Today I'm going to discuss a topic that I certainly don't have all the answers for, but is something I have encountered and debated frequently. Today I'm going to discuss the beloved and equally hated court sprint, or I guess technically court sprints! Believe it or not some people actually enjoy court sprints and pushing their bodies to the limits. Should we do court sprints? How many should we do? How often should we do them? What part of the season should we do them?
I know for certain that using court sprints as punishment or any type of physical activity can make a kid dislike the activity. I also know that squash should be fun first and foremost. But still we have all done plenty of court sprints and not enjoyed them, but still we do them. Is this because we want to win so bad or that we cannot stand losing?
When I was living in Moncton I didn't have much competition to prepare myself for nationals. So I spent a lot of time doing courts sprints. I would time myself for doing a set of 100 and try and get under 5 minutes. I would also do the beep test every once in a while. I was scoring in the 14's pretty consistently and I found out that was a pretty decent result for a 28 year old male. So if you just went by this test you would have thought I was in pretty good shape for nationals. Well I had to play Shawn Delierre first round on the glass court at the NSA. I surprised him by winning the first game, but got quite fatigued part way through the 2nd game when he realized he just had to keep everything deep and wait until I slowed down. I wasn't accustomed to the actual physicality of a squash game. I ended up losing 3-1 and mostly because of fitness. When I look back at this I trained pretty hard. I was doing plyometrics and my legs were strong, I was doing a lot of court sprints and running the beep test at a good standard, but it just wasn't the same.
So what am I getting at you ask? Well, court sprints can be an additional tool leading up to event you want to peak for, but are definitely not enough to ensure you are fit enough for competition. If you can do one or the other you are better off playing hard matches and doing condition games and drills as opposed to just court sprints and training. I always enjoyed playing games and using court sprints within the game (I didn't feel like these were punishments, more incentives). For example, if I played a weaker opponent I may have to do 10 court sprints anytime they get to a multiple of 3 points and then 10 more at the conclusion of every game regardless of the outcome. Doing something like this is much better than just doing court sprints on their own. Sometimes if I had an easy league game I would do a few sets of courts sprints at the end because I wanted to keep my fitness up.
If you have a tournament you really want to do well at this year, say provincials or the club champs, set up a 6 week court sprint/movement training sessions two times per week. But don't just do them on their own, incorporate them into your matches or drills. I also feel that court sprints are good, but practicing your court movement by doing ghosting can be more beneficial because you can improve your movement and your fitness at the same time. If you do try a 6 week training programme, be sure to gradually increase your reps or amount of distance covered each week. I also like to record how fast or how many I did so I have a goal for the following training sessions. If you can do them with someone else you will also have a better chance of pushing one another and sticking to your routine. And be sure to give yourself some time to taper prior to the event. If your event starts on a Friday the latest I would do a really tough session which includes court sprints is Monday, possibly Tuesday if you're a young buck.
On a final note, although I've noted many of the benefits of court sprints they are not necessary to be fit and prepare for a tournament. This is a difficult thing as I coach a group of kids, some will not mind this tough mindless running while others will despise it. My job is to prepare them for these events, but more importantly to teach them and to make sure they enjoy squash. So this is where it's important to learn what goals your kids have so you can give them what they want. If they are enjoying squash and play for fun and don't really care about their results or getting fitter than making them do court sprints is probably doing more damage then good. But I also know from my personal experience that I didn't always enjoy hard physical exercise, but came to appreciate it later on. It's a great feeling or pride and satisfaction to push yourself hard in a workout.