Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Secrets Of Solo Hitting Trailer

The first Serious Squash video is almost complete. All of the video shooting has been completed and edited. Now it's just a matter of adding audio to the film and releasing it. Here's a short trailer which shows a few of the drills included in the film. It will be around 1 hour long and the estimated release date is set for April 1st. Play Better Squash. Here's the trailer:

Here is the intro the film:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lose The Battle, Win The War

It's easy to see when you're opponent is really having to work hard to get a ball back. Maybe they hit a short length and they don't have time to get to the T and you go ahead and play a drop as they are so far away that they have to sprawl out completely just to get a racquet on your shot or even better they can't reach it at all. Making someone do a diagonal and get the tour in a rally is also quite enjoyable and it's obvious to both players who is going to win if these type of rallies continue. As you get better in squash it's not always so obvious to the observer or even the players who is doing more work. Assuming both players are equally fast and fit and have similar skill level, the player who has to work just a bit harder will likely break first, either mentally, physically or both. We all have a limit where out shots start to lose accuracy because we're late to the ball and even later recovering to the T. When we get fatigued we tend to make more poor decisions and the mistakes can tally up in the blink of an eye. Today we're going to talk about how to get someone to this breaking point and to tally up quick and easy points once they do.

One way to break your opponent is to lengthen the rallies. Even if you are equally fit, if you move more efficiently the duration of the rallies shouldn't hurt you as much as your opponent. If you can hit great length and width and minimize your opponents attacking opportunities they will eventually wear down because they are less efficient moving around the court than you. This tactic can also be effective if you're playing someone that is carrying more mass around the court. If you lose the first game or two, but the rallies are long don't panic; stick to your guns and keep the rallies really long. Your opponent may just win the war, but you have a good chance at coming back and winning the battle if you make it tough enough for them.

Another way to break your opponent is to increase the intensity of the rallies. Making the rallies harder does not necessarily mean that the points are any longer in duration. Learning how to make a good player work hard in a rally is tricky. At a high level we generally have to get our opponent out of position before attacking. If you can volley this is a good way to take time away from your opponent. Even a simple volley drive can be quite difficult on the legs and the lungs. This brings me to my next points. Think about which movements on the court are the most physically taxing on you. Are these the areas which are most demanding on your opponent as well? Perhaps it's a 2 wall gut wrenching attacking boast that makes you rush off the T and make a big stretch to the ball and then hustle equally as hard to get back to the T. Maybe it's having to rush to defend a perfect weighted length. Maybe it's going back into the same front corner twice in a row. All of these are certain shots which may not result in us winning the point out right, but can put quite a bit of work into our opponents legs, lugs and mind.

If you can make your opponent have to dig deep to stay in rallies, the outcome is really irrelevant. If you can find certain shots or combinations that are making your opponent play shots at a full stretch, at top speed, stop and change directions over and over you have a great chance of winning the match. This is tough to learn as a competitor and also to notice happening as an observer. I play a lot of holds and use deception a lot in my game and most people that don't see deception much get super tired quite quickly regardless of how fit they are. For someone like Paul Coll he uses his counter drops often and even plays them sometimes when his opponent is already high up on the T and expecting it. He's not always playing these drops as winning shots or even to set up a winning shot, he's simply trying to stretch out his opponent and make him do lots of work over and over again because he feels he is going to win the physicality battle when it's all said and done.

I've always said that it's important to make your opponent pay for going short from the back of the court. It's super hard work moving up there and getting back to the T so if at all possible I like thinking about counter attacking so they don't continue to employ this tactic. If your opponent is getting weak replies off a boast from the back they're going to keep going to the well. If you go up there and play a great counter drop or drive and put the pressure right back on them, well it may have been hard work for you to do so, but your opponent may think twice about playing that same boast again. So if you get beat on a short attacking ball from the back you have to look out for it again right away. If you were nowhere near the shot your opponent is going to think you were not watching, were flat footed, too far back on the T or perhaps you're just too slow or getting tired. Whatever the actual reason is, you have to be ready for it the next rally. Get back up on your toes, stay up on the T and watch your opponent closer. If they do go right back to this shot again get up up to it faster and make sure you do something with it, otherwise it's going to be a long and painful match (actually probably a very short match). So learning how to take away these openings which your opponents use to make you do the hardest movements are equally as important as learning to exploit them.

Another example of putting pressure and not going for the outright winning shot is playing volley drives off of your opponents length. When someone hits a ball that you can volley they are generally forced to run to the T faster and sometimes they get in front of you before you get to hit your volley. When this happens you should think about volleying it deep and make them have to back up and go dig it out again. This is such a tough movement if you hit a good volley and it can lead to another opportunity to volley. Many amateurs just see a ball they want to volley short and do it every single time and think that their drop just needs to be better. In this particular situation it's about how quickly their length was struck. If you can volley quickly, prior to your opponent getting up high on the T the short shot might be the best opening. If on the other hand the ball was not hit that fast and your opponent has time to get back up high on the T, you can assume a good player is up and covering the front of the court and now the open space to attack into is back deep again. This takes a lot of skill and practice to get to this level, but it's an important part of learning how to have some patience and to focus on making your opponent work hard so you can win the battle.

Attacking drives, boasts, counter drops, holds and volleys are all so critical to working your opponent. At the highest level these shots in themselves rarely win points outright, but they eventually lead to a mental or physical breaking point which leads to cheap errors or slower movement, weaker lunges and easier opportunities for you. Learning to take the ball early, use the whole court, move the ball around and make your opponent rush back to the T only to hit it back to where they just came from or even have to change directions are so tough on the body no matter how fit you are.

Don't always think about winning a point or get bothered by the result of each rally or even of a game or two. Focus on being efficient with your movement and making sure you can get out of trouble within 1 shot whenever possible and at the same time making your opponent twist and turn, stop and start, rush, lunge, reach, stretch out and scramble. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as the feeling of breaking a strong opponent and then reaping the rewards of easy points and certain victory. Which also leads to the point that if you and your opponent are both working equally hard with the same fitness and skill levels the difference is going to be between the ears. Mind over matter is what it comes down to. Oh how great is squash? The perfect mixture of skill, mental toughness, physical fitness and tactics.

Next time you get out on court think about what movements or shots give your body the most trouble and notice what shots give your opponent the most too. Just because they return the shot or even hit a great shot, they still did some work and eventually with enough chips of the hammer that will reveal itself. Just like the San Antonio Spurs sign in their dressing room reminds them reads, "When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it -- but all that had gone before."

 Coming soon is the first full length Serious Squash film titled 'The Secrets Of Solo Hitting.' The video portion is almost complete and then it's the editing and audio portion. It will be available for purchase at once completed. For now check out some of the clips from this project on the Serious Squash Instagram or Facebook page or on my youtube channel at cchsquashpro. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mobility and The Aging Squash Player

When I was a kid I vividly remember a a sign hanging up in the pro shop that read 'don't play squash to get fit, get fit to play squash.' That sign is becoming more and more prevalent as I'm getting older. I can't train the same way or the same amount or as hard. I've had to deal with more injuries. I've had a couple of MRI's over the past 2 years which resulted in my first knee surgery. I can still play at a decent level, but the amount I can play at this level is quite limited. It's not that I'm so sore that I can't play again the next day, it's becoming more about the mobility issues. I can only speak from personal experience how my mobility has challenged my competitive squash ability. I'm going to share my recent personal experiences with you today and perhaps you will learn how this can help or hinder your squash game.

As we get older, simply being able to play injury free is the top priority. We never had to worry about this as kids, yet I still never see people stretch around the squash club and even fewer warming up before they get on court. I see very few people in their 30's or older that swing properly and most never will simply because they have lost mobility in a number of joints or are injured from poor biomechanics. The first step would be introducing proper warm up exercises to improve the range of motions and also doing proper post match cool downs. Squash is a very dynamic and fast sport so I have no clue how middle aged people can go straight into a rally without any warmup and likely right out of their office chair.

Some of our limited mobility is of course genetics, but a lot of this is the lack of knowledge or will to do proper preventative care. Things slowly disintegrate and we barely notice them as they subtly get worse until eventually we just admit that we are indeed pretty old and that's the reason we swing or play the way we do; we also just think we are stuck with the hand we have and that's that, we can't make things better. It's kind of like trying to stick to some kind of diet or new years resolution you dislike so no wonder we don't see (m)any older players who have good mobility. I'm here to tell you that things can change, but you have to make time for them and realize it is essential and something you just have to suck it up and do it and add it into your daily routine.

There are a number of challenges with limited mobility, the first is that we are more prone to getting injured. When one thing is out of place or lacking the proper and necessary range of motion, it's a chain and we are more likely to get inured in other connected areas. We also will be unable to move and swing with the proper mechanics which will hold back our improvement and enjoyment of squash. I certainly haven't got everything figured out yet, but I am working on it. Not being able to move or play a sport you've played your whole life sucks. It's hard to admit you can't do some things you once were able to do quite naturally, but father time has no pity.  If you are playing more than 3 times per week and have mobility or constant injury issues I recommend you cut back on your squash and do a physio and/or begin some off court training sessions.

When I was in university I never wanted to pay for physio and I had limited knowledge on what types of off court cross training I should do to stay healthy and improve mobility and strength. Since my recent knee problems I've gone to a lot of health care specialist; sport doctors, massage therapists, physiotherapists and chiropractors. Thankfully I'm on a health plan and can now afford to do some of these things more frequently. I'm at a point where if I want to continue to compete at all I have to do these things. My other option is to stop playing and lose mobility and that slope leads to more and more sedentary lifestyle

Currently I go to a personal trainer once per week (wish I could afford 2), 1 massage per month and 2 physio sessions per month. This is a start, but it's about what I do on these other days which will make the difference. I've learned more about my body and the areas I'm good at and the ones I struggle with and tend to avoid using. Squash is a very 1 sided sport so after 2+ decades of playing I've developed some imbalance and mobility problems. It's very challenging to offset the amount of torque and rotation from your swings and the amount of lunging done mostly on your dominant leg. I'm not expecting to be completely balanced and offset all of the damage done by squash, but it's improving it so the mobility and strength is good in all of my muscles and joints.

With my personal trainer we've been working mostly with kettle bells and I've noticed how effective they can be for strengthening my core and for working on 1 side of my body at a time. Recently I was doing some get ups with the kettle bell pointing up and I had a lot of trouble when I was holding the kettle bell with my left arm. The video and explanation is below if you're interested in what exactly I was doing and how to test it for yourself. My trainer filmed it in slow motion and he noticed that it was my right hip causing the problems, not my weaker left arm which I originally suspected. I had a lot of trouble with a certain hip movement and it was clear to me right away about how this is affecting my ability to lunge and get into the proper posture when I hit the ball. Because of my reduced mobility in my right hip it has lead to back pain and sometimes a sore shoulder. These symptoms come and go depending on how much I'm playing and pushing myself. I want to play more, but the more I play the more pronounced these symptoms become.

When I go in for my physio sessions he always works on my right hip and last time even my right ankle. He's trying to work backwards in the chain to find out where the problem is starting from. So your issue may not be a hip, but whatever it is it may likely be caused by poor mobility in another connected area. Instead of just dealing with it or not being able to play you should try and figure it out and work on improving your biomechanics and mobility. Maybe you need to do some yoga, maybe massage will help, a trainer or a physiotherapist. My physio recommended TRX to me and to do more core exercises. I really enjoy the kettle bell training I've been learning and I think that will help. But clearly a lot of improved mobility comes from daily stretching and rolling. Do you have a roller? A hard ball like a lacrosse ball? A theraband? Stretching doesn't quite get as deep as some of these other products can. I do believe it's possible to play better squash as you get older and not have your movement inhibited by injuries if you improve your knowledge on the topic and do the work. 

Sitting all day at work or doing too much of anything will break down your body over time. Learn how to take care of your body and keep it healthy. Want to move up a division or be competitive nationally in your age group? Improving your mobility and staying healthy is a huge step towards doing that. If you can't practice you can't get better. To practice you need to be healthy and be able to move. Movement is a key to playing at a high level of squash. Mobility is the key to quality movement, reduced risk of injuries and improved biomechanics. What's scary is how many kids have incredibly poor mobility. All the cell phones, video games and sedentary lifestyles have a lot of kids unable to lunge, squat or touch their toes. It's tough as a squash coach if a teen can't do any of these things properly at their young age and it makes you worry about the future generation. If you play a lot of squash and you can't do those you're probably going to have a poor swing and/or be at an increased risk of injury. So listen to my old club sign and 'get fit to play squash, don't play squash to get fit.' It becomes more and more essential as you get better and older. 

If you haven't already heard, there is a new Serious Squash full length instructional video out called The Secrets of Solo Hitting. Solo hitting was something I found really useful to break up the hard training days when I was younger so I could let my body recover while still working on my game. This video is now available at and you can check out the trailer below. It covers 30+ of the best solo drills with plenty of tips on how to improve your solo practice. Pick up your copy today (HD stream and download available). Practice smarter, not harder. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff

What is the right technique for you? I recently had a boy visit from Asia for a month. His style was much different to most kids in North America. He told me that most kids where he's from are not very big, they are quick and are taught to focus on precision versus power. They hit every shot with a lot of slice. Over here in North America I always hear about the importance of hitting the ball harder and taking the ball early and I see many kids never hit any shot other than the serve over the service line. Basically, like most popular professional sports here in North America we think those that are bigger, stronger and faster are the best athletes and this is how we can be succesful. Of course as this boy demonstrated there are exceptions, those with superb skill. It's a bit of the David vs. Goliath story revisited once again.

How do your biomechanics hold up as you increase your swing speed

As a kid who was quite small for my age, I know how difficult it can be to compete against people that hit it hard and take up a lot of space. It's still challenging, but with practice and improved tactics and accuracy you can learn how to take down someone of any stature; that's one of the great things about squash. I still vividly recall the toughest match I've ever had to play was against a boy who won the CSA individuals and he hit the ball so hard it was insane. The ball was like a racquet ball and it felt as if I'd never played squash before. Since that match I've spent a lot of time solo hitting and learning to not only handle that pace, but also be able to inject that same amount of pace. It was a terrific example of how much pace can change the game and if you can't handle it shot selection is pretty insignificant. Looking back now though, I also think that at that pace we should have been using a lower tin or a slower ball. Anyways, let's move on.

The main topic of today's post is deciding on which style of squash suits you best? Do you have below average size, speed or power? If so you will probably have to be very accurate, slow the speed of the game down and be quite smart. If you try and play pace with someone who does it better you you will have limited success.

Paul Coll - going for precision on his next shot

The trouble most kids get into is they focus so much on overpowering their opponents that they get away with poor accuracy and shot selections (at least for the time being). Eventually these kids will come up against people that can handle this power or can even outhit them. So although pace and taking the ball early can take you quite far, it is still pretty 1 dimensional in my opinion and it does not automatically translate to success. So even if you hit it harder than your opponent, if you're opponent can handle this pace and defend it well they can wait until you kind of punch yourself out and go on counter attacks using your poor accuracy against you. So does this mean it's better to be accurate than have raw power? Not necessarily. Obviously both qualities are important, but good shot selection and accuracy is something that you absolutely must have to compete at the highest level. Speed and strength can get you close, but that is not enough at the top of the game.

Although I love playing at a high pace it probably doesn't best suit my stature. I've already trained and practiced for 20+ years and my style isn't going to change much now, but it's interesting to wonder if I would have been better if I grew up in Asia and learned to focus more on shot selection and accuracy? It's impossible to know for sure. But when I was on court with this boy who visited the difference in styles and the amount of tension and effort going into my swing was significantly higher. All in all it just gave me a new appreciation for this style of game.

Nouran Gohar - 1 of the hardest hitters on tour and is about to unleash some major force with this backhand!

I could probably use more accuracy in my game and he could probably use more power in his game. Once I can't overpower someone like this I feel like they would be more efficient with their movement and shot placement and I would wear myself down. This is the fun part of squash. There is no 1 right way to play and be successful. It's easy to say hit it harder and be more accurate, but which style suits your physical traits is specific to you. Just be cautious that if you are winning by overpowering other kids, this will change when you get older and you will have to learn how to play smarter and more accurate. If you are a powerful player you will have to learn how to take shorter swing and maintain your balance and technique while under pressure. Most powerful hitters also tend to crosscourt a lot because it's difficult to be accurate with the amount of rotation happening and the length of their swing means their timing will not be as accurate as it would if they had a shorter swing. Determining how much to shorten your swing and how much to give up on power to improve your accuracy is a thing we must all learn for ourselves While if you are more of a precision player, you will also need to learn how to handle this power and eventually play with more pace in your game, but without compromising your technique or getting into a slugfest with your 1-dimensional hard hitting opponents. Remember there is a speed/accuracy trade-off in all sports.

I remember having a discussion in 1 of my university classes about what skill you'd rather posses first, accuracy or power/pace? The class and instructor both thought pace because accuracy would eventually come with repetition. But in squash I don't know if this is 100% true. If you are overhitting the ball all of the time and never learn to take the pace off the ball how are you ever going to develop a short game and have the confidence to play it against top players when you've fallen into a habit of getting a loose ball and smacking it every time as hard as possible? Some food for thought. Do you agree or disagree? Are you precision or power player? Which style do you enjoy playing against and dislike playing against? Can the top players at your club do both? You'll notice on the PSA that almost all of them could outhit any amateur, but that doesn't get the job done against the best in the world. They've got to have a lot more than pure power. But it is a lot of fun hitting the ball hard isn't it?

Check out my Youtube channel (cchsquashpro) if you want to see some videos on solo hitting drills to improve both your power and accuracy. Also follow Serious Squash on Instagram and Facebook for the daily updates. is where you can find Serious Squas merch.