Most people think they can hit the ball fairly straight, but a lot of the time we use the sidewall to help us keep our shot straights. Take away the sidewall and see how straight you really hit it. Here's how you find out how straight you can hit your drives.
You can see how much more challenging it is to keep your drives accurate when you take away the sidewall. If you want to learn how to really keep the ball perfectly straight try incorporating the drills above into your solo routine. I try and aim for the middle line and see how many drives I an hit into the backdoor in a row. If you're a lower level you could try and see how many times you can hit the door in a specified amount of time vs. consecutive.
#11: Forehand figure 8 volley to behind the back to the other corner. This is a tricky one and took me some time to master. The key is hitting the ball low for your behind the back shot!
#12: The Butterfly. This is the only skill challenge I've filmed that I have seen done before. I've tried this one a lot over the years so it's not too challenging for me anymore, but is essential to being able to do some of the other skill challenges I've completed.
#13: Between The Legs Figure 8's. Below I am hitting a forehand figure 8 and then through the legs into the opposite corner. Some of my skill challenges are designed to improve your ball control, while others are just for fun!
To stay up to date with my most recent skill challenges check out my Youtube channel at cchsquashpro and follow me on Instagram at serioussquash.
Today I posted a short video clip of me working on your short game. It's so vital to always work on your short game so you can hit the shots you want when they matter most. It's also important so you are confident in your ability to go short, especially on big points or after making an error!
As you get better in squash it becomes more difficult to go short because your opponents read the game better, are faster, hit it harder and tighter and the ball is usually warmer. This is why I spent a lot of time solo hitting working on my drops on the bounce and on the volley. I often practiced with a blue or red dot so the ball stays bouncy and even bouncier than it would be in competition. Here's the video clip of me playing some drops on the bounce. I'll post another one soon of me working on my volley drops and nicks. Enjoy!
I still make a few errors and my short game could still improve, but it has gotten stronger over the years. I remember about 15 years ago watching some top PSA players play and I noticed how much they cut their drop shots. The ball was so bouncy it was the only way they could get the ball to stay somewhat short on the court. I see many amateurs waste excellent opportunities because they have not spent the time grooving their short game swings. Don't be one of those players. Work on your short game all of the time and it will pay major dividends over the months and years.
On a closing note. I will be travelling to Europe in June (Belgium, France, Spain and maybe others). If your squash club is interested in setting up a clinic or an exhibition please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven't already seen them here are my next 3 skill challenges. I have over 20 so far as the list continues to expand.
#8: I am doing double figure 8 butterfly drill. It's one of the toughest ones I've done to date. But I continue to challenge myself to come up with more challenging and unique skills.
#9: this one may seem tricky, but for a good player it's not really that difficulty. Most good players have hit a few balls over the years with their non-dominant arm and can hit a decent forehand. SO here I am doing right to left handed forehand figure 8 volleys.
#10: this is tougher than #9 by quite a bit. Here I am switching hands again between shots, but I am hitting only backhands. Needless to say the left-handed backhand figure 8 was pretty challenging and the technique is pretty, but I got a decent amount going. Good luck and enjoy!
Follow my Youtube channel (cchsquashpro) to keep up to date with new releases. I've also posted some other short video clips that are excellent solo hitting drills that most amateur players will be able to practice. Feel free to follow me on Instagram (serioussquash) too, where I've posted short sneak peak clips of some of the skill challenges I'm currently practicing.
I will continue posting articles from time to time. I actually have a lot lined up at the moment. But I have been doing a few more videos recently and have published some skill challenges along with some other drills that can help you improve various areas of your game. I won't be posting every video link on this site, so if you'd like to stay informed please follow my Youtube channel (cchsquashpro) or on Instagram (serioussquash). Hope you enjoy some of the videos and I welcome anyone who has a new challenge or can better me on one of my challenges! Please tag me in your video or send me the link so I can check it out. Cheers!
Here is my 7th skill challenge. This took me a few minutes to get the hang of it. I can do figure 8's and side wall volleys both pretty well, but mixing the two was pretty tricky. I give this a difficulty rating of 6 out of 10. Can you do this? Enjoy and good luck!
For the record, I think my next skill challenge is my best to date! Coming soon :)
Today I'm doing a relatively simple skill challenge. If you can do figure regular figure 8 volleys you shouldn't have too much trouble with these. It's just a nice little variation and keeps your feet moving. Here it is:
I give this skill challenge a difficulty rating of 4 out of 10. Enjoy and good luck!
Here is my 5th Skill Challenge. It's much more difficult than it looks. I've seen many people do the sidewalk version of this exercise, but this is more challenging. Have a look and see for yourself.
If you can't do this yet try the version using the sidewalls. Not only is this a good exercise for your hand-eye and improving your racquet skill, but it also forces you to keep your follow through high after the volley (which is key for a volley drive). Stay tuned for a new Skill Challenge release in the next few days. You can also find small sneak peak clips of me working on some new challenges at my new Instagram page at serioussquash.
First off I just want to mention that I just started a new Serious Squash Instagram account (username serioussquash) where I will post squash video clips and tips. Today I'm going to discuss an issue that all of us contemplate and often we don't even know we are. I'm gong to talk about your shot selection and are you making the choices you do because you want to win now or to win later? This isn't always the same thing you see. Most people will avoid playing lob serves because they are afraid of hitting it out which would impact their odds of winning today. I feel like most of us are so caught up in winning this point, game and match that we don't dare try to play shots out of our comfort zone.
So do you play high percentage squash? That's clearly the best way to win, right? Minimize risk and avoid making poor mistakes. I like to think about Ramy Ashour when I talk about this subject, because he clearly has hit a pile of tin over the years learning to play low percentage shots and I'm sure he lost a lot of points and games he could have grinder out, but was committed to his long term goal; at least that's my best guess.
When I watch a lot amateurs and especially juniors play, I see then pass up a lot of good openings and hit it back to their opponent. I understand there are big points late in games and matches where playing a big more conservative can be beneficial, but passing up going short for the fear of making an error or setting up your opponent may make you tougher to beat that day, but what about long term? I feel that passive players will learn how to be disciplined and physically fit because they learn to play attritional style of squash. But are there consequences too?
If kids are taught just to avoid mistakes how will they learn to play the tactically sound shot? And there are a lot of different ways to win at squash. Have you ever played someone that was very aggressive on court and attacking short a lot? They may make a lot of mistakes, but they don't allow you into a rhythm. A player that is willing to take some risk in the short term, I believe will also have more room to grow long term because they are open minded. The one concern I do have is the value of discipline and focus that are taught by playing long boring rallies. But I digress. I guess you can see which side of this argument I am leaning towards.
Here is an old clip of me playing when I was 11 and 12 years old. For more squash videos check out my Youtube channel at cchsquashpro. Yes, I'm the little one. The first match is when I lost in the semis of Canadian Junior Nationals (under 14). I know the video isn't the greatest quality, but it was the early 90's! Anyways, what I want to talk about is my style of play in this first match and how it relates to today's topic. I'll let you watch it now and then I'll discuss it below.
So I was a tiny kid and not very fast, but I still liked to play super attacking. I hit as many balls short as I did deep. Yes, I lost this match in 3 but the games were close. It's easy to look back now and say 'wow, what the heck was I doing out there?' I could have used just a little bit of balance in my game and I probably would have won that match. And then perhaps I would go on and win in the finals and repeat as a national champion. I mean, what kid wouldn't want that?
As much as I would have liked to win that match, I do enjoy being the one dictating play and my fearless style of play. I liked hitting winners; I still do! I would solo hit almost everyday and work on my attacking shots. Back then the game was to 9 and you had to serve to get a point, so this probably didn't suit my style. This is also when the racquets had just become oversize and lighter and you could actually start to do more with the ball.
What do you think would happen if someone developed as a junior from the bottom with the style I liked to play here in this video? What if they were actually fast, a little bigger and could hit with a bit more pace? I'd like to think this is what some of the Egyptians do now. I don't see a single player in Canada playing like this now. And of course there isn't. All top kids have a coach and as a coach how could you let your athlete play so risky and shoot from all over the court? It's our job to help them.
I certainly don't coach anyone to play like I did here. But it makes me wonder what I would do if I came across a kid like this, would I try and get them to play more traditional to be more successful in the immediate future or would I be open minded to let them experiment with a variety of shots and this open style of squash? I'd like to say I'm pretty open minded, but I don't know for sure what I would do. I guess the main thing I would say is that they would have to work on their attacking game non-stop. I would also try and help them learn when their opponent is starting to hang around up front and to bury them back a bit and then go on the attack again. I believe in coaching the kid to a style that best suits their game. Some of us are better suited as grinders than others. I do feel like a lot of kids are all being coached to play the same style and it just comes down to who works harder and can do it better.
So you may be wondering what happened to me? That I'm a perfect case study to show that playing this style as a youth is not possible. But I still believe it is. I got to a pretty high level, but had some other areas hold me back. For the right person, with the right passion, dedication and physical traits, I believe they could develop as a super aggressive player and have a successful career. I think finding that right person to play that style is few and far between though.
This post was focused on shot selection and how we can play to not lose or play to win. I believe we should play the right shot, given we have a decent skill set to do so. I don't worry about making errors if it's the right decision. The shots will get better if we try them, if we avoid them because we're not very good at them we may never get better at them and our ceiling for our potential will be lower. This doesn't mean I'm suggesting you go out and start trying to hit nicks from all over the place, but just think about what shots you avoid playing because they are difficult.
Some of the most often passed up tactically correct shots I see are lob serves, volleying a tough serve, hitting counter drops, hitting straight from the front of the court, hitting straight on the forehand off the bounce and the volley and attacking short on loose balls from mid-court. If you want to achieve your potential you should work on all of these areas and any others you feel you are avoiding in your game. If you want to win more now, practice those areas more and more and the results will come sooner than later.
If you do make a mistake playing the tactically correct shot in matchplay, learn to tell yourself that it was the right shot and to continue playing it. In the end I always wanted to become the best I could be and I knew to do that I had to make mistakes and play shots I couldn't execute 100% of the time. I believe you can play to win now, while also not comprising your ability to improve and becoming the best you can be in the future. But if you could only pick one, which would you choose? I find that kids generally will take more risks than adults and if they can't do something they will continue trying to do it until they can. Adults are more 'sensible' and generally play within their abilities. It's no wonder kids improve faster!
Here is my 4th skill challenge. I hit a forehand figure 8 into the front left corner and then a backhand one into the back right. Believe it or not but this exercise is much more challenging than the 4 corner butterfly figure 8 volley routine. Oh and did I mention that you get to see me mess up in this one! I told you it's a tough one and I have trouble keeping it going for 10 or more shots. It's certainly a challenging exercise for me. I give it a 9 out of 10 for difficulty. If it's easy for you, wow I'd be seriously impressed! Good luck!
Today I'm going to talk about a proposed change that I feel would assist with the development of the up and coming professional squash players. As juniors we are normally promised 3 matches and in some international events the tournament is played out to the final positions. I mean, who would want to travel all the way across the country or the world to get 1 match?
Professional squash players matches lose and go home, or onto the next tournament to try again a week or two later. When I graduated school I couldn't dream of playing any pro tournaments because I had student loans to start paying back and I knew I wasn't going to make a living by playing professionally. But like myself, it's a lot of kids dreams to play professionally, travel the world and meet new people and attempt to achieve our potential in this sport we love.
In PSA events if you lose first round in qualifying you don't even get a paycheque, so it's no wonder very few ever stick with their professional squash careers. I wonder what the annual turnaround is for memberships? There is a lot of pressure involved here, no points, no money and just 1 match! With my proposed change the up and coming pros will have less pressure on their result and can focus on becoming more comfortable in their environment and gain experience playing a variety of opponents at various facilities.
I don't know anyone ready to start making a living by the time they finish juniors. But still they go and sign up for a PSA tour card and register for some small events. It takes years to be competitive against older and more experienced players. Over the past decade I have seen an extremely low number of Canadians stick through this process for more than a year or two. It's a losing battle and after they put in so much work and go home with nothing or very little they think twice about what they're doing with their life and usually decide to settle down and take a coaching job!
Unless someone has a lot of sponsors or wealthy parents or is so skilled that they begin winning right away (which is incredibly rare) this is a real dilemma with squash players looking to transition from junior or college squash and become a professional squash player. It makes the idea of becoming a professional squash player pretty unrealistic for most people. So what can we do to improve this process? Hosting more smaller PSA events is a great start but I have another idea.
I feel that at 5k events the players should be guaranteed 2 matches. Yes, that's right. This means that if you lose first round you go into a consolation. This means for a draw of 16 you will get an extra 7 matches for the tournament organizer and it also offers the young pro players some much needed experience competing on the world tour. Or if you include the first round qualifying losers you have a draw of 12. I don't know how that would work, but I guess they could randomly assign byes to a few of the players.
I feel that the PSA could offer a small number of points to people who win matches in the consolation rounds and this also keeps these players around the main competition longer to watch their peers, to bond and to see how they perform. The main goal of this concept would be that all of the players leave the tournament gaining more experience; even for a young player in this situation 2 loses is better than 1. With the price of flights and the lack of small professional tournaments in Canada I believe this would be a welcomed change and it could go a long way in keeping some of our young talented players in the sport. This could only trickle up and make the PSA stronger and deeper and it may be just enough to keep a future champion or top 10 player in the game.
I realize that this proposition means that the 5k events may become 6 or 7k if they are to pay out the consolation winner and runner up. But I believe many young people playing these events will be happy getting the experience as they aren't going into these events expecting to make money, only to get their moneys worth. Also the tournament promoters would have an extra 7 matches to sell tickets for so could probably come up with the extra bit of money from ticket and beverage sales.
What do you think? Can you see the PSA going this route? Should it extend to 10k events? Would they have to penalize players that pull out of the consolation? I believe our young talented players would get twice as much out of this type of experience and it wouldn't be much extra work to arrange. I'm all for the idea. Come on PSA, the ball's in your court!
Here is my 3rd skill challenge. It's the backhand version of #2 and it's quite a bit tougher. I would give this one a difficulty rating of 8 out of 10. How many can you do?
It takes a lot of forearm strength and control to do this skill challenge. As with many of the skill challenges I'm posting you also need to be able to adapt your swing with your wrist to hit a variety of targets when your body is often not in the ideal position. I will post challenge #4 over the weekend which is one of the most challenging exercises I can do. Good luck!
I hope you enjoyed my 1st skill challenge. Today I am posting #2. In this exercise I am doing figure 8 volleys but with only forehand shots. You may think this is easier because I'm only hitting forehands, but try it and you'll quickly see that it is not.
Here you go. Have a look. Can you do this? If you can you have excellent control on your volley. If you can't, try on the bounce or regular figure 8 volleys first and build up to it.
I hope you enjoyed this exercise. I'm open to suggestions for the name of the exercise. I have a lot more skill challenges coming soon! I will post #3 later this week. Follow my Youtube channel at cchsquashpro for more skill challenges and other squash related videos.
Over the years I've spent so many hours hitting squash balls and in particular solo hitting that I have come up with a number of unique skill challenges. Some are for warming up while others are just incredibly challenging. When I was a boy I spent a lot of time trying to get to 100 figure 8 volleys. Most of us have also seen or attempted the 4 corner figure 8 volley drill which I first learned about 12-13 years ago. So today I am posting my first video of a skill challenge to Youtube. I will continue posting a new challenge every so often so follow my Youtube channel at cchsquashpro.
Here's my first skill challenge. Let me know how many you can do. I don't have a name for it, maybe I should come up with one..how about the backhand butterfly? I'm open to suggestions. You can only backhand volleys and you hit in the front right corner and then turn around and hit it into the back left corner (if you're a righty). And for the record I got dizzy after 7 or 8 of them! Stay tuned for the elite skill challenge #2.
Today I'm going to talk about how carbohydrates influence our health, sport and in particular our squash game. I am not a nutritionist, but I have always looked into and read up on different areas of food for improving performance, energy levels, recovery and just being healthy. A lot of us have lost weight from taking up squash and have packed it back on after taking a break. I naturally assumed this was the lack of rigorous exercise that causes the weight gain.
Some of us are predisposition to gain weight because of our genetics, but that doesn't account for all of the obesity in our society. As athletes we need the proper fuel to perform. Glycogen is the stored version of fuel in our muscles. We get glycogen from carbs, so clearly carbs are important to an athletes diet, correct?
I just finished a book my brother lent me called, 'Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It' by Gary Taubes (a link to the book below). I should first mention that I never read dieting books, I just am keen to learn more about nutrient. In this book it's discussed how it's not the fat or calorie content in food that make us overweight, it's the sugar and carbs (namely easily digestible carbs). I'm going to get a little bit into the details of why he claims we get fat. If you don't care to know the science behind it, feel free to skip the next 2 paragraphs!
Taubes discusses how this raises the glucose levels in our blood causing insulin levels to rise. He claims that 'the more insulin you secrete, the more likely it is that your cells and tissues will become resistant to that insulin. That means it will take more insulin to do the same glucose-disposal job, keeping blood sugar under control.' You see, too much glucose is toxic for cells so when glucose levels are elevated the pancreas excretes even more insulin to get the glucose out of the bloodstream and into storage. As this occurs (namely after eating easily digestible carbs) your cells are likely to resist the effects of the insulin because they're getting enough glucose already. These cells can then become resistant to insulin and then more insulin is required to keep blood glucose levels in check. As this happens you secrete excessive amounts of insulin and this is then stored as fat and the cycle continues.
He gives many examples of how avoiding carbs allows you to use your fat for an energy source instead of the easily digestible carbs which spike blood glucose levels, which we normally have aplenty of in our bloodstream. Humans have had little carbs and mostly fat and protein in their diets for generations until more recently. Now with the easily accessible amount of products, even if we believe them to be good, like margarine instead of butter, or skim milk vs. 2%. Are we getting healthier avoiding certain products which have higher a fat content? It seems that we have been misled to believe that we are not burning as many calories as we consume when really it's about the carbohydrates that are make us fat. So how does this influence our squash nutrition? Let's get to that.
I'm not here to promote a low carb diet, just to report on what I've read and my experience with sport nutrition. I took a sport nutrition course that I took while doing my masters degree and after looking into the research, carbs was the most important aspect of a squash players diet. The literature indicates that low glycemic and slow digestible carbs are better consumed before activity and higher glycemic and easily digestible carbs are helpful to eat after exercise to restore glycogen levels rapidly and to promote recovery. But now it seems that carbs are dangerous to consume especially excessively; can you see the dilemma? Here is my previous post on Squash Nutrition: http://www.serioussquash.com/2014/08/squash-nutrition.html
The book I'm discussing does make compelling arguments for why carbs and sugars are so toxic and how they not only make us fat, but also negatively impact our health. I think we all know drinking sodas and eating sweets aren't good for us. But now hearing that bread, cereal, rice, pasta and even fruit all have tons of carbs and will make us fat and will lead to health problems!
Can an elite squash player actually perform properly without carbs (or very few of them)? If we cut the carbs from our diet is it possible to have enough fuel by burning our fat storage for energy? I wouldn't say humans have evolved through the generations to perform extreme physical actives such as squash so it's hard to say if a diet from a few hundred years ago would be sufficient for a modern day elite athlete. My initial guess is that if we went carb free our body would eventually adapt, but I don't know to what extent. Taubes says there are many side effects to eliminating carbs from your diet and it takes time to adjust so if you are thinking about doing this please do so cautiously.
I feel like this book got me thinking about what I eat, but also left me with unanswered questions as to how it relates to sport. What do you think? Have any of you played and trained at an elite level without carbs in your diet? Do you think it's possible to recover and fuel properly on a low or no carb diet? Could an elite player consume only low glycemic carbs and recover well enough to play again that day? Perhaps there is a better method for measuring the number of carbs we consume so we don't eat them excessively? Especially if we don't even realize the harm they are causing. I guess this is why many retired pro athletes pack on weight later on; they've kept up with their high carb eating habits, but not the training regiment.
If you're interested in improving your nutrition, health and squash performance I recommend picking up this book, but also discussing the impact of a low carb diet with a professional before making a drastic change. This is just one book of many on nutrition and evidently nutrition is pretty complex for all of us, especially for athletes. I'm sure there are some examples of other athletes experimenting with a low or no carb diet, but squash is the toughest sport in the world, so I don't know if any other sports would give us a definitive set of answers. I don't have any answers for you today, just questions. Hopefully I've got you thinking a bit about this subject and you can do some of your own research. As I learn more about the topic I will continue to update you.