Monday, October 20, 2014

Preparing For The Unexpected

Today is going to be a rather unique topic. I'm going to talk about what happens when unexpected things happened during a match. This includes when you get injured, are bleeding, the ball breaks, your string or racquet breaks, your shoelace breaks, and so on. It can also be equally distracting when something happens to your opponent. If they get sick or injured it is easy to loose your focus and let your guard down. How can you avoid this happening? Obviously some of these scenarios can be prepared for, such as having an identical backup racquet, while others are more challenging.

I started thinking of this topic because of the first aid course I took on the weekend. Whenever I travel to a tournament with kids I always bring a first aid kit. It has the basics in it, bandaids, tensor bandages, sports tape and so on. This brought back memories of one of the more memorable practices from last season. I was trying to prepare the kids for things that may occur at a competition. So we played challenge matches and mid-match I would pretend their ball broke and make them warm up and continue on with a new ball. I also would pretend their strings or racquet broke and they would have to play with their backup. Some of the kids really didn't like their backup racquet and complained about this. Some of the backups were not identical racquets and this really threw them off. This is why for any serious squash player to be prepared and have at least 2 identical racquets with the same tension and type of string, the same grip with the same thickness. This will allow for the easiest transition. It's important to be prepared for these situations. Have a look at this post on for what to pack for a tournament.

If you break your strings or racquet during a point, how do you finish the rally? You probably have 1 or 2 good chances to attempt a winning shot, otherwise the more shots you hit the looser your strings well get and the less accuracy you will get. Don't just stop and give away the point, play it out and use your legs to try and win the rally. It can really frustrate an opponent when they lose a rally to a broken frame or string.

So going back to the first aid scenario. Do you know how long you have if you get inured in a match? This of course depends on if it was self inflicted or not. This also depends on if there was any blood. The blood rules states that the players gets as long as it takes to clean up the blood and bandage the wound. Once you begin play if blood shows up from the same wound you will be stopped immediately and you're opponent will be awarded the game. You will then only have the regular allotted time between games to put a new bandage on and hope this doesn't happen again. If this happens in the 5th game you'll lose the match.

As for injuries, if it is a self-inflicted injury you have up to 3 minutes for any treatment before you have to be back on court. If your opponent is at fault you are entitled to the match. If it is contributed by both players you have up to an hour before shaving to begin play again. Here is a link to an abbreviated list of the rules

It wouldn't be a wise use of practice to use to long of delays during a match, but for a touring pro I would practice these situations as it will happen at some point and it is very challenging to get back your focus and your game. It's almost harder if it's your opponent that gets inured. You may start wondering if they'll continue and if you should change your game plan. Unless it was a serious injury it's important to focus on yourself and your own shots. Keep playing the way you've been playing. If you haven't been playing well this stop in momentum may prove to be helpful.

One situation we practiced as group was coming off court for an injury timeout and having to go back on and play with some tape on a joint or a bandaid on your hand. We had some fun with this one and had tape wrapped around one of the kids heads. It was maybe a little over the top, but it got a bunch of laughs and definitely threw him off his game. When something changes your focus it is hard to play your best squash. You can use situations just like the ones I've listed to rehearse for these. They may not happen often, but they do, and they are situations you can practice for. It can also be a lot of fun at the same time.

I'll finish off with some other unusual situations that I have either seen occur or have heard about. What happens if you rip a hole in your shorts? I've heard about a bra snapping as well and a foot going through a shoe. What do you do? We can only prepare for so many things before it gets a little ridiculous. But keeping extra socks, shorts, shirt, racquets eye guards and maybe even shoes are all important. Having some standard first aid equipment is also useful for tournaments. And if you want to be really prepared, try having to make some of these adjustments in practice. Remember it's not really about the physical changing of the equipment or the rapping of an injury, it's about the mental focus. If your opponent does this do you stay on court and continue hitting? Or take a break and get a drink and talk to your coach?

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