Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Controlling The Weight Of Shot

Today I'm going to discuss the challenges of hitting accurate depth. Even after playing for most of my life it is still a challenge to hit the right weight of shot; why is that? And how can we improve our ability to control the weight of our shot. Let's get started.

There are a lot of reasons why it is so difficult to control the weight of our shot. The first is that there is inconsistency in the bounce of the ball. A new ball is bouncier, so is it when you play on a warmer day, or against someone that hits the ball really hard. A ball also slows down the more you use it and our muscles fatigue, so over the course of the match you will need to slightly adjust your targets. Also the pace and angle of your receiving shots are quite variable. This isn't like hitting a golf ball off a tee, where you know your distances with each club within a few yards. Our string tension also slightly changes as we use our racquet. If we change racquets or use our backup this again will make the spring much different.

I also notice many people hold the squash racquet directly in their palm, as opposed to more towards the bottom of their fingers. Holding your racquet right in your palm or squeezing your grip very tight won't allow you to have that soft feel that you need to control the weight of different shots. This means you are probably more of a 1 pace ball basher. If your biomechanics aren't repeatable or are inefficient then you will also have difficulty controlling the weight of shot.

Another reason we have trouble weighting our shot is that we are rarely hitting from the exact same spot with an identical posture. We are under various amounts of pressure throughout a rally. As you well know squash is a fast paced sport played in an open environment. This makes it very difficult to get the repetitions required to fine tune your weight. Another golf example is if you never practiced the same length of putt twice in a row on the practice green. Hmm, put that may be onto something. How we set up practice in squash is normally blocked/repetitive. Even hitting boast and drive or drop - drive we slightly vary where we hit from, but we also are always hitting the same shots and trying to find the same target over and over. But I'll get back to this topic shortly.

I find another big reason most people struggle with the weight of there shot is because they never paid mush attention to it as they developed as a player. We focus most of our efforts on hitting it hard and/or tight. Until you've played a lot of squash you don't realize how importance the weight of your shots are. Knowing when you want to intentionally overhit your drive and when you get an opening and know you have to get the ball to bounce twice before the back wall. These are the subtleties you learn as you progress in the sport, but I feel you can enhance your skills by concentrating on the weight of shot in drills.

If you play a tournament or a league match at another court, the bounce on the court will vary from what you are familiar with. Going from panel to plaster is always a challenge. Whenever I'm in these positions I always focus on finding my weight of drives at the beginning of the match. Whoever can adjust to the conditions quicker has the best chance of winning.

Here are a few methods for practicing where you can concentrate on the weight of your shots.

1) Hit rotating drives or a length game, if a ball lands in the service box the other person can go short.
2) Player 1 cannot let the ball hit the back wall on the bounce or they lose the rally. Player 2 can hit anything.
3) You have to hit 3 shots behind the service boxes before you can go short.
4) You have to hit every other shot over the service line.
5) Player 1 hits straight or crosscourt length from the front, player 2 hits straight drop or boast. You can also make a switch if player 2 volley drives player 1's shot.
6) Practice with different types of balls (make, colour of dot, etc)
7) Change to a new ball between games
8) Practice with your backup racquet. Does it have the same type and tension of string? How long ago was it strung? The tension loosens up as you play with it.
9) Game with targets for bonus points placed along the sidewalls.
10) Get the ball really warm (after doing some figure 8 volleys) and then play a game or do some drives.

I also like doing drills with targets. Not just are you trying to hit the ball tight, but also find the right height and pace to get the ball to land at the appropriate depth. If you can get your drop or boast to sty a little shorter it means your opponent will be under that much more pressure. You can try just setting up a single target or you can make things more challenging but executing 2 or 3 different targets. The could all even be for variations of the same shot.

For example, you could set up various targets for your drops to bounce depending on the angle, depth, pace and height you hit them from. Instead of having the same target regardless of where you are hitting from, it should vary slightly.

This may be more obvious if I talk about drives. Here's an example during drop - drive. Set up a target in the middle of the service box, at the bottom of the service box and then midway between the back of the service box and the back wall. The idea here is that you go hard and low for the first target and then slightly raise or hit harder as you aim for the 2nd and then 3rd target. You can imagine how this goes from an attacking drive to an overhit, rallying length.

You can also focus on your weight of shot when you're solo hitting. See how many shots in a row you can hit in the service box. Then aim for the back line on the service box and then aim for 1 bounce and off the back wall. I truly believe that if you focus more on your weight of your shot in practice you will improve your ability to hit those invisible targets in your games. Not only this but you will increase your understanding of the importance of the weight of shot.

As mentioned, not only do you need to think about your weight of shot, but also about when to play which weight. Aiming for a 'perfect' dying length may not be ideal when your out of position and under pressure. I also find most amateurs generally hit their drives too short, especially on the forehand. And then when players get to a high level they have a tendency to miss out on opportunities and overhit all of their drives.

Hopefully you can now appreciate the importance of weight of shot. It's something that great players make look so simple, but now you know is anything but.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Getting The Ball Out Of The Back Corners

Today I'm going to talk about one of the more challenging skills for most squash players, digging the ball out of the back corner. For quite awhile when you start playing, any shot that makes it to the back wall wins the point. On top of the mechanics being an issue, the ball also doesn't get warm and bouncy enough to come off the back wall. Getting shots after they hit the back wall is a slow progression, but a skill that is very satisfying.

As you get to a higher standard, (for example, watch the pros this week at the Tournament Of Champions) you will rarely see a player have to boast. They will boast when they want to. At a high standard if you are limited to 1 option your opponent will be all over your shot. How do top players manage to get any shot out of the back corner and back down the wall? It's a long list, which is where I'm going to start.

Today I'm going to talk about how to hit a drive when the back corner is interfering with your normal swing. If you have difficulty timing the ball off the back wall when you have space you aren't quite ready for the following list. For those people I recommend working on your basic mechanics of your swing and your footwork into and out of the back corners. Many amateurs have swings that are rotational, which means they don't go directly to the ball, they go backwards and will end up hitting the back wall. I feel for the back wall with my racquet and know if my racquet is set I have room to swing. If I can't get into a regular racquet preparation then I shorten it accordingly.

You can also practice with a blue or single yellow dot, or even allow 2 bounces to learn how to time the ball off the back wall. When you start getting better at rotating drives you are now ready for the next step. What can you do to get a good drive out of the corner. Let's take a look.

Keys To Digging The Ball Out Of The Back Corners
1) Anticipation of the receiving shot- hitting the ball before or after it hits the back wall. Good players can tell when the ball isn't going to come off the back wall and get there early and play it before it is too late.

2) Footwork - is crucial under pressure. Average club players cheat and hang far back on the T because they don't have a proper split step or court movement from the T to the back corners. Top players can move from a high T position into the back corner and play drives under pressure on their back foot (open stance).

3) Shortening your backswing - when someone hits a near perfect length we can't take a full swing and contact the ball. Elite players can shorten up their backswing and use a flick of the wrist to get the ball back down the wall. The shorter the swing the more height the player will look to use on the front wall to get the ball all the way to tieback of the court.

4) Choke up on the racquet - same as shortening your backswing, players will also choke up their grip. Sometimes even slightly higher than the top of their grip. If you watch good players closely you will see them doing this from time to time.

5) Get low - again when limited for space you need to get low so you can get your racquet under the ball.

6) Open the racquet face - when your backswing is impeded you have to open up your racquet face to get the ball high enough on the front wall. This goes together with getting low, choking up on the grip and shortening the backswing. To dig out a near dead drive you will need to do all of these to get the ball back down the wall.

It was tricky to photograph my own hand, but you will see how I have my racquet head back by using my wrist, not my arm.  Most people will find this easier to do on the forehand than backhand. But remember, the warmer the ball the easier it will be to get this flick drive back down the wall.

Forehand setup (above) for digging out a dying length. Notice just my racquet head going back as I extend my wrist. I am also choked right up on the grip to reduce the circumference of my swing.

Backhand setup (above) for digging out a dying length. Notice the very open racquet face. As I won't be able to get as much power on the backhand side with the shorter swing I need to hit the ball higher to get it all the way to the back wall.

When you first start trying to implement some of the techniques, just try them on every drive, even if you don't need to. You can start with your grip choked up, your racquet face open and waiting in the back corner. You can slowly work your way up to starting at the T with you standard grip. 

The best method for not having to boast is to get the ball before it reaches the back wall. But we can't always do this, so to be a top level player you have to be able to hit a good shot under pressure. You can see forearm and wrist strength play important factors in this skill set. Also getting low and playing a drive open stance take a lot of lower body strength and balance. 

There's a reason why a well weighted drive is such a valuable shot. It's struck nowhere near the tin and most players can't get it back, let alone hit it back down the wall. 

Final tip to implement these skills: a good way to practice these skills during match play is by not hitting any boasts. 

That's all for today. Remember to boast because you want to, not because you have to!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Squash String Review

Today I am going to talk about squash string. I am constantly asked what type of string someone should play with and what tension they should string their racquet at. For any serious squash player I always recommend experimenting with all the different types until you find one that has the best feel and power combined. For a serious competitive squash player, durability is secondary to these other characteristics.

String Tension 
Generally speaking the lower the tension the more power but less feel. The strings become like a trampoline and the ball explodes off the racquet. Of course if you string your racquet too loose your strings will move around a lot and this seems to really bother some people. How much does a strong out of place really affect your next shot? Properly negligible at best. An average squash tension is 27-28 pounds. I normally don't go more than 1 or 2 pounds higher or lower from this range, but it does make a big difference.

Another important thing to know about string tension is that factory strung racquets normally come strung quite high. The racquets normally have a 'ping' sound to them and I usually cut out the factory string. But I have the luxury of having my own stringing machine so it doesn't cost too much money. A racquet strung too high is dangerous for people that don't have proper and efficient swing biomechanics. If you have any elbow or shoulder issues you shouldn't get your racquet string too high. I would recommend 27 at the highest, or better yet some lessons to correct your stroke!

It's important to remember that string loosens up as you play with it. If you're a hard hitter or you don't break strings very often you may want to get the racquet strung a pound or 2 higher as it will slowly become your ideal tension.

Another important factor about string tension is the size of the racquet head. Mostly this has to do with the length of the main strings. The longer the main strings, for example on an open throat racquet I string the racquet a little higher. Whereas the old school, small head squash racquets had a small radius and could be strung at a lower tension, but would feel much tighter. Depending on the length of your main strings and also the number of them, you should increase or lower the tension accordingly. If you only have 12 main strings on anon throated racquet you are probably better stringing your racquet closer to 29 or 30 pounds. Unless of course you have a history of tennis elbow.

Different strings have different structural qualities and because of this they should also be strung at slightly different tensions. Ashaway Powernick 18 for example recommends striking their string 10% lower than other strings. Meanwhile Tecnifibre recommends stretching their string before stringing it, so again you don't have to string the racquet quite as tight as a racquet that didn't have a pre-stretched string.

Hardball doubles racquets are normally strung quite a bit higher. I don't get to play much doubles anymore, but when I did I would string my racquet at 40 pounds or even slightly higher. The ball is much harder than a softball and you will have too little control and your strings will move all over the place if you use a racquet string at 27 pounds. You will also find that you break a lot more strings playing with a hardball.

Types Of Strings
The main characteristics you are looking for in a squash string depend on your level, your style of play and the cost of the string. Most average club players could use any string and not notice much of a difference. For these players you want durability. For more advanced players who notice the difference in feel with their strings will be looking for a more advanced product. There are many on the market and I will cover the most popular ones now.

Supernick XL
This string has been around since I was a little kid. It's a good basic string. I find it has average durability and power with a low amount of feel. I recommend this string to any average club player who doesn't care much for the feel and wants to have a basic cheap set of strings. This string is a step above most cheap factory string, but I don't see many advanced players using it these days. There is also the Supernick Titanium which lasts sightly longer, but again has a low amount of feel.

Powernick 18
This is one of the more popular choices I see at the club. This string is one of the best for overall durability, feel and power. It costs a little more than the basic Supernick, but is well worth the investment.  

Ultranick 18
This string is similar the the above Powernick 18. It's the same gauge and made of the same material, but I would say has slightly more feel or touch. Some kids also just prefer blue string! 

 Ultranick 17 
This string is not very popular from what I see in Canada, but I like this the best of all the Ashaway strings. It has a little more texture and feel to the string. The string is slightly thicker, but it doesn't really last any longer because of the texture. If you like to slice the ball and already use Powernick 18 or Ultranick 18, give this one a try. 

X-One Biphase 1.18
This string has the most power of any Technifibre string. Because this string still has the same multifilament as the other classic green string it still has good feel to it. The durability is average, but pretty good for a Tecnifibre string. If you are looking for more power and don't want to loose your feel, give this one a try!

305 Gauge 17/ 1.20
This string is another top of the line choice. It doesn't have quite as much power with as the X-One, but has slightly more feel. This is a great choice for someone that likes to slice the ball. 

305 Gauge 18/ 1.10
This string is the same as the one above, but is a thinner gauge. This is my string of choice. Because it is thinner, it is actually slightly lighter and I feel it has more tough. The only issue with this string is that is has poor durability. On average I break 1 set of strings per week, but I also have the luxury of owning a stringing machine. I only recommend this to 3 types of people. Those who have multiple racquets, as you need at least 3 to go to a tournament with. Those that have their own stringing machine (as it will get expensive). And finally those that are highly competitive and play at advanced level as you will notice the difference (because it's just the best!).

I know Tecnifibre has the 305+. I've only tried it once and I didn't care for it much. I haven't had enough experience with it to give a more thorough review. 

I know there are lots of other companies that make string. There are probably even some very good products out there that I have never even heard of, but I cannot review them because I'm unfamiliar with the. If you want to ensure you are playing with a high quality string, try out an Ashaway or Tecnifibre model. 

I'm always interested in hearing what types of string people like to use? Do you have another make or model that you really like? I'm always looks for suggestions. I'm not sponsored by any companies so there is no conflict of interest in any of my reviews. 

Also, if you are a squash family and go through a lot of strings, you may want to invest in a squash stringer. My dad did when I was about 10 years old and I've strung well over a thousand racquets an still use the same stringer to this day. You can always start with a cheap tabletop stringer which should only cost a few hundred dollars. These tabletop string machines do the trick, but if you're doing a lot of stringing you'll eventually want something more study. If you do this, just makes you you don't start undercutting your squash club's string service. That's part of the way squash clubs and coaches make a living. 

Play around with the types of string and the tension. You may just find something that suits your game better. If you're not sure what you're looking for, ask yourself what characteristics are you looking for in a string? Durability, power, control/feel, or just the colour? 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hit It Tighter: Using Your Body As A Frame Of Reference

It's been a few days since my last post. It's taken more extra time than normal to put this one together. It's an interesting topic and I was trying to find the best way to explain it. Today I'm going to talk about body alignment when setting up to hit the ball straight. I'm going to concentrate on the hips, torso and shoulders. If we want to hit the ball straight and tight, parallel to the sidewall we can best achieve this by using our own body as a frame of reference. Good players make it look so simple, but it takes thousands and thousands of hours to be able to read the receiving shot correctly and position your body optimally.

Let's start off by talking about how our feet, hips, torso and shoulders are used as a frame of reference. You can see a good example by James Wilstrop (below). His shoulders are slightly open to the front wall, but his feet and hips (and belly button) are pointing (squared up/parallel) to the sidewall. This means if Wilstrop hits the ball at the right moment (depth) he will hit the ball in a straight line, tight to the sidewall.

The feet: when you contact the ball, as often as possible you want to place the ball exactly where you want it. The right distance between you and the ball off of your foot your striking the ball with. Out of the back forehand corner you also often hit the ball between your feet, or just slightly more towards the lead foot. The reason why we can't rely on our feet to ensure the rest of our body is in an optimal hitting position is because you can rotate your hips and torso which can greatly change your setup I'm not going to go into too much detail about this because I've already written a post on this topic here

The hips, shoulders and torso: your feet are important frames of references, but your hips, torso and shoulders is what allows a good player to hit the ball so consistently tight. The goal here is that during the setup the body is parallel to the side wall. On the forehand side, the shoulders should be parallel during the start of the downswing, but will be rotating open prior to contact. So if you strike the ball with this type of setup and on the 'tee' (as listed above), you have a great chance of hitting a very accurate and tight drive.

The challenge I find with most people is that the squash swing is rotational (along the transverse plane) and most of us have a tendency to pull off the ball meaning we don't finish our swing before hitting. It is challenging to lineup a rotating swing and hit the ball parallel to to a fixed object (the sidewall). Frequently we never get set up properly or we are trying to get out of the way and move back to the T prior to making contact with the ball. When we do this we hit the ball with our hips or shoulders too open to the front wall. If you place your racquet along your shoulders with the butt of the racquet facing the front wall, we can think of it as an arrow. The butt of the racquet then shows were you're aiming. The more your shoulders have rotated open prior to contact the more likely you will want to hit a crosscourt because that's what your setup for. The trick here is that if your shoulders and torso start rotating before you racquet begins moving forward you will be too open at contact. It is important that your shoulders are rotating open as your racquet is swinging forward (coincides with the downswing). Be sure you hit through the ball and avoid early excessive amounts of torso, hips and shoulder rotation.

What I've discussed above is most common on the forehand side. Most people hit the ball pretty squared up to the sidewall (with their shoulders) on the backhand, except for 1 shot; the straight volley drive return of serve.

The forehand is where most of us falter and is part of the reason we see so many loose drives both on the volley and the bounce. This is a big reason we tend to see more shots being hit crosscourt. If you hit the ball on your back foot (open stance) your shoulders and chest have a tendency to be open. Remember the racquet along your chest/shoulders. Where is it pointing when you're lining your shot up? Even if you have your lead foot pointing to the sidewall and you feel pretty squared up you may not be. Here's another way to check; where is your belly button pointing? If it's pointing towards the front wall you are too open to hit an accurate straight shot. If you can rotate your torso and get your belly button pointing to the sidewall you are now squared up to the sidewall and will likely be much more accurate with your straight drives and drops. Make sure you are lined up properly with your shoulders as you start your downswing.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, another issue many people have is that they begin their swing squared up to the sidewall but their shoulders open up too early as the pull off of their shot. Which again means the ball is more likely to pop out loose. When you pay more attention to this you may start to notice when you're shoulders are too open prior to contact, this doesn't always mean you have to hit crosscourt now, this just means maybe you should take a bit of pace off the ball and place the ball because your accuracy won't be there if you try and hit it hard when your setup ins't optimal.

How open should your shoulders be at contact? This is a tricky question. On the backhand you want to be squared up at the point of contact (like Wilstrop has done above). Even though Wilstrop is hitting his backhand moving slightly forward and off his back foot (open stance) he is still able to keep his hips and shoulders squared to the sidewall at the point of contact. In a fast moving sport like squash, it's easy to see why this is such a challenging feat. Anticipating where to move to get the body in the optimal hitting position. The more consistently you can do this the more accurate you will hit the ball.

How open your shoulders should be at contact on the forehand this depends if you're moving forwards, across or backwards to the ball and which foot you are hitting with. You also rotate your torso and shoulders more on drives then you do on drops. If you're hitting a forehand volley with an open stance and moving forward slightly into the shot your shoulders will be slightly open to the front wall. The key here is to make sure you turn and hit beside you. You can see below that Chris Simpson has turned for his forehand volley and is squared up beautifully to his shot, but as he starts to swing his torso will naturally rotate along the transverse/horizontal plane. Many amateurs here will have their chest and shoulders parallel to the front wall here and because of this they tend to hit a loose (straight?) shot or just hit it crosscourt. Just saying to hit the ball straighter will only be an effective strategy if the person is in a proper position to do so.

We have a nice example of Chris Simpson squaring up his hips, torso and shoulders on a forehand volley. Even though Chris is hitting from an open stance position his body is still squared up to the sidewall and this will allow him to hit the ball tighter by using his body as a frame of reference with the sidewall. An additional benefit from this is that Simpson is able to stay further from the ball and closer to the T. This means Simpson will be just a skip step and back in position.

I can't finish off this topic before mentioning that another reason people rotate too much prior to contact is that they are too close to the ball. If you are too close to the ball you have to open your torso and shoulders up to get your racquet squared up to the ball. This happens a lot under pressure off a good 2 wall boast and on volleys off of a crosscourt drive. Proper spacing will allow you to square up your hips and torso to the sidewall.

At a very high level players can use their forearm and wrist to get the racquet running parallel even when their bodies aren't squared up properly. Some people rely on this (especially ex-badminton players) as they have a strong wrist. Sure, they still may be able to hit a pretty decent shot slightly out of position, but they will be better off if they can get their body positioned properly to take a regular swing.

Advanced players can know that their opponents watch their shoulders for anticipation and this can be used against them with deception. For the average club player I wouldn't focus too much on deception with your shoulders until you can square up properly for straight drives and drops on both sides of the court. But as a strong player progresses this can be a method for deceiving your opponent. The accuracy won't be quite as high, but they get away with it if they deceived their opponent.

In conclusion, think about the angles of the body and the court. How can you get your racquet running parallel longer through the contact point? If you rotate your torso too early or don't set up squared up to the sidewall you will have a lot of difficulty hitting the ball tight. Do you hit crosscourt too much because you're out of position? Where's your belly button pointing during your setup and at contact? Are your torso and shoulders opening up before you start your downswing or are they synched effectively? Practice your body positioning the next time you're solo hitting or doing some basic repetitive drills (like drop-drive, or boast-drive).

The next time you watch the pros play watch their shoulders, hips and torso during their setup and at contact. See if you can pick up how they use them as frames of references to the sidewall to hit the ball so accurately. You may also notice how challenging it is even for the pros to hit the ball tight to the sidewall off of a very loose ball. They don't practice these shots very often and it is more difficult to time the ball and position themselves at this angle (because it isn't just completely parallel to the sidewall anymore). You may also notice when they use these parts of their body to disguise their shots.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resistance Band Training For Squash

Today I'm going to talk about exercise or resistance bands. There are many types of bands and just as many various ways to use them. I just ordered 2 sets of them today so I won't have any feedback on the quality of them until they arrive and I get to play around with them for a bit. The first one I ordered was a set of 3 from Black Mountain Therapy Exercise Bands (seen below). They have 3 different resistances/elasticity strength to them which will come in handy working with a large age range of kids.

This type of elastic bands can be used in a number of ways. I plan on using them mostly for kids to replicate their forehand and backhand swings. This is a good method for building up some strength training and improving their flexibility/rang of motion in their shoulders, trunk and core. Most people don't have very good core rotation and flexibility. This is a major role for maximizing power in your swing. Simply having your racquet back does not mean you are set. You still need to rotate your shoulders/core. For example, on the backhand your head doesn't move, but you rotate your shoulders so that your right shoulder is now facing the sidewall. This is the torque you need to produce power on the backhand side. If you're interested in this more go take a look at my previous post on the backhand slow motion drive here

I always see pitchers in the MLB use these bands to warmup in the bullpen before they start throwing. So you could also keep one of them in your bag and use them as part of your warm up routine. 

The second set of bands I ordered are loops (pictured below). These bands are like giant elastic bands and are used for different exercises. I used these once at the Pacific Sport Institute here in Victoria and I liked them. We used them more for warming up and getting hidden muscles (like the hip flexors) to fire. 

What I like so much about resistance bands is that you can reproduce squash specific motions. So you can work on technique along with moderate strength training. They are also extremely portable and you can use them at home or the office. Just a few minutes every second or third day and you'll feel the difference.

I do have just 2 concerns about this type of product. The first is if a band snaps or isn't fastened currently. Even though it seems like a harmless training tool, it requires proper precautions to ensure it's safe. I know some people pull or hold the resistance bands for one another as they do the exercises. This could be dangerous to do with kids as it can easily slip, so I won't use them this way. If you want to be extra cautious I recommend using this with your eye guards on. I know it may look silly at the office or at your house, but if a band does snap or come loose the last place you want to get hit is in the eye! Ok, have I scared you off them yet? Hopefully not, because I do believe these will be a great addition to the coaching tool box and can do a lot of good.

The second concern I have with resistance bands is the potential for muscle or joint strains. If someone is unfamiliar with the bands and overdoes it they are susceptible to a mild injury. Like every new exercise you begin you have to slowly build up your muscle endurance and the receptions. The good thing with ordering a set of variable textile strengths is that you can start with most elastic one and build your way up to the most resistance.

Make sure you tie the resistance band to something sturdy and be sure it's a good knot or two! These bands also come in handy during rehabilitation from a number of injuries. I've used them before when rehabbing a sprained ankle to increase the range of motion. You can also use them to stretch after your match. There's so much you can do. Pick one up online (I got mine at Amazon) or at a place like Sport Chek.

Do you use resistance bands or have you tried them before? Did you use them for squash specific movements?

Last are your resolutions coming along? Have you set or updated your goals for 2015? What are you going to do differently? A small subtle change adds up over time. Maybe it's adding a few reps with an exercise band to your weekly training that will get you that extra snap on your backhand!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How To Deal With A Busy Club In January

Today I'm going to talk about the challenges of getting a court in the New Year. Everyone has great intentions and new resolutions for the New Year and with this comes busy athletic and squash courts. What can you do to make sure you can get on court. There are quite a few ways you can maximize you court time and make sure you get on court as much as you want.

Be Prepared To Play
- arrive early. At least 20 minutes before your court time is best.
- warm up before going on court.
- have a practice plan. Are you going to do drills, condition games or play a match? What area of your game do you want to work on?
- time or score your drills and condition games so you don't end up doing a warm up drill for half of your court time.
- keep you water breaks short. Most people gab and take 3 or 4 minutes. If you only have 40 or 45 minutes of court time make the best of it!

Court Booking/Etiquette
- book your court as far in advanced as possible. Many clubs have a 1 week advanced booking so don't wait until a day or two before to book or you probably won't get a court.
- don't hold up the next people going on. If they are by the court and ready to go on, don't play that extra rally or two or wait for them to knock on the glass.
- cancel any court you aren't going to use and do so asap.
- if you are going to solo hit do it during off peak hours.
- only book 1 court time during peak hours.
- try and find an off-peak time to play during the week or on the weekend.
- don't get upset about the busy courts. This means your club is doing well and making ends meat.

Other Notes
- you can also do more off-court training during this period time. If you have a mini home gym or if you enjoy running or cycling outside you don't have to worry about the busy gyms.
- you can also attempt book a lesson with your squash professional. They will be busy too, but can often book a court further ahead than the members can!
- try and get a group together so you can have 3 or 4 people per court. You can also try and join some group clinics or drop ins which maximize court usage.

Basically you have to be more prepared and able to adjust to the increase court demand. Don't expect to have the same luxuries you do during the rest of the calendar year. You can still get enough court time if you plan ahead and are efficient with how you spend your time on court.

I'd just like to finish off by thanking everyone who has taken the time to give me feedback on Serious Squash. I've had a number of positive comments from people all over the planet. I'd also like to thank everyone that voted in the poll. The majority of you want more articles on tactics, so I'll keep that in mind moving forward. I hope all of you had a great holidays and are ready to have a big second half of the squash season!