opponent? (or a teammate? Or from the same club? You think is being biased?)
  • What would you do if you feel the referee's decisions are being influenced by the crowd? (parents? Coaches? Teammates?)
  • What would you do if the referee is being inconsistent with his/her calls?
  • What would you do if the referee gives you no lets when your opponent is blocking you from getting to the ball?
  • What would you do if the referee changes his/her call? (after being challenged by your opponent)
  • What would you do if the referee is not enforcing a rule?
  • What would you do if the referee won't listen to your reasoning or provide an explanation for a questionable call?
  • What would you do if you believe that the referee is becoming involved in the match when it isn't necessary?
  • What would you do if you can't hear the referee call the score?
  • What would you do if the referee gives the opponent a 'no let' or 'let' decision when it was a clear stroke? What if it was an important point? What if you were winning? What if you were losing?
  • What would you do if you made an error (hit the ball out or hit the tin) and the referee doesn't notice? What if it was game or match ball? What if your opponent doesn't notice either
b. You as the ref
  • What would you do if you had to ref two of your teammates?
  • What would you do if one (or both) of the players your reffing are giving you a hard time?
  • What would you do if you know you made a bad call? (would you change it?) (would you owe one to the other player to even it out?) (would you be consistent with your calls for the rest of the match?)
  • What would you do if you had to make a call on a big point (game or match ball) and you are pretty confident the result (let or no let) is the right decision (which would end the game or match)?
  • What would you do if one of the players wanted an explanation for a call that you think was pretty obvious and not questionable at all?
  • What would you do if an opponent is later getting back on court between games? (the first time, second, third)? (how much grace time would you give them? And then what?)
  • What would you do if one of the players got hurt at fault of the opponent and needed a medical stoppage?
  • What would you do if one of the players got hurt at no fault of the opponent and needed a medical time out?
  • What would you do if one of the players was foot faulting?
  • What would you do if you think a ball bounced twice and they kept playing?
  • What would you do if one of the players was reckless and kept hitting (or almost) hitting the other player?
  • What would you do if you were reffing a junior and they didn't have any eyeguards on?
  • What would you do if another squash ball (or object) landed on the court during a point? (when the rally was basically over?)
  • What would you do if a parent is bickering at you about a call?
  • What would you do if you had to ref a player who has a tendency of being tough on refs?
  • What would you do if you had to ref on a concealed court where they couldn't hear you call the score?
  • What would you do if the crowd was awwing and moaning after you make a call? (would you stick to similar decisions in the future?)
  • What would you do if one of the players continually ran into the other player?
  • What would you do if a much bigger player was being overly physical with a smaller player?
  • What would you do if one of the players doesn't ask for a stroke, just grabs the ball with their hand or racquet and goes to serve?
  • What would you do if someone asked you to ref and you felt that you weren't capable or comfortable reffing that caliber or those particular players?
  • What would you do if you had to ref after your match but you want to stretch and cool down?
  • What would you do if you made a couple of questionable calls and both players were now complaining and arguing before every decision?

5. Possible Team Situations
  • What would you do if you haven't played your match yet and the results are already decided? (the team either won or lost)
  • What would you do if you were injured or sick and there was a team meeting?
  • What would you do if a lower skilled player on the team asked you to hit with him/her?
  • What would you do if someone on the team was planning on going to a party the night before a team match? What if you were invited? What if the whole team was planning on going?
  • What would you do if a teammate was arguing with a referee and was visibly upset?
  • What would you do if your teammate just lost a game at love? What type of advice would you give him/her between games?
  • What would you do if the teams result comes down to your match?
  • What would you do if your teammate was playing a good friend of yours?
  • What would you do if you had to play a teammate in a tournament?
  • What would you do if your teammate was reffing you and made some questionable decisions against you?
  • What would you do if you had to watch two of your teammates play each other (who would you cheer for)?
  • What would you do if you have a couple of teammates playing at the same time on different courts?
  • What would you do if your teammate had to go on soon and was hungry (and had no food) and you had 1 granola bar left?
  • What would you do if you're teammate is running a cardio session and is goofing off or not giving a good effort?
  • What would you do if your teammate was not giving a good effort, but the team had already lost/won?
  • What would you do if a teammate was continually missing practice?
  • What would you do if a teammate was continually late for practice?
  • What would you do if you had a practice and an exam on the same day (the exam being after the practice)?
  • What would you do if your coach was late for practice? haha I'm sure this never happens!
I hope this got you thinking a bit. You've probably already encountered a number of these situations. Which ones were you happy with how you handled and which ones were you not? Try and come up with a strategy to handle that incident as you would like in the future so you can play fair, keep focused and play your best squash. If there is a challenging scenario you've encountered that I don't have on the above list let me know and let me know how you handled it. Thanks for reading and good luck! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Learning From Losing

Today I'm going to discuss something that happens to all of us, even us coaches. I've touched on this subject in a prior post, but it's such an important topic that I've decided to write an entire post about it. Today I'm going to talk about the challenges of seeing your game (or your students) through tunnel vision.  We get to a point where we just play (or as a coach) and we have trouble seeing areas that could use some attention because we don't actually mentally process something after we've seen it so frequently. I know that was a confusing explanation and introduction, so I'm going to keep trying to clear this up.

When I was playing competitively, quite a few times I was so unsure how I could improve. I had no idea at all what I should work on. Now as a coach the first or second time I see someone play it's pretty easy to pick up on some areas that could use some retooling. After they take some lessons and you work on these you see some changes. Now when the person wants more help with other areas of their game it can be more difficult to take a step back and see what else needs attention. If we are able to watch this person play again as if it was the first time we will likely easily pick up some areas that have room for improvement. I hope I've explained this week enough now. I know have a few solutions for when this happens to you as a player or as a coach.

Sometimes I'll go into a lesson and have no idea what we're going to work on. I'll know what we worked on last time. But this doesn't mean we will continue working on the same thing. This depends on a few things. So what I like to do is start off with a game or two. I can put most people under a lot of pressure and can force some errors. Even though I'm taking notes I always ask them what they thought after the game. I  could be looking at a lot of different things. Maybe they aren't hitting their crosscourt wide enough or their straight drives deep enough. Maybe they aren't looking to volley, or are not getting out of pressure very well. I always find this as an effective method to reassess someone. Even if you work with them regularly.

If you're a squash player and want to know how you can improve then get on court with someone better than you. At the end you can ask them (and/or record the match) and you can find out how they are beating you and what areas you can improve. Losing isn't enjoyable but it's the best learning tool there is. Maybe part of what you need to work on is you get frustrated or not try as hard when you're playing a stronger player?

Other times when I'm coaching I'll go through a mental checklist of the fundamentals and see how they are doing. As they hit some shots I'll watch their racquet preparation, while others I will focus on their spacing and their body position. I will watch their swing path, where the racquet starts and finishes. I will also look to see which foot they are hitting off of and if they ever mix it up. I'll pay attention to their serves and return of serves and if they ever use a lob. I'll also watch their T position. If the drill calls for it I will look at their decision making. Are they predictable and are they making good decisions. Which area of the court do they have the most trouble moving into and out of or hitting certain shots.

It's also extremely important to remember not to only work on areas that need improving. Practising things that you're not good at can be frustrating for many people. And as Roger Federer said, he doesn't practice his backhand much because everyone always hits to it so he believes gets enough reps from match play. So in practice he concentrates on his strengths and tries to make them even stronger. And when you practice someone's strengths they will leave the court feeling better about their game and themselves. Although this can also be true if they have made some positive strides towards a weaker area. I like to finish lessons on a high note and have people thinking they are competent and getting better.

So there you have it. Some of my tips for how to get you out of the tunnel vision. I believe mistakes are a part of learning, unless you don't notice them and continue making the same ones over and over. I also believe if we don't dig deep and look at things from various angles we will limit our perspective. So try and film more games, play some stronger players, and think not just outside the box, but as I've heard before, like there is no box! Who would have ever thought that the pros would start using drives down the middle of the court on purpose and doing it effectively? I feel that there is a time and place for any shot you can think of. It's just knowing when and who to play it against and how frequently to use it. Whether the reverse boast, a lob drop or the short server...there is a time where these can all be used effectively.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Secrets of a Brilliant Coach

Today I'm going to write a post based on another post...if you want to check out the article here is the link

I've already talked about some of the things I've learned since I've started coaching. And we all want to to know what makes special athletes and coaches great. We want to quantify exactly what it is so we can install this in other 'ordinary' people and find the best coaches for our kids. In this post they discuss 35 secrets of brilliant coaches. I've had the pleasure of working with and being coached by some great coaches. So these people have helped shaped me as a coach and is how I've constructed a lot of my coaching philosophies. I know I'm still young for a coach and still have a lot to learn, but I have a few thoughts about the article I'd like to discuss.

The list in the blog is pretty good and hard to argue with any of the points. I think the #1 is the most important. That the person is cherished as a person first over the athlete (but they don't mention treating all the athletes equally regardless of skill level). I also think the motivating and seeing the big picture is essential. When you're a kid this is normally quite challenging to do.

The #7 point has a fascinating example as I'm currently reading a book on John Wooden. This article's point is about how a coach is obsessive with the basics. The basics are important, but the explanation the use is pretty funny. How John Wooden would spend the first practice showing the kids how to put on their socks properly so they wouldn't get blisters. In the book I'm reading he says they would wear 2 pairs of socks, 1 of which is wool if I remember correctly. I don't see the NBA guys doing this anymore, so maybe the basics weren't that crucial after all!

I don't know if I consider showing the kids how to put their socks on properly as fundamentals, but if we look at Ramy as an example, yes he is a freak of nature, and he absolutely has amazing fundamentals or he wouldn't be where he is. But if he grew up in England hitting 90% straight drives he may have quit squash out of boredom or never created his flare and unique ability. This is where i feel you have to know your athletes and let them play the style of squash they enjoy. This may not translate into more success (especially in the short term as they experiment with shots), but if you try and get an attacking player to play patient squash they will not be satisfied for long even if they are winning. So I think a point should be added on the article about appreciating and encouraging creativity.

A couple of other things I feel should be on this list. Especially when you're working with kids I feel it's crucial to give them a break and cut them some slack sometimes. We cannot hold grudges because a kid misbehaved or said something inappropriate. It can be hard being a kid and growing up and sometimes we don't know all that is going on behind the scenes. So I think we have to be able to read body language and be a good listener (which is on the list) so they feel comfortable and safe talking to us about it if they wish.

The other thing I've noticed from the coaches I've worked with is that they will always make time for you no matter what. They are also always motivated, upbeat, energetic and in a good mood. This can be challenging from time to time if you're working longs days and on court a lot, but when you work with good young kids it's usually pretty easy to do. There's nothing better than being able to help shape a young persons future and squash game and to know you made a difference. On this note, I don't know if this deserves to be on the list, but is something I admire in coaches. When a coach doesn't seek the spotlight or any gratification for their work with an athlete. They are happy to let the players take all the credit and are humble and gracious regardless of the outcome of their athletes.

So if your coach brilliant? Do I consider myself a brilliant coach? Well I don't think about it and if I said yes well that's a little too conceded for my personality. Yes I know I write a blog and I guess this means that I have stuff to write about that I feel some people will value. This is why I didn't actually write my blog for a long time, I don't like the spotlight or want any attention. But eventually I realized that's a selfish way to think and that I had the ability to do something extra and help some people.

As a coach I just keep trying to do my best and find ways to motivate and help my athletes improve and have fun. Yes this blog was written with that purpose in mind. I know experienced coaches can make coaching look simple, just like good squash players do. But it's a skill that takes a long time to develop.

Unlike improving my my own squash game, becoming a better coach is not for myself but for the kids I work with and I guess now also for all of you that are reading my blog posts. So I hope I can continue writing about engaging topics and expanding upon your squash knowledge. If you haven't already done so you can like Serious Squash at Plus if there's a topic you want me to write about let me know.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Core Strength Training For Squash Players

Today is an important topic for every sport especially squash. Today I am going to discuss the importance of developing core strength and flexibility. We use our core to create extra torque in our swings. We also use our core to stay balanced as we hit a shot and to recover back to the T quickly. A strong core takes a long time to build up and is something that requires more then just doing crunches or doing the plank. In squash, there is a lot of rotation of the core so we need to make sure our core is strong not just in a single straight forward plane (like doing a sit up which is in the sagittal plane), but in the rotational transverse plane as well (such as doing opposite elbow to knee crunches).

I recently purchased a book called Core Strength Training published by Dorling Kindersley (DK) in 2013. I don't usually buy exercise books as we can get so much for free online, but I really liked how they layer this book out. They list over 150 core exercises and put them in order from easiest to more challenging. They then go through each one step by step in a two page layout explaining how to do each exercise. Having proper technique is so pivotal for doing core work. I find many people (especially kids) have a pretty weak core so they end up using other muscle groups to do the 'core' routine. This not only puts strain on other parts of the body but it also completely misses the objective of the exercise. My rule is once your technique is compromised, stop the exercise. You don't have to do 20 or 30 reps to have a good workout and improve your strength. Start small with good form and build up slowly. I highly recommend this book to those of you who not only enjoy a good picture book, but want to learn some new core routines. At the end of the book they help you set up your own core routine and suggest the number of sets and reps you should do for each exercise.

Okay, so my new core book is not the only experience I have recently with core training. Since I hurt my knee way back when I wanted to stay active and knew I had to do less aerobic activity and strength work with my lower body so I decided to focus on my core and upper body. For the pat 4 months or so I've done 3-4 core workouts per week with a variety of exercises. I feel like my core strength has improved dramatically. I've also started doing some yoga and enjoy the more dynamic and fluid core exercises some of the sessions have. Yesterday I came across the best yoga core workout routine to date. Here is the link for those that want to have a look:

You can tell from the lady instructing the course how ripped her abs are. After doing the workout I can see why. I made it through it, but there is no way I could have 4 months ago. There are very few breaks between exercises. This may be a lot for those new to core training. If you already have a pretty strong core and do some yoga then give it a shot and see how you do. This is only considered an intermediate workout so I'm going to do it a few more times before trying her advanced class. I've never done the same online yoga session twice, but I will for sure with this one. Let me know if you do it and what you think. If you have a link to another good core workout routine please send it to me.

Normally I'll do core routine at least 2-3 times per week and usually I'll do at least 5-6 different exercises. It doesn't take long, maybe 15-25 minutes and you can get in a good workout. The most important part is finding a way to incorporate it into your routine. Have set days or times or maybe even do it after your league match or with a friend after your hit. At least for me I find this is the best method to stick to a new programme. Depending on your current level and how frequently you train, you're probably looking at 5-6 weeks until you feel some noticeable strength and flexibility improvement.

Ok, that's about it for my core strengthening post. Today on my 74th post I'll be going over 10,000 total views. So it's good to know someone is ready what I write, or at least skimming through! Hope you enjoyed my post today and learned a couple of things. And hopefully I've motivated you to begin or amp up your core training. Your legs may be sore and need a break from your squash training, if so take some time to improve your core strength and I bet you'll be hitting the ball harder and will feel more balanced on the court. As a bonus you may also improve your posture and feel more confident at the beach!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

PSA Squash TV

So today I thought I would talk about PSA Squash TV. I know I've already discussed the importance of using video for your own games and who some of my favourite professional players are to watch. Currently there is a WSA & PSA event taking place called the Hong Kong Open. This is one of the dozen or so tournaments that PSA Squash TV covers. The tournament has just started so you can register and watch it online. The link is When I was a kid we had to order VHS tapes and then dvds of filmed matches from previous tournaments to watch the pros play. It's so much better getting to watch the games live now. The quality is better, because it's live the results are unknown, and it is much cheaper.

Unfortunately Ramy is injured and had to pull out of this tournament and for some reason Shabana isn't playing either. But two of my other favourites to watch Gaultier and Mohammed Elshorbagy are playing. Along with some young and upcoming Egyptians, such as Fares Dessouki and Mohamed Abouelghar. There promises to be a lot of entertaining squash.

They don't always film the WSA matches, but they are for this event. So you can also get a chance to see Nicol David play. She's attempting to win her 10th Hong Kong Open. Most players would be happy with winning 10 professional tournament total in their careers!

PSA Squash TV is only $120 pounds for a year, so the price is quite reasonable and the quality of the streaming is good. There is also an archive section where you can watch all the previous tournaments they've filmed over the past few years and even some real old school matches with Jansher, JP, Brett Martin, Peter Nicol and so on. It's interesting seeing how the game has changed and the different styles the game can be played at the highest level.

I always find I hit the ball better and hit higher quality shots after watching some of the top pros play. So it's not only entertaining, but it helps your squash game too!

The next tournament PSA TV will be filming is the US Open in October. So you'll have 5 or 6 weeks between events to go back and watch some archive footage.

Who's your favourite PSA & WSA players and why? Who do you least enjoy watching? Do you have a favourite matchup?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hydration Planning For Squash Players

Ok so today I'm going to post my last fact sheet I designed for my sport nutrition class. This one is about hydration. And we all know that hydration is no joke! So have a look and maybe you'll earn something new. Most people don't drink unless they are already thirsty and by this time they are already dehydrated. I also learned that a sports drink can rehydrate better than water because of the electrolytes and it makes you thirsty so you drink more. I have my references at the end of the document for those that want to see where I got my information from.

Hydration is also an appropriate topic because I've been thinking about designing some Serious Squash water bottles. I know this wasn't even an option on my poll. And I know the majority of you voted for shirts, but unless I did preorders I think this would be costly to stock pile all different sizes of shirts and I don't have that big of an apartment. Something to look forward to down the road though. Ok, enjoy reading about hydration planning for squash players.


True or False?(Answers at the bottom of the page)

I only need to worry about hydration when I get thirsty?

An average 70kg person has approximately 42 liters of total body water?

Water is the most effective method for re-hydrating?

The facility temperature plays an important factor in preparing for proper hydration?

Pre-exercise versus post-exercise body weight measurement is an effective method for determining how much fluid was lost and needs to be replaced?

Fluid Requirements for Proper Hydration PRIOR to Exercise (1)
  • The goal of drinking before exercise is to avoid excessive dehydration
  • Drink 5-7ml per kg (of body weight) at least 4 hours before exercise
  • If you do not produce urine, or it is dark in colour drink another 3-5ml per kg (of body weight) 2 hours prior to exercise
  • Consuming drinks or food with small amounts of sodium will help retain fluid intake and induce thirst
  • Drink 200-600ml of fluid immediately prior to exercise (4)

True of False Answers
  1. False. By the time you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Water quenches thirst even if you are still dehydrated, unlike sports drinks which taste better and makes you drink more fluid (1)
  2. True. Total body water averages 60% of one’s body weight. Small differences occur depending on body composition. Adipose tissue (fat) only contains 10% water whereas fat-free mass contains 70-80% water. Therefore trained athletes generally have a higher percentage of total body water (1)
  3. False. Small amounts of sodium (as found in sports drinks) assists in fluid retention. A proper hydration plan can help prepare for fluid (and electrolyte) loss (1). Water also turns off thirst before complete rehydration has occurred (9)
  4. True. Body temperature elevation increase the core temperature and elicits heat loss responses, increasing perspiration rate (1)
  5. True. Measuring pre and post-exercise body weights is a simple measuring tool for measuring how much weight (via perspiration) was lost. Another practical method for assessing hydration status is by determining the colour of your urine. Darker urine = more dehydrated (1) (see the dehydration page for more information)
FACT: Daily meal consumption is critical to maintain full hydration. Eating promotes fluid intake and retention (1)
    • Decreased total body water

    • Dark yellow coloured urine
    • Thirsty
    • Flushed skin or dizzy
    • Muscle cramping

    • Any of the warning signs and symptoms are present
    • Your body weight loss is >2% (pre to post-exercise)
    • You are not properly hydrated when starting exercise
    • You’re a male or a larger person because they typically sweat more, therefore they need to replace more fluid
    • The temperature is hot and/or you are wearing heavy clothing
    • You’re in a prolonged or intense exercise session
    • You’re sick (and unable to keep fluids or food down)
    • You drink water rather than a sports drink during exercise

    • Decreased exercise performance
    • Increased physiological stress
    • An increased heart rate and core body temperature
    • Increased perceived rate of exertion
    • Cognitive impairment, resulting in poor decision making, perception and concentration
    • Increased risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke
    • Muscle fatigue and cramping
    • Dizzy spells
Fluid Requirements for Hydration Maintenance DURING Exercise (1.6) The goal of drinking during exercise is to prevent dehydration and maintain health and performance
  • Drink should contain small amounts of sodium, potassium and carbs (30-60g per hour of exercise)
  • Drink 150-350ml of fluid every 15-20 minutes during exercise
The fact that athletes regularly encounter dehydration during training and competition makes adequate fluid intake the number one nutrition intervention for all athletes.’ (8)

Even the most well-intentioned and well-educated athletes (with readily available fluids) experience dehydration because they underestimate their sweat loss (8)


  • Well trained individuals generally perspire more than less fit individuals (2)
  • The more depleted your total body weight is, the more severe the physiological strain (1)
  • It is critical to focus on replacing extracellular fluid volume, including blood volume, which is accomplished by replacing the fluid and electrolytes lost (8). Water alone does not meet these requirements
  • Generally athletes only replace 30-70% of sweat loss during exercise, so a post-exercise weigh in can tell you how much more fluid is required for adequate rehydration (4)
  • Electrolytes (sodium and potassium) levels need to be reestablished after exercise to get back to an appropriate hydration level (1)

Fluid Requirements for Rehydration AFTER Exercise (1)
  • The goal of drinking after exercise is to replace fluid and electrolyte deficit
  • If severely dehydrated or if the recovery time is under <12 aggressive="" an="" font="" hours="" is="" rehydration="" required="" strategy="" then="">
  • Drink 1.5L of fluid for every kg of body weight lost
  • Best retention of fluids is done if fluid is consumed gradually (rather than in a single large dose)
  • Within the first 4 hours after exercise, consume 150% of fluid loss to compensate for ongoing sweat and urinary losses (4)
If an appropriate time has not elapsed since the previous exercise session, an aggressive rehydration plan may be required (1)

My Hydration Strategy
  1. I will prehydrate by drinking _______ml of _________ (which beverage), _______hours before exercise.
  2. My pre-exercise weight is ________lbs and my urine colour is__________ (clear/light yellow/dark yellow).
  3. I will have the following beverage ___________ readily available to replenish lost fluids and nutrients during exercise. I will drink _______ml every _______ minutes so that I drink the proper amount of fluid during exercise.
  4. My post-exercise weight is _______lbs, therefore I need to drink _______mls of __________ (which beverage) to properly replenish my fluid, carbs, protein, sodium and potassium.

Popular Hydration Alternatives

  • Popular Beverages and their Nutritional Information

    Gatorade     Prime
    Gatorade Perform
    (3, 7)



    (9, 11)

    Coconut Water (10)

    1% Chocolate Milk (5)

    Serving Size (ml)







    Sodium (mg)














    Carbs (g
    (21.2% of mixture)
    (6.4 % of mixture)
    (2.8% of mixture)
    (7.7% of mixture)
    (4.5% of mixture)
    (12.4% of mixture)

    Protein (g)






    Best Consumed Before, During or After Exercise






    Recommended requirements of a sports drink: 20-30 meq·L-1 sodium, 2-5 meq·L-1 potassium and a 6-8% carbohydrate mixture (1)
weight lost

  1. American College of Sports Medicine (2007). Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: Special Communications: Position Stands. Exercise and Fluid Replacement, 39(2), 709-731. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31890eb86 Retrieved May 17, 2012, from

  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2012). Hydrate Right. It's About Eating Right. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from

  1. Australian Institute of Sport (2009, July). Fluid – Who Needs it? Australian Sports Commission. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from

  1. Australian Institute of Sport (2009, July). Squash. Australian Sports Commission. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from

  1. Beatrice (n.d.). Our Products. Beatrice. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from

  1. Coaching Association of Canada (2003, October 9). A Statement on Fluid Needs: Sport Nutrition Advisory Committee of the Coaching Association of Canada. Sport Nutrition: Position Papers and Position Statements. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from

  1. Gatorade (n.d.). Introducing the G Series. Gatorade. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from

  1. Murray, B. (2008). Dehydration and Rehydration: Preventing Dehydration: Sports Drink or Water. Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from

  1. Murray, B. (2008). Hydration Research: Sports Drinks: Myths and Facts. Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Retrieved May 18, 2012, retrieved from

  1. O.N.E. (2012). O.N.E. Coconut Water. O.N.E. Drinks. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from

  1. The Coca-Cola Company (2011). Home: Powerade Isotonic. Powerade. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Supplements & Squash

Scroll down the page for the start of the post..

Today I'm going to discuss dietary supplements. I am not a physician and you should always consult with one before taking supplements. For some reason when I copy when I copy and pasted my fact sheet to this it didn't work perfectly so you'll need to scroll down a bit to see the stat of this post. I discuss a number of issues about supplements and after all my research I have concluded that the convenience of supplements can be very handy in squash tournaments and when travelling, but if you eat a balanced and healthy diet you likely won't need to use any supplements. Although some people will have deficiencies in certain areas of their diet and may need the use of vitamins or supplements to meet their recommended daily intake.

Currently I only take a daily multivitamin, likely more out of habit then necessity and glucosamine which is rumoured to help regenerate cartilage. I'll still have the odd protein bar if I don't have much of a break between a bunch of lessons. Back when I was training and competing I would use stuff like protein powders, sports gels and bars and found some of it useful depending on how hard I was training and how much rest time I had. It had more to do with the convenience factor, but it was also expensive to use this stuff regularly when I was a student.

We are all looking for an edge in our training. We want to recover faster and provided our body with the guest fuel to perform at our best and to win more! For some sports it seems like this is so important that they will take illegal supplements and I am glad that there have been very few of these reported incidents in squash. While I think we all know that many body builders, cyclists, baseball players, and wrestlers have or maybe do still dope. When there has been so much controversy in a sport it takes away the credibility of it. Even Victoria's own, Ryan Hesjedal just admitted to doping a decade ago and we are all aware of Lance Armstrong's issues. This post is not about those types of supplements and I just wanted to clear that up. In my fact sheet I post a link where you can find out what is banned and clean on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) website. Even some asthma inhalers and nasal sprays are on the banned list. So if you're representing your country at an international event (or playing in the Canada Winter Games) it is important to check any products you may be taking. This could include prescribed medicine for a common cold. Ok, that's it..time to let you check out my Squash & Supplements fact sheet. Let me know if you learned anything. 


What are supplements? (1)

A supplement is a product taken orally that contains a dietary ingredient that is intended to supplement the diet. Supplements may include vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other substances. Supplements may also be extracts from plants or foods. They are typically sold in tablets, capsules, soft gels, powders, bars or liquids. Any product that is sold as dietary supplements must be clearly labeled as such.

When to supplement the balanced diet? (1,3)

Those on a restrictive diet, either a weight loss program, do not consume foods from all of the food groups or consume low (or high) carbohydrate diets are at a greater risk of micro-nutrient deficiency.

Supplementing in squash(1,3)
When involved in regular training and competition, it is important to main a balanced diet and replace the macro and micro-nutrients that are become depleted during exercise. Consuming a supplement after training can enhance the regeneration process and can help maintain muscle mass.

When to supplement the balanced diet continued

Macronutrients recommendations for athletes involved in regular, moderate to intense exercise
Carbohydrates – the diet should consist of 55-65% carbohydrates in order to maintain and restore muscle and liver glycogen stores. This works out to 5-8g/kg per day. If you are required to consume a large number of daily carbohydrates and are having difficulty doing so, supplementing them (with high concentration mixes) with bars, gels and drinks can be very effective (1)
Protein – daily recommendations range from 1.2-1.7g/kg of body weight. These recommendations can generally be met without the use of any supplements (3). The timing of intake encompassing exercise has many benefits including improved recovery and a greater increase in fat-free mass (1)
Fat – intake should range from 20-35% of total dietary intake (3)

Check to see if a supplement or product is legal in your sport at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) website (2)

How do I know if a supplement is safe? (1)
  • Supplements are rigorously regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • The FDA requires manufacturers and distributors of any new dietary ingredient to submit a pre-market notification 75 days prior to the product being introduced
  • Dietary supplement companies are required to report any customer complaints on potential adverse effects to the FDA

Questions to consider when considering a dietary supplement (1)

If you have any questions consult with a physician or sports nutritionist
  • What is the scientific rationale behind the supplement/product?
    What data backs up the claims made? Is their proof cause and effect?
  • Were the studies done on similar athletes/subjects?
  • Who conducted the studies? Was it the company that manufactured the product?
  • Are the results statistically significant?
  • Were the results published in a peer-reviewed journal?
  • Have the findings been repeated?
  • Is the supplement safe and legal?
  • Are there any potential short or long-term side effects?
  • What is the proper dosage and time to use a supplement?
  • Which method (bar, gel, powder or liquid) and product is the most effective for me?
How a supplements effectiveness is rated?

Apparently Effective – supplements that help people meet general caloric needs and/or the majority of research in relevant populations show is effective and safe. For  best results, it is recommended that athletes stick to supplements that have and Apparently Effective rating (1)
Possibly Effective – supplements with initial studies supporting the theoretical rationale but require more research to determine how the supplement may affect training or performance. Those that wish to experiment with Possibly Effective supplements should understand that you may or may not experience the claimed benefits (1)
Too Early To Tell – supplements with sensible theory but lacking sufficient research to support its current use. It is recommended that athletes avoid using these supplements as there is not enough scientific data to back up these products (1)
Apparently Ineffective Supplements - athletes should avoid supplements that lack a sound scientific rationale and/or research has clearly shown to be ineffective (1)
Supplements & Their Effectiveness in Training

Apparently Effective Supplements
Protein – useful (as a supplement) for those that have a rigorous training regiment and have trouble ingesting enough protein. It is recommended that athletes consume 1.4-2.0g of protein per kg of body weight per day (1)
Essential Amino Acids – Ingesting 3-6g before and/or after exercise stimulates protein synthesis (1)
Sodium – increasing salt intake during intense training in the heat has been shown to help maintain fluid balance (1)
Creatine Monohydrate – useful for increasing muscle mass and high intensity training. Although it is the most effective nutritional supplement available to athletes to increase high intensity exercise-capacity and muscle mass during training, Note: squash players should be cautious because using this creatine because it adds bulk (and weight) which can decrease speed and aerobic fitness (1)

Possibly Effective Supplements
Post Exercise Protein and Carbohydrates – theoretically, ingesting protein and carbs immediately following exercise (as opposed to 2 hours later) can enhance training adaptations (1)
β-Hydroxy β-methylbutyric (HMB) – supplementing the diet 1.5-3.0g per day of calcium HMB during training has been typically reported to increase muscle mass and strength among untrained subjects starting training. Additional research is still necessary to determine potential benefits in trained athletes (1)
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) – supplementation has been reported to decrease exercise-induced protein degradation and/or muscle enzyme release (which is an indicator of muscle damage)
Sodium Phosphate – research suggests that supplementation (of 4g per day for 3 days) improved the oxygen energy system in endurance tasks (1)
Zinc- studies indicate that supplementation during training minimized exercise-induced changes to the immune system (1)
Note: although some of these supplements could have health benefits, these ratings are based upon their benefits (or lack of) for exercise performance

Supplements and their effectiveness in training continued…

Too Early To Tell (1)
Magnesium – most studies suggest that supplementation does not affect exercise performance unless there is a deficiency
Potassium – although potassium loss during intense exercise in heat has been anecdotally associated with muscle cramping, it is unclear whether potassium supplementation decreases the incidence of muscle cramping
Vitamin E – most studies show no effects on performance at seas level, but at high altitudes, supplementation may improve exercise performance
Vitamin K – there is some evidence that suggests supplementation may affect bone metabolism in postmenopausal women
Beta Carotene – it is unclear whether supplementation affects performance
Apparently Ineffective – although traces of the following vitamins and minerals are essential for the maintenance of health, additional supplementation does not enhance exercise performance for any of the following (1): Calcium, Iron, Selenium, Vanadyl Sulfate, Boron, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Thiamin, Robofalvin, Niacin, Pyridoxine, Cyano-cobalmin, Folic Acid, Pantothenic Acid and Vitamin C

Timing of a supplement

Before Exercise (1)
The timing and composition of meals consumed play a role in optimizing performance, training adaptations and preventing overtraining. It takes about 4 hours for carbs to be broken down and stored as muscle and liver glycogen therefore it is recommended that pre-exercise meals be eaten 4-6 hours prior to performance. A light carb snack 30-60 minutes before exercise can help to make sure there is enough  carbs available towards the end of the exercise sessions while also increasing the availability of amino acids

During Exercise (3)
It is recommended that during prolonged exercise, athletes consume 30-60g of carbs in a mixture of 6-8% (such as a sports drink)

After Exercise (1)
Following intense exercise, athletes should consume carbs and protein (e.g., 1g/kg of carbs and 0.5g per kg of protein) within 30 minutes after exercise. Athletes should also consume a high carb meal within 2 hours following exercise. This nutritional strategy has been found to accelerate glycogen resynthesis