Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Keep Score

Today I'm going to talk about the importance of keeping score. Obviously this is important when you're playing a game or match, but also when you're doing drills or playing condition games. Most of us keep score only when we play our matches, actually most people don't do anything but play games. But for those of you that are trying to improve, that do drills or play condition games, you will benefit more if you keep score. Let's discuss why this is.

I have to start with saying that you don't need to keep score for every drill. For example, if you're warming up with some boast drive or drop drive you can just do it for however long you want. But once you're warmed up and ready to go full speed you should try and keep score for most of your drills. Of course you can always mix in some feeding drills in between, like volley drops where you don't need to score against one another. Although even in a feeding drill I like having a target. I find that scoring and using targets keeps your concentration on the task at hand. I know how easy it is to lose your focus when you're not in a match situation.

Why keep score you ask? It makes both people try harder to start with. If you're competitive like I am, I don't want to lose even just a condition game in practice. This already makes the practice have a  different feel to it. Keeping score also makes you refocus after you make an error or two. Just like a game this is an important skill set that gets better as you practice it. This is a good time to work on your positive self-talk and taking a deep breath. You can also work on your preserve routines if your drill or condition game require a serve. Another reason why I believe keeping score improves practice is because you will get into big point situations from time to time. Say you're playing a straight game and it's 10-9 or 10 all. Even in a practice setting you can get tense and it's these type of scenarios that can be challenging for people to play their best. Some become tentative while others take any opening to try and rush and finish the game. Playing these big points well is a skill and you can get better at it by practicing in these types of situations. Convinced?

I know two people that drill together aren't always the same level. So here are some various ways to keep score to make it equally challenging for both.
1. the stronger player has the condition/restriction
2. the weaker player keeps his point total from the previous game
3. the stronger player has to do courts sprints whenever they lose 2 rallies in a row
4. the stronger player has to do court sprints after every 5 points
5. give a few points to start for the weaker player, the stronger player starts with a deficit
6. the only way the stronger player gets a point is by hitting a target, not just by winning the rally
7. the stronger player only gets a point when they're serving, while the weaker player is playing PAR
8. if the stronger player loses a rally they also lose a point, while the other person gains a point
9. the stronger player doesn't get a point when the weaker player makes an unforced error
10. the stronger player always starts returning serve or the defensive position (e.g., if you played a condition game where you serve off the back wall, the stronger person would always do this)

I know a lot of people don't want to admit they are weaker and don't want to have a lead. If this is the case then just play 1 game with 1 person having a tough condition and then switch for the following game. This means both people will have at least 1 hard game.

You can also still use some of my ideas for keeping score above even if you and your opponent are equally matched. When you keep score it makes the drill or condition game and each rally count for something. It makes you both try harder and want to run down each ball. You can also say the lower busy the beverage or use some physical exercise like courts sprints or pushups after certain things happen. This ensures that you're both going to play hard as if it were a match and that your workout will be more physically punishing than your matches are. If you want to get in good squash shape this is how you should be training. You're training sessions should be harder than your matches (or at least as equally tough as one of your most physically challenging matches).

If you don't keep score when you play drills or condition games I hope you will now. Of course there is a time and a place for feeding and working on technique. Keeping score is not the ideal situation for doing this. Keeping score will help you stay focused, be challenged, have more fun, be creative and will improve how your decision making and how you play big points.

After yesterday's lengthy post I thought I would keep this one a little shorter. Hopefully it was still insightful nonetheless.

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