Today I'm going to discuss some simple ideas you can try to play better squash today. Obviously we can always hit higher quality shots and be more consistent, but today I'll give you some simple ways you can improve your game. We all want instant results and today I'm going to try and give them to you. Previously I've discussed the top 10 most common fundamental errors http://www.serioussquash.com/2014/07/top-10-most-common-fundamental-errors.html but this list will be much different. Today's list will be things that all of us are capable of doing or at least attempting regardless of skill level. Here we go.
1. Have a strategy - I find most people just play without any gamelan. Even if you pick a strategy that isn't effective you'll learn from it and tweak it and find one that is more successful eventually. If you want some assistance picking a strategy I'll discuss a few later in this list.
2. Have a routine between points - most people again just rush from point to point. Taking a second or two between points allows you to think about what is going on and regroup after mistakes. It is also a good time to take a deep breath which helps you relax if you're a bit tight or nervous.
3. Take care of your serve - most people overlook this and just put the ball in play. An effective serve hits the sidewall and forces your opponent to volley. Ideally it also makes your opponent have to decided if they should volley the ball before or after it hits the sidewall. This can create indecision and can set up some easy points for you.
4. Volley your opponents serves - Even with good players I see this all of the time. I think a lot of this has to do with focus. Make sure you are standing high enough up returning serve and don't let the ball go by you.
5. Hit the ball straighter - this of course depends on how close you get to the ball and your ability to hit the ball straight. People that crosscourt for no reason normally set up their opponent with many of these shots. Just hitting a few more straight shots will make a big difference.
6. Hit the ball deeper - This may also translate to hitting the ball higher on the front wall. Many of us get in trouble because or length lands in the service boxes or shorter and we don't have time to get to the T. It's better to slightly overhit than under-hit your drives. Make sure your length is landing behind the service boxes and you'll play better and have more time to get to the T. What I tell most people is just try and get the ball to the back wall and you'll be more successful. This is especially true on the forehand side where people tend to overhit and aim to low on their drives.
7. Play your boasts sparingly - many amateurs boast way too much. Against some people they can be effective, but if the less you play them the more effective they will be. My motto about boasts is the same as crosscourts, hit them because you want to not because you have to.
8. Hit 10 lengths each rally before going short - many people try and end the rally very quickly and force the ball in short. Make sure that when you go short it's a good opportunity. If it isn't hit your length and wait for a better opening. Being a bit more selective will make you more consistent and will mean less unforced errors and free points for your opponent.
9. Get back to the T - this is a common problem for most people. Some watch their shots and others hang way back on the T. If you can make a conscious effort to get back to the T after you hit you will have more time to hit your next shot and will therefore hit higher quality shots.
10. Make every point count - this has to do with having a between point routine. Many people lose focus when ahead or behind. If you can play every point as game or match ball you will win more rallies and play better. I find it interesting how the intensity rises and people pick up their games when their matchbox down. If you play every point with a strategy and maintain your focus you'll play better squash.
11. Look to volley whenever you can - This includes volleying your opponents serve but also much more. Most of us don't volley enough. We make an error on a volley and shy away from them. This isn't how we improve our volleys. If you hit the ball deeper and get back to the T earlier you will have more opportunities to volley. This doesn't mean you have to volley short. If it's a tough volley keep it deep until you create a better opening.
12. Give an appropriate margin on your drops - most people think a drop shot has to be an outright winner. For most good players the drop is a working shot and if they hit it really well it may set up a winner or a stroke on the following shot. When trying to finish the point people tend to aim too low and hit too many tins. Hitting a drop even a foot over the tin can still be very effective when it's tight or your opponent is well out of position. How big of a margin you give depends on your opponents court position, your skill and how fast your opponent is. Whatever margin you give make sure you don't just float them up there. You still still make an aggressive swing while aiming slightly higher.
So there you go. I caution you about trying to implement too many of these at once. Simply pick the 1 that interests you or you think will help your game the most. The next time you play try another. For me the biggest factors when I play well is mentally my focus and playing every point the same. Tactically I also feel that hitting straighter, deeper and volleying are keys to performing well.
I'm off to Yale in the morning to take some kid to the Ivey League Scrimmages. I don't get back until late Monday night so it may be a while before my next post. It's a lot of travel so I may end up writing one at some point but no promises. I'll be sure to write a post about our experience this weekend. I know a lot of people are using squash as a tool to get into these good schools. Does this help or hurt squash? Does this put extra pressure on kids playing squash? Maybe I'll also have a few good stories from the trip. Until next time, good luck on the court. Let me know if you have success with any of my tips from today.