Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Canadian Junior Nationals

Well I'm back again after a pretty long absence. But it has been a very busy time of year for me, but enough of the excuses. Let's get on to today's discussion. Today I'm going to talk about the overall style and game that I saw at the Junior Nationals last weekend in Calgary. There are some incredibly fit and athletic squash players out there. Much more athletic than I ever was.

Overall I think most of the kids handled the altitude and the bouncy ball pretty well. When I hit with some of my kids I noticed right away the need to shorten your backswing and have your racquet set early. The ball just got on you faster than it would at our home club. If a kid had good racquet prep they managed the bounce fine, but if they were late they would spray the ball out loose. I felt that the bouncier courts magnify technical or tactical deficiencies. If you had late racquet prep you really paid the price; also if you had a poor short game you had pretty much no short game on these courts. Certainly a hug advantage for technically superior kids and for those from Calgary.

With such a bouncy ball one area that could have been used better is deception. It's so easy to hold and flick the ball when it's fast. This is one area that I thought really lacked overall. This is how you make the court play bigger and tire out even a strong fit pair of legs.

Another area that I felt was absent was the finishing shots. Of course with a bouncy ball this is difficult. In general I thought most kids were scared to go for it when they had an opening. They may go short, but would give a lot of margin and used their short game as shots to move their opponent around. But of course this is what the Canadian Coaching books tell us. We don't go for winners, we hit pressuring attacking shots. If a talented player works at it they can hit outright winners when they get the openings. I know this is difficult to do with a bouncy ball if the kids aren't used t it. But all the kids are fit and fast. If you get an opening and you're an attacking player you should go for it. Too often I saw a kid just hit it to the back again. Guess this is why our kids are so fit; they can't end a rally. It made me think about what some Egyptian kids would do with similar loose balls and it was clear to know what was missing. In general our kids are technically strong and good athletes, but when you get to a certain level everyone is.

For me the problem is that we (coaches, parents and the kids) don't accept short term mistakes for long term gain. We see someone hit the tin and we shake our heads and ask them 'what were you thinking?' No wonder they end up just hitting length. A lot of time I also feel that the style of the coach is inherited by the athlete. Some of the coaches played when the game was different, mainly the scoring and equipment. I think the best coaches have to be open minded to how each kids enjoys and wants to play. Obviously we want them to be successful, but more importantly we want them to become the best they can possibly be. If you are an attacking player, practice your drops, nicks and overall attacking game. When you get a loose ball in your matches you won't hesitate to go short, you will just slot it in.

I know length if the base of the game, but there is a lot more to it. It will be interesting to see how the game evolves over the coming years and if any kids will step up and change the way junior squash is played in Canada by becoming more deceptive and attacking. You see it occasionally from the young kids, but that gets coached out of them as they make too many mistakes. How many tins do you think Ramy has hit in his life? That's why he has such an amazing shot game. Just like how Kobe has missed the most shots in the history of the NBA. But every shot he takes he fully believes is going in and he never stops shooting.

If you want to as well spend the hours and hours each week required to add this part to your game. Try practicing with a ball machine or a bouncy ball so the ball stays warm. It's much more difficult to take the ball in short when it's hot and lively. Play aggressive, play to win and hit some winners!

What did you learn from the Junior Nationals? Does the style of play and coaching fit the low goals that most players set? The club had profiles of many of the top athletes posted and many just want to make a varsity team. One coach I talked to there thought so and asked where all the kids were that wanted to become world champions. Looks like Canada is poised for a future of mediocre National Senior Teams. All it takes is a one to prove me wrong and I indeed hope someone does!

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