Sunday, October 26, 2014

How Canadian Junior Squash Has Changed In 20 Years

So I know I promised a Monday post about being up 2 games to love, but you'll have to wait 1 more day for that, but it is on the way. When I got home from the tournament I started thinking about how the game has changed; how good are the kids these days compared to when I played. Then I remembered I have a couple of my matches on video from way back in the day. So today I decided to write about how the game has changed over the past 20 years. And I can only use my own videos and memory for comparison. But surely with all the coaching and technology available to us our kids are doing better and improving faster...

The quality of my video is poor and the camera angles are not much better. But I decided to watch them and see if they would answer some of my questions. This it did, and then some I've watched these matches before, but it was a few years back and I understand the game a lot better now. Watching these games made me realize just how important coaching can be and the challenges of being a smaller kid. Here's the link if you want to take a look http://youtu.be/F_e8DUBYrHI. Can you tell which kid is me?

I know it's backwards, but this is how I received these copies of my matches and I don't know how to edit it. The first video if the last junior match I have recored of myself. I was playing the national semifinals against a much bigger opponent named Danny Rutherford. But basically my tactics were all wrong. I was an attacking player and would go short from anywhere on the court. Against some opponents this worked, but against a bigger and stronger opponent it didn't. If I just hit a few more lengths and waited for a better opening I would have won that match. But it's easy from the sidelines and to think about what could have been. But I didn't understand this at the time. For me, every time I had a chance to go short I took it.

The second match on the video is my under 12 finals against Matt Giuffre. We were 11 in this video so my attacking squash worked better. Especially since Matt was about the same size as me. Going up 1 age group and playing the under 14 against Danny was much tougher. I don't think his racquet skill was any better than mine, but he was physically stronger and his tactics were better that day. He did also go on to play professionally and make the top 40 in the world!

You'll have to excuse the last 30 minutes or so of the link.  I don't know how to edit it out, but there are 2 girls playing who were from my club and I'm thinking that maybe one of their dads recorded the matches on his camera.

After watching these matches there were a few things that stood out to me. The first was my poor racquet prep, especially on the forehand side. But back then my racquet was about 150 or 160 grams. Still, when I was under a bit of pressure I had trouble on the forehand. Would it be the same if I used a 100 gram racquet? I don't know, but it must have helped developed my strength. And really it made me have to prepare quicker and have a compact swing. Because of this poor preparation I didn't have a very good straight drop. I often waited until the ball was dropping again and played a topspin type drop by my feet. I think my backhand racquet pre was pretty good though and I did look to volley. I just didn't have much power on my backhand volley.

I also felt like my trickle boast was very effective. I did mention that a few posts back (http://www.serioussquash.com/2014/10/the-trickle-boast.html). So here's proof! I was pretty deceptive when I had time at the front of the court as well. When I got a loose ball I prepared early, mixed it up well and had a number of options from a single setup. The last thing I noticed was that I was fearless. Against Danny I went for a crosscourt nick return of serve down match ball at 8-4. I hit it, at least close enough and came back to tie things at 8 before losing in extra points. Anyways, I played 1 style and didn't adapt it for anyone and the score. I'm just guessing that my coaches back then were letting me play how I wanted and didn't try and interfere with the way I enjoyed and wanted to play. Or perhaps I just didn't listen. I can't recall. But was this right or wrong? It made me think about the kids that I coach that around this age or level. Do you tell them to not do something right now so they will be more successful even if it means they are just keeping the ball in play and not playing how they want to play? At the end of the day I had a lot of success at that age. Would it work as you get older and play better, faster, fitter, stronger opponents, as the ball gets warmer and bouncier? Well it didn't against Danny. So if I was coaching myself I would try and get more balance between my attacking shots and my lengths.

So that's about it. I was curious how the game has changed in the past 20 years. I wrote a post about this awhile back about if I could time travel and coach myself (http://www.serioussquash.com/2014/07/why-i-didnt-play-pro-squash.html). I know I'm dating myself here and it's hard to now where the time went, but the next thing you know you're all grown up and trying to help people learn from your experiences.

Clearly the racquets make a difference, but I still see kids with their racquets down by their ankles. But I also don't see many kids in Canada playing the attacking style of squash that I liked to play back then. Is that because it isn't successful or that coaches are focusing more on length and getting kids to build a solid base first? Back then I would solo hit almost every day and worked nonstop on my short game. So was my short game back then better than kids that age today? Probably. But my length probably wasn't. Back then I didn't understand how important length was or even what a good length was. I mixed up the pace and I knew tight was important, but it takes time to learn what you're trying to do with length and to have a purpose behind all of your shots. Most of the time I hit length was just because it wasn't a good enough opportunity to attack short.

If you've been around coaching or playing for the past 2 decades what have you noticed that's changed? If you watched my matches, what did you notice is different from back then? Besides the poor camera quality! Canada doesn't have as many highly ranked international players anymore? Have the tactics and coaching changed? Or do more people are playing from around the world? I know all I have to go on on are a couple of my matches and my memory, so it's hard to say for sure.


2 comments:

  1. Could you talk about in a future post what makes a length "good" and what makes a good length so important? What changed about how you understood the length as a junior and now?

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  2. Will do! Great idea!! I may just write about that one tomorrow

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