I'm home for the holidays and I've been filming some practice sessions with my brother back at my old club. Follow Serious Squash on Facebook, Instagram or Youtube to check out some of these new drills and condition games. Here'a a little peak at some of the recent posts.
Covering The Boast
Spicing Up Your Rotating Drives
Straight Drive vs. Straight or Crosscourt Drive
More condition games and drills will be posted daily so follow along for some of my favourite drills. If you like these drills check out the 2 full length instructional films for sale in the SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos The Secrets Of Solo Hitting and Mastering Deception are both available to download and stream and they both come with a no questions asked money back guarantee. Below is a preview for the two films. All merch in the shop is also 50% off at the moment with the code 'iamserious' Happy holidays from my family to yours!
The mental game has always been one of the most interesting areas of sport for me. I've studied it at school and read a number of books on the subject, but understanding and teaching it are two entirely separate things. In this post we are going to look at some various sport psych areas that are critical to playing and competing at a high level and also getting the most of your practice sessions. Below are a variety of some diagrams from chats I've had with my kids this season so far about the importance of focus, refocusing and capitalizing on opportunities when your opponent has a lapse of focus. When someone loses their focus, especially a kid it can lead to easy points and often this quick run of points can be the turning point in a match. Let's take a closer look at each diagram.
This first photo is an analogy of a simple screw a carpenter would use. We discussed how if you are a threaded screw you are prone to becoming unscrewed quite easily. A list of times when people are most vulnerable were made under this section. On the left we discussed how a tougher screw would be hard to get out of it's place. A really experienced and tough screw would also be able to screw in a bit tighter when they feel they've let it slip a bit. We made a list of a few ways that people can be tougher to unscrew; basically becoming tougher to crack mentally no matter how challenging the situation.
In the second diagram there is a box in the top left corner about focus and a scale of it from broad to narrow, and being either internal or external. We talked about how playing in the zone your focus is in an optimal balance, without overloading on unimportant information.
In the main part of this diagram we talked about chipping away at your opponent mentally and physically. As you get to a higher level it takes time to wear out your opponent and make them lose hope in winning. Greg Gaultier and Paul Coll are great at doing this because they are so tough to win a point against as they get everything back and don't make mistakes. They make any player dig super deep just to win a point, let alone 3 games. In this list we discussed signs of someone who has lost hope and the symptoms of someone who has been broken mentally and/or physically. Perhaps you lost the game, but it took everything out of your opponent, so if you are fresher and they are spent you are still in a great position even down a game.
In the third diagram we talked about how getting up to the service box and getting your serve into play quicker than normal can be effective. When you're opponent is tired, upset or you have the momentum and are cruising are all excellent times to quicken the start of the next point. It's more about the psychological impact of this quick serve which is so damaging.
We also talked about potentially doing this after a big rally where you and your opponent are hurting, but you feel you can disguise your pain and by serving right after can also psychologically defeat your opponent because they may be expecting you to take time and could be shocked that you are not experiencing the same pain that they are. This of course is risky as if you can't physically or mentally back it up and your opponent calls your bluff you can be in trouble. Finally we talked about when you should take time prior to a serve, which is basically the opposite of the times you shouldn't.
In the next diagram we made a list of when people tend to lose their focus. Staying focused can be incredibly difficult in challenging environments or when you get tired, upset or into long rallies. What the kids did after discussing focus was they made a little chart on the inside of their court. Each kid has their own little table where they would simply make a little dot after every rally they played where they were not focused or lost their focus during the point. I found this exercise beneficial for the kids because it helped them understand their concentration during the match and made them take time to sort of reset to write up the dot and put the marker down by the court door. This of course has to be built upon so they can use a refocusing strategy which we have also talked about on numerous occasions.
In the fifth diagram (below) we discussed the area that your zone for your best squash is. I drew a diagram of a dial and scaled it from 1 to 5 with 1 being sleepy, fatigued which are all low and negative arousal levels for playing a high level of squash. At the opposite end of the spectrum, at 5 was angry and nervous which can both be detrimental to your performance as well. Depending on the individual personalities and your style of squash you'll probably play your best squash somewhere between 3 and 4 on this range. We need to constantly be self-regulating our emotions and arousal levels while we're competing and also training. Experienced players will be able to make adjustments quickly before they get too far from their optimal range, while kids generally wear their emotions on their sleeves, both positively and negatively and often need a lot of encouragement and pep talks between games and after matches to help them reset.
In this final diagram we used the analogies of a house of cards and a brick house to symbolize how easily or tough you can be to crack or completely crumble. This is again similar to the screw mentioned earlier. We talked about what traits we would expect to see from each of these people. Someone who is calm, focused and confident will be tough to breakdown, just as a brick house would be. On the flip side if someone is unfocused, angry, makes excuses or is quite nervous they can fall apart like a fragile house of cards. This does have a lot to do with the fight or flight response that we are hardwired into, but it can be changed over time. Learning to focus on what you can control, on setting process goals (versus outcome goals) can take the pressure off and can be quite rewarding if you can completely buy in. A lot of people don't want to play people they are supposed to beat because they feel pressure on the result. Also, people will not give it their all and a true measure of their ability when they are competing against someone they don't believe they can or should beat. Learning to let go of your ego and focus on the process of playing your best squash day in, day out is the key to a life long process of becoming the best you can possibly be. We have to learn not to worry about defeat and get overanxious or over confident about winning and just play our game, to the best of our ability, every single point; that's how you play consistent level of squash and take pressure off of yourself. It also helps immensely if your coach and parents buy into this philosophy as well.
If you enjoy sport psychology as much as I do or have played a lot of competitive squash you'll appreciate many of the issues discussed today. All of the concepts sound simple enough and possible to execute, but are just as challenging to learn as any other skill set. Strategies that worked for me may not work for someone else, so finding new ideas to help people come up with a strategy that works for them is key. Sport psychology is an expanding area of elite level sport and many kids have begun not only learning more about this area, but working with sport psychologists too. From time to time I also use visualization and relaxation, breathing techniques to help people focus, relax and imagine themselves playing their best squash and handling challenging situations successfully.
Serious Squash is having a merch sale. It's currently 50% off all merch with the code 'iamserious' on SeriousSquashShop.com I am trying to clear out stock and make room for some new ideas. We will see what comes next. Also, if you haven't already done so check out the two Serious Squash instructional films, Mastering Deception and The Secrets Of Solo Hitting. They can both be downloaded from the Serious Squash Shop and come with a money back guarantee. Below is a short preview of the films.
Earlier this week I did the 120 shot ghosting routine. Many years ago Squash Canada would use this as a fitness test for it's top athletes. Even watching my own movement here I noticed how I made technical errors in routine skills near the end of the drill as fatigue set it. Let me explain how the ghosting works and then at the bottom I'll post the video of my attempt.
As you can see in the image below I drew this out. In diagram 1 there are 2 separate movements patterns, both going front to back. You hit 20 shots per side with no break between. The middle diagram is the diagonals so after you complete these this is 80 shots. Finally you ghost the back 2 corners for 20 shots and the 2 front corners for a total of 120 shots, equivalent to a 240 shot rally! I believe back in the day they wanted this test completed in under 6 minutes, possibly under 5, but I'm not certain. I did it 6 minutes and 27 seconds, but I'm definitely not training to play professionally so I'd say it's pretty good for a coach.
Some tips when you do this:
1) try and hit a variety of shots and visualize the ball you are striking
2) don't worry about stopping at the T since it's a timed test
3) use both legs to hit off of
4) hit some drives and drops and lobs from the front. Drops are easier to clear and it's easier to stay further from the ball so yes I could have went faster if I did all drops from the front, but I wanted to practice my movement off of other shots to and from the front corners
5) get right into each of the corners for each shot
6) I like focusing on shaping up early for my shot anytime I do ghosting so remember this isn't simply a footwork and aerobic exercise
Here's my video:
Currently all Serious Squash mech is 50% off with the code 'iamserious' I leave for the Canadian Junior Open on the 8th and am on holidays until the end of December. So if you want to get some new squash gear for the new year order before the 8th. Also, be sure to check out the 2 Serious Squash instructional films (The Secrets Of Solo Hitting and Mastering Deception) which are both also available at SeriousSquashShop.com
I've entered a recent skill challenge onto a Canadian Sport Centre contest. It's for TSN and anyone who has a cool trick or play from their sport can submit an entry. We'll see how squash stacks up to the other sports and plays. Here's the link to the video if you'd like to have a look at it.
It was just over 1 year ago that Serious Squash and Eye Rackets joined forces. Eye Rackets was a cutting edge company which has signed many of the top PSA players and I really liked how they had no bumper guard on their frames (I always shaved all of mine off previously). I was extremely picky about racquets so switching from the Harrow Vapour I used for more than 6 years was a big deal. I thought it was super cool that they saw a unique opportunity and potential in what I was doing with Serious Squash and so much so that they made me a great offer to join their team. A year later and we've decided to go our separate ways.
Hopefully you all enjoyed the skill challenges I produced for Eye Rackets. Now as I figure out which company I will team up with next, Serious Squash will continue to put out the best and most creative squash squash content on the net. I've already been in touch with a couple of companies about partnering up with them so stay tuned for updates as I expect something to get worked out by the new year. I intend to be thorough with the next company to ensure the best possible fit and am in rush to make this decision. Until then best of luck with your squash game and thanks for all the support.
To become a top level athlete, in particular squash, we need to learn how to push ourselves when our body or mind sometimes would rather take a break. As both an athlete and coach I have found this to be both interesting philosophically and invaluable to understand. If you or a kid your coaching is having really tired or just not feeling it that day we normally want to push them or ourselves to get going. We might be more flat footed than normal, have less energy in general and also have trouble focusing.
There's a common fallacy that we think quantity of practice and the 10,000 hours will help guarantee we reach an elite level and that the quicker we get to that level the better. As a squash coach for a number of years now you can sense the expectations from coaches and parents on their athletes and how we all want, hope and even expect immediate rewards. When someone isn't achieving the success we want for them we think they need to do more or work harder or make changes to their game. One problem with squash is how much we compare ourselves against other people and get so caught up in results instead of becoming the best possible player you can be and play at a consistently high level. I wanted to win as much as the next person, but I believe that if you focus on improving your own game and have the proper work ethic the results will come eventually.
What good will we get out of that session if we are only able to give 50% of what we normally can give? Is that really a productive session? Was there something else that we could have done that would have had more benefit? Perhaps some recovery rolling or stretching or easy biking? Maybe some video analysis or a look at our training plan? Maybe even some feeding with a ball machine or solo hitting would have been more beneficial and perhaps the next day we would have felt better and been more mentally and physically prepared to push ourselves closer to our limits.
See it's very difficult to push yourself to your mental and physical breaking point each and every day. Understanding that sometimes less is more is a difficult concept for an athlete and also a coach or parent to understand. We instinctively think someone is being lazy and demonstrates poor work ethic and a lack of desire. We are all human and finding this balance of when to push yourself when you feel flat or off that day and when to mix it up is important.
If we look back at the above example, but instead imagine we had a rough start and weren't feeling up for it, but someone once we got going we were able to get closer to 80 or 90% off our normal level that could be incredibly powerful for when we are in a tournament and aren't feeling great. In competition we have to play unless of course we decided to withdraw from the competition. But in a tournament, assuming there is no injury or illness we have to learn to play and not be fresh. At the US Junior Open kids were having 7 matches in 3.5 days; nobody is feeling good going into their last few matches. But if you know you can still get close to your best squash even when you are stepping on court with less than 100% in the fuel tank your mind might indeed be stronger than your opponent.
This mental muscle is a skill we need to be a good squash player and one of the differences I've noticed in Canada versus when I've seen kids train and play in other countries is that we don't push our kids as hard; right or wrong. Passion and letting kids have choices in what they want to do is not always a luxury all kids get. There are pros and cons to both side of this perspective, but coming from a Canadian point of view I've always felt that intrinsic motivation can get the job done. There is a lack of structural support and funding here compared to other countries, but if you can find a good coach and people to train with you can become a top class player with years and years of dedication.
My final point on this topic is about the title, keeping the quality high. If a coach or parent is the one pushing a kid constantly at some point they are not going to want to step back out on court or they will not be totally mentally engaged in their practices. Some coaches simply try and push their athletes as hard as possible every single time they work with them, but harder isn't always smarter, especially on low energy days. I know a woman who is using a heart rate watch which gives her a red, amber or green signal each day to let her know if she is good to train depending on her average heart rate and I believe quality of sleep. Tools like this can be used to avoid risk of injury and decide on when to push yourself hardest and when to focus more on technique or quality and keep practice sessions high, and the hard ones hard.
In university I knew I couldn't physically push myself in every on court session daily, so I would solo hit 2-5 times per week so I could let me brain and body recover proper and still improve my racquet skill. It would have been nice to have fancy devices like the heart rate street light watch and some of this perspective and knowledge back in those days.
Check out all the cool squash merch for both on and off the court as well as the 2 instructional films at SeriousSquashShop.com
Today I received an email from a father asking for advice for his son who is a strong player, but a perfectionist. His boy is having trouble handling making mistakes and appears like he is close to quitting the game because of the amount of pressure he's putting on himself to play perfect squash. As I started writing my response I realized that what I was writing about was probably quite a popular issue that good squash players face. This is a psychological issue and something that can be improved. I've included below the email I responded with.
Thanks for the email. Being a perfectionist is kind of how most squash players get to a really high level. We aren’t happy with poorly executing shots in a match and practice them over and over to do better. I remember as a kid always wanting to play a perfect game and playing all shots exactly as I wanted. As a kid I didn’t realize how absurd this goal was. As I got older I learned to focus more on the shot selections. As a kid we often make mistakes playing a poor choice, but as you get more experienced and learn to focus on shot selection you make less mistakes and hit higher quality shots. Shot accuracy can always improve, but when you’re playing the wrong shot it doesn’t really matter how the execution was.
An exercise I’d recommend is having your son chart a professional match and make a note of how frequently even the best players in the world don’t hit the ball exactly where they want it. Perhaps their boast chips the 2nd side wall or they don’t hit their crosscourt wide enough. Even the best players miss their targets at least a few times each rally, but usually get away with it if it’s close enough and they are fast enough to recover. It’s impossible to play a fast paced open skill sport like squash perfectly, but the aim should be more on good decision making and consistency to targets will improve as the practices accumulate.
That’s about all I can offer. Hope it’s helpful. And in final, a break is not always a bad occurrence. Kids have to go through things on their own sometimes so don’t put added pressure on him with your expectations for him. He’s not you and what you would do in his position is very different and should not be compared. Best of luck.
Do you have any other tips that could help someone in this situation? Have you had to learn how to deal with this? Obviously the pressure of competition and playing against another good player will force you into making mistakes. As you improve your ability to reset after points, learn to get out of trouble after hitting a weak shot will all make you better at staying in points you may have previously lost as you were too down after missing your targets on a couple of shots.
When I play my best squash I'm able to not let mistakes bother me at all and focus only on shot selection. If my shot selection is good I can live with the outcome. Some shots are just difficult and given that same situation and shot 100 times maybe I would make it more times than not, but a strong player can play higher percentage shots where they have very imitated risk and because of this can execute the shot with more confidence.
Being able to commit to the shot you hit is a sign of confidence and something you you are going to have trouble doing if you are playing a low percentage shot or tired, or even physically and mentally fatigued. So technique and accuracy in solo hitting is great, but it certainly isn't the most important trait of a top squash player. If you've read the recent article about Dessouky after his loss to Rodriguez you'll know what I mean. Fares is the most technically and physically gifted squash player on the planet (possibly 2nd is Ramy is healthy), but still he lost to a basic, super fit and mentally strong squash player, Miguel. Rodriguez was prepared to go further for the win and this made the difference. It really demonstrates how critical the mental game is from being a perfectionist to being able to bring your best squash on each and every day at the highest level in the game. Enjoy and embrace the challenges and lessons that this sport teaches us. Anyone can become mental giant with practice and discipline, just like acquiring any other skill. Miguel demonstrated that pure tenacity and determination can be victorious even against the very best in the world!
I thought this US Open match was worth a full post. I was on court coaching during the actual match so I had to watch Karim Abdel Gawad and Paul Coll on replay when I got home. All squash fans knew this was going to be the match to watch and I always love people playing who have a contrast in styles. Tough draw for those guys and easily worthy of a semis or even a finals. Here's a few points I have on the match on the refs and why I feel the better player won on this night.
Can having the best racquet skill in the world ever work against you? Does Gawad's gift make him less attentive to tactics? We all know Gawad has the best control and perhaps the best touch in the world. What he does with his racquet really is amazing; he makes the game look easy. In the first game I thought he was looking pretty sharp and confident. The announcers talked about how he liked to take out his opponent's legs by going short a lot early in a match. What I was watching was that he just didn't feel threatened when Coll was hitting from the front so he was shooting more than he would against a more lethal opponent. Coll has a nice counter drop, but has little no deception. I believe he was trying to put work into his legs and letting him run up and back to the T over and over. Gawad was volleying a lot, but most were going short.
I know this is going to sound trivial, but I really felt like he had to play more length and set up the short game better. If you looked closely at where Coll was standing when Gawad was going short, he was often in front of him very high up on the T. When your opponent is that far up on the T expecting a short ball often the hardest movement is when they have to go backwards in the back corners again. Obviously when you do this your opponent also is not going to be able to put as much pressure on you as they scurry off to the back corner to retrieve an attacking volley drive. I really think this one slight change could have turned the match right around.
Likely Gawad didn't want to get stuck into Coll's style of play and a more traditional type of squash and he wanted to open up the court and move the ball around, but going short that frequently, and often from behind your opponent is going to lead to some tins and a few shots being just off target which Coll could counter. Coll's attacking game is built on his counter punch where he uses his blistering speed to pounce on anything short. There's no doubt that Gawad can do things with his racquet that Coll can only dream of, but he demonstrated that if you don't need to have the best hands in the world to beat the best in the world.
I know a lot of people are upset about the conduct stroke near that gave Coll match point. Here's my take on this. I thought a lot of the calls were shocking throughout the entire match. For the most part these two guys are quite clean and don't call many lets. The one area that bothers me is how Gawad only appears to really hustle to a shot or back to the T when he is either looking for a stroke or trying to provide some subtle interference his opponent must maneuver around. As he volleys from the midcourt short and Coll is right behind him he moves quickly back to the T making Superman have to go around him or ask for a 'let.' You never like to leave a decision up to a ref especially when they seem to have trouble with the rules.
So in short, I can see why the refs were in that position to give a conduct stroke, but it didn't look like he ran that hard into Coll. If Coll didn't fall down would it have been a conduct stroke? If he didn't bump into him isn't it considered insufficient effort? What exactly is the appropriate amount of contact allowed or required to get a stroke in this situation? For now this interpretation is up to the ref and they thought it was excessive. It was such a crucial point and from thinking you were going to receive a stroke to being penalized a stroke is a tough pill to swallow. the match was pretty much over at that point.
When the ball was hot and bouncy Coll seemed to be able to get all of Gawad's shots back. Changing the ball after the third game evidently favoured Coll and Gawad needed to slightly adjust his tactics until the ball began to slow down. It's interesting how something like the bounciness of a ball can have such an impact on the outcome. Why is it in the rules that players can only ask for a new ball after the third game? Why at all? Why not after every game?
Did the best squash player win? On the night, yes I believe so. The player who demonstrated superior tactics and made less errors prevailed. But I do think Gawad's racquet skill are second to none, but that doesn't always mean you're going to win if you don't get the tactics just right. So although he is probably feeling hard done by the ref's I think he only has himself to blame for being in that position. If he played a little patient I think things could have worked out differently for him.
Have you hard that Serious Squash has a new instructional film out? Mastering Deception is now available at SeriousSquashShop.com which also has loads of Serious Squash march in stock. Both Mastering Deception and The Secrets Of Solo Hitting come with a money back guarantee. Here's the trailer:
By heavy sweater I don't mean clothing, I'm referring to your perspiration rate! Anyways, I was a pretty heavy sweater and because of this I'm going to share a few of the tips that has helped me over the years.
Obviously the first thing to focus on if you perspire a lot if being properly hydrated well before starting your match. This is something you learn how to do better with practice. This was tough as a kid as I would get stitches pretty easily if I drank too much liquid prior to a match. One time during a 5 setter in university I was so dehydrated that I couldn't stand up straight because of the cramping in my stomach. Somehow I won the 4th game by shooting without being able to move, but fell short in the 5th in an extremely painful occurrence. It was frustrating because it was a match I would have and should have won if it were not for this pretty intense case of dehydration.
Using electrolyte tabs and sports drinks can also be useful when you are sweating heavily. Although I don't quite understand why kids finish a bottle of gatorade before even stepping on court.
Another key for me was having 3 or more racquets with relatively new grips on them. Even with top of the line grips in good shape on my racquets they would get soaked as the match went on which affected my control. For this reason I would switch racquets after every game. This means you also want to have the same strings, type and thickness of grip and model of racquet to change to.
I would often wear a wristband on my racquet arm to help keep sweat from rolling down my arm and also to wipe sweat off of my face. For a couple of years I had longer hair and this caused me to sweat a little more and my goggles would fog up and get lots of sweat on them. For this reason I started wearing headbands or bandanas to help keep my eye guards clear. It's very tough to play well when your goggles are fogged up and have sweat droplets on them. Another key here is to make sure your shirt is cotton. If I wore a dry-fit shirt it would just smear the sweat on my eye guards. A cotton shirt with a bit of a dry spot is much better at cleaning off your goggles.
Switching shirts between some games was also something I did regularly. I never wanted to go back on court after a game with a shirt that was totally soaked. A wet shirt is heavier and won't be any use cleaning my eye guards. I've even heard of people having a spare pair of shoes and socks because their feet sweat so profusely.
I also got into the habit of wiping my racquet hand on the sidewall or backless between every point. I tried every trick in the book to help keep my hands and gris dry and it was often still challenging. With all of these tips above I was able to minimize the impact of a slippery grip and bury goggles. It can make a big impact on the game if you can't hold your racquet properly or see clearly so remember hydration is not the only concern for us heavy sweaters.
Preparation is not just about the physical, technical, tactical and mental training, it's also about learning how to avoid and deal with issues such as hydration and excess sweating. Keeping some extra clothing and electrolyte pills can make a big difference along with spare racquets and new grips. Don't put in all of this hard work only to let something like a sweaty grip or eye guards derail you from your best performance.
Until October 3rd there is a 50% OFF sale on all orders over $100 on SeriousSquashShop.com. Enter the code nicks at checkout. You can now also pay with Bitcoin! Pick up your copies of Mastering Deception, The Secrets Of Solo Hitting and some Serious Squash merch for a great price!
I know it's been a long time since my last post, but I'm back. I've still been posting some tips and videos on social media so if you want to check out the latest tips and skill challenges feel free to follow Serious Squash on Instagram and Facebook.
Recently Serious Squash produced its 2nd feature film, Mastering Deception. In this video there are 3 strong squash players, myself and 2 women currently both professional squash players on the PSA World Tour. Why did I decide to do the 2nd film on this topic? Five reasons. 1) It's one of the areas I'm most knowledgable about 2) There isn't anything out there on teaching this topic effectively 3) It's under taught and misunderstood 4) I believe it's critical to learn how to disguise, deceive and anticipate to become a high level squash player 5) It's a lot of fun to practice and implement
As a player for many years and now a coach for 10 I know the importance of understanding disguise and deception from early in the learning stages of squash. Of course we always start off by getting the grip right and learning how to just get the ball to the front wall and move back to the T, but after the very basics are understood I believe it's critical for any player with aspirations to play at a very high level to learn how to disguise their swing.
We watch the pros on Squash TV and often don't even notice their disguised shot, only the odd taxi we marvel and wonder how in the world did they completely fool another top pro. At a certain level if you don't disguise your shot your opponent will simply be cheating on their T position and will be on your shot and applying pressure to you no matter how good the execution of your shot was.
A few years back when I was working on my final Master's project I was designing an app for shot selection from the front of the court. My idea is that most players don't know what to do up there. Our opponent's are behind us and if we have too much time we normally think about it too much and hit a terrible shot, other times we panic and try and hit an outright winner, but we feel the pressure of our opponent breathing down our necks because we shape up for our shot so earlier and have decided to go for an all or nothing winner. The problem is, that most of us can't hit outright winners even while feeding ourselves in practice, let alone in the heat of competition.
While I was working on this project I exchanged a few emails with Roger Flynn who is kind of the squash guru for decision making. At the time he was the head coach of Scottish Squash. He told me that he liked to use the term, coupling when he taught people disguise. That when you shape up for a shot it should look at least the same as 2 different shots. If we ever shape up for a shot which only has a single outcome we better make sure our opponent is out of position or be under lots of pressure and just trying to retrieve the ball.
This coupling idea is something that must be used when you decide to hit straight or crosscourt length from the front or when you play an attacking boost or decide to crosscourt out of the back corners. If we telegraph our intention prior to hitting it we expose ourselves to a quick attack by our opponent. This is why I believe option drills are important. It's so critical to learn not only what is the right shot to play, but learn how to anticipate and both make it tougher for our opponent to read what we are about to do.
I've seen and worked with players who are well accomplished, and are unable to make changes and 'couple' their swings after years and years of grooving very separate strokes for each shot. This is why I feel strongly about learning this part of squash earlier rather than later.
I have always used deception and disguise in my games, and often times way too much. But I do know that played the right amount and executed properly it can make a fit player exhausted extremely quickly. The fact that squash racquets are so much lighter, and head light versus when I started playing it allows us to snap the ball and change direction at the last second and also rapidly increase or reduce racquet head speed. This has made squash much more exciting at attacking. If this is a topic that interests you I definitely recommend checking out the new Serious Squash film. It comes with a money back guarantee.
If you've been wondering where I've been I've been away on holidays and since my return I've been writing and book, learning to play guitar and also running a lot of summer junior training sessions. Last week I filmed the 2nd Serious Squash full length film with 2 friends and PSA tour players, Giselle and Nicole. Pick up your copy starting August 7th at SeriousSquashShop.com Here's the trailer.
Are you coaching or part of a squash team and want to make big progress as a group? The Secrets Of Solo Hitting is now available for teams and squash clubs to purchase. You can order a pack of 10, 25, 50 or 100 downloads at a largely discounted price. The 10 pack is available for $125, 25 for $200, 50 for $350 and 100 for $500. A single download is $25 so this is a great value if your team or club is motivated to improve their skill. Once ordered you simply share the links with your teammates or members and each person will be able to download a copy for their own. Pick up your team copy today at SeriousSquashShop.com
To celebrate Canada Day and a 9 month partnership between Serious Squash and Eye Rackets here is a best of skill challenge compilation! Enjoy :) and until the end of the long weekend order anything at SeriousSquashShop.com with the code 'canadaeh' and get 30% off your order :) Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!
This is a little off topic, but there's a lot we can learn from the news today about Tiger Woods. I turned on the sport highlights this morning and all the videos were about Tiger getting a DUI and people talking about this being the biggest downfall in the history of sports. Of course drinking under the influence is bad, there's no doubt about that. I don't know the stats off hand, but I know lots of people are injured and killed from DUI's every day across the world. But there are also probably thousands upon thousands of people that do this each day. Again, I'm not saying I agree with this, just that Tiger is not the only one who makes has made this mistake and paid the price for it.
My biggest problem with the reporters today is how happy they all seem to throw Tiger under the bus. I'm not saying he should receive special treatment, but there is a lot of research showing how difficult it is for pro athletes having to adjust to life after sport. He's had loads of surgeries and has not had any glimpses of success on the golf course in years. Not only that but Tiger was the most famous (and probably richest?) athlete of the 90's and 2000's. How is anyone supposed to live any resemblance of a normal life after all of this? I don't think any of us can relate to what Tiger is going through. He has the spotlight on him all of the time and he is forced into being good role model and saying politically correct things. We want hugely successful people to be the best role models for our young because they appear to have it all and are also model citizens. But even model citizens have low points.
Does someone who's super rich and famous really have it all? I can only imagine that it's not all it's cracked up to be. Once someone has achieved their lifetime dream which was their sole purpose each and every day of their lives, how exactly are they going to find meaning in their lives after the best is over? What does it feel like when you have to act like someone that the media wants you to be? As a coach, I feel like I have to be a good role model for all of the kids I coach, but that this in turn makes me want to be a better person so I enjoy this aspect of it. I'm sure I'm not the only coach or teacher that feels this way. Sometimes it can feel like you are 2 different people; 1 when you're at work (or for Tiger under the microscope any time you leave your house) and another when your'e not. It's incredibly difficult for these 2 to match up and I'm sure it causes a lot of stress. Do you think they should or can be the same? Or is that unrealistic expectations to put on someone? Most people would say they behave how they are expected to at work and off the clock they are themselves. Isn't that what we have come to expect from not just pro athletes, rock stars, but every single one of us?
Does someone not deserve to have a private life regardless of their spotlight in the media? This morning the reporters were upset about how Tiger put on this facade pretending to be the perfect role model and are in shock about how non-perfect he really is. My big peeve here is that humans make mistakes and that goes for each every one of us. It's about learning from our mistakes and from other people mistakes. This is more the message I hope is uncovered from this story. Should we not feel bad for what Tiger is going through? We loved him now we all despise him. Can we not turn this into a positive somehow and realize how fake media interviews turn famous people into? With social media being so popular these days it's difficult to hide the truth and it doesn't take much to tarnish someone's reputation. But I believe it's about trying to become a better person by giving back, being true to yourself, not following the money trail, following your passions, forgiving those that make mistakes and not being afraid to admit your own mistakes. And dealing with getting old and things change we need to learn how to adapt too.
I can only imagine what kind of life Michael Jackson lived the last few years of his life. I'm sure the same happens to many of the rich and famous. We all envy them, but maybe it not all it's cracked up to be. I would love nothing more than some of these greats to write an absolute truth biography and be completely open about all they went through. Theo Fleury did this and revealed that he had been molested as a child. I feel like if he never got this off of his chest he would have carried this weight around his whole life and never would have been truly happy. Maybe we don't need to make all of our skeletons public, but certainly having someone to speak with and help you through difficult times is an extremely important thing to have. Does Tiger have someone like that now that he is separated and has gone through piles of coaches? I still think Tiger means well and has just done some stupid things. And instead of publicly shaming him, I feel he could help a lot of other celebrities and pro athletes about how to better deal with the difficulties of falling out of the spotlight and losing their ability to compete at a high level.
Giving back is a way that can provide meaning and purpose much more valuable than any possession. Giving just money away is one thing, but actually going out and putting in the work is another. Maybe Tiger will get into coaching or become even more involved with some charity work. He still has the platform to make our world a better place and I hope he takes this opportunity to do so. Gold is such a self-driven and internally focused profession so I imagine this makes changing your focus and motivation incredibly challenging.
Nobody is perfect and knowing how Tiger believes he can do anything he sets his mind to, I'm sure if he wants to he can turn this all around. Sometimes it takes a major low before you realize how far you've let something slip. I think we should be a bit more open minded and give Tiger a chance. In the end he seemed bigger than life, but that pressure in itself must make everything that much harder. People struggle and are often better for it in the long run. Let's hope Tiger will be too. I don't condone what happened, but you've got to feel for the man. He may appear to have it all, but clearly happiness isn't something you can buy. Only time will tell what's next for Tiger.
One of the great things about squash is that compared to other sports it really can be played your entire life, but for many of us it isn't. In squash you can be competitive and play tournaments at age, from under 11 to 75+. Since finishing juniors or varsity squash we tend to see most squash players disappear from the competitive squash scene. Some will continue to play the odd regular game with someone at their local club while others will turn to the more social and easier on the body game of hardball doubles. Once I got into coaching I also failed to play as much competitively for a variety of reasons. I think a lot of this stems from people moving on to the next stage of their lives and today's post is about trying to keep people in the sport after their junior and college careers and in doing so increasing participation in squash tournaments.
Team pic after winning an OUA title for Western Ontario from about 10 years ago (from all my years at university there were just 3 of us that played nationals this year)
When you're a kid you don't have many responsibilities. Even at university squash practices are all scheduled for you. There's also a lot of perceived expectations and self-imposed pressure that can take its toll on you over the years. When we finally finish competing as a junior or varsity athlete we have to set up everything on our own and clearly many of us do not make the time or have the desire to organize our own daily training schedule. Our focus turns to more adult like things such as careers and making money. Early adult life is for getting our career and our love life in order so we push aside our hobbies such as squash. It can also be quite a relief to let go of all that pressure you felt to win during your junior and college days.
Besides the challenges already discussed above there is another issue I believe keeps people out of competitive squash after juniors and university. As an individual sport we have all worked vey hard to get to a certain level and to play at our highest level requires daily practice both on and off the court. If we are unable to prepare to play at our best many of us just won't enjoy stepping on court and playing well below our potential; none of us want to lose to some junior we know we're better than. After all squash does require an extremely high amount of physical fitness to be successful at a high level which is very challenging to maintain when a weekly training schedule isn't planned out for you. Is this starting to sound familiar?
Long time rival and friend from juniors in the finals of the U.S. Open
From years of playing squash we have built up an ego about our skill level and who we believe to be better than or similar to. We like to preserve this level in our minds about what level we can play at with just a little bit of discipline and training. But even still at this years senior nationals (held in the squash capital of Canada, Toronto) the masters divisions of 30 and 35+ were very tiny. We don't have to worry about playing 2 matches in a day or losing to some kid because they're training every day and we're too busy living like adults. In the women's masters events they didn't even have entries in the lower age groups. It's kind of ironic that representatives of Participaction were on hand at the nationals when it's the one's who weren't in attendance that need that kick in the pants.
I know from growing up in Toronto and playing at university how many strong squash players there were and still are in the area, yet most didn't play in the nationals. Is it because they don't have the desire to play tournaments anymore or do they not think they're good or fit enough to enter? The age groups are much more about fun than the competitive open or junior events. I wonder why most didn't play when it's in their home town while I'm flying across the country to go compete.
I guess the main thing I take from all of this is that I wish more people would just get out and play and keep the squash spirit alive! It's easier to say than do, but if we don't worry about winning and losing and simply having fun and reconnect with old friends we battled against as juniors it could be a lot more fun than pain. If the nationals was held anywhere besides Toronto I'm sure the age group draws would have been even smaller.
I don't know what we can do to get more people to participate after juniors or varsity squash, but it would be great to keep more of these people stay in the game. Squash is a pretty small scale sport and it's a shame that so many skilled people who spent such a large portion of their youth playing squash stop competing and being a part of our sport. I know people begin to have families and get busy with their careers, but I know I would really miss squash if I just stopped playing and being around the game.
Do we need to find a way to make squash less competitive or less physically taxing for those that aren't playing much, but were once strong players? What if we played to 7 PAR or best of 3? Or simply guaranteeing just the 1 match per day? I'd actually really like to see the low tin used on all courts for amateurs so this could be a good step too. Or perhaps the best way to keep all of these people involved at tournaments is to provide lots of free beverage tickets ;)
Squash Canada and each province needs to find a way to keep all of these previous juniors involved in squash at any capacity. I know there is a big gap right now for people that want to go from juniors or varsity squash to the pro level. Maybe it's just up to each and every one of us to just sign up as long as we are relatively injury free. Nobody is ever completely healthy and fit when they get into their 30's and this is why they have age groups! I know it's too easy to listen to the reasons why you shouldn't, but remember life is about experiences and getting outside of your comfort zone. Hopefully this trend will change and we'll see more people getting back into the competitive side of the game. Remember that you don't need to be playing the best squash of your life to play in a tournament. There is more pressure to prepare for competitions when you're a kid, but this is only self-imposed when you're older. Sign up and play and don't take yourself so seriously. Let go of expectations and your ego and you may just find yourself enjoying the best game in the world with an old peer.
Play squash because it's fun and because you love it. If you're worried about the outcome you have to remember it's just for fun and exercise. Let's help keep the game strong with increasing participation which likely also will increase the tournaments beer sales too! Support your local club tournaments and play provincials or nationals whenever possible and especially if they're close to your hometown. This post doesn't just have to do with Canada or Nationals, but any club in the world. How many times have you made illegitimate excuses not to participate in a tournament because you didn't feel 100% prepared for it? Let's all try and say 'sign me up' a little bit more. Let's try and remember that the game is bigger than any single one of us.
I leave for vacation tomorrow so there will be a break from postings. I'm certain I'll come up with some new great topics to write about once I return so stay tuned for those. This summer I also plan on beginning to film the 2nd Serious Squash instructional film. Stay tuned for more details. If you haven't hear yet, the 1st film is a full length instructional video titled 'The Secrets Of Solo Hitting.' It contains 30 solo drills and tips to improve your game. The film can be streamed and downloaded at SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos and there is a no questions asked money back guarantee that comes with it. Here's a video preview of the film:
When watching the finals of the Bellevue Squash Classic I did some charting. In the semis I charted one of Farag's games because I was surprised how rarely he plays straight drives. He does move unbelievable so clearly he doesn't want to get stuck into a controlled/patient style of play. I was curious if his lack of straight drives is why his technique on his drives is a little suspect. But this post isn't about technique, it's about shot selection and notation.
In the semis where Farag played Marwan Elshorbagy I only charted the first game. There were 115 shots in the first game and 42.6% of Farag's shots were straight drives. Also 10.4% of his shots were boasts, which seems very high for the first game at this level. 25.2% of his total shots were short so he was certainly trying to move his opponent around. In the finals I decided to chart Gauliter because I thought he played more structured and we would see this in the numbers. I think we know Gaultier crosscourts a lot from the forehand, but is generally quite patient. Here's how the numbers looked.
Game 1 - total number of shots = 244 47.9% straight drives
31.5% crosscourt length
Game 2 - total number of shots = 142
45.7% straight drives
26% crosscourt length
Game 3 - total number of shots = 136
52% straight drives
20.6% crosscourt length
Number of shots = 511 + serves
Straight drives = 253/ 49.5%
Crosscourt length = 142/ 27.8%
Drops/kills = 106 (10 errors)/ 20.7%
Boasts = 10/ 1.9%
Long = 395/ 77.3%
Short = 116/ 22.7%
It would be interesting to see more stats like this against other players and be able to compare them from match to match and event to event. Would Gaultier play more or less short or more or less straight against a more traditional player? It would also be interesting to know how many shots per rally or game his best suit his game or give his opponents their best chance. The French General was pretty fortunate to win that 2nd game and it looked like he lost his focus and started going short at the wrong time. He also popped up a lot of his drops, which I can only assume has something to do with his ridiculously low string tension. It as nice to see him stay calm out there and both guys seemed to be really enjoying the match.
Do you think the shorter or longer rallies favour Gauliter? He did well slowing the pace down and lifting the ball and his movement really is outrageous. Still I think Farag was close and had a chance to win all 3 games. Do you think Gaultier should go short more or less? Should he play straighter on the forehand and cross or boast more from the backhand? He certainly gets stuck into patterns, but because he's such a great mover he can get away with this predictability. I'd really like to see a healthy and fit Ramy have at least 1 or 2 more good battle with Greg before they retire.
Have you ever charted your own match? What you think is happening may be quite a bit different from what actually is going on out there? Sometimes just a few more shots to 1 area of the court can change the game around. Maybe being slightly more patient, or just a little more aggressive is all you need to turn things around. When a pro plays 100-200 shots in a game a difference in 5-10% of shot selection is huge. This could have to do with settling into the match, gaining confidence, the players getting tired or the ball softening up.
Have you hear about The Secrets of Solo Hitting? It's a 64 minute instructional video which contains 30 solo drills which will help you improve your squash game. Pick up a copy at SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos and if you don't enjoy it I will give you a full refund. So far there are over 100 copies sold to people from all over the world. Here's a preview of the film
A pitcher in baseball may want to strike out the batter, but all they can do is select a pitch and try and hit his/her location. What the batter does afterwards is out of the pitchers control. A poor pitch can be swung on and missed while a perfectly executed pitch can be hit out of the park. This post is about learning to focus on making your pitch (with confidence) and accepting whatever follows. If you can continually concentrate your efforts on improving the quality of your pitches you will give yourself increasingly better odds at producing the desired outcomes. Everyone wants to win, but nobody can always win or completely control the outcome.
When we grow up we are surrounded by people praising achievement. People who win elections and win sporting championships get parties and parades thrown for them. I loved squash more than other sports because winning or losing was mostly in my control. In a team sport you can only do so much and I enjoyed having a big part to do with the outcome. When I was young I also loved winning tournaments. They'd make announcements at school after you won a tournament and you'd get some really cool trophy or squash racquet. I remember even making the front page of the local newspaper at some point.
I know from experience it's a difficult balance helping a kid along this journey because most parents want to support their children and embrace success, but also are careful of not pushing too hard on the result side of it. I enjoyed winning and being the best at something and my motivation was 100% intrinsic. If we're good at something we tend to like it, practice it more, become more skilled at it and win even more; the trouble with this process is that our ego can disrupt our progression and the ability to perform at our best because we are only thinking about winning and not necessarily on the process, which after all is what dictates the results. What a tough concept to grasp.
Fear or anxiety of a poor performance and outcome leads many people to avoid participation in tournaments. It's much easier to handle winning than it is losing. Other people love competition and only play their best squash when they're in a tournament. Do you still register for a tournament when you have no chance of winning it? Do you play better when you're a favourite or underdog?
After many years of playing and coaching at tournaments I have a more relaxed approach to competition, but don't let that fool you into thinking I still don't want to win every match I play or coach. It goes without saying that we should always give everything we have to try and win, but winning should never be our goal. I always try and praise effort and preparation over results. If you've done all you can to prepare and leave it all out on the court, the rest will be simple. I believe the outcome focus for tournaments puts extra pressure on you. I've seen it many times where someone plays not to lose and is unable to find their zone and coincidentally their best squash.
Although I've just stated how your focus should not be on winning, there is 1 trait that going into a tournament expecting to win can give you which is desirable and that's confidence. There's a big difference between someone that goes out there not expecting to win and someone who is. This is the difficult balance we need to find as a squash player. How do we step on court each time with the confidence to be successful without focusing on the outcome?
Many times when we play against stronger opponents we give them too much credit and play without belief that we can win and because of this we don't leave absolutely everything on the court. Even at the highest level you don't always see the underdog do absolutely everything within their power to win that match. But again, how can we do absolutely everything within our power to win our match without focusing on winning? It may sound cliche, but it really is about focusing on the process. If we can focus on the process we can concentrate on playing the right shot more often and less about avoiding slightly risky shots and not losing. If we think so much about only winning our current match it can hold back our long term development and we may not give our best effort when there is no chance of us winning. Try your best, play the right shot, commit to it and accept whatever the results may be. It's not just about this single shot, point or match. Maybe your opponent is simply better at the moment, but if so that's just a great opportunity to learn and become better from it.
A little more on playing a stronger player, at least try and keep them on court as long as possible. I see it all the time and people just try forcing the ball short from poor positions hoping to sneak a few cheap points or don't try at all, but that isn't going to beat a better player or allow you to improve; if anything you're just ingraining destructive mental habits. The best chances1 to beat a stronger player is to get into super long rallies and hope that they lose their focus and give you a few cheap points because maybe they are thinking too much about not wanting to lose. They may even get more tired than you expected and all of the sudden you can find yourself creating some more positive openings. That's why you should always give it everything you have and never panic during a match. If something isn't working yet, it doesn't mean it won't at some point. Keep fighting until the last point is over. You see people lose focus at game or match ball all of the time. It's almost like they let their focus slip because surely they can close it out from here. We start thinking about winning, or that we are about to win and we change how we think and play. This nicely illustrates how destructive the outcome focus can be to our squash.
In Canada we don't have an under 11 at nationals because they are worried about early specialization and kids competing at such a young age. I think this is crazy, because I believe it's up to the coaches and parents to help the kids learn about trying their best and having fun at a young age. We all need to learn how to handle both winning and losing. Yes there will be a few tears, but that's okay it's a learning process at this age. It's still a learning process in the under 19 division too! I think all kids will develop better if they can learn the delicate balance between wanting to win, but focusing on the process and development. Eventually you realize just how many areas there are we can improve in our squash game. We can improve our swing, our accuracy, our power, play around with different types of spin, make better shot selections and of course improve our mental game and get fitter, faster and stronger.
Winning happens if we improve all of our skills and become the best player we can be. It's nice to see your hard work pay off in the form of wins and rankings, but this is where fitness and technical testing can help too. If we can measure our improvement in our training sessions, we will have confidence we are improving without the need of specific outcomes or rankings. If we increase our confidence in our ability to play longer and harder railer or hit specific shots more accurately in our matches we will have a better chance of being successful.
You probably have heard the popular term, 'focus on what's under your control.' In sport this is so critical to playing your best. If we waste our energy getting upset about a lucky shot our opponent hit or a bad ref or a tough draw we are setting ourselves up for trouble. All of these things are out of our control and this is what makes life and sport so fascinating. It's learning how to handle adversity and focus on doing our best which this journey is all about. I love the challenge of trying to find the optimal mindset for playing my best squash most consistently. If you can do this and stay hungry to become the best you can possibly be you will get your share of results so don't worry about this area.
Wanting to win is fine, but focus on the process and on improving your game. When I ran a provincial junior camp before nationals this year I worked with some amazing young players. I had a questionnaire and the first question was what are there goals for nationals? Many had to win or make semis, etc. There's a lot that goes into winning such a big title and it's great to have such motivated athletes, but I also felt they were too result oriented. How are they going to play relaxed squash, especially when games are tight if they are focused on the outcome only? Again, you never know how the draw is going to be and how the other kids will play. Squash isn't like a class in school where getting an A for everyone is achievable. In squash there is only 1 winner, but that doesn't mean many of the kids competing shouldn't leave happy with how they performed and where there game is at. It's the fact that they (their ego), their coaches, parents and peers all want them to win too. Kids can easily attach their self-worth to their sporting results. If someone leaves absolutely everything out on the court and plays to the best of their ability that is as good or even better than someone who won the tournament. We need to learn how to feel satisfied with these areas regardless of the result. As I've already mentioned praise effort and preparation not results.
A competition is simply a tool to measure your game and how much you've improved and what you need to work on going forwards. If you come up a bit short you may be hungrier than the person who won the title. If you won the title you may put too much pressure on yourself to repeat this the performance the next time. These are the lessons that I love about sport and I wish I had someone to help me rid my ego and outcome focused squash brain when I was young. If I knew how damaging it could be to solely focus on the outcomes I'm sure I would have changed it because I wanted to be the best I could be, but I had no idea that my winning every single time I stepped out on court mindset was also causing damage to my development. Nobody wins every match and if you are you aren't getting challenged. And I know there's people out there saying that this is a soft Canadian way of thinking, but I disagree. I am all for trying to become the best you can be, but I think there is a healthier process of getting to this place.
I just got back from playing in the 35+ Canadian Nationals. When I was playing in the 30+ a few years back I played to win. One time I did and another year I was the runner up. The year I lost it bothered me a lot; I kept replaying in my mind how I could have won. But even now at my age I've realized how debilitating these goals and mindset can be to my performance. Yes I did finish 2nd this time around too, but I didn't leave the tournament constantly thinking about how much it sucks that I didn't win. I know how I can prepare a bit better next time and that's that. If I only played in a tournament when I knew I had a really good chance to win I may never play tournaments again; that's part of the beauty of sport. I used to always be asked 'what happened?' or 'how'd you lose to that guy?' if I didn't win a match or a tournament. That puts a lot of pressure on you, so it's really about learning to not care what others think about your squash game and letting go of your ego and focusing on what is under your control, the process and getting better. Yes I wanted to win this time around and I had a shot at it, but it just didn't happen. I tried my best I can live with that. Maybe I'll win next year and I'll give everything I have to make that happen, but that's not my goal.
Have you bought a copy of The Secrets of Solo Hitting yet? 99 copies sold and counting! It's a 64 minute instructional squash video on solo hitting. There are over 30 solo drills with tips on how to improve your solo practice. Pick up your copy at SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos Here's a preview from the Serious Squash Youtube page
I just got back from competing in the Canadian Nationals. I missed playing it the last few seasons because of knee problems, so just to be back on court and competing was a win for me. Unfortunately I had trouble backing up a tough match and lost in the finals of the 35+ 3-1. Anyways, this isn't a post about me so let's move on.
Today I'm going to talk about the men's and women's open events. Here's a link to all the draws if you would like to check out the full results: http://squashcanada.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/draws.aspx?id=984B9FE1-9DAC-427F-A4BE-76D48ABFBF60 Being around squash for my whole life you get to know almost everyone and you get to see juniors rise up and become some of the best players in the country. Canada has had some success on the PSA circuit over the years and we all look up to the footsteps of Jonathan Power (who for the record did not play this year). There was a good blend of some competitors around my age who are nearing the end of their careers and others are just beginning. Shawn Delliere and Shahier Razik have both won a number of the mens' titles over the years and Sam Cornett was back after missing last season due to injury. Cornett has had lots of great results on the PSA tour since her comeback so most people were favouring her to recapture the title. Hollie Naughton was the defending women's champ and Andrew Schnell was last years champ on the men's side.
The women's draw is the most competitive I have ever seen. Canada has a number of women ranked in the top 75 in the world (I believe 5) and there are others playing close to this caliber. Although the women's draw was smaller the caliber and competitiveness was good. It was encouraging to see a couple of the top local juniors in the mix.
The women's semis were set with the top 4 seeds and both matches were incredibly tight. Unfortunately both ended with bad calls by the ref. Down 10-9in the 4th and 2-1 in games Cornet had the momentum, but Letourneau was awarded a stroke for a simple let and the entire crowd gasped in shock and was vividly not happy with the call. I was thinking as watching this that if Cornett had won that point she was going to win that match, it was that critical. Shame when you see something like that. In the other semis (which I didn't see all of) I heard there was a wrong call at 9-9 in the 4th against Nikki Todd which gave Naughton match ball. I was worried about the refing from my very 1st match when I was awarded a no let when I hit my opponent during my swing which caused my ball to hit the floor. I don't know if the refs have got a new set of rules they're using. I don't like bringing up this topic again, but anytime a ball was hit lose it was either a 'no let' or a 'stroke.' It was really strange and you never knew which was coming regardless of the amount of impedance of the swing. There was no consistency with these calls. In my semis my opponent and I agreed to change poor decisions twice and the ref got angry and asked if we even wanted him to ref. I realized quickly it was not worth arguing or getting upset about any calls, you just hope they didn't occur in big points and unfortunately for the women it did happen in big moments in incredibly exciting and well fought matches. Moving on.
After Letourneau had caused a big upset and taken out Cornett I felt it was going to be very tough for her to mentally and physically back that up in the finals against Naughton. Letourneau was up 2-1 in the finals when you could see she was getting a bit fatigued and forcing the ball short too early and from defensive positions. Somehow it's kind of encouraging knowing the top players struggle with the same things everyone else does at times. Naughton went on to win in 5 and is the defending champ. But with the depth and caliber of the women in the field this title will be up for grabs every season!
On the men's side there were also plenty of upsets. The defending champ, Schnell lost in 5 to Mike McCue while less surprising was Nick Sachvie who beat Shawn Delliere in 3 straight. Sachvie has been climbing up the PSA ranks quickly and cleaned up during the weekend without dropping a game. Watching Sachvie play I felt like he has less obvious areas to work on than the other guys do. His movement and court coverage is unbelievable and super efficient. It would have been nice to see him tested and to see how he handles the pressure of tight matches. He definitely has the ability to continue cracking on up in the men's rankings. It's all going to come down to the tactics and mental game. He's got the movement and the racquet skill. If he can get out on court with some of the top pros I'm sure it would help him continue his rapid development. That's the challenge here in Canada when you become the best. Since the NSA has closed their doors there is no set place and team for upcoming pros to go train. Currently a group of them go to club in Toronto and work with a couple of the coaches there, but it doesn't have the draw or appeal of a place like the NSA and JP did.
I thought they caliber of squash was very high in the men's too. It will interesting to follow the men and women as some careers are winding down and others are just getting going. The top 4 Canadian women all have the ability to crack the top 30 and there's a few after that who aren't too far behind them. Sachvie seems to have the clear cut edge in how far up he can get up the rankings. I could see him making top 30 or even 20 in a few years, but at that stage you need to be getting regular hits with the top guys and on the glass court. Schnell is extremely fast and an amazing athlete and has already had some success getting into the top 60 and winning last years title so convincingly. We all know Razik and Delliere have already reached impressive previous career highs a few years back. I believe Razik got to the low 20's and Delliere around 30. Neither could find success on the glass court against the top players so let's hope our next crop of players can do better at this transition.
It's a shame that Squash Canada doesn't have a stepping stage or funding for juniors to the PSA for the top kids. It's tough to stay motivated and on the right course for year after year unless you happen to get a great team in place on your own. Even then, managing this financially is a major struggle. $1,200 for winning nationals barely covers expenses if you don't happen to live in Toronto. Other countries have paid pro leagues, more national funding and plenty of coaching and training available for their top players. If I was a top up and coming Canadian pro I would definitely need a lot of help, but would be afraid to ask for it and wouldn't know where to turn. Going to a good university program seems the simplest really. Other than that I say go abroad. If you want to keep our top players in Canada try and help get a PSA event at your club or reach out to sponsor 1 of these amazing athletes. And how about trying to get a glass court set up somewhere permanently in Canada? I'd be happy to make some space for it on the west coast :)
Did you watch Nationals is person or on the streaming? Let me know your thoughts. And if you haven't already checkout out the new Serious Squash film, The Secrets of Solo Hitting has now sold almost 100 copies to people from all over the world. It's a 64 minute advanced instructional video on how to solo hit most effectively. Pick up a copy at SeriousSquashShop.com/collections/coaching-videos and if you'd enjoy it I will give you a full refund!
When I was a kid I had very supportive parents. They would bring me to squash tournaments all over North America and even over the Scottish and British Opens one year. I had a lot of success as a young squash nut winning the Canadian nationals and U.S. Open with some other high finishes along the way. As a young boy I beat some players that went on to play professionally and make it inside the top 50. Unfortunately I quit playing squash when I was 14 for about 5 years so I never really got to make a go at becoming the best I could be. I also dreamed of becoming a world champion and was convinced I would, but why do some kids stop chasing their goals and others don't?
When you're a kid you think anything is possible (at least I did) and if you worked hard enough you could do whatever you want. Teachers ask kids what they want to be when they grow up and they often say something pretty unrealistic like an astronaut; but someone has to be an astronaut. Just because something is a long shot doesn't mean it's not going to happen. How and why do kids stop believing in themselves and chasing their dreams? There's probably a few reason why this occurs.
Kids are stereotyped because of their physique or where they come from so some don't get as much attention and don't get selected to higher level teams. Parents also feel like kids should grow up at a certain age and think and act more like an adult; which basically means focus on making money and doing less of what you like. There's also a definite lack of unrelenting belief within some people. People are too quick to think they just don't have that fire or willpower, but it is something anyone can have in the right environment and upbringing. I believe this is a learned habit and having a taste of success can go a long way to fuelling your dream.
When I was a kid of course (yes I'm the small 1 in the below pic) I would always say I wanted to be a pro squash player and not just that but world #1. Even after having quite a bit of success not everyone was thinking my dreams were very realistic or sustainable and I'd always be told to focus more on my studies. I remember 1 time my parents asking me what would happen if I for example have knee problems and could no longer play professionally? I remember stating that, 'if I get injured and can't compete anymore I'll be a coach.' So it wasn't my first choice, but it's funny that's what happened.
See parents are always worrying about what could go wrong and worry a lot about their children. Parents want their kids to be able to take care of themselves and becoming a professional squash player means more than likely they'll be disappointed, possibly uneducated enough to get a good job if squash doesn't work out and also have financial problems (because we all know there's not much money in pro squash). If parents are pushing kids into squash normally it's to help get them into a good school, not to make a living doing it. It's this sensible and protective nature which eventually kills the dreams of kids. Just because your parents didn't achieve their childhood dreams don't let this affect your passion. I believe this is why the kids of successful athletes are more likely to make it to the pro level; not only are the kids seeing the work ethic and lifestyle it takes, but they see what daddy or mommy did and of course they think if they did it we can to and the parents also think this way. If you're surrounded by people that believe in your dreams you'll be far more likely to achieve them.
I've heard many other parents over the years who also told their kids what they should be striving for and to set realistic expectations so they don't get let down when they fail to achieve their unrealistic goals. How would anyone in the world every achieve anything great if we all erred on the side of caution and realism? You only live once and I don't understand trying to take the safest route just to avoid disappointment. Wanting to play professional squash is a long shot let alone making a living playing it, but it is certainly possible. It can also open up doors to other avenues, so my big point today is to support the dreams and goals of those around you no matter how absurd and unrealistic they may seem. As soon as we start putting walls up and telling them to grow up and think about their future we kill their hope and without hope there is no more dreaming or passion. You may just be amazed by how far motivation and belief can take someone.
Some parents may have unrealistically high expectations for their kids, so let's not confuse these with intrinsic desires and goals. So if you have a kid that wants to be the best in the world at something don't tell them it isn't going to happen. Even though I didn't become #1 in the world or play professional squash I know from my experience and success as a young kid that I can do anything in the world if I put my mind to it, am passionate about it and stick with it. Just because you think it's a silly dream it's wrong to tell someone they can't do something so if you care about that individual you should support them and believe in them. And if you're the 1 having doubts yourself hopefully this post will give you some extra courage to keep fighting for your dreams.
Even if you don't achieve what you originally set out to do you'll likely realize 1 day that it was the journey which mattered most, not the destination; this is why process goals and making the most out of what you have is so critical. I think this is why many of the former world #1's over the past few years have let their standards slip. They reach their life long dream and the drive to chase the top of the podium is gone. It's also much tougher to play trying to maintain something and to not lose than it is if you're hungry and gunning for the top and your childhood dream.
I read in a book how LeBron James has set a goal to become the best player of all time, not just the best player in the league each season. So if you are so fortunate to reach your dream goal you better think even bigger and come up with some goals that other people would think are impossible. It's also key to focus on the process of becoming the absolute best you can be. If you can do this you will still find ways and areas to improve upon regardless of whether you've achieved your outcome dream goal or not.
I remember about 5 years ago running a provincial camp for the top kids here in British Columbia. I handed out a questionnaire to them and 1 of the questions asked what their dream goal was for squash. Only 1 of them put to play professionally. Many of the goals were extremely modest or not challenging whatsoever; it basically showed me that these kids were not going to go as far as they were capable of simply from the response of a single question. I believe these low standards are learned behaviours from their environment and as a coach they drive me nuts. I know a kid can never be that good if they don't think they can. I would much rather work with a less talented child who goes to bed dreaming of becoming the next world champion and has the work ethic to back it up.
I really hope I reach at least 1 person with this article and if I make a difference in their belief and goals I will be extremely happy. Whether it's you as a supporting role or as the athlete him/herself. I know when we lose to many matches or have a poor season we get down on our game and our expectations about what we can do can quickly diminish. But squash is not a sprint, it's a long race and it takes a commitment to your long term development and the mind is the key to achieving greatness.
Learning to cope with poor performances and disappointment is something your team can help you with, but ultimately has to come from within. If you need that extra incentive to fuel you along, try and prove any doubters wrong. Someone doesn't select you for a team, work harder and prove you belonged. Many low draft picks in major league sports carry this chip on their shoulder each and every day at practice even well after they have been successful. Don't play and practice angry, just play with determination and complete confidence that you have something to prove. Just because you haven't or somebody hasn't done something before it doesn't mean it can never be done. The main obstacle is also what can be your greatest asset, the mind.
Ramy Ashour will have doubts about his health and his hamstring for the rest of his career and for good reason, yet he continues to fight. Why? Because he still believes and has hope while others are all to quick to write him off and wonder why he won't hang up his racquet. He wouldn't have gotten to the incredible level that he has without having to deal with plenty of criticism and adversity over the years; when you handle these instances well it makes you tougher and you gain more confidence in your ability to do anything you put your mind to. Even though it's his body letting him down, it's the battle in between the ears which are the toughest to overcome.
Don't let others tell you what you can or can't do. As a former top junior and coach I know how important belief, intrinsic motivation and will power can be. Prove the naysayers wrong and become the next world champion and be sure to thank me in your acceptance speech in 10 years time :)
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